So This is Fatherhood


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The Age of Innocence

There are times during this entire fatherhood journey where I can simply take a breath, reflect and experience the world through the lens of my three year old’s eyes.

The moments are sometimes few as we all inevitably fall into the regular rat race of life – trying to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves to try and ensure the livelihood of our families, our homes and, especially the futures of our children. I am as guilty of this as anyone, if not more so.

And even though I spent the majority of my Sunday working around the house – general homeowner things that tend to need attention – it’s small moments that my daughter experienced this week when I just want to hug her, kiss the top of her head and be still in the world during with her and let everything else pass by.

236c3e9e97890d266b108013f108be27Every morning that I drive her to daycare, we usually cover three topics. It’s easy since the drive is no more than five minutes.

1) What are you going to do at school today?

I’m going to listen to my teachers.

Note: listening is not one of my daughter’s best attributes.

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There’s a big difference between sleepovers in tents at the library and sleeping in tents that you call “home” in urban areas.

2) How are you going to play with your friends?

Nice and gentle, she says as she softly rubs her own face.

Note: sometimes my child channels her inner Ronda Rousey.

3) How are you going to act?

Like a leader.

3a) And what does that mean?

To do the right thing.

Note: This one is still a work in progress. We’re trying to get her to think this way although the overall concept probably escapes her grasp. She’s getting there, but it’s something I want to institute now.

It was during our morning drive routine when she didn’t immediately answer one of these typical queries. She saw a man walking on the sidewalk.

He was homeless. A stereotypical vagrant of a homeless person you may expect to be cast in a movie if they needed what we all think a homeless person should look like. Terribly unkempt hair, ratty beard, holes in his filthy clothes. Someone who had taken several wrong turns in life, but in one way or another was still gutting it out.

My daughter saw him, and his yellow backpack with a foam roller on it and her focus on our questions went askew.

Daddy, that man is going to the library for a sleepover.

I did a double take and then lobbed back a simple Oh, yeah? at her, struck by the fact that my three-year-old has yet to tell the difference of a homeless person and a person going to a sleepover. She saw the backpack, had just finished watching her morning PBS shows and somehow concluded that this person was sleeping over at the library.

How we view the world is obviously jaded and probably more negative than it should be based on our own experiences and the influences we have: stories, news reports, experiences of others and so on.

Yet, my daughter just saw a human being. A man walking with a backpack and assumed the best. He was simply going to the library, to learn and read, and meet his friends, and then sleep there.

For a moment I wished she was right. And in that moment I wanted to crawl into that space with her and believe it too.

 


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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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Sticks and Stones and Bro’s

There was an evening recently where, for a moment, my daughter was upset.

She has bypassed the Terrible Two’s and is smack dab in the middle of the Terrible Three’s, crying when she doesn’t get her way, talking back, ignoring some of our words – in general acting like a miniature teenager. Therefore her being upset didn’t really cause a ruffle in either of her parents’ lives.

Plus, she’s stopped taking naps at daycare, so she has been overly cranky and tired in the afternoon and evenings. Which fits perfectly in our family dynamic because now all three of us have the same general feeling.

This minor meltdown and teary-eyed response, though, was different.

She was telling my wife that some girls at her school were calling her names. She’s three years old. This shouldn’t happen.

My heart immediately went into my stomach. How could toddlers insult each other? This sort of crap wasn’t supposed to be something that we dealt with as parents until she was seven or eight – at the earliest. I thought we were still in the coloring, playground, puzzle stages.

What in the world could kids be calling each other these days?

They called me “a bro” she spit out.

As ridiculous as name-calling can be, especially something as innocuous as that, I wanted to cry.

No parent wants their kid to be upset. And you feel helpless on something like this, even though it doesn’t even compare to the names she will probably be called by other girls as she gets older. In the grand scheme of things “a bro” is eons better than B or C or W or whatever other insults girls hurl at each other.

