What are you supposed to do and feel on Memorial Day?
There are conflicting opinions as to what this day should be about. On one hand it’s a celebration. Barbecues, cookouts, parades, the unofficial start to summer…Memorial Day is festive, no doubt about it. But on the other hand, some people think there should be no smiles on Memorial Day. After all, this is a day to honor our veterans, both living and dead. So naturally some people view it as a somber day of reflection to think back on the incredible sacrifices our soldiers made, and are still making.
But as for me? I’m sponging off veterans and eating their food.
I’m staying with Victor and Alicia Banks in North Carolina. Alicia is MJ’s oldest friend, and they instantly became two of my favorite people the moment I met them. They have a son, my godson Victor III, who is 10 months older than Will. Although Alicia grew up near my hometown, Victor is from North Carolina and they live in Fayetteville near Fort Bragg.
They both have tours of duty in Iraq, and Victor was also in Kuwait, Turkey and Kosovo. I don’t ask them too many questions about what they did and saw while deployed. Partly because I don’t want to upset them but also because it would keep me up at night. All I know is they’ve lost people dear to them in combat, and that is something I can’t even begin to fathom. They’ve also given up large chunks of their lives for jackasses like me, which is a sacrifice the likes of which I’m not even sure I’m capable.
Obviously, they survived their stints at war. And my godson is the result. For that, I am eternally thankful because I worried about their safety every single day they were gone. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the parades, ceremonies, flyovers, etc. I think that stuff is important and I think it’s great. Anything that raises awareness of the job our soldiers are doing is a good thing.
But today, while watching Will and Vic battle like wolverines over toys play together, I realized there might be no better way to celebrate Memorial Day. Because there are far too many stories of the men and women who didn’t make it back, leaving their kids minus a parent. I tried to keep that in mind today, and remember how lucky I am.
So I celebrated today. I celebrated our kids being able to play together in a free society. And while I kept all the fallen veterans of war in my mind and heart, I put the gifts they gave us to good use. And damned if there isn’t a picture that expresses that better than this:
Hope you all celebrated Memorial Day in a similar fashion.
It’s only been a little more than two years since I’ve dealt with “Knocked Up MJ.” But even though only a couple of years have passed, I seem to have forgotten one very important fact:
Pregnant women are crazy. Seriously fucking nuts.
I swear to all things holy that the following conversation happened this morning verbatim, while I was in the shower and MJ was getting ready for work.
ME:“Hey baby, you look really nice today.”
MJ: “You are such an asshole.”
I swear to you, that’s exactly how it went down. Word for word. She was mad because she thought I was making fun of her and her protruding belly. Even though I’m on the record as saying pregnant women are ridiculously hot and my wife is Queen of the preggo hotness, she thought I was somehow being derogatory. It took me a good five minutes to convince her that all I was doing was telling her she looked really great. And that’s because she’s crazy. Totally batshit crazy.
I completely forgot how mental pregnant women are. Especially during the first trimester.
First of all they can’t stop eating. They must feed. Constantly. And if you don’t feed them or if you stand between them and a meal, they will end your life and eat your soul. NEVER mess with a pregnant chick’s food. But the ironic thing is most of them are also experiencing morning sickness. So on one hand they can’t stop eating, but they also can’t stop throwing up. It’s quite the dichotomy.
Then there’s the phenomenon known as “Pregnancy Brain.”
I’m not making that up, that shit is real. Symptoms include but are not limited to forgetting everything, dropping shit everywhere, mood swings and ALWAYS being tired. Now keep in mind, MJ was already a consummate professional when it comes to losing things like her car keys or debit card. But now that she’s pregnant, I’m going to have to staple the goddamn thing to her forehead. Not to mention she trips over nothing. Honestly. She’ll be walking around the condo and she’ll stumble, but there is no kid’s toy or bunched up carpet in sight. It’s like invisible gnomes are laying trip wire around the house.
But the main thing is that every single emotion MJ is feeling gets ratcheted up to insane proportions. The littlest things become big deals and the big deals become massive, life-ending crises. If you I say something that I think is innocuous but pisses her off, it’s all over. And, if you haven’t learned by now, I say dumb shit all the time that gets me in trouble.
