Tag Archives: MJ

My Son Is Starting to Doubt Santa – And That’s OK

santame

“Dad, I know the Santa Alarm isn’t real.”

The alarm my 6-year-old references is a tool we use to keep him upstairs on Christmas morning until he wakes us up and we’re all able to go down together.  It’s something my father did to my brother and I for years (more than I’m willing to admit here). I’ve never actually specified what happens if the Santa Alarm is tripped, but years ago Will chose to believe all of his presents would disappear. I never confirmed that fear, but I didn’t exactly refute it either.

But apparently he broached the topic with kids at school, who told him they’ve been downstairs before their parents woke up. Heck, they even opened a gift or two. Lo and behold, none of Santa’s gifts self-destructed or magically transported themselves back to the North Pole.

“It just doesn’t make sense, dad. It’s impossible for the presents to just disappear. That’s how I know you’re lying about the Santa Alarm.”

First of all, never underestimate the ability of small children to start huge and complex discussions just before bedtime. Second, uh oh!

This is the first brick removed from the wall. The initial pinprick leak in the dam. The chink in the armor that will one day spiderweb across the magical innocence of my son’s youth until it finally shatters into a million pieces and disintegrates upon impact.

And honestly, I’m torn on how to feel.

I have walked the Santa tightrope ever since becoming a parent. Before Will was born, I swore I wouldn’t perpetuate the Santa Myth. I was going to be that parent who didn’t unnecessarily lie to his kids. I was going to promote logical thinking and watch with pride as my son used deductive reasoning to summarily disprove and dismiss Santa. And if that upset the parents of his school friends, too bad. They shouldn’t have lied to their kids.

But then I actually became a parent and witnessed firsthand the magic that comes with Santa. Because it is real.

I loved his excitement at the thought of a larger than life figure coming to visit him in the dead of night to deliver gifts. How he longed to feed the reindeer and make sure they’re hydrated enough to continue the journey.  I envied the complete glee and wonder he displayed when one of Santa’s sleigh bells found its way into his stocking. Say what you want, but there truly is magic in it.

And yet…

When he started putting two and two together about the Santa Alarm being fake, I was surprised my first emotion wasn’t fear, panic, and loathing the impending loss of youthful naivete. It was pride. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but I was proud of him for checking with sources, applying reason, and coming to a common sense conclusion. The correct conclusion, I might add.

In that moment, I couldn’t lie to him. Yet I also didn’t come out and tell him the truth. Instead, I applauded his efforts and told him we all need to gather information and use it to determine what we do and do not believe in. I was like a shrink, turning it around on him and asking “Well what do YOU believe?” I felt like a government official at a press conference in that I would neither confirm nor deny the reality of the Santa Alarm.

Is it a cop-out? Yeah, kinda. But I also think it’s best right now.

He still believes in Santa. I like that. But I also know today it’s the Santa Alarm, but next year (or the year after or the year after that) it’s going to be doubting flying reindeer. And then the mathematical impossibility of Santa visiting every kid’s house in one night the world over. And eventually, the existence of the Big Man himself.

I think too many parents mourn the loss of youthful innocence, while forgetting to simultaneously celebrate the intellectual advancements maturity brings with it. Both have a place in our house, and neither one is better or worse than the other.

One day Santa will be gone, but there’s still magic to be had as your children grow and learn to think for themselves.

Share Button

Christmas Trees: Should You Buy Real or Fake?

xmastree

There are two types of people in this world: those who buy real, live Christmas trees and those who hate joy.

The turkeys aren’t even in the oven yet for Thanksgiving, but make no mistake — Christmas is coming. And with it comes the age-old question of whether to buy a real Christmas tree or head to a department store to buy a plastic one. You can already see where I stand on this, which is firmly in the real tree camp. But when I posed this question online, I was startled by the number of you “Fakers” out there, who happily thumb your nose at Christmas with your artificial, pre-wired holiday spirit. 

