Valentine’s Day

Unconditional love empowers us to endure.

Without question, Valentine’s Day translates into a commercial bonanza for retailers. And yet, if one can filter out this unsavory profit motivated aspect, then the people that matter to us, our loved ones, move to center stage. For families, Valentine’s day embraces a day of recognition that no matter how challenging our daily lives become, unconditional love empowers us to endure. In short, love conquers al.

Family life dies without love. Child development grinds to a halt in the absence of this most powerful human emotion. We are hard wired to love and be loved. Throughout history, humanity’s success was fueled by technological breakthroughs yet the interwoven ever pervasive nature of love provided the spark. It’s true, love saves the day.

No matter how you choose to celebrate this Valentine’s day, remember love matters every day. Love yourself, love others, love life, be loved and give love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Below is a music video from the Broadway show RENT which was made into a movie. The song is “Seasons of Love.” Enjoy.

Article originally published on CuteMonster.com

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Starting Over

The opportunity to loosen the shackles for even a short amount of time can be the spark that ignites hope anew. A chance to take a sinking boat and point it home.

Another holiday season has come and gone yet the spirit of family remains. In addition to the benefit of being able to decompress from the daily grind, the chance to focus on connections, the ties that bind, remind us of our humanity. For so many parents, the work life balance can prove to be unbearable. Especially in times of financial strife as so many families have encountered over the past year. Still, the opportunity to loosen the shackles for even a short amount of time can be the spark that ignites hope anew. A chance to take a sinking boat and point it home.

My children, both toddlers, communicate with words and actions that discard nuance in favor of raw truth. An innocence that my wife and I cherish in an era of dissonance fueled by economic stagnation and digital information overload. “You’re a Pamper head!” uttered from an otherwise angelic little bugger can melt even the coldest of hearts. In the holiday season with family members gathered, such unfiltered honesty helps foster communication between generations. For a few fleeting moments, the scaffolding encompassing everyone’s busy lives during the year no longer seems necessary. We’re exposed, imperfections and all, as human beings.

Facing the reality of life without pretense, free of artifice, challenges us at the very core of our existence. The public persona we often work diligently to maintain in our daily lives has no place among family. Or at least it shouldn’t. Your family knows the you who was in diapers. The you who ventured in wide-eyed on the first day of school. The you who was too cool for anyone in high school. And of course, the you who now has come full circle as a parent. Life’s funny in this way. We share common experiences yet find it difficult to share them with one another. Maybe 2011 emerges as the year of personal change. Another step in the evolution of being a parent.

What was your holiday experience like with your family? Was it stress filled or an opportunity to start anew?

Article originally published on CuteMonster.com

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Parenting Styles

As a father, I’m always on the look out for new useful parenting information. Raising children creates a constant need for guidance as problems arise.

As a father, I’m always on the look out for new useful parenting information. Raising children creates a constant need for guidance as problems arise. Seeking professional advice to navigate these unchartered waters makes sense. I recently came across a thought provoking article by Dr. Michele Borba titled “7 Deadly Parenting Styles of Modern Day Child Rearing.” It’s derived from her book “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.” These seven parenting styles are essentially extreme variations of possible paths parents might take on their journey of raising children. In trying to determine if my wife and I fit into any of these styles, the results were quite surprising.

The following is the list of 7 Deadly Parenting Styles of Modern Day Child Rearing according to Dr. Michele Borba coupled with the real life experience of my wife and I as parents:

Deadly Style 1: Helicopter Parenting – Hovering over your kids, hurrying to smooth every one of life’s bumps.

Without question I would deem this sort of style a typical rookie parent trap. One naturally tries to protect one’s child from any negative experience. But over time one learns to allow the child to experience failure in order to learn coping mechanisms as well as build confidence. I would consider this style of parenting fairly common and easily outgrown. My wife and I would certainly be former Helicopter Parents.

Deadly Style 2: Incubator “Hothouse” Parenting – Pushing your kids into learning earlier than appropriate for their cognitive age and developmental level.

The pressure to push one’s child can be overwhelming. The sheer number of publications and web sites stressing more learning at earlier ages is stifling. Advertisements make outrageous claims of educational breakthroughs with the additional marketing ploy of instilling parental guilt if you as a parent don’t partake to give your child an edge. My wife and I were also former “Hothouse” Parents. Fortunately our son’s one smart cookie and was able to keep up or exceed the demands of the pressure we imparted. Our daughter has not been subjected to these pressures. The lesson learned here was to be aware of the child’s needs and to adapt accordingly.

