Tag Archives: parenting

I Thought My Son Was Never Going to Talk

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Seven months ago, I was petrified Sam was never going to talk.

We were at his 15-month check-up and the doctor asked how many words Sam had in his repertoire. She didn’t ask IF he could speak, mind you, but how many words he could say. I immediately looked down at the floor in shame, because Sam didn’t have any words. Not a one. Zero.

And despite her assurances that he was just a little bit behind, I was POSITIVE something was cataclysmically wrong with him.

Less than a week later, we had Early Intervention come in and evaluate him. I had heart palpitations with each test he wasn’t passing. Failure to turn the jack-in-box crank? He’ll never graduate high school. Couldn’t say “mama” or “dada?” There goes college. By the end of it all, I was in a full-blown panic as I envisioned Sam at 30, living in our basement and still unable to utter basic syllables.

When the EI folks finished, they said Sam was slightly speech-delayed, but not so much that he qualified for Early Intervention. But I only heard those two words: speech delayed. And I was crushed at having somehow failed my son.

Yes, I realize how crazy I was being. Now. But then, in that moment, it was very real and very overwhelming.

We have certain standards kids are supposed to meet at certain times, and they’re hard for me to ignore. I know I’m not alone. These concrete milestones our children are supposed to meet are set in a sea of fluidity, and don’t seem to take into account the individual nature of children. We know enough to tell ourselves “everyone goes at his/her own pace” and “they all get there eventually,” but if your child is on the slower side then those markers are always there, blinking in the background, taunting you mercilessly.

It’s problematic if you’re someone who did everything early and generally had things come easy to him. It’s even worse if your firstborn was the same way — walking, talking, and putting sentences together well ahead of the curve. In that instance, you love milestones. Because who doesn’t enjoy looking at an achievement in the rear view mirror?

So you start wondering what’s wrong with this one. Why isn’t this one early, or at least on time? Did I leave the TV on too long and damage his brain? I didn’t read to him enough, did I? Why can’t he be more like his brother??

And suddenly you realize what an utter and unreasonable asshole you’re being.

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

Seven months later and 8 days shy of his second birthday, I look back at myself and shake my head. Especially as this plays out in the car on a daily basis.

“Hi dada!”
“Dada, wheels on bus!”
“Dada, you see choo-choo?”
“Dad, what’s that?”
“Thank you, dada.”

Words. So many words. So many new words every day. I come home from work and discover he’s added two or three more to his expanding vocabulary. They didn’t arrive on the generally accepted timetable, but they came nonetheless. They came when Sam was ready. They came exactly when they were supposed to.

I know I worry because I care. Because these kids are the most important thing in the world to me. I’m sure that’s true of most neurotic parents who unnecessarily sweat the small stuff. I’m also a firm believer that if you don’t feel like a complete fool at least a couple of times a month, you’re probably not a parent.

Kids are not identical assembly line automatons. They are not here to validate us by meeting arbitrary deadlines that serve as parental bragging rights on social media. I know this. Most parents know this. We just need to keep it at the forefront of our mind more often, and not fall victim to unnecessary worrying about things that almost always work themselves out.

Seven months ago I thought my son was never going to talk. Now? I’m worried he’ll never stop.

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11 Things Dads Should NEVER Say in the Delivery Room

mjdeliveryroom

The delivery room is a strange, scary, and spectacular place. There are mystical wonders to behold, a multitude of wires attached to your loved one getting ready to deliver, and a cacophony of beeping coming from unfamiliar machines that leave you unable to decipher good from bad. It is where miracles happen, memories are made, and life is brought forth into the world.

Unless she kills you right there in the birthing suite because you’re one of the brainless jackasses who says something irreversibly stupid at the worst possible moment.

Having talked to L&D nurses, read humorous (yet cringe-inducing) accounts of ridiculous things said inside the delivery room, and having written about a semi-related topic in the past, I thought it best to get specific. In my ongoing quest to help fathers (not just fathers but anyone who plans on being in the delivery room) improve, I think this list is important simply to keep people alive.