But worse than that, I was devastated to find out my wife — who once shared my belief that the only REAL Christmas tree is a real Christmas tree — has gone to the artificial dark side.

Now, this isn’t a case of us living in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow for real trees, nor is it due to allergies. Those things are understandable and unfortunate. But alas, this ain’t that. This is about her being tired of picking out the tree, lugging it home, and making sure it’s straight and tended to. She doesn’t want to worry about watering it, dealing with the strings of lights, overloading outlets, and the kids and pets that inevitably tear it down. And she REALLY can’t stand the thought of finding pine needles in the carpet for the next six months.

There are certain things you discuss prior to deciding to spend the rest of your life with one person. We talked about the importance of raising our future kids as Patriots and Red Sox fans, and never dressing our family in matching clothes for family photos. You know, the important shit. And included in that was the promise that we would ALWAYS have a real Christmas tree.

But apparently unofficial vows made just before our legally binding wedding vows don’t count for anything anymore, because she’s bailing. On me, the kids, the tree, and Christmas in general. The only way I could’ve been more devastated is if she dressed my kids in New York Yankees gear and picked that exact moment for a family photo.

Now normally when these disagreements arise, I lose. Don’t get me wrong, I put up a good fight. But wives are formidable adversaries, and husbands have a tendency to strategically surrender so life can go on and occasional nookie can still be had. However, I just can’t let this stand. So sexy time be damned, I’m going to convince MJ of the multitude of reasons real trees trump fake ones, and keep the tradition alive.

So, the million dollar question, why buy a real Christmas tree?

First of all, the choosing of the tree is a time-honored tradition and beloved family activity in the Gouveia clan. Growing up, my parents would take my brother and I to the Christmas tree lot and immediately the entire scene became an exercise in debate and compromise. My mom wanted the short, fat trees. I wanted the perfectly dimensional tree that had no flat spots or bare patches anywhere. My brother wanted any tree that wasn’t the one I picked, and my father just wanted to point out the flaws in everyone else’s trees before he grabbed one we all didn’t love but could settle on. It was exhausting, frustrating, and time-consuming. And we all loved it. Still do.

Next we’d bring it home and get set up. We had a tree stand that was apparently made in the 19th century that was incapable of holding a tree upright. But that didn’t stop the three of us from manning the top and bottom, shouting “IS IT STRAIGHT?” to my mom, as she repeatedly said “A little that way…no the OTHER way!” I’m convinced this was retaliation for never allowing her the Liberty Bell shaped Christmas shrub she craved.

Next, after it was straight but still pretty tilted, we’d get the Christmas lights out. Naturally, those lights had been bunched up and thrown into a ball out of frustration the previous year, meaning the next 90 minutes consisted of trying to untangle the lights without one of us brutally murdering the other. Then my father would add tinsel. No one else liked tinsel because it’s messy and looks tacky, but I’m pretty sure it was his retaliation to my mom’s prior retaliation.

The rule in my house was the oldest child (me) puts on the first ornament, while the youngest child (my brother) gets to put the angel on top of the tree. As the oldest, I hated this rule with a passion because CLEARLY the angel on top of the tree is cooler. So after the prerequisite 15 minutes of me whining about unfair treatment at the hands of the “Golden Child” (my nickname for my brother), I’d throw on the most heinous ornament in our collection — a HUGE cigar that either looks like a ginormous erection or an unwieldy piece of poop, depending on your perspective.

Once it was all done, we sat back and took in the absolute, hands down best part of having a real tree — the smell. That intoxicating scent of pine for which there is no substitute. And yes, you can burn a pine-scented candle if you have a fake tree, but there’s no way it’s the same. Not even close.

Having a fake tree means a trip to the attic/basement instead of the Christmas tree lot. It means not bonding over rigging up the lights and skipping that feeling of accomplishment that comes with solving a particularly nasty tangle. You can also make watering the tree a chore for kids to learn responsibility. And the smell — sweet Georgia Brown the smell. That’s really the only reason you need.

