One of my greatest fears is passing down my laundry list of insecurities to my children.
Will, who turns 6 next week and is in the throes of kindergarten, loves music and loves to dance. Well, he used to love to dance. I’m still not sure what happened, but at some point in the not-too-distant past, he became extremely self-conscious about it. Now he’s convinced he’s a terrible dancer and — even though he admits he loves it — thinks any attempt to dance will just end with him embarrassing himself.
I was heartbroken. And just like that, I was transported back to the panicked fragility that constituted my youth.
For my money, sharing experiences with your kids — even from the earliest age — is probably the most spectacular part of parenting.
Watching as Will found his hands and feet, teaching him sign language, witnessing him take his first unsteady yet determined steps — these are all privileges of parenthood. Milestones on a journey that hold so many highs, lows and unexpected detours. And now that Will is a little older (4.5 to be exact), I’m enjoying these shared experiences even more. Coaching his tee-ball team, watching him play soccer, taking him to his first Patriots game, grinning as he realizes his first childhood crush on a girl — it’s truly fantastic and I’m loving every minute of it.
These shared experiences will come to serve as the foundation of our father-son relationship. Although we’ll disagree and he’ll inevitably hate me at some point, there are some things that will land us on common ground, about which we’ll always be able to talk. The Red Sox, the Patriots, girls and —
Yup, farting. I’ve covered this ground in the past, but it bears repeating. Farts are hysterical for guys. Probably for some women too, but not for most I’ve met. And certainly not for my wife. If Will and I fart, or hear a fart, or hear somebody mention farting, we crack up laughing. Every. Single. Time. Without fail. But it’s more than just entertainment, it’s also competition.
If we’re all sitting on the couch and Will farts, he’ll immediately smirk at me and giggle. At that point my eyes narrow, my stomach tightens and I one-up him. Then he sneers at me, scrunches up his nose and grunts with spectacular concentration and focus until he can squeeze another one out. Which prompts me to once again return fire. Back and forth we go, volleying like Nadal-Federer, until MJ loses her mind and tells us to stop before she shoves a cork in us both.
Then Will and I laugh, give each other high-fives and prepare for our next battle at some point in the near future.
Is this a good habit to get my son into? Probably not. Does it make our air Glade Plug-In air freshener work overtime to battle the stench of our efforts? Most of the time. Does my wife look at us disapprovingly and threaten to murder us each and every time we engage in our flatulence festivals? Well, see for yourself.
Our friends Alicia and Vic just had a little baby girl named Amy a few weeks ago. My best friend Craig and his wife Kelly also had a daughter five days ago named Jordan. Will saw both Alicia and Kelly repeatedly throughout their pregnancies, watched their bellies grow and seemed to be constantly amazed and filled with questions as to how the baby grows and survives in the womb.
So I guess it’s only natural for him to wonder how they come out too.
It started Saturday when I told him Jordan was born and showed him a picture. He was ecstatic and wanted to hold her, because he recently held Amy and loved it. It was so cute because of how focused he was. He took his responsibilities as a baby-holder ULTRA seriously and was all business. It took major coaxing just to get him to loosen up and smile. But I digress…
So long story short, Will asked me how baby Jordan came out of Kelly’s stomach. I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I bought myself more time by asking him how he thinks babies are born.
“Baby Jordan came out of Auntie Kelly’s bellybutton,” he said.
We all have different parenting styles. For instance, some parents would be tempted to concur with Will’s explanation of childbirth and leave it at that. Others opt to make up a story that loosely resembles the truth but skips all the uncomfortable parts. I don’t fault the parents who go these routes. I get it. But ultimately, when faced with these situations, I’ve chosen a vastly different path.
Honesty. Brutal honesty.
“Not quite buddy,” I began gingerly. “Babies don’t come out of a bellybutton. Actually, they come out of a woman’s vagina.”
“WHAT?!? ‘Baginas??’ Stop it dad. You’re kidding.”
“Nope, I’m serious,” I said. “The mom pushes the baby out through her vagina. That’s how it happens.”
But apparently the mere notion of natural childbirth was decidedly unnatural to my son. He really didn’t believe me. So, faced with his continued curiosity and the fact that he doesn’t believe me, I did what all modern parents do when facing a quandary.
I asked for advice on Twitter.
I got some well-intentioned, run-of-the-mill advice at first but then someone suggested something very simple and brilliant. He said there are many videos of natural childbirth on YouTube, so why not show Will what I was talking about instead of inadequately attempting to describe it?
