Strong, Weak and Vulnerable At The Same Time

by Kevin

guest_post_imgThese past few months have been quite the experience of being a dad and plenty more unsuspecting roller coaster turns to come I am sure. I have written quite a number of posts relating to the struggles and the coping (lack of) of ET suffering from GERD, but I never actually started from the beginning as such.

Have you ever been strong, weak and vulnerable at the same time? Read on to find out, why I felt this way all at once.

Ever since our son ET (real initials) was born, initially I was overcome with such happiness and joy that literally everything else in my world did not matter as long as I had both my wife and son by my side.

We were in the hospital for the most part of the first week in trying to set up some routine in his feeding patterns and getting the advice we so desperately needed from the helpful staff of midwives and nurses.

As the days and weeks progressed, things were shaping up to be great, we were told one great news to another and that it would only really be a matter of days before we can take our son home. As quickly as we were told that we could, we also quickly found out we could not take him home. After a number of tests and monitoring on the little fellow, we were told he had a mild case of Jaundice which is essentially a yellowness in the skin.

Our little guy had to undergo photo-therapy which involved him being stripped down to his nappy and a blindfold put on and carefully monitored via number of cords and placed inside a transparent box housed with a couple of UV-based lights.

We were told he had to be under these lights essentially for a full twenty four hour period while maintaining the regular three hour feeding intervals at the time.

As the days progressed, ironically our level of sleep increased because we knew that with him being in the nursery and carefully monitored by the doctors and midwives, we ended up booking a staying in room in the ward and we could sleep knowing we would be the first to hear of anything from the midwives regarding ET.

After the first session of photo-therapy, we were told his levels of Jaundice had decreased quite significantly and that after a few more standard checks we would finally take ET home. During the moments at home we had been anticipating taking him home for such a long time, we were in for quite a ride, the feeding hours seem to jump quite erratically, ranging from some two and half hours to three hours and one piece of advice we were told by one of the midwives before we began the process of going home was “Remember, just feed on demand when at home”

Because of her profession, we figured this midwife must know what she is talking about, seems to make sense we thought he is obviously growing and getting older by the day, it must be normal for babies to get to the on demand feed stage this early in their life, of course later on we were told by other medical professionals this should not happen at this early in his life and that we still should have continued to wake ET up every three hours for his feed.

We had taken ET home, and he was still being breastfed at this point, the first night was great feeling we followed every advice we could remember from the hospital, we changed his nappies, fed him, carried him as the days went on and everything seemed great.

I can’t remember exactly when we started to notice a change in his behaviour. It was after just one day, we had began to notice his complexion had seemed a little yellow and that is when we decided to call the hospital, and after a few calls back and fourth and monitoring from home, we took him in for observation.

And this is when we essentially had what felt like everything thrown in our face, his was underweight, his Jaundice level had rebounded and significantly higher than what they were before the first photo-therapy session and so again he was under the UV-lights for round two of photo-therapy. Even though we as a family had gone through with ET being under the UV-lights the first time, the second time felt such like a tonne of bricks just came crumbling down on us, it was harder on us to accept the fact he had to go through such an experience again and I think being able to take him home for such a short amount of time before hand had contributed to this.

After a full photo-therapy session, we were essentially given the green light to once again take him home, again everything was going well initially until we started to notice and suspect he wasn’t eating a much as he should have and as days and weeks progressed, we noticed we had such difficultly in settling him after a feed.

We thought this is just normal as all babies cry and need soothing and settling but we didn’t think too much of it. During a routine check up see an excellent paediatrician, he officially diagnosed ET with GERD (severe reflux)

The anticipation of become a father, I had read up on all I could to at least think that I was going to be prepared in some way or another, but never in my mind did I anticipate even the thought of a child suffering from GERD.

All up to this point before finding out ET has GERD, I felt incredibly strong for ET, being able to provide for him, be able to look after and nurture him and suddenly feeling weak. As the weeks progressed, we began to notice a change and a lot of trial and error with his medication to try and suppress his reflux, we felt like we were on top of it all, we had overcome his GERD and for the most part it is definitely under control.

Occasionally when I am feeding him (on prescription formula), and trying to settle and soothe him, I am finding it very difficult and tends to push on my patience, I end up being frustrated and I unfortunately take it out on those around me that mean to me the most and it is incredibly unfair on them, I feel tremendously vulnerable and weak during this moments while at the same time feeling I should be stronger, to be there for my son, to provide for him.

Being a parent is definitely the hardest thing I have done in my life and having such an overwhelming rush of feeling strong, weak and vulnerable at the same time has made me realise that in some strange way this is all perfectly normal and that things do happen for a reason and has made me take a step back and realise that the real person who is having most difficult time is ET who has to go through the pain from GERD and dealing with an incredibly short-tempered excuse of a father during those times when he needed it the most.

Do I feel incredibly stupid for the way I have been handling this whole situation? Of course, I am working on this and as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words and I vow to prove that to the fullest not only for myself so I can look in the mirror and be proud of who I see, but for my wife, for those around me that care about me, for those I love and care and most importantly for our son ET.

The Two Most Important Decisions Your Child Will Ever Make

Barry-300-320x240by Barry Adkins

“It’s just alcohol; at least they are not doing drugs.” How many of us have said this, heard it, or thought it? Often we think that as long as they are “just drinking” our children will be okay. The truth is, most illegal drugs are tried, for the first time, under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol kills more than all illegal drugs combined. Try using Google to search for the term “alcohol abuse,” and check out how many results you get.

Those precious children that you have held, burped, changed diapers and loved, have hopes and dreams. They dream of growing up and finding a cure for cancer, making the world a better place, being president, (insert your child’s dream here). They will be faced with many decisions that will determine whether their hopes and dreams are realized. Decisions like where they want to go to college, what they want to study, where they want to live, etc.

All important decisions, no doubt, but the two most important decisions your child will ever make are about drugs and alcohol. Make one bad decision with respect to drugs or alcohol and all of the above hopes and dreams are gone, vanished into thin air.

It’s too late for my son, Kevin, but it’s not too late for your child. The decisions your child makes about drugs and alcohol will have a profound effect on how their lives turn out. Educate yourself, and then educate your children. Act as if their lives depend on it, because they do.

When you lose a child the most that you can hope for is to make something very good come from it. That is what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing.

Mom, Dad or Parent

Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.

Anyone who follows the parent blogging world knows the recent addition to the stereotype built against dads. The Huggie’s “Dad Test” ads expose a point of frustration for dads: the idea that dads are not capable to handle the duties that are required of having a kid. Changing diapers, feeding, watching, etc.

Being a professional in the marketing and advertising field I completely understand the use of stereotypes. We have to have them to reach out to a target audience affectively. Take the standard 35 year old mom. A helpful stereotype for marketers for this demographic is that her hobbies mostly consist of activities with her family. She probably is active on social media and enjoys providing some type of motherly act for her family. Whether it’s cooking, housework or just making sure that everyone in the family is happy she’s all about the role of being a mom (whatever that may mean to her).