You don’t buy fake, pre-carved pumpkins for Halloween, do you? Hell no. You buy fresh ones and get messy carving them every year. A little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone. So there are some pine needles? Big deal. And yes, I have pets and they like the tree. Did the cats chew on the lights? Yes, they did. But if you hate cats like I do, that could also work out in your favor.

A lot of this is tongue in cheek, of course, but I really am putting my foot down on this one. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real tree and it’s something I want my kids to have too.

So how about it folks, real or fake? Give me your reasons for each.

Share Button

Why I Have to Stop Saying “She’s Out of My League”

hotandnot

I’ve been saying my wife is out of my league and too good for me for 10 solid years, ever since we started dating. Because…well, look at her and look at me. Many guys express similar sentiments about their wives, and we genuinely mean it as a compliment. Unfortunately, it’s a sentiment that’s really started to harm our marriage.

Background: the same scene has played out in a similar fashion over the years no matter where we go and who we meet. MJ’s beauty turns heads as she enters a room and attracts more than her fair share of attention. It’s not uncommon for strangers on a train to stop her and tell her exactly how gorgeous she is out of left field, even when I’m sitting right there. And speaking of me, I get looked at too. Only it’s very different.

They look at her, then they look at me. Once more at her, and then back to me with eyebrows raised. It’s the “Huh…how the hell did that happen?” look. Is he rich (he is not)? Is he famous (nope)? Did she lose a bet? Does he have her brainwashed? You get the point.

Even my friends, on our wedding day, asked her what the hell she was doing.

Did it sting? Yeah, it did. But instead of letting that show, I just embraced it and went with it. It became my go-to response and elicited laughs every time. Unfortunately, it stopped being a joke when, somewhere along the line, it became my reality.

I’d routinely ask MJ why she was with me. I’d demand to know how someone like her could possibly want to be with a schmuck like me. At first she’d give my ego a stroke and list out my good qualities, but that only lasted so long. Soon when I brought it up she’d just roll her eyes and say nothing. Until recently, when she had PLENTY to say about it.

“Do you have any idea how hurtful it is when you say that? First of all, women like confidence. I don’t want to hear about how awful you are and a list of everything you think is wrong with you as you throw yourself a pity party. Second, you have no idea how insulting it is to ME when you say these things about yourself. If you’re so clearly horrible and you have to constantly ask me why I married you, it makes me feel like an idiot for marrying someone I shouldn’t be married to, according to you. And if you tell someone the same thing long enough, they just might start to believe it.”

Whoa. She’s right. She’s 110% right in every way. And in a fit irony, I realized I now had a very concrete reason for feeling like an idiot.

Like many men, I spent a lot of time worried about leagues and whether I (as a self-described 5 on the 1 to 10 scale), had any business landing what I considered to be a hard 9 (if you need more info and a few laughs, check out this movie). But all those numbers, all those rankings — what a waste of time. Because come to find out, there are no leagues as far as my wife is concerned. The rankings don’t exist. They never did.

My raging insecurities put a genuine strain on my marriage. When I think of all the time I wasted basically trying to convince my wife I’m not good enough for her, I want to slap myself as I wonder “what the hell was I thinking?” But even worse, I’m sure I said some of that crap in front of my kids. Sam isn’t old enough to pick up on it, but Will sure is. So a few days ago when he said “Mom, you always look so pretty and dad doesn’t,” it didn’t surprise me at all. It just saddened me that I passed such a stupid message on to him.

Guys, our wives chose us for a reason. Hopefully, many reasons. We showed them love they never had, devotion they always wanted, and support they’ll always appreciate. And we’re attractive to them or else they wouldn’t be with us. We just need to realize it.

Share Button

Cold Weather, Heating Bills, and Why New Englanders Are Nuts

noheat

“It’s freezing in here, but don’t you DARE touch that thermostat!”

There’s a game people in New England play this time of year. A game in which the stakes are high, the temperature is low, and financial situations as well as pride hang in the balance. The rest of the country thinks we’re absolutely nuts, yet every year households engage in wintry warfare when cold fronts hit and tempers heat up, as families battle over the most pressing issue of autumn — when to turn on the heat!