Deadly Style 3: (Quick-Fix) Band-Aid Parenting – Relying on fast solutions to temporarily fix a problem, instead aiming for real, lasting change.

My wife and I still find ourselves falling into this style every so often. The reason usually comes down to lack of time management as well as proper preparation for a variety of contingencies.

Deadly Style 4: Buddy Parenting – Placing popularity with your child above establishing limits, boundaries or saying no.

This can be chalked up to the simple premise of wanting to always be loved by one’s child. I know I for one did not willingly like to partake in being the “bad guy” during the first couple years of my son’s life. Yet over time reason trumps this human frailty. As a parent, you either adapt and evolve to instill discipline in a child’s life or be prepared for the consequences of inaction in the future. Thankfully, my wife and I chose to be responsible parents. Yet Buddy Parenting was initially our style as well.

Deadly Style 5: Accessory Parenting – Measuring your worth and success as a parent based on your child’s accolades.

I can honestly say my wife and I did not ever participate in such a narcissistic style. We both are from humble backgrounds which may have played a crucial role in avoiding falling into the Accessory Parenting trap. If a parent respects their children as unique individuals rather than extensions of themselves, the potential bitterness that might develop in the relationship between child and parent can be avoided.

Deadly Style 6: Paranoid Parenting – Obsessively keeping your child safe from any physical or psychological harm.

In the uncertain world we live in, the temptation for parents to insulate one’s children from physical or psychological harm runs deep. To this day, my wife and I find ourselves shielding our children from certain ugly truths such as mass murder, terrorism, acts of violence upon children by adults and so forth. Yet we have taken the approach to disperse information to our children in doses that are age appropriate. This falls under the realm of Lying to your Children which I wrote about in a previous article. Information may be withheld until such as a time that they can comprehend the details.

In a more general sense, of course it’s okay to allow a child to fall off a bike or experience the sting of defeat. These are milestones in one’s life which build character.

So I wouldn’t deem my wife and I Paranoid Parents, but rather pragmatists. A full fledged Paranoid Parenting style over time would leave one’s children lacking coping skills in the future.

Deadly Style 7: Secondary Parenting – Relinquishing your influence such that your children’s world is controlled more by outsiders-including corporations, marketers and the media

To be fair, many parents need dual incomes to provide for their children. The result may indeed be a Secondary Parenting style. Many children in my generation grew up as “latch key” kids. Our parents gave us more responsibility at an early age. Yet we were not subjected at the time by the variety of choices of media that modern kids grapple with on a daily basis. In this era of instant demand, instant access for everything, today’s parents need to be completely engaged about controlling access. Also, maintaining a constant line of communication with primary care providers as well as one’s own children can make a huge difference. Secondary Style Parenting just simply needs to be redefined to reflect today’s world.

Final Thoughts

The results of examining the various styles of parenting offered a unique opportunity for introspection. As our children grow, so do we as parents. With any luck we’ll continue to evolve in order to adapt to the challenges the lie ahead. As time passes, more parenting styles will inevitably develop reflecting societal changes. New challenges, new priorities, yet the same desire to be the best parents we can be for our children.

What kind of parenting style have you employed? Did you ever fall into any of the above parenting styles?

Article originally published on CuteMonster.com

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Who’s afraid of a Squishy Diaper?

A Dad mulls over the fact that he’s no longer a rookie parent.

I took my 2 year old daughter to play school a few weeks ago. In many ways it was a blast from the past as I had taken my now “big boy” 4 year old son to the very same location when he was two. The owner/operators were still the familiar friendly duo of ladies singing tunes, creating crafts, doling out snacks, and finishing up with story time. Even the parents in attendance gave me a striking feeling of deja vu as the faces may have changed but the characters remained the same. Yet there was a distinct difference. I was not the rookie parent in the room anymore. At four years into parenthood, I felt the confidence and swagger of an experienced veteran Dad. “Step aside rookie parents, Big Poppa’s in the house!” Yet my glorious coronation as King of all Dads would need to wait. My daughter threw down the gauntlet by declaring in no uncertain terms, “Daddy, I have a squishy diaper!”

