Deleted for the Day

5:30 Saturday morning. I sat in the bathroom liking, loving and sharing anything that triggered anything that felt like something new. Any argument I hadn’t yet seen, any inspirational meme or rage hidden plea from folks struggling with the same crisis I was trying to engage with. Suddenly, alone on the toilet in the dark I went to the home screen, found the facebook icon, held it long enough to cause all the icons to shimmy. I looked at it shaking there, tiny ‘x’ in the corner and I couldn’t. I needed it. So my cooler head prevailed, I stabilized my apps and immediately opened facebook again. That was when I knew. I went back and deleted the app. Here I am, 18 hours later and I could use some validation. Likes are good I guess. Loves are great. And laughs. They really do bounce around a lot longer in the synapses, feeding the need as it were. Comments. That’s what I’m talking about. Even the pissy ones. I could deal without the ones of people who clearly don’t read the whole update. Granted, mine can get long and I admit freely, I have tone problems. Shares. God do I love a good share.

But none at all today. That’s not totally true. I opened this here computer to write this piece and it was on FB and I had 25 notifications. So I scrolled them. I’ll say this and this alone about one notification. I don’t care who is racist, whether they ¬†are republican or democrat. I don’t like them. I’m anything if not clear on this I feel, but apparently it must be said.

I’m going on a day without facebook everpresent and I feel like it’s probably good for me. I had a great day with the kids. We went to the park across the street on this unseasonably warm day and played our extremely modified version of wiffle ball, which includes long stretches of Teddy walking like a sea crab and Charlie wanting to bat, field, be in the bleachers and search for treasure. Whatever, there was a bat, a ball, a few hits and some very passive fielding. I’m counting it.

When we were done we made it over to the other side of the school across the street, to the playground. It was good, there was another dad and son there. He was right between Teddy and Charlie in age and as suits their personalities Teddy went about digging holes on his own in the woods surrounding the playground and Charlie went about making a best friend. Everyone he meets is his best friend.

The dad was a nice guy and we got to chatting. It really was nice. He was cool, easy to talk to. He made a joke about the Mets shirt I had on and I let him know that the Mets were my winners as the Bills were my football team. He said it was good to see a man raising boys of character, kids who will have to endure pain. It was funnier when he said it. It was a good laugh line. I’d have been happy to call it at that. But we kept chatting and it was fine. By the end he asked for my number in case the kids wanted to get together. Sure. So who knows. Maybe I made a friend. It’s weird. Maybe its just me, but I kinda think that part of my life is over. I’ve never been very good at socializing without getting blind drunk and ghosting. It’s my signature move.

Once home I took apart a full bed to move it to T’s room, took apart his toddler bed and reassembled the full size and finally got done a job this poor, giant four year old has needed doing for some time. After showing him and his brother his cool, new big boy bed, one that matches his big brothers I made dinner. Rice and beans, corn on the cob, corn muffins and chicken tenders (the boys don’t really dig on my rice and beans, but there gonna regret that someday). After a nice meal at the table I had some quality TV time with the boys and then T came up and helped me shave my head. I do it every two weeks and his big brother likes helping, but this was Teddy’s first time. It was cool.

Capper, I got them both to bed. This is normally a two parent, two room job. I did it in under an hour. Whatever you think about that, you have to know, I’m bragging. In this house that’s bragworthy.

I almost forgot. I listened to the new Tribe album while I cooked. It’s good.

Here’s the thing. I’m bad at community. I’m good at dad, but I’m bad at making and maintaining friends. Actually, come to think of it, I’m pretty good at making them but really bad at maintaining them. I can strike up the conversation in the park easy. I can initiate or respond. I’m equally effective. But I know me, and despite everything I should do I’ll never respond if this guy texts. I’ll stay away from the park for a good long time, too. I know. It’s terrible. It’s where I fail.

I say all this firstly to brag. I got a ton of shit done this weekend. That’s not even counting the full day of painting I did yesterday. but secondly I say it because I think there might be something instructive for me in it. I’ll engage all day long on Facebook. I’m sure I’d do the same on other social media platforms but I’m old and FB is where it’s at for me. Anyway I’ll spout opinions, engage in give and take and generally be an open book there. Meanwhile I can’t fathom the idea of having to talk to someone regularly without a structure to it. I love face to face at work but I don’t think we’ve ever had a neighbor in the house. Like ever. A good part of that can be blamed on it being very small, us being very full time employed, both of us, and it being a mess most of the time due to these factors and the two small tornado’s I put to bed this evening.

