June 10, 2009

Real Dadhood

My son fell into the pool and I was there.

He was walking along the edge of the baby pool. I was beside him, in the pool itself. He hobbled along with his toddler pimp-walk, the walk that looks vaguely out of control and makes my knees hurt with the possibility of him skinning his, the memory of so many of my own skinned knees. Then he lost his balance. He rolled in the air and entered the water back first, arms extended out in front of him. There was barely a splash, more like the floop and gentle ripple of water you see when an Olympic diver enters the water perfectly. And I was there.

The universe stopped. The sounds of kids playing in the big pool were gone. The voice of the four year old kid who seems to be perpetually at the pool, asking me questions, demanding that I watch him do some lame trick because his parents are too busy doing whatever is they're doing, wrapped too tightly in their own grown-up worlds to pay attention, ceased. Everything stopped.

A split second before I retrieved him, when I saw his white shirt fluttering in the water caught by the momentum of me moving towards him, he looked up at me. I mean, straight at me, under water, his eyes seemingly unaffected by the chlorine. What I saw in his eyes, his expression was simple - I need you, dad.

I scooped him up and the sounds of the world came flooding back. Including a strong, slightly-waterlogged cry from the cute Monkey Boy in my arms.

I was reminded of a few things. First, Owen doesn't float. Second, what being a dad is all about. See, the fact that I can procreate is all well and good and I guess successfully doing so defines fathering but it doesn't really make me a dad in my book. It's being there that counts, it's patching up skinned knees, its super-gluing favorite toys back together, it's coming to the rescue that really defines being a dad. For me, at least. You can have kids but what's more important is that they have you.


On a similar fatherly note, I'm guest-blogging over at Work It, Mom! today. Which is an honor since I'm not, obviously as we've already established, a mom. I hope after you're done dropping me a line here, you'll head over there and check it out.

Posted by Chris at June 10, 2009 6:01 AM

This was a tense and intense post. I'm glad Monkey Boy has you.

Posted by: MariaV at June 10, 2009 6:33 AM

Sweetie, many years ago, Katie fell into the pool at our condo. All I saw were floating red curls! I leapt in, in what can only be described as my best lifeguard form, grabbed her suit and tossed her onto the pool deck next to the pool.
She came out sputtering and looked at me and asked, "I was calling you Mom, didn't you hear me?"
I have never forgotten that day!

Posted by: Maribeth at June 10, 2009 6:45 AM

How frightening for both you and your poster Maribeth...

Glad Owen is okay.

Posted by: Dee at June 10, 2009 7:16 AM

What a scary moment! Even though you were right there it still scares you to death! totally agree about what a good parent really is - and one of the bigget things a good parent is, is AWARE. Aware of what their kids are doing and who they are. Not just around pools either.

Posted by: Debbie at June 10, 2009 7:29 AM

my ex fell into the lake when he was young... right next to his dad...and he sank..and he looked up and could see his dad..who was afraid to touch him because he was....
at the bottom of the lake..
his mom screamed at his dad to "get mick out of the water!"
when he was in his 50's i wad doing a massage technique on him that "makes your body remember things you thought you might have forgotten" i saw him turn...and it actually sounded like he was coughing up water!!! i was freaked!! but it could have been worse had i not known of the incident when he was young.
your body is a magnificent thing...that remembers your whole life and puts trauma somewhere safe (for the most part) so that you survive... he will forget...but you... will remember!!! i'm so glad you were there... and the world stopped.... for you two!

Posted by: the unicorn at June 10, 2009 7:32 AM

ugh how horrible!

Not long enough for anything really horrible to happen but long enough for you to relive the moment *forever* and repeatedly with a thousand what-if?s

Similar thing happened to my son with me in the pool with him, within my reach. We were on the pool steps and he took a step back and ended up underwater with no footing. I just grabbed him out and it wasn't long enough for him to even panic, but I just saw all yellowy water (his pool shirt). It astounded me how fast it was. Like "what was I looking at?" I was *right* there!

So he didn't panic, and I guess I didn't have time to but it makes me want to throw up every time I relive it!

Posted by: harmzie at June 10, 2009 8:10 AM

"See, the fact that I can procreate is all well and good and I guess successfully doing so defines fathering but it doesn't really make me a dad in my book."

I wish more people understood this. Especially those knocking up women left and right in the ... ummm ... ethnic parts of town.