That’s an example of a useful, non-offensive stereotype. There’s a clear difference between how a mom is stereotyped and how a dad is when it comes to advertising. If it’s taking care of the house, kids, etc the dad is often the incompetent one. When it comes to everything else (deodorant, cars, beer) we are focused on sex and things that make us “manly.” It contradicts the social trend of changing roles. More women are getting college degrees than men. 38% of dads are the primary caregiver of the child (up 17% in 10 years). We are moving closer to not having defined roles as parents. You’re don’t have the characteristics of a “dad” or “mom.” You’re just a parent. Both are responsible for nurturing, loving, watching, interacting and developing their children.

I talked about this in a past post, so I won’t keep building on this. I am happy for this new role of the “21st century dad.” Sure, it means being a man is being more vulnerable. Sure, you have to show your feelings, realize when you’re wrong, and let your wife take a shot at her dreams outside of family life.

I’m a firm believer that we go in cycles as a society. Something gets bad. We become aware. We change it. It gets better. It gets worse. We become aware. So on and so on. We are very aware of what an absentee father does to a kid’s development. We are highly aware of the high divorce rate and what that does to families. We recognize this and men who are willing to realize that they need to be more of an involved parent will have well developed kids and happier marriages.

I also believe that we make a point to place blame on others for our misfortunes. Should marketers realize that they need to change the way they look at dads? Yes. Are men making more daily household purchasing decisions? I believe so. But let’s not put all of our energy into talking about how mistreated we are as dads. Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.

By Jared Miller

Catch Jared on Twitter @WingDaddyHood and on his blog!

Sweating a Sex Education Class for Fathers and Sons

I watched as fathers and their sons entered the auditorium for the evening’s edification. Each pair sat side by side, talking to one another in hushed voices, as if waiting for a funeral to commence. I quelled my tension by trying to place myself in my son’s situation. Surely he must be feeling weirder than I about being dragged to yet another event “that’s good for him.” I was careful not to squirm.

Fatherhood continues to amaze, delight and enrich me. I just went to a sex education class with my 11 year-old son, and yes, I was secretly dreading it.

My wife signed us up. She was almost giddy from the program’s great reviews she’d heard through her ever-flowing moms’ grapevine. “Everyone says it’s the best… you’ll love it,” she exclaimed.

I wasn’t so sure. The reality of a graphic immersion into the world of human sexuality with my offspring without the props of a punch line or locker room towel snap was a bit off putting.

Yet daddy duty called, and as a father who strives to be aware and there, I certainly endorsed the concept of a truthful discussion about the challenges of puberty, sexuality, reproduction and the like.

Driving… slowly… to the appointment with my son, who now rides in the front passenger seat next to me, I wondered why I felt so apprehensive. A memory of my own father’s dilemma about this subject made me smile with some understanding.

You see, my dad, while a college professor and exhaustively loquacious on most subjects, played hooky when it came to discussing sex with me.

When I was in my early teen years, long after I’d learned the playground buzz of the birds and bees and even taken some experimental sprints at some of the “bases,” my dad said he wanted to show me something. He led me upstairs into his bedroom, opened the top drawer of his dresser, and lifted up a pile of handkerchiefs to reveal a box of condoms.

I still remember the brand: Ramses. I guess the manufacturer of Ramses wanted a heroic image from antiquity to compete with Trojans. But since the Egyptian king Ramses reportedly fathered 160 children, it’s little wonder why this brand has been discontinued.

Anyway, my dad said, “Here are the safes. I’m going to tell you what Dr. Jones told his kids.” Dr. Jones (not the real name of my dad’s colleague professor) had a brood of rough and tumble boys.

“If you get a girl pregnant,” my dad continued, “don’t bother coming home.” With that, he left the room. That was it. That was his drive-by, hit-and-run, scare tactic method of sex education. And “safes,” don’t you love that term? Never heard it used before or since.

I watched as fathers and their sons entered the auditorium for the evening’s edification. Each pair sat side by side, talking to one another in hushed voices, as if waiting for a funeral to commence. I quelled my tension by trying to place myself in my son’s situation. Surely he must be feeling weirder than I about being dragged to yet another event “that’s good for him.” I was careful not to squirm.

The lesson began, and I learned the true value of a good ice breaker. Having sat through innumerable meetings in which well-intentioned facilitators asked everyone to “go around the room and say something about themselves,” I had my doubts.

But our sex education teacher asked all the men to give a different synonym, however crude, for the penis. And he went around the room, right up and into the faces of all the dads, and politely but firmly demanded that we come up with an answer… a different name each time.

It was hysterical. There were almost no repeats from about 60 dads. Cultural and geographic differences unearthed endless variety. Everyone, all the kids and dads, were laughing and loosening up, releasing fear and anxiety, and sharing in the common bodily bond of masculinity.

From there it was a breeze. On the way home, my son asked me a couple clarifying questions, and I was struck both by how basic are the knowledge needs of tweens and by how casually I was able to answer him. He was more like my buddy when I shared my information. I was not hung up by embarrassment or thoughts about what a proper dad might say. I just told him the truth in my own salty terms.

My son listened intently, then said, “I get it.”

And I got it. This sex education class transformed taboo into prosaic. It was the learning ladder that assisted our leap over a tricky hurdle. We connected more as fellow males rather than as father and son. And I’m confident this unspoken yet powerful linkage will help us confront future issues more forthrightly and solve them more readily. My fingers are crossed that this is true.

I’m glad I didn’t flunk out on my chance to go to sex ed class with my son. Oh, and to answer that question left dangling there… the synonym I offered rhymes with “wants.”

Lin Filppu (@MidLifeDad)

This column first appeared in the Huffington Post Parents section http://www.huffingtonpost.com/len-filppu/sweating-a-sex-education-_b_1129325.html

Tobogganing For Dads: Hill Repeats

If you’ve got kinds under 5, you know that messing around with them is a great workout.

You’re running, you’re stretching, you’re lifting 40 pound squirming dumbbells. It doesn’t do much to mold and sculpt your body (Dads have beer guts. It’s from how we hold our kids, we can’t help it.) but at least it’s some physical activity that is challenging different muscle groups.

Go ahead, chase a 3 year old around a playground and try to tell me that’s not a P90X level challenge.

With the playground covered in white and the temps near freezing, your usual workout needs to be modified.

Here’s a way you can try to trim it down this winter, with another DadCAMP Workout: Hill Repeats.

It’s simple:

Find a toboggan hill. Push the kid down the hill. Listen to him scream. Beg him to climb back up the hill. Run down the hill to get your kid. Pull him in the sled back up the hill. Repeat for 45 minutes or until one of the kids has to go potty.