I know what some of you are thinking. You’re screaming “Are you crazy??? You’re going to show your 3.5-year-old a video of a partially nude woman giving birth?! That’s so inappropriate!” And that’s fine, you’re welcome to your opinions. I know my sister-in-law Melissa had the same reaction, and she’s a medical doctor. But I see absolutely nothing pornographic or inappropriate about childbirth, and therefore I see no reason not to show Will. It’s pretty much akin to breastfeeding. Yes Will sees a glimpse of a woman’s breast at times when she’s feeding a newborn, but so what? We tell him that’s how babies eat. And he accepts it, realizes it’s no big deal and moves on.
I want to be honest with my son and give him straight answers whenever possible. And this was one of those times when it made total sense. So, I showed him.
The video was of a woman engaged in a homebirth. She was pushing and grunting, and Will watched with a look that conveyed interest mixed with confusion. Then the woman got on her knees with her back to the camera, gave one final push and suddenly the baby’s head was visible. Will’s jaw dropped and he smiled, pointing to the baby. And for a moment, I was very proud of my son for being so adult, and for my parenting techniques and decision to show him.
“Do you have any questions bud?” I asked.
“Yeah dada. Why does the baby come out of the mama’s bum?”
“No no no, the baby didn’t come out of her bum. It came out of her vagina.”
“Um Dad, ACTUALLY it came out of her bum. Look.”
“Will, I know it kinda looks like the baby came out of her bum, but trust me. It didn’t. Babies come out of vaginas.”
“How do you know, Dad?”
“Because I watched when you were born and I would’ve remembered you coming out of Mom’s bum. Trust me, you came out the vagina.”
“But Dada, there’s pee in baginas. Did mom pee on me?”
At that point, far off in the distance, I thought I heard the distinct sound of a train derailing, crashing into a building and then careening over a cliff landing with a fiery explosion. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, I went from teaching my son a valuable life lesson to discussing ass play and golden showers. And the worst part is he’s obsessed with babies right now and he talks to anyone who will listen about babies falling out of bums and how mom peed on him.
Needless to say I’m dreading the inevitable call from his preschool teacher, and having to explain to her that my son and I were watching YouTube videos together and talking about vaginas and assholes.
That stupid stork is looking more and more appealing.
One of the coolest parts of being a newspaper reporter is during “all hands on deck” situations. Elections, murders, the deaths of prominent people—if it’s breaking and it’s big news in my coverage area, I’ve been on it.
I chased President Barack Obama around Martha’s Vineyard and had a gun drawn on me by Secret Service agents while running through the woods trying to get a picture of Obama teeing off on the golf course. I was first on the scene at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy when Somali pirates seized a graduate of their school and the country anxiously waited as he was held captive until Navy SEALs could free him in dramatic fashion. And I polled grieving Cape residents the day that Sen. Ted Kennedy—the Liberal Lion—died of a brain tumor and officially ended the days of the Kennedy mystique.
But nothing brings all the reporters to the table faster than a natural disaster.
Yesterday, with Tropical Storm Irene bearing down on the region, I found myself in a strange place. My house. After all, storms and other such events always had me roving around looking for good photo opportunities and people to interview. When everyone else is ducking for cover, reporters are out looking for a scoop and keeping the public informed. And since I live right on the water, there’s never a shortage of stories during a hurricane scare.
Despite quitting the paper three months ago, I found myself unable to sit still yesterday. So I called up Karen who I knew would be manning the copy desk, and told her I’d phone in updates. She wasn’t surprised. It’s not like I got paid or anything, but once a reporter always a reporter I guess. Accompanied by a friend, we drove all around the Upper Cape and got some videos and pictures.
This is the Sandwich Boardwalk, an exceptionally beautiful spot.
I know this doesn’t look like much, but anyone from the area will know the water is NEVER this high. Usually there’s a good 10-15 feet between the bottom of the dock and the surface of the water. But yesterday, Irene churned up quite a bit of high seas and had the water just a few feet from turning the Boardwalk into a glorified dock.
And this was three hours AFTER high tide.
The picture to the right is a tree down across Woods Hole Road.
Woods Hole is a tiny fishing village in Falmouth, Mass. It is kind of a world unto itself, and this road is the main artery that goes from the village to downtown. This tree fell less than a minute before we drove up on the scene, and we watched as a bunch of good Samaritans immediately whipped out axes and hacksaws to clear the road.
