Monthly Archives: June 2011

Kids & Irish Drinking Songs

Oh calm down, its empty.

Country music and Irish tunes.

When it comes to defining my musical tastes, that pretty much sums it up. I listen to one radio station, 98.1 FM out of Providence, that plays country music. I have one CD in my car, Great Big Sea, which is a Newfoundland Celtic band. And on the rare occasions I do break out my iPod, it’s full of both country and Irish. Needless to say Will is bombarded with my music and has taken to it like a duck to water.

But lately I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

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Preschool: “Hi Mr. Gouveia, I was wondering if I could have a word with you about William.”

Me: “Of course. Is everything OK?”

Preschool: “Well, William’s been acting a little strange lately. Saying some very odd things. I don’t mean to pry, but is everything OK with your marriage?”

Me: “Excuse me? My marriage?? Why would you ask me that?”

Preschool: “William keeps saying something about a ‘scolding wife’ and saying ‘I swear to God I’ll hang myself if I get married again.’”

Me: “Oh, well that’s a simple misunderstanding. You see—”

Preschool: “And it seems to me either you or your wife has a drinking problem that is taking its toll on William.”

Me: “Neither one of us has a drinking problem. Why would you say that?”

Preschool: “When we ask him what he wants to drink during snack time, he either asks for ‘whiskey in a jar‘ or something called the ‘old black rum.’ I assume you know it’s highly unusual and inappropriate for a 3-year-old to mention such things.”

Me: “Yes but it’s not as bad as you think—”

Preschool: “Not as bad as we think? Mr. Gouveia, your son is talking about about a zombie named Tim Finnegan rising from the dead after mourners at his wake used his body to cool down their alcoholic beverages.”

Me: “It’s just a song called Tim Finnegan’s Wake, it’s really harmless.”

Preschool: “Harmless huh? Is it harmless that Will asked if one little girl was a mermaid, and then said he desired some ‘tail?’”

Me: “To be fair, that’s just kinda funny.”

Preschool: “No Mr. Gouveia it is not funny. Hearing a toddler talking about Drunken Sailors, pulling dead horses named Charlie out of ponds, the night Patty Murphy died and how he used to work in Chicago does not constitute good parenting.”

Me: “Hey, it’s better than rap.”

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Men Need Friends Too

There is an interesting debate going on at the Good Men Project about whether dads-to-be should be allowed a bachelor party level night of fun with the guys before his baby is born. But in thinking about it, I believe we all missed a deeper issue.

A lot changes when you have a kid. Many of those changes are absolutely wonderful and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But others are sad. Namely, as a guy, there’s a stark realization that when one of your friends has a kid, there’s a definite chance you’ll essentially lose him as a friend.

There are several factors at work. First of all, having a kid is the ultimate time-suck (and I mean that in the best way possible). Getting into a routine, diaper changes, midnight feedings…it’s exhausting and takes maximum effort. Then they become mobile and require even more looking after, then toddlerhood and finally onto youth sports, drama club, music lessons, etc. It is truly all-consuming. But there are other reasons too.

Some wives use a baby’s arrival as an opportunity to cut “undesirable” friends out of her husband’s life.

Protest all you want, but it’s true. I’ve seen it happen. She makes him feel guilty the minute he says he wants a night out with his friends. She tells him he’s a father now, he shouldn’t be going out, he’s irresponsible, etc. All of his friends call him and invite him out at every turn, but he never comes. Then he stops returning calls. Then the friends stop bothering to invite him. In the blink of an eye everyone has lost a good buddy, and that’s not right.

Much is being made of “dadchelor parties” for men but it’s much more than that douchey name implies. I probably shouldn’t let you behind the Man Curtain, but I’m going to because I think this is important.

I love my friends. They’re extremely important to me. Before I got married and had kids I spent every single weekend with them. We’d gather at someone’s house, drink, eat, talk and have fun. Sometimes we got a little nuts and it turned into a mini bachelor party (no strippers, just booze and girls and fun), but for the most part we just hung out.

And despite what all the sitcoms would have you think, we didn’t just have farting and belching contests. We talked. A lot. We talked about our girlfriends, our jobs, our successes, our failures and where we were headed. I’ve had more meaningful drunk 3 a.m. front porch conversations with my friends than I can count. And sure, while we might spend the majority of our time hurling finely crafted insults at one another, there was some important stuff mixed in there too.

It was so important to me that when MJ and I started talking about marriage, I told her I’d still need a decent amount of time with the guys. Thankfully she understands completely and has no problem with me going out from time to time. Not a lot, but enough. But some guys have far less understanding wives and aren’t so lucky. And that’s too bad.

