Tag Archives: dads

A Letter to My Unborn Baby

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Dear 3rd Child,

I wasn’t always sure I wanted you.

Oh, sorry about that. Where are my manners? Hi, I’m your dad. Nice to meet you. I’m the owner of that loud voice you’re probably already sick of. If you can even hear. Honestly, I’m not even sure you have ears yet because I hate those baby development calendars that tell me how big you are by comparing you to different fruits and vegetables. You know, this week you’re a peapod and next week you’ll be the size of an avocado. Maybe it’s because some of the vegetables they use are really strange, and because I don’t eat enough of them I don’t know what they look like and then all perspective is lost. I start to feel like if I can’t use vegetables to figure out your size then maybe you don’t exist. Maybe none of us really exist. And suddenly I’m in a full blown existential crisis all because I’m unfamiliar with rutabagas.

Sorry, sometimes I get off topic a bit. As I was saying, I wasn’t really sure I wanted you. I know that’s a horrible first impression I’m making, but it’s the truth.

You see, you’re our third child. The only problem is, I never planned on having more than two. It’s nothing personal, just that I’m a big believer in man-to-man defense. Or, in other words, one parent for each kid. It’s simple in theory, and it comforts me not to be outnumbered. But your arrival means your mom and I have to switch to zone. We’re going to be out-manned, forced to play a prevent defense. Insert additional football metaphors here.

It’s not like your mom tricked me or was deceitful. When we talked about how many kids we wanted she always said “two or three at the most.” I think I just ignored the latter part and assumed we were on the same page. And then we had trouble getting and staying pregnant, so in my mind, three was almost definitely not in the cards.

Last April your mom told me she was pregnant. Unfortunately (or from your purely selfish perspective since you wouldn’t exist, fortunately), it didn’t work out. But from that experience, I learned a few things. Mainly 1) how nervous I am about having a third child, and 2) how much that doesn’t matter because another child would be a wondrous, awesome thing.

We lost that baby before I could really wrap my mind around the whole thing. But here you are in the second trimester, and the reality is staring me full in the face. But, as usual, when one of my kids seems to be the problem, one of my  kids solves the problem and shows me how stupid I am.

Case in point…

I’m freaking out because we have no place to put you. We rent a cozy 3-bedroom duplex and currently, all bedrooms are occupied. To make matters worse, none of them are very big. So the question becomes where do we put you? And the answer is we have to put your two brothers in the same bedroom — the thought of which causes me great consternation.

When Sam was born Will lost his play room because it turned into Sam’s nursery. Now another sibling is on the way and Will is going to lose half his room to a 2-year-old tyrant. As an older brother who shared a room with a younger sibling for nearly a decade, I can commiserate. That experience can be suffocating and the age difference (5 years between them) makes it even tougher. I was dreading having to tell Will and the meltdown that would surely ensue.

But guess what? Will wasn’t angry. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When I told him he’d have to share a room with Sam his eyes lit up and his smile grew wide and bold.

“You mean I get to share a room with my brother??? YESSSSSS!!!!” he said, much to my surprised delight. “I bet Sam will even climb up into my bed and cuddle at night. I can’t wait.”

And suddenly I felt very silly. It reminded me of two years ago when I worried I couldn’t possibly love another human being as much as I loved Will. But I soon found out our hearts automatically expand when a new baby arrives, and in that vein we’ll find a way to make it work regarding everyone fitting under the same roof.

As for Will’s reaction, shame on me for not seeing that coming. Now don’t get me wrong, I know full well his tune will change after a few weeks or a month of his brother all up in his face all of the time. That’s inevitable. But let this be a lesson to you, baby boy or girl, of the kind of family into which you’re entering.

Your oldest brother Will has more kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence than any 10 adults put together. He is patient, a great teacher, and so full of love he’s in danger of bursting. He’ll be your guide and best friend. Meanwhile your older brother Sam is a tornado. He attacks life with zeal and fears nothing, yet he hugs every other kid on the playground and has smiles for everyone. You’ll be closest in age to him (26 months apart) which means you’re going to battle him your entire life. Yet all the while you’ll want nothing more than to be just like him. He will push you in ways that are frustrating and obnoxious, but ultimately he’ll make you a better person and he’ll force you to work harder and keep improving.

And your mother? Well, she’s a saint. And a gorgeous saint at that. But as beautiful as she is on the outside, she’s even more spectacular on the inside. I don’t have to tell you that though. You literally know what I mean.

