The Dumb Dads Guide to Love and Parenthood

The blissfulness of ignorance..
The blissfulness of ignorance..

Those of you reading this are parents. If you are not a parent, go away. Go outside. Have a drink in the middle of the day. Have two. Go speed dating and drive anywhere within ten hours to go see live music that makes you happy, or even sad if that’s your thing with music. Go read a book, for hours, until you are so tired you fade to sleep. You get the hell out of here. Stop reading this instant and go live the life you will look back on fondly someday. Leave this echo chamber. You don’t belong here and the chatter of this place will only annoy you. TAKE. A. NAP. and know that we all look at you with piteous envy. Pity cause babies are awesome. Envy because of every other thing. Almost literally, every other one.

Now that it’s just us, allow me to tell you, my people, the people that will ‘get me’, what’s the what. But before that, if you go around telling people things like, ‘I never had any troubles with it. My kids slept through the night from the start.’ go to hell. Seriously. Get out of my sight. Its fine if your little magic unicorn babies were perfect. I believe you and I’m happy for you. But if you’ve been exposed to the same parent talk that all of the rest of us have and you still choose to say such things to people having really difficult times, I have no need of you. Disperse. You are not welcome here. You are simply one of two types of people. You are either just straight up a mean person that practices the unhealthy art of Schadenfreude or you are so lacking in self awareness and just plain old awareness that I don’t allow that you could possibly enjoy this. Get. Scatter.

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For the rest of US, the brave truth tellers unafraid to bare themselves, failure in front (I happen to suffer a similar biological trait, come to think of it) this is our story. I wish that this were a list of misfortunes and that I would be deserving of your feelings of empathy. But it is not. It is in fact a listing of decisions made, some of them resulting in unnecessarily difficult situations, bordering on the untenable. While I appreciate the empathy you may have, I warn you now, it is undeserved. These are the decisions of a dumb and loving dad who has made many decisions that could be mocked by anyone with even a passing understanding of foresight.

  • We have a spare room, yet we choose to put our two toddlers in the same one. This is the result of idealism mixed with laziness. This is a standard form of reasoning for me. One that causes many a situation I regret, but one that almost never results in me learning a lesson.
  • We were so overwhelmed, and perhaps so old, that it took so much of our energy to get through the baby times that I walked away from a job because I wasn’t good at balancing my responsibilities. This comes from love. Pure love. Its dumb and defensible and I’d do it again. But if you’d like to donate to the dumb daddy fund please note this in the comments. I’d link to a fundraising page, but, you know, lazy.
  • We have had exactly one evening (maybe 3 and a half hours, give or take) away from our kids. Ever. Our oldest just turned 4. This may be the dumbest, and oddly, considering what it is we’re talking about, the laziest of our transgressions.
  • For all our tough talk with our kids we break like 7th grade shoplifters in the mall security office when they get feisty. Our precious little boy is now four and like many other four year olds he’s added a hefty dose of monstrousness to his repertoire. It’s to be expected and yet, it’s incredibly unpleasant. We are considering just barricading ourselves in the kitchen and throwing sugary treats at him when he gets angry emotional.
  • We have a memory of putting our little man to bed and it taking all of five minutes. Granted, the lead up has always been a bear, but now, both of them require their own hour of support, love, confrontation therapy and 7-12 separate tuck ins. I’m not really sure what of the many dumb things we’ve done has resulted in this, but make no mistake, whatever part of this is natural, we’ve done our share to make sure it is as bad as it can be.
  • Superheroes. We dumbly allowed these to happen. Damn. Wish I could have that one back.

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Their is no amount of trials and tribulations that having kids has brought us that could even move the scale when it is balanced against the shear awesomeness of having kids. But my god, will I ever stop adding to the challenges with my own stubborn commitment to being a dummy.

 

7 Lessons Learned While Learning on the Job.. A Dad’s Notes

I’m pretty new to this endeavor. My kids are 2 and 3, both boys. My wife and I are very happy with how things are progressing, but like everyone who finds themselves in this predicament, we have found there’s an endless supply of new challenges to be conquered. At different times we could really have used a more experienced parents advice. But where to turn? Simply no one has any advice for parents! Crazy, right. Thought I’d give away freely some knowledge that I’ve managed to learn over time. Some of it was evident and obvious and surely something anyone could figure out, and some of it was only stumbled upon, accidentally, in the dark after thinking the situation hopeless. Regardless, I hope you can benefit from whatever it is I’ve learned.