My wife handled this first foray into insults very adeptly, telling our daughter to just ask these girls very nicely not to call her that anymore. For now, that approach will work. We’ll definitely have to call an audible on that in about 10 years.

51Y-Q1Gg4BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When I checked in with the kiddo a few days later, apparently these girls have moved on from “a bro” to calling my kid “too serious.”

How can a three-year-old be serious? I wondered, thinking of this child who begs for me to “act silly” with her.

This episode came as I was finishing my good friend Josh Suchon’s book, “Murder in Pleasanton,” which details a 14-year-old girl’s murder in 1984. On the day she died, Tina Faelz was harassed and called names. One of the girls who harassed her was quoted in the book, 30 years after the death feeling tremendous amounts of guilt every day and making this girl’s final day of her life miserable. It was something that haunted her.

We never think of these things in the moment. I was no saint as a child and upon reflection, probably owe some kids an apology. Not to the extend Adam Sandler does with Steve Buschemi in Billy Madison, but I definitely ruffled some feathers. (Note: except you, Ashley Levine. You deserved everything that came your way. I maintain that forever.)

As I’ve gotten older and smarter and more accepting, I hope to instill this ideal in my kid – that it’s actually not that hard to be nice to people.

The way we pay our rent for taking up space on this earth is by serving others.

So whether my kid ends up being a too serious bro or develops into a goofy girly I hope that the lessons I’ve learned will find their way into her ethos and she’ll incorporate them in her life’s path.

I tell my daughter every day to be a leader. It’s a hard thing to do, to put your arm around a kid who’s being made fun of and show solidarity with the outcast, but that’s what leaders do. And I hope that if someone in my daughter’s life is being teased she will throw an arm around that child and protect them the same way I do to her.


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Stage Fright

I don’t know if I’m weird or in a regular percentage that nobody talks about, but it’s never been easy for me to pee around other people.

Maybe dads teach their sons how to pee next to other people and it just becomes a normalcy for most – like a camping experience and all you do is pee everywhere like a dog marking your territory. Growing up in a house with a mom and sister, it wasn’t like they were going to take me outside to pee all over lampposts and on car tires.  

Why is this considered normal? Am I weird?

Normally this whole pee-inadequacy isn’t a problem, but at sporting events or large gatherings I usually wait to seek out a bathroom stall. Which is awesome if you’re into overflowed, wet, stinky, shit-infested areas with unflushed toilets.

Despite being married for eight years now, my wife and I respect the whole bathroom etiquette of each other and really don’t do our duty (doodie?) in front of the other. I am definitely no prude, but it’s kind of gross if you watch another adult take a growler – no matter if you have seen them push an eight pound baby out of their vagina.

All of this started to shift though as my daughter moved from infant to toddler.

The few times I have been alone with her – rising early on weekends, or the Mrs. is away at the gym or getting her hair did – I’ve had to keep an open door policy mainly because I don’t want my kid sticking her finger into an electrical socket when I’m liking photos on Instagram. (Yes, if I’ve liked your photo there is a very high chance it came while taking a deuce. Deal with it.)

Well, this has only encouraged my child to come find me. And there is nothing more touching than unleashing a steady pee stream while looking your toddler in the eyes. It’s really a bonding moment. Why didn’t any of those damn baby books cover crap like this?

See? Girls do it too!

 The thing is, I think my daughter kind of enjoys being in there. Maybe she has separation issues. I’ve got to be honest here: it is somewhat rewarding to have my kid say things like Wow Daddy, that’s A LOT of pee pee! or Whoa that’s a BIG poop Daddy!

As she’s been potty training, she’s become even more interested in my bathroom habits. She’ll stick her head into the bowl like a drunk chick puking or sit on the toilet singing songs and wasting time. Kind of like me checking out Instagram.

Once, while I was peeing, she stuck her hand into the stream and sprayed it everywhere. That was fun.

The thing is, this whole stage fright thing has started to dissipate. At least around her. There hasn’t been a single moment where I’ve frozen up while she’s been in the bathroom with me.

