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.


2 Comments

Actually, Some Actuality’s

I always imagined I’d be the worst type of parent. The jury is still out if that is true or not.

As my friends began having children I just didn’t really know what to say or how to act around them. My stomach got squeamish at the thought of holding an infant. What if I drop the thing?

My mind was wired to “adult” when having conversations with kids. I use the term conversations loosely, by the way.

lying-1An example:

Kid – Yesterday I flew in a spaceship to the moon.

Me – There is absolutely zero chance that is true. Stop being a liar.

Proof that I simply did not know how to act around toddlers or elementary-aged kids.

Problem is, I still don’t.

My kid will say outlandish things – I guess that’s just something kids do. It’s not intentional. She isn’t an actual liar and is trying to cover up her tracks so she doesn’t get punished for breaking something. It’s just that her mind drifts between truth and non-truth.

This is a real-life example. Unfortunately, things like this come out of her mouth semi-frequently:

Daddy, you are a pretty girl.

You have got to be the dumbest person I’ve ever met.

Of course, I would never say that out loud. I only think it. And then I catch myself thinking it and get mad for thinking my child is a crazy person whose mental hamster fell off the wheel.

Daddy, you are a pretty girl.

Actually, daddy is a man.

Daddy, you are a pretty man.

Some would find that as a compliment.

Actually, you want to say “handsome man.”

It’s this overall lesson of patience and letting kids figure things out as they go that I continue to have the mental battle with. It’s almost like self-advertising to your children. The theory goes you have to hear or see something seven times before it sinks in. So, I’ll keep correcting my child as politely as I can.

(Although, as she gets older and doesn’t catch on – let’s say when she’s a teenager – then I’ll say things like Listen, imbecile, daddy is not a girl. Unless, of course, I decide to go down the Caitlyn Jenner path. Then I would probably give her a hug. And I digress …)

Point is, I have over-corrected my daughter enough that she now answers in actuality’s. Not truths. Actuality’s.

Honey, do you want to put your shoes on?

Actually, yes.

It’s not like the sentence needed the first-word modifier. And if she said no, I would just have done it anyways – putting shoes on is not an option. I’ve just started so many sentences with Actually because she needs correcting that she uses it a lot. And hardly ever correctly.

I guess it’s just baby steps for both of us. I am not tactlessly verbalizing the fact that she is constantly wrong. And she is starting to learn that not everything she thinks, says or hears is a fact.

So, actually, we’re both making progress.


2 Comments

Eggs & Bacon > Steak & Potatoes

So, I started a new job this week. The first days on the job is like you’re on a first date with a bunch of your co-workers. Everyone is on their best behavior and they want to get to know you.

learn_to_love_breakfastOne question that has come up a few times is when people ask what are my favorite restaurants since several of us live in the same city.

I hem. I haw. I dig my toe on the carpet.

Umm, like do you mean, for breakfast?

This throws people for a loop.

When folks ask you about restaurants, they typically talk about dinner. If they want to know about breakfast, they will use that term – “breakfast” – in their inquiry. Lunch is never used, but Where can I get a good sandwich? usually does the trick.

My wife and I love going out to eat. We love trying new restaurants and the experience, choosing items we couldn’t make at home or being a little luxurious in something we’d order. We love the atmosphere, the cocktails, the time we get to just sit there and talk and not be distracted by our phones or the TV.

But … there’s this whole baby thing.

We’re not one of those weird shut-in couples who has a kid and then stays anchored to their house. Not at all.

But it’s kind of hard to go to dinner with a 10-month old who goes to bed around 7 pm. I’m not casting stones here, but I don’t want to be eating the early bird special dinner at 5:30 just to try a new restaurant.

It was easier when she was tethered to her car seat. We could go out and she could sleep in her car seat. When we needed to go, she was mobile.

Now? Well, it’s kind of difficult to have your baby catch some Zzzz’s in a high chair.

So … we do breakfast.

Which, come to think of it, is actually nicer. Depending on the time you arrive you can have coffee or a Bloody Mary. A huge lumberjack special, or just some scrambled eggs. The kid is awake and not screaming. The wife is enjoying her mimosa. The bill is cheaper than dinner.