Not to mention pregnant women in their first trimester aren’t known for their raging libidos. We haven’t gotten our freak on since “Bandit” (that’s our official nickname for Baby #2 due to the raccoon incident) was conceived. Which makes me a sexual sniper of sorts. A lonely, frustrated sexual sniper. I finally got up the nerve to proposition MJ for a little lovin’ and she nearly threw up at the thought of it.
Nice to know I still have a way with the ladies.
CHECK OUT FATHERHOOD FRIDAY OVER AT DAD-BLOGS, WHERE I KNOW AT LEAST SOME OF THOSE GUYS FEEL MY PAIN.
“I have great hopes that we shall love each other all our lives
as much as if we had never married at all.” — Lord Byron
Pick up any popular glossy magazine out there and you’ll inevitably read an article about improving your floundering marriage. The headlines read “Put the Spark Back in Your Marriage” and “Spruce Up Your Dull Marriage,” but have you ever really taken any time to delve into the pieces? I have, and I noticed that while there are miniscule differences, they all boil down to one central piece of advise:
Act like you’re not married.
All of these magazines tell married couples to take a night for themselves and call it “date night.” They tell you to remind yourself of what it was like before you got married. Temporarily discard your children, forget those vows and only then will you be able to rekindle some of that former romance.
I find this highly hysterical.
We’re all taught that marriage is the most romantic thing on Earth. After all, it’s two people pledging their eternal love for one another. They promise to stand by each other through thick and thin and eventually grow old and die together. Usually after raising a family. Yet when things go sour or the happy couple gets complacent after a decade or two, what’s the advice commonly given? Pretend you’re NOT married. Go on dates. Think back to what it was like BEFORE you had kids, a mortgage and ran out of things to talk about.
I don’t know about any of you, but I didn’t get married so I could date my wife. Part of why I got married is because I never wanted to date again. Dating was horrible. Seriously, it’s the worst thing on the planet. The small talk, the getting to know you shit, the uncertainty, not being able to fart in front of her for the first three months…dating was a complete nightmare. So why would I want to go back to that?
And honestly, any married couple will tell you it’s IMPOSSIBLE to truly go back. You can’t recreate those initial fireworks. The first kiss. The feeling of your stomach doing somersaults at the mere thought of her. Those things were great, but they’re only meant to occur at the beginning stages. The feelings at the outset of a relationship burn red hot, sometimes to the point where an explosion occurs. But usually that fizzles and fades, which is why people break up. The sparks at the beginning of the relationship are not enough to start a fire that can sustain a marriage.
Marriage is a crock pot, or a simmering of emotions over a long period of time. It’s not as exciting as the fireworks that accompany a new relationship, but that kind of volatility doesn’t lend itself to sustained success over time. Yet we’ve been led to believe we shouldn’t get married until we find that one special person who will bring us fireworks forever and ever.
I’m happy with MJ. I’m content with her. I married her for a lot of reasons, but the defining characteristic that convinced me I should marry her was that she didn’t make me miserable. She was bearable. All the other girls eventually drove me nuts or irritated me to the point that I couldn’t stand the thought of being around them. I had fun for a while, but eventually I wanted to slit my wrists and the mere thought of having to be around them made me want to tear my skin off. But with MJ, I liked being around her almost all the time. And the times she pissed me off, it was never enough to make me want to dive head-first off a cliff. Or if it was, it passed quickly.
It wasn’t always spectacular, but it was hardly ever horrible. Allegorically, we’re Goldilocks and the Bears and she’s just right. Not too hot or spicy and not too cold or bland. To some that sounds lame, but I think it’s an incredibly difficult balance to locate in another person.
If you’re looking for excitement, marriage is not the answer. Marriage is hard work, it’s repetitive and it’s often dull. That’s the marathon nature of the institution. I was watching comedian Louis C.K. (fast forward to the 5:30 mark) the other night, and he had a great bit about marriage, specifically how dull things can get romantically. And he hit on the differences between sex while you’re dating and (the lack of) sex when you’re married. This quote sums it up perfectly:
“You don’t wanna blow your husband, you wanna blow your date. Nobody wants to blow a guy and then go with him to IKEA all day.”
