Tag Archives: parenting

Why All Parents Should Volunteer in Their Child’s Classroom

willsdad

It’s Friday. And I love Fridays.

For the last couple of months I’ve been volunteering on Friday mornings at my son’s school. I was nervous at first because I’m not someone who volunteers for anything. I’ll happily lend support from the sidelines where I can blog and snark from the cozy, reclusive cheap seats, but actually volunteering? It always gave me the willies.

But after getting leveled with some hurtful but totally accurate criticism from my wife about being a naysayer who never throws his hat in the ring to actually make a difference, I decided it was time to put up or shut up.

Best. Decision. Ever.

The work itself isn’t glamorous, as it mostly consists of making photocopies. And by mostly, I mean all I do is make photocopies. And after my first time, I almost never came back. Between learning the copier, correcting and preventing paper jams, figuring out the toner, getting paper cuts, and getting interrupted by teachers who need to make emergency copies on the spot, it’s a bit overwhelming at first.

I guess the rational part of my mind knew all those copies had to be made by someone, and that someone is usually the teacher. But as a parent, all the worksheets just magically appear in Will’s backpack. It’s kind of like sausage in that regard — I don’t really think about how it’s made. I’m just glad it’s there.

Well let me tell you something folks, I’ve now seen how the sausage is made and how much time it takes to produce. And frankly, I’m not sure how teachers have the time to, you know, actually TEACH with all the damn copies they have to make. Needless to say, I’m happy to take some of the copying and stapling duties off the plates of teachers if it means they can spend more time instructing students.

And speaking of the classroom, that’s by far my favorite part.

I get a sneak peek into Will’s classroom during the day. On Valentine’s Day, I even got to chaperone a little party they had. I get to put faces with all the stories Will brings home about his classmates. I get to see the classroom Will describes in vivid detail. But most importantly, I get to be his hero during this unbelievably brief time that hero status can be achieved just by showing up to school to make a few copies.

When he sees me walk in his face lights up and he’s proud that I’m there. All the other kids rush over and greet me by my new name — “Will’s Dad.” I’m not Aaron or Mr. Gouveia or even Mr. G. Just Will’s Dad, which might sound like a loss of identity, but is actually anything but.

Will leans his head against me and whispers “I’m glad you’re here.” The other kids recognize me and wave. Some of them show me their new Patriots shirts, others have bracelets they’ve made, and I’m always besieged by play date requests for them to play with Will. I know almost all of their names now, and I’m a tiny part of their routine. And it’s glorious.

When I’m done making my copies, they’re usually at gym or music so the classroom is empty. I drop the gargantuan pile of copies on the teacher’s desk and then I grab a sticky note. Every week I write a message to my son and leave it on his desk as a surprise when he gets back. I tell him I love him and I sign it the same way.

“Love,
Will’s Dad”

If you can find the time, volunteer at your child’s school. It helps the teacher, your kids will love it, and you’ll find joy in a completely unexpected place. And if you need help with the copier, just holler.

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What To Do the First Time Your Baby Gets Sick

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The first time your baby gets really sick is freaking terrifying.

I know that’s not going to win me any literary awards or cement my status as a wordsmith, but it’s the damn truth. Will was about five months old the first time he came down with a fever. Which turned into a cough. Which turned into wheezing. Which all combined to scare the absolute crap out of me and his mother, and forever redefine our concept of fear.

Every parent knows what I mean. Even first-time parents, which I was at the time, know something is wrong before any thermometer shows a reading. The baby just isn’t right, and we can see it and sense it.

Then you feel the forehead and it seems way too hot. With shaky hands, you take the thermometer and read it — 103.7 degrees.

Oh crap!

Words can’t really describe that initial fear. For me, it was just abject terror. Will was running a very high fever, coughing, and had started to wheeze. He was still so little and watching him struggle just shattered me. I knew it was my job to protect him, but I suddenly had a slight panic attack when realizing I had no idea what to do.

Honestly. No clue. That’s tough for me to admit, but it’s true. I didn’t know what medicine I could give him, what I couldn’t give him, whether to call the pediatrician, do I take him to the ER? This was the person I held most precious in the entire world and it was devastating to realize I had no idea how to take care of him.

With the help of hindsight and years of experience, I now know it wasn’t the life or death debacle it felt like at the time. And while it would be easy to forget that fear and tell new parents to just relax, it’s never that easy.

I wish I had had something like the New Baby Essentials Kit from Little Remedies, which won’t be enough to treat the really serious problems that require a doctor, but at the very least give you options for a cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, and fever. To have it all in one place would’ve given me some peace of mind and solved some of the early mysteries of what I could and couldn’t give to my son. Now this kit is the main component of gifts we give to new parents.

So moms and dads, it’s OK to be freaked out. It’s normal to be scared out of your mind when your tiny baby gets sick for the first time. But there’s plenty of help out there in the form of medicine, other parents, and of course, Google (use in small and smart doses). In my experience, fevers aren’t really a concern until they’re 101 degrees, Little Remedies has the most natural and effective medicine that helps my kids, and if you think it’s more serious don’t hesitate to call the pediatrician.

Hang in there and rest assured, you’re not alone.

***Disclaimer: I was compensated by Little Remedies for this post. However, I used their products way before they ever approached me and I stand by their effectiveness and endorse them 100%. Check out their website and Facebook page.

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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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