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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Who’s Really Crying It Out?

My wife and I might have reached our first parenting dilemma last night.

Sleep-deprived-parentsSee, we’re both more than ready for our baby to sleep through the night. The kid is in the awful habit of waking up at least twice a night and needing to be fed. It’s not like she’s starving — you should see her thighs, the Michelin Man is jealous! — but she is used to receiving a few ounces at a time when only meth-heads are awake.

Well, meth-heads and us.

Chatting with people who have young kids, there seems to be a consensus of just allowing your child to “cry it out.” Which sounds easy, but truly the more you think about it, is kind of unsympathetic. This little baby, who depends on you to basically keep it alive, is crying out for attention and you’re trained, as a parent, to attend to its needs. Then, all of a sudden, you have to listen to hours of crying in the hopes of getting more sleep.

The idea behind this is to teach the baby that it’s OK not to depend on something in the middle of the night. It’s like running the opposite of a methadone clinic. Reverse rehab, so to speak. Continue reading


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Creating a Bond With Baseball

It was the eighth inning and the game was in hand. A blistering hot Sunday afternoon and the $10 beers were only cooling down our wallets, so I asked my wife if she had enough.

If the Dodgers go on an extended playoff run, I'm going to have to squeeze my kid to fit into this in a month.

If the Dodgers go on an extended playoff run, I’m going to have to squeeze my kid to fit into this in a month.

See, she likes baseball and enjoys the competition aspect of sports in general. Whereas I can watch almost any baseball game anytime. And sometimes do.

On our way out, I said, “Hang on a sec. I want to go in here.”

“You don’t need another Dodgers shirt.”

“Oh … it’s not for me.”

Suzanne isn’t a Dodgers fan so she cringed as I bought a Dodgers onesie for my daughter.

“You can’t make her a Dodgers fan.”

“I know. But I can heavily influence her.”

“When she’s old enough,” Suzanne said, “she can choose whether she likes them or not. Or whether she likes baseball or not.”

“OK, first off, she’s my kid, so she’ll probably like baseball,” was my obvious retort. “And, second, she can like whatever team she wants. Except the Giants. Then I will cut her off. Or the Yankees. Or the Red Sox. Actually, she can like only about seven teams and it’ll be OK.”

Shortly after I purchased the new baby item, the Dodgers went on a 42-8 run that was one of the best 50-game stretches in baseball history. When they hit a skid and hadn’t clinched a playoff spot yet, I put the onesie on Ella and they won that night, the first team in baseball to secure a postseason berth.

Somewhere in the back of my head I keep thinking “Maybe this special little girl is the good luck charm the team has needed.” But, knowing sports I can’t get ahead of myself or even think of jinxing anything yet. After all, when she’s sleeping or doing well during one of our training runs, Suzanne and I will start to comment on it and the other will say “Dude, no talking to the pitcher during a no hitter.”

While I might not be as good looking or as wealthy as David Beckham, I can take my daughter to a Dodgers game. And you're damn right she'll be rocking a Dodgers pacifier.

While I might not be as good looking or as wealthy as David Beckham, I can take my daughter to a Dodgers game. And you’re damn right she’ll be rocking a Dodgers pacifier.

Yes, we have worked sports superstition into our daily lives.

So it is with great anticipation that I get to dress my kid up in a Dodgers onesie on Thursday and sit down with her and watch the Dodgers’ playoff game. Like so many before her, my daughter has been transfixed by Vin Scully’s voice. She loves watching baseball. Or, maybe she just likes the colors and moving pictures of a TV screen.

No, no, it can’t be that. She loves baseball. Yep, that’s it.

While I know she is going to crawl all over me and drool all over her Dodgers onesie and cry for food at some point, I’m excited to sit and relish the experience of father-daughter bonding over a sports event. Even if Suzanne will have to take pictures of it to prove it to her in a few years that it actually happened.

And whether or not we continue to watch sports together or end up having pinked-out tea parties every Sunday during fall so there is no way to watch football, it’s all about spending time together. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll be the one dragging me to games one day, or texting me about the latest score.

And if not, maybe I’ll have to be the one texting her about ice dancing or the latest Enya album. It’s just all about creating that bond.

That’s what I’m most looking forward to.


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Running Against The Wind

My wife and I are crazy. We don’t do anything half-assed, which I like about us and our relationship.

It's not us ... but it's close.

It’s not us … but it’s close.

For example, since we found out Suzanne was pregnant in June 2012, this is how our life went as we squeezed about every milestone you can think of in a nine-month span:

June 2012: Yay! We’re having a baby!

July 2012: Wow … we both got new jobs. Let’s move to Southern California.

