The #PretzelGuys Go Fishing

Disclosure: I was compensated by Life of Dad and Snyder’s of Hanover for this promotion.

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Will and I love to fish.

What started as a fishing derby on a whim one year ago has quickly turned into a passion the two of us share. It’s strange that a 6-year-old who can’t be still for six seconds and his ridiculously impatient father have taken such an interest in an endeavor that requires patience first and foremost. Yet that’s exactly what has happened.

Simply put, during the last 12 months, fishing has become something that fuels our relationship and gives us common ground.

Because our fishing trips often turn into an all-day adventure (especially now that we’re out on the water with the canoe), I need to make sure we’re well-packed. That means our fishing poles, our tackle bag, lots of water, and something that ensures our energy doesn’t wane before we land the big bass.

That’s why we never go fishing without Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels.

They’re the perfect fishing snack because they’re healthier than junk food yet not too filling. Plus, my picky 6-year-old likes them. Call me boring if you must, but I prefer the original Pretzel Snaps. My son, on the other hand, likes the Sourdough Nibblers. But whether you go with the Pretzel Butter Snaps, Pretzel Sticks, or Mini Pretzels, you really can’t go wrong.

And while I’m not sure the good people at Snyder’s realized this when they began making their delicious pretzels, here’s a little known fact — my son discovered another use for Snyder’s pretzels:

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When it comes down to it, Snyder’s is now as much a part of our fishing trips as landing huge bass. And sure, I’m getting paid for this so I understand if you’re rolling your eyes and thinking I have to say all this. But the truth is I ate and loved these before I was ever contacted by the company. They’re delicious, they’re healthier than a lot of other snacks, and they give us the pick me up we need to row and fish for hours.

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And now for some even better news that affects you directly.

Snyder’s of Hanover is running “America’s Summertime Favorite Sweepstakes” on their Facebook page, and you should check it out immediately. There are not only weekly prizes to be won, but also a chance to win $10,000 toward your ideal family vacation.

Check out the hashtag #PretzelGuys on social media for more great information.

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The Year of Sam

sam_standingwill_sam.jpgA moment and an eternity.

That’s what it’s felt like, Sam, since you entered our lives exactly one year ago. One year. That amount of time has never seemed so brief and simultaneously endless. Fleeting yet perpetual. And if we’re being honest, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

I endured your first year just as much as I enjoyed it. I’m not particularly proud of that, but it’s the truth.

You had colic and didn’t sleep well. You scared the shit out of us with a stint in the hospital. And frankly, I failed to bond with you like I did with Will. But someday, when you read this, I want you to know that’s on me and not you. And don’t think for a second we ever regretted having you, because you are amazing. It just took me a while to see how lucky I was and get over my selfishness.

Will was easy. But you, my little Sammy, are not. Where Will is hesitant and bashful, you are bold and fearless. Where he is slightly timid, you are a tornado and no matter where we set you loose, you wreak havoc. But one is not better than the other. In fact, I’m finding out the challenges you present make overcoming them that much sweeter because you make me actively work to be a better dad way. You make me a better person.

The good news is where I have failed, your mother has come through like a champ.

She suffered from postpartum depression with your brother, but this time around she has been Queen Mom. I’ve never been more proud of her, watching her shine and excel in her new role as stay-at-home mom. And you are so lucky to have her. So am I, for that matter.

But where you’re luckiest, Sam, is how fortunate you are in the big brother department.

It has been the honor of my life watching you and Will together. Nothing makes my heart swell more than the sight of you two together, laughing and smiling at things only the two of you understand. Will has taken to his role like a duck to water. He’s so patient and careful with you, and you love him so much. I couldn’t be happier watching you two play together, and although you’ll fight in the future I also think you’ll be the best of friends.

As for me, I want to apologize and thank you Sam. I’m sorry for the struggle this past year. I wasn’t a bad dad, but I wasn’t a great one either. And you deserve my best. But the good news is I’m going to work to be better and improve. Because we waited so long for you and now that you’re here, there’s no way I’m going to drop the ball again.

I love the little guy you’ve become. It’s so much fun to make you smile and see your toothy grin. I like the game we play in which we scream at each other and laughingly match pitch. I yell “gorilla baby!” and you beat your chest, which is fundamentally awesome. Watching you walk around and get stronger with each step does my heart good, and I’m so proud of you.

And the best part is, better days are ahead. But for now, happy birthday my beautiful baby boy. You completed our family in a way I only ever imagined. I love you.

 

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Please Look Back Every Once in a While

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I worry sometimes about losing sight of you.

