Tag Archives: parenting

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

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“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.

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Celebrate the First Day of School, Don’t Mourn It

school_angstLast September, I stood in my driveway on a cool autumn morning and watched my then 5-year-old beam with pride. After briefly struggling under the weight of his oversized backpack and kissing everyone goodbye, he was literally buzzing with excitement as the big yellow school bus pulled up. He bolted up the steps, found a friend to sit with, the doors closed, and off he went to kindergarten. The kid never even looked back to wave.

Which is to say it was a complete success, because that’s exactly how my wife and I wanted it.

There was no sobbing in the corner. No hand-wringing. No cursing of time and how it robs us of our little babies. No one jumped in the car to follow the bus like some crazed helicopter parent stalker just in case our little cherub had a tough time. Mainly because, in the weeks leading up to the big moment, we treated the first day of school as an exciting and joyously momentous occasion — something to celebrate instead of mourn and fear. And I firmly believe because we took that approach, so did he.

That stands in stark contrast to the script playing out for many other parents, and parent bloggers, who seem to dread the start of school. Some even seem to be making it about themselves instead of their kids.

Look, I get being astounded at how fast the time passes. And, as some pointed out, I also understand getting a little melancholy, or being so proud on the first day of school that you shed some tears out of happiness. While I completely get that we’re all different and so are our emotional responses,  I think emanating a feeling of dread leading up to the first day of school — and then either crying or hovering in front of your kid on the day of — is a potentially terrible thing.

Our kids look to us for direction, so if we’re showing signs we’re upset about a huge transition, it stands to reason they’ll start getting upset and anxious as well. That’s why there was no crying on Will’s first day, and we didn’t go to the school with him to witness his transition into the classroom. MJ and I talked, and we thought getting sad in front of him and showing up at the school sends the message that something is wrong, there’s a reason to be sad, and he can’t do it on his own.

But he can do it. And he did.

Also, I know I’ve delved into this topic before, but I just don’t get the constant wailing about wishing we could turn back the clock. Parents of incoming kindergarten students, you have no idea what kind of amazing things you’re in for this year. If they can’t read already, suddenly they’re reading EVERYTHING. And if they can already read, their skills are sharpened exponentially and taken to the next level. Will grew so much in kindergarten both inside and outside of the classroom, and it was amazing witnessing his progress in real time.

Time flies and lamenting its passage is understandable to a degree. But as a parent, I just won’t let that sadness ooze out in front of him — especially not on the first day of school. I won’t turn something that’s supposed to be exciting into anything resembling a negative. Because as a Facebook acquaintance who works as a kindergarten teacher wrote:

First day of school this year a mom started to cry…what does the boy, who was absolutely fine up to that point, do?? He starts crying – no wonder. If the mom cries the child gets the feeling something must be wrong or even bad about this place, so he starts crying too. The mom stayed all morning (Grrrrrr!!) and sobbed all morning long. Please, by all means go cry if it helps you, but do it AFTER you said goodbye and your child can’t see you anymore!”

See? It’s bad for the kid, the parents, and even the teachers. That’s why when Will has his first day of first grade tomorrow, it’ll be with a smile on all of our faces. A happy day with no tears. A day we’ve been looking forward to, and the start of a new chapter.

I’m saving the tears for three days from now when I’ll be having trouble helping Will with his first grade math homework.

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The 5 Stages of Spending Time Without Kids

nokids“Holy $*&%, I just need some time for myself and away from these kids!!”

How many parents have uttered some variation of that phrase at some point in time? I know I have. Hell, I just went through life with an infant again this past year. Between Sam’s multiple nightly awakenings, screaming fits, and teething, combined with Will’s adjustments to big brotherhood and the first year of school, I used to fantasize about a life of solitude in a quiet mountain cabin where no one could find me and I could pee alone.

But on the rare occasions we’re granted a parental sabbatical, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend — we miss our damn kids too much!

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s not too long after I’m sprung from the asylum that I start to — gulp — miss it a little. And then a lot. It’s like some sort of parental Stockholm Syndrome. I just spent 55 hours on my own, and here are the stages of kidlessness I experienced.

