Tony Woodlief | Author

Fatherhood moments

I don’t have any illusions about the most popular part of this site. It isn’t my insightful social commentary, or my witty dissections of twisted authority figures. It’s the little guy in the pictures at the bottom of the page. So, here’s a little Caleb for you.

As we settled into our flight last week, I removed the latest New Republic from my bag and put it in the seat pocket in front of me. Wishful thinking, of course, the notion that one can read while seated next to a two year-old who provides a running commentary on the people around him (“she’s sleepin’ daddy”; “that man’s goin’ to the potty, daddy”). The magazine had a caricature of George W. Bush on the cover, with a sneaky look on his face. Caleb pointed at the cover and announced, “he’s naughty.” Then, in a louder voice, he asked, “can I see the naughty magazine?”

The people in front of us turned around. I laughed nervously, and announced so all around us could hear: “Honey, it’s not a naughty magazine, it just has a man on the cover who looks funny.”

“Can I hold the naughty magazine?”

“It’s not naughty. Stop calling it that.”

“Can I hold the naughty book?” Now other people were casting glances at us. My wife, across the aisle, pretended not to know me.

“It’s not a book, it’s a magazine.”

“Can I hold the naughty magazine?”

Stop calling it that.” More loudly, I announced, “We don’t have naughty magazines!”

I could read the minds of the people around me: Sure, you pervert.


We visited a church while out of town. It was communion Sunday, and this is one of those churches where they bring the bread and grape juice (oh, to be in a church without hangups over alcohol!), to worshippers in their pews. Caleb was feeling a little hungry, and I had to restrain him from helping himself to a piece of bread when the plate passed. Since we weren’t familiar with how things are done in this church, we held our bread and surveyed the crowd surreptitiously, trying to discern whether we were supposed to go ahead and eat the bread, or wait until everyone had been served. The entire time, Caleb was standing between my knees, trying to bite the bread in my hand while I move it around to keep it out of his teeth.

Next came the juice, and a similar look of betrayal from Caleb once he realized he was to be denied this as well. Once we were done, we all sang “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” Caleb quickly developed his own song, adapted to the tune of the hymn. It went something like this:

“I want some grape juice, I want some ju-uuuuce
Please I want some grape juice, Daddy can I have the juice,
Pleeeeeeeese, ju-uuuuuuce.”

As my wife often observes, people go to church when they are thirsty. So it was a nice metaphor. A little embarrassing, though.


Sometimes when traveling, I lose my discipline as a parent. Some samples:

“Daddy, I want an apple.”

“Not until you finish your french fries.”


“Daddy, it’s bedtime.”

“Not yet, honey. We haven’t gotten ice cream yet.”

I’m a bad, bad father.


We went to a nice, quiet little Italian place I know in the city we’re visiting. None of the waiters speak English very well, and they all like Caleb. Caleb likes nearly everyone, especially people who bring him food, so it makes for a good relationship. My wife and I were enjoying the last of a crisp Pinot Grigio. Caleb, long since finished with dinner, was getting restless, so I let him slither out of his chair and crawl out from under the table to stand beside us. He loitered there, participating in our conversation in the fashion of two year-olds (Wife: “How did your meeting go today?” Me: “They’re all good contributors.” Caleb: “The fire truck goes round and round.”). After a few seconds I realized that Caleb had drifted a couple of feet to the table behind us. He had his shirt pulled up to his chin.

“Caleb! Come here.” Caleb walked back to our table, his shirt held high. “What are you doing, son?”

“I’m showing my big basketball belly!”

“I don’t think people want to see your belly.”

“It’s a big one!”

“That it is, son.”

“I know!”

If you’ve not seen your grinning two year-old happily rub his chubby belly after a nice meal, you haven’t lived.

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