You’re not entering a rich family so I can’t promise you a carefree life detached from financial struggles. You won’t have the finest things, occasionally you’ll have to go without, and some days we’ll barely scrape by. But there is one thing I can promise you with complete certainty. You’re being born into a family filled with love. Passionate, unyielding, copious amounts of love and loyalty that we’re never afraid to express. From your parents to your siblings to your grandparents and beyond, love will comfort you and cushion you far better than a life of riches and luxury ever could. So welcome, my little one. You’re the last piece of the puzzle and the world is waiting. Stay safe and grow strong and healthy.

One last thing you should know — it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. As long as you’re a Patriots fan.

Love,
Dad

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The Pros & Cons of Complimenting Parents in Public

compliments
photo credit: Eres hermos@ via photopin (license)

 

***I have partnered with Similac for this piece.

People need to have more support for moms and fewer empty compliments for dads.

If you’re familiar with my writing and my unyielding advocacy of involved fatherhood, that sentence probably left you blinking in disbelief. “Did the guy who will never shut up about the importance of dads just say people need to compliment mothers more while praising dads less?” Yes. That’s what I’m saying. And no, I’m not crazy and this isn’t an impostor. Just hear me out.

When I’m out alone with my boys at the playground or a store, I am bombarded with compliments from total strangers. I’ll admit, it felt really good at first. So many people were coming up to me and telling me what a good dad I was, I felt like Superman. I don’t care who you are, it’s nice to hear a compliment. And when they come in waves and involve your children and parenting skills, it’s that much sweeter.

And then one day I saw her.

I was at a playground with Will (Sam wasn’t born yet) and was the only dad there. As usual, I was basking in the glow of all the compliments from the moms telling me what a good dad I was for being out with my kid by myself. Then I saw two kids, maybe 5 and 3 respectively, bolt by me and chase each other around the base of the playground. I could tell they were brother and sister immediately because of the bickering, which was growing louder by the second.

I looked over at the park bench and saw a clearly exasperated mom craning her neck to see where her two bickering progeny had gone. She had her hands full at the time because she was trying desperately to get her baby to latch for a mid-morning snack. Meanwhile her two oldest reached a fever pitch across the playground over the toy they both wanted, and it culminated with the older brother pushing his sister. She fell to the ground unhurt but crying, with the brother shouting at her to stop crying because they’d both get in trouble.

The mom was red-faced and hissing the names of her two kids in an effort to get them to stop. Meanwhile the jostled baby was having trouble feeding, and he/she (I couldn’t tell and it doesn’t really matter) also began wailing. I remember the “I’m at the end of my rope” look of temporary helplessness on the look of the mom. I also recall the other moms raising their eyebrows and rolling their eyes, as if to silently say “Geez, get control of your kids lady.” I remember wanting to go over there and offer to help her, or at least tell her we’ve all been there and she’s doing a great job. But for some reason, I didn’t. And now I’ll always remember regretting that.

That day made me realize something important, which is all the compliments I received from strangers regarding my parenting were actually anything but.

I’m not doing anything special when I’m out with my kids. I’m literally just walking around, getting my errands done, and hoping they can play without killing themselves or each other — same as every other parent. The reason I’m complimented is solely because I’m a dad out with his kids alone, and therefore kind of a novelty. And that sucks. It sucks for dads AND moms.

While I’m 100% confident no one has any ill will when complimenting me, I have NEVER seen a mom in the same situation with her kids receive similar kind words. Why? Because parenting their kids is what moms are expected to do.

If we truly want to move toward being equal partners in parenting, that has to change.

Dads shouldn’t be singled out for praise simply for basic parenting 101. If we accept those compliments while mothers get no public support for the same tasks, we’re automatically erasing the level playing field. We’re saying raising kids is a mom job that dad helps out with every once in a while. We’re patting dads on the head for nothing more than completing the basic job requirements of parenting. That belittles fathers and ignores mothers — a dual disservice.

That’s why now, when I see any parent struggling to keep up with their brood, I take the time to stop and tell them we’ve all been there. There are good and bad days. But either way, they’re doing a helluva job.

It’s not much and it takes so little effort, but sometimes a kind word and some reassurance — even from a stranger — is enough of a lift to get through the day. Small actions often have gargantuan positive repercussions, so next time you’re out and you see someone struggling, throw her a compliment.

And while complimenting a dad with just cause is always worthwhile, please stop doing it just because we’re out with our kids. Despite your best intentions, it ultimately comes off as patronizing and does a disservice to dads and moms.

Let’s work to support all parents, because you never know when a random kind word will make all the difference.

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ABB_SIM_BloggerBadge_250x151I was compensated by Similac for the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” campaign (#SisterhoodUnite), which aims to unite all parents in a judgment-free zone. But as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy this fantastic video Similac developed that shows we’re all #ParentsFirst when it comes to raising our kids. You can visit Similac’s website or go to its Facebook page to learn more.