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Stage 1: FREEDOM!!!!!!!!
The first stage is characterized by an initial and intense feeling of release. Like I’m Andy Dufresne finally escaping Shawshank Prison through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness. Or like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only if I skipped the torture and got to sleep with Sophie Marceau again instead. Whether your childfree time is going to last for a night or a week, it seems the possibilities are endless and you can do anything. Road trip, baseball game, bar, expensive dinner, or even a movie at the theater that doesn’t have cartoons — the world is your oyster.

Stage 2: Whatever I Want!
Sure, you’re going to put your Vegas trip into action soon. But that can wait for a minute, while you enjoy the little things you can’t do when the family is around. You know, the simple things you used to do when you were single. As for me, I immediately strip down to my boxers, stretch out on the couch, and watch SportsCenter while scratching myself at will. Either that or all the movies no one else likes. Then I have a dinner that consists of Kraft mac & cheese, beer, and Doritos. Normally I’d be chastised for my post meal bodily functions, but only the dog was affected this time (and she was guilty of a few nasty ones too). And then — as the grand finale — I take up the entire king size bed by sleeping diagonally, as opposed to sleeping on the sliver of bed I have after the wife and dog are accounted for. Sure it might SEEM slightly pathetic that a grown man can enjoy farting in peace, leaving the toilet seat up without reproach, and using a plethora of bed space so much, but best not to dwell on such matters for long. There’s work to do.

Stage 3: Reality Sets In
After you’ve eaten like a pig and reveled in smelling like one as well, it’s time to get serious about this temporary kid hiatus. That’s when you start thinking of all your friends and get ready to call them up to have a good old fashioned rager of a party. You call Jim but his oldest has summer baseball and his youngest has a ballet recital. No worries. Skip right to Brian, only to find out he’s going to a concert. Awesome, right? Because you haven’t been to a live show in years. The only problem? It’s a “Wiggles” concert. Andy and Jake moved away, Ted doesn’t want to stay out past 10 pm because he’s coaching T-ball in the morning, and Bill already went out for a night this month so he’s used up his privileges. Suddenly you realize two things: 1) You’re old, and 2) Spontaneity is officially dead. Which makes you sad. Which leads to additional mac & cheese, Netflix, and gas.

Stage 4: This Kind of Sucks
This stage sees panic setting in. You’ve gorged yourself, farted at will, lounged around in your boxers, and realized all of your friends are now lame. You start calling your wife and kids more often just to hear what they’re doing. While you’re watching TV, you see “Jake and the NeverLand Pirates” and consider watching it because you know how much your oldest likes it. But you’re barely even watching TV now because you’re mostly looking at family pictures hanging in the hall, as you make one more call to the family to see what they’re doing now.

Stage 5: COME HOME!!!
This is when things get really desperate. Suddenly your faltering plans don’t even matter, because you’re too busy playing with Transformers and sitting in the kids’ empty rooms getting emotional. You’re not even watching TV because you’re combing through six years of YouTube home videos. You know they’re due home today so you up your calls to every hour on the hour just in case they get home early. In a fit of total desperation and longing, you flip on Frozen and sing “Let It Go” with tears streaming down your face as you promise never to take your family for granted ever again.

When they finally pull into the driveway you sprint out barefoot because you’re so damn happy to see them. You rip open the door of the minivan to see your precious little angels, only to have the youngest sneeze in your eye and simultaneously take a dump the likes of which makes landfills blush, while the oldest bitterly complains you woke him up from his nap.

I need a break…

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Why I’m Fine With My Kids Growing Up So Fast

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Sometimes I look around at all the other people on this parent blogger landscape and wonder what the hell is wrong with me.

As the month of June stretches its legs and summer takes off into a full gallop, school is coming to an end for our kids. That means lots of photo montages of the first day of school in September compared with the last day this month. Which is great — I did the same thing. But what I didn’t do — what I can’t seem to understand — is the average parent constantly lamenting the supersonic speed at which time passes and their inability to stop it in its tracks.