1. The Great Illusion: The Dr.’s will tell you that your child needs an incredible, seemingly unattainable number of hours of sleep per day. As babies it’s like 15+ and through toddler years its still close to 12. Yet this is countered by the many parents in your life that will tell you how tired they are and how much their kid has ended sleep for them. What I found was that my kid was within range of all the targets the Dr.’s set forth but I only discovered this if I’d track the hours. Left to my intuitive reckoning on those days my baby slept 15+ hours it never felt like it. Which is inscrutable! How can someone sleep in excess of 60% of the day, yet still manage to have that sleep be at such inconvenient times for the sleep cycles of their adult? It’s baffling.

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2. TV is an excellent babysitter: I’m in no way saying that you can go out to dinner or leave them unattended. I’m simply saying that set to the right programs, with ample food and liquids available and fresh diapering applied its remarkable how refreshing it can be for anywhere from 20 mins to an entire afternoon to know they are fine, fed and safe. Sure, I’d prefer they were being read to, but they will be. Later. And it will be the same six board books that you will read to them interminably. So give yourself a break, set up some Curious George or Team UmiZoomi and check your Facebook feed. You deserve it.

3. Kids will sleep wherever and whenever they choose to: So make bedtime whatever the hell you want it to be. If you want them never to feel the sting of being removed from your room then put them in their own room night one and be happy with your choice. Or put them in your bed and let nature decide when they are to leave. Use a co-sleeper or don’t. Cuddle them to bed or sing and pat their back. Let them cry it out or pick them up whenever you hear a noise or the urge hits. Whatever you wanna do, do that. Because you’re the grown up and its not only about what’s best for them in vacuum, it’s about what’s best for the collective you. In our experience getting the first one out of hour bedroom happened at 6 months or so, and he was never in the bed. For the second it went closer to a year because it was our last go around and we wanted more of it. He’s also found his way to our bed from time to time. No biggie.  Both have worked, and worked is a malleable term. So have at it.

4. Children have evolved to survive our ineptitude: It is an elegant system that has come to be. They are adorably cute and perfectly designed to cause in us a worry we have never experienced before, driven mostly by love and also mostly by fear. Love of this perfect creature, flawless in every way, sure to bring great joy to a world it has been sent to brighten. Fear that this perfect specimen has been mistakenly left in your wildly inept and uninformed hands and  the well being of all mankind hangs perilously in the balance. It’s crazy intense and its no time for perspective. You believe it is the end all and be all. And you need to. How else would you have the energy?

No kidding, when we brought our first home we stayed awake, one of us at all times, to watch him sleep and make sure he didn’t stop breathing. It was crazy dumb, and because we’re who we are and he was who he was, entirely unavoidable. But the reality is he was in the perfect position to survive us and our crushing stupidity. Emerging competent takes months, years even, and feeling competent still isn’t a definite, at least not for us. So it’s wonderful that as we navigate all this learning, and tolerate the incredible strain a baby has on you personally and the wear it can have on your relationship during those early years, we get to navigate it in a space that is hyper real for us, like the most intensely real moments of our lives and he won’t remember or really be affected by any of it. It’s gotten easier already. Things will get harder again, but that early time is banana’s. At least it was for us. But eventually we took a breath and realized we were doing this thing. It’s a good feeling at the end of a long series of what feel like monumental screw-ups but is really just the normal learning curve for new parents.

5. Your home won’t be fully clean and orderly for the foreseeable future: You’ll make it nice for when relatives come over. At least at first. You’ll learn how to create the illusion of neatness and order for the sake of society, but even that illusion will be difficult to reach and will ONLY be done so for guests. Again, you may be different, just want you to know that this is a real thing and if you fall into it, don’t worry. It’s just like that. For us we’re getting close to a time when we might be able to host pizza Fridays for cousins on a regular basis soon. But we’re four years in. And the sink is still full. So are the counters. I think a box of Cinnamon life lived between the fridge and the wall for over a year.

