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.

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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.

Growing Up

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ImageYesterday, it hit me again. Julie had asked me for a picture of Mason from exactly a year ago. As I searched through the hundreds and hundreds of pictures we have, I was once again blindsided by the fact that our Son is growing up. He’s no longer a baby, and that’s just too hard to accept. I thought I had come to grips with it, but apparently I haven’t.

As I watched him transition from a newborn to an infant, and now from an infant to a toddler, I could also see his independence starting to show through. As much as he is still attached to our hips, he is doing a lot on his own. And he protests if you try to help.

I have a hard time letting go of the way things used to be. Because of how severe his reflux was (on top of colic and milk and soy allergies, which we were unaware of at the time), I used to sit almost upright in bed at night with him on my chest or his boppy pillow, because he couldn’t lay flat. It was the only way he could comfortably get a little bit of sleep, even if we didn’t. During the day he would have to nap on us as well because we never knew when he was going to projectile vomit (if projectile vomiting were an Olympic sport, he would have taken home the gold. At the very least, he could have been in the Guinness Book of World Records for volume and distance). And looking back, I guess getting a bath in formula wasn’t so bad, and those long nights weren’t so long after all.

It’s not hard (in terms of effort) for me to think back to last year and remember him as little as he was, and I hope that I will never forget those days, because, as hard as things were, they were some of the best days of my life. I know I have a lot to look forward to, but time is cruel and unfair. Fifteen months may not be a long time, but with the way things were when he was a baby, it felt like those days would never pass.

Now, sometimes I find myself wishing they hadn’t, because I’d give anything to go back and clean up one more projectile puke, to hold him on my chest for one more night, and let him nap on me for one more day.

Us Time

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Far too often we tend to forget about ourselves and our own relationships when we’re so focused on being parents. The most important of those relationships is the one for which you took vows. Most everyone who has a child will agree that it’s hard to find any time for yourselves, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of spending time together so you can be that couple again.

Being a Father is my greatest accomplishment, without a doubt. My Son is the best thing that ever happened to me. But, without my wife, he wouldn’t be here. Julie and I were together for seven years before she got pregnant. Over those seven years, we built the relationship that we have now. (How she could put up with me for seven HOURS, let alone years, still escapes me). Now, maintaining that relationship becomes the hard part.

Two years ago, our weekend conversation would have gone like this:

Julie: “I’m bored”

Me: “Me too. What do you want to do?”

Julie: “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do?”

Me: “I don’t know. Want to go see a movie?”

Julie: “And then what? I don’t want to just go see a movie and then come back home.”

Me: “We could go out to eat first.”

Julie: “You don’t go to eat for fun when you’re bored.”

Me: “I do.”

Julie: “Well, that’s you. Not everybody treats eating like it’s a competition.”

Me: “Smartass! I don’t hear any ideas from you!”

Julie: “Because there isn’t anything to do.”

Me: “So, what do you want to do then?”

Julie: “I don’t know.”

This back and forth banter would continue until we finally would settle on going to dinner, or a movie, or both. Or driving around. Or nothing at all. The point is, we took for granted all of the free time that we had.

Today, our conversation would go like this:

Me: “We have about 16 hours of free time, six of which are consumed by sleep, two of which are consumed by straightening up the house, and a half hour that is consumed by getting ready to go. We have exactly seven and a half hours of free time. What do you want to do?”

Julie: “Anything. I don’t care, as long as we get to spend time together.”

Me: “Ok, let’s go out to eat and then go play miniature golf. Then we can get some ice cream, too!”

Julie: “You and your food…”

Me: “What? I’m hungry!”

Julie: “What else is new?”

Me: “I have an idea! Let’s go sign divorce papers!”

Then I get the death stare…

But, it always seems as though when we go out together, somehow the conversation steers back to “I wonder what he’s doing right now…” Try as you might, you can never “forget” that you are a parent. Still, being able to step away and take a break is always a welcomed change of pace to our everyday life. Suddenly, something as simple as seeing a movie, going to dinner, or playing a round of miniature golf that at one point would have been boring in our book, feels like a week in the Bahamas (or, for us, a week in an igloo in the Arctic Circle because we both hate the heat!). Even sitting at home watching a movie with a bowl of popcorn, or driving around aimlessly, doesn’t seem so mundane anymore.

As hard as it is to step away, any time the opportunity arises for us to take a break, we try to make the most of it. As few and far between as they are, it allows us to feel like a couple again and continue to maintain our relationship, which is just as important for Mason as it is for us. Someone once stressed to me the importance of maintaining the bond you have outside of your children because the bond you have with your children will always be there. Eventually, children grow up and move on. But, afterwards, if you don’t have the same bond you had before your children, then what else is there?

Listen To Your Child’s Laughter

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Amidst all of the negativity around the world, in the news, and around every corner you turn, it’s incredibly hard to envision a happy, socially-healthy future for our children. Racism is still prominent. Religion is still a divide. Even political party affiliation has become a source of hatred and judgement – and I know good and bad people from both sides of that coin. Today, social status seems to hinge on your income and material assets more than the person you are and what kind of contribution you make to society. It’s disheartening, and I fear for our Son’s future. Some would say I focus on all of this stuff too much, but it’s hard not to when its impact is evident all around you. But, over the last 15 months that I’ve been a parent, I discovered that there is a way to get away from it all, if only for a moment – listen to your child’s laughter.

Here is an example. I’m just getting over a cold. It’s that time of year. And, of course, I passed it on to my Son, who has had it now since Saturday. Thinking back to the week that I was sick, I was tired, achy, whiny, and just downright miserable. My wife would agree that I wasn’t the first person you’d want to be around (or the last…or at all..). I’ll admit that I’m one of the biggest whiners when it comes to being sick – I absolutely hate it! My Son, however, seems to take it all in stride. He still claps, dances, shows affection, smiles, and laughs. And I don’t just mean a baby giggle, I’m talking full belly laughs. Yesterday, for no apparent reason, at least that I could decipher, he came running in from the kitchen and over to me while having a full belly laugh. He turned his head and looked back in the kitchen and pointed, as if to show me something, but nothing was there. Again, at least not that I could decipher.

At that point, as I was trying to figure out why he was laughing, I realized that it didn’t even matter. You shouldn’t have to have a reason to laugh. And I realized that, for that fleeting moment that he was laughing, that is all I was focused on. For as terrible as he’s been feeling, whatever caught his eye made him laugh, and therefore forget about the fact that he’s sick and unhappy because of it. It has been said many times that children are our greatest teachers, and I believe that and take this as a lesson. No matter how bad things may seem or be, it’s up to you to make the best of it and find that silver lining. It could always be worse (ingenious thought, I know, but it was really hammered home this time). And yes, I realize that a 15 month old is less of a baby than I am when sick! I know it’s comparing apples to oranges, because at 15 months you’re unaware of what’s happening around you. You have no concept of past or future, and only live in the present, but that’s the point I’m trying to make.

It’s not the first time that his out-of-nowhere laughter has made me forget everything else, but it’s the first time that I realized I shouldn’t be trying to find an explanation for it. Much as they do, just live for that moment, because even with all the bad out there, these moments allow you to get away from it all. As adults, we can no longer live care-free. But, if we choose to live vicariously through our children (the right way), we can often be reminded of what it feels like to be care-free again. It is our job as parents to make our children happy, so listen to your child’s laughter. They’re returning the favor.