Today it’s scenic Borderland State Park, a wooded expanse of trails, trees, ponds, and greenery so lush it should be it’s own Crayola color. The seat belt can barely contain you as we look for a parking space, as your energy has you bouncing in your seat, waiting for the millisecond I put the car in park so you can tear open the door and breathe in the scent of the outdoors. I used to demand you carry your own fishing rod, which you did without complaint. But your running combined with the sheer jubilation of being 6 in a state park is too much to prevent the tip of your rod from hitting the ground. And trees. And other people.

So I am relegated to a status familiar to dads — pack mule. And that’s OK because your smile alleviates every burden.

You’re at the trail map now, sounding out the words and tracing a path to the pond. You don’t enter the woods so much as you explode into them like you are being shot out of a cannon. The cement walkway of the visitor center gives way to a dirt and rock path as the trees and forest envelop us. Soon the crunch of our footsteps on rocks and hard dirt turns to soft thuds, as fallen pine needles pad our steps. You know the rule is stay with dad, so you reluctantly obey. But I see your eyes silently pleading for the sweet release of running on up ahead.

“Go ahead,” I blurt out, smiling and feigning an inconvenience both of us know to be false.

I’m not worried about you getting lost, because you have a good sense of direction and your heart and head will guide you. I’m not worried about you falling down, because you’re resilient and you’ll always pick yourself up no problem. I’m not worried about the ancient tree roots crisscrossing the path, because (even though you don’t yet realize it) there are no obstacles you can’t overcome. I’m not worried about the mud puddles because I can’t stop you from stepping in it from time to time — nor would I want to — and sometimes our missteps turn into our greatest blessings. I don’t want to stop you from going down your chosen path, and I have no ambition to clear it for you or walk in front of you to make it easier.

Before I had kids, my dad thanked me once for making it a point to include him in things and for inviting him to hang out occasionally. I didn’t really give it much thought at the time, but now I see exactly what he meant.

I just hope you’ll actually look back and slow down every once in a while, to let me watch you on your journey. Because as your dad, I genuinely believe it’s going to be a sight to behold. And even though it’s inevitable you’ll disappear around bends and be out of sight for a while, I hope with all my heart you’ll let me catch up and keep you company from time to time.

I worry sometimes about losing sight of you. Because I love being around you so much and (minus your teenage years) I never want that to change. Don’t be afraid to forge your own path, pal. But please don’t forget to look back every now and then.

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If you liked this feel free to check me out on Twitter and Facebook. If you didn’t like this, that’s OK too. You can still follow me on those accounts and then hate-share everything I post. As long as my incessant need for your attention is satisfied.

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An Open Letter to My Son About Closed Minds

prejudiceDear Will,

Today you came home near tears because someone told you two gay people can’t get married because it’s wrong and gross. Your aunts are gay and your cousins — who you love with a wonderful ferocity — are a product of their very much legal marriage (Massachusetts has had gay marriage since 2004). When someone insults your family, it hurts. You hurt right now, and I’m sorry for that.

I’m also sorry that it’s not the first time, nor will it be the last.

I absolutely despise having to tell you about this ugliness at such a young age. Last year, when we stopped going to a certain area business because they were casually tossing around racial epithets, you had questions. And rightly so. That’s how I ended up describing the evils of racism to a 5-year-old. And now you’re faced with more ignorance and ugliness. And this time it’s that much harder because it’s from a friend.

I want you to know right up front, I’m proud of how you reacted. You told them (I’m using the incorrect pronoun to avoid repeatedly saying he/she and to avoid singling anyone out) gay people can get married in Massachusetts. You used your aunts as a valid example. And you told them the most important thing is that two people love each other when they get married.

Will, your friend is only 6. They might think marrying ANYONE is gross, or they might not have had anyone explain gay marriage, or — and this is the scary part — they might have parents who truly do believe it’s gross when two people of the same sex pledge their lives to one another.

Unfortunately, you said this person didn’t want to be friends anymore after your argument. It’s my hope that, because you’re 6, something shiny will distract you both and you can go back to being friends with this incident a mere afterthought and anomaly. But I’d be lying if I said these kinds of differences don’t leave a trail of broken friendships in their wake.

I know you tried to explain the truth to this kid. I also know you were extra frustrated because you knew you were right. And you are right. Gay people can be legally married, your aunts are legally married, and as long as two consenting adults love each other there is no reason they should be denied the right to marriage.

But at some point, the sad fact of the matter is you’re going to have a friendship strained — and ultimately broken — by intolerance.

Will, sometimes I forget you’re only six years old. I say that because your wisdom, empathy, and compassion for others far exceeds the limited number of years you’ve graced us with your presence. You are kind to every living thing — even apologizing to the worms we fish with when you put them on the hook. That’s why I hope you continue to do what you’re doing when  the road gets rocky.

