Breathless

We’re going to outer space. My five-year-old daughter has figured out how. The family has to gather upstairs, all of us. The big dog and the pesky cat, too. And the baby. Here’s what we have to do. We have to stand together and tilt our heads back – all of us – and start blowing, very hard and again and again and again. Up into the rafters. Then the house will rise off the ground and soar into outer space.

“What are we going to do when we get there?” I ask.

“Fly around, silly,” she says. “And then we’ll go to America and visit your mummy.”

Who’s The Boss?

My dad came for a visit. He’s the most vivacious eighty-something you’ll meet.

He does tai chi in the morning, in the forest behind the house. Then after a breakfast of nearly black coffee, fruit and toasted rice cakes (often burnt, by mistake), he walks to the beach and back through town, a round trip of more than an hour, nearly two.

When he gets back, he takes a break to read the newspaper, check his emails and then sits down with a book. He’s reading “The Iliad” and something on the early years of the oil industry in Argentina.

He plays with the kids in the garden-cum-forest and the house, helps my son water the plants, getting wet and laughing in the process.

Later, he sits down to watch TV, to check out the latest in tennis. Now, here’s where things get troublesome. You see, my dad is known as El Jefe, or The Boss. His brothers and sisters have told me so. As the eldest, he ran the games, called the shots, orchestrated things.

So El Jefe sat down to watch a quarterfinal of the Masters Cup in Shanghai. The problem was that my three-year-old son was watching “Lazy Town.”

El Jefe got me (for all his vigor, he doesn’t know how to use DirecTV, except to turn the volume up to ear-shattering levels) to flick to ESPN. Well, my son screamed, shouted, stammered and turned red in the face.

“What’s the matter? Don’t you want to watch tennis?” El Jefe asked him.

“No!” my son said.

Outmatched, my son stormed out in a sulk and left with my wife to go to the doctors. He hates doctors – but apparently not more than tennis.

The next day, a repeat episode was unraveling. El Jefe wanted to check out the tennis again.

“No, Gran-Gran. My TV,” my son said.

He was watching “The Backyardigans.”

But El Jefe thought he’d have a look anyway. My son screamed, shouted, stammered and turned red in the face. And then screamed, shouted, stammered and turned red in the face. Well, his performance this time rattled El Jefe, who turned to me and said, “Let’s let him watch cartoons.”

El Jefe turned and went to the couch and “The Iliad,” and I thought, Wow, El Jefe may have met his match.

Tuned In

I’ve given up and tuned in. Tuned into the music of my kids. “High School Musical.” 1, 2 and 3. Troy, Gabriela and Sharpay.

It’s either embrace it or keep my hands pressed over my ears for 10, 12, 14 years, all the while muttering, “What’s that noise?”

No, I won’t do that. I won’t be a fogy. I won’t be too cool for school. I’ll get into it, embrace it and live it.

Why not?

The kids dig it. They’ve got “HSM” CDs, DVDs, microphones, outfits and swimsuits. They dance to it, bop and jig and twist.

And invent. “Hey Dad, watch me,” my daughter says. “This is the backstroke.” And there she goes backstroking across the room and back again, followed by my son. Next comes the bum slide, the leapfrog and then the spinner.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“The basketball dance,” my daughter says. Dribble, dribble, dribble.

Soon I’m enjoying it, swaying to the music. My wife, too. Swaying and crooning out, “Cause you are the music in me.”

And I think, it isn’t all that bad to be tuned in. Or is it?