So, yeah. I’ll happily indulge you in my favorite restaurants. Just be prepared to discuss whether they serve hash browns or homestyle potatoes.


3 Comments

Being Sure to Remember My Baby’s First Christmas

Somehow, recently, I was reunited with my baby book. I never thought my mom would give it up and I never thought it would now sit in a box in my garage.

I also never thought I would have paged through it three times in the last nine months.

My mom was diligent about recording my early life.

My mom was diligent about recording my early life.

There’s very little I remember in there, but it’s intriguing to see how diligent my mom was, in her beautiful cursive, about noting accomplishments in my early years. In this age of digital technology and ease of information, I wish I were better about noting my daughter’s accomplishments. Sometimes it’s not enough to try and take a picture of her every day.

***

My dad has never been a great gift giver. Every Christmas I could always look forward to used DVD’s from Blockbuster and a gift card. Now that Blockbuster is out of business, he’s painted himself into a corner. This year he got his first grandchild a gift card to Target and a lengthy Hallmark card.

But the card wasn’t typical for him, gushing with words he felt but could never vocalize. This is a six-page card with empty spaces to record gifts and photos and how my kid enjoyed her first Christmas.

Certainly I’ll remember that my daughter loved sitting on her brand new Minnie Mouse airplane and being pushed around the house. Or the thrill she got when we took her toy BMW outside and pushed her up and down the sidewalk, the wind blowing through the little strands of hair she has. Or how excited she initially was to stand and push her new lion walker, the pride she felt in her ability to be able to be a bipedal human, if only for a few moments.

And we have the photos of each of these moments. They live in the jumble of our digital memories inside of our smartphones.

Therein lies the issue. There is no epicenter to bring it all together.

***

Shortly after we found out we were having a baby, I went and bought a photo album. I planned on recording every moment of my child’s first year.

I’ve done that to an extent, through this blog and through my photos. Rare, though, is the day that they end up in that album.

***

As we have started deconstructing our house from Christmas, there lied a pile of cards on our kitchen counter from our friends and relatives. After hanging them around the house, we usually take one final look at them and then they end up in the garbage. Unfortunate as it sounds, I know we’re not the only ones who do this.

One of my first times with St. Nick.

One of my first times with St. Nick.

Tonight, sitting just off center, was the “Baby’s First Christmas” card.

While we may recall the initial reactions that our kid had during her first Christmas and the gifts that were given to her, how is it possible for us to replicate that joy she had – even at 10 months old – without seeing the glint in her eye? Without recalling the way her mouth shaped a tiny “O” when she first sat on the Minnie Mouse plane? Or the way she squinted her eyes and opened her mouth as big as possible with the pleasure she got from being pushed on her new BMW car?

Memories are only as good as your brain allows them to be. Will we recall every detail in three months? In six? Next Christmas?

***

My baby book has everything from my mom’s first thoughts of bringing me home from the hospital through my sixth grade report card. It has documented evidence of who visited me when I was a newborn and what they brought over – almost like a registrar’s book. It has photos of my first bath and of the first few years I visited Santa Claus.

Not only do I get to see what I looked like as a baby, but I get to see what my grandfather looked like with dark hair. Or what my dad looked like with hair. I can comb through it and try and recall the neighbors we had or the friends we’ve stayed in touch with or those who we’ve needed Facebook to reconnect with. Every time I reach for it, it’s like opening a time capsule.

***

The other day my wife purchased new toner for our printer. I’m so glad she did. We have a lot of Christmas memories to print out and put in that little card.

Our kid will appreciate it.


1 Comment

Podcast With USA Today’s Lindsay Jones

As someone who used to play sports and who used to work in sports — first as a traveling beat writer and then in collegiate athletics — I’ve often wondered how sports might influence my daughter’s life.

It’s one of those odd thoughts of boy vs. girl in the sense that stereotypes suggest you should push your son towards sports. But why not your daughter? With my obvious interest in sports and me and my wife’s passion for living a healthy lifestyle, I often think of how to treat sports with my daughter.