Posted by DadCamp

A Little Girl’s Thoughts on The Grinch

He is green and furry, after all, and he lives in a cave. Sigh. Maybe the memories that we want them to have are just not the memories they are going to take with them.

Maybe now that I’m getting older I’m becoming more sentimental. I don’t know why, but over the past few days I’ve really been thinking about the memories that Gavin and Marley will have of their childhood. Especially surrounding Christmas, as this should be a very happy, loving, magical time for kids. I cherish the Christmas memories that I have from when I was younger. Decorating the tree, drinking egg nog, shaking my presents while trying desperately to guess what they were. All of these things meant a lot to me, and I want my kids to be able to look back on their childhood with the same fondness.

So, when I saw that Dr. Suess’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was coming on, I jumped at the chance to watch it with Marley. Gav was off doing other things, and had no interest in some silly Christmas cartoon. So, I curled up on the couch with my cuddle monkey, ready to make some memories. I always enjoyed watching this when I was younger, as it just didn’t seem like Christmas in our house until we watched that sneaky little Grinch do what he did best.

As a matter of fact, Marley kind of favors Cindy Lou Who, although she doesn’t agree. She actually tried to ninjy my face off when we were discussing the resemblance. I survived, thanks to my cat-like reflexes and the fact that I am taller, bigger, and stronger than her. Her two foot reach didn’t help her much, either.

After forcing me to admit that I was absolutely crazy for thinking that she looked like a cartoon character, we settled down and actually started enjoying it. She laughed when he tied the antler to his dog’s head, which made me a little uneasy. I’m expecting any day to walk around the corner of the house and see her holding Echo, our black lab, down while desperately trying to tie a tree branch to her head. We talked about how he took everything, even the leaves off the plants, so that no one could enjoy Christmas. She was so amazed by how much work went into sneaking everything out, and how many decorations the Who’s actually had. It filled up his entire sleigh, which she thought was just ridiculous. We didn’t discuss how many decorations she felt the entire town should have, but I get the feeling that she has the “less is more” mentality.

By the end she was actually cheering for the Grinch, and was so very into the cartoon. When it was over, as the credits started scrolling up the screen, I asked her what she thought. I don’t really know what I expected her to say. Something about how great it was that they were actually going to enjoy Christmas despite the fact that they woke up to absolutely nothing but the company of each other would have been nice. Maybe I wanted her to say that she was proud of the Grinch for changing his outlook, that he was capable of being a good person, a quality role-model. I would have liked for her to talk about why the Grinch was so grumpy in the beginning, but after seeing how great it is to actually enjoy an occasion, that he was changed for the better.

Nah, that wasn’t at all what she was thinking about.

“He looks like he smells reeeeaaaaallll bad.”

He is green and furry, after all, and he lives in a cave. Sigh. Maybe the memories that we want them to have are just not the memories they are going to take with them.

 

**About the Author: Bartimus Prime is a SASD (Stay at Stove Dad), working full-time in the restaurant industry and full-time as Daddy to a genius 7 year-old son recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and a 4 year-old daughter recently diagnosed with a shoe and purse addiction. Married for over 8 years to the same woman, despite all of his embarrassing socially awkward moments and unimpressive ability to act intelligent. His rants and sometimes less-than-superb parenting skills are on display on his blog, I Can’t See Cause You’re Talking Too Loud

Greater than the Sum of our Parts

I recently had a guys’ night out. I went to a sports bar with a good friend and watched college football while our wives hung out with the kids. I had a very good time, and while I was sitting there drinking a beer, I tried to remember the last time that I just hung out with the dudes. Apparently, it was a long time ago because I couldn’t recall it. I used to play golf fairly often with another guy, but that was over 2 years ago. With the exception of that, I can’t remember any instances over the past few years where I’ve left the family at home to go enjoy a little testosterone.

Why is that? My wife certainly doesn’t mind. If I were to set up a weekly bowling night or something along those lines, she would be perfectly fine with it (I’m not sure I would be since I’m an awful bowler). I don’t really feel guilty about it. I’ve spent way too much time away from my family to feel bad about missing a couple hours here or there. I have friends in the area that are more than willing to hang out, so what was holding me back? Then, it hit me. The reason that I don’t have more guys’ nights out is that I don’t want to. I honestly prefer the company of my family.

When I first got married, I stopped thinking about myself as an individual (my military background may have helped with this). We were a couple. If I was invited to a party, I assumed that my wife was as well. We became a package deal. To be honest, my wife is absolutely my best friend. A small part of this is due to the fact that we move around so often that it’s hard to maintain solid friendships, but we are always together. The much bigger part, however, is that I absolutely adore my wife and everything about her. We are able to talk about anything, and I trust her implicitly. Given the choice between going to a pub or staying home and watching reruns of Firefly with my wife, she’s going to get the nod pretty much every time. We’ve been married for almost 8 years now, and I still love being around her at all times.

Then, the kids came along and things changed again. We were no longer a couple. We had become a family. If someone invited us to a social gathering, the first words out of our mouth were, “is it ok to bring the kids?” If it wasn’t ok, we simply didn’t go. A lot of people didn’t understand this. We would always hear, “why don’t you just get a babysitter, so you can go out and have some fun?” My answer was always that they are my family and a part of me. If I have to choose between a Super Bowl party without the kids or watching Phineas and Ferb at home with them, I’m probably going to pick the cartoons (unless the Dolphins miraculously made the Super Bowl, in which case, all bets are off).

I realize that this isn’t necessarily the healthiest option. Everyone needs a little downtime, and a nice romantic dinner for two is always appreciated. With that being said, do you know what my wife and I talk about during those dinners? The kids. Do you know what I talked about with my buddy while we were watching football? My wife. They are a part of me. They’re actually the best part of me. Technically, we are 4 different people, but when you put us together we are a family, and that’s much greater than the sum of the parts.

By: Military Dad

Twitter: @militarydadblog
Website: http://militarydadblog.com

Bio: Military Dad is the proud parent of 2 and husband of 1. He’s spent the last 13 years in the Navy where they keep promoting him despite his best efforts. He is currently enjoying a terrific shore duty with his family. In his free time, he likes torment his wife and kids. He loves sharing his experiences as a father and a sailor on his blog: http://militarydadblog.com. Feel free to stop by and take a look.

The Dreaded Binkie

Before you actually become a parent, you do not realize the near mythical importance of the pacifier, also popularly known as the Binkie. The Binkie is not like other baby toys. You buy a mobile, your newborn stares at it for 20 minutes then pulls it down and gives it to the dog. He’ll slobber on a teething ring for a little while, then eat it or try to hide it in his butt.

The Binkie is a whole other deal. A Binkie to a baby is like an 8-ball of cocaine to Richard Pryor – that mutha starts calling to the baby if it gets placed too far out of reach. It’s like Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” – no matter where the baby is, he can hear the Binkie screaming his name, begging to be sucked into oblivion.