I did not panic. Well, not at the level of rookie parent anyway. I lifted my daughter up, elevating her body with my arms extended as to not saturate my own clothes (see, a rookie parent would have gotten wet), grabbed her diaper bag and took her to the nearest restroom. The restroom did not have a changing table. It did have a sink with a large counter surface area. I opted for the standing diaper change. In a few swift moves I had a new diaper and clean pants placed on her. I could tell my daughter appreciated Daddy’s Diaper Fu skills by her well placed pat of approval on my back. A few moments later she returned into the mix of things with the other children.

Within milliseconds I found myself mediating the great dinosaur debacle. My daughter and another child apparently had become attached to a particular T-Rex. Unfortunately there was but one of these cuddly carnivores in the entire play area. As the tug-a-war ensued I knew I would need to step in since the other child’s parent (no doubt a rookie) was missing in action. As if in a slow motion scene from a Martin Scorsese film, I saw my daughter retract her right arm to set up this unsuspecting child for a well placed right hook. I leapt “Noooooooo!” and successfully blocked her fury. In the corner of my eye I spotted an appealing Stegosaurus. Making use of finely honed negotiating skills (“Who wants to play with this silly saurus?”) a peace was brokered.

Later on my daughter enjoyed snack time with the other children as well as clean up duty. Bubble time ended what turned out to be an eventful return to play school. Yet this battle tested Dad emerged unscathed. That is of course until my daughter announced to me in the car, “Daddy I got poo diaper.” The adventure continued…

What do you bring the table as an experienced parent? How do you react to other parents and children who are still learning the ropes of parenthood?

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Labor of Love

The flurry of activity that passed before my eyes triggered a flashback to another event filled moment in our lives. The day my daughter was born.

Originally published on CuteMonster.com

Over this past weekend, my wife and I threw a party for my two children to celebrate their birthdays. A small army of kids were invited with a seemingly even larger contingent of parents in tow. My wife was wise enough to rent a facility with an open space for the kids to run and play including a giant inflated play castle which allowed our tiny guests to jump inside with reckless abandon. The flurry of activity that passed before my eyes triggered a flashback to another event filled moment in our lives. The day my daughter was born.

My son was barely 2 years old at the time when my wife was carrying my soon to be born daughter. The pregnancy, relatively speaking, had gone smoothly up until that point in time. My wife and I knew what to expect and consequently felt more confident as the due date drew near. At about 4AM in the morning, my wife gently nudged me awake ( more like a loving right cross to the arm) announcing it was time. We grabbed our stuff, drove over to the in-laws to drop off our son, then headed to the hospital. It turned out our baby girl was still in rehearsal for the big show which at best guess would not be debuting for several hours. My wife and I went for breakfast followed by a nap at home. Once again I was awakened with a love tap (a soothing shot to the solar plexus) with the news break “We need to go!…but make me sandwich for the ride, I’m hungry.”

As we drove to the hospital, my wife would oscillate between writhing in pain from the contractions to taking ferocious grizzly bear bites of the sandwich I made her. It was quite comical to witness, especially since that sandwich I prepared was a gargantuan hero meant for the two of us. My beloved extremely pregnant wife, barely able to sit comfortably in her seat, found the presence of mind to devour every single bite of that sandwich while barking orders at me the entire journey. Unbeknownst to us, our baby daughter had other plans having canceled her matinee performance to prepare for the evening show instead.

Fast forward several hours of labor pain, the day had been encompassed by breathing exercises, walks in the hallway, and finally capped with an epidural treatment to ease my wife’s pain. All of sudden, in an alarmingly quick pace, our daughter emerged to greet us. Yet there was only silence. Her tiny lungs were filled with fluid which needed to be drained. Remarkably professional nurses cleared her lungs and suddenly our little lady’s first cry graced the world. “Daddy, I want pizza.” “What?” “Daddy, pizza! PiZZA!” “Oh. Okay.” My baby girl, now 2, tugged at my hand to hasten my pace. We had a party to attend and the food was ready.

Life moves in a flash. Savor every moment if you can. Challenges await parents every waking moment, and still, the little miracles we’re so privileged to witness remind us of why life can take us by surprise and shape us in ways we’ve never imagined. Never take that for granted. At least that’s what I remind myself every day.

How about you? What have been some of your most memorable moments in the early years of parenthood?

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Lying To Your Children

That’s right folks, I lie to my kids. And I do it because I love them.