Men won’t often admit they need their friends. That sounds weak, or even “gay.” And when we get married or have a kid, there is a genuine fear we’ll lose our friends. And therefore a little bit of ourselves. And that’s a valid worry because it happens all the time, made worse when a wife decides it’s irresponsible or disrespectful for him to spend any time at all away from his family.

But for guys like me, there’s no line between good friends and family. And there’s no doubt I’m a happier man—a better father and husband even—when I can carve out a little time with the people I love without being made to feel guilty about it. And yes, sometimes that time could include going on a bender and getting juvenile and stupid. But so what? As long as I’m giving my wife the opportunity to do whatever makes her happy on her own, and as long as I’m not consistently shirking my duties as husband and father, the occasional party binge with friends is just fine.

But ladies, rest assured that what appears to be a regression back to our college frat days has deeper meaning. Sure we’re drinking and carrying on, but we’re also reconnecting and renewing our male friendships. Like any relationship, it takes effort to maintain them. We wouldn’t deny you “Girls Night Out,” so stop getting all bent out of shape about our guy excursions.

Men need friends too.

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Dads Are Always There When You Need Them

It’s a little belated, but here’s my Father’s Day post which first ran at the Good Men Project.

My 3-year-old son stands on our bed smiling nervously. Squeaking with excitement as he creeps closer and closer to the edge, he peers down at the ground and then at my outstretched arms. No doubt assessing the situation and calculating toddler physics in his head.

I’m daring him to jump to me. He’s not so sure.

For several minutes he looked like he had OCD. Back and forth. Confident then scared. He’d walk to the edge of the bed—in a hilarious looking half-crouch ready to pounce—and then lose his nerve and retreat in a fit of anxious giggles. I just watched with great amusement, held my arms out for him, and smiled. Then I simply uttered “I gotcha.”

Suddenly he left his fears on the bed and flew at me with reckless abandon. I caught him under his arms, held him up, and spun him around while laughing. But after exchanging a hearty high-five, the kid dropped a bombshell on me.

“You always catch me dad.”

I know he meant that I physically catch him every time he jumps off the bed. But to me, at this point in my life, it meant so much more. And it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Two weeks ago I left the comforts of journalism and took a new job. While the paycheck is better, the commute is not. It’s usually around two hours. Each way. Sometimes more. Gone is the flexible scheduling, getting Will dressed in the morning and dropping him off at preschool. No more making dinner together and taking the dog for a walk. With my commute, I’m gone before he’s awake and home an hour before he’s in bed.

I’m officially a part-time parent. And I’m having a hard time adjusting.

♦◊♦

My father is my hero. I’ve tried to be like him at every turn. Unfortunately he was seldom around when I was a kid. Although plenty smart enough, he missed the chance to go to college. But he lucked out and got an opportunity to help start a business from the ground up. It required long hours, and that was on top of being a town official.

He was at a selectman’s meeting when I hit my first out of the park home run. My mom was there (because she was SuperMom and there for everything), but the first Little League homer is a uniquely father-son moment.

I had to wait until after the game and we made our way over to Town Hall, where his meeting was in progress. When he noticed us he raised his eyebrows wondering why we were there. I held up the baseball the team had given me, swung an imaginary bat and made the home run signal. His eyes went wide and his face lit up as he smiled. I knew he was proud. But the next face he made had regret and disappointment written all over it. If he was a cartoon, the bubble above his head would’ve read “I can’t believe I missed it.”

Fast forward to the present.

I’ve been a parent for three years, but now everything is different. My wife is temporarily out of work and I’m the breadwinner now. For the first time our family’s survival depends on my paycheck, but my paycheck requires a hellish commute that has me spending more hours in the car on a daily basis than with my son. I’m going to miss things. Things like talking to the preschool teacher everyday and being the “go-to” parent. Little things, but those are always the most important.

When I talked about my feelings recently, my dad chimed in and said “This is the real test of parenting. It’s very tough, and the guilt can be awful. This is where you learn just how tough parenting really is, and just how valuable the years and the moments really are.”

My dad more than made up for the things he missed early on. He’s always been there no matter what. He’s still running a business and he’s still a town official. But whenever I needed something he always found a way. Without fail. He was always there to catch me. Still is.

Happy Father’s Day to all the catchers.

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Evil Comcast

www.mycabletvsucks.com

Even the best parents have dirty little secrets.

Will has been watching movies On Demand, which has been extraordinarily helpful for the times we need him to quiet down and prepare for naps/bedtime. Through our cable company, Comcast, the movies are free and available anytime. And that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Until Comcast decides to change their On Demand movies.

For weeks Will was fascinated with a movie called Dragon Hunters. It was this weird little animated film that was mildly entertaining for me, but Will frickin’ loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it. And so we watched it. A lot. Over and over again until we both started to memorize the words. We would seldom watch all of it because he can’t sit through an entire movie, but if I turned it on I knew he’d settle down.