Will she grow up wanting to be like Hope Solo or Serena Williams or Diana Taurasi? Or will she embrace something else? How will sports affect my daughter’s youth? My dad loved sports and brought my sister and I to games … where my sister ended up reading books.

The idea behind the So This is Fatherhood podcast is to interview females who have either carved out a career in sports or who were athletes at a high level and how sports have affected their lives, especially growing up. I hope you enjoy this new portion to the blog.

The first in this series is USA Today NFL reporter Lindsay Jones.


1 Comment

Blazing a Path on My Own Journey

It must have been a higher power calling. I know why I eventually ended up in the room at the back of the Catholic Church near my house, but I never knew that I would be there twice a week for the next year.

RCIAInitially I went to learn more about God and religion because one day my daughter is going to ask “Why?” a lot and I always want to be able to give her a smart and accurate answer.

Then it became a lot more than just finding out more so I could be a better dad. It became being a better man.

I’ve always been a Christian, believing in the power of God and praying regularly. But this program I am now a part of — Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, a yearlong process to fully become Catholic — has opened up my world.

It’s helped me lead a better life, whether it’s being more patient or treating others better or trying to see how even the little things are influenced by God. It has given me an opportunity that I always wanted when I was going to different churches based on where I was living at the time. This has given me a good church to be a part of, one that I hope to have my daughter grow up in.

It’s funny the things I’m doing in this new venture called fatherhood. The more you want your child to have a better life than you did, the more you will try and change things for them. Ultimately, it creates a better life for you, too.

It’s not so much that you’re laying a nice foundation for your kid, it’s more like you’re trying to blaze a trail for them to follow as best as you can. Teach by example, so to speak.

I’m not perfect. I still get upset at little things and I still roll my eyes at things I don’t agree with. I still curse and I still enjoy a cocktail or two. I guess like all of us, I am still a work in progress.

It’s about growing. Whether it’s alone or with your family, I’ve learned that the more you grow every day the better off you will be. Thus, the better off your child will be.

I didn’t end up in RCIA just for my daughter. I am going through this process to be confirmed in the Catholic Church and be able to accept Holy Communion. But the more I know about my faith and the importance it will play in my life will hopefully give my daughter an example of the strengths of my beliefs and the strength of my character.


6 Comments

What the Bleep?

censoredRight now all my kid says is “da da da da da da.”

It’s great when she just says two — “da da” — because that makes me excited, but frankly, I don’t think she quite knows what she’s saying, or correlating that I am DaDa and she is referring to me.

The point is, she’s close to saying her first word, or set of words. Therefore, I’ve got to be a lot more careful.

Fact is, I curse a decent amount. It’s been an ongoing thing since I uttered my first “fuck” around 13. It’s such a beautiful word, used for so many different purposes. It’s pleasure and pain. Noun and adjective. Descriptive and vague. To emphasize a point (Fuck yes!) or de-emphasize a point (Fuck no!).

It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of words. And I use it as such.

I also do a pretty good job of censoring myself when necessary. At work, I rarely say fuck unless I’m in my own office and overly upset. And, even then it’s mostly under my breath. At the in-laws, I certainly try not to say it. As a freelance broadcaster, I have never said it (and hope to never say it) on air. And, unless I’m around a bunch of old sailors — which has never once happened — I try not to say it in any mixed company.

So when I get home, sometimes as I slide myself into a comfortable position on my comfortable couch in some comfortable clothes, I let my mouth get comfortable, too.

(Side note: it’s not like we’re just watching TV or something and I’ll unleash a truckload of fucks or a slew of shits. Could you imagine? Honey! Holy fucking shit! Look! QVC has got a fucking Ginsu knife that will cut through a bunch of shit! Gimme the fucking credit card! I’m buying this fucking shit! That doesn’t happen.)

But, sometimes a swear word will slip, like a fart at a dinner party. Once in awhile, it’s going to come out no matter how hard you try to keep it in.

Lately my wife has been reminding me to clean it up a notch. We don’t want our daughter’s first actual word to be “shitballs” or “douche-nozzle” or “asshat” or something similar.

But it brings up an interesting point: How much do you censor yourself around kids? Especially nine month olds, like we have?

