So This is Fatherhood


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Life With a Threenager

Until I saw some pictures tonight, there’s certainly a few things about the first year of my child’s life that I had forgotten.

Like the fact that she had no hair until well after her first birthday. Or the types of pacifiers she had. Or a set of clothes. Or how small she was.

And that was less than three years ago.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-15-at-20.41.24So it only stands to reason that when she hits her high school years I am going to forget how she is already hormonal at three years old.

Yes. It’s true. I am dealing with a threenager.

It’s not so much the attitude. I can mostly handle that. Mainly because I know I could totally take her in a feat of strength, or throw down in an arm wrestling competition and take her out. So, if she wants attitude, I’ll defeat her with strength. Or some of my own attitude. I can out-attitude with the best of them. Problem solved.

And it’s not so much the lying. Kids are going to lie to their parents. It’s just how it goes. Quick confession: Mom, I forged your signature once to get out of detention. Pretty sure the teacher knew, but it worked.

It’s the wild mood swings and the selective listening.

That’s some ish I cannot handle.

The mood swings kill me. How can someone be so excited and pleased to feed ducks old, stale bread and then cry 30 seconds later because they want to go home? In what world is that normal?

How can we be riding bikes and cracking jokes about what’s for dinner (Daddy, do you want to eat rice and cars for dinner? How about rice and grass?) and then turn on the water works because the idea of trees and beans is not as appealing?

I was building up my preparation for uncontrollable mood swings … but 12 years from now! Why do you think I’ve been watching so many John Hughes films?!

143-120957-tantrum-1444892568

Daily occurrence. 

But, Lord. The listening. Or lack thereof. Egads. It kills me.

Half the time I wonder if my child’s ears are painted on.

I remember selectively listening my mom, or my teachers. I distinctly remember this. But I was 16 and it was a phase of “Leave me alone” which I presume all teenagers go through – or else pop culture and my own experiences just lied to me.

To have it happen at three years old is mind bending.

The worst part of it is actively looking your child in the eye, telling her something, and then having her completely ignore you.

And so many people say this is “the fun age.” It gets worse?

Imagine, in your adult life, your boss asks you to do something. You nod, agree and go your separate ways to handle business. When your boss returns you have one shoe off, there are crayons all over the floor and part of your shirt is above your head.

Sounds like Friday night to me.

But this is how it is … in a blink of an eye you go from Please put your shoes away to complete anarchy.

Holy moly.

I keep thinking that this blog space is going to be a nice reminder and some sort of gift to my daughter one day. See all the funny things you did to make daddy prematurely gray?

But I think that this one is more for me. A time capsule, so I can remember when we actually hit the teenage years that I already dealt with this once.

 


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Mama Said Knock You Out

Watch out Ronda Rousey. My two-year-old is pretty good at connecting punches.

I'd be OK if my daughter ended up doing this for a living ... so long as she didn't have one of those hairdos.

I’d be OK if my daughter ended up doing this for a living … so long as she didn’t have one of those hairdos.

To me, this is only a very minor problem. The #LikeAGirl Super Bowl commercial was certainly something that hits home a bit as the only child I have is a daughter and, yeah, I want her to be able to out-run and out-throw and – eventually – out-drink the majority of her male counterparts.

Right now, she doesn’t hit #LikeAGirl and it seems can already out-fight the little toddlers in her playroom.

She smacks both my wife and I and she knows it’s wrong, saying she’s sorry and kissing our arm or shoulder where she had just struck us. Recently I picked her up from daycare and she told me that a boy in her class had hit her.

Carlton* hit me.

Well, that’s not OK in my mind so I find the toddler’s teacher and get the real story. Apparently my kid wanted to follow the boys around (“She doesn’t like girls, she’d rather hang out with boys” the teacher said … which is both a blessing and a curse, I suppose) and when Carlton* didn’t do something, my daughter smacked him.

So, he hit her back.