The strange part is that the Binkie leaves a wake of destruction in its path that the baby apparently does not notice. Gums can start bleeding, the baby’s teeth grow in malformed. Literally, a cave begins to appear in the kid’s mouth where the Binkie normally goes, and the Binkie just sits there, staring at you, laughing at the orthodontist’s bills you’re going to soon be paying. The Binkie doesn’t care. He’s like a mafia don, all he’s missing is the pinkie ring. “Ya wanna get rid of me? Ya wanna stop sucking me? Fuhgeddaboutit,” he says, in his sloppy, drooling glory.

The Binkie’s smart, too, like a rat, or mold. The Binkie sneaks up on you slowly, without warning. First, your daughter only sucks on the Binkie after she’s done with her milk. Then it’s when she wakes up in the morning. Then before her afternoon nap. Then she needs it to go to sleep. It’s not The Binkie anymore, it’s BINKIE, a person with thoughts and dreams and aspirations to devour your daughter’s soul, hoping to worm its way into the tiniest crevasses of her existence. He manipulates, he coerces, now she needs it all the time, she never stops, she needs it all day, every day, 24/7, she needs it more than breath itself, or light, or love, or Mommy, or even a mind. Aaaauuuuuggggghhhhhh. Congratulations, Binkie has taken over.

Once Binkie’s in, he doesn’t want to leave either. He’s like the Tamil Tigers guarding their mountaintop staging area. If he were a North Vietnamese in 1972, he’d lie underneath a lake, breathing through a straw for weeks at a time. I’ve seen grown men break down in heaving sobs when they’re faced with the prospect of separating Binkie from their baby son’s mouths. Half of the maternal desertions in this country are caused by mothers’ fear of trying to get their child to sleep without Binkie.

But you have to do it. Your kid starts flirting with pre-school age and, if he still sucks on that rubber crack pipe, sorry, you ain’t getting admitted. You have nightmares about your child pulling into his high school parking lot, getting ripped out of the car by an angry mob and beaten senseless when he shows up with Binkie in his mouth.

So you and your spouse stay up late at night, scheming, thinking of ways to outsmart Binkie, that little Napoleonic jerk. You read books, you consult charts. A thousand different ideas course through your mind. But still, you know – yes, you know – there’s only one way to do it and it scares you to death: cold turkey. You’re going to have gather up all 700 Binkies in your house (uh huh, they multiply, too, when you’re not watching, like Gremlins) and throw them all in the trash. You’ve got one in every room of the house, your car, the backyard, your wallet and any place else you might find yourself when, God forbid, your kid realizes Binkie’s not in his mouth.

You’ll probably try to get rid of Binkie on a weekend when you can, if need be, escort your child to electro-shock therapy without missing any work. You’ll clear out your schedule, remove all sharp objects. A clergyman will come to bless your home. Then, you ready? Shhh, shhhh. Be quiet. Very quiet. It’s D-Day, your house is Normandie, your nursery is Omaha Beach, and you’ve just thrown all the binkies away.

Boom! Pow! Crash! It’s on!! Your kid is freaking out!!!! Shaking and sweating and panting and just…….freaking out. It’s like watching the season premiere of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew – strange beings inhabit her body as she thrashes around, desperate to put something in her mouth. She’s chewing on upholstery, lightbulbs, your dog’s tail – she doesn’t care, she just needs to fill up her oral cavity with anything that doesn’t taste like strained carrots.

It goes on for two days. The Exorcist has nothing on you. The cleanup could take weeks. Milk is spilled all over the kitchen. Bedding and clothes and diapers and toys are strewn all around the house. Neither you nor your spouse has slept in two days and you’re physically and emotionally exhausted. Nevertheless, against all odds, your child has kicked his habit. Whew! The withdrawals were gnarly and you imagine Jeff Conaway went through something like this before he died but you’ve made it to the other side and your kid is sleeping soundly in her bed with nothing in her mouth but a tongue. You’ve done it. Mazel tov.

The next morning, she wakes up and discovers video games. Now, you’re really screwed.

 

Dan Indante is a bitter, vindictive attorney who is ten years removed from writing the seminal relationship book, The Complete A**hole’s Guide To Handling Chicks, quite possibly the most offensive piece of work in the history of American literature.  Now, with two kids and a wife, 43-year old, fat, balding, unrepentant Dan pretends to be a model parent during PTA meetings and Little League games while secretly writing MadDadzBlog.com, a website that rages against the banality of modern parenting.  Dan lives and works in Beverly Hills, California, until the creditors from his various real estate projects catch up to him.

Birthday Party Gift

Our son Lukas turned 4 a couple of days ago. Being our only child, Mrs. LIAYF and I have each year held a party with a fairly large number of guests.

This year, we had hoped to scale down the party to a respectable number, but as it turned out for the 4th year in a row we ended up with a get-together which was larger, and more involved than the ones from previous years. This party, which was a huge success, had a Superhero theme complete with custom capes made by my lovely wife, and had a guest list of more than 60 friends and family, including nearly 30 kids.

But, if you are thinking “Wow, I wonder how much loot he scored with that many guests?”, the answer is actually none.  That’s because, as a rule, we ask that gifts not be brought to the birthday parties we throw for our son.  After all, how many toys does one kid really need?

Instead, like I suspect many families do, we ask rather that guests – optionally, of course – bring something else to the party.  On his 1st and 2nd birthdays, we asked held a diaper drive for a local organization which benefits needy families.  This year, like last, we instead asked that guests bring a non perishable donation to support our local food bank. 

We didn’t collect a ton of food, but it was enough to make a difference for at least a few needy families, and we also are donating some left over food items from the party, such as juice boxes.  Of course, the reasons for this are thoroughly explained to our now 4 year old son.  We want him to grow up with the knowledge that helping others is the not only the right thing to do, but something that should come naturally.

Today, Mrs. LIAYF will pick him up from preschool early, and take him to the food bank where he will get to drop off his gift from the party.  Then on Friday, it’s off to Seattle Children’s Hospital to drop off the leftover Superhero capes his mother so lovingly made for all his friends.  Of all the gifts he ended up getting for his birthday week, we are hoping these are the ones that last.

He thought it was a terrific idea.

A Tall Order

I had one of those nice dad moments the other day while I was driving my son Lukas home from preschool. Although most often during these drives I have the radio or CD player turned off so I can talk about the day with him, that afternoon I decided I was in the mood to listen to some music.

I had one of those nice dad moments the other day while I was driving my son Lukas home from preschool.  Although most often during these drives I have the radio or CD player turned off so I can talk about the day with him, that afternoon I decided I was in the mood to listen to some music.

Now, when he was young, I had no problem choosing any number of my favorite bands to listen to while Lukas was in the room.  I tend to listen to a lot of Blues, folk, and Rock.  Basically, I had no problem because he didn’t really understand the lyrics back then.  But more recently Mrs. LIAYF and I have opted to play a lot of kid tunes when he is listening because now that he can pick up the lyrics in a song, he finds many of those kid releases funny or catchy. 