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6. Dates can be had right at your kitchen table: Dating now is a frame of mind, not a set of plans and a reservation. Those opportunities to get out as grown ups come so rarely that is hard to be assured you’ll even be able to relax those shoulders on that specific night. So much of our well being is now intermingled with our kids that we can’t know when will be the right time for us to hang out like adults. The white noise and real noise of two toddler boys can really impinge on that. So if it doesn’t happen the way you hoped it would on that rare, and in our case that means one single evening in the nearly four years we’ve had kids, night that you can get dressed and go out like grown ups, don’t sweat it… wait for that time your making each other laugh during evening clean up and pounce. Break out the wine and beer, set up a space free of kid flotsam and jetsam and have at it. Dating is now a thing to be captured in the wild rather than planted and cultivated like it was before. Feeling flirty and fun and attracted to your spouse in any way, ride that wave as far as it will take you!

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7. There is a new found understanding and empathy on your part for parents you might have judged before you knew: It’s true. You can’t know what it is a parent is talking about until you’ve been there. Parenting is very much like magic mushrooms this way. At least that’s what I’m told. I remember being in your shoes and having strong opinions about parenting practices and about specific parents in particular. As a camp director and behaviorist I may have been the most judgy of all. But going through it is very democratizing. It breaks you fully down, but it then rebuilds you, modifying you for what your life will be now. This has compelled me to feel for those experiencing it for the first time especially, but for all parents in general as well. It makes you root for them. You know it’s touch and go their early on for everyone. Emotions and hormones run high while sleep and patience run low. So feel for the brothers and sisters going through it. Support those looking like they’ve given up. Let them know you’ve been there. Remind them about the benefits of TV’s and Ipads, and NEVER tell them something they are happy with is WRONG. Who the f**k do you think you are? If it provides them any comfort just shut up, be happy for them and share your judgements of others with your spouse at the aforementioned kitchen table dates. Otherwise, keep that mess to yourself and put forth only love, understanding and acceptance. It’s my experience that despite many mistakes and many more to come, and short of total incompetence the likes of which are highly unlikely in anyone reading this, nothing you can do, as long as you love them and are doing the best you can, will really hurt them in the long run. Try your damnedest to identify with the mom who’s kid is going ape in the hall and being a total bratty 4 year old and know that you are them and they are you. Its an interesting thing to feel an instant connection, a deep and abiding one, with strangers who are enjoying this most primal and connective experience we are able to have as humans. I for one relish it.

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Museum Pieces

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The exhibit is nearing completion, though there are still a few pieces left to be completed, logged, inspected and displayed.

The exhibition is of my most productive period and will be in permanent residence in the grand hall. The room, the central hub and featured showroom, has been closed to all visitors for nearly four years. That’s how long it has taken to produce and display the items that are to be featured.

There has been a great deal of buzz generated by myself, the curator and a collaborator on this project, but the room itself has been open only those crucial to the process.

The grand hall in the museum of my life will be hosting the display, ‘Our Family, the Early Years.’ It is a permanent and evolving installation.

I’m forever curating the museum of my life. There is endless detritus that is logged once, noted and recorded for historical purposes and donated or outright given to others or placed in the cold, dark, vast warehouse of forgotten details and mementos. Of those items that I choose to display they are ordered by importance and their prestige is evident in how I choose to display them.

This room, this grandest of rooms, will feed me and fuel me through the times that lie ahead. Through times that will so devastate me that they will make me wonder what all this was for. My aim is to curate an exhibit so stunning, so perfectly designed for my audience of one, for me, that I will be so enamored of it as to be unable to wander too far from it. Over time it will hard wire my memories and the feelings that drove me to embark on such an ambitious, albeit not groundbreaking, body of work.

I will wallow in it, work in it and invest energy in keeping it pristine. All of this in the hopes that even in my feeblest state I’ll always know my way back to that room. That room filled with love and meaning and work and creativity and awe and beauty. Its the room that I intend to live in for as long as I can, until the end if possible.

I will marvel at it’s treasures and inspect those pieces that so transformed and transfixed me. When I can no longer manipulate the artifacts of my specific humanity anymore, I intend to nest in them as I did the first time around in order to feel that pride and love and warmth until I die, smiling at what was and what is.

