Sunday is Father’s Day, and I am celebrating it with my wife Anne and twin sons Josh and Andrew (age 17).
When Anne and I were married I was open to having kids, but I really didn’t have much experience being around them. My four siblings were each single with no kids of their own, so I had no nephews and nieces to play with. “Would I be a good parent?” I wondered.
Josh and Andrew were born in 1994. When they were 2 years old I started a tradition called “buddy night”. Anne worked a full time job in addition to being a mother of 2 toddlers, and I figured she could use some time for herself. So I would take Josh and Andrew for a boys night out while Anne had dinner with friends or family.
A memorable “buddy night” occurred when Anne had to take a business trip for a week, and I had the task of taking care of the twins solo. One evening I took them to a local pancake house for dinner, and ordered Josh pancakes covered with chocolate sprinkles. “Surely this would be a treat for a 3 year old!”, I thought. Josh was less than thrilled. “I’m not eating this!” he said. “These pancakes have dirt on them!” Other challenges during that week included giving the boys a bath. “Daddy got soap in my eyes,” Andrew said as he talked to Mom on the phone.
Most buddy nights turned out better than this. The boys and I had lots of fun on our evenings together. I would take them to sports events, to restaurants, to indoor amusement parks, miniature golfing, and more. I remember Andrew as a 3 year old singing his rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” to a delighted crowd in a food court on a Christmas shopping expedition with Dad. Another time before leaving for one of our adventures the then 4 year old Josh said, “I love buddy nights!”
The picture above is of Josh and Andrew before I took them to their first hockey game in 1999. We had dinner at Wendys before heading to the arena. I remember this night in particular because of an older man who walked up to our table as we were finishing our meals. He had his 20 year old son with him. With a sad look in his eyes he said to me “those are great boys you have.” I glanced at the man’s older son, then at the boys, and I thought to myself, “don’t grow up too fast, guys.”
But grow up they did. After years of buddy nights we are now nearing the end of this tradition, as our 17 year old twins are about to enter their senior year in high school. This week we had another boys night out; I took Andrew and Josh to see the movie Super 8. It’s a great “coming of age” film of middle school age kids combined with science fiction twists and thrills. On the drive home we talked about how much we enjoyed the movie, and about our favorite films we had seen this year. It was a different experience than taking two toddlers out, but still fun in its own way.
In another year Andrew and Josh will be off to college, and our nights together will be few and far between. I’m feeling the first pangs of empty nest syndrome. For this Dad who was unsure of what kind of father he would be had learned to relish the parenting experience. I’ll miss buddy night.