One such CD is a Sandra Boynton collection of goofy songs.  I know, I know.  But even I will admit many of those songs are catchy and kinda funny.  Even to a grown man.  So, as a result we had been listening to that collection a lot of late and it certainly was growing a bit tired for me.

But back to the car.  Wanting to listen to some music, I had opened up the glove box and my ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ disc was sitting in there, so I popped it in for a change of pace.  The first song was ‘The Wild Hunt’ which I really enjoy:

 

My son, who was distracted, stopped and listened intently for at least a minute before he spoke.

“Wow, I like this Daddy. It’s good music.  Who sings it?” he asked.

“The Tallest Man on Earth” I responded

“The Tallest Man on Earth? Does his head reach the clouds?”

“No.  That’s just his singing name.  I’m not sure how tall he really is.”

“Where’s he from?”

“Sweden, I think.”

“Well, we should go there someday.” he responded.

I agreed that we should.  (We could visit the old country)

And I thought to myself that despite all the goofy kid tunes, I needn’t worry.  He has inherited good musical taste.

Happy Father’s Day to all you fellow Revolutionary Dads out there.

Less is more and not following one’s own advice.

This is certainly not news for parents who have older kids, but with kids less is more. I say this premising that I do not follow my own advice. Add that to the long list of parenthood’s hypocrisies.

If I see a cool toy car or stickers at the checkout register I just cannot help myself and will get it for my son (and, no doubt, for my inner child). Sure, he loves getting an unexpected present, but most of the time he becomes most fascinated by the wrapper or the box or the piece of cardboard or the twisty tie. He loves playing with boxes whenever we get a delivery at home. He loves playing with coins. He loves playing with scotch tape (lots and lots of it). He will chase a fly around the house for hours. So why even bother buying “stuff’?

Part of it, as I said before, is my own inner child who is just looking for an excuse to regress. The other is just simply to see the smile on his face. That is certainly a selfish act since all I am doing is spoiling him, but it’s priceless. At the same time we follow a simple piece of advice that is not new, but is worth repeating. We cycle his toys in and out of site (using high shelf in a closet) so that he rediscovers them from time to time and learns to enjoy them. As soon as we notice a toy languishing in a corner or untouched for a week or so we just scoop it up and put it out of site. He usually does not seem to miss it or look for it, but when we put it out again for him to find 9 out of 10 times you see the same smile he flashed you when he saw it the first time. This way you can buy less stuff and once he is done playing with the box the stuff came in you will see that the stuff will be just as exciting and brand new each time it makes an appearance now and again.

Little Black Fly

I’ve been having a hard time connecting with my daughter lately. She’s two and she’s been sick on and off for the last two weeks and she hasn’t exactly been the most pleasant person to be around. I say that as an observation not as a judgment. It’s not her fault. She might be thinking the same thing about me.

Still it’s difficult to take sometimes when she seems to not want to be with me and she’s asking for Mommy all day long even though I’ve told her over and over that Mommy is at work. And I ask her if Daddy can read the book, and if Daddy can put her shoes on, and if it’s okay if Daddy gets her milk.

And she screams and flails, and yells, “No, Mommy!” And being the adult I know that this behavior is just a manifestation of her age and of her being sick. Yet the fact remains that I still have to deal with these situations. I still have to responsibly interact with her, and I still have to treat her with kindness and understanding.

And it’s exhausting. Being with a sick two year old is possibly the most trying experience I have had as a parent. I feel like there is no way to win, that nothing I can do in all my wisdom and maturity will be able to improve the relationship. And the thought of having a sustained poor relationship with my daughter fills me with dread. And it exhausts me.

I wonder when it’s going to end. I try to conjure the image of my sweet, sweet little girl laughing and playing and saying nice things to me. And even though I know that it was just a few short weeks ago that this behavior was the norm, I have a hard time getting those images into my head.

And even though I know Daddy’s Little Girl will return eventually, possibly within a matter of days, the thought of any more of this current state of affairs is difficult to take. It worries and troubles me, and in the end it just makes me tired.

When I hear her screaming as she wakes up from her nap, I feel like I am stuck to the couch. I had tried to take a nap myself but it just didn’t happen. I was too tired and I had too may things preoccupying my mind to fall asleep. But just as I was drifting off, the screams awoke me with jilting clarity.

I almost cried. The thought of having to deal with this behavior for the rest of the day is enough to drive me insane. Not because of the behavior itself, but because I feel like there is nothing I can do to improve the situation.

Five minutes later, I’ve calmed her down. She’s sitting in my lap and we’re rocking gently in the rocking chair. We’re looking out the window watching the clouds move by and the rain drip off the telephone wires. The trees swirl around in the distance and directly in front of us one solitary fly is glued to the window outside.

“Widdle bwack fwy,” she says softly through her snot-covered binky. “Little black fly,” I repeat, leaning back in the chair and closing my eyes. My arms are around her and her head is resting against my chest and shoulders.

I’m enjoying this time, but I can’t help thinking that it’s going to end any minute with a violent wave of her arms and a squirming out of my lap and some impossible demands and repeated cries of “Mommy do it” to anything I offer her.

But those things don’t happen. We just sit in the chair rocking gently looking out the window at the trees and the clouds and the telephone wires and the little black fly on the window.

And I start to relax a little and I hold my girl tighter and she lets me. It is quiet and the only sound I hear is the sucking of her binky. And when I adjust a little so that I can lie back more comfortably and close my eyes, she doesn’t seem to mind.

When I open my eyes she is looking back over her shoulder at me. She sees me smile a little, an exhausted smile with just a hint of tears, that says, “I love you and I’m glad you’re my daughter.” She doesn’t say anything to me, but somehow it feels like she knows. She knows that we haven’t been getting along, and she knows that this is the beginning of a return to the way things used to be.

We sit in the chair for another half hour not saying anything. We are completely still except for the gentle rocking. My arms are around her and the weight of her body against mine is a clear reminder that it’s all worth it. It’s always worth it.

I nod off in my exhaustion and I think to myself, I’ve got my little girl back.

When I open my eyes my little girl is still lying on my chest and the little black fly is still glued to its spot on the window.

#DadStreaking

Despite my title this is not a post about dads who have a few too many hits on the beer bong the night before a big trip to The Home Depot with the fam. Although it might be more humorous if it was. Who doesn’t love that Hank the Tank scene?

Despite my title this is not a post about dads who have a few too many hits on the beer bong the night before a big trip to The Home Depot with the fam.  Although it might be more humorous if it was.  Who doesn’t love that Hank the Tank scene?

No, actually with the start of baseball season and the recent feel good streak of wins by my hometown 9, the Seattle Mariners – I have been thinking of streaks recently.  And when I do think of streaks, I usually think of baseball. 