This document is a map of sorts to a memory or two. An artists description of the work in real time to be used by me as a patron of the museum in the future. It will help me access more fully the pieces that are before me. I’m compelled to do this to make up for all those pieces I didn’t log in this way due to exhaustion and the foolish belief that the memories would be so powerful as to never drift away into the ether. Perhaps I thought them permanent in some way, a way that would make documenting it formally a waste of time. Foolish indeed and I should have known better. But, ours is not to wonder why, and so forth…

It is also for you, reader, truly it is. Knowing that you read, and that you are occasionally moved to engage with me has added immensely to my experience. It is also for my wife and our kids. A log of sorts, though I hope an artful one, capturing this time. A fools errand to be sure, and likely a fruitless and hopelessly failing attempt to capture just a piece of its essence for our collective and individual future enjoyment.

Teddy sits in my lap, every night sometime between 8 and 8:30. Bathed and brushed and comfy in his pajamas. He’s my little bedtime buddy. He’ll cry when I pick him up and momma gives him his Elmo doll. A doll too small to be his lovey, but it is what he has chosen and our many attempts to provide him with a larger, more plush and easier-to-find-in-your-sleep or in the darkness of waking at 2AM doll have been shunned. ‘Mo-mo’, as he calls him, is his guy. The rest are discarded, literally thrown overboard, if he notices them. Two dolls other than mo-mo stay in the bed, a floppy brown bunny and a standard issue bear, but they are so untouched as to be unnoticed.

The routines are a dead giveaway now and he cries and lunges for mommy when it clicks for him that it is bedtime. She is a bit more pliable in terms of keeping to the schedule in general and he thinks if he could just get me to hand him over to her, he’d be able to avoid his fate. Neither momma nor I pay any attention to this complaint anymore as it ceases by the time we get to the stairs, a walk of no more than 12-15 adult steps from anywhere on the first floor of our small and perfect little suburban home, and usually not more than 5 steps from where he’s been picked up, in the living room.

Once to the stairs we make a dramatic flourish of thrusting our hands upward, toward the second floor, a show of bravado that he and I enjoy and one that always brings a smile to his face. Thusly we proceed up the stairs, following our outstretched hands and giggling when we get to the top. The theatricality of it all is just plain silly, but if you haven’t seen him do it it’s just not altogether possible to understand how adorable it is.

He is not going to have these cheeks, these bubbly, adorable cheeks, for much longer, but for the time being anything I can do to make him smile, I will.

Once on the landing we turn left to the bedrooms. Theirs one to the right, but we loaded up all our stuff in it when we moved in and now only reference it if something is in there which needs to be extracted or if we need a place to shove things when people are coming over. It is now, and I imagine will forever be referred to by Karen and I as ‘the cottage’. We christened it when it became the place we flopped down in when we’d pushed enough crap to the sides to lay out a futon mattress and it became the place where sick parents slept, or where we’d lie during that glorious long weekend when we had managed to get them napping at the same time. Our room shared a wall with theirs and we weren’t going to risk even the possibility of being the reason they might wake up.

I plop him down and he runs into his room. Once there he looks around for a second spots the glider chair that was initially used for nursing but is now the rocking chair, and makes a break for it. I pretend to be outraged and shocked, every night, that he’s going to sit in daddy’s chair, and he struggles his way up there, climbing like a pro, sits proudly and takes in my displays of shock, both facial and audible, and laughs proudly.

I don’t know if you have access to a two year old, but if you do, spend AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE watching them walk around in pajamas. It’s just awesomely cute.

I pick him up, turn on various, strategically placed little lights, turn off others, turn on a bit of white noise and proceed to work my way through his stack of books until he decides he’s done, or we finish all of them. To this point, we’ve only added and not yet removed any of his books. Little Blue Truck and Goodnight Gorilla are the musts but usually it’s all of them. I’ve dozed off while reading. I always roust quickly enough, but his weight and warmth on my lap, the dim lights and the repetitive pleasantness of the books have a mildly narcotic effect on me.