To me, that is just playground karma. An eye for an eye approach. And, until she’s older, I guess it’s fine. I don’t want to condone it, but I also take a little pride in the fact that my kid isn’t afraid to swing her ‘bows a bit.

Honestly, I don’t want my daughter to be a pugilist. But without having to teach her to defend herself, it seems like second nature in her makeup and that makes me a little happy. At two-years-old she also shows that if some guy isn’t going to listen to her, she is going to make sure he pays attention.

It’s not like we encourage her to be violent. In fact, with two dogs around the house, it’s quite the opposite. I’d rather her fall into a Zen-like state than smacking us, or throwing her stuffed toys around and laughing.

But … I do kind of like that she has the potential to be a complete badass and not take gruff from anyone.

Even though she likes having “princess hair” she’s proving she is not #LikeAGirl. And, I like that.

 

* – name changed to protect this kid


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Pucker Up and Kiss It

My wife started a trend in our family not long ago and it’s caught on like wildfire.

Our daughter fell down and hurt herself, as toddlers are going to do, and my wife did what all mothers do – she consoled her. She asked our daughter where it hurt and then said “Do you want Mommy to kiss it?”

Kid_crying_2As this was a new concept to our kid, she had no idea how to react. My wife kissed my kid’s knee, the tears disappeared and that was that.

Until …

My child fell again. (Really she’s not clumsy, she is just a toddler and happens to fall a lot because she doesn’t know the difference between walking, running and, perhaps, those things called stairs. Well, all height, really … Anyways, I digress.) My wife kissed my kid’s knee, or hand, or head, and the tears disappeared.

This was becoming a thing.

So much so that now whenever my kid can’t quite put her shoe on properly and gently tweaks her toe, she fake cries and asks Daddy or Mommy to kiss it.

Sometimes she’ll just fall while dancing (her favorite song right now is “All About That Bass”) and be laughing and want one of us to kiss whatever part of her body momentarily felt anything other than the air passing around it.

Daddy kiss it! she’ll say and then point to her arm, or her head, or whatever. I’ll do it and she’ll continue on her merry way. Even if she is in actual pain a kiss from Mommy or Daddy seems to make everything all right.

I actually feel like I have some power in this world.

It’s kind of cute, actually, that something so benign can stop tears, or just make her comfortable and I never mind doing it, how ridiculous a request might be. For instance, an aggressive tickle to her armpit might result in a request to kiss it and make it better.

And then, one day we were dancing around the living room and my kid does what every other white person thinks is dancing (she’s pretty advanced, I guess) and was just spinning with her arms out. She didn’t have the White Man Overbite, but other than that this is considered dancing to us Caucasians.

kiss-itThe spinning then became too much and – boom! – down she went. The tears welled up and I asked her where it hurt.

She stood up and said My tushy.

And that’s the story of how I kissed my kid’s ass.


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Eat Your Heart Out

I weighed myself at the gym today. I was within my acceptable range, but maybe a pound or two above where I normally hover.

Holidays, I thought. No problem, I can drop a pound or two with a giant cup of coffee … if you get my drift.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that perhaps I will constantly put on ounces of weight until my child is a teenager. Now I kind of understand why most every parent of someone 10 and under seems a little doughy and the ones who aren’t celebrate their physique with constant “Look at me!” posts on Facebook.

It’s because no parent can figure out the perfect amount of food to give their child.

That leads to leftovers, which leads to parents eating the leftovers.

Where’s the issue? I hear you thinking, just make healthy meals for your kid.

That thought is something someone without a toddler thinks. You ever try giving a kid vegetables? It’s like you’re trying to pour hot wax into their eyeballs. I couldn’t coax my child into eating one damned bite of peas and carrots for one tortilla chip tonight. She cried for 20 minutes. I wish I was kidding.

She could have an entire tortilla chip – like a quarter of a corn tortilla – for about four peas and two slices of carrot. And she wouldn’t make that deal. Shit, the Dodgers once traded Pedro Martinez and my child can’t even fathom this trade.