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11 Ways Valentine’s Day Has Changed After Kids

vdayparents

Look, I wasn’t too fond of Valentine’s Day before I got married and had kids. It’s a contrived, ostentatious “holiday” that does nothing but set impossibly high expectations and create an atmosphere conducive to crashing and burning when the bar isn’t met.

But it doesn’t stop most people from trying.

When I was sans children, I definitely tried to put the saint in St. Valentine’s. I was flowers, jewelry, expensive dinners, and handwritten poetry. Rhyming poetry. In fact, one poem I wrote to a girl started with “On this day of St. Valentine, I’m oh so happy you are mine.” Yup, that’s right. I won’t go so far as to call myself a stud, but yeah — pretty much a stud when it came to Feb. 14 romance. Anyway…

MJ and I were like most couples before they have kids. We were attentive, passionate, and we couldn’t imagine a scenario in which stepping on a LEGO could be an injury that lands us on the sexual injured reserve list (and by us I mean me). We were young, hot, and could choose to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in a tropical paradise if we wanted.

But as kids arrived and time slipped past us, things have most assuredly changed.

As most parents will tell you, children bring a ton of joy to your lives. However, they also have a tendency to bring about the death of romance, sex, and yes — Valentine’s Day. If you’re a parent, these before and after descriptions might have you nodding your head in agreement. If you’re an expectant parent, you might wonder what the hell you were thinking. And if you’re a hot, young, fancy-free couple who gets to have Valentine’s Day sex without using SpongeBob as a distraction, I hate you. And stop judging me.

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Before: You probably went the first year without farting in the other person’s presence. You held it in and put yourself through gastrointestinal torture just to preserve the romance and aura, only releasing the horror outside after you two were finished watching The Notebook and promising to be just like Noah and Allie (yeah I watched it, so what??) forever.
After: Someone just ripped a horrible, nasty fart and now the scent is wafting through the air like a WMD. Also, you don’t even know who it was. Partner, kids, or the dog. For a second you actually have to think about whether or not it was you. Because life with kids is one noxious scent after another, and you can’t help but think how much of a prick that Nicholas Sparks is for his damn, dirty lies.

Before: Remember how you used to search high and low for the perfect Valentine’s Day card? One of those decorative, doily type deals with lace and fancy trimmings. And the wording on the inside described a love eternal, a flame burning hot, and unbridled passion that would bring tears to any eye and yearning to all loins.
After: Shit! You forgot what day it is. Now the store is all out of cards and you’ve only got minutes to spare to get something done. In a panic, you grab some paper and crayons and tell the kids to get busy. The result is a bunch of nonsensical scribbles or yet another tracing of their hands. On the inside is a hastily written “Happy Valentine’s Day! We love you!” And you know she can’t say anything to criticize it because then she’s a bad mom who doesn’t appreciate artwork from her kids. Because who needs those fancy store bought cards when this is from the heart??

Before: I remember one year, I believe it was our first Valentine’s Day, MJ went all out. She had candles lit and the room all decorated, and made a night just for me. In fact, she even put a whole bunch of Hershey’s Kisses on the ground, and told me it’s because she kisses the ground I walk on (no really, this happened!).
After: The floor? Hahahaha!! No one has seen the floor in weeks because of all these toys.

Before: Speaking of chocolates, I used to get MJ divine candies for Valentine’s Day. Boxes of delicious little treats with who knows what kind of scrumptious filling inside. Which one am I holding now? Only one way to find out. Now let me seductively feed this to you in perfect, sexy little increments.
After: Ummmmm…the store was out of chocolate. But I think I remember Sam dropped a half-eaten Peppermint Patty behind the couch. Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you — because romance.

Before: I have one word for you: massage. Ooooooh yeah, baby. You know what I’m talking about. I slowly undress you and lay you down on the bed. Then I get my array of oils and gently but firmly rub my hands all over your body. I massage you into a state of simultaneous relaxation and anticipation until neither one of us can take it any longer!
After: Well, I guess a kid walking on your back kind of counts as a massage.

Before: That hip and fancy new tapas restaurant? You’re damn right I have reservations. I’ve had them for a month because I know how much you were looking forward to this. Order anything you want off the menu baby, tonight is your night. We’ll dine like royalty and then we’ll have “dessert” at home.
After: Crap, we forgot to get a sitter and there are none available because it’s Valentine’s Day. Well, we could try going out to eat with the kids. Yeah, you’re right — terrible idea. Oh well, so should I order pizza or Chinese? Or how about leftovers??

