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The Best Part of Being a Dad Is Finding a Friend in My Five-Year-Old

06/19/2015 05:18 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT
Joshua Ostroff

This will be the fifth Father's Day since the annual occasion became less about my dad and more about my son, Emile.

It almost perfectly coincides with E's senior kindergarten graduation ceremony -- a thing I would have never otherwise known existed since, back in my day, I just moved from my one-room schoolhouse to the elementary school up the road without a big deal being made. (It actually was a former one-room schoolhouse but no, I was not born in the 19th century. Just in B.C.)

Of course, it is a big deal. Everything is a big deal to a five-year-old. That's pretty much the best part of parenting -- having to eschew your own world-weary cynicism because you can't help but see the world through their ever-wide eyes.

You also have to eschew your own life somewhat. Tag-team parenting assists aside, my schedule is now built around his needs. I race home on my bike after work to play Crazy 8s on the porch and read him Bone or Mouse Guard before bed and then wait down the hall in my room until he passes out because he's anxious about being alone upstairs. (Thankfully my wife handles most mornings, when I'm at my worst). I drive him to karate and to music class on Saturdays, and we figure how to keep him active and entertained the rest of the time he's not at school, daycare or on a playdate.

This past half-decade hasn't exactly flown by -- I barely remember a time when I could go out dancing all night and not have to worry about keeping a small human alive the next day. Or settle in and play videogames for an entire Sunday. (Sorry, Elder Scrolls Online, I'll see you late tonight!)

I miss those things, of course -- I'm totally looking forward to his teenage years when he won't wake up at 7:30 am demanding to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender -- but in general this whole dad business has gotten better every year.

There was obviously something special about those early years, which take on an intensity incomparable to any other experience this side of, I imagine, ingesting too much LSD.

Thing is, back then he was a blob and after that a crawling creature and, once he finally started walking and then talking, an amusing munchkin. But now he's a legitimate friend as well as a little loved one.

I'm still in charge, but our relationship has evolved. Friendships are largely based on common interests, and Emile and I share many. That may not seem surprising to non-parents but one of the most interesting things I've learned as a dad is how unique kids are. I mean, you hear all the every child is a precious snowflake blather, but you assume children are just into whatever their parents dole out. Not so. At least in my case. He has always been very particular about what he likes, it just turns out that a lot of it is what I like, too.

Such as superhero comics and dancing and wrestling on the bed and couch (sorry, Carrie) and music in all of its many forms, not to mention gefilte fish (though I use a fork rather than grabbing it with a hand and shoving the whole damn thing in my grinning yob).

But he is also rather focused on his future career as a spy, while I'm a journalist, and he enjoys practicing magic and martial arts, which are not hobbies I have ever gravitated to. He is also obsessed with Michael Jackson, who I've always enjoyed but nowhere near Emile's intensity -- we had to buy him a red leather zipper jacket for his Halloween costume last year, he wants an MJ-themed birthday party in September and he's learning to play "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" on keyboard.

Mostly, though, we just enjoy hanging out together, despite our 35-year age difference. My wife says she's the one he goes to for comfort and I'm the one he goes to for fun, which is not true -- she's many barrels of laughs while I woke up this morning with Emile having crawled into our bed and curled himself up under my arm -- but it's not untrue, either.

I look at classes as our educational source so our time is playtime. One of our favourite things to do together is go to music festivals. It's something we've been doing since he was almost three and I took him to the Mad Decent Block Party. He was intimidated by the crowd at that age, and so I took him up onstage because I knew the promoter and there he happily danced to A Tribe Called Red in front of 15,000 hipsters.

Since then I've taken him to almost every music fest in town, from Field Trip and TURF to CBC Music Fest and Bestival.

The latter, which took place last weekend, turned out to be considerably more ravey than I expected, and there weren't nearly as many people in costumes as you see at the UK edition.

But Emile put on his finest astronaut uniform while I decked myself out in a star-emblazoned button-up to dress as outer space during the day before donning a Rocket Racoon hoodie at night. And off we went to Toronto Island where we danced to techno in front of fire-spewing pink elephants and to house in an inflatable bouncy church. We dug holes down at the Balearic stage on the beach, searched endlessly for ice cream (alas, finding only a freezie) and hung out with friends in a teepee while Emile taught us yoga.

We watched Caribou and then Nas, high-tailing it to the ferry after "NY State of Mind" because we were already three hours past his bedtime.

It was a lot of effort to ensure he was always in a happy, safe space but sharing strange and wonderful experiences is always worth it. Five years ago I'm sure I would have looked at such parent-kid concert combos as no fun for the grown-up.

Now I know better. After all, who doesn't like going to festivals with their best friends?

emile

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