Once done I sing to him. Usually starting with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then You Are My Sunshine… I may hum from there, I may move to the Beatles. Some Blackbird, some early parts of Hey Jude, maybe some God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. I usually put him down at this time, but yesterday he made me hold him for a bit and kept bringing my hand up to his cheek, so it rested on him, fully holding his face on the outside, while the inside was pressed against my chest while he sat in my lap. If a meaning of life can be said to be a visceral feeling rather than a thought or a defined purpose, this is one of the meanings of my life.

This is one of the routines that evolve early in life that feel like they will last forever, but tend to last a few weeks to a few months before necessity forces them to change or the child simply loses interest and the routine is no longer effective. While I haven’t done a wonderful job of logging them, as I’m doing now, I hope to do more in the near future. Hopefully this is a nostalgic dad’s lament, chapter 1.

I want to go back to the old video’s and photos and jog memories and come back here and record them in detail, as much detail as possible, before they are all gone and I look at the photo’s and see my beautiful boy and remember everything he ever said, but start saying things like, ‘I don’t remember that apartment so much anymore. Was Charlie born yet when we moved in there? Was he only in the apartment for the first year or was it closer to two?’

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I don’t want that fate. But it or some more addled version of that state, or some less benevolent version of it is surely approaching. Just as new and exciting and enriching phases of my kids lives are heading this way.

So rather I log my memories, in pictures and in words in hopes that those triggers will trigger in me responses that will transport me in an instant back to that dark room, in our still disheveled, not fully occupied or appointed tiny little house where I can giggle with Charlie over the silliness of him pretending to be a dog named Sonny. Where I can pretend his carrots are puppy treats, a move I’ve stolen from his mother, in a multipurpose front room with makeshift changing stations and an unused fireplace and gates blocking every exit. To the place where my little boy won’t let me take my hand from his cheek. Where he will simply find the hand if it goes missing, and place it back on his cheek as he knows that is what’s needed. He’s right, and its one of the chief pleasures of my entire existence, and I will become a silly nostalgist adrift in gauzy memories and I will lose all currency and relevancy willingly if it will help me to remember this beautiful place of messy, sloppy, crazy love where our family began.

The 5 Stages of Moving to the Toddler Room

There is no overstating the grief one feels in moments like these. All we have in this world is love. We are born alone and we will die alone. I shout in the void and pray for the response that never comes.

I haven’t yet come to fully accept what is clearly to be. What we are facing is not unique, but the feelings, the inevitable sadness and loss, these, my friends, are universal.

We all have or will face something devastating. Something will make each of us heartsick, not wanting to move on from a moment we can’t acknowledge. To acknowledge it would only confirm that it really happened.

My loss, like many before, will follow a similar progression as it makes its way purposefully to a place where it can be turned to acceptance.

Today my baby, my sweet little Teddy, will be moved up to the toddler classroom in daycare. I share with you now what I have learned from the ages, and from Elisabeth Kubler Ross. I do it not for me, but to add my voice to the ages in hopes that what I experience, documented thoughtfully, may help my fellow kin in the human play in which we are all actors.

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Denial I know they say he has to move classrooms and that he’s literally a threat to the safety of the babies in the room, but I’m sure if I drop him off in the same class as normal no one will say anything. Besides, I think it’s what they really want me to do. In fact he’s been running in on his own for months now, maybe I’ll just open the door far enough to let him sneak in on his own, then keep walking. He won’t care. It’s probably a joke anyway.

Anger Seriously? Seriously. It’s one almost 2 year old. And he’s gorgeous. So he’s a little bitey. That’s just how they play at that age. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. Whatever. You’re the same person that thinks he should move up to another class. Do you even know that he’s INCAPABLE of being prepped for this and he’s gonna be confused and terrified! Jeez, play one damn game of ding-dong-ditchyourkidinaclassyouwereclearlytoldnotto with you people and you get all sensitive.

Bargaining Listen, I’m really sorry about that whole ditching the baby in your class thing. I actually couldn’t make it out before you were opening the door to find me. I was hiding with his older brother around the corner when you came out. I feel like such a fool. In my defense I was so mortified by this whole transition that I’ve been having a lot of late nights and drinking quite a bit. I honestly must not have been thinking straigh. Whatdya say, you know, for Teddy’s sake, we just give it til the New Year? Then I’ll insist he goes, even if you don’t want him to. Think about it. It really is probably the best thing for everyone.

