Carrying on a Family Tradition

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As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I can’t help but get excited. It is my favorite holiday (well, tied with Christmas) and I looked forward to it every year growing up (and still do). However, it does bring a bit of sadness as well.

Up until my Grandfather passed away, Thanksgiving dinner was always a big tradition for my family. My Grandmother would cook enough food to feed ten armies and family would come in from all over (to be quite honest, there were so many of us, random people from off the street could have walked in there and nobody would have known any better). We would sit down for dinner and in between the clinking of silverware on our plates, we would laugh, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. This would continue well into the night. The kids would all play together and the adults would share stories, inside jokes, and laugh some more over a few or ten glasses of wine and a cheese ball (which I found, and still find, repulsive). Football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Snoozefest, er..I mean parade, were on TV and, sometimes, my cousin would bring his acoustic guitar and sit on the kitchen floor and play songs while everyone sang. The Santa parade would pass through town in the evening followed by a trip to the hosie to see Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty. Afterwards, we would put up the Christmas tree and assemble the little town below it on a platform built by my Uncle. It was a family tradition like no other. Call me crazy, but at this time of year when I walk into my Grandmother’s house, I swear I can still smell that Thanksgiving dinner cooking.

I miss those days.

As important as that tradition was to me, and as fond as I am of the memories (and believe me, there are LOTS), it’s a tradition that hasn’t been followed for the last ten years or so. The family dynamic has changed over those years and my Grandmother just didn’t have it in her to continue cooking that huge dinner without my Grandfather here with us. And I don’t blame her. He was a huge part of our lives, just like she is.

I guess it’s just the way things go sometimes.

Last year, my wife and I cooked dinner for Mason’s first Thanksgiving (his dinner was a jar of pureed turkey, pureed sweet potatoes, and pureed green beans – he hated it, of course). I wouldn’t have felt right if we hadn’t cooked, which I think is a reflection of how important that family tradition was to me growing up. Afterwards, we put up the Christmas tree – just like we had in years passed. This year we will be cooking dinner again, and I hope to eventually make it into something as big as what I used to have. There was just something about sitting around a huge table, stuffing food down our gullets (not that I don’t do this – and thoroughly enjoy it – every opportunity I get), and spending time together as a family that seemed to bring out the best in everyone. Even if it was just for that one day, it was an opportunity to forget all the petty things in life and focus on what was most important – each other.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that have the greatest impact, and this, for me, was one of those things. I hope that one day Mason will realize the same thing, and be able to look back on family traditions of our own that we will have, and carry those on into his future, share them with his children, and remember them as fondly as I do mine.

I strongly believe that as their Grandchildren, this is what my Grandmother and Grandfather hoped for and wanted for us as well.

And now, years later, fully understanding how important it was to them, it makes it that much more important to me to fulfill their hopes and desires by carrying on their tradition.

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Everyday Heroes

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It seems as though it’s always during times of adversity that heroes emerge from otherwise everyday people, and this story more than justifies that sentiment. A father shields his four children from a hail of bullets, only to lose his life. His four-year-old son was shot in the head and later died. Two other children are critically wounded, and another managed to get away unharmed. The gunman, who also set the house on fire, apparently then took his own life.

The story is heartbreaking, to say the least, and it’s just one of many similar stories that depict events like this that occur every day. Too many questions will be left unanswered, and what can be answered will surely lead to more questions. However, one thing is certain – the parents of these children are nothing short of true heroes. A father who didn’t think twice about jumping on top of his children amidst a barrage of bullets in an effort to save their lives, sacrificing his own, and a mother who, despite being shot in both legs, found the strength to carry her dying son out of the house.

It’s a scene that no parent should ever have to envision themselves being a part of.

We could spend days, weeks, or even months analyzing, questioning, and trying to find reasoning for violent acts like this, especially those against children, or we could take that time to remind ourselves of the unspoken vow that we take as parents to protect our children – a vow that both of these parents honored with dignity, bravery, and selflessness. It restores a little bit of hope for the world to know that there are parents who cherish and appreciate the gift that they were given.