We’ve lost our political connectedness and I think it might be because we’ve lost almost all of our connectedness. Online I can disengage if you frustrate me or if I think your argument is stupid or if I just get caught up in a show. My grandparents were 1950’s style entertainers. After work other couples from the neighborhood swung around for cocktails. They would perform in community theater and go out with friends. My parents who had six kids, or nine if you looked at it right, even managed to be better than me. My mom is the social glue of her world and made a friend every time she met anyone. They had groups they would go to on Friday nights when I was young. Other moms were always over at the house for coffee, neighbor kids coming and going. It was a hub of activity and they were key players.

We don’t do that. We aren’t like that. It seems fewer and fewer people are. And so when something comes along, like a decision for who to vote for, we have no context to put it in. Honestly, I’m worried this guy, who seemed nice as hell (and looked remarkably like Tom Brady) might have had a Trump sign in his yard. This is a TERRIBLE way to think. And something that I think was avoided by my predecessors because they bowled with friends who’d vote for the other guy. Or they were in a play with them or they sang in the church with them. Maybe they just drank with them, whatever. They knew each other. They had a context for the whole person while nowadays we know nothing of our neighbors. Meanwhile we fill in all the worst.

I should note here that I’m projecting all of this and this might just be an issue for me. If it is, I can tell you, it ain’t healthy. It makes me blind to what people really are. It makes me see people unfairly and inaccurately. It makes me scared of a world of people and surely some of those people can be feared even or especially after getting to know them. But in that mix would be many more who could and should and would help us understand each other better. Maybe if the Trump guy down the street got to know me over pickup hoops and dinner with our wives on a date night for parents before we ever even broached the topic of politics we wouldn’t be so angry all the time. Maybe I’d see sooner how messed up and alienated some have felt whom we’ve never considered as liberals and perhaps he’d understand and see some of the inequalities I’m so upset about. In fact we might come to find we’re voting different folks for the same reasons and that we are both furious at the rising racist tide. Even if that didn’t happen, at least that’s a jumping off point.

Well, Its not been a full day yet and I’m already a little less tense for being away from FB for a bit. The arguments, often not tied to anything but our respective abilities to google facts that support our unbending opinions leaves us feeling like we’ve engaged when all we’ve done is harass. For my rather substantial part in that transaction lately, I do apologize.

I won’t go away. I love facebook and likely will as long as it houses y life of relationships. Just yesterday, in the midst of painting the upstairs landing and smack in the middle of my several day meltdown on FB one very kind, and genuine and thoughtful thing happened as a result of my community there. A friend from college, Bryan reached out to me. We hadn’t talked a ton in college and hardly at all since. But he had a context for who I was and he could see I was unraveling. He sent me a sincere and kind private message letting me know that if I ever wanted to hear a someone’s opinion who voted for the other side he’d be happy to talk. It was genuinely thoughtful, I know because I know him and he knows me, however long ago it was, ours was was a real relationship. Where you sat in the same room and talked. Had beeers. Watched games. All of it. We had a good back and forth about the issues that irked us. I know his information genuinely made me think. Than we talked about fatherhood. How much he loved it and how he enjoyed reading about my experience. It was nice. It was genuine. I wish I had more of that in my life. Disagreement without being disagreeable.

How To Put Your Kids to Bed in Whateverthef*ck Amount of Steps!!

Hello! I’ll be your child sleep guru. Leave your exhaustion and frustrations at the door because I’m here to help!

First a little about me. I’m a once proud man who has given himself over fully to parenthood. I’m a tad too heavy (actually it ranges from a tad to ‘grossly’, but that’s just a medical term) and happier for learning how to cry and doing it 5-7 nights a week. But don’t fret, these are tears of exhaustion and we all know there are different kinds of crying. I have very little sorrow these days and a great deal of joy (and exhaustion. Did I mention exhaustion?)