So many parents seem eager to keep kids young forever. As for me, a guy who has already gone on the record as loathing the newborn phase, I don’t understand it. All I wanted to do since Sam was born is hit the fast-forward button so I could skip ahead to better times. Instead of crying, eating, and shitting all the time he’s talking a bit, walking even more, and has even started signing things like “milk” and “more.” And, last but not least, he’s sleeping (thank f*cking God).

And Will? The best thing about my awesome 6-year-old is he’s gotten more and more terrific with each new day. He reads, he writes, he carries on meaningful conversations, he plays sports, he reasons things out, and he’s meeting life’s challenges with an open heart and mind.

Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t come absent complications.

He’s dealing with peer pressure at school and we had to punish him pretty severely after he got in trouble for drawing on a school bus seat. He doesn’t know what to make of girls yet, and can’t understand why they won’t stop trying to kiss him, which led to a pretty serious conversation about boundaries and respect for others. And recently he came home in tears because his classmates laughed and wouldn’t believe him when he told them it’s perfectly OK for two women or two men to get married to each other. These are all tough issues and bring about a lot of angst and worry as a parent.

But I prefer this stuff over Will’s time as a baby and toddler every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And Sam? Well, I don’t feel guilty in the least for saying I would’ve paid good money to skip through the sleep-deprived and terrible months following his birth. There was very little positive about that time and I’m forever glad it’s in the rear view mirror.

I didn’t cry when I dropped Will off at daycare for the first time. I didn’t lose it when he graduated preschool (aside from wondering why the hell a preschool graduation ceremony even exists). I didn’t openly weep and follow his bus to school in my car on his first day of kindergarten.

It’s not because I’m a cold-hearted jerk either, it’s because I was too busy celebrating those moments.

The more time passes, the more spectacular my kids get. Every day brings something new and incredible, and as they get older I personally relate to them more. It’s more fun, more interesting, and more challenging. I welcome those challenges, and greatly prefer this time to the newborn phase.

Parents of older kids will tell me I’ll change my tune when they’re teenagers and then adults. Maybe that’s true. I haven’t been through it so I can’t judge.

But even when Will is an obnoxious teenager who thinks he knows everything and I’m just some dumb, out of touch jackass who is too hard on him, I still don’t think I’ll be longing for the days of pacifiers, diapers, and potty-training. And I certainly don’t want to freeze time, because each day reveals another nugget of awesomeness and shows how truly lucky I am to be on this journey.

And after all, parenting is a trip that never really ends. It just evolves.

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If you liked this feel free to check me out on Twitter and Facebook. If you didn’t like this, that’s OK too. You can still follow me on those accounts and then hate-share everything I post. As long as my incessant need for your attention is satisfied.

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8 Stupid Things You Should Stop Saying to Dads

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As Father’s Day approaches, dads all over the country are being asked what we want as a gift. Most of us say something along the lines of “I don’t need anything because I’ve got you and the kids and that’s all I need.”

Screw that.

I’m asking for something this year. Something specific. And I’m not just requesting this gift for myself, but on behalf of involved dads everywhere. Basically, I want you to stop making us insane by saying (mostly unintentionally) stupid, thoughtless, and insulting crap that makes us crazy.

Please read this list and take it to heart, because sometimes it’s the people we’re closest to who are the biggest offenders. The best part is this gift is free, it’ll lower our blood pressure, and it’ll stop us from secretly hating you every time you open your mouth.

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8. “You’re SUCH a good dad.”
Wait…what? Is he really complaining about people COMPLIMENTING dads? Yes, he is. And I’ll tell you why. When I’ve received this compliment, I’ve never been doing anything extraordinary. I didn’t just save my boys from oncoming traffic or rescue them by fending off a rampaging grizzly. I was just out and about with them being a dad. Sometimes I wasn’t even alone, my wife was right with me. And therein lies the rub — no one would ever give that compliment to a mom. As a dad seeking to be an equal partner in parenting, that means no special treatment. If you wouldn’t compliment a mom just for doing her job as a parent, don’t do it for dads either. We shouldn’t get praise simply for doing what we’re supposed to do.