Originally published on CuteMonster.com

My entire life I’ve been told to tell the truth. The noble premise imparting “the truth shall set you free” forever ingrained in my mind. The memorable tale of George Washington admitting his complete guilt in the cherry tree massacre resulting in his personal transformational epiphany that truth holds more power than any lie. All wonderful deeply profound concepts I treasured. Then I had children. As they’ve grown more aware of the world and their surroundings, the use of the “little white lie” has gained prominence. That’s right folks, I lie to my kids. And I do it because I love them.

As a parent, you’re entrusted with the safety and well being of your children. With young kids, you are the primary source of information. The need to protect them at many times outweighs the necessity for truth. From terrorism to parents being caught in an intimate moment, kids sometimes need an alternative version to events that are transpiring before them. My 4 year old son’s latest obsession is the concept of dying. He’s aware of what dying means and yet he can’t comprehend fully why living things need to die. When a beloved family pet passed away last year my wife and I had to tread lightly on the subject until we felt he was ready to deal with a tragic loss. It’s amazing to what lengths a parent will go to shield a child from emotional pain.

On the other hand, the moral implication of lying to one’s children certainly becomes problematic if used too often as a crutch to control behavior. No doubt a slippery slope looms large for those who continue down the path of misinformation for convenience’s sake. Also, young kids really perceive more than we give them credit at times. Even at a tender age, they can discern between facial expressions versus the spoken word. In other words, unless you have a stellar poker face, they’ll know you’re lying. You risk eroding trust over time. Hence, the need for a balanced approach.

Like fatherhood, the following list is an evolving work in progress on major exceptions to telling the truth to young children:

  1. Loss of Life/ Death of Pets
    This seems to be fairly common place from generation to generation and there’s a reason for it. Death’s too huge a subject for young children to wrap their heads around. Better to ease them into the discussion then bombard them with such an intricate matter.
  2. Intimacy between Parents
    What parents haven’t been caught engaged in some form of intimacy only to have a child waltz in unannounced. Quick thinking usually saves the day to explain to a child what they just witnessed. Closing the door to prevent unannounced visitors isn’t always an option for parents. Perhaps setting up windows of opportunity when the kids will be asleep, out, etc. might be best. Not ideal for spontaneity but that’s the price one pays when children are in the mix.
  3. Catastrophic Events
    Kids need to know you’ll always keep them safe. Terrorism obviously does not conform to the notion of complete safety. Neither do natural disasters. Yet assuring children that you’ll protect them from these larger than life events can help minimize difficult issues that adults struggle to comprehend.

What exceptions do you make for telling the truth to your children? Should there be exceptions?

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Respect Must Be Earned

Despite the fact that I have been successfully parenting my two children as a stay at home Dad for almost 2 years, I had been reduced in her tirade to a bumbling dumb man incapable of the parenting competence of a woman.

My wife had unexpectedly returned from her commute to work last week one morning. An overturned tractor trailer had made the road impassable prompting her to work from home rather than sit in unbearable traffic for several hours. Understandably, her stress laden experience had caused her to be irritable which was quite obvious from the tone of her voice. I listened to her vent, helped her get settled, and she began to work at her laptop. My 2 y.o. daughter, disrupted from her normal routine with just me, became incorrigible when her demand for attention was not being met to her satisfaction from her Mommy. Little did I realize these chain of events would unleash the perfect storm.

I was able to provide a proper distraction to free my wife to continue with her work day. Yet it did not end there. Instead I was treated to a barrage of harsh criticisms about every aspect of my parenting methodology. Despite the fact that I have been successfully parenting my two children as a stay at home Dad for almost 2 years, I had been reduced in her tirade to a bumbling dumb man incapable of the parenting competence of a woman. Yes, this misguided stereotype, to my surprise, was alive and well in my very own home. A minor heated exchange followed which produced fruitless results. I left in a huff with my daughter in tow to the playground. I did not want to further alter her routine.

The park, and the playground in particular, can be a wonderful place to think. While pushing my little girl on the swing I had the clarity of thought to realize my wife’s reaction was not completely her fault. Even though it is the 21st century, parenting remains in the eyes of the mainstream media the domain of women. Men, for the most part, are still being characterized as clueless dolts, comically stumbling their way through parenthood. Even articles that supposedly shed light on men’s roles as Stay at Home Dads instead are laced with outrageously foolish allegations such as the deconstruction of one’s manhood one diaper change at a time.