Having been pulled out myself at an older age and pulling a kid or two out. I know what you mean. Scary, humbling, humiliating, reconciling.

Being someone's "dad" is much more about the next 18 years than it is about the 18 minutes to put a baby in her.

And yes, I'm for forced sterilization in some circumstances.

Posted by: Knot at June 10, 2009 8:11 AM

Been there, done that. Ok, not exactly that, but I totally get it. Reminded me of the time one of my then 6 year olds took a softball to the face, Blood was just gushing out of her mouth and nose and she ran right past the coach - a nurse - frightened eyes locked on mine for help.

Anyone can create a child. Being a dad or a mom means having a little piece of your soul out there to protect.

Posted by: Theresa at June 10, 2009 8:11 AM

Thank God you were right there.
Last month a high school friend's 3 year old son (and a twin) drowned in their pool while being babysat. I know the parents wish everyday that one of them had been there too.
When Cody was 2-ish a friend was spinning around with him in the very shallow end of a lake, got dizzy!, and fell and let go of Cody! He went under and we were all right there to rescue him. But even that was scary!

Posted by: NancyJ at June 10, 2009 8:12 AM

Chris, please print that post, put it in an envelope, and give it to Owen on the day he becomes a dad.

My own father might not have known a lot about fathering, but what he knew, he put on paper and mailed to me when I was in college. I still have it. I still use it. And it's more valuable than any book you can find in the How To section.

Posted by: Marshall Karp at June 10, 2009 8:40 AM

Clearly, Owen knew what he was doing when he picked you to be his dad.

Posted by: Wack-a-do at June 10, 2009 8:42 AM

Amen (in a non secular way ;)!

Posted by: Christina at June 10, 2009 8:59 AM

This is just one of the reasons your children are so lucky you are their dad - "You can have kids but what's more important is that they have you."
Your family is very blessed to have someone like you who "gets it".

Posted by: diane at June 10, 2009 9:09 AM

Scary....but real and something that could happen (and does) to all of us. I've caught Felix falling in precarious ways...MANY times. He's a daredevil, it comes with the territory. But scary still.

Will read the Work it post...sounds fun

Posted by: wn at June 10, 2009 9:22 AM

That is truly one of the scariest moments of any parents life. We have fished both of ours out of the pool. Gracie more than once...that look on their face... *shudder* So glad Owen is okay!

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at June 10, 2009 9:40 AM

Holy shit dude.

Posted by: William at June 10, 2009 9:41 AM

I just got chills and then teared up.

Posted by: k8 at June 10, 2009 9:46 AM

Careful there, Knot.

The Buddha did the same thing to me in the bathtub. I was right there, but was wiping down the sink when I heard a really quiet "sploosh." The Buddha had slipped down onto her back and was looking at me from under water. She didn't even have time to inhale before I got her, but the full weight of parenthood crashed down on me right then.

Is it too late to exchange her for a puppy?

Posted by: Alias Mother at June 10, 2009 9:59 AM

wow, that's quite a story. It kind of chokes me up on a day like today.

Posted by: carrster at June 10, 2009 10:44 AM

Wow. I am teary...and utterly relieved this story had the ending it did. How utterly scary for all of you.

Posted by: Country Girl at June 10, 2009 10:55 AM

((hugs)) you're a pretty awesome guy and an even awesomer dad!! Mia Bean & Monkey Boy sure got the pick of the litter w/ you ;)

Posted by: Kris at June 10, 2009 11:25 AM

"You can have kids but what's more important is that they have you."
That was bloody brilliant. <3 Good work sir. I am so vry glad that Owen is okay.

Posted by: Heather at June 10, 2009 11:30 AM

The idea that my kid needs me is the greatest thing to be learning as a new mom. It's a little overwhelming, but it's great! I'm glad you embrace it as a Father, my husband is stuck on "overwhelming", but we are only 6 months into it. We are glad to be part of this new "club" of people who have their heart and soul crawling around on the living room floor!

Posted by: Andrea at June 10, 2009 11:30 AM

owen is lucky to have a dad like you. a dad, not just a father. good work.

Posted by: kati at June 10, 2009 11:36 AM

Cole fell into the deep end of my dad's pool last summer, and my husband was out of his chair and into the water faster than I could even get up. He hauled him out and wasn't even in the water long enough to hurt his blackberry. Impressive. He got SO lucky that night, if you know what I mean (wink wink!).