Like most parents we struggled with getting our children on a sleep schedule. There were tired, sleep deprived days and restless, exhausting nights. We struggled. But eventually we found ourselves in a routine of sorts. I don’t really know how, but there were a few months, I think, a couple winters back, maybe, when we were done and the house was cleaned up (a relative status during these early years) by say, 9 o’clock. These were the glory days. But then we did what any smart parents would do and changed who put who to bed. I mean, I wanted some time with the little one and she was missing the big one, so we switched it up. Shouldn’t be a big deal, but they disagreed. Both of them. So, there we were pulling our hair out. Trying over and over to get them to accept going to bed alone. Together. Apart. Whatever. Nope.

Then we figured it out. Here it is. The fail proof plan for getting your kids to sleep.

  • First things first. Have a healthy late afternoon snack. I find this is a good time to reward positive behavior with sugar. It’s not that I don’t get the dangers, it’s just they love it so much and surely they’ve sat still or played together or at the very least spent a portion of time not hitting anyone or throwing anything. That kind of self control deserves a reward. Besides, bedtime is far enough off for them to really be able to burn off anything you might give them. Salty processed snacks work as well.
  • Ease into dinner with some screen time Nothing big, but mine are 5 and 3. Perhaps they can do it on the deck. Get some fresh air.
  • Get the table ready for a good old fashioned family dinner At least that way they will have a sense that there is another way, not plopped on couches in front of the TV. Occasionally me and the Mrs. even sit at the table al0ne and catch up. It’s nice. Plus nothing goes with nuggets quite like Octonauts and Lego Batman programs.
  • After dinner let’s all go to our separate corners After you’ve devolved into trading m&m’s for bites of string beans there’s a natural tension that needs to be released. We tend to hide in the kitchen gorging on the m&m’s they didn’t earn while they go slightly banana’s in the living room and backyard.
  • Now that we’ve all calmed down let’s bribe them into a bath This works about 50% of the time. Frankly they’ve developed enough methods to get all the rewards they could want and by now they usually are tired of candy.
  • Sure. It’s 8:30. Let’s get one more show in.
  • Okay. I blew that one. I should have been putting on PJ’s and brushing teeth… But on the bright side I’m all caught up on Facebook. One more show. A quiet one.
  • Okay, NOW I’m all caught up on Facebook. Final show, Sarah and Duck, it’s the right thing for bedtime. I will skip over the professional wrestling moves often incorporated in subduing a 3 year old to brush his teeth. He’s stronger than you can imagine.
  • Hit the sheets. And of course by that I mean we bunker down, literally lying in bed with them. Some will say this is not the right way. Many actually. That’s all.
  • Bathroom. Can’t say no and we don’t want them wetting the bed Also, we have one who has made it his strategy to power down as many liquids as possible at about eight. It’s just good policy to let him go when he asks.
  • Lie in bed with them as they wear themselves out with a thousand stuffed animals that they only play with in bed. As I read this I’m starting to wonder why we even keep them. At the very least we shouldn’t keep them in their room. I’m pretty sure I have this thought every night.
  • Snap. Yell. Bark at your three year old that you’ve had enough. GO TO SLEEP. The predictable tears are the worst because it was your own lack of self control that brought them. Now you are both emotional wrecks. Kids recover quicker. This becomes the guilt and shame that weighs your shoulders down and gives you cravings for ice cream
  • Apologize. Make boundaries. One big stuffed dog and one more animal. And that’s it.
  • Buckle under and allow them all the stuffed animals they want.
  • Cry in the dark. As long as you control your own breathing they shouldn’t notice.
  • Fall asleep while they play in the bed. Let’s face it, you’re exhausted anyway.
  • Finally, now that you are unconscious and non responsive, somehow, they fall asleep.
  • Wake up, eyes puffy from crying yourself to sleep.
  • Look over and see your sleeping three year old. My goodness. He’s an angel.
  • Take pride in his development. Technically he fell asleep on his own!
  • Go back downstairs and cry the tearless sobs of a parent starting to clean a disaster area just before midnight. Cleaning, though annoying, will ease just enough tension to allow you to relax into a slouch on the couch in a half cleaned living room with a thing of Ben & Jerry’s or some Pringles.
  • Wash it all down with a giant plastic tumbler of boxed wine.

The best designs are simple. Elegant. Give up. Give in. Eat Ice Cream. Drink wine.

The best we do so much of the time is to keep them alive and get out of the way. I’m good at the first part, still working on getting out of the way..