I know, I know. Sounds trivial right. Most of you are saying “turn the heat on if you’re cold.” Well you know what I say to that? This isn’t Texas, Florida, or parts of California where 65-degree temperatures cause you warm weather schmucks to don winter hats and gloves and look like assholes.

This is October in New England and the decisions we make now could have long-lasting repercussions.

First of all, this area was settled by Pilgrims (who “discovered” it after Native Americans had been living here for hundreds of years), and the puritanical presence can still be felt to this day. Bars close at 2 a.m. and up until a few years ago you couldn’t buy beer on Sunday. But more than that, we’re cheap. Some of us try to call it “thriftiness” but that’s just a fancy way of saying we’re cheap. And there’s nothing we complain about more than heating bills in the winter. Depending on whether you have oil, electric, propane, or what have you, a Massachusetts heating bill during a cold snap can easily cost upward of $600 a month. Not to mention the cost of snow removal (minimum $50 per plow visit) depending on the length of your driveway.

Which means frugality + stubbornness = an unwillingness to turn on the heat until it’s deemed absolutely necessary. And by absolutely necessary I mean someone loses a finger due to exposure.

It was 60 degrees in our house today. I’m writing this in slippers, wool socks, fleece pajamas, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. My wife and kids are dressed in a similar fashion. We have scarves, long johns, blankets, and electric blankets at the ready at all times. If people didn’t know we lived here, they’d think we were homeless. We sleep in self-made cocoons and we’re careful not to leave any body part uncovered, for fear of frostbite. We use each other’s body heat to survive and the kids sleep in thermals to avoid hypothermia during the night. That noise you hear isn’t an appliance on the fritz, it’s the sound of our teeth chattering.

So why? Why do we do it? Why not just turn on the heat and end the misery? Because fuck you, that’s why!

Being the last of your friends and family members to turn on the heat is a badge of honor. Every time you hang out with people and talk about the weather, someone says “you turn the heat on yet?” I smile at the ones who look away in shame as they mutter something about “Well the wife was freezing” or “we had to because of the newborn.” Suckers. These clowns are luxuriating in warmth and enjoying feeling in their extremities, but I’m saving $37 and proving my hardy New England mettle.

But more than that, I’m passing on a rich tradition of misery and sadomasochism to a new generation, who will one day tell their crying children “that’s what blankets are for” and “we don’t live on the west coast, Sally” when they tearfully ask to turn on the heat.

Sure my kids are growing weaker by the second and my wife is seriously considering cutting me open like a tauntaun and using my innards to keep warm, but seriously — where would you rather be during winter? New England winters feature blizzards that cripple the local economy and bankrupt municipal snow removal budgets as your power goes out causing you to buy a generator which you use to power your TV so you can watch the Patriots game instead of heating your house. Now compare that to the cloudless skies of southern California where perpetual temps in the mid-70s make Christmas on the beach a reality. No contest, baby!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need another pair of socks because I can’t feel my toes.

Share Button

Should We Have Another Baby?

mjpregs

It was the first really warm day in April. Winter finally released New England from its icy grasp and nature was set free to bloom. Everything was new and the leaves were green in their infancy, and people left their houses, looked around, and smiled while taking in deep breaths of unadulterated spring.

Will and I had just tried our hand at trout fishing, with no luck. But despite the zero tally regarding the fish count, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local hot dog stand for footlongs and fries.

After placing our order, Will bolted to the playground while I sat at a picnic table waiting for our number to be called. I briefly turned my head toward the sky and smiled, then glanced toward my oldest who was already making his way across the monkey bars. My old middle school loomed in the background behind my son — an eerie juxtaposition of new and old, past and present.

It dawned on me we were eating at a place I loved in my youth, in front of a school MJ and I attended for three years. At 11 years old I had already met my future wife, despite the fact she’d move away and I’d go four years without seeing her. Then, nine years ago, MJ and I drove to that very school during a blizzard just minutes after I asked her to marry me. We danced together in the empty parking lot, snow swirling around us and flickering in the headlights.