Depression I mixed beer with milk last night and slept in the car so the kids wouldn’t wake up from the wailing. My kid is in a room all day with kids bigger then him, sleeping for the first time on a mat and not in a crib, and if he’s anything like me at this moment he’s scared, confused, gassy from milk beer, crying loudly in the back of a station wagon in his driveway.

Acceptance I don’t know why people worry about this kinda stuff. It’s not a big deal, really. You’d think they’d get used to it. I’ll be sure to give younger parents an earful when they’re acting crazy about these things, tell them to relax and jus go with it. It’s not that hard really.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

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Charlie insisted that Grandma, Koba (Grandpa), Daddy and Mommy all sit at attention at the picnic table. We were seated so we were facing him as he prowled the stage that was the landing at the top of the steps leading to the beautiful red Rockwellian shed that he thought of as Buddy the Cat’s house. He welcomed us to the show and proceeded to command our attention by acting out a story about how he lost his doggie. About how that doggie ran away and grew up to be a kitty cat, and how charlie found him by calling his name around both corners of the little house/shed/set. He informed us that his name was ‘Tree Pikwalk’ and that we all had to call for him if he were to be found. And low and behold, after we all gave it a shout, good old Tree Pikwalk, the dog that grew up to be a cat, returned home. We were then instructed by Charlie to clap for his story. When we did it was as if he were at Carnegie Hall and he’d just won the admiration of an initially doubting audience.

We were then instructed to stop. He was now the MC and he welcomed everyone to the show. Clap your hands everybody. Introducing, DADDY! He waved me up and left the stage for me to put on a ‘show’. I of course proceeded to do what the director instructed and told a story. Knowing his preferences I made it a story of childhood pets. In this case I told the origin story of our family pet, Mama Kitty, who was a housemate for almost all of my youth and how her passing at 18, an incredibly long life for a cat, lead to the occasionally odd moment when people came to our house and saw an etched stone slate that simply said, ‘Mama, 1980-1998’. It was a success and with all the generosity of a true fan my presenter and host started the applause and made sure that everyone joined him. It was grand.

I’m envious of his confidence and his constant creativity and in awe of his energy. Thanks to him and his little brother, Teddy, I’m able to somewhat approximate their joie de vivre, The two of them can knock me out  physically, but the result of their presence in my life has left me with a verve and joy that I never knew before they arrived.

These attributes, confidence, creativity, energy and joy will be informed by an increasing knowledge and understanding of the feelings and needs of others around them as well as the painful realization that people will sometimes be mean even though they aren’t necessarily mean people. Hell, at some point even they will be mean and not understand why. These are all things to be expected and are key points in one’s journey to aware, conscious and thoughtful adulthood. To be able to feel confident enough to consciously put on a ‘show’ and present enough to attend to the shows of others you love because we are all human and need love and attention. To be unafraid to be wholly and truly yourself despite your fears that it will cause others to judge you. To not be afraid to be judged by those people because you are the things you are and it is okay to be them. To be so entirely comfortable in your own skin that you are able to connect with the world around you and the souls you are fortunate enough to be near in a way that shares with them your fragility and essence. These are the things I see in my son’s that I hope will survive, somehow, the onslaught that is heading their way as they head out into the world without any armor. These attributes that will hold the key to happiness when they emerge on the other side of the chasm separating childhood from adulthood. We are in the bubble now and I treasure my time here, knowing already that it is fleeting.

I just hope that I remember, when it looks its ugliest and I’m compelled to react to the behaviors I know are not reflective of the boys they were, that they are neither predictive of the men they will be. That in order for them to get through the upheaval of adolescence and early adulthood they have to travel roads that are inevitably and imperatively roads I can’t go down with them. I hope I remember that they will carry with them, despite any and all indications to the contrary, their sweet nature, their fragile and vulnerable skin and their need for love and attention. I hope they are able to hear me as I call for them while they are lost, like Tree Pikwalk who grew up to be a cat. I hope I hope I hope.

