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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Celebrating Life and Love

An odd thought hit me this week when the wife and I celebrated our sixth anniversary: Wow, we’re only two years away from eight years, the length of my parents’ marriage.

From our wedding ...

From our wedding …

When you come from a divorced set of parents you constantly worry about marriage. Or at least I do.

Before we had a baby we got to truly experience marriage — we traveled, we dined out, we took long weekends to Vegas, we spent time being married — and then we had our daughter. She came after the highs and lows that we battled together, strengthening our marriage and expanding our love.

Did my parents have the same luxury? Where did it go wrong?

Knowing them now, though, I have to think: Where did it go right?

My mom had me when she was 24. She told me that on my 24th birthday. I was single, on my way to Vegas with friends, ready to experience a weekend I might not remember other than through photos.

Clearly I wasn’t ready for a child. Maybe she wasn’t either. She ended up going back to finish her undergrad degree and then get her master’s, so there was unfinished business.

... to my sister's ...

… to my sister’s …

I was fortunate to experience my 20s as both a single guy and when I met my wife, I immediately fell in love. Did things go as we planned? No. We wanted to start a family after two years of marriage, but we took massive pay cuts right at the beginning of the recession, moved to the idyllic town of Santa Barbara and tried to make it work.

It didn’t.

That experience gave us the feeling of relying on the other. Feeling secure in your counterpart. Being honest. Knowing that with each other, we could conquer almost anything. We slugged it out — financially, not with each other because she could clearly kick my butt — for four years before we realized that if we wanted to start a family, we weren’t getting any younger.

Did my parents have that? No.

But I can’t compare what I have to what they had. All I know is that it used to be a constant worry for me.

Now? It’s not even a blip on my life’s radar.

... to one this year, we've always been able to celebrate our love in the midst of everyone else's.

… to one this year, we’ve always been able to celebrate our love in the midst of everyone else’s.

Which has set us up to provide a great home and familial environment for our daughter. Not that each of my parents didn’t try to do that, but when you get used to interrupted Christmases, trying to plan a weekend with your friends but unsure if you’re at dad’s or mom’s that Saturday, being a witness to bickering, and dealing with different sets of rules under different roofs, then your childhood is a little screwy.

Fortunately, after six years, I know my kiddo won’t ever have that. Maybe it’s because my wife’s immediate family — three siblings and her parents — know nothing about divorce. Maybe it’s because my dad was remarried for 20 years after or that my mom is about to celebrate her second marriage’s 20th anniversary next year. Maybe it’s because my marriage experience is nothing like my parents’ marriage.

Maybe it’s none of those things. Maybe you just find the right person at the right time in your life and everything just works.

What I do know, however, is that at six years I am way past where my parents were at eight. I’ve stopped comparing. I don’t have to fight for my marriage while trying to raise a child.

And that is why we can funnel our energy to making sure our kid is happy. Because we are happy.


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You Have a Baby! In a Bar!

I used to be one of those guys. I think any father used to be one of those guys.

Yeah, it's not like this when we go out.

Yeah, it’s not like this when we go out.

You’d see a baby come into your comfort zone and freak out. What is that baby doing here? This is a restaurant. Ugh. If that baby cries, it’s going to be piss me off. And then if the child cries, you sneer at the parents like it’s somehow their fault.

Because my wife and I are still trying to have a sense of normalcy to our lives we still do some things we used to when it was just the two of us. We will go to breakfast on the weekends. We will go try a new restaurant. We will go shopping. All with baby in tow.

And, yes, we will still get some sideways glances.

Especially at the bars.

OK, for the record, it’s not like I have a Baby Bjorn on and am ripping shots at a night club at midnight. There are some things that have changed.

But if my wife and I want to get a mid-afternoon pop, then what’s the problem? It’s not like we’re in a biker bar or a strip club. We’re in a bar/restaurant and sitting at a booth.

If looks could kill.

And these looks are coming from other patrons. Not a group of social workers.

Quit sneering at me through your mustache, ma’am. You’ve got bigger problems than judging me. And, please, mix in a bra.

We’re not hoisting Jager bombs or asking the bartender to leave the bottle. Yet, the constant look from other people’s eyes is disconcerting. It’s one beer, people!

It’s not just at a bar. We’ve gotten looks at actual restaurants that have high chairs. Well, folks, if it was such a problem, then explain why this establishment has a high chair? It’s not for your oversized purse to rest on.