 

7 Things My Three Year Old and The Donald Have In Common

  Three year olds are hard. Ask anyone who’s lived with one. I’ve spent 2 of the last 3 years living with 3 year old’s and I can tell you, it’s a difficult stage. 

You know who else has had a three year old or two or three to challenge him and make him ocassionally, in desparate moments, question the wisdom of the decisions he’d made to put him in such a situation? Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. Don’t know why I thought of that right now, right before comparing the traits of a 3 year old and a specific, orange presidential nominee. Hm. 

Let’s see, how is a threenager and a ‘Donald’ the same..

  1. Neither Reads – In my boys case it’s merely because he has yet to acquire the skill. I assume Le Grande L’Orange can, it’s just clearly something he doesn’t engage in. From what I can tell anything beyond 140 characters in length exhausts him and anything about someone other than himself bores him.
  2. Refusal to Apologize – My 3 year old is getting better at this. To be fair it’s a hard concept to grasp and the fact that he’s learning that he can make mistakes and should apologize for them is great. Monocle Monopoly Man has yet to master this skill. On the bright side, once he comes around he’s going to have so many chances to practice!
  3. Incomprehensible Judgment – Just unbelievable. The both of ’em.
  4. Supreme Confidence – My three year old honestly believes he is a doctor when he uses the Doc McStuffins kit. So does Spray On Don. 
  5. Emotionally Unstable – Incoherent babbling can lead into angry outbursts followed by maniacal laughing right into silly face time. Wait. Which one was I talking about?
  6. Neither Understands Sacrifice – I mean, c’mon. He’s three. Give him a break. 
  7. They Believe Everything They See On TV – My boy wants to grow up to be an Octonaut, believes superheroes are real and thinks there’s nothing strange about a man dressing in the same yellow outfit, complete with hat and tie, every day of his life and living with a monkey. Donald believes he’s Rick James, B****!

 In the end it’s this. They both believe firmly that they are the stars of the only show worth watching called ‘Life’. It is beyond their comprehension that something they say, no matter how devoid of reason, sentience or even it’s own internal logic could ever be considered wrong. In my boy’s case it is an age and stage thing. He in fact is incapable of seeing a perspective in which he isn’t the center of the universe. It’s a thing he must do for this time in his life. It’s healthy and he is wonderful. In the deranged game show hosts mind it’s like he’s happy to have found the Donald Trump portal next to the John Malkovich one and he’s happiest in a world of endlessly repeating Donald Trrump’s. 

Do yourself a favor, write in a three year olds name if you can’t just vote for Hillary. I assure you, they wouldn’t do any worse. 

The Real Joe

IMG_0040

Let’s face it. You guys reading this, those of you not related to me by marriage, if you know what I mean, you know my agent, not me. You know the guy teasing out bits that, while true and genuine, are also curated. I edit out the nose picky parts of me. Of course I do.

Many of you say very nice things to me in comments that I LOVE, please keep doing this. However, I feel it only fair to share with you the, well, um, challenges one might find sharing a life with me. My wife is far too kind and wouldn’t ever write this list, so allow me…

  1. I can only commit one ear to my family – My wife is amazing and endlessly patient with this issue. I can absolutely hear out of both ears, but I can only hear the people in the room, talking to me, with one of them. This is due to the earbud that is permanently present in my right ear. It’s normalized now, this ever present distraction. I’ve had serious conversations, regarding very serious topics, eaten dinner (most nights) and gone to bed (every night) with them in. It’s bad form and it will never change. My wife has accepted this shortcoming because she is a saint. My kids have yet to see the issue, though I’m quite certain it will come up as early as when they are asked to draw a picture of their family and will remain through the years of therapy they will doubtlessly require later in life.
  2. I’ve got some real physical limitation due to my strained neck, injured from repeated eye rolling –  I am one seriously judgmental dude. I play the results and then I act as if I’d have never gotten myself into the trouble I’ve nudged others into. It’s terrible. I’ll say things like, ‘Don’t ever ask a 3 year old what he wants.’ Only to meet my crying 3 year old and ask endlessly loving wife, ‘Well, did you give him options?’ Yep. I’m that dude! Don’t all jump at once, ladies. I’m taken. Lucky girl.
  3. I’m moody  – I can’t speak for all writers, but for me it’s pretty bad. I can be all up in her business, asking all about her day, listening thoughtfully (even with one ear listening to baseball or a podcast) asking questions, connecting. Then out of the blue I find myself thinking about something. An idea. Perhaps a list of my personal flaws made funny so as to ‘apologize’ to my wife for my shortcomings without having to speak them, take ownership of them or ever really having to say I’m sorry and like that, I’m somewhere else. Aloof is accurate but to anyone outside my brain it can look dismissive at the least and hostile at its worst. I don’t deserve her. Don’t tell her I said that.
  4. I’m a yeller – It’s terrible. I am not at all one that feels like yelling is good role modeling. Particularly for a dad to two boys. I don’t like it. But they are 3 and 5 and there are times when it’s necessary, which is fine. But I can come to rely on it too much. It’s effective in the short term. To be clear, in general this is a trait that is only used with the boys and often when they are in imminent danger of things such as getting yelled at. Still, it’s a small house and it’s not pleasant.
  5. I have an iPhone and an addictive personality  – Seriously.