Before: Sweet googly moogly, when I think back on what MJ was wearing during Valentine’s Day of old — yowza! She was dressed to the nines with full make-up, fancy earrings, a dress that makes men fall to their knees, and heels higher than Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused. Like she stepped out of Vogue and onto the runway. Hell, even I managed to put on a suit and tie once in a while and flirt with looking dapper.
After: She’s in yoga pants. I’m in pajamas. Will has a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit on and Sam is sporting this season’s latest diaper trend from Target. Also, is that poop or chocolate on your sleeve? Yeah, you’re probably right. Best not to find out.

Before: Foreplay. When I think back on how much time we had before kids for all things related to sexy time — hellllloooooo nurse! Not to go all TMI on you, but most couples I know were like us. Enjoying being together for hours in various states of undress, taking your time, whispering sweet nothings, whispering dirty somethings, and generally letting the proverbial oven heat up until the timer goes DING!
After: Foreplay consists of the brief moments before someone shouts “JUST HURRY UP AND FINISH, THE BABY IS WAKING UP!!!”

Before: Sex. Doin’ it. Gettin’ busy. The main event. After all, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is REALLY about? All the fancy dinners, gifts, cards, etc. are really just a prelude to taking a trip to Funky Town. And couples with no kids can do that any time they want. Anywhere they want. At any volume they want. For so many, sex is the end all be all and if it’s good, then everything else is good.
After: Hey parents, without thinking about it tell me which one of these you’d rather do — sleep together or be able to sleep in? Yeah, thought so.

Before: Think back to pre-kid times and try to remember what you did after sex on Valentine’s Day. I bet there was some cuddling and almost certainly some spooning. Whether you were big spoon or little spoon, you had time to reflect on the earth-rattling experience the two of you just created, while you breathe in her heavenly scent and feel his strong arms wrapped around you in a beautiful embrace.
After: Get on your own side of the bed! Don’t you dare cross the unseen but very real border that separates us and maintains the delicate peace as we struggle to get scraps of sleep.

Before: At the end of a beautiful Valentine’s Day that consisted of looking our finest, eating an exquisite meal, receiving lovely cards and gifts, and was capped off by the best session of lovemaking EVER, what’s left to do? Chat for a bit about life while gently trailing off to sleep as we gaze into the wonder of each other’s eyes, naturally.
After: Wanna binge-watch Netflix?

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The Timer and the Parenting Clock

will_time

“What the hell is that ticking??”

Of all the cringe-inducing, brow-furrowing, and anxiety-producing things my children play with, the timer is by far the worst. No drum set or obnoxious singing Elmo can possibly compete with the havoc this contraption has wreaked on my addled, fatherly mind. Nevermind the fact that when I first heard it, I thought I was having some sort of episode. But seriously, who the heck gives a timer to kids with a father who is a chronic over-thinker and incessant worrier??

I mean c’mon. I can’t think of a more heavy-handed metaphor in the world than the ticking clock of parenting. From the minute our children are born we’re literally on the clock. At first we time them to see when they utter their first words and take their first steps. Then, when they complete these things at warp speed, we suddenly FREAK OUT and desperately wonder where all the time went as we drop them off at kindergarten, watch them go on a first date, and eventually drop them off at their college dorms.

Parents are in a mortal battle and locked in an eternal death match with time. Except the only way we survive it on a daily basis without losing our damn minds is by keeping it on the back burner and putting it out of sight and out of mind for brief periods of time.

That becomes a bit more difficult when you’re suddenly surrounded by constant ticking and a jolting “BRRRRIIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGGGG!” every few moments.

Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s not like this is a modern timer with a palatable little beep when the clock strikes zero. No, no, no. This is one of those old school timers with a little hammer that vibrates between two metal bells. It reminds me of the sound my grandmother’s old rotary phone made whenever she received a call. It’s loud. It’s harsh. It can’t be ignored.

“Dad, how much longer do you have to work?”

I tell him five minutes. I always tell him five minutes. And by all things I hold holy I try to get everything done in five minutes. But even if it takes a little longer I can generally get away with it, because kids lose interest and time is super relative to them. So I squeeze in one more email. One more status update on Facebook. One more tweet. One more —

BBBBRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!

Five minutes. On the dot. Followed by raised eyebrows and an expectant glare, thanks to his newfound ability to tell time down to the nanosecond. Crap. I just have one more thing to do. Just a couple more minutes, bud?

I type a little faster now trying to finish up. Oh damn, someone left a nasty comment on my Facebook page. What a jerk! I have the absolute perfect response though, and there’s no way I’m letting this a-hole get away with this crap. Not on my watch. I’m just going to rip this guy a new one by telling him —

BBBBRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!