Remember, some kids are brought up in an environment of hate and intolerance. That doesn’t make it right or excusable, but if that’s all they know then you need to keep that in mind. Salvage the friendships you can and never burn a bridge unnecessarily. But if a friendship becomes truly toxic, it’s OK to extricate yourself from the situation. Never be afraid to surround yourself with love and positivity, because you are a bright light my friend.

And the world needs you to shine.

I watch you, you know? Even when you think I’m not looking, I am. I’ve seen you on the playgrounds and at birthday parties, and I love what I see. You have a refined and razor sharp sense of right and wrong, and you don’t just stand up for yourself — you stand up for whoever needs it. If someone is being isolated, you play with them. If someone is being made fun of, they’re met with a “HEY! THAT’S NOT NICE!” It is one of your finest qualities, and to possess it at such a young age is astounding.

Please never stop standing up for what’s right.

As you get older, the easiest thing to do in those situations is nothing. No one likes to be made fun of and the quickest way to become a target for bullies is to come between them and their prey. But guess what pal? Ironically, the quickest way to bring down bullies is to stand up to them. It’s not easy, especially when the bully turns out to be someone you thought was a friend. Remember, as Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Continue being a good kid who stands for something and resides firmly on the side of what is right and just. You’re amazing and I’m the proudest father in the world.

Love,
Dad

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If you liked this feel free to check me out on Twitter and Facebook. If you didn’t like this, that’s OK too. You can still follow me on those accounts and then hate-share everything I post. As long as my incessant need for your attention is satisfied.

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Why I’m Fine With My Kids Growing Up So Fast

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Sometimes I look around at all the other people on this parent blogger landscape and wonder what the hell is wrong with me.

As the month of June stretches its legs and summer takes off into a full gallop, school is coming to an end for our kids. That means lots of photo montages of the first day of school in September compared with the last day this month. Which is great — I did the same thing. But what I didn’t do — what I can’t seem to understand — is the average parent constantly lamenting the supersonic speed at which time passes and their inability to stop it in its tracks.

So many parents seem eager to keep kids young forever. As for me, a guy who has already gone on the record as loathing the newborn phase, I don’t understand it. All I wanted to do since Sam was born is hit the fast-forward button so I could skip ahead to better times. Instead of crying, eating, and shitting all the time he’s talking a bit, walking even more, and has even started signing things like “milk” and “more.” And, last but not least, he’s sleeping (thank f*cking God).

And Will? The best thing about my awesome 6-year-old is he’s gotten more and more terrific with each new day. He reads, he writes, he carries on meaningful conversations, he plays sports, he reasons things out, and he’s meeting life’s challenges with an open heart and mind.

Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t come absent complications.

He’s dealing with peer pressure at school and we had to punish him pretty severely after he got in trouble for drawing on a school bus seat. He doesn’t know what to make of girls yet, and can’t understand why they won’t stop trying to kiss him, which led to a pretty serious conversation about boundaries and respect for others. And recently he came home in tears because his classmates laughed and wouldn’t believe him when he told them it’s perfectly OK for two women or two men to get married to each other. These are all tough issues and bring about a lot of angst and worry as a parent.

But I prefer this stuff over Will’s time as a baby and toddler every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And Sam? Well, I don’t feel guilty in the least for saying I would’ve paid good money to skip through the sleep-deprived and terrible months following his birth. There was very little positive about that time and I’m forever glad it’s in the rear view mirror.

I didn’t cry when I dropped Will off at daycare for the first time. I didn’t lose it when he graduated preschool (aside from wondering why the hell a preschool graduation ceremony even exists). I didn’t openly weep and follow his bus to school in my car on his first day of kindergarten.

It’s not because I’m a cold-hearted jerk either, it’s because I was too busy celebrating those moments.

The more time passes, the more spectacular my kids get. Every day brings something new and incredible, and as they get older I personally relate to them more. It’s more fun, more interesting, and more challenging. I welcome those challenges, and greatly prefer this time to the newborn phase.

Parents of older kids will tell me I’ll change my tune when they’re teenagers and then adults. Maybe that’s true. I haven’t been through it so I can’t judge.

But even when Will is an obnoxious teenager who thinks he knows everything and I’m just some dumb, out of touch jackass who is too hard on him, I still don’t think I’ll be longing for the days of pacifiers, diapers, and potty-training. And I certainly don’t want to freeze time, because each day reveals another nugget of awesomeness and shows how truly lucky I am to be on this journey.

And after all, parenting is a trip that never really ends. It just evolves.

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If you liked this feel free to check me out on Twitter and Facebook. If you didn’t like this, that’s OK too. You can still follow me on those accounts and then hate-share everything I post. As long as my incessant need for your attention is satisfied.

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