Cool Dad?

“I should have worn cutoffs!”

Merry Christmas!

We’re on the coast of Argentina for the summer holidays.

It’s hot and sunny.

This is very much a homecoming for my family. Every summer we come back to our house in a pine forest a few blocks from the beach. This is Pinamar. We lived here for a little over two years, a place that we came to call our pine tree paradise. They were hard but glorious years that suddenly came to a halt as the crappy global economy and the need for better schooling for our children and professional help for our son, who has autism, drove us back to Buenos Aires.

But every year we return to spend our summers here, and we pine for it throughout the year.

The kids start getting the fever in November.

I do too.

In a way, coming here for the summer is like returning to my youth in West L.A.

We open the door and the three kids run off to play in the garden-cum-forest and then climb over the gate – opening it would be much too easy – and run into the sandy street to play soccer and tag, to ride bikes and meet up with other kids from the neighborhood. I can hear them now, hooting and hollering. It is nearly dusk and I am making dinner.

The differences with my youth?

It’s hot at Christmastime, for one thing.

But more so, the big difference is that I am on the other side of things. I am the grownup. They are the kids. I am making dinner. They are out playing – and refusing to come in.

This means I have to face the ordeal – yes, it can be called an ordeal – of walking out to the street and to the gang of kids where I will have to open my mouth and say, “Kids, it’s time for dinner.”

How totally uncool.

I start going out there, and my eldest daughter spies me. The eight-year-old knows my mission. And she shakes her head and mouths the word “no” before returning to the soccer game with the boys.

I stop on the lawn and think, “Man. If I tell my kids to come in then I will be a totally uncool dad.”

So I watch for a few minutes and wait.

Yes, I wait.

I wait for a neighbor to come out first and call her two boys in.

They go grudgingly.

The game then breaks up, the rest of the kids go home and my two eldest children come running in and climb over the gate and run into the back yard and into the kitchen and to the dining room table, where my wife tells them to wash their hands, and they sigh, and then go and wash their hands, and we sit down.

Then I think, “Yep, now I know why dinner was often cold when we came in from the street when we were kids.”

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