August 2012: Let’s find a place to live between Los Angeles and Orange County. Matt, you crash on your friends couches. Suzanne, you stay with your parents.

Sept. 1, 2012: Find, and rent an apartment, that’s about equi-distant to our respective careers.

Mid-September 2012: Buy a new car.

December 2012: Start getting serious about buying a house.

Late January 2013: Offer on a house is accepted.

February 15, 2013: Escrow closes. This is Suzanne’s due date.

February 15-18, 2013: Move in to new house.

February 20, 2013: Ella is born.

So, yeah, when it comes to living life, we don’t mess around.

This jerk is having too much fun.

This jerk is having too much fun.

Which is why neither of us blinked when we decided we would run our first half-marathon together, beginning training about six months after Ella was born. Initially Ella was a good sleeper. When she hit four months she decided that waking up every three hours was the way to go.

Imagine running four to five days a week, training for something you’ve never done before, and averaging six hours of sleep. Interrupted sleep, that is. And, then, going to work, coming home and finding the energy to knock out four miles or six or whatever the day calls for. Then on your weekends, your “rest days” you get to perform your longest runs.

Sunday was an 11-mile day. After waking up at 5:30 — doesn’t this kid know that Sunday is the day of rest?! — Ella decided that 7 am was a good time to take a nap. Sure, you just lay there for a few hours while the day heats up and then we’ll start our run at 10 am and be done at 12:30. Great thinking, kid!

Which is what happened. Trying to finish the longest run of your life while it’s about 80 degrees is terrible. Don’t be fooled. Pushing a baby stroller for 11 miles isn’t a treat, either.

The kicker, though — and this is where it gets good — is when Ella decided that she’d had enough of being in the stroller and decided that the final 2.5 miles was a good time to scream her freakin’ head off.

So there I am, not winning the Father of the Year award, pushing a crying baby in the heat past people trying to enjoy their Sunday … walking, biking, enjoying the beauty of the day near the beach … only to hear this damned baby turning her crying up to unprecedented levels. Because of this, I had told Suzanne “I’m going to run ahead and try and finish faster so I can get to the car and calm her down.”

This is how people thought of my parenting skills.

This is how people thought of my parenting skills.

This made me look like more of an asshole. Now I am on the path pushing this crying baby and leaving my wife in the dust. People were giving me that Are you really fit to be a parent? Why don’t you stop and attend to her needs? sort of looks and all I wanted to do was run with both middle fingers in the air.

I mean, what could I do? I couldn’t stop because it would have taken us longer to get back to the car, and therefore a soothing bottle. I couldn’t slow down or else it would result in a longer amount of crying. I just had to look like an unfit, selfish parent.

Normally I don’t care how people view me, but when you’re pretty much running solo at near sprinting speeds after already putting eight-plus miles on your legs, you start becoming a little self-conscious. Except for the fact that I was dressed like I should have been exercising, people might have thought I had just stolen this kid and was making a break for it.

And here’s the best part: once I finished and was slowing down, she decided that walking was a more preferable pace than jogging. So she shut up. And then smiled at me.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?

My legs aching, my ears ringing and my head hurting (both of these from the crying) all I could think of was a cold beer to mollify all my troubles. It wasn’t the first time — and it won’t be the last — that Ella and I both dip ourselves into different bottles to calm down.


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Living Life On Fast Forward

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. — Ferris Bueller.

What happened to my time?

Pretty much what my coffee table looks like.

Pretty much what my coffee table looks like.

I’m midway through a book I should have finished at least two months ago. I haven’t touched my PlayStation 3 in weeks and there are about six magazines I have barely flipped through that are piling up on my coffee table like a game of Jenga.

My life has become a blur. An hour feels like a minute. Except when it’s the middle of the night and your crying baby is semi-interested in the soothing pleasure of a bottle. Then it’s reversed.

To whit: I poured myself an end-of-the-day cocktail when I started this post and put the baby down for a nap. She just woke up. I’ve had one sip. And this is only the fourth paragraph.

I don’t know if it’s my baby or if it’s all babies, but there seems to be this inherent trait to start crying or need your attention the second you relax your shoulders and want to sit and have a drink and perhaps read a magazine.

It took us three days to get through an episode of Mad Men recently. Three fucking days. For a 47-minute program. Nevermind trying to watch a movie (just had to pick up the toy my daughter dropped) and that’s why we’ve seen one film off our Netflix (she just dropped it again; she’s gonna have to wait until this sentence is over) over the past month.

Obviously I’m still adjusting to this whole dad-ship and home ownership where parts of my Saturday are spent working in the yard or something and then making sure she doesn’t kill herself while I’m trying to get just 10 minutes of time to enjoy a “me” moment. (She just dropped that toy again. It’s staying on the floor.)