In my first post for DadRevolution aptly titled “The Revolution Begins from Within”, I wrote the following:

Overall, the parenting landscape has begun to shift dramatically towards an equal partnership between men and women.  A partnership in which men and women are not interchangeable in their roles as Fathers and Mothers, but rather complement each other in a concerted effort to provide the best upbringing for their children. 

Apparently, even at home, the revolution has just begun. I’m happy to report that my wife and I came to an understanding that it’s okay for our parenting styles to be different. We each play an important role in the lives of our children. We should build on each others strengths rather than waste energy trying to tear each other down. Challenging days lie ahead, but certainly not insurmountable. Over time, I believe men will garner the respect they deserve as parents. Every day’s an opportunity to earn it.

What do you think?

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Tricycle to Bicycle

As he raced down the sidewalk furiously pedaling away on his two wheeled steed, the adjacent grass rippled in his wake. He beamed with confidence evident by a smile that seemed to light up the path outstretched before him. Intoxicated by speed, the boy seemed determined to take flight. Little did he realize he’d get his wish.

Originally published on CuteMonster.com

As he raced down the sidewalk furiously pedaling away on his two wheeled steed, the adjacent grass rippled in his wake. He beamed with confidence evident by a smile that seemed to light up the path outstretched before him. Intoxicated by speed, the boy seemed determined to take flight. Little did he realize he’d get his wish. As he leaned into a sharp curve, the momentum of the bike hurtled the brazen rider and his steed off the sidewalk on to a nearby overgrown lawn. Shaken but not hurt, the boy began to cry. My son, just turned the age of 4, had experienced his first wipe out on the maiden voyage of his new “big boy” bike.

I have to admit, I felt a tinge of guilt witnessing my son’s crash. Especially since I could have stopped it. In short, at the moment I thought, “he’s going too fast for that curve ahead but the grass is soft there. I might as well let him take a fall.” I determined he’d be better equipped for future rides if he experienced a harmless crash that taught him a lesson about safety, speed, physics and respect for riding his bicycle. I would categorize this as one of many judgment calls a father must make to allow a child to experience failure in order to build a child’s confidence. Thankfully, my quick assessment of the situation turned out to be the correct one. As mentioned previously, my son cried out of fear rather than pain. He stopped sobbing almost immediately when I explained to him why he crashed. I made a conscious decision not to engage him with sympathy but rather provide answers. Without hesitation he hopped back on his bike and he continued to ride. “My son’s growing up” I thought. Me too.

Below are a few observations I’ve made in respect to transitioning from a tricycle to a bicycle:

  • Visit as many bike stores as you can, both toy stores and local bike shops to let your child get a feel for a two wheel bike with training wheels. Let the child try out as many bikes as you both can muster.
  • When ready to purchase a bike, avoid purchasing one at a toy store. In fact, purchase a bike at a local dedicated bike shop. You can expect to pay more for a quality bike but you’ll also receive more lasting value in terms of product reliability as well as the knowledgeable service provided by the shop.
  • The physical demands of riding a tricycle and a bicycle are quite different. Expect your child to experience pitfalls in making the transition.
  • Be supportive but resist the temptation to baby your child if he/she experiences a fall.
  • If a parent is not in great physical shape, one might want to hold off a few months before purchasing a bike for one’s child. The parent will need to build cardiovascular endurance. A parent needs to be able to run, sometimes quickly, in order to keep up with one’s child. Once the child attains proficiency riding, a parent can choose to bike ride with one’s child as well.
  • Make sure to pack along your sense of humor on each riding adventure.
  • Expect the unexpected.

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Comic Book Literacy

My Spidey Sense had been tingling all night. Suddenly I leapt backward completing a humanly impossible acrobatic feat while landing hard against the wall. The floor where I last stood had been crushed to rubble. Slightly stunned from the impact, my eyes burned from the dust filled smoke as I attempted to get a glance at my attacker.

Originally published on CuteMonster.com

My Spidey Sense had been tingling all night. Suddenly I leapt backward completing a humanly impossible acrobatic feat while landing hard against the wall. The floor where I last stood had been crushed to rubble. Slightly stunned from the impact, my eyes burned from the dust filled smoke as I attempted to get a glance at my attacker. “Focus Spidey.” I could barely make out his silhouette. “No, it can’t be. He was supposed to be dead.” Continue reading “Comic Book Literacy”

I am Dad

For some reason I felt more father like this day then in the recent past. When I had a moment on the park bench for introspection, I realized the catalyst to my stream of consciousness, my own Dad.