I think I’ll stop here for now. As my shortcomings continue to determine my future I’ll try to check back in from time to time to update and add (and delete?) from this list from time to time.

Until then I’d like to say thank you to the greatest gifts of my life, my family, for seeing past all the rough edges and loving me anyways… I love you…

What? What did you say? I can’t hear you, the Mets are on.

Rantings of a Middle Aged Dad

IMG_1478I get it. It’s a different time. We aren’t as connected and our lives intersect virtually rather than physically. No longer is the fabric weaved tightly enough to allow for our children to roam safely upon it.

Lately there’s a certain level of mental and perhaps spiritual health and well being that I can only achieve by waving a clenched fist in the air and flapping my gums about whatever it is that bugs me. I’m entering the ‘get off my lawn’ stage of life. These are my greying and grumpy years. In an effort to get through this quite annoying phase I am attempting to yell my displeasure into the void that once was a neighborhood as I stand on my porch in my slippered feet and ever expanding belly, fueled by fear and confusion just as eons of men have done before me. I’m not afraid to be a stereotype.

What the hell is wrong with people?

Why is everyone so damn angry? Why is everyone in love with those of us most boldly expressing free floating rage with the least responsibility and the greatest amount of hostility? When did we adults become so fragile, kicking and screaming when things don’t go exactly as we want them to? I feel like my grandparents generation rolled with the punches so much better . They understood that your vote was your voice and when more people voted for the other guy you had to accept it. Nowadays, disguised in tough guy individualism, everyone’s a bunch of ninnies outraged that the world is not there to serve them solely, exactly meeting the very specific needs of precisely one person. 300 million ‘one person’s’, all dissatisfied and lashing out. Grown ups ain’t what they used to be.

Superheroes are for kids!

Grow up!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not impugning the quality of those films that get it right. Good films are good films, regardless of genre. You can tell a good story about anything. But superheroes now are terrifying, angry, violent and often vile. They live in a world that looks like ours if you did nothing but look at it via cable news and clickbait terrors all day. Then they are marketed to 2 and 3 year old’s who suddenly want even their stuffed Elmo’s and Winnie the Pooh’s to ‘battle’! Call me crazy, but hidden documents will emerge that show the companies that underpin the military-industrial complex were huge supporters of this simple way to desensitize humanity to constant ‘battle’ or war as us old timers used to call it. Honestly, had I known I’d have treated superheroes like alcohol. Not until you are of legal age and your hormones have settled a bit.

College is a vitally important scam that I have to participate in to better the odds that my children can earn enough to barely get by.

Seriously. What a crock.

My parents generation was the last to not leave college in massive debt. State schools are running in the tens of thousands per year now. What the actual bleep is that? More and more it feels like the systems are established to make sure that only those that can find a way to pay the toll are allowed to get through the eye of the needle that will allow them to get a job that will overwork and underpay them to keep them on the treadmill as long as possible. And these, these are the lucky ones! I left college with a worthless degree and 25K in debt, which is a DREAM scenario for my own kids at this point.

Fix it! This is unsustainable, unethical and unbelievable.

We have legalized drug dealing and it’s taking over your television.

Have you seen the lines at the pharmacy in the last 15 years? Of course you have. You have stood in them, just like I have. We are over served. Somebody needs to start giving us sugar pills and sending us home to sober up.

