American Ninja Father



My two oldest granddaughters, ages 9 and 7, are obsessed with the TV programs American Ninja Warrior Junior and American Ninja Warrior.  


Since their father, my son, restricts their screen time, they make the most of the limited windows of opportunity they have to watch the tube. They scream like cheerleaders for their favorite competitors—girl, boy or adult.    The obstacles put in the way of each contestant are always physical:  swinging on ropes, swinging on a big “hot dog,” (as their 3-year old sister describes one game), climbing walls, or swimming under water and opening doors.


This past week, they were bummed when a young adult with an asthmatic condition missed winning the contest by a few seconds, slowed under water by shortness of breath.  Yet, right under their noses, there was another Ninja Warrior with a breathing problem who was vanquishing obstacles right and left, as they popped up in all forms, physical and emotional.


Their dad has inherited my sinus condition, and has layered on top of it a few allergies, a slight asthmatic condition and three daughters, each of whom makes their own set of demands on his attention and time.  I was a pretty good father, but he is far, far, far better and always present for them in all things, big and small.


Earlier in the day of their Ninja disappointment, their father dealt with a back-upped toilet, and an ant invasion—the kind of obstacles you never see in competition game shows on TV.


Then, a few hours later, we all went out to dinner, heading to a favorite pizza and pasta place.  All three girls were very excited.  We arrived at the no-reservations place shortly after they started serving dinner, and there was an hour-long wait.  Undeterred and still in high spirits, we walked up the block to another pizza/pasta place, and discovered there was no open table for 3 hours.


The girls started to whine and moan about being hungry, and while we walked back to the Honda Odyssey which would carry us all home, the girls’ grandmother tripped and fell while she was holding the 3-year old tightly in her arms.  We were all momentarily stunned, and the American Ninja father soothed the frightened feelings of all three of his daughters who were worried about the safety of their baby sister and their Grammy.


We piled into the car for the odyssey home, while the American Ninja Father quickly ran through several strategies to overcome the latest obstacle put in our path.  Remarkably, and while breathing deeply to keep his cool, he fashioned a way toward the finish line, while the youngest was insisting upon pasta, “because I fell,” and the two older girls were howling over being hungry.  These obstacles had teeth and tempers.


We walked in the front door of his house, and the American Ninja Father set a world record for sprinting to the stove and simultaneously whipping up a dinner of scrambled eggs, croissant rolls and pasta for dinner.  The obstreperous obstacles had been tamed, and the day had been saved.  For the American Ninja Father, operating without the glare of TV cameras or the financial rewards of winning a commercial competition, it was just another day, as tomorrow would be.