I enjoy my “me” moments. Always have. Some of those moments come when I’m pooping. I like to read the news or play a game on my iPhone and that’s why I usually don’t mind doing my biz at work during the week. But when I’m home, my kid has this innate sense rather than allowing me to take a little bit of time and maybe scroll through Twitter for 20 minutes to basically get all my news and info she’s going to start crying. Now even this most personal of moments is turned into a two-minute drill where you’re flexing your large intestine like it’s lifting weights with Vinny, Pauly D and The Situation.

We've pretty much given up trying to watch this show, so we can talk about it in three years. Please don't spoil it for us.

We’ve pretty much given up trying to watch this show for now, so we can talk about the plot in three years. Please don’t spoil it for us.

(This next paragraph was interrupted by at least 30 minutes of spoon feeding. Ella decided she was hungry despite having a bottle less than an hour ago. My cocktail is watery now. Worse, when I was feeding her, my music TV channel set to 80’s hits played “Wind Beneath My Wings.” I couldn’t change it because I was feeding my kid, so I had to wear it and listen to that ballad. Awesome.)

Old parents will tell you to enjoy every moment. But, honestly, I’m kind of ready for my kid to be three or older. Then when she needs attention she can say “Yo! Daddy-oh! Let’s go to the park!” and, yes, my kid will talk like that. But for right now I’m having a hard time trying to decipher baby crying. It’s not like I’m an archaeologist reading hieroglyphics.

My wife and I haven’t eaten dinner before 8 p.m. in at least two months because we both like cooking and just refuse to eat microwave crap meals. (Does this make us elitist? I don’t think so. It makes us normal, I think.) But even the simplest of meals have to wait until we’ve gotten home, fed the baby and maybe put her to bed. Or at least put some toys around her to entertain herself while we shovel food into our mouths like we’re Kobayashi during a hot dog eating contest.

Now it’s bath time, so I can’t finish this post like I’d like to. I’m being summoned to make sure we don’t create a tidal wave all over the kitchen. And it’s taken me over an hour to get this far. So, you get the point.


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Million Dollar Baby

I’m biased. I know this.

Yeah, not model worthy.

Yeah, not model worthy.

When you have a baby, you end up getting a lot of baby things. And on these baby things are, yep, babies. These babies are wearing the clothes or playing with the toys, or reading the books.

Frankly, I haven’t been impressed. Some of these babies are not as cute as mine.

Again, I’m biased. Although, not particularly. There was a study released this summer that said 20% of parents think their baby is ugly. Look, I’m a 30-something person who uses Facebook, so I see baby pictures all the time and 20% seems low to me.

But, seriously, my kid is cuter than a lot of these baby models. And I want to explore getting her some work.

My theory has always been that if Ella gets some baby modeling, any money she earns from looking super cute — aka, looking normal — would go into a college fund. Or a Swiss bank account. Or Disney stock.

The idea being that only Ella would be able to access the money so we don’t turn into the Lohans. Or the High School Musical star suing his parents for stealing his money.

This seems like a foolproof plan. Contact an agency, go to Wal-Mart and get some head shots, then — boom! — Ella makes millions and she can go to whatever college she wants.

Only that my wife isn’t thrilled whenever I bring it up. A conversation usually goes like this:

Me: Ella is way cuter than that baby.

Suzanne: I know. She’s the cutest!

Certainly my kid could do this.

Certainly my kid could do this.

Me: We should look into baby modeling.

Suzanne: —–

I don’t even get a response. Just a look. One of those If you weren’t my husband I would slap you. Because you’re my husband, I’ll punch you.

Me: What?!

Suzanne: We’ve talked about this. If she wants to do it when she can make her own decisions, that’s fine. But we’re not going to force her into it.

Truth is, I don’t know anything about the baby modeling world. I’m sure it’s got a disgusting underbelly like any sort of entertainment does. The money, from what I hear, isn’t exceptional (a friend of a friend’s kid is a Baby

Gap model and gets up to $150 an hour for a photo shoot. Say it’s three hours and that’s pretty good money, but Baby Gap can afford to shell out a little bit more. Especially when it costs about $35 for a pair of baby socks that your kid will probably wear once).

Probably a 6 compared my kid.

Probably a 6 compared to my kid.

Not to take anything away from this Baby Gap model, but c’mon — it’s Baby Gap! This isn’t George’s Children’s Clothes in Encino. It’s a worldwide brand. And, yes, it’s good money for a baby sitting there and not barfing all over itself, but is it that good?

I still think my kid is adorable enough to dominate the baby modeling world, but rather than getting Anne Geddes on line one, perhaps it’s best to wait until Ella points at the TV and says “That kid’s ugly! I can do that!”