I had the good fortune to be in attendance at the Kingdome in Seattle as Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 8th home run in as many games back on July 28th, 1993. The place went wild, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Then, of course, there are the most famous of baseball streaks. Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak – which I consider to be probably the greatest single accomplishment in sports – and Cal Ripken Jr’s consecutive games played streak of 2632 over a 17 year span for the Baltimore Orioles.  I was actually in attendance at Camden Yard in Baltimore for one of those games on May 23rd, 2000, and although I don’t know what number that game was in his streak, I do know he hit a game winning two run homer again the Mariners that night.  He was certainly something special to watch.

All this talk of streaking brings me back to the title of this post.  Even though it’s not sports related, I am very proud to report that this dad has a streak going of his own.  While growing up on a small town farm in the 7o’s and 80’s I always knew my dad loved me very much. The thing was, he just didn’t say it much.  If at all. 

But since the day my son Lukas was born, I have made sure to say those three words to him every day.  Often many times.  A streak of 1408 straight days, and counting.  Obviously, I am not close to setting any kind of record here, but it sure is a nice feeling to look back on this streak and realize what it must mean to him to hear this each and every day from his dad.

I haven’t kept track, but he has a mini streak of his own going on as Wednesday upon seeing me arrive to pick him up from pre-school he ran across the play yard, jumped into my arms and held me firmly around the neck for a few seconds before leaning back, kissing me on the nose and saying “I love you daddy”.

That, right there my friends, is what it’s all about.

How about you, Revolutionaries? Have you been #DadStreaking lately?

*Image from Wikipedia

This One’s for All the Bouncers

Big. Big. Monkey Man!

And as soon as I start skanking the first chord, my kids instantly recognize the song. They start singing before the lyrics are supposed to begin because they’re only little kids and they have no sense of musical timing—yet. But they know the lyrics, because they’re nonsense lyrics, and they can relate to them. And so they start spouting off at different times and in different keys:

Aye, aye, aye
Aye, aye, aye

And then I get to the part of the song where the lyrics are actually supposed to begin, still skanking away on a G chord, and then a quick C and then a quick D, then back to the G, imagining the bass line pushing me along—and I start singing:

Aye, aye, aye
Aye, aye, aye
Them a tell me
Huggin’ up the big monkey man

And I start to think that maybe my kids are singing in key better than I am, but I ignore that thought, because my kids are going crazy, shaking their butts, rolling on the pillows, climbing on the couches, bouncing all around the room. It doesn’t matter if I’m in key. They love it. I’ve never seen a song elicit such joy in them.

And they keep repeating, aye, aye, aye. . . aye, aye, aye. . . over and over again. It makes them feel special. It makes them feel connected. To me? To the music? To something. They’re clearly happy, and it’s plain to see that they wouldn’t mind this song being looped over and over and over and over.

Which I am happy to oblige as I’m trying to learn it well enough to introduce it to the band. It could be our closer. The crowd would love it. Those who knew the song would sing along, and try to remember who sang it, and when it was conjured up in their mind that it was The Specials, it would bring back positive memories.

They would say, “That’s right! The Specials. Remember that band? Awesome band!”

If they didn’t know the song, or the band, they would pick up on the lyrics soon enough. They would think it’s fun and lively, and it would make them laugh and dance, and bounce around the room. The crowd would go wild, the people who knew The Specials and the people who didn’t know The Specials. We’d get more and more people at our gigs. A&R men would show up. We’d sign a record deal. We’d be famous. We’d owe it to The Specials.

And I think back to when I first heard this song. My first CD player when I was twelve years old. Saved my allowance for weeks—months!—to get it. Techniques, top of the line. Sure, it cost more than was reasonable for a twelve-year-old boy to spend on a CD player at the time. But I had to have it. The 45s that I’d been collecting since I was eight were losing their appeal. Casey Kasem’s Top 40 wasn’t doing it for me anymore. And my first full length LP: Quiet Riot – Metal Health. Hadn’t listened to that in months.

I was in middle school now. I wasn’t a little kid. I had to be cool. Cool kids didn’t listen to Paul McCartney and Air Supply and The Dazz Band. Cool kids don’t listen to heavy metal. Cool kids listen to 91X. Alternative music. New wave as it was called in the eighties. The Cure. Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, The Clash.

And, the best of them all, and my first CD with my first CD player: The Specials. Message to You Rudy. Concrete Jungle. Little Bitch. The music I listen to has swear words in it. That’s how cool I am. And the song about the naked man and the naked woman. For a twelve year old boy it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

And the song that was the coolest of them all:

“This one’s for all the bouncers! Big! Big! Monkey Man!”

And the first chords hammer down—G several times, a quick C, a quick D, back to the G. It starts skanking real fast. I turn it up way loud in my apartment. Loud enough for my neighbor who never complains about anything to yell “turn it down!” through the open window.

I ignore her of course. I am twelve and I’m listening to The Specials. Over and over and over and over. I commit that entire CD to memory. Every spoken intro, every grunt, every bit of mid-song chatter and dialogue, every lyric. Even the lyrics I don’t understand because of the heavy British accents. Those I just make up, fake it like I know what they are. I sing those lyrics with as much confidence as the ones I do know. It doesn’t really matter. It is the music that matters. What matters is that I’m listening to the music. What matters is that the music is part of me.

And it’s the music that still matters twenty plus years later when I listen to that same CD. Somehow it has survived all these years. How many times it’s been played, I will never know. That doesn’t matter either. What matters now is not that I’m cool. Or that I can swear when I sing my favorite songs. Or that there are songs about nudity. None of that matters.

What matters now is seeing my kids bopping around like crazy teenage punks in a small underground club in Coventry. Skanking around the room looking for things to bounce into, people to mosh against, ideas to shape their identity. The joy on their faces clear to see.

Aye, aye, aye
Aye, aye, aye
Huggin’ up the big monkey man.

Or as they say it, “Abicka, bicka, MUHNkee man!”

And I just keep skanking away on the guitar. A coupla G chords, a quick C, a quick D. I smile. They smile.

Aye, aye, aye
Aye, aye, aye
Huggin’ up the big monkey man

We all sing in our different keys, our different time signatures, our different intervals. It’s chaotic. It’s random. It’s cacophonous. It’s energetic.

It’s something special.

Aye, aye, aye!

Make Every Day Earth Day

Happy Thursday Revolutionaries.  Tomorrow, Friday April 22nd is not only Good Friday, it’s also Earth Day 2011

What activities do you have planned with your kids to commemorate?  Although there are a lot of activities going on here in Seattle in conjunction with Earth Day, The SeattleDad household will unfortunately not be participating in any of them.  That’s because, as I suspect a lot of you also do, Mrs. LIAYF and I have to work tomorrow. 

