Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Year’s Lost

I made New Year’s Eve plans all the way back in May.

I envisioned a truly special night. I had a little room booked for me and the wife. Nothing fancy and we weren’t going to travel far, just a few towns over to Hyannis. Some of our friends would’ve come with us but there would have been plenty of other people around too who would devote themselves to us, take care of us and cater to our every need. All the anticipation would’ve built up and then just after the stroke of midnight, a new year and a new life would have begun.

Alex was scheduled to be born on New Year’s Eve.

Usually I love celebrations. Christmas, New Year’s, anniversaries, birthdays—if there was a reason to party I was going to be first in line. But since we lost Alex, I just don’t feel it anymore. Christmas was fun, but subdued. I didn’t even go out and get a tree. I’m going out for New Year’s, but mainly it’s to be around good friends who I know can put up with me when I’m drunk. Which I most definitely will be. And as an added kick to the testicles, MJ and I have our fifth wedding anniversary coming up on Jan. 13.

Normally I’m the one who makes a big deal out of birthdays and anniversaries. I remember the exact day I first kissed MJ and the day we first made love. MJ, on the other hand, has forgotten my birthday on more than one occasion and simply isn’t one to celebrate sentimental milestones. Usually I just ignore her and plan something fun anyway, but this year I didn’t plan anything because I don’t feel like celebrating and I figured she wouldn’t mind.

Well, she does mind. She’s really upset we’re not making a big deal out of our anniversary. She misses me and wants to spend time with me. I miss her too and I really do love her more than ever.

But I physically ache when I look at her.

She should be HUGE right now. Her gigantic belly should be just about to explode. I’m supposed to be massaging her swollen feet and making midnight runs to get her weird food combinations. We’re supposed to have a bag packed for the hospital and I should be at work, checking my cell phone every four seconds, waiting for the “IT’S TIME!” phone call.

The crib is supposed to be ready and decked out with bright new pink sheets. Girl clothes and all that cute shit should be overflowing from the nursery as relatives call everyday to get progress reports so they can be the first to show up at the hospital. Will is supposed to be ridiculously excited (and slightly pissed off and jealous) to become a big brother. I would have purchased a newborn-sized Patriots cheerleader outfit she could wear on Sundays.

And if she held on until New Year’s Day, maybe she would’ve been the Cape’s first baby of 2011. A reporter’s kid as the New Year’s baby with a front page spread. It would’ve been perfect.

But things are not perfect.

MJ doesn’t think Alex was a person. She thinks we lost a fetus, nothing more than a damaged collection of cells that failed to survive. I don’t hold that against her at all, and in fact I’m rather envious she can reconcile things like that. I wish I could convince myself to feel that way but I can’t.

I admit I didn’t know how to feel when we lost Alex. On one hand we’re talking about a 16-week-old fetus I never met. Technically we don’t even know it was a girl (although in my mind she was). So how do you grieve someone who you’re not even sure counts as an actual person? I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s at the heart of my struggle. MJ and I talked recently and because she’s much smarter than I am, she made me realize my heart has been treating this like the death of a loved one, but my brain is constantly trying to convince me that’s not the case. Therefore I never really dealt with it. Each time I tried to I’d get about halfway and then pull myself back because I’d tell myself this wasn’t a “real” loss.

But it was real for me. Whether I’m right or wrong, I see what happened as the death of a child. I know it doesn’t compare to the actual death of a living child several years old (a horror I selfishly hope I never encounter), but at times it feels that way to me. And instead of repressing that thought I need to deal with it so I can move on and be a better husband and father.

I’ve always viewed therapists and counselors as helpful people who are great options—for other people. Never me. You’d sooner see me in a Yankees hat than talking to some quack and admitting I couldn’t handle my own problems. Despite the fact I’ve seen it work for MJ with wonderful results, the thought of me on that couch is one of the most terrifying and embarrassing things I can imagine.

But the only thing worse is spiraling to the point that nothing makes me happy, my wife feels lonely and my son constantly tells me to cheer up. I don’t want that and won’t have it. I’m better than that and my family deserves better as well.

I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution in earnest. But for 2011, I’m hoping I can conjure up enough testicular fortitude to admit to my shortcomings and do something about it.

Happy New Year.