Everyone processes emotions differently in stressful situations, and many people (myself included) resort to attempts at humor as a defense mechanism. However, your latest pun might not be well accepted as the mother of your child is attempting to pass something the size of a watermelon through a hole the size of a lemon.

I thought long and hard, consulted a few mothers in my life, and came up with this list. And I added animated GIFs so hopefully the women reading this will laugh instead of instantly try to murder their partners who undoubtedly said one or more things listed below.

Continue reading 11 Things Dads Should NEVER Say in the Delivery Room

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It’s No Longer Gay Marriage, Just Marriage

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Will is 7 and Sam is almost 2. Some day, down the road a bit, they’ll read something in the paper or see something on TV about “gay marriage,” and they’ll be confused.

“Dad, what do they mean by ‘gay’ marriage? It’s just marriage, right?”

And I’ll have to remind them gay people weren’t always allowed the same rights as the rest of us. I’ll have to remind them it wasn’t until the year 2015 and by securing the narrowest margin of victory by the Supreme Court of the United States, that gay people in America were treated equally when it came to being able to marry who you love.

They’ll stare at me with raised eyebrows and incredulous expressions, because they won’t be able to fathom how stupid that sounds. It will be utterly incomprehensible to them that so many people in this country treated gay people as second class citizens for so long.

It’ll be just how I looked at my parents when they told me interracial marriage used to be outlawed, or black people and women couldn’t always vote.

I don’t go full ‘MURICA!!! too often, but I’m proud of my country today. It took longer than it should have, but ultimately we did the right thing. We haven’t solved homophobia and we can’t stop fighting for LGBTQIA (for any other letters I may be missing, my apologies) rights, but this is cause to celebrate.

Everyone can marry whoever they want in all 50 states. Victory.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Check out these erudite ladies and gentlemen:

Yes, these ridiculous clowns are an affront to decency, common sense, and proper grammar/spelling. And honestly, they do upset me and get under my skin at times. However, I’ve come to realize something very important. Something worth noting and remembering in these modern times.

The world is a better place than ever before. And that’s largely because people of the world are more tolerant than ever before.

The old, white, conservative, religious guard isn’t what it used to be, and for the first time they find themselves losing power, influence, and the numbers game. Seeking to deny gay people equality while rejecting proven science regarding climate change and defending the Confederate flag just isn’t going to fly anymore. They’ve lost the middle ground and they don’t seem to know how to adapt.

But when a caged animal is cornered, it gets desperate.

That’s why you’re seeing tweets like these and outrageous public statements regarding current events. It’s fear. People who have held the power for a long time never want to give it up willingly, so the final holdouts will be louder than ever to compensate for fewer people in their ranks. Basically, we’re seeing the death throes of idiocy. And not a moment too soon.

So congratulations to all the gay people out there who can now enjoy marriage equality. Congratulations to the five US Supreme Court justices who had the wisdom and fortitude to make history today. And congratulations to America, a country that has proven today it still holds dear the idea of freedom on which it was founded.

We have put another shameful period of our history in the rear view mirror. Let us keep it in sight to remember how far we’ve come, while always looking to improve our future.

And let’s make sure love always wins in the end.

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Why I Hate Running (Yet Do It Anyway)

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I fucking hate running.

Some people love running and happily devote hordes of time to it. These crazy bastards on endorphin highs can’t wait to get out on roads and trails to chase their personal bests and FEEL THE BURN. Honestly, good for them. I’m happy for them (even though their speed and relentless enthusiasm makes me stabby at times).

But not me. I’m a big guy, always have been. Even when I lose a bunch of weight I’m still big. Having run four half marathons in my life, I’m prepared to stand out like a sore thumb in a crowd of waifish and highly athletic stick figures that invariably populate these races. Basically, in a sea of gazelles I’m a lumbering water buffalo.