There are a ton of reasons why I can’t watch commercial TV with my kids. The lewd lasciviousness of the content is tame next to the practically pornographic nature of those commercials that aren’t verging on actual depictions of evil. But for god’s sake, don’t make me have to sit there watching you push drugs for everything imaginable. Recently I’ve started seeing commercials for drugs that help offset the side effects of OTHER DRUGS! What the hell!

Have some shame people. Racism, sexism and xenophobia is reprehensible not electable.

Donald Trump. Donald freaking Trump. You did this to yourselves. I’ve had enough of the lot of you.

GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN!

#TBT is a Lifeline, Parents. There’s Hope!

 

A funny thing has happened to Facebook since you’ve been blessed with your babies. All those invisible friends who were having kids and obsessing over kids and posting pictures of their kids who were white noise to you before, they are now the people you notice and stop on as you scroll. The others with their pictures of drunken nights and play-house dinner parties in urban settings, dressed fashionably and looking for all the world like they are at a photo shoot are now cruelly taunting you as you hide on your toilet check in on the world through the window of your phone. It can feel awful. Look how much better everyone is doing then you. How fit and trim these other parents are and how interested they are in how their food is made and how much they can exercise. Which is strange because you are kind of, well, not totally, but yeah actually totally fat. Like fat in the face fat. Not just a little tight in the crotch fat, but all new pants and a new strategy at Kohl’s kind of fat.

Smartest In the World. And Robert.
I was positively lanky back in the day!
You aren’t really aware that it’s happened until you see a picture. But once you do see it, you know. You have crossed the line. It’s gonna be a long journey to fitness. You subsist largely on the three C’s of early parenthood; candy, coffee and catnaps. Crying can be substituted for candy or catnaps. Coffee is untouchable. You are both dehydrated and bloated which seems impossible, but isn’t. You are tired and sleepless and tasked with more than you knew you could do. So your glands seek sugar for the short bursts of energy you need. In this early phase with peeks of happiness driven by loving something more than you ever thought possible and lows of madness for exactly the same reason, you turn fat, grey and blobbish.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. That light is hashtagged. #TBT. Thats right. The mockable, thoroughly pleasurable social media phenomena of Throwback Thursday is your saving grace.

First, find all your friends who’s kids are older then 8 and younger than college. Then, really wind yourself up by looking through their family photo albums. Look for albums with titles like, ‘Fun Run 2013’ or ‘A Day at the Beach’ or simply ‘Mom Runs Two Marathons in One Week’. This should really get you to pull the trigger on those Donuts. Maybe even make you down a pint or two of Ben and Jerry’s just before bed. You’re not really searching the short energy burst at this point. Your just eating your feelings. It’s a complicated emotional maneuver. Your recent trip through your closet, your truly fucked digestive system and your coworkers catching you wearing the only 2 pants you fit in anymore has led you to think there might be something to it.

Then do it. Find all those same friends with their grown kids and look at there various TBT photos of them with their babies at their first birthdays or first anythings, really. If they don’t participate in TBT, no problem. Just scroll through their photo’s. You’ll get there. You’ll see the now dated photos of those parents, those marathoning sunbathers bundled in formless clothing, dressed perpetually for fall, playing with their babies, sprawled on couches and covered in kids. You’ll see it. In addition to their beaming happiness and pride (they are after all curating these pics and they can only go so far in there unwitting role as caregiver to your broken psyche) you’ll see the familiar pallor. The grey ghoul expression on their double chinned faces. Their general dishevelledness. You will see their wholly recognizable unwellness, and you will smile. They too were like you. They too lost all sense of self. There is hope that you may process food effectively again. You too may sleep and exercise and know the names of the movies, maybe even see a few, that were nominated this decade. Their is a chance that you will once again order the flat fronts and not worry that your underbelly will be too evident.

There is hope.

Things I Don’t Give a Crap About… On Sammiches & Psych Meds Today!

Hello dear readers!

It’s always so exciting when I get the chance to be published on Sammiches & Psych Meds! Today I’m over there with a list of things I truly could care less about now that my life and priorities have been rearranged by parenthood.child-1141497_1280 Please head over and give it a look and have a laugh!

All the best,

Developing Dad