I hope beyond hope that my little dogs grow up, turn into cats and can put on a show for me of a kind I now put on for my parents, relishing in their approval and attention and no longer bashful about how important and meaningful it all is to me.

We Weren’t Ready Either

There is the light of day and the haze of interrupted sleep. These are two distinct worlds and insofar as we are able to, we keep them separate. Fights that happen in ‘the haze’ should never see the light of day. They are to be dutifully ignored, in perpetuity if possible. If an event were to occur in ‘the haze’ at a later point that closely resembled the initial argument in both substance and tone, then, and only then, can the altercation be referenced. Once past, even if the altercation has escalated, it should fall back into the category of things which must not be named. These are the rules and they are organic and they are good. These incidences are like dreams in that they should only rarely be shared outside of a therapists office and should be done so with great trepidation.

We had such an altercation last night. In complying with the rules I shall not speak to the details of the disagreement other than to say that in expressing my dissenting opinion I can see now that I presented as a lunatic. The vast majority of the overnight happenings are tended to by one parent so the other can sleep, but in this case the concern of the sleeper overwhelmed their exhaustion and a suggestion needed to be made. At the risk of disclosing too much, as I know a certain woman related to me by marriage who may wish to continue to observe the ‘gag order’ in regard to referencing said altercation, I’ll state that in this case I was the night tender and she was the concerned and restless parent. Which I say only so I can tell you that when she interrupted me to suggest that we wake our son and give him a nebulizer treatment in order to allow him to stop coughing and to rest easier I went ballistic. This was not in my plans. I had already fed the baby and taken the toddler to the potty. It was past 2AM and I had decided that I’d wait out the cough. With a beer. And a book. A nebulizer treatment does NOT fit into this equation. Yep. I’m a bit of a jackass. My frustration bordered on the maniacal. Which is to say that it was on the wrong side of said border and had a full head of steam heading to the heartland of lunacy.

A mere hour later my wife lay soundly asleep and had been so for upwards of 45 minutes. I still could not unclench my jaw. The ability to navigate these wide emotional swings and return to a normal enough place to fall asleep, even with the assistance of accrued exhaustion is unbelievable to me. I’ve grown to understand that this is an innate difference. For her part she can’t for the life of her understand why I don’t go right to sleep the second I’m allowed to. But the fact of the matter is I literally can’t. I’m using ‘literally’ literally. If I were to attempt to transition between emotions at the rate at which she can and does I’d be in a hospital bed, likely catatonic, before lunch. Women reading this may read an exaggeration to express emphasis in this statement. It’s absolutely true. I’d break. Seriously.

I’m a LUNATIC when it comes to control of the overnight environment when it’s ‘my turn’. Just irrational in the extreme. And the reality of this is that this isn’t going to change. Can’t really. Which brings me to my point. Perfect is inherently and inevitably imperfect.

When we were fretting about whether or not to have kids the conversations were focused on our shortcomings, both personally and collectively. The financial issues and the emotional issues. The idea of a change so profound seemed impossible to navigate while retaining that which made us work together. But the truth is that the change was simultaneously of a scale that was so large as to have been incomprehensible prior to it occurring and of a nature so profound that it brought with it capacities and endurance that were heretofore unknown to either of us and which allowed us to grow in a way that has made all of the prior conversation irrelevant.

In some way every butterfly parent that has been through the transformation knows something caterpillar couples couldn’t at the time. Prior to our having been transformed their assurances and warnings were meaningless, even if many of them turned out to be more true than we could ever have imagined. So now that I’m emerging fully transformed I would like to amend the standard language of the butterflies thusly…

Rather than the somewhat dismissive statement that butterflies repeat ad nauseum to caterpillars that goes ‘If you wait til your ready to have kids, you’ll never have kids’, I think I would have been more disposed to seeing some hopefulness in a message that goes like this…

