So This is Fatherhood


Leave a comment

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.

IMG_4716

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.

 


1 Comment

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.

 


Leave a comment

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.


3 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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.

 


Leave a comment

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.


5 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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 …

 


1 Comment

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.


2 Comments

It’s My Dad-iversary!

Our first family photo. Feb. 20, 2013.

Our first family photo. Feb. 20, 2013.

Today, my daughter turned one.

I made it.

I didn’t kill her.

Not in the Jeffrey Dahmer or the Dexter matter of murder. In the sense that she relies on me – at least partly – to keep her alive.

And I did.

This is a big deal.

It’s not so much about us celebrating that she’s a year old. We lit a candle on a cupcake. She didn’t know how to blow it out. She didn’t care much for the cupcake either. I attribute that to it being her first time tasting sugar. It would be like putting Paul Revere in a Ferrari. Eventually he’d think it was awesome, but he’d be so confused at first.

We’re having a small family gathering on Saturday to celebrate her first birthday. I really think we should be celebrating my wife and myself.

We made it. We have made it a full year as parents. And we didn’t kill her. We also didn’t kill each other. That’s got to count for something too, right?

On Saturday I plan on having some champagne with my wife. The focus, as it should be, will be on our daughter. But we deserve a small, quiet moment of celebration as well. Just the two of us. Just to be able to exhale, roll our shoulders in a sign of relaxation and look back and think that we haven’t totally screwed up. Yet.

It’s interesting to me, as I continue to go through RCIA classes in my Catholic confirmation, since we’re focusing on the Ten Commandments right now. One of the Commandments is to honor your mother and father. I want to think I did a decent job of that. On a scale of 1-10, I would be around a seven or eight.

However, parents don’t get as much credit as they should. My parents kept me alive. (Wouldn’t you know it, though, four days into my life out of the house I almost killed myself. Another story for another time with a stiffer drink.) I’ve never thanked them for that. I also have never thanked my mom for not allowing me to grow a mullet (not that I knew what it was in the 1980s, but I’m pretty sure I wanted to party in the back).

The thing is, my kid turned one and I feel like it’s a bigger accomplishment for my wife and myself. Not because we’re selfish people, but because how do you know how you’re going to react as parents? You’ve never done it before and then all of a sudden you’re doing it all the time? You’re learning how to do things without any education, no courses, no practice. All with a human life relying on you.

Sure, we read books, but reading a book about how to drive a car is nothing like sitting in the driver’s seat.

Obviously we’re not the only ones who have been in this situation. There’s six billion other people on Earth whose parents made it past the first year, too.

So, in honor of my child turning a year old, be sure to thank your parents, or whoever raised you. Just call them and say “Thank you for not killing me.”