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Cooked for Christmas

You guys are going to absolutely hammer me for this post. I mean, you’re gonna tear me a new one and ridicule me through and through. And you’ll be completely justified in doing so. But I can’t help it.

The way Christmas works in the financially strapped Daddy Files household is as follows: We get Will one “big” present and a few little things. The rest of the gifts are supplied (in abundance) by family members and friends who are WAY too kind when it comes to buying things for Will. In the past, his gifts from us have been really awesome. Big Tonka trucks and a work bench with tons of tools. Very fun, very cool and very manly.

When it came time to choose his gift this year, well, there wasn’t actually much “choice” involved. At least on my part.

MJ just came home one day and declared that she found THE PERFECT present for Will. She was beyond excited and so proud of herself for finding it. So I asked what it was. But instead of telling me, she balked a little and started to talk around it. To preface it with “Well Will already has trucks and trains and stuff like that…” I should’ve known, right then and there, I was in for trouble. After prompting her to just tell me already she showed me the picture of Will’s Christmas gift.

Yup. A toy kitchen. Complete with a burner, coffeemaker, frying pan, plates and dishes. A complete kitchen set. For my son. I didn’t even have time to think of a good way to react because my delayed response and the look on my face must’ve given me away immediately. That put MJ on the defensive, which is never a good thing for me.

“What’s wrong? You don’t think he’ll like it?” MJ asked.

“I…uhh…well, it’s just that…it’s a kitchen. For our son.”

Tactical error on my part.

MJ must’ve anticipated this type of response from me because she had all of her ducks in a row. She told me that Will loves to cook with her in the kitchen, which is true. She told me the culinary arts are not simply for women and some of the best cooks in the world are men, which is true. And she told me I routinely make a point on this blog to tear down nonsensical stereotypes and challenge gender stereotypes, so I shouldn’t have a problem with this or else I’d be a hypocrite. Which — damn her to hell — is true.

She’s right. She’s 100% right. Will loves to cook and he should know how to cook. He’d love this as a present. And I, as an enlightened father who speaks out in the name of fairness and equality, should embrace this gift. I know this. And the rational, intelligent part of my brain accepts this as truth.

Unfortunately, the neanderthal strain of prehistoric male DNA is using a megaphone to shout “YOU CAN’T GIVE YOUR SON A KITCHEN SET!!!!”

I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I can’t help it. Girls get kitchen sets and dolls, while boys get G.I. Joes, toy tools and trucks. As a dad I’m fine with responding to Will saying “Hey Dad, wanna play trucks.”  But entertaining the thought of “Hey Dad, wanna play with my pastry cutter?” not only gives me pause, it gives me the willies.

Which is ridiculous because I want Will to be able to cook. Not only will it make him self-sufficient, but it never hurts to know your way around a kitchen to improve your luck with the ladies. But it shames me to admit the first thing that crossed my mind was that giving him a kitchen set for Christmas may deter him from even being interested in the ladies.

Like I said, that’s a completely ignorant and stupid thought. Like a kitchen set could actually influence my son’s sexual orientation. And even if my son was gay, so what? I’d still love and support him the same as always. So what’s my problem?

I don’t actually know the answer.

I know my wife is right and this is a great gift for Will. I know I’m being a hypocritical idiot. And yet every time I look at that kitchen set (which I actually put together myself if you can believe it) I cringe. it’s in the same league as a Barbie or pink socks. I’m not sure if it’s age-old gender stereotypes holding me back or my own archaic ideas about how these things should work, but I can’t deny I’m bothered by it.

But I better get over it quick because as any married guy know, the wife gets what the wife wants. And that means my masculine, future professional athlete of a son is going to wake up tomorrow, shriek with joy at his new kitchen and then ask me if I want to help him whisk.

I’m so cooked.

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Exclusive Xmas Video

In the words of Jack Buck, I cannot believe what I just saw.

It’s Christmas time, and no one exemplifies Christmas better than the Big Guy. Huh? The birth of Jesus Christ?? Sorry, I don’t think so. Forget that fairy tale, I’m talking about someone who brings everyone great joy. Spotting him as he dashes around spreading Christmas cheer has proved impossible, but I’d like to happily announce all that has changed.