Lil Entrees. Lil taste.

Lil Entrees. Lil taste.

It’s like trying to sway a rational human being into thinking that pizza is disgusting and dirt is delicious. There is simply no changing a toddler’s mind. I could have offered her a billion dollars for the one bite of peas and carrots and she still would have thrown a fit.

Tangent aside, there is always little scraps of food around our house. As a third generation Great Depression descendant, I have not been wired to just throw food away. I blame my mother for this, who can link it back to her mother – and her mother – for standing in bread lines in the 1930s. So when my child doesn’t finish her last bite of Gerber mac and cheese dinner, I scoop it up and eat it.

(By the way, it’s like eating a waxed cardboard box. Which always surprises me. Always. It’s mac and cheese for crying out loud! How can it not be ooey and gooey and delicious? I love mac and cheese. I have an entire cookbook devoted to mac and cheese. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life and be fully content. The problem with the Gerber shit is that it contains no salt. My kid doesn’t know the difference. She hasn’t experienced any form of culinary excellence, so to her, this is like dining at Spago. But it’s not. It’s awful. Pretty much everything she eats is bland. Except peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But even the Smuckers family gets sick of eating those, so she can’t have it all the time.)

And it’s this concept of finishing off my child’s food that I think causes any form of incremental weight gain. Last week she said she was hungry and we were waiting for-ev-er for a table for dinner, so to calm her down, I went to a food stand nearby to order her something. Of course everything was fried except for the chicken skewers. So I ordered that.

She likes chicken. I like chicken. This might actually work out.

That was my thinking. The skewers came covered in teriyaki sauce, so adding that realm of flavor to my child’s mouth automatically disqualified her from liking them. So, you know what? I had a snack of tasty chicken skewers in teriyaki sauce.

While they were good, it was just extra calories I would have never put into my body. But I’m not about to let four chicken skewers just rot on the table.

And that’s the point. Trying to appease your child’s appetite just doesn’t work. She’ll eat like a parakeet one day and a hippo the next. You can never nail it. It’s impossible.

On the parakeet days you are stuck with all kinds of leftover niblets. On the hippo days, you overfeed her because she keeps asking for more, like a guy trying to win a T-shirt at one of those Man vs. Food restaurants. Then when she finally taps out, there is bland mac and cheese, or a vegetable squeeze pouch, or hunks of string cheese, or whatever laying around.

And then I eat it.

 


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Second Thoughts

We stood in line, my wife and I, and we each had a couple of items in our hands.

I looked again at the trendy shirt in my hands and checked the price tag one more time to see if it had changed from the dressing room to the front of the store.

It hadn’t. It still read $98.

I told my wife I was going to put it back.

“Honey, if you want it, you should get it. You work very hard. You can treat yourself sometimes.”

I started typing "stereotypical dad" and this image came up. This will never be me.

I started typing “stereotypical dad” and this image came up. It’s like a dad costume. This will never be me.

She was right. I did want the shirt. And I do work hard. And I don’t treat myself often … or at least when it comes to clothes. I still have clothes I wore in college, which in a way is nice to know that I am still the same size and weight as I was a dozen years ago.

Yet, I got out of line and put the shirt back.

Why?

Because in my head I kept thinking about my kid.

A hundred bucks is a lot of diapers, or shoes, or baby food, or whatever for a kid. I could easily take that C note and put it into her college fund. I just had the thought that anything I spend on myself is akin to literally taking something out of my child’s life.

As we walked out of this store, surrounded by teenagers and single people with disposable incomes, it hit me about why you don’t see many parents on the cutting edge of … well, anything.

That’s why there are things called “Mom jeans” and stereotypes of dads in Hawaiian shirts, or dorky sunglasses, or hairstyles, clothes, or sayings that are way behind the times.

Maybe I should just start saying things like “Bomb dot com” or “All that and a bag of chips.”