Let me cut to the chase, you’re not perfect. I’m not, you’re not, no one is. So stop thinking that merely being human and imperfect is enough of a reason to not have kids if you want them. And if you’re fearing that you’re not ready, you’re ready. That level of concern will in fact put you a step ahead. And besides all your shortcomings, you’re amazingly intricate, complex and talented people who will find a capacity for love you never knew before and it’s beautiful and destructive all at once. And the things that drive you crazy about your partner now will do so even more later. But the variations between your abilities will make you cover all the bases you need to so the kids can rise up because of your exceptional ability and in spite of your inevitable flaws. And don’t worry, your kids will reveal their own flaws, and many of them will mirror yours and that’s okay, cause you know what? They’re human too and they’re NOT perfect, which is something you must keep in mind, as your heart will never believe it. Perfect people do not exist, they are lying to you, and sometimes to themselves, and they should be looked at with empathy as they are in for terrible difficulties. In fact if this unicorn of perfection exists in some cul-de-sac in some suburb know that they are the ones truly missing out on the vast array of life as they are not fully experiencing what it means to be alive. Don’t fret that you are falling short of something so bland as perfect, rather delight in your struggles and move forward knowing that the sooner you accept your human nature the sooner you can get to seeing the beauty in life. Struggle onward and seek to see clearly and withhold criticism as long as you can. The more you can accept of imperfections the richer your experience will be. Oh yeah, and don’t be dick to your wife when she asks you to do something you should do. Its not nice.

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A Note On My Recent Behavior

20141025-102743-37663455.jpgParenthood first goes about revealing your innumerable flaws and shortcomings. It does this in such a nonstop barrage of situations that reveal your inadequacy that you question not only your abilities, but the universe and its judgment to leave such a precious and wonderful gift in such incapable hands.

You fumble through and with repetition you learn that what feels massive is just a blip and when things that arise that could be massive are dealt with you start to trust that you in fact are the right person and the hospital didn’t make a mistake letting this baby come home with you. You are broken down to your foundation and rebuilt brick by brick. It is a necessary and critical process as it allows you to discard the many silly things you treated with reverence before you knew better and it leaves you with something approximating wisdom.

When I held my firstborn for the first time I became aware of my own mortality. No one told me about this. About sleepless nights and the many changes to lifestyle, sure, but this existential crisis was not something for which I was on the lookout.

I thought about death passively and actively. It was a farmer’s toothpick getting chewed on, soft and tattered until it was soaked and malleable and worn through, splintering and finally turning to pulp to be discarded.

I am empowered by my inevitable death. What felt like a crisis, that I was not going to be able to foster him and his brother completely through a life, has turned into an awakening. It hurts to be sure that I won’t get to see how their stories end. I won’t be there to ensure as happy an ending possible and in fact will rely on them to provide this for me. But between now and then it is my privilege and obligation to do everything I can to stack whatever odds I can in their favor.

From this angle I’ve become a man that is determined to have as little difference between my public and private face as possible. I do this for me, yes, but I also do it for them. My little guys need to see that they are able to be wholly themselves even when the world smirks at them.

The world can seem a hell of a giant thing and when it takes note of you with scorn it can be scary. But you can’t be afraid. You can’t allow the world to so color your opinion of yourself that you decide it’s best to hide behind whatever facades you decide upon which draw the least amount of attention. In fact, once you know fully who you are you can smirk right back at the world as you are equal to it. Primarily because ‘fuck it’. You are. No matter what the world thinks of you it can’t change that unless you enable it.

Secondly, you, me and everyone we know are great. All of us. It may not play out on a stage large enough for the world to see and it may not ever make life easy, but it’s true. Our greatness is innate and the only way we can fail it is to not attempt to practice it and to share it. Do this and the world and its judgments will not only get quiet, they will disappear.

I’m no longer worried that the world won’t like me. I’m going to state loudly and clearly and hopefully eloquently and gracefully that I’m here and I’m not going to be bashful. I’m not going to mute the full throated volume of my love. I’m not going to stand silently if I think a thing is wrong. And most importantly I’m not going to let scorn or judgment from the outside color my impression of myself.

New DadIn this way my kids, after revealing every conceivable weakness in my possession, have provided me with this one superpower. Short of the most tragic thing I can now imagine, there is nothing that can break me. They taught me this just in time as I’m heading in to a phase of life rife with inevitable and natural events that are going to test this. But I can tell you that these things, these terrible and awful events will not break me.

My kids have imbued me with resolve. I can honestly say with one hundred percent confidence that I’ll write my book. I’ll share my life. I’ll live out loud for as long as I have breath. I have to. They’re watching.