My family and I decided to go to the playground this hot summer morning. It was a relatively quiet start to the day, all of us somewhat sluggish from yesterday’s marathon July 4th celebration activities. After quickly devouring breakfast in anticipation of their adventures at the playground, my children waited for my wife and I at the door like two coiled springs waiting to be sprung. I took my wife’s hand as we both chuckled at the sight of our little cute monsters also known as our little angels. An unspoken whimsical moment we shared reaffirming our lovingly crazy existence as parents.

Upon arrival to the playground, my 3 year old son spotted another child his age, smiled, and was off to the races. My 1 year old daughter, still requiring Mommy and Daddy in close proximity, opted for the swings as she barked out the order “swings now!” sounding like a cross between a princess fairy and Mussolini. For some reason I felt more father like this day then in the recent past. When I had a moment on the park bench for introspection, I realized the catalyst to my stream of consciousness, my own Dad.

As I mentioned previously, my family participated in day long July 4th celebration the day before. We spent the afternoon at my brother’s place. His children are for the most part fully grown. My parents are grandparents for the second time around with my young children. Watching my Dad interact with them triggered memories of my own childhood. The way he joked with the children, the facial expressions, the tone of his voice, was all too familiar. It was as though I had a first row seat to witness my own childhood as a spectator coupled with the realization that I was all grown up. The transition from child to man became internalized in my mind. A bittersweet recognition of the passage of time manifest in the acceptance of fatherhood. It’s my turn.

My son careened into me breaking my train of thought. “Water Daddy!…I want water please, please, pleaaase!” I smiled. I gave him a quick hug to which he half heartedly complied as his eyes darted around eagerly searching for his bottle of water. He took a few gulps as to not waste a moment of play time and rocketed back to his adventures. I noticed my wife on the other side of the playground engaged in conversation with a grandmother as my daredevil daughter navigated her way down the slide. Me? I took the moment to look around and listen to the sounds of the playground. I am Dad.

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

Romance in the Age of Parenthood

I still vividly remember the day I first set eyes on my wife. I was a chronically late high school senior which meant I routinely spent time in late detention. Little did I realize my penchant for disregarding time would provide a pivotal moment of serendipity.

I still vividly remember the day I first set eyes on my wife. I was a chronically late high school senior which meant I routinely spent time in late detention. Little did I realize my penchant for disregarding time would provide a pivotal moment of serendipity. My wife, then a member of the high school band attending practice, had exited the school at nearly the precise moment late detention had let out. Her blonde hair along with her light pink jacket immediately caught my attention. She moved with purpose. Whatever teenage angst I had been harboring that day immediately melted away. She was different. Little did I know she’d change my life forever.

Despite several turbulent years encompassed by separate colleges, distinct career aspirations, geography, and personal growth we still found ourselves passionate about each other. Then one Spring day in Yankee stadium, she proposed. As a married couple our romance bloomed. We traveled often, dined out and slept in simply because we could. Yet this blissful existence would only last for one fleeting year. A new chapter in our lives began the day we confirmed we were to be parents.

As expected, our romantic indulgences diminished proportionally as our due date approached. Yet I naively convinced myself that we’d return to “normal” not long after the baby’s birth. The reality turned out to be a more compartmentalized approach to intimacy. Neither of us were prepared for the sleepless nights, the onset of stress, the lack of time, and the new found responsibility of being a parent. Yet surprisingly our passions burned brightly despite the pitfalls of parenthood albeit with a lot less verve.

After the birth of our second child, romance once again took a back seat to raising our kids. As they grew so did their demands on our time and energy. Mind you my wife and I would still exchange amorous glances, steal a hug and kiss or two in between toddler tantrums, and hold hands while watching intently for Blue’s next clue. Our star crossed romance had evolved into a parents gone mild approach.

Yet every so often, be it a date night, or an event such as a wedding in which just my wife and I attend, we rediscover each other, laugh a lot about the insanity of it all, and connect once again. Our children, both intricately linked to our lives as a family, fade into the background during these private times. They’re never forgotten of course, we inevitably mention our children in conversation, but the focus redirects to rekindling the spark in our relationship. At our last wedding reception, my wife and I danced, drank, laughed, and indulged in each other’s love. Just the remedy needed to solidify the foundation necessary for the sometimes rocky business of parenting.