It would help me better infiltrate dad circles.

Most every parent with some form of a conscious wants their kid to have a better life than they did. It’s exactly what I want for my child. So I didn’t mind walking out of the super trendy athletic store without one more item.

But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t some form of selfishness I am still going to maintain. There are things I am going to refuse and those things include Coors Light, bad wine, and actively walking into a thrift store when it’s not Halloween time.

Although I still have to think that in the near future my daughter is going to want 27 different pairs of shoes, complain that she has nothing to wear even when her closet is full, need a new uniform for some activity she’s involved in, or have to receive some form of higher education someday.

But that doesn’t mean I am just going to give up on wanting to enjoy my life a little. I mean, in terms of the food chain, I am higher than she is.

So here is my list of things that Ella is just going to have to live with because I won’t compromise on:

1. Good beer

2. Good wine

3. Good food

4. High speed internet

5. The extra tier of sports channels in the cable package

6. A car that isn’t 10 or more years old (unless it’s a classic car I buy as some midlife crisis thing)

7. Clothes or shoes that have holes in them

8. A cleaning lady

9. Vacations (sans kids)

10. Anything my wife wants because she needs to be happy too

And I guess that’s why I don’t have a fun, trendy shirt today.


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Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

I’m becoming like every other parent.

Liar!I tried to tell myself that I was going to try and change the scene, even if only a little. Hold myself to a higher standard. Don’t be like all the other parents out there. High aspirations in this Fatherhood Game, I know. Especially as a rookie.

Yet, I caught myself doing it just the other day. I may as well have worn a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and had socks under my sandals like so many other suburban dads. I was one of them.

I was lying to my daughter.

Why? Well, because I could. And she didn’t know any better. So I could get away with it.

But I had a nagging sensation in my head as I was doing it.

This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong.

I was trying to put my daughter to sleep, which isn’t really that tough of a task. She wears herself out, doesn’t usually fight it and lays right down and sleeps. Hearing about other monsters, we are quite lucky.

The other night though, she kept answering every mention of “night-night?” or “sleepy?” with “No.”

It’s not often that I get to be in charge, so I kind of relish the ability to set some rules over another human being – even if it’s something as simple as a bed time. I took her into her room and as I sat on a rocking chair with her as she held a bottle (I’m not kidding – this is what we do. It’s so cliche.) and she started going through her mental roster.

“Mommy?”

Mommy is sleeping, I answered.

“Nana?”

Grandma is sleeping, too.

“Milo?” “Shaw-shee?”

Yes, Milo and Roxy are sleeping too, even though I could hear our two dogs panting just outside the doorway.

“Papa?”

Yep. Grandpa is going to sleep now, too. liar_liar_pants_on_fire

And so it went. My year-and-a-half year old asking about the small circle of people she knew and if they were sleeping. Of course they weren’t. It was 7:30. But I was telling her that they were. And in my mind I was thinking Dude, you are such a liar.

In the grand scheme of things this ranks right up there with a gnat dying somewhere in the world, but to me it was the first lie I had told my kid. At least the first one she could somewhat comprehend. And I felt guilty about it.

The next day I was talking to a fellow parent at work and I confessed. She almost fell out of her seat laughing.

“Wait until you have to worry about Santa!” she said.

And that’s how my child, in about four years, will be the first in her class to know the truth and ruin it for all the other kids.


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Turn Down the Stereotypes

I’m a big fan of stereotypes. I think they’re funny and they lead to some easy jokes.

I’m a red-headed white guy with both Scottish and Irish heritage deep in my DNA. So that means I like to drink (true), I can’t jump (true) and I’m not fast (true).

And, yet, there is one stereotype that I really don’t like. It’s one that normally stays inside me and I try to dispel it with my actions. But again and again I either fail or there is too much momentum that it’s like trying to stop a tidal wave with a few sandbags.

It’s the long-held stereotype of fathers being absent.

