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?!


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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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 is sleeping, I answered.


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.


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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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.



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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Getting Really Cheesed Off

All I wanted was a kid with a good arm. A lefty, preferably, because then he might be able to enjoy some sort of pitching career like Jesse Orosco … kind of like a horror movie villain – the dude never went away.

The jury is still out on which hand my kid will prefer, but I’m pretty sure it won’t matter what arm she throws with since there doesn’t appear to be any women who have carved out careers as baseball’s definition of LOOGy’s (Lefty One Out Guys), who are able to pitch forever based on their ability to accurately throw five pitches a night and still rake in beaucoup bucks.

This guy is probably wishing his daughter understood things the way I wish my kid did, too.

This guy is probably wishing his daughter understood things the way I wish my kid did, too.

She is, however, becoming adept at throwing things.

Tonight, it was her dinner. I really need a working vacuum cleaner. Luckily, I have two dogs.

See, the thing is, my daughter is like her parents. Which is good. We’re both gorgeous. We also enjoy our food, saving up to splurge at nice restaurants and cooking good meals even if it is 8 o’clock and we’re both tired from work and sweaty from a workout. (Or sweaty from work and tired from a workout. It works both ways, really.)

Which is why I was taken aback by the amount of turkey that is now in my dogs’ stomachs.

A plate of cheese, avocado and turkey seemed like a good dinner for a 15-month old who has gone from being force-fed from a jar with a spoon, to picking up food and shoving her whole hand in her mouth.

The cheese option was eyed first. She refused the avocado and the turkey and kept going for the cheese, her hand like a Hungry Hippo clamper – Up, Down, Grab. Repeat.

I scooped away the tiny bits of cheese and hoped she’d forget they were there. When she looked at the plate, she seemed confused and, then, looking at me, looked sad. She then looked around the room to see if the Magical Cheese Fairy had come to rebuke her cheese.

Satisfied – or defeated – she started eating the avocado. That’s healthier than cheese, I said, my hand still hiding the yellow and white clumps, hoping she’d go for the protein next. When she got around to it, she shook her head. I picked up a piece and tried to put it in her mouth and she turned up her lip.

I forced a piece into her mouth and out it came. Then, she took some pieces of turkey and I thought Good! She figures out the cheese is gone and has to eat something, so she’s just going to eat the damn turkey! Wrong. That’s when she made it rain.

If strippers danced for turkey, my house would have been the Spearmint Rhino at that moment.

This is when I wish that I could discipline my child. Since she doesn’t really get the whole action-reaction thing yet, I can’t enforce the law of “finish what’s on your plate or you’ll go to bed hungry.” And, if she is hungry, she’ll just cry. Which is the opposite of a good time, so I’ll give in and just give her the damned cheese.

I really don’t know what to do in this scenario. The pictures on the box don’t ever give you the illusion that the kid won’t like the food. I tried placing a piece of cheese on top of a piece of turkey, but like a dog who discovers his medication is wrapped inside the peanut butter, she spit out the turkey and ate the cheese.

What the hell!?

Seriously, when can a child rationalize? When can I stop doing everything for her and start laying down some rules (that, undoubtedly I’ll have to run by my wife first)? I just want to be able to have a conversation with my kid about eating your dinner and if you don’t, no, you don’t get any more milk and no, you can’t have any more cheese.

When can my kid understand English, even a little, for me to start enforcing some rules? It’s not like I need the power. I just need the sanity.

Well, at least the dogs were happy.

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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.


Silver Medalist in a Two-Person Race

This past week I was out of town for work and during one of our sessions, a lead speaker asked us to fill out a few questions to then share with the group. One of the questions was “Who/what is someone/something you admire?”

This is the face of a silver medalist.

This is the face of a silver medalist.

This one was the most difficult for me to answer in a matter of moments. I used to immediately write down “My mom” as the answer to questions like that because she was a single woman who raised two kids, worked a full-time job and worked hard to instill in us the values that would help us deliver something positive to society.

Yet, I hesitated in making that my answer. It seemed too hokey. This was an exercise that deserved deeper thought, so I started rattling things around in my head.

I initially wrote down “professional athletes.” However, only one portion of that is what I admire – the amount of effort and hard work that goes in to being someone who essentially does their job on a huge stage while getting yelled at by thousands of people. I know too many professional athletes. Their work is worth admiring. Their persona is not.

So I scratched it off and took my thinking one step deeper. I wrote down “silver medalists.”

The Olympics doesn’t really do much for me, but I can appreciate the enormity of the hours and energy put in to making your skill so good that only once every four years do you get to show it off to the world.