The picture at the top of this post was taken near the halfway mark (about 6.2 miles in), and the photographer managed to capture my facial expression at the EXACT moment I realized I still had nearly 7 more miles to go before finishing. I was tired, sore, my foot hurt, and at the risk of telling you way more than you want to know, the inside of my thighs looked like something out of a B horror movie.

So the million dollar question becomes, why run 13.1 miles if I hate running.

There are a few reasons. First of all, I enjoy doing things I’m not expected to do. Look at me. I’m 5’10”, 255 lbs. Even the kid who handed me my bib number assumed I was picking it up for a friend, and stuttered his way to an embarrassed apology when I said I was running. But I also do it specifically because it’s hard and doesn’t come naturally to me. The mind fuck and head games involved in distance running simultaneously intimidates and intrigues me, and there’s something to be said for overcoming self-imposed limitations and proving yourself.

And yeah, I also do it because I hate going to the gym even more than running, and if I didn’t run I’d weigh 400 lbs. My desk job is very sedentary, my eating habits are mostly terrible, and I’m not one to join CrossFit or some other similar group, so running is really the only healthy thing I do.

But mainly, I do it because Will tells all his friends his daddy runs half marathons.

Is that vain? Yeah, probably. But it’s also the truth. He’s 7 so right now he thinks 13.1 miles is roughly the distance to the moon and back. His eyes go wide when I show him the courses I run, and he thinks it’s the most amazing thing ever. I heard him talking to some friends in school when I was volunteering in his class, telling them his dad runs races and goes really far.

And it made me feel good. I was proud that he was proud of his old man. That means everything to me, and it’s enough to propel my fat ass off the couch and onto the course for a distance I don’t really like driving, nevermind running.

I need my kids to know they have a shot at doing and becoming anything. If they don’t believe that as they grow up, they’ll lose confidence, determination, and hope. And I feel personally showing them it’s possible to reach a pie in the sky goal goes a long way toward bolstering their optimism.

But almost the entire back half of my most recent half-marathon was uphill, and let me tell you, I wanted to quit so badly. I almost did a few times. Right around Mile 8, I realized I was passing a friend’s house. And they were home, so they could’ve given me a ride. I even crossed the street fully prepared to run up to their front door, ask for a Gatorade, and ride back to the starting line in the air-conditioned car.

However, they were out on their porch and they saw me. Mary waved excitedly and Jim shouted his encouragement too. And, much to my dismay at the time, I was guilted into continuing. It’s a good thing, too. Otherwise I never would’ve had this moment at the finish line.

MJ caught the moment I crossed the finish line on video with Will. I won’t lie, it’s a little dusty in here when I watch it.

Posted by The Daddy Files on Sunday, June 14, 2015

Even the best dads only get to feel like true superheroes for a few fleeting moments in life, and running gave me my cape — if only for a few minutes. But it was enough to make all the hills over the course of 13.1 grueling miles completely worth it.

As an added bonus, Will wants to start running with me. We’re going to start with a 5k and go from there. So now I have another reason to keep running — making sure he doesn’t beat me in a race for as long as humanly possible.

And to create more moments like this one.

halfmarathon2

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Why I’m an Unapologetic Manners Nazi

manners

“Manners are the basic building blocks of civil society.”
– Alexander McCall Smith

My kids are exceedingly polite and well-mannered. I don’t say that to boast or exaggerate, I say it as simple fact. It’s not luck of the draw or accidental, either. They got that way because my wife and I relentlessly hammer home manners and follow through on punishments should they forget their manners or act rudely in public.

Simply put, MJ and I are “Manner Nazis” when it comes to our kids. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m not sure how or why stressing good manners is controversial, but it is. Television star Mayim Bialik says she doesn’t force manners on her kids or correct them when they forget. Bloggers like this one feel forcing your kids to say “I’m sorry” is bad, because it’s not authentic. Even some of my fellow friends and dad bloggers have disagreed with me on this, saying it’s pointless to force kids to say “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” at a young age because they’re too immature to know the meaning of those terms.