There’s been a lot to change that, probably because of shows like Mad Men that remind us of a different time and era, so we think of the progress made over the last 50 years. However, that stereotype still exists deep within our belief system as humans. It’s probably not going away soon because, unfortunately, there are too many men who continue to give credence to this stereotype.

I carried my kid during a long hike earlier this year. Was it a date? No. Should I be celebrated for it? No. It was just me being a dad.

I carried my kid during a long hike earlier this year. Was it a date? No. Should I be celebrated for it? No. It was just me being a dad.

There are, though, a lot of men fighting that stereotype.

 

They’re not marching on Washington. They’re not holding rallies. They’re not asking for signatures to put something on a ballot.

They’re just being parents.

It’s not a fatherly thing or a parental thing, per se. It’s just being a logical human being and watching out for your child.

So when I see a link celebrating Dads with Daughters, I was somewhat excited to click on it. Even if it was via Buzzfeed.

Here I am, a dad with a daughter, and a very popular website is celebrating them.

Until … I clicked.

Talk about an entire page of horseshit.

This is a page with 25 pictures of men hanging out with their daughters. To even call it a “date” is disturbing. To celebrate the fact that a dad is doing something with his daughter is worse.

I don’t know … maybe they’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing? Ya know? Like taking their kid to eat. Or to a concert. Or to play miniature golf. Things that dads – or any parent for that matter – should be doing. Spending some time with their child.

So why is it such a big deal? And why are we calling it a “date?”

Can’t we just call it “being a dad?” And do we really need to celebrate it?

What’s next – Hooray for a pet owner picking up dog poop during a walk?

This is the kind of thing that should just come with being a responsible human being.

If we want to fight stereotypes, I’d love to see a Buzzfeed page showing shitty moms. Because all moms are amazing, right? And the stereotype is that moms do all the work and dads get to goof off and get away with it? So can we find 25 photos of mothers in jail, on drugs, on the streets, not buckling their kids in the car, drowning them, locking them in rooms, malnourishing them? Would that get some web clicks?

Look, I’m not the best dad in the world. I’m entirely average. I want to go hang out with my buddies and drink beer and enjoy some time without my kid, too. Does that make me a bad person? No, it makes me human. The same way a mother needs some time to herself, too.

But, dammit, when I’m spending time with my daughter I shouldn’t be celebrated. It shouldn’t be a date. It should just be a normal thing.


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Not Down With the Sickness

Historically, I don’t get sick.

Look, if I'm gonna wear a mask it's gonna be a fashionable one.

Look, if I’m gonna wear a mask it’s gonna be a fashionable one.

The last time I had the flu was just after New Year’s in 2004. I had partied way too hard with some friends in Vegas for three days and then followed that with a hard weekend in Hollywood and my body shut down. It was so worth it.

That was the last time I was sick until my kid started to interact with other kids her age. Children, I’m learning, are giant walking bags of germs. They don’t wash their hands and they taste test the world.

For about nine straight months my daughter’s nose has been like a faucet. It’s just something she lives with, almost like someone with a club foot or something.

Unlike a club foot, though, all of these germs are contagious. And now that my child is a mini human being and can walk around and touch things and wants to kiss you and put her hand in your mouth, you can either A) accept that at some point you’ll get sick; or B) wear a surgical mask and look like a crazy person who thinks he’s a doctor.

This 28-pound human has undone a decade of my health twice in three months.

Around Memorial Day I had all hell breaking loose at both ends. That was a treat.

About a month ago I was coughing like I had lung cancer and blowing my nose like I was a cocaine junkie.

My wife gets some form of the sniffles – of varying degrees – about once every six weeks or two months. Having this bucket of mucus I call my daughter around isn’t much help to her.

For the past week my kid has been battling a stomach virus. And now my wife is battling a stomach virus.

You know who is not touching either of them? Me.

Normally I’d mix it up with a sick person because my immune system was like Churchill’s Iron Curtain. Now, it’s more like an ironed curtain.