7. “Looks like dad dressed the baby.”
I’ll admit, I don’t have what most people would call “fashion sense.” I think purple and orange are complimentary colors, stripes and plaids go together just fine, and “dressing up” means the jeans with no holes. So when it’s my turn to get the baby dressed, I’m much more concerned about simply dressing for the weather than the runway in Milan. It doesn’t freaking matter that the kid’s pants don’t go with the onesie, and matching socks on a baby are a moot point since they take them off anyway. Is the baby warm enough if it’s cold? Cool enough if it’s hot? Are all the parts that are supposed to be covered, covered? Then mission accomplished. Besides, what kind of weirdo is judging a little kid on his/her fashion sense?

6. “What do you do all day?”
I’m not a stay-at-home dad, but this one is for all the guys who have made the fundamentally awesome decision to raise their kids full time. The people who ask this question offer it up not out of an insatiable curiosity to gain insight, but rather to passive-aggressively render judgment. And the answer, according to most of the SAHDs I know, is “more than you think and more than you do” most of the time. Full-time dads are every bit the parents full-time moms are. That means they’re cooking meals, changing diapers, doing the laundry, and running around with the kids all day. Modern masculinity is changing, so I suggest you start adapting too.

5. “Don’t worry sweetie, mommy will be back soon.”
When I’m out with the kids alone and Will starts whining while Sam throws a fit, it can get ugly. But what makes it even uglier are the people (yes, this has happened multiple times) who come up with a condescending smile and say to my kids “Ohhhhh, don’t worry. Mommy will be back soon.” Huh? Are you kidding me?? First of all, kids have tantrums no matter which parent is there. Second, don’t tell my kids mommy will be back when she’s not there. Hell, mommy might not even be in the picture. Maybe I’m a single parent. Maybe I’m gay. The point is, you have no idea what my situation is and when you put your foot in your mouth like that you’re more apt to choke on it.

4. “You’re doing it wrong. Here’s how I did it…”
This one stings because a lot of the times we hear it from our spouses. And sure, sometimes we do the wrong thing. Who hasn’t put a diaper or onesie on backward? But other times — like with how we’re holding the baby or how we choose to discipline — it seems like the “wrong way” really means not doing it “your way.” And that’s not cool. Parenting is trial by fire and eventually we’ll figure out what works — just like you did. But we need that opportunity and we don’t need to be told we’re doing it wrong just because we’re not doing it like you do. Let go of the reins a little and you might find dads come up with an even better method or idea.

3. “Oh my. You’re brave.”
Again, this is said to me simply because I’m a dad out with my two kids. And to be fair, it’s usually uttered by someone older who is part of a different generation. But still, it’s not like I’m not fighting in a battle or traversing a field of landmines with my kids. I’m just out at Target. Are moms “brave” for taking their kids on errands? Of course not. You expect that from moms. So if you’re not willing to pin a medal of honor on her simply for being a parent and going grocery shopping, don’t bother with one for dads either.

2. “Oh look at you playing Mr. Mom today.”
Calling dads “Mr. Mom” is a cardinal sin in the dad world, and when you say it to an involved father you’re taking a metaphorical dump all over them. Fatherhood isn’t a version of motherhood, and dads aren’t playing the part of a mom. That implies parenting is some sort of womens’ work and we’re not having that. In fact, the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past 25 years and even working dads are focusing more on work/life balance because there’s a renewed focus on shared parenting and being present. That’s why, as articles like this one point out, it’s time to retire an antiquated term that is harmful to both dads and moms.

1. “Dad must be babysitting today, huh?”
If you follow even one of these pieces of advice, make it this one. Please, for the love of all things holy, stop referring to fathers as babysitters. YOU CAN’T BABYSIT YOUR OWN KIDS!!! We’re fathers, not paid caretakers. People would never look at a mom with her kids and ask if she was babysitting. Yet when a dad is out with his kids, so many people automatically and without thinking about it call it babysitting. Hell, even some dads refer to it that way because it’s so accepted. So just remember — dads don’t babysit. Ever.

Did I miss any?

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