I have exclusive footage to show you. That’s right, after all these years we finally caught the 300+ pound guy doing his thing. He’s in his uniform and everything. Our video caught him bringing gifts to people in the New England area a few days ago, and I guarantee you’ll never see anything else like it ever again.

Santa? Hell no, screw Santa. I’m talking about Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly!

Look at that fat guy run!!!

I know some of you aren’t football fans, but this is the longest kickoff return an offensive lineman has ever had. I love that in the beginning of the run Connolly has two hands on the ball and expects to get hit…but the hit never comes. Instead, he takes off and shows remarkable speed for a big guy. Holding the ball like a loaf of bread, Connolly lumbered 71 yards down the field to set the Patriots up for a touchdown.

I’d like to take all the credit for this since I just wrote a post praising the offensive linemen of the parenting world who never get any credit. But once in a while, the Dan Connollys of the world will turn the spotlight back to where it belongs. On fat guys inexplicably making long runs.

Merry Christmas!

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Failing Father

I’m not the dad I should be.

All fathers (and parents for that matter) fall into slumps. Right now I feel like I’m under siege by every single aspect of my life. Our financial situation is, well, bleak. The creditors will not stop calling my freaking cell phone and it’s taking a toll. Christmas is around the corner and I can’t even afford gifts for all of my family members. Meanwhile Will has decided he no longer wants to sleep through the night. He’s waking up at 1, 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning and refusing to go back to bed. That leaves me blurry-eyed and draggin’ ass most mornings.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I’m just sad lately. As we inch towards 2011, I can’t help but think of Alex and how wonderful it would’ve been to hold our New Year’s baby for the first time. I know MJ feels it too. There’s a general sense of loss and emptiness surrounding us that really just sucks.

The problem is I don’t do sad. Never really have. My version of sad is angry. Seething, venomous rage that spreads throughout my body like poison and burns unabated, before settling into a smoldering hot fire. I’m not violent or anything, just intensely unhappy.

The first thing that goes is my patience, and as every parent knows that is the one thing you need in spades to successfully deal with a toddler. I’ve lost patience with myself, with MJ and unfortunately with Will. When he talks back to me or — even worse — if he hauls off and hits me I feel my blood pressure go through the roof. When he cops an attitude after I ask him to pick up his toys, my head nearly pops off my shoulders. It’s not pretty.

The last straw has been his poorly timed decision to wake up insanely early every morning. He gets up and immediately starts to whine. I tell him to go back to bed, he whines some more. Then he demands milk. I tell him it’s too early for milk and I put him back in his room. Now he’s gone from whining to screaming bloody murder. To make matters worse, his shrilly voice demands either his monkey, dump truck or crane. Whichever one is lost at the moment, it seems, because I can never find what he’s looking for.

He asks for milk, which I then get, and then he throws the cup at me. He wants his monkey, which I give to him, but as soon as he has it he wants nothing to do with it and cries for something else. He hits me. He pinches me. After 20 minutes of assaulting my ears with his piercing shrieks, something inside of me just snaps.

“Go to bed! Be quiet and go to bed right now or so help me you’re getting the bare butt spanking. STOP CRYING AND GO TO BED DAMMIT!!”

I regret what I’ve said before the words even leave my mouth. But at that moment I don’t care. MJ hears me yelling and kicks me out of the room for making my poor son cry even harder. She takes the time to figure out what’s wrong and then soothes him, which is what I should’ve done in the first place. I feel bad, but not bad enough to do anything about it right then and there. I crave sleep more than anything so off to bed I go.

It amazes me that he still greets me with a kiss and a smile in the morning. I hug him tight and tell him I’m sorry. He accepts my apology. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve my son or my wife.

As dads we can’t make excuses. No matter what’s going on in my life I need to put all of that aside and be a good father to my little boy, who I love more than anything. I’ve been failing in that regard as of late. And I really can’t be considered a finalist for Husband of the Year either.

It’s not easy, this thing we call parenting. By and large I put Will’s needs ahead of my own like all good parents should. But lately I’m feeling very selfish. Some days I want nothing more than a quiet house, a good movie on TV and a cooler of beer. I just want to escape from my problems for awhile, no matter how temporary a respite.

But good dads don’t make excuses. Good dads just do what they have to do and they do it while they’re smiling and playing with their kids. Even if that smile isn’t all that genuine at the moment.

