Category Archives: Parenting

Our Adventures…

img_4314I’m running out of nights like this. I lie in the dark trying to get comfortable in a single bed with a big four year old who wants me there and wants me out of his way all at once. We talk a lot about how he doesn’t want to sleep, how he doesn’t know how to sleep. We used to talk about how closing his eyes hurt him. I’ve since learned to stop asking him to close those eyes.

This is all after I’ve read the 6 year old as much Harry Potter (we’re on ‘Chamber of Secrets’ and he seems to love it!!) as I can before my eyes fail or his drift off. I love that we’ve gotten to the Harry Potter stage, even if I did rush it a little. The natural magnetic force keeping us ever connected is loosening as he ventures out in the world and our relationship is evolving, as it should. I’m happy we’re taking these nightly adventures to Hogwarts. I loved reading these books the first time around, but for me that was my 20’s and 30’s. Reading with him is making me acutely aware and evermore enchanted by all I am seeing now that I’m experiencing it all with a little guy who is more able to see the wonder and magic that Harry Potter and his friends and their escapades have to offer.

I haven’t always relished the putting the kids to sleep thing. Until recently we were each taking one kid and not getting out until real late, at which time we’d start the nightly cleanup. I’d be grumpy and tired and frustrated and my wife, far better at transitioning than I, would be left looking for adult conversation with a brooding lump who couldn’t be bothered to take his headphones all the way off. If you ask my wife I could still probably use an exit room akin to those ones I’ve seen in therapists offices on sitcoms. A place to process my feelings and decompress after putting the boys to bed.

Making the transition to the daddy that shares an interest with a kid from one who is the caretaker is one that happens organically. You recognize it piece by piece. You mark it in books first. Lifted his head, rolled over, first solid food, crawled, first words, first steps. Somehow they feel like your own accomplishments. To a small degree they are and in perspective they are amongst the most important minor roles you’ll ever take in any endeavor in your life. But they aren’t yours. These things, all of them, are there’s. We get the early credit as we should, but they are emerging. Each milestone marking a tick further along as they make it all the way to the people they will be. We are so caught up documenting every tree that the forest grows up around us and behind us and without us noticing we are wrapped up in discovering the life we missed along the way. Understanding the journey we made from lifting our heads and rolling over all the way to now. In doing so we learn that we were magical creatures once too. We were once the tour guides of life for the great adventurers we were once so unable to notice as they were disguised as our parents.

img_4321Eventually it’s an adventure inside an adventure inside an adventure out into infinity. We can look backwards and imagine our lineage as a seemingly never ending line, emerging and submerging each to the next all the way to the horizon. I find myself endlessly curious about the lives of all of them. I lie in bed wondering if my own parents felt this strange mix of weary burden and enlightened awe as they lie in the dark wondering if they were doing it right. Did they ever lie in that bed as the defiant and playful 3 year old while there parents wondered why they were given so much to carry and so much to be carried by. It’s all so obvious now, to me, this joy that I feel in the midst of the frustrations and among fluctuating confidence that can bounce so wildly between feeling absolutely assured that I’m nailing this whole parenting thing and the utter and obvious understanding that I am completely unequal to the task and am failing in ways that will inevitably go echoing into a future that scares me because I can’t know how it will all turn out. If it will all turn out.

Before long I’m back to the story. Back to the excitement of seeing what will happen to the boy who lived under the stairs. Excited to see how he will once again foil the indefatigably awful Dursley’s so he can make his way back to where he needs to be, with his friends, finding the life that is awaiting him. Full of adventure and meaning and life and love and tragedy. Hoping that he makes it through without the scars burdening him so greatly that he can’t be who he was supposed to be. Hoping beyond hope that there’s a story about the evil ones that makes it all make sense in a way that wasn’t just pure evil. Hoping the Dursley’s find peace and Harry can find forgiveness and understanding when he eventually gets to an age and thinks, ‘What the hell was all that about?!’ Hoping love will find each and every one of the people that matter. Hoping it will reach the Harry’s and Ron’s and Hermione’s, sure, but also the Neville’s and even the Draco’s and Crabbe and Goyle’s.

The adventure goes on far further than I ever imagined as a kid. It stretches out before me and beyond me ever morphing and suddenly surprising. The further I go the more I want. I lay in the dark adrift in adventure, wondering and wanting more than I ever could have thought imaginable while also knowing I won’t be around to see it all play out.