Our doctor says that having my child in daycare means that she will build up a strong immunity when she starts Kindergarten and moves through elementary school because she’s getting exposed to these illnesses now. Which is great, I suppose, until there’s some super disease out there that knocks her down and then infects our whole house.

Just as long as they don’t let anyone into this country with the Ebola virus. Oh … wait …

 


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Say Awww … Crap

My child has started talking. This is bad news for someone like me who thinks the F word is one of the best words the English language has to offer.

She hasn’t been able to string many words together, but she is picking things up daily.

Shoes. Doggie. Airplane. Nose. Eyes. Mommy. Daddy. Book. Yo.

That’s her vocabulary right now.

However, she is very responsive. We’ll ask her to say something and she’ll always give it her best effort.

She’ll repeat the word “Dodgers” which is fantastic. We ask her to say the dog’s name and she’ll say “Shaw-she” which is supposed to be Roxy. Fish are “sushi” which is super advanced for her age, if you ask me.

When driving, I’ll try and lob some things at her. It’s got to be boring to ride in the backseat and see the world backwards through the rear window.

Ella, I’ll hum, say your name.

Ella! she’ll reply enthusiastically.

When she’s on the changing table, I’ll ask if she pooped. Poooooh! she’ll sing.

When I was a kid, having a mimic as a younger sibling was awesome. I’d visit friend’s houses and it would give us an excuse to say bad words because a three-year-old saying “Fuck!” is so much funnier than an eight-year-old saying it.

Having that knowledge is dangerous. I don’t want my kid to say the F word until she’s at least in her 40’s – OK, I’ll settle for her late teens for the first time I hear it from her mouth – but part of me is so tempted to ask my kid to say “fuck” just to see if she’ll repeat it … and what it would sound like from that soprano voice of hers.

One day, recently, we were all heading to the store and I started my usual routine of asking my kid to say things.

She followed right along. It was cute. Until …

Ella, say butthole.

I have no idea why. It just slipped out.

Buht-le!

Shit.

The passenger seat immediately got angry.

Why would you say that?! my wife wanted to know.

I don’t know. Still don’t. Seriously. It just slipped out.

My defense was that a child who isn’t even a year-and-a-half has no idea what butthole means. She has no idea what Dodgers means, and she has absolutely no idea what fuck means.

And I am going to be sure to keep it that way.


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Trusting That I’m Doing It Right

What builds trust?

Trust fall!

Trust fall!

As an adult, trust is harder to build because you have lived and experienced heartache and deceit. The past is what is preventing you from taking a step into your future.

And, yet, there is trust around us every day. We just fail to notice it.

Every time I get into my car, I trust the person driving alongside me is: licensed; insured; capable; sober; not texting; following the law; and so on.

When I go to a restaurant, I trust that: the chefs don’t give me chicken tar tare; they wash their hands; the bartender mixes the correct drink; I don’t get overcharged.

There are tons of examples of trust surrounding us everyday in this world and yet, we are skeptical.

You know who is not skeptical? Your child.

That kid trusts you more than you can imagine. What you feed her. When you bathe her. Change her. Clothe her. Walk with her. Hold her. Give her a toy. Tell her no.

Everything your child responds to – especially so young, like mine – is based on the trust she has in her parents.

That light bulb flickered on for me a few weeks ago.

All she knows is what we’ve provided for her. Whether it’s the right daycare, or the right temperature of a bottle, there is an amount of faith in a 30-pound human being that is unrealized by me.

Slowly, as she ages, that trust will erode. I’ll break it somehow and I’ll lose a piece of the trust monument I spent years building. Plus, she’ll become a teenager and not trust anyone except for some friends who will end up backstabbing her and a romantic interest who won’t have her best interests at heart. It’s sad, but true.

So in the meantime, all I can do is continue to build that trust with her.

Because when that eventual letdown happens, I want her coming to me with the problems. Trusting I can help her solve them.