• Half a Ninja

    The content of this post was written about 18 months ago when my youngest daughter was an infant. It has nothing to do with personal finance, the economy, or health care. It is just a story about a dad.

    My inner ninja isn’t half what he used to be. How’s yours?

    Don’t have an inner ninja? Oh, perhaps you have an inner gymnast instead, or inner Nobel laureate, or inner gourmet chef. We all have something akin to an inner ninja, that fantasy self that has the talent or time to do what we no longer can, never did, or may never do. In his heyday my inner ninja was a Renaissance ninja, a nimble, dexterous, stealthy polymath. He was strong and agile, very handy about the house (with the exception of plumbing and dusting), and also was (still is) a witty writer. He’s amiable and universally admired. Though he neither seeks nor requires praise, people compliment him frequently and give him cash, sometime cars. He leads a charmed life.

    Anyway, my inner ninja is still on his game intellectually. But physically, well, let’s just say he’s hung up his mask and tights. I hardly bother to call on him anymore. He can’t lift much and he rests a lot more than I’d like. He naps at work! He says it’s his tendons or his back. It’s hard to get a straight answer. I think he’s faking.

    But every so often I do appeal to my inner ninja, usually for things I think he can handle. I want to give the poor old chap a boost. For instance, it’d be nice to get a little help opening cereal bags. When I open a cereal bag myself it’s loud enough to wake the neighbors and I spew more on the floor than I pour in my bowl. Since my inner ninja was once so agile and crafty I figured he could help me out with cereal bags. No luck. Like I said, he’s over the hill. But he is smart. He says go into the bathroom, close the door, stand over the toilet, and then open the bag. Behind the closed door nobody will hear the bag crinkle or hear you curse as the cereal spills into the toilet. And no clean up, just flush. Then throw away the empty bag and try to eat something else that’s easier for you. “Think you can you handle a banana?” he asks. Shut up inner ninja.

    I’d also appreciate a bit of assistance keeping quiet around the house. I’m always plodding around and waking up my wife or my kids. It’s all the hardwood floors, squeaky doors, and rickety staircases. I can hardly go anywhere without a ruckus. So when my inner ninja woke me up to pee the other night I expected some help. (By the way, back in the day he could hold it for a week. A real mensch he was.) Since he woke me I told him he’d better suit up because he’s walking and he’d better make it quiet. I didn’t want to wake anyone else on the way to the potty. He complained and asked to be carried. I mumbled something about my tendons or my back. You know, I faked it.

    Inner ninja dusted off his mask and tights. The mask was fun. The tights, well, inner ninja could stand to loose a few pounds. We stood in the bedroom doorway for a moment. Inner ninja gracefully floated his (our) left foot forward and into the hall. It hovered for an instant over the floor boards. Ever so gradually I felt the pressure of the floor on my (our) foot increase. All was quiet and still. Then, CREAK! “Crap,” I thought. “Oh, my back/tendons,” inner ninja whined. We were both hopeful for the second or two of silence that followed. Then we heard the cry of an infant. (I’ll have you know that infant is mine and my wife’s. Inner ninja was not there.)

    Nice job inner ninja. Inner ninja peed and then I went to feed the baby. This is something I can do just fine without inner ninja. In fact, I never consider him for child care which is surprising since we could use a babysitter. But he’d probably blow it. It’s a little known fact that child care is anathema to Renaissance ninjas of the inner kind. They’re just too busy with their important works (mostly haikus, folk songs, docudramas, and theorems I gather) or with their ridiculous, self-absorbed stretching (“yoga”) and walking regimens complete with pedometers, special shoes and god-else-knows-what.

    So, inner ninja nestled into the odd part of my mind he frequents and went back to sleep.  I gave the baby her bottle. It was a delight as usual. She looked at me, as she always does, as if I were her world. It makes sense since I can solve all the problems of her tiny domain. I can eradicate hunger in minutes. Cold front coming in? I can turn up the heat. Too hot? I can take her to the cool basement. A bit swampy in the nether regions? Solved with a quick change. Fatigue setting in? Plop you go, into the crib. Ennui? Why I’ll just move you elsewhere, shake a rattle, sing a song, do a dance.

    Ah, to be so capable. It feels great. And I can do it all without my inner ninja. The only people I want to share this experience with are my children and wife. Yes, I’m skilled in the art of being a dad all by myself. Perhaps it is time I let inner ninja go. After all I can bumble around the house just fine without him and for the rest of the important people in my world “daddy” is all they need. But inner ninja can be fun to have around too: good for brainstorming and picking on. I’d miss him dearly. Okay, he can stay. But I’m not letting him in on any daddy work. I like it too much and if his mask didn’t frighten the kids, those tights sure would.

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