I was lost in thoughts of storms, tranquility, past, and present when my phone rang. Fittingly enough, it was MJ.

“Perfect timing,” I said, skipping over the hello. “I was just sitting at the hot dog stand with Will and looking at the middle school and thinking about us and everything…”

She cut me off before I could finish, and I could immediately tell she was in a panic.

“Come home now. I’M FUCKING PREGNANT!”

**********************************

It’s not like we hadn’t discussed having a third child. Of course we had. It’s just that those discussions never ended with any kind of firm answer.

I think if you forced her to answer, MJ wanted another baby. As for me, well…I was truly torn. Do I want a daughter? Yes. But do I really want to go through the newborn phase again when I had such a tough time emotionally with Sam? Honestly, I don’t think so. Besides, we have terrible luck with pregnancies not to mention no room in our duplex (or our budget) for a third kid.

Also, three sounds like a lot.

I talk to parents with three kids and they’re straight up harried. Not like normal parent harried, but “tear your hair out holy crap I need six more hours in the day” kind of stressed. Three is a lot. Three’s company. Three is being forced to abandon man-to-man defense and go with zone. Simply put, three is scary.

So I told MJ the truth — I don’t honestly know how I’d react to a third kid until I was actually put in the situation.

**********************************

My first, split-second reaction was shock. Pure shock. And fear.

We can’t afford this baby. We weren’t trying for this baby. How the hell did we even get pregnant when I have a condition that gives us roughly a 2% chance of conceiving on our own without IVF? Where would the baby sleep? What would I ever do with a daughter? What the hell will I ever do with three boys? And it was all made worse by the fact that my wife was in hysterics, I wasn’t with her, and I had to keep it all together in front of Will.

I quickly collected our food and my son, and we hopped in the car to head home. I passed the middle school, I remembered dancing in the snow, I saw my oldest in the rearview mirror, and I looked at the picture on my phone of Sam.

And then I busted out laughing.

Not a giggle or a chuckle, mind you. I started belly laughing my ass off. Uncontrollable bursts of hearty laughter usually reserved for my favorite comedies. Will was looking at me like I was nuts, but for the life of me I couldn’t stop. I was laughing so hard I started crying, yet I was also wearing an ear to ear grin. As I pulled into the driveway, I laughed once more because I quickly realized I had answered my own question.

**********************************

Our baby had a due date of December 25. A Christmas baby. Our gift.

We brought Sam to the OB appointment partly because we didn’t have a babysitter (because we didn’t tell anyone the news), but also as a good luck charm — even if neither of us would admit it. Because if you’re new to these parts, we’re well-versed in miscarriages and pregnancy loss. Four miscarriages in as many years. A medically necessary abortion due to a fetal abnormality at 16 weeks. Not good.

Despite having two beautiful boys and having been through the wringer, being in that room with the ultrasound tech didn’t get any easier.

MJ hopped on the table while Sam bounced on my knee. The grainy image began to take focus on the small screen as I held Sam with one hand and took MJ’s in the other. Sam cooed and raised his hand to the screen, reaching out in an attempt to touch it. His little cherubic fingers finally found the glass, and he started tapping at it.

Right at the void where a flickering heartbeat should have been.

 **********************************

We’re fine. Really, we are.

I don’t know why or how we’ve lost five pregnancies in the seven years we’ve been trying to have kids. But you know what? I don’t know how I became so blessed to have the two unbelievable boys who call me dad. A lot of people would say we’re unlucky, but we’re not. If anything, we’re incredibly fortunate to have the life we do. To have our happy and healthy sons.

I don’t know if we’ll have another baby. That will most likely involve IVF and all the risks, effort, and potential for disappointment and heartbreak that carries with it. But at the very least, I now have an answer to the question.

I’d be thrilled to have another baby. As if there was really any other answer.

Share Button