Look, I’m sorry that our sex was successful and we produced an awesome child who doesn’t scream when mommy and daddy like to do grownup things in public. And you know what? If she does, one of us will happily pick her up and walk around with her while the other one wins and gets to drop back two drinks in about 90 seconds.

Until our daughter is older, we’re going to continue to try and be adults. I would expect sneers from people if we were bringing a six-year-old into a joint and she was running around. That would probably be bad parenting.

But as long as our kid is confined to a car seat, is it so bad to place her in a booth with a blanket covering her?

Some might think so. I’m sure there are parents and parenting experts who expect you to just give up living once that child pops out. Sorry, but I’ve got 30-plus years of habits that I cannot just change in a matter of months. My wife and I like to go out and live. We like to have a beer every now and again. We like to be human, you know, and not be confined by a certain schedule or feel like we have ankle bracelets keeping us confined to specific areas.

There are plenty of adjustments we’re making as new parents, but there also has to be some form of sanity involved.

Or else we’ll both be in Hawaiian shirts and needing a shower, some toothpaste and a new liver. That is sanity to the people who look at you cockeyed.

Then again, they might just look that way because of an alcohol-induced lazy eye.


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Fear The Beard

I’m growing a beard.

Mr. MomIt’s not because I set out to or even really want to. It’s not out of laziness, which I think is how 50 percent of beards start.

It’s because I’m too fucking tired to shave.

I’ve had a beard before. Or rather, I’ve had about two week’s worth of beardly growth before it becomes too annoying or too scratchy for my wife and I’ve shaved it. Any previous attempts at facial hair growth was purely to put the test in my testosterone.

But this beard might stick around for a while. Continue reading


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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!”


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I’ll Tumble For You

It’s become a little bit of a joke between Suzanne and myself that when our daughter starts going to playgrounds, Suzanne is going to either make her wear a helmet or be following after her with Neosporin and a Band-Aid.

I’m under the impression that kids need to get their bumps and bruises because it’s part of growing up. The way you bounce back from injury — whether it’s a raspberry or a broken arm — builds character.

You’re not really ready to have those thoughts fully developed when your daughter is three days past seven months.

We got a glimpse of Ella’s future this morning. She’s either going to be a skydiver or a rock star who is fond of stage diving.

Ella fell off the bed this morning. We have hardwood floors. This is not a good combination.

Now her forehead looks like Peyton Manning’s after he takes his helmet off.

Ella had a nice spot on her head like this guy.

Ella had a nice spot on her head like this guy.

I was on my way to work. Suzanne called and was in tears. This was after a text and a call to the doctor’s office.

You see, she did the right thing, putting a pillow around Ella while she was getting ready for work. On top of that Suzanne even put a pillow on the floor towards the side Ella favors as she rolls. Ahh, kids, they’ll throw you for a loop. This stinkin’ baby of ours rolled across the bed and then — boom! — onto the floor, testing Isaac Newton’s gravitational laws.

Newton 1, Ella 0.

Now I felt like the panicked parent two steps behind my kid at the playground, but I had to play it cool because I was already at work and was just getting information between texts and phone calls. Because a baby’s head is still so tender and soft I kept worrying that Ella basically fell on her brain.

But, because a baby’s skull is still like a soft shell crab’s at a sushi bar, she didn’t even have a knot on her head. Just a little scrape and a small bruise. Nature … isn’t it crazy?

Once I found out that she’d be OK, I had to turn my focus to my wife. Sarcastic humor, one of my fortes, was the wrong approach. Especially through a series of emails we exchanged during the day:

Suzanne: I just feel like such an a-hole.

Me: The good thing is she won’t remember.

Suzanne: Thanks honey…that makes me feel better.

Me: Serious?

Suzanne: No.

Me: We can have a strong cocktail together when we get home to ease your worries.

Suzanne: Just tell me I’m not a bad mom and that accidents happen.  Stiff cocktail wouldn’t hurt later.

I thought a bit of levity would help. Usually it does. This time it did not. (Although the stiff cocktail was nice.)

If you Google image search "baby falls off bed" this is like the fourth picture. Thankfully Ella's head is not nearly this bad.

If you Google image search “baby falls off bed” this is like the fourth picture. Thankfully Ella’s head is not nearly this bad.

Suzanne is a great mom. Who thinks to even put a pillow on the floor just in case the baby rolls out of bed? Problem was, Ella found the other side of the queen after a couple of gator rolls.

What we found out today tested my theory a little bit — Ella is still smiling and having fun and bouncing around, so the fall gave her a bruise, but she popped back up and built some character.

We also found out that she is going to be like both of her parents: a little hard-headed.