These children now undoubtedly have a lifetime of heartache ahead of them, but they can rest assured knowing they were in good hands throughout this ordeal, and will continue to be moving forward. They can carry with them the honor and respect that their parents deserve for making the ultimate sacrifice, acting out of love and instinct, in a situation that provided no time to make a decision.

Then again, they had already subconsciously made that decision.

Just like the rest of us.

Random Things I’ve Learned Along The Way: Part One

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Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be smitten by a screaming creature that’s covered in blood and mucous. Even M. Night Shamalamawhatshisface can’t convince me otherwise.

Location, location, location. Having a baby at the hospital is a good thing when the sight of blood and needles nearly makes you a patient yourself.

Hell hath no fury like a woman in labor. For 26 hours.

I don’t care if you’re five miles or fifty miles from the hospital. That first ride home with a baby feels like it will never end. The motorists in the line of cars behind you will agree.

The same day the baby moves in, sleep moves out. It’s the most painful end to a relationship I have ever experienced.

When your pediatrician answers every concern with “that’s normal,” it’s time for a new pediatrician. Because crying all night and projectile vomiting everything he ate on a daily basis was normal.

I rescind my previous statement. Hell doth hath fury like a woman in labor for 26 hours. It’s called colic.

Those first few tar-like baby poops are like rainbows and butterflies in comparison to what’s coming.

Baby boys have pin-point accuracy when peeing. You better hone your ninja skills before changing one.

After the experience I had, I would rather carry fine China on an icy slope than carry a baby down a carpeted staircase.

I would have an easier time wrestling a bear than I do changing a toddler’s diaper.

Making bottles is an art. And you’ll know whether or not you’ve created a Picasso.

You almost need to be a gymnast to put a car seat in the car.

Pacifiers have a tendency to vanish into thin air. Only after you’ve turned the house upside down do they reappear in your child’s mouth.

You know you’re exhausted when you attempt to sing your child to sleep and you go first.

Grocery shopping is more like a shopping spree. I think Mario Andretti would be proud of my cornering skills with a shopping cart full of food.

There is no anti-misery remedy for a teething baby. So stop looking for one.

To toddlers, everything is a ladder. And the more awkwardly shaped and unstable the object is, the more likely they are to try climbing on it.

A shoe, juice box, popping ball push toy, and books: items I have found in the washer.

Seeing his face light up when he sees me peering through the window after work is so awesome.

Toddlers just randomly fall over. I have no explanation. It’s a strange phenomenon.

You know you’ve gone off the deep end when you start a blog about parenting.

Eight Years Later

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The number eight. Laid on its side, it represents infinity. For us, it also represents the day we became a couple – October 8, 2004.

And today we are together eight years.

But, if I lay that number on its side…

I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I can remember (mostly) what was said and I can remember the hug afterwards (and every hug still feels as good as that one did).

In the beginning (you know, when no noxious gasses were emitted from our bodies and showers were a daily occurrence), we asked each other everything and told each other our life stories. Since then, we have shared laughter, tears, anger, disappointment, sorrow, and just about every other emotion a human being is capable of feeling. We learned about, and tried to figure out, each other and ourselves (to put it into perspective, if we were books, I’m “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and she is “War and Peace”). We have built a foundation of trust and understanding that has helped get us to where we are today.

Eight years later, we no longer have to ask how we feel about each other (although, she still does for good measure and I try to divert because I’m a guy and I’m not supposed to be mushy…or something….). We just know. It’s evident in the things we do and say, corny or otherwise, and is represented in living form by our Son, Mason.

Eight years later, there are still no noxious gasses being emitted from her body and her showers are still a daily occurrence. Meanwhile, I pray that DEP doesn’t do any air testing near me and she does everything short of hog-tying me and dragging me to the shower.

Eight years later, she apparently still finds me to be something less than repulsive.

Eight years later, she has memorized One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and I have memorized War and Peace.

And it’s the best book I’ve ever read.

I love you.

Finding The Right Answers

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Growing up, it seemed as though my parents always had an answer for any question I had, whether it was simple or complicated. Was it always the right answer? I don’t know, but that didn’t matter at the time. They were Mom and Dad. They had to know everything, right? As children, we all looked to our parents to solve any problems we had. But where did those answers come from? Surely there had to be some gigantic book that they secretly referred to.