It was really impressive how neighbors instantly realized the importance of clearing this road, because the only other way to get to Woods Hole is a road by the beach that was flooded. That means in case of an emergency, rescue vehicles might have been cut off from an entire section of town. But New Englanders are a hearty bunch and they were out there in a flash.
Speaking of beach roads, this is Surf Drive in Falmouth.
Normally it is an absolutely beautiful stretch of road with a multitude of beaches and a gorgeous view that includes Martha’s Vineyard in the distance. But on Sunday it was a much different story.
Water was coming over the road and flooding it, tearing up pavement and leaving huge rocks, sand and other debris on the street.
This picture to the right is not a lake. That is the road, or at least it’s supposed to be.
A few pick-up trucks and bigger SUVs were able to make it through, but a couple of cars tried and quickly realized that wasn’t such a good idea.
This downed tree was in Bourne, near John’s CapeSide Diner on Route 6. It fell on some wires but locals said the power didn’t go out. When I left this scene one guy was attempting to cut the tree himself, saying “It’s OK, they’re just cable wires.”
New Englanders are a breed apart.
And speaking of a breed apart, that leads me to perhaps my favorite picture of this entire hurricane.
To the right is the John’s Capeside Diner sign. Now it’s commonplace for people to protect their property. But while most people board up windows, someone decided to take unorthodox steps to protect this restaurant sign.
Yup. That’s duct tape folks.
Wind gusts got up to 65 MPH and wind and rain lashed the region for hours yesterday. Many large trees and even some small structures were damaged yesterday. Which all leads me to wonder how the hell someone thought some duct tape on a sign was going to make a damn bit of difference.
But then again, it’s still there so what do I know? Further proof that duct tape fixes EVERYTHING!
And finally, you always hear about the total wackjobs who either surf or swim in the ocean during hurricanes. Well, it’s your lucky day because here they are. This was taken at Nobska Beach in Woods Hole. And the incredibly attractive young lady in her underwear and thin T-shirt had absolutely no bearing on my decision to capture this footage. None at all.
But do pay attention to the 40-second mark when she gets CREAMED by a wave, and don’t forget to read underneath the video for a new Daddy Files feature!
And finally, I’m starting a new thing on this site. At the conclusion of every post, I’ll offer some featured Amazon.com products relevant to my content. Today, it’s this REALLY cool contraption I found that would be great for power outages. It’s a hand-crank AM/FM radio that also charges your cell phone, tablet, eReader and more. You can charge the internal battery beforehand and then charge your phone, crank it to charge or use the solar panels to charge it during a power outage. For less than $30 this is an awesome thing to have in a pinch!
If you guys could click on the link to buy your Amazon items, I’d really appreciate it. I only get pennies on the dollar but all of it will go towards defraying the cost of running this website. Thanks guys!
I’ve done some crazy things in my life. Bizarre things. But none of them compare to the nutty shit I find myself saying and doing now that I’m a parent.
For one reason or another, I think the wackiest behavior parents display emerges during the potty training process. Probably because parents are so sick of buying and changing diapers around their child’s third birthday they’ll do anything—and I mean ANYTHING—to rid themselves of their dependence on disposable diapers.
Such is the case with Will.
He’s great about peeing. When he has to pee he runs in the bathroom, grabs his little stool, lifts up the seat (that one was all MJ), pulls down his pants and lets loose. He is 100% accident free when it comes to #1. But pooping has been a different story. He will only poop in his pull-up. Now some “experts” say not to rush kids and to wait for their cues. But I know Will is ready for toilet poopage.
He tells us before he has to poop by saying “Dada, it’s OK to poop now?” At first I tried to put him on the toilet but he’d have a first-class freakout. So for the last month or so I’ve been putting a pull-up on him when he tells me he has to take a dump. But recently I came up with an idea and yesterday I tried it out.
I told him we’re going to buy Batman stickers and a calendar. Each time he poops in the toilet he gets a sticker. If he accumulates 10 stickers, he gets a toy of his choosing. When I asked him what toy he wants as his prize, he said “The biggest Woody or Buzz toy at Target.” Awesome. Now we had a plan and Will gave himself a goal. But would it work?
Last night he told us he had to poop and that he wanted a pull-up. I reminded him about our sticker system and his face lit up. And then—for the first time ever—he willingly went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet.
Unfortunately, that’s where our success ended.
He was a little scared and hesitant to “feed the toilet” with his poop. So we did what any good parents would do in that situation. We tried to bribe him. We offered him cookies, viewings of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, snuggles in mom and dad’s bed and the playing of Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” song complete with animated