The point is, all of those stupid magazines are trying to do the impossible. They’re trying to go back in time and change reality, when in reality I’m really happy I’m married. Sure it may not be as exciting as that first stroll into your date’s bedroom, but it’s a different kind of happiness. It’s building a life with someone and investing in the future. And when you spend that much time with the same person, things will eventually get stale.
But going back in time and pretending you’re not married is hardly an answer.
Look, I’m a die hard Boston sports fan. And even though that means I’m wicked fucking awesome, it also means that I overreact. A lot. To everything. When things are going well I gloat and talk like there will never be another bump in the road. Everything is perfect, and will remain so for all of eternity. But when things go south (which can happen even in the same day on special occasions), I go way too far in the other direction. I curse my team, all the players, question my own existence and wonder how the hell I will ever watch sports again.
My behavior as a parent has not been unlike my sports fan tendencies.
I picked Will up on Wednesday and was concerned to see my daycare provider in tears. She’s been having a lot of personal issues lately so I thought something was wrong in that department. But oh no, it had nothing to do with her. Instead, I learned it was Will causing all of her woes.
In short, apparently he’s a little asshole.
Yeah, yeah. I know. I called my kid an asshole. Get over it. I’m not one of these parents who pretends their offspring can do no wrong. And in this case, it’s true. Because Will hates other kids. Hates them. This goes well beyond Will not sharing (which he doesn’t) or not playing well with others (which he hates). This is about Will not even being able to be in the same room with the other daycare kids. She says they try to engage him in conversation and play with him, but as soon as they get in the same room with him he throws a goddamn fit.
I guess he’s only happy when he’s left to play all by himself. Most kids, when they see a group of other kids all having fun together, immediately run over to play with them and be included. Not Will. He truly doesn’t give a shit.
And because of that, apparently he’s making our daycare provider and all the other kids miserable. She said his behavior has negatively impacted everyone else to the point that he’s unapproachable and the other kids cry at the mere sight of him. And that has led our provider — who loves us and loves Will — to a spot between a rock and a hard place. She wants him to stay and that’s why she’s put up with this for a month now. But she can’t keep him there at the expense of all the other kids’ happiness.
While she was relaying all of this to me, I had conflicting emotions. First of all, I wanted to punish Will. I wanted to ring his neck and punish him for acting like a miserable sociopath. But then my provider started asking me all these questions about how we deal with Will at home. What he plays with, if he watches too much TV, if we spoil him, if we work on sharing, etc. And suddenly I had a whole new range of emotions.
First of all I automatically went on the defensive. I was thinking “My fault?? You think this is my fault? You think I did something? Bullshit. I did nothing wrong. I’m a great parent!!!”
Then, searching for someone else to blame, I thought maybe it has something to do with how every single one of his six grandparents spoils him rotten on a consistent basis. Yeah…that must be it. With the blame off my shoulders, I began to feel better immediately. Until I got home and realized that’s all bullshit, because as parents we accept all the praise for the good things our kids do which means we need to step up and take responsibility for the bad.
Instead of trying to blame other people, I sucked it up and took a long, hard look at how we raise Will. And I realized we need to do more. For starters, there aren’t a lot of other kids around here so he doesn’t get much exposure. But I need to find more time to take him out socially and play with people. Even if he doesn’t like it. Second, just because he doesn’t have any other kids to share with doesn’t mean we can’t practice sharing. So now we make sure we share toys every 30 minutes or so, and he doesn’t get them back until he stops crying and asks to share.
Lastly, I implemented a new program for Will. I call it “Big Boy Points” and basically Will gets a Big Boy Point (BBP) every time he does something positive. Whether that’s sharing, saying please and thank you, helping mom and dad, sitting in his booster seat when he wants milk or sleeping successfully in his big boy bed (sorry, forgot to mention we transitioned to from the crib to a twin mattress), he gets a point. In the future, a point will be a sticker or a star on a whiteboard. And he needs to earn stars in order to play with toys, go play outside, etc. When he gets a certain amount of points, he gets a new Thomas toy.