While driving Will to daycare this morning, I told him I was sorry for yelling at him. And then I told him I loved him very much.

“It’s OK dad,” he said from the backseat. “You just need to be good boy.”

Yes son, yes I do. I’m working on it.

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Grunt Work

My mom reminds me of an offensive lineman in the NFL.

Now before you start to write me hate mail for calling my mom a fat, hairy beast of a 350-lb monster, just hear me out. And yes, if you’re wondering, I’m about to talk about parenting by using football as an example. I’ve done it before and this won’t be the last time, so just listen.

There are 11 players who compete for each team during a game. Ask a random person on the street which positions they can name, and I’ll bet you quarterback is the first one. The quarterback is what I call a “glory” position. The QB touches the ball on every play and directs the offense. He is widely considered the most important player on the field, and as such he is revered. He throws the arcing spirals to win the game and is the first to get all the credit when things are going well.

Hell, the rules of the game are designed so that no one can hit the QB very hard.

But not many casual fans think about why a successful QB can be so good. The answer is that a QB is only as good as his offensive line. Offensive linemen are the worker bees of the NFL. Their only job is to protect the QB and do all the grunt work. While the QB is being lavished with praise for throwing the winning touchdown, the linemen are often face down in the mud after fending off enormous defensive players and giving the QB enough time to get the throw off. The QB is nothing without good protection from his linemen.

I was reminded of this on Friday when MJ and I had the rare occasion of picking Will up at school together.

MJ has to leave for work right when Will is waking up. She packs his lunch for school, but getting him up, dressed and driven to school is up to me. I deal with Will not wanting to put on his coat everyday. I deal with his teachers about school news and I’m the point person when there are issues with Will. And I navigate Will’s tears when he doesn’t want to be left at school if he’s having a bad day.

And then, at the end of the day, I’m the one picking him up because MJ doesn’t get home from work until late. That means I gather his things, drive him home, feed the dog, make dinner and clean up the house before MJ gets home. I’m not complaining, just giving you a lay of the land.

So when MJ and I walked into school together Friday to pick him up, I figured he’d be excited to see us both because that never happens and MJ rarely gets to pick him up at school.

We walked in, watched him play for a bit and then called over to him. His face contorted with pure joy and his smile grew ridiculously wide as his eyes darted furiously from me to MJ. He bounded toward us with his arms outstretched, and I savored the sweet moment of the anticipated family hug that would make everyone else in the room make the “Awwwww” noise you only hear in contrived sitcoms. I was ready. Bring on the love.

“MAMMMMMMMAAAAAAAA!!!”

Huh? Mama?? MAMA?!?!?!

That little bastard ran right past me like I didn’t even exist, and straight into MJ’s arms. I knelt there with my arms open wide — looking like an idiot waiting for a hug that wasn’t coming — while the whole room gave MJ and Will an “Awwwww.” My “Awwwww!”

And suddenly I felt like MJ was the QB who swooped in at the last minute for the win, despite my day-in and day-out lineman-esque battles in the trenches taking care of Will. She’s celebrating in the end zone while I’m bleeding on the field after clearing a path to victory. Totally not fair.

And that’s when I thought of my mom, and suddenly felt very, very guilty.

My mom did EVERYTHING for my brother and I growing up. My dad was so busy with work that we seldom saw him. But my mom stayed at home with us when we were young. And even when we went to school she was the bus driver. She was a classroom volunteer, a chaperone for field trips and she drove the bus to every single one of my away games all the way through high school.

But because it was so rare that we saw my dad, whenever he could make it to a game it was this huge deal. I’d try to play extra hard when my dad was in the stands because it could be weeks until he’d have time to make another game. I never understood how my mom — who religiously attended everything we ever did as kids — must have felt to see me get so amped up over my dad being there, yet completely take her presence for granted day after day.

Well mom, now I know.

We’re linemen. We’re dirty, we’re ugly and we work our asses off every single day. The only time anyone notices linemen is when they’ve done something wrong and the QB gets sacked. If we’re doing a good job no one says a word.

So to all the linemen parents out there who go unappreciated on a daily basis just to watch others get all the glory, consider this your heartfelt thanks and brief moment in the sun. And remember that even though you’re not getting the credit you deserve, the work you’re doing is the foundation for all future successes.

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