Think about that for a minute: take something that you consider your best attribute and then work on that one skill for four straight years. No breaks. No vacations. No ice cream. Limited alcohol. (That is where I would cut out.) When that training is up, you have only a minute amount of time to prove that you are the absolute best at that one skill.

What if you’re not at your best that day? What if the wind is blowing differently? If you have a cold? If you didn’t sleep well or if you can only go at 99% speed rather than 100%? We’ve all been there, but on this day you just cannot make it happen.

And you have to live with that for the next four years. Or the rest of your life. After standing a step down on a podium and getting nearly no recognition, you fade off and are forgotten despite working just as hard as the person who won the gold.

That’s why I admire silver medalists. They have the grace and humility to suck it up despite coming thisclose to a gold medal.

Right now, in my kid’s life, I am the silver medalist.

Trust me, that sucks in a house of two that she judges.

Nobody remembers who this silver medalist is.

Nobody remembers who this silver medalist is.

The last few days I can barely hold her without her crying and reaching over to mom. The little girl who used to say “Daddy!” when she saw me now only wants me to set her down so she can wobble over to “Ma-ma!”

The worst part is that my wife has tended to the kid non-stop so she never can make a call to the bullpen. So we run the gamut of emotions – my wife for being just worn out playing defense on a one-year-old and me for being disappointed that my kid really doesn’t want to hang out with me for more than 30 seconds.

I was mentally preparing for that sentiment 13 years from now. But a line has been drawn in the sand and I am clearly in second place in a two-person race.

Some might think that is a blessing in disguise, but no one was ever happy with a silver medal. Everyone wants gold.

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Home Alone

I am excited for this weekend. Hang on … let’s rephrase. I was excited for this weekend.

My wife is taking a trip to New York with her mom and sister leaving me to hold down the fort with the kiddo. I was excited for her to go since it will be the first time she’s been away from our daughter without me (and plus, New York, right?). But I was also excited for me to be able to have some Daddy-Daughter time.

Tonight, though, I got a worried look into my life’s crystal ball.

When you’re playing one-on-one vs. a toddler, there is nothing else that you can really do. It would be like having to guard LeBron James non-stop, knowing that no matter what you do, he’ll still make you look extremely fallible.

I wanted to go for a run tonight but it was a little cold, so I’d have to re-dress the kid into some warmer clothes and that would eat into my workout. That’s a problem since it was nearing her dinner time and, dammit, wouldn’t you know this 25-pounder has some lungs on her. Talk about doing a miserable type of exercise and then being even more miserable during it.

I had other items on the agenda which needed attention, yet I couldn’t really turn my back on her, so I was getting agitated.

This gated area, which I call her prison, is not her favorite place to be even though it probably has 672 toys in it. So, that worked for about 0.3 seconds. Then she wanted to be picked up; then set down; back up; down. She couldn’t make up her mind.

At this point, I was getting almost as cranky as she was. Mainly because I had to poop. Yet I couldn’t because I was attending to her needs and wants.

I thought she was ready for bed, so I prepped a bottle, took her into her room and was ready to lay her down when my wife came home from the gym. Oh, praise the Lord! A relief pitcher.

She finished putting the kid down and I thought Now I can finally get some stuff done. Well, 20 minutes later my daughter was up and running around the house again because, despite our best efforts, she was not all that ready for bed.

Knowing all this, I am truly concerned about things this weekend. Physically and mentally, I know I can handle it – that’s not a problem. But, I’m worried about the extra stuff that needs to get done: Will I be able to eat a regular dinner? Will the dogs get fed? Will I be able to clean the house? Work in the yard? Go for a run?

There’s only so much I can squeeze in to a couple of mid-day naps and the hours from her bedtime to my own. Really, this sounds so selfish – and I know it kind of is – but I’d like to have a few extra hours to just do normal stuff. How many people want to do chores?

I guess the best news is that while my wife is gone, I don’t have to make the bed. She’s a bed-making perfectionist. I am not. So, on the bright side, that’s one less thing I have to worry about. That will free up a few extra moments to tick something else off an ever-growing, way-too-adult kind of list of things I actually want to get done.

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As I Sail Into the Mystic

Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

My wife and I have started this little tradition since moving into our house. We call it “Sunday Supper.” We will work on making a big dinner as a coup de grace to the weekend – we light candles, play some music, open a nicer bottle of wine, use cloth napkins and just sit and enjoy a good meal. The cloth napkins are the key here.