I have yet to test this newfound freedom out in public but I guess the next time I’m at a urinal trough next to other guys who think it’s normal to talk while standing next to you with their dong out, I’ll think of my kid’s smiling face and her words of recognition.

Wow that’s a good one Daddy!


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Curt Schilling Makes a Case for All Fathers

When I was covering baseball, I would have loved to have had a player like Curt Schilling in the clubhouses I worked. While, personally, I think he’s a little over the top and sometimes full of it, he was never afraid to speak his mind and was known as “Red Light Curt” because he always seemed to find a way to be in front of the camera. [EDIT: Please see comments that clarify this nickname. My fault. It was what all media interpreted it as.]



When he retired and I moved on from covering baseball, I tired more and more of Schilling. He seemed to stir things up just to stay in the spotlight. Right or wrong, that’s how I felt. 

However, he penned a blog today that I think speaks volumes about his character and who he is as a father. Regardless of my thoughts as a ball writer, or my thoughts on where Schilling stands on whatever issues (and trust me, you’ll never be in a gray area with him), what he wrote today as a dad was purely brilliant. 

It’s not that he is a dad to a talented daughter or that I am a dad to a talented, albeit younger, daughter, his thoughts resonate with me. And as any parent – or really, human being – reads this, they should understand that it’s more than being a father to a daughter. Or a father to a son. It’s about having respect for other people. 

I hope that in my daughter’s life I never have to deal with social media vitriol that will bring her to tears and have her question herself. But knowing that the world is constantly changing and technology is always a step ahead, I fear what I have in store for me. 

Maybe I will print this out and keep it as something to refer to in a time I go through a fathering struggle. 

Read it. Then read it again. No matter where you stand on Schilling – and as a sports fan you feel one way or the other – this will make you appreciate him as a person. And as a father. 

https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/the-world-we-live-in-man-has-it-changed/


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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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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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Cinco de Blah

For whatever reason I was in a funk today. All day long. I hated it. I hate not being myself.

I’m sure some of it has to do with the fact that I have been averaging five or six hours of sleep a night for the last 15 months, and really, would love to get at least eight solid one night and wake up after the sun has risen.

Seems like more of a pipe dream, though.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

What actually snapped me out of whatever was causing this was when my wife came home and asked: “Dude, are you in a funk because it’s Cinco de Drinko and you’re not out?”

No. A thousand times no.

There are some things about being a new dad that bother me and they fall into the realm of changes I’ve had to make and priorities we’ve both had to adjust. But, it’s growing up, being part of something bigger than yourself and realizing that you’ve had the opportunity presented to you for 30-plus years to this point to do things you won’t be able to do anymore.

Like drink your face off during a Mexican holiday that 99% of the people partying have no idea what it’s about.

While I am always up for a cocktail outside of my home, participating in the “amateur hours” of big drinking holidays is something that lost its luster when I was, oh, about 24. Something about sardine-ing yourself into a bar on St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve with a lot of people who are going crazy for the sake of going crazy never appealed to me. Maybe it was all the vomit you end up encountering.

Which, in a weird way, actually sets you up for fatherhood.

MjAxMy1jY2VlMWUxODFiNzY5NTJkThe thing is, I don’t really miss going out for these debauchery-fests wrapped into a calendar date. I can partake in a debauchery-fest on a Wednesday and have just as much fun – and probably more since there would be a lack of crowd. But the point has been really solidified during this voyage of being a dad.

There’s definitely some things I miss from having far less responsibility, but there’s also some things I miss from hundreds of snapshots of my life.

My wife’s question is one that made me laugh since it re-focused things. I don’t miss events like Cinco de Mayo, but there are plenty of pre-fatherhood things I do miss. Yet, when I can see the tangible effect I have on shaping another human’s life, those things become a lot easier to miss.

Because missing something now wouldn’t really be a miss. It would be missing out.