A few months ago Will got up early on a Saturday and wouldn’t go back to sleep. So I told him I’d turn on Dragon Hunters and then I planned on getting some much needed Zzzzzs.

But Dragon Hunters was gone.

Comcast occasionally switches out some of their movies in the On Demand section and apparently Dragon Hunters found itself on the chopping block. I checked all the other channels, hoping against hope it might’ve just switched to another section of On Demand. But alas, it was gone.

And in its place was a screaming, inconsolable toddler.

“DADA WHHHHYYYYY? WHY IS DRAGON HUNTERS GONE? WHAT HAPPEN? WHO TOOK IT?!!?!?” he wailed.

Instead of explaining why the cable company keeps movies on a rotation, or just making up another excuse a kid would believe, I said the first thing that came to mind. Which was also the truth.

“Comcast did it pal.”

He asked who Comcast was and I told him it’s the company in charge of playing all the movies. Then he asked if Comcast is evil. Suddenly I flashed to every time the damn cable company said they’d be there between 2-5 p.m., every billing problem, every time they changed the friggin channel numbers. And then then I looked my son in the eye, nodded solemnly and confirmed that indeed, Comcast is evil.

Since that fateful day, many of Will’s beloved movies have come and gone. But we didn’t exactly draw the line at missing movies.

My back was really hurting me one day recently and I told Will I couldn’t pick him up. He asked why my back hurt, but before I could answer he said “Did Comcast do it?” Since I didn’t feel like explaining the complexities of my back pain, I rolled with it. Yes son, Comcast hurt my back. Then one day we couldn’t find his favorite stuffed animal, Monkey. We couldn’t find it because I had left it at my parents’ house by accident. So, as a responsible parent, you’d think I owned up to it right? Hell no! I blamed that one on Comcast too.

Now it’s become somewhat of a running joke:

Why is Mama sick? Comcast did it.

The Red Sox lost? Comcast did it.

Why can’t I have a new toy? Because Comcast said no.

I’ve blamed Comcast for just about everything over the last two months. Comcast is responsible for acid rain, global warming, the recession, bad weather and early bedtimes. Last week Will asked for Mac & Cheese for dinner but we were out. You think Mom or Dad took the hit for not going grocery shopping on time? Hell no, that shit is Comcast’s fault.

Last week Will asked me if Comcast lived with the Yankees and the Gmork. I figured we’ve come this far, why not go the whole nine yards?

As a result, I don’t think a kid has ever feared/loathed anything more than my son hates the cable company. We were watching TV recently and a commercial for Comcast came on. The second that name was uttered Will’s head snapped around and he growled at the TV. Yup. Growled. With bared teeth and all. It was funny at first, but now I worry he’s two steps removed from pulling a Ralphie in A Christmas Story when Scott Farkus pushes him just a little too far.

But hey, even if that happens it’s not on me. Comcast did it.

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Missing My Son

It’s 8:35 p.m. and I just put my son to bed. That’s not surprising, since I’ve done that almost every night since he was born. But usually when I put him to bed I’ve already spent four hours with him, fed him dinner, played games, given him a bath and read books. And that doesn’t even count our morning routine during which I get him dressed and take him to school.

But that was before I started my new job.

Now I’m awake before 6 a.m. and out the door by 6:30. Usually Will isn’t even up yet. After commuting two hours to my new office I work a full day and then make the two-hour trek back home. Almost the whole trip—71 miles each way—is in gridlock. It’s after 7 p.m. when I finally get home. I’ve missed dinner, which is sad because I know sitting down to a meal together is MJ’s favorite part of the day. No TV, no laptop, no cell phone…just the three of us talking and eating. Together.

By the time I get settled and scarf down leftovers, it’s time for Will’s bath. And 30 minutes later it’s bedtime. Lights out. That’s it.I went from being my son’s primary caregiver to spending two hours a day with him. And not much longer with my wife.

It’s been really tough.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like my new job and all of my co-workers. The commute sucks but I’ve got my podcasts and I’m adjusting to it. But I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to being a part-time parent. To hearing my 3-year-old ask why I don’t bring him to school anymore and why I can’t come home earlier to see him. It’s disconcerting I’m no longer the one getting daily updates from his preschool teachers, hearing about who he played with or playing his favorite music on the way to and from school.

It got so bad that this morning, while I was getting ready, I kept hoping Will would wake up. And when he didn’t wake up on his own, I “accidentally” made some noise in his room. Just so I could have 15 extra minutes with him.

Making more money is a great thing and I’m proud to provide for my family. But I miss them. Terribly.

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