My youngest is admittedly a mommy’s girl. She also just turned three this summer, and despite her age, still has a raging case of the terrible twos, where opinions are fierce and sensibilities are inconsistent.
I had two tickets to our Columbus Blue Jackets’ last home preseason game. Both of my older two kids have been fortunate enough to visit Nationwide Arena for a few games in the past. Given this was an exhibition, I figured this was a low risk, tremendous opportunity to indoctrinate my youngest to the game of professional hockey and a perfect time for some daddy/daughter time. Because she has two siblings around, I don’t always get many opportunities to hang with just her solo.
With a 7 pm puck drop, my plan was to get downtown early, settle into our seats for warm-ups, stay for the first period, and get back to the cozy confines of our home in time for a reasonable weeknight bedtime and avoid unleashing any toddler tantrums.
The first sign the night might go eskew occurred when I received an email at the close of business that the game was delayed a half hour due to issues with the St. Louis Blues’ (the Jackets’ opponent) airplane. This gave us some surplus flexibility, which is always appreciated when doing anything with children.
All was well until we hit unforeseen highway traffic navigating to the arena. What should’ve been a 20 minute drive, doubled in duration, and my leisurely pregame plans were tightened significantly.
We parked, and instead of moseying to the game, I threw my daughter on my shoulders for the two-block walk to save time (and her stubby little legs). No friction entering the arena, buying her a treat (Sour Patch Kids which she insisted she’d like, but didn’t at all) and getting to our seats - all with minutes to spare before the new alleged puck drop.
Both teams came onto the ice to warm up at 7:30, but after ten minutes or so, went back into their respective locker rooms. To my confusion, the scoreboard then displayed another 15-minute countdown. Then I realized - this game wasn’t going to start until 8 pm.
This obviously threw off our intended itinerary, and any three-year-old can prove to be a ticking time bomb, ignited by any number of unforeseen circumstances. To my daughter’s credit, she was as happy as I’ve ever seen her. And most importantly, we were having a blast just hanging out together, which was exactly what I needed.
Finally the game started, and we stayed for only half of the first period. Satisfying for me was watching an incredible first shift by our new top line which resulted in a goal a minute into the game.
We took the customary photo in front of the cannon, and scooted out the door for the car (again, her perched on my shoulders). It goes without saying, but I highly recommend taking your kids to a Columbus Blue Jackets game. Plenty of activities to take advantage of and a true family-friendly environment. This was over two weeks ago now, and she is still constantly talking about the Blue Jackets.
On the drive home, another familiar parenting curveball occurred: we hit traffic again. Absolutely uncanny to deal with traffic at off hours on both legs of our travel in Columbus. Both situations were car accidents, and in both, it appeared everyone was ok, which is clearly most important. Again, my daughter took the delay in stride, even insisting that we listen to the game on the radio in the car.
Serendipitously (and maybe intentionally on her part), she dug out Night Night Daddy to read at bedtime - a book no one in my household has chosen for this ritual in a long time.
Life as a parent is a frenzy, and this night was no different. But none of these minor parenting curveballs detracted from what was outstanding time well spent bonding with my youngest child, who just may end up being the biggest hockey fan within my crew.
There is a new favorite story in our household. Much like the “feather wand” episode of Bluey, this story is on repeat almost every hour. It’s not the personal triumph of wearing pull ups or graduating into pre-school. No sir. It’s that time I ate bear poop.
Let me give you a little context on this fecal spectacular. I was hiking with our son and some friends who had their four-year-old with them. While on the trail in the White Mountains, I stayed back and found the exciting excrement from a black bear on the side of the trail. By that I mean I chewed up a Tootsie Roll and placed it over the wrapper, placed it on the trail and yelled in excitement.
The two ran towards me with excitement. The crouched down to examine it with me. I proceeded to show them the texture, how it is still wet which means its fresh. When one of the little explores asked how I knew it was of a black bear, I showed them features followed by taking a bite out of it. While chewing curiously, I explained how typically these bear eat berries and it tends to be sweeter in taste. They were equal parts stoked and sick to their stomachs. To where I lost my composure and began telling them what it really was.
For the remainder of the trip, I was called out for eating poop and for telling lies. Ever since, I’ve almost had daily tellings of the story. Grandma knows now, the high schooler with super-fast bagging skills at Giant Eagle knows and now you do too. I ate bear poop, and I liked it.
In my past life I was a tripping guide in Maine and New Hampshire. For months, I led age-appropriate hikes through trails and on mountains for kids ages 8-15. I learned some fun games and pranks to pull on kids along the way. This particular prank I waited years to pull on my own son, and I seized that opportunity.
This was something I’ve always wanted to do and had the opportunity to make a memory with more than just my own son. We’ll cherish this for years to come. I’m willing to bet the other half of the Tootsie Roll that it will be brought up on our next hike, and I totally welcome it.
While recently a presenter at the HomeDadCon in Phoenix, put on by the National At Home Dad Network, I had the opportunity to learn from men who care for their families full time. I heard countless stories of memories these men have made with their children during even the most simple of daily tasks. One man shared a story that struck me hard. Because of physical challenges he’s unable to help his child overcome challenges with sports, especially when he sees how awful his son is at it. After hearing his story and wiping countless tears from my face, all I could think about were all the times I put off or denied an opportunity with my son that I’m completely capable of doing. There’s no reason not to jump all in!
As I am retold the story of how I ate bear poop on our vacation, I think of it as the building block of how moving forward as a dad and husband I will not put off making another memory because “I’m not able to right now” or because “it’s too hot to go outside and play baseball.” If I’m capable, I’m going to make our own fun and do what Robin Williams suggested “Carpe Diem,” seize the bear crap.
-Matt Lofy, regular contributor
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.