I’m kind of making it up as I go along, but so far it’s working. He had a better day at daycare today, and he’s starting to share more. But I wish I hadn’t been so delinquent in addressing this and letting it get this far. For the first time I really feel like I’ve failed as a dad. And I know this is probably just a phase and most kids go through it and blah blah blah. I know this. But I don’t care. Because I overreact like an idiot and right now I feel like I’ve been derelict in my dad duties.
I just hope he doesn’t get thrown out of daycare. I’m sure that goes on his permanent record and the he’ll never get into a good facility. With that black cloud following him around I highly doubt any school — even a public one — will take him. He’s going to be a kindergarten dropout who doesn’t even know his ABCs, and while that still qualifies him to work at most fast food restaurants or in government, his options will be severely limited. He and his stuffed monkey will end up living on the streets, and it’ll all be my fault.
Either that or he’ll soon grow out of the Terrible Two phase and everything will be fine. At which point I will surely blog about his unbelievable intelligence level and how he is bound for greatness.
I remember when we told everyone we were expecting our first child. It was spectacular. Everyone was so happy. And not just feigned happiness either, I’m talking zippety-doo-da, nitrous oxide overload happy. The plethora of reactions when you tell loved ones you’re pregnant for the first time include just some of the following:
THE SORORITY SCREAM: This (usually) happens when the expectant mother tells her female friends she’s pregnant for the first time. The result is an ungodly, shrieking, shrill sound that only women seem to be able to produce. They hold hands, hug and then jump up and down screaming like friggin’ banshees to the point where you need to block your ears for safety reasons. It is heart-warming, yet truly frightening all at the same time.
THE WATERWORKS: You’ve all seen this one. You tell someone you’re pregnant with your first kid and they immediately break down in tears of joy. The faucet gets turned on and there’s no stopping it. They cry, they hug you, they ask a few questions, they cry and then they hug you again. It’s actually very cute.
STUNNED SILENCE: This one is probably my favorite, if only because it elicits what I feel is the most genuine reaction of them all. You tell someone you’re pregnant and they’re so taken aback, they have absolutely no idea what to say or do. It takes a good 2-3 minutes for them to realize what it is you’re telling them, and still they have to ask you 3-4 times “Are you serious? Seriously??”
Whether they scream, jump up and down or give you 5,000 hugs, it’s always momentous and it’s clear that what’s happening is a big freaking deal.
But the second kid? Not so much.
Seriously, no one gives a shit that you’re pregnant for a second time. I mean sure they care and they’re happy for you. But they’re not thrilled. They’re not orgasmic with joy over your impending bundle of same. It’s more like “Nice, congratulations” or “Cool. Good for you guys.” But when you’re used to all the fanfare, it’s a marked departure from the first time.
And I guess that makes sense. It’s like a football team that surprised everyone and is just happy to be playing in the Super Bowl, compared to the squad of seasoned veterans who have won the big game in the past. Act like you’ve been there before.
And perhaps the funniest thing was my two co-workers getting drunk one night about a month ago (before we announced the news) and telling me how “fucking crazy” I was for even thinking about having another one. It’s OK Jake and Steph, I had similar thoughts myself.
Not to mention when you think about it, it’s more than a little creepy at how excited everyone gets for a pregnancy. Really. People are congratulating you and saying “Nice job buddy.” Essentially they’re giving me props for having functional sperm, and praising MJ for her ability to produce an egg that is capable of being fertilized. And they’re openly cheering us for having sex, which I think is a little personal. They might as well be saying “Yeah! Nice job on ejaculating inside of your wife and depositing your sperm in such fashion as they infiltrated her fertile egg.”
I’m getting off track.
I realized my biggest worry is that I’M not as excited as I was the first time around. I know what to expect this time. I’m a grizzled veteran. I’ve been through the OB/GYN appointments, the ultrasounds, the big belly, the mood swings and the actual birth itself. And yes, I know a monkey wrench can be thrown into the process and that no two pregnancies are ever the same. But that’s for the mom. Here in DadLand we have a slightly more hands-off role until the baby is born. And while I know this won’t hold true, I just can’t imagine loving anybody or anything as much as I do Will.
Parents of more than one, did you have similar feelings? And what was it like when the second one was born?