My dad still comes to my rescue, just in different ways. Good dads are some of the most precious and under-appreciated things in the world. Happy Father's Month!

Posted by: heels at June 10, 2009 11:49 AM

I'm reminded of Keanu Reeves short monologue in Parenthood (I think). "Any jerk can be a father, not everyone can be a dad." Or something to that effect.

I love that my boys need me and that I can be there to give them the help.

Last night my older son offered to pay me to go out and play catch in the backyard even though it was dark out. The pay? One penny. Hey, its the thought that counts!

Posted by: Erik at June 10, 2009 11:58 AM

My heart caught in my throat because I've had my kids lose their footing in the lake and have gone under. Those few seconds feel like a lifetime.

Posted by: Angella at June 10, 2009 12:01 PM

i'd read beth's account of the incident yesterday, and let me tell you... your version very well made my chest seize up. i recently had a scare with my own son who's a few months older than owen, and it is very much so that the child has you. and for me at least, it is the very worst feeling when you come to understand that you can't take that fear or pain away from them or take it in their place. glad to hear that you both survived the incident, and here's hoping you never have to go through that again... even though we know parenthood revolves around incidents such as this.

Posted by: SUPAHMAMA! at June 10, 2009 1:07 PM

Jeez Chris, you gave me chills!
I cannot imagine watching my child fall into a pool!
Thank God you were right there to save him!
Let's declare today "Chris is an awesome Dad day!"

Posted by: Rose Winters at June 10, 2009 1:47 PM

You are absolutely right, it's the being there that counts.

I am glad Owen is ok.

Posted by: jessica at June 10, 2009 3:14 PM

You should write a book because right here is a damn fine title.

"You can have kids but what's more important is that they have you."

Posted by: Kristy at June 10, 2009 3:21 PM

Holy heart stopping post, Batman! Beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I'm glad everything is ok.

Posted by: Rebecca at June 10, 2009 4:58 PM

First, I'm glad he's ok and that you were there.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. Patching skinned knees, fixing toys with glue, giving that final kiss of the night that makes them smile in that "I'm comfy" way... that's the best. But there's nothing quite like being there. At that same age, I saved many bonked heads, spills, potential bloody parts with a quick hand by just "being there" as you put it. I know I won't always be there, but I'm going to spend the rest of my life happily trying.

Good job.

Posted by: Brad at June 10, 2009 5:02 PM

This post made me cry, which is noteworthy because I'm not typically a cryer. You hit it on the head. Fathering a child only takes a few seconds of OMG OMG OMG. But being a Dad means being present in every way. You Rock, Mr. Cactus. You Rock!

Posted by: Ms Sassy Pants at June 10, 2009 5:30 PM

Your description of the universe stopping is perfect. My niece once did something similar and fortunately I was right there to scoop her up. Good thing kids are so resilient! You rock, Mr. Cactus!

Posted by: Liz at June 10, 2009 7:21 PM

I had a comparable experience a couple of years ago with an ice cube and chocking. I was not nearly as philosophical as you.

Posted by: NG at June 10, 2009 9:25 PM

Your children are lucky to have you.

Posted by: Hannah at June 11, 2009 2:44 AM

Scary. I'm so glad he is ok :)

Posted by: Mary at June 11, 2009 4:07 AM

When I was 9, my 3 year old cousin drowned in a neighbor's (to my grandparents' house) unsecured pool. There is nothing more devastating. It's why we've taken our boys swimming since they were babies because I am *determined* they'll know how to instinctively turn towards the edge of the pool/water boyd, get their head above water and scream for help. We now have a swimming barely- 4 year old, well advanced in the pool for his age, and a 2 year old who is very comfortable in the water.

I'm really glad you were right there and it had a happy ending... seriously... it's my nightmare.

Posted by: ewe_are_here at June 11, 2009 11:06 AM

holy crap Chris that is the scariest thing ever. I am so glad he is okay. I'm sorry you had to go through that!!

Posted by: La Petite Belle at June 11, 2009 11:17 AM

One knows that humen's life is very expensive, however different people need money for different things and not every one earns enough cash. Thence to receive fast business loans or just financial loan will be good way out.

Posted by: JosephineHarrison29 at June 11, 2011 3:10 PM