Funny Boys

Charlie: I like this one.

Teddy: I like pick pun

Charlie: What’s a ‘pick pun’?

Teddy: Um.. It’s a kind of pun?

Charlie: What’s a ‘pun’?

Teddy: It’s a type of berry.

************

These conversations happen all the time now. So often I don’t even hear them. They are part of the white noise of parenthood, the ever present hum that fills the background of our lives and colors the corners of the spaces we share. They are amazing and we hardly ever notice them. But we were in the car and I happened to note the entire exchange. Once it hit me I couldn’t stop laughing. Like, fully exhaled, tears coming, hysterical laughter. This was brilliantly funny.

First is the simple mock of ‘I like pick pun.’ This is a four year old’s greatest tool when confronting an irresistible force such as an older brother with whom he is endlessly enamored with and to whom he feels the yoke of tyranny. The force is strong in Teddy and he will be free the yoke sooner than I might even imagine, but for now the older brother is living up to his first born obligations as an authoritarian leader. He can’t and won’t be dissuaded. Though we do check his power whenever we see him abusing it. We’re even preemptive if we think any situation, from which order to eat his dinner to how long he is entitled to play with his own toys before ‘sharing’ them (like a feudal tax) to his (tor)mentor, the older brother.

Charlie, for his part, ever the straight man in this entire exchange, took his younger brother at face value. He was genuinely curious as to what a ‘pick pun’ was. The air of my second child changed. What was a playful, mocking tone immediately became something far more worthy of genuine consideration. His idol and hero noticed him. He asked him a question. He was interested in what was being said to him! I could practically hear his inner monologue as he pondered what to say now that he’d found himself here. ‘OMG, this is really happening. He want’s to know something that I can tell him… Don’t blow it… What is a pick pun, what is a pick pun.. ‘It’s a kind of pun.?.’ ‘

A good deal of the humor was in this shift from total silliness to serious.

‘What’s a pun’ said Charlie.

It worked! Teddy tested the waters with nonsensical logic and he bought it. He was on the line. This was more than a bite.. Now, how to reel him in..

‘It’s a type of berry.’

Talk about nailing the dismount…Brilliant! My boy is a creative genius!

Some might say that this simple exchange is not worthy of this level of line by line analysis. To them I say leave the assessment of my child’s genius to me. For now I will proceed knowing that regardless of whether or not these boys decide to develop this act, regardless of whether they choose the fame and riches of comedy genius, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps they will find more fulfillment in some other line of endeavor. But I’ll know, I’ll always know that they will always have this talent to fall back on. Not only as a career, but as a tool to navigate everything from meeting people to handling rejection. These boys are legit and the ‘yes and’ crowd should keep an eye on this up and coming improvisational duo.

What’s a pick pun.

It’s a kind of pun.

Gold, Jerry!

img_4003

Picture Day on Mamalode

Today I’m looking back and projecting forward as I look at my son on Picture Day. Click the link to see my story on Mamalode.

t1_picture-day-_medler-1

Fragile and Brave on Mamalode

There are things you forget. Wisdom’s that disappear as you grow. Things you shed intentionally or coincidentally. Having my kids has reminded me that there is great benefits to be had by allowing the world in and letting it effect you.

Today I’m on Mamalode with my piece, Fragile and Brave. Please go there and take a look. I’d love to hear your thoughts. While you’re at it take a moment to look around. If you like my writing there’s a good chance you’ll LOVE the writers at Mamalode.

Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful day!

img_3699

Fragile and Brave

I have a picture of you from daycare. You are sitting quietly, legs stretched out in front of you. You are holding a board book, eyes down inspecting it. Your cheeks are so beautiful I can feel them just by looking, smooth, soft and pink with warmth. Your narrow shoulders are somewhere under the hood of your sweatshirt, a book open but ignored between your legs as you investigate this other book that has captured your curiosity. You’re wearing jeans and there are books scattered around you. You’re probably an old 2 year old in this picture, or maybe a young 3 year old. You are fully engaged, busy doing and uninterested in the person standing in front of you, probably unaware of their presence, who took the shot. I love this picture and it can make me cry.

You are the youngest and I can’t stop seeing the vulnerable in you. Sitting here with the picture and without you I can’t for the life of me imagine you look any different than that picture. Cherubic and intrigued. Tiny and determined. But you have grown. A lot. I still see the baby in you and always will. 