I haven’t heard yet, but I am pretty certain that our son’s pre-school will have a full slate of Earth Day activities on the schedule, and when we get him home we will most likely focus our evening conversation on what the significance of the day means.  Thankfully, it won’t be a foreign topic for our little guy.  That’s because my wife and I do our best to work conservation into our daily family routine.  In essence, we try to make every day around here an earth friendly day.

Now don’t get me wrong.  We are by no means the cliched Seattle family of tree hugging, Prius driving, green hippies who go out of our way to make sure everyone knows we are children of Mother Gaia.  On the contrary, we are just a family who has tried to work sound conservation practices into our daily routines.  We want conserving limited resources to be as natural a concept to our children as getting up in the morning (they both take little extra effort but need to be done).  How exactly do we do this?  Well, just like many of you do I suspect. 

We compost our food waste and yard clippings, separate out recyclables from our trash, turn off lights when we aren’t using them, use low flow shower heads, walk around our neighborhood instead of driving when possible, drive fuel efficient cars when we do, buy nearly everything (except food and underwear, of course) used, and also flush our toilets once every two weeks.

Okay, just kidding on that last one.  How many of you went “Ewwww”?  But we did install a low flow toilet in a recent remodel.  We also gave away old lumber on Craigslist, buy recycled and used material when possible, and used eco friendly paints and flooring.

Was everything we did eco-friendly?  No, of course not.  Who can afford that?  We just did what we could at the time, just like we do on a daily basis with our other measures.  And while we are doing it, when we remember we talk about why we doing them with our son.  Like I said, we want it all to come naturally to him as he grows older. 

To some these measures may not seem like enough, and surely we can and should do even better, but we aren’t going to kill ourselves over it.  However, if every family out there adopted many of these same measures I know it would make a huge impact on our planet.  And Mother Gaia would surely be pleased.

So tell me.  Do you have anything special planned in commemoration of Earth Day 2011.

A Morning Without the Computer

Our computer is almost never turned off. There it sits on the dining room buffet with its white pulsing light and its quiet hum. It is always there for us when we need it.

And when we don’t.

It is a laptop and is always accessible. Checking email, browsing the Internet or looking through old photos can be done anywhere in the house at anytime of the day or night.

That is the beauty of technology. And the beast.

I rely on the computer for my writing—typing documents, posting to blogs, and promoting my work on Facebook, Twitter and via email. I use the computer to look for jobs, connect with potential work contacts, and send resumes and follow up emails.

I literally could not function without the computer. It is vital for much of what I do and who I am.

But not all of what I do and who I am.

There are countless evenings when I sit down in front of the computer and read the same soccer stories over and over again, or repeatedly check my blog stats, or look to see if there’s going to be a change in the weather. I don’t need to do these things, yet I do them regularly and habitually.

Instead of reading a book, I’m on the computer. Instead of chatting with my wife, I’m on the computer. The laundry sits unfolded because I’m on the computer. Many nights I stay up far too late because I’m on the computer.

I crave the computer and loathe that I crave the computer. It has become the cure-all to even the slightest bit of boredom and first signs of laziness. I rarely seek other medicines any more.

But more destructive than spending idle time on the computer in the evenings after hours is when I am on the computer in the same addictive fashion during the day when I am with my kids.

I know my kids don’t get the full attention they deserve because I’m constantly going over to the computer to do some unnecessary mundane task. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with my kids all day. I do. It’s just that they are at the age—two year old twins—when they constantly want my attention, yet aren’t able to engage in activities that keep my attention for long periods of time.

Yes, I get bored sometimes. And I look for opportunities to break away and let them play by themselves. After all, there are two of them, and there is only one of me. I just want a few minutes’ break before we move on to the next activity.

But sometimes those few minutes turn into a few more minutes and then into a few more minutes. And this repeated breaking away adds up to quite a bit of time being on the computer throughout the course of the day.

And almost every time, those breaks are met with screams and cries from my kids. I could rationalize all I want about my need for short breaks and the reasons why they won’t let me take them. But the bottom line is my kids want to be with their daddy, and when daddy’s constantly breaking away to the computer, that is time that we are not spending together.

This morning—a Sunday—I woke up and went over to the computer and turned it off. I didn’t check email. I didn’t browse the web. I just shut it down. And even though turning the computer back on and booting it back up take only a few short moments, those moments seem like years compared to the immediacy of when the computer is already on. And that lack of immediacy is enough to deter me from turning the computer back on.

The difference in my morning was clear to see. My kids got their daddy back. I was engaged with them, and they were less whiney. And, you know, I didn’t really miss the computer.

I think I’m going to start doing this more often.

This post originally appeared at GoodBlogs on March 13, 2011.

One Day He’ll Read to Me

My bedside table is an interesting case study in failure.  I say this because there are several books sitting on it that I started, but ultimately failed to finish.  The latest is my copy of ‘Washington – A Life’ which, no surprise, is a biography of the life of George Washington.

I actually did better on this volume than most of the others in the pile, making it through nearly 500 pages, and the whole of the American Revolutionary War, before finally succumbing to the reality that at the rate I was going it would take me through most of the summer months before I could conquer this nearly 1000 page behemoth.  I started it back in January and in my defense the words were extremely small.  The thought that I had already spent 4 months on it started to cause a mental block to finishing it  for me, as I started longing to begin many of the other books waiting for me to read. 

My pace has been slow on this, and other books, mainly because mostly I only read books in bed before turning out the lights.  Recently I have only been able to read a few pages before I am out cold, sometimes not even one.  The problem is that by that time of night, I am pretty wiped out from a long day at work and a full list of chores to do at home.  Honestly, being a full time working parent seems to leave little time for me to read anymore.

Or so I thought as I stared at my bedside table a couple of nights ago for something else to read.  Something I could finish in much less than a half a year.  As glanced at all the titles I had given up on: Wolf Hall, Moby Dick, and Worlds End among them, I was also thinking how sad it was that I had so much trouble finishing any books these days.

Then, nearby I spied another title.  One that I actually had finished recently and it instantly changed my perspective.  It was called Green Eggs and Ham.

In fact I realized that I had finished quite a few books recently.  Even several a day, some days.   The fact is that I like to read for pleasure, and for a way to relax and destress from a long day at the office.  And reading to my son certainly gives me that opportunity.  I’ll gladly continue to exchange time I could be reading to myself, for the time I take to read to him.

That’s because soon enough, he’ll be reading on his own and won’t need me to read him stories nearly as often. I’m pretty sure I’ll miss that reading time we share.

Or perhaps not.  Maybe then I can convince him to read to me.  Maybe he could even read me the last half of Moby Dick.

Reflections On What Is. . .

As my twins reach the ripe old age of twenty-six months I am reminded that our household is firmly entrenched in what is commonly called the terrible twos. And, while I’d be lying if I said that that phrase wasn’t true for us, I’d also be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m enjoying the heck out of my kids right now.

The things that they do and say on a daily basis never cease to impress me and make me smile. They way they are learning to manipulate language progresses at an alarming rate. My son has recently been fond of calling people “poo head”. I guess the time to be more mindful of my language has come.