My advice to expectant Dads? A short list for you to forge your own path to romance in the age of parenthood:

  • Stay optimistic. Life is good.
  • Your relationship with your wife will change and you must be willing to adapt.
  • Family life requires balancing one’s whole life while including the lives of your family.
  • Learn time management skills.
  • Don’t lose your sense of humor.
  • Remember to make time for just you and your wife.
  • Think of romance in terms of a slow burn leading to memorable moments rather than love on demand.
  • Everything changes, you can too.

CuteMonster.comVincent Daly aka CuteMonsterDad is a graphic designer, writer, actor, artist and most importantly a husband and father. He is the founder of CuteMonster.com, a resource for Dads.

The Revolution Begins from Within

The deconstruction of the existence you once held dear runs parallel to the construction of the new man you are to become. Read CuteMonsterDad’s take on the ongoing Dad Revolution.

One of my CuteMonsters SnackingFor me, the word revolution has always conjured up images of violent epic battles fought for a noble cause.  Revolutionaries would sacrifice nearly everything to ensure a better future for themselves and generations to follow. As for fatherhood, the revolution really begins from within.  The battle waged is fought in the mind between one's independent self and the father to be.  Stress laden thoughts, sleepless nights, irrational fears and more can all be attributed to the enormous change an expectant father must attempt to grasp in a small window of time.  Yet similar to every revolution, one moment in history can be traced to the life changing catalyst that sparked the call to action.  For most Dads I would guess the revolution began not with a bang but rather the soft spoken words, "Honey, I'm pregnant." [ Insert expectant Dad's primal scream here]

The days and months that followed rushed by like a cascading effect that knocked down previously held priorities and erected new ones.  The deconstruction of the existence you once held dear runs parallel to the construction of the new man you are to become.  My fiercely independent self would need to adapt or get crushed by the reality about to unfold.  I remember often hearing from my friends and family members with children how I should "enjoy myself" now because once the kid arrives, everything changes.  That the freedoms my wife and I enjoyed and took for granted would no longer avail themselves to us as parents.  And it wasn't that they were necessarily trying to be vindictive, it was more along the lines of getting me prepared for my new life as a Dad, a family man.

Suffice to say, I was in crisis mode throughout most of my wife's pregnancy.  As our due date approached, my anxiety heightened.  When we attended Lamaze class my heartbeat would often drown out the sounds in the room.  I was lost in thought all except for one, our child will be what saves me.  Like a zen meditation mantra, it was the thought of our child "saving" me that gave me a sense of calm.  It was the one clear connection that enabled me to brush aside the mountain of thoughts that weighed heavily on my mind.

My son arrived two weeks early.  I remember in the months prior expressing to my wife how I was adamantly opposed to being in the room for the birth of our son.  "Just too much for me to handle!" I'd lament.  But on the day of my son's birth, it was all a blur.  I was in the room comforting my wife as she endured excruciating pain like a champion, then I remember a nurse rushing in demanding I "hold her leg!"  Several exhausting pushes later by my beloved and I was officially a Daddy.  I felt dumbstruck but not anxious.  The weight had been lifted and replaced by awe.  Shortly after a nurse had cleaned up our son and approached me.  She asked if I'd like to hold my son.  I almost unconsciously replied to her, "no, that's okay" because quite frankly, I had never held a newborn baby let alone my own.  She smiled at me knowingly, handed me my son and I in turn just stared for what seemed like hours at this little life before me.  The revolution was in full swing.

Three years later I'm now the father of two beautiful children.  The joy and challenges of fatherhood continue to evolve as our children grow.  So too does the context of the Dad revolution.  External factors such as the economy have introduced many men to the world of being a full time parent commonly called a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD).  Overall, the parenting landscape has begun to shift dramatically towards an equal partnership between men and women.  A partnership in which men and women are not interchangeable in their roles as Fathers and Mothers, but rather complement each other in a concerted effort to provide the best upbringing for their children.  I look forward to the days that lie ahead.  My own revolution continues and there will be stories to tell, laughter to enjoy, and lessons to be learned.  Long live CuteMonster and long live the Dad Revolution.