Fast-forward to today. In a time where so many answers can be found by doing a simple Google search (their validity no less questionable than our parents’), I now realize that the technological age has caused many people to lose sight of their ability to find answers simply by reflecting on life experiences and doing some soul searching. (No, I don’t mean a soul search engine. There’s no such thing. Don’t believe me? Google it.)

Having done this a lot myself, I now fully understand how my parents had an answer for everything – there really was a big book they were secretly referring to.

Now, with the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, it has become frighteningly apparent that parents everywhere are losing touch with their children, and vice versa. Having worked in a school district, every day I saw the obvious effects of this and it was heartbreaking. Open, verbal communication is almost a lost art, and kids today are being raised by the internet and television. It’s hard to imagine where technology will be when our son gets old enough to start questioning things, but I certainly hope that his first resource for knowledge will be us and not Google.

I didn’t get to where I am today by way of the internet. My parents taught me what they had to, and let me learn the rest on my own. They taught me that there are some questions that cannot be answered except through experience, and I want to instill this in our son as he gets older. But, for now, I will look forward to answering questions about bugs, dirt, cars, and why Mom is insane (okay, finding Jimmy Hoffa will be easier than finding an answer to that question…)

And just as I trusted my parents, I also want him to know that we can be trusted to find the right answer to any question he might have, no matter how simple or complicated.

A Random Rambling

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I’m going to take this opportunity to stray a little bit from what I normally write about. Please note that this is not a knock on any of the great mothers out there as well (stay-at-home or not) and the hard work that they do. I happen to be married to one, and consider myself very fortunate.

This is for the dads out there who don’t reflect the societal stereotype that they are dumb and clueless about parenting. This portrayal is especially true in advertisements, one in particular that comes to mind is the Huggies commercial that was aired earlier this year (in their defense, they did remove the advertisement and make changes to their campaign, but not before receiving backlash from the public).

I just finished reading another article aimed at painting the perception that dads are clueless, dumb, not involved, and can’t raise their own children without soliciting advice from their child’s mother (or parenting “experts” – I would love to meet one of those, by the way) and I was insulted. Not just for myself, but for all of the dads who are engaged, loving, caring, and involved in their children’s lives.

To summarize the article:

“Dads are incapable of raising children and will do everything possible to make sure they die of some rare form of [insert disease here] since they’re too stupid to notice adverse changes in their child’s behavior until Mom points it out because it’s so blatantly obvious, yet only a mother’s instinct can bring about the realization that something is wrong. Oh, and they will never change their child’s diaper or clean up vomit because it’s soooooo disgusting so they will wallow in their own defecation and puke for all eternity.”

Really?

Let’s turn the tables briefly. Imagine a commercial depicting a woman in a hardware store looking for a tool required to complete a household maintenance job. She’s portrayed as having no clue what she’s doing and is forced to call her husband who shows up and gets the tool himself, pointing out how obvious it was. Imagine the justifiable backlash that would come from that kind of a commercial.

How imbecilic can the writer of this article be? Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. Yes, there is an alarming number of fatherless children in America (and the world in general). However, recent studies have shown that the number of stay-at-home dads has increased exponentially. What was once a small sliver in society has now become a sizable chunk, and these are dads who left the workforce completely to be the primary caretaker of their children. This is not the 1950s anymore, where women were 24-hour mothers and men were 8-hour breadwinners.

I’m not writing this for pity. I’m not looking for accolades or a pat on the back. I don’t want an apology from Huggies or any other company that likes to play on the perception of incompetent fathers. I don’t need advertisements to tell me I’m doing a great job as a father and that I’m perfectly capable. I already know this because my wife and son love me and appreciate me, and that’s all I need. I’m writing this because it’s unfair that fathers today are defined not by what they contribute to their children, but by what the truly incompetent fathers have not. I’m writing this on behalf of every dad out there who feels disrespected by the stereotypes and perceptions laden upon them undeservedly.

We are not perfect, but that doesn’t make us incompetent. We can do it all, too.

So, here’s to you, dads, who have the superpowers to wash the dishes, go grocery shopping, cook dinner, vacuum, mop the floor, and do the laundry.

Oh yeah, and raise your kids, too.