You still tell me about ‘tomachakes’ (stomach aches) and love ‘Sharlie’ (Charlie) and I don’t really want you to learn you are mispronouncing these things. I don’t want you to grow up. 

There are selfish reasons that mostly live in my subconscious. For one, if you’re getting older than I’m getting older. You don’t need to really know this for a good long time now, but I’m not going to be here forever and when I see you lost in discovering I want to freeze the world and stay in it forever. I didn’t have heaven until I met you and Charlie. Mommy made me come to life in a way I hadn’t, but the concept of heaven was one I rejected for lack of imagination. To be fair, who could conceive of something so wonderful and extraordinary as you. My heaven is here and now. 

Another reason I prefer you stay in this moment forever is so that I can always be what I am to you right now and you can always be what you are to me. We have challenging moments for sure, but they are fleeting. They revolve around simple challenges. This simplicity is balanced by an extraordinary frequency. You can have 5-8 crises before breakfast and without fail, whether we do so well or poorly, we get through every one.

Thirdly, I fall asleep next to you. You don’t like to fall asleep. You love to sleep, but the falling part, you are a resister. You get this from me. Each night, when I see you are tired, when we’ve been lying in bed for a long time I’ll inevitably say, ‘just close your eyes, buddy.’ Without fail, at least to this point in time it’s always met with your response of, ‘But it hurts to close my eyes.’ I could stop asking, but I just love the answer so much. You’ll start to drift and most nights you’ll pop your head up and say one last, half conscious crazy non-sequitir just before rolling over and falling asleep. Something like ‘I can’t sleep in parking lot frogs’ or ‘I look just like Fawzy.’ In case you’re wondering years from now what those things mean, well, I have no idea on the frog thing, but the ‘Fawzy’ thing is how you pronounce ‘Quazi’. He’s a character from Octonauts and your mispronunciation is adorable. I prompt it like five times a day. 

What I really don’t want to change is the you in this picture. You are a perfectly fine with the contradictory nature of life that becomes something so scary as an adult. You are exquisitely fragile and profoundly brave at the same time all the time. It’s amazing to see. Your brother was the same way, but you learn, you will learn any day now, to be self-conscious. You will wonder how other people will react before pursuing an interest. You will stop crying when mad and sometimes even try not to laugh when something is funny. You’ll toughen up and as a result you’ll be more cautious. That’s the confounding conundrum you’re going to wrestle with in the years ahead. It’s okay, you’re supposed to. But what is going on right here and now is beautiful and not be dismissed hastily. 

Being simultaneously fragile and brave has served you extremely well to now. It’s made you explore nature intuitively and voraciously. Left to your own free will you’d spend hours a day trying to find and transport every imagineable living creature from the dirt back to the house to show us. You explore whatever sparks your curiosity and you do it with abandon. You are excited when you see things you love, so excited you barely keep in your skin and you show it with squeals. They are pure joy and they are infectious to all who hear them. When you are upset, regardless of any reason or the presence of any others you let that be known too. Your emotions come out when they are felt and it’s incredibly healthy. In a sense you taught me these things. Charlie did too, but he’s teaching us other things. He’s at the tip of the spear, bringing us to new experiences all the time. He’s a boundary breaker and we can’t really enjoy as much of that process as we can with you. He’s desensitized us and you are showing us how to live an experience, not just survive it. 

I can honestly say that you’ve impacted my life more than I ever could yours. You’ve shown me the value of being unafraid. You’ve pushed me to challenge my fears to explore my world like you do yours. Thank you. 

I feel extraordinarily fragile these days. I also feel brave and curious. All these things were pushed so far down before I knew you that I often felt nothing, which was perfect for keeping invisible, but terrible for feeling alive. Living is pursuing your curiosity and finding your emotions and wrestling with all of it all the time. Living is not fearing feelings, but feeling them, saying it and processing them fully and with the help of those you love so you can put them down and not be ruled by them. Living is something you can only do if you are fragile and brave, just like you.  

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.

ap-trump-obama-oval-02-jrl-161110_12x5_1600

Enough Already with the Whole, ‘How do I talk to my kids..’ Nonsense.

If you are asking ‘how do I talk to my kids about the fact that Trump won?’ there’s a real problem.