Now the anxiety really sets in. I’m on the clock. I’m on the clock when I’m at work trying to earn money so my family can survive and thrive. I’m on the clock for my freelance gigs and sponsored content, all with deadlines ticking down.

But most importantly, I’m on THE clock. The parenting clock. The only clock that seems to run at a different rate. The only clock that never stops. Yet it’s the clock I push to the side the most. Kids are people and when you’re dealing with them — your loved ones — you’re just hoping for some give — a little human leeway. And they do give, a little at a time. Repeatedly.

Until a sudden and harsh alarm bell lets you know exactly where your priorities should be. Maybe Super Dads don’t need such a reminder, but my cape is at the dry cleaner’s. And just like that, the timer is more blessing than curse. A loud, annoying, perfectly necessary blessing.

Because my biggest fear isn’t that time is passing too quickly. It’s that I’m not spending what little time I have wisely enough.

BBBBRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!

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Similac: Stop the Judgment Because We’re Parents First

***I have partnered with Similac for this piece.
fish

The first online parenting community I joined in 2008 almost kicked me out just for being a dad.

It was early 2008 and my wife was pregnant with Will. I didn’t even know what a dad blog was yet, and it would be several months before I’d become an official dad blogger. All I knew was I was about to become a dad and I had no information and a very small support network. So I went to BabyCenter and joined a birth board.

Finally I had a place to go online and talk with people going through the same thing due the same month. Some of them were second and third time parents as well, which allowed me to ask questions that would benefit me down the road. I jumped right in with both feet and asked questions and joined discussions, happy to have a place that finally made me feel like I wasn’t isolated.

Except I’d soon feel more alone than ever.

Suddenly there was talk of “spying” and other women who said they didn’t feel comfortable talking with a man in their presence. There was even a public debate about whether or not to hold a vote that would determine my fate in the group. Not only was I outraged, I was disappointed. The website catered to moms, sure, but it clearly said it was for “parents.” I was on the verge of telling them off once and for all and quitting the group before they could throw me out, when something pretty awesome happened.

A few of the moms contacted me privately and told me to hang in there. When I expressed how pissed I was, they said they understood but they also told me to take a breath and come at it from a different angle.

So instead of getting angry, I joined more conversations than ever. I started threads asking for help and advice, and I offered thoughtful comments when other people asked for help. In short, I made myself an active and attentive part of the community and soon most of the moms there saw that for themselves and came around to the idea of a man in their midst. Not everyone, mind you, but the overwhelming majority accepted me as an involved parent and I stayed in that group for several years.

So what’s the point? Sometimes parenting can feel like a judgmental contact sport played in the Thunder Dome.

“Oh you use disposable diapers? Well I just care about the environment too much to do that.”

“You know, most people who use formula just aren’t trying hard enough at breastfeeding.”

“I heard babies who use pacifiers have lower IQs.”

Look, this stuff is almost certainly going to happen at some point when you’re raising kids. And most involved dads can tell you more than a few stories about exclusion online, getting the stinkeye on the playground, and not being invited to playdates. But the trick I learned seven years ago still applies today, which is just keep plugging. Keep showing people you’re a dedicated parent. Keep being involved no matter what. Sure you could drop a bunch of insults and go nuclear (I’ve fallen down this rabbit hole in the past), but in the end the best comeback is killing them with kindness and making yourself look competent and positive. Eventually people will take notice and then they’ll take your side.

The proof is in the pudding.

Even seven years later, I’m still friends with a handful of moms from that birth board, and we’ve been there for one another as our kids have grown up.

And as far as dads making progress, if you watched the Super Bowl this year you probably noticed dads finally made the marketing big time and have worked our way into the larger conversation. How did that happen? Years of involved fathers publicly embracing the shifting landscape of modern masculinity, making fatherhood a priority, and positively speaking up until we began getting a seat at the table.

Take this very promotion. Similac has invited me (a dad) to take part in a campaign that’s ordinarily been mom-only. More than that, they recognized the importance of including dads by including the #ParentsFirst hashtag.

So when you find yourself in the crosshairs of parental judgment and you feel like lashing out, just remember you’re better than the people taking their insecurities out on you. And if you choose to highlight your positive traits, others will see you shine and join you.

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I was compensated by Similac for the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” campaign, which aims to unite all parents in a judgment-free zone. But as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy this fantastic video Similac developed that shows we’re all #ParentsFirst when it comes to raising our kids.

You can visit Similac’s website or go to its Facebook page to learn more.

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