I get that you no longer say aloud that you have to scratch your ass or take a shit or want to make a fucking sandwich. I get that. But how far does it go? A co-worker of mine recalled when her son first crossed the line. Told that someone was going to tinkle, the boy asked “Out of your penis?” I guess it’s better than asking “Out of your cock?”

How do I eventually tell my daughter to defecate in the toilet? Should I just treat it like a nature show and ask her to scat in the proper spot? (Seriously, how I use the term “poop” around her might either be defecate or scat. I’m not kidding.)

Still looking for his baseball.

Still looking for his baseball.

Those are things that are down the line and maybe I’ll be smarter as a father by then (probably not). Right now, I’m just worried that she’s going to think that one of our dog’s names is actually “Milo-fuck” when it’s often said “Milo! Fuck!” because the dog just doesn’t fucking listen.

Maybe the best way to clean it up is to just treat everything like I’m working as broadcaster. I’ll even put on the headphones and walk around the house like the handicapped brother in “There’s Something About Mary.” I’m just worried that I’d actually do the play-by-play like it’s a game. And, here’s my wife, walking across the room. She bends down … picks up my daughter … holds her high … AND KISSES HER! WOW! WHAT A MOMENT!

At least it’s better than describing it as “What a fucking moment!” and then having my kid repeat it.


6 Comments

All We Need is Just a Little Patience

Sometimes I hate the way that I’m wired. I don’t know if it’s a ginger thing that has crept into my DNA or if it’s a male thing that I just happen to have or maybe it’s just part of my personality — maybe it’s a trifecta of them all.

cartoon-man-looking-his-watch-23759215 But I am not a patient person.

This is an awful trait to possess if you are a new parent.

I’m the kind of person who will hand out his Christmas list on Dec. 5 and by Dec. 8 will have bought the things myself. When I send a movie back through Netflix, I can barely stand the 36 hours until I get a new one. I detest golf because for those four hours I am on the course, I am thinking of what I’m going to do when I’m done rather than focusing on each shot. When I want something done, I usually do it myself because I don’t like waiting.

I didn’t realize how impatient I was until our daughter was born.

Cherish every moment, people will tell you.

I’m the person who wants her to be three years old so that she can understand when I tell her to hold still or just sit in her chair for a minute so I can fix something to eat. You think that’s cherishing every moment? You think when she actually is three, you know, in three years, that I won’t want her to be 10 or 20 or some other older age so she can better relate to me? It’s ridiculous how I think.

When I’m feeding her, which is a slow, painful task sometimes because she’ll spot something shiny and turn her attention away, I oftentimes exhale like I’m completely exasperated and these are my final moments on earth. As if my life is so important that an extra 10 minutes is going to affect how I live.

I used to get upset, more so at myself than anything, when changing a diaper and she’s just being a baby and squirming around and it would take an extra 30 seconds to finish the job. I would get pissed at how long it was taking rather than the act of diaper changing, but that was because I just didn’t want to get peed on. Think about that: I’m angry at 30 extra seconds of my life. I’m such a dick.

I’ve gotten a lot better at being patient — at nights I really like feeding her the nighttime bottle as we sit in the chair in her room because time kind of slows down — but I’m worried about when she’s toddling around. Surely she will want to look at a flower, or watch a snail crawl along, or just sit on the grass and watch the clouds float by. And I’ll want to shout: “Honey! Dane Cook! Pay per view! Twenty minutes! Let’s go!” Or I’ll grab her by the hand and just drag her into the car because kickoff is in 20 minutes.

You know it's bad when you take advice from this idiot.

You know it’s bad when you take advice from this idiot.

You know what? Fuck kickoff.

That’s the attitude I need to take.

It was Axl Rose who whistled and melodized that all we need is just a little patience. He also said “Feel my, my, my serpentine” in “Welcome to the Jungle” too, so maybe he’s not the best example. But the whistle from the beginning of “Patience” does creep into my head whenever I catch myself being an irascible asshole.

One of the best quotes from “To Kill a Mockingbird” was when Atticus Finch told his kids about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. A nine-month old doesn’t know much and she certainly doesn’t understand about fitting into someone else’s life. So, every day that I develop a little more patience is better for all of us.