Here’s the thing. If you believe that we elected a racist, sexist, misogynistic, unhinged maniac whose mere existence is capable of bringing untold abuse to minorities of all stripes, like I do, than you damn well better know how to talk to your kids about it. And yes, I said ‘WE’ elected. Because you know what, we are ALL Americans. Even those people you somehow forget when talking about how horrified everyone is at the thought of a President Trump. Also, start saying President Trump. Get used to it. Four years is not forever, but it’s not nothing.

Now also understand that the people, excluding the KKK and the various white supremacist groups, who elected Mt. Trump did not do so, uniformly and in lock step, for these vile traits. I know. I grew up in the area of the country, the beautiful area known as the Great Lakes Region to me, but as the ‘Rust Belt’ to so many who aren’t there. Fuck all of you, by the way. I don’t like that so many people I know and love from growing up felt the need to vote for this monster, but I understand why they did.

Let’s talk about that. Why? There is a fair bit of racially disgusting thought everywhere. It’s a real problem, just as real there as it is in cities and suburbs and rural areas the country over. But there’s a lot of kind, caring, loving and even socially aware, woke white folks there too and they voted for Mr. Trump. Can you sense my frustration? It comes not from any latent opinion changing of the other guy. He’s a straight monster in my opinion and the thought of him as commander in chief scares the life out of me. Nope. Still hate him, even if I still love so many of his voters. I disagree with them, yes, but I love them too. Nope, I’m mad at my own, left side of this country.

I’m mad because even now, when the election is over and our worst nightmare is true, we are taking the easy way out and calling our former base, working class Americans everything but what they see themselves as. Which is the forgotten backbone of a formerly great industrial economy.

Here’s what’s happening. It’s like Trump is in an iridescent dress and each side is seeing only one color. I see plain and clearly the monster, willing to put whole demographic catagories of humans, never mind the fact that the vast majority of them are fellow American’s, into the hungry lions mouth, caring not one iota for them because he thinks of them as some lower form of man then he. Seemingly seeing them as subhuman even, merely for the color of their skin or an accent that their children don’t share. I see a monster that is emboldening the voices of racial and nationalist hate all to serve his own acquisition of power and I’m disgusted.

You know who is on the other side of that monster, though? People. Struggling people. People who were raised in company towns where three quarters of the kids I grew up with came from homes that worked for the same company who could afford to operate there and promised a career long job with good benefits and an honest check that was not just above poverty level but rather a genuine article job that put you in the middle class. People who were made to believe that if they took the special classes those jobs would be there for them when it was time for them to have kids. People who now see those same giant buildings all their dads and many of their moms went into every day crumbling from the decay that comes from being abandoned and left to die as companies died and had to go other places where labor is cheap and human rights aren’t a thing. People who now struggle to paste together a valid income by stitching temporary job to part time gig to anything they can try to do for enough to make Christmas special for their kids they love. And you know what. Many of them love the brown and black kids, what few there may be, whose parents are there in the same boat, having no idea if what little opportunity that’s there now will be there tomorrow.

These folks, they don’t see only what we see. They see someone who came to them and at the very least said, I SEE YOU. You are not crazy. You really did get screwed and by forces beyond your control. He placed the blame where they placed it. He said yes, you got a raw deal and she(really he, but by extension) did this. Was it completely accurate? Who gives a shit. He was on TV every goddamn day telling them they were right to be angry. Then, he went where it didn’t need to go. He stoked anger into hatred and pointed it maniacally at OTHER hard working people struggling to get by. It was truly messed up, yes. But it was done by then. He got it. He saw the America that is ignored, though it is still tens of millions of our daily lives. Communities and economies in despair. Heroin tearing through families and towns and regions. Whole generations of people being ignored no matter how hard it gets. No matter how cold it gets. No matter how much opportunity disappears.

So talk to your kids about the fact that anger can turn to hatred when people refuse to see or hear people who disagree with them. Tell them that a bad man won and we lost. Losing is a part of living in a democracy and you feeling entitled to winning merely because the other guy is vile isn’t gonna cut it. You want more love, go find angry people and listen to them. Find people that don’t look like you and sit with them and try to make friends with them. Tell them we all have to work to make the world a nicer place and we can’t pretend other people struggling has no effect on us. It’s not an option to think that way anymore. Tell them to start thinking now about the next great invention they can think of because who knows what spark of genius will create a new industry and economy that can raise the water so all of us can float higher.

Just don’t tell them you don’t know what to say. That’s bullshit.