It’s a tradition we started now so that when our daughter is older she will look forward to the Sunday Suppers as much as we do. Sunday is the day we will be sure to all come together and not be distracted by homework, or soccer practice or television. It will be like the dinner table in American Beauty, just without the angst.

And magnificently we will flow into the mystic

As Van Morrison played in the background and we were enjoying a great dish, our conversation turned – as it usually does – to Ella. She had been sick during the week, as kids are wont to do, and she had been leaking a lot from both ends.

Somehow, between the beautiful “Into the Mystic,” the bottle of cab and the delicious Italian dish, we got on the subject of our daughter’s diarrhea.

When that fog horn blows …

In that moment, the song turned into my life.

Here I was, without a compass, sailing into the mystic. I have no idea what the future has in store for me as a father. I don’t know if I am going to continue to be reluctant in attending to crying or nightmares. When I turn my cell phone to “Do Not Disturb” during the night, my body goes into the same mode. If I get up to console a four-year old over a monster in the closet, will I lay on her bed and fall back asleep, leaving my kid to shudder through the night?

As I sat at our dinner table, wondering when my daughter is going to feel better, the words made more and more sense to my situation. The fog horn was the diarrhea reference, obviously.

… you know I will be coming home

Rather than wondering “When will I get some more me time?” I need to just let go – let my soul and spirit fly into the mystic. There is no more me. There is only us.

Along with my wife, we will magnificently flow into the mystic. We have each other. We are blessed. There aren’t words to describe the amount of support we have for the other. The future will be magnificent.

As someone who lived in three cities during his childhood and spent much of his twenties traveling and job-jumping to bigger and better opportunities, the idea of home means so much to me. Perhaps that’s why I look forward to our Sunday Suppers all week. It just feels like … home. It feels secure.

And, yet, there we were, enjoying our wonderful meal, listening to The Man, faces illuminated by 40 watt bulbs and candlelight … talking about our daughter’s poop.

I stopped, sipped my wine, and laughed.

Those are the moments when the name of this blog really makes sense to me. It’s more of a rhetorical question than a statement, really. So, this is fatherhood? 

As Van closes the song, my question and his ellipses fill in whatever blanks are left.

Too late to stop now …


God Made Dirt and God Made Babies. Sooner or Later, They’re Going to Mix

I cannot tell you exactly when the shift happened. There wasn’t a watershed moment or anything. At least not one that I remember.

The procedure for entering our house has gotten a little easier lately.

The procedure for entering our house has gotten a little easier lately.

During the first few months of my daughter’s life, it was almost like we were walking around in Hazmat suits. People had to pour Purell on their hands whenever they touched her. Our dogs were like a badgering ex-boyfriend given a restraining order – allowed close enough to see what’s going on, but still not given permission to go anywhere near her. We swathed her hands with wipes before and after meals. Cleaned off the high chair tray, too. And God forbid she drop a pacifier on the ground. It was like a Code Red alert and we could only pick it up with a pair of tongs before dropping it into a pot of boiling water.

Lately, though, my kid might as well eat a pile of dirt. It would probably be met with a shrug.

Old ladies walking around the grocery store reach out to touch my daughter and we no longer recoil in germ horror. Our dogs lick her when she walks around. On the mouth sometimes. She’s constantly putting her hands wherever she can as she explores the house as a bi-pedaled human. And then she taste-tests whatever she has in her hands.

Our response? Eh.

Last week at breakfast she dropped her pacifier on the ground. We just dipped it into a now-ordered third water glass and plopped it back into her mouth. It’s like we are already prepping her for beer pong once she heads off to college.

Soon enough she’s going to be walking around our backyard and playing in the mud, playing ball with the dogs and surviving a day without any wardrobe changes, but with plenty of stains.

From this ...

From this …

I just don’t get when our mindset – as parents – changed from Mr. Clean to Pigpen. Was it when she went to daycare? Was it because Purell is expensive? Was it because our dogs tore up the restraining order?

Obviously this happens at some point with every parent, or else we’d all be living in bubbles like giant hamsters. But I’m a moment guy. I remember the moment I met my wife, and the moment I asked her to marry me. I remember the moment that baseball became my favorite sport. I remember the moment I stormed a basketball court as a fan. I remember several heartbreak moments and several victorious moments.

... to this

… to this

Yet, I cannot remember the moment I finally let my kid get just a little outside of the previously created bubble.

But isn’t that what being a parent is about? You try and create a safety net and then little by little, you pull it back and let the child grow on their own?

So maybe there doesn’t need to be an exact moment. Maybe it’s a series of moments that just leads to your kid growing up. And one day, that bubble is gone and then it becomes a moment.


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.”