The other day I heard banging on the hardwood floors, and I naturally assume that one of the kids was throwing blocks around like I‘d asked them not to do a thousand times. But when I came down the stairs, there was my daughter jumping, and with a big smile on her face. “Daddy, I juppee.” She didn’t know how to jump when I left for work that morning.

I don’t always take the time to reflect on the progress that my kids are making because I can too easily get focused on all the difficult things going on. But lately I’ve been trying to be more present and focus on these smaller accomplishments. It hasn’t been easy, and it has meant that I have had to be very purposeful with my actions.

I’m in the middle of reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh entitled Anger. I’m finding it extremely helpful. Its essential message is that we all have feelings of anger or frustration or despair that rise up inside of us. They are natural, and ignoring them or trying to suppress those feelings will not help the situation and it will not make the feelings go away.  It’s what we do with our anger that is the key. How we handle it, how we address the feelings and actions that can be associated with it, how we are able to redirect ourselves that is important.

The idea stems from the Buddhist philosophy of mindful breathing, and while I make no claims to be a Buddhist, I have used the redirecting and breathing techniques with some success. It is not always perfect but it does allow me to see the craziness and chaos in my life from a different perspective.

On a related note. . .

The author Henry Miller was best known for his books, but he was also an accomplished painter. He painted for himself and never pursued commercial success with his work. When he spoke about painting he made it clear that he considered himself a painter not because he was particularly talented, or that all (or any) of his pieces were masterpieces, but because he was continually painting. What mattered was that he painted a picture every day.

Recently, I’ve likened being a father to Henry Miller’s version of being a painter. It’s not that I’m the perfect father of that I do the right things or make the right decisions all the time, it’s that I see myself as a father every day and that I’m fathering every day.

Keeping those thoughts present in my mind has been tremendously helpful. When my mind is looking way in the future when “x” will be better, and “y” will be easier, these thoughts help keep me grounded in the moment.

Henry Miller said,

What is” is usually a thousand times better than what might be or what ought to be.

Ain’t that the truth, Henry? I’m doing my best to think that way.

I’m not your friend!

My son has recently started alternating calling me “Daddy” and using my first name. Uh, excuse me?! I’m not your friend. I’m your father! Maybe when you are in your thirties we can share a beer while grilling and laugh about some of the crazy stunts you pulled on me and your mother, but I still expect you to call me “Dad” or “Pops” or something along the lines of “Father”. I love you, but like a son and not my best friend.

So. So. So. I make rules. You break them. You want what you can’t have. I make sure it stays that way. Do as I say and not as I do – the sweet hypocrisy of parenthood. You are too young now to understand this, but there is no explanation beyond “because I say so!”

It’s hard when you are running around the playground laughing or snuggled watching a cartoon or dancing goofily to a song on the radio. To be a dad, that is, because it is only half of the equation. The other half is scolding, teaching, cajoling, wiping, comforting, cleaning, chasing, yelling and most of the things that you don’t need to deal with day in and day out with your friends (at least not with the more normal ones). You don’t confess yourself to your kids do you? Parents are supposed to be superheroes and superheroes can do it all without complaining. In exchange for these superpowers we are required to toe the line of parenthood which means watching our kids throw tantrums, roll their eyes at us, call us uncool, hate us and a plethora of other spur of the moment interjections aimed at letting us know that we are the meanest of meanies because we do not let them run amok.

I’m not complaining, but I don’t see how some parents can claim that their kids are their best friend and frankly why would you want that kind of relationship? The tough part of the job is perfectly balanced with all the satisfactions of watching them grow and learn and love you despite it all. Friends come and go with rare exceptions. My son is my body and soul – a rogue chip off the old block that tests my patience and simultaneously tugs at my heart strings each and everyday. I’ll take being his dad over being his BFF any day.

Older Dad Blues

I got a bit of a late start at being a dad. My amazing son was born at the end of June in 2007, and barely two months later I turned 40. We didn’t hold a big party for my 40th birthday party, since Mrs. LIAYF and I were still in sleep deprivation induced shock at the time.

I got a bit of a late start at being a dad.  My amazing son was born at the end of June in 2007,  and barely two months later I turned 40.  We didn’t hold a big party for my 40th birthday party, since Mrs. LIAYF and I were still in sleep deprivation induced shock at the time.  Plus, I’m not sure I would have known how to respond to not only the jokes about being over the hill, but also about how old I would be when Lukas entered High School, got married, or had kids of his own.

Sure, there’s a lot of good natured kidding around when it comes to subject of being an older parent, but you know what? It is, at least partially anyway, based in reality.  By the time you are in your 40’s – unless you are some sort of health freak – you’re slowing down considerably from your earlier days of adulthood.  Heck, my parents were in their early 20’s when they had my sister, brother, and I.  And although 3 kids in three years sounds rough (Mom, you were amazing), I often wonder if the dealing with 1 kid when you are 40 is roughly the same equivalent. 

I’m pretty sure I would not had the same patience, experience, and financial stability that I have now if I had become a father for the first time in my 20’s or even 30’s for that matter.  But I am sure I would have had a heck of a lot more energy. Energy that, as I ponder it now, would most certainly come in handy when picking Lukas up from preschool after a long day at work, or on weekend mornings when he rises with the sun, wanders into our room and wants to play, or to snuggle, or to go downstairs and make pancakes that very minute.

Plus, it would sure be great to be as limber as I was when I was 20.  To paraphrase my lovely wife, I wish I was in as good of shape now as I was back then when I thought I was in bad shape.  Now though, when it’s time for toy clean up and I know there is little to no chance that our little guy will clean up all the toys himself, I just look down at them strewn everywhere and sigh, realizing that ‘they sure are a long way down’.  Not to mention that my back will usually crackle, snap, and make sure I know that it’s definitely against the idea. 

Don’t even get me started on being a ‘horsey’ who gives rides.  Mrs. LIAYF volunteered me for that task the other day. And while she chuckled and Lukas laughed with joy, I was crawling around on my knees on wood floors with a 35 pound dead weight on my back.  I was more nag than thoroughbred. 

You know, If I weren’t so tired, I might actually make time to work out more.  And, of course by more, I mean some.  Plus, now, just when our nearly 4 year old seems to be getting independent enough to give me the time to actually do that, we are in the planning for another child.  Of course, this time I will definitely be more prepared, but I will also be closer to 45 than 40.

Sure, I complain a bit. It helps.  But I know that I am an incredibly lucky man.  And even despite all the above listed things, there is not a scenario conceivable to me where I would trade the experiences I am having now as the father of such an amazing boy for the chance to go back and become one at an earlier age. 

As tiring and painful as it can be, this is my life.  This is my happiness, and my reason for smiling each and every day. I’ll be fine. 

Just give me a tub of ibuprofen and my kids a set of spurs.