That last part is true, they are too young to completely understand the concept. But guess what? That doesn’t matter.

Getting kids into good habits, even when they don’t fully understand them yet, is a positive thing. Both Will and Sam learned how to sign please and thank you around their first birthdays. Did they know exactly what the term meant? Of course not. But they knew they had to say it first to get what they wanted, and they learned they had to sign “thank you” afterward to show appreciation. Now, at 22 months, Sam says please routinely when he needs something, and thank you (really it’s more like “Chinch Choo”) after he receives it.

Will, who is 7, also has impeccable manners because we’ve made it a priority.

When he enters a conversation, it’s always with an “excuse me.” If he’s done something wrong, he apologizes. When he was younger, it started with a simple “I’m sorry.” But as he got older and could comprehend more, we’d always have a conversation about what went wrong and we’d explore the reason he’s sorry. Now when he’s done something to offend, he not only apologizes but he tells you why he’s sorry and what he could have done differently.

Unfortunately, parents making it a priority to raise well-mannered kids are in the minority these days.

I know I’m going to sound like the old guy complaining about the damn kids on his lawn, but take a trip out to a store or restaurant and you’ll see what I mean. Kids standing on the seats and even the tables. Older kids throwing food and not picking it up. Children shouting their orders at the waiter instead of asking nicely, with no correction from mom or dad. And then, not surprisingly, I watch mom and dad treat the waitstaff with the same dismissive contempt. Go figure.

Meanwhile, if our kids do make a mess while out to eat, we make them pick it up. If it’s Sam, who is still very young, then either MJ or I gets down on the floor and collects all the food he dropped. One time, a nearby restaurant patron said “Why are you doing that? They’re paid to do it.” I responded with a very simple “Because I’m not a jerk.”

Instilling good manners and politeness in your kids has very little to do with being seen as a good parent, or having your kids reflect well upon you. It’s about much more than that.

Unfortunately, good manners are so rare they are now the exception. That means Will is routinely praised by everyone from his bus driver to random strangers in restaurants who are impressed with how he handles himself. If he keeps this up, that ability to impress will extend to his future teachers, bosses, clients, and even his romantic partners.

It’s learning how to behave and thrive in mixed company, and how to make everyone feel welcome. It’s learning to treat people with respect. It’s knowing if you’re seen as someone who respects others, everything you say will carry that much more weight and value. If he’s up against an equally qualified candidate during a job interview or going for a promotion, perhaps it’ll be his “soft skills” and how he conducts himself that gives him the extra edge.

My main job as a parent is to love and raise quality human beings who contribute something positive to society. As far as I’m concerned, that starts with teaching them good manners.

It starts by parents modeling good manners at home and out in public, and stressing them at every turn. Are my kids perfect? No. Do they occasionally forget their manners? Absolutely. Mistakes happen, and if they’re contrite then no harm no foul. But if they keep being punks after they’ve been warned, then there are consequences.

It sucks to punish your kids, but we do it because otherwise they don’t learn anything. So an “I want ice cream!” one time earns a warning, but a second offense immediately after that means he’s going home with no dessert. Otherwise, if we give in to demands instead of making polite requests the norm, I truly believe we’re contributing to an entitlement problem that already plagues too high a percentage of this generation of kids.

Some will dismiss this entire piece as just another crotchety, holier-than-thou parent humble-bragging about how his kids are flippin’ wonderful. And others will continue to tell MJ and me we’re too strict with the boys when it comes to manners, and we need to relax. At least that’s what I think they said. Truthfully, it was hard to hear them over their kids running around being brats.

But the bottom line is manners matter. It’s not only good for society as a whole, but it’ll benefit your children as they grow up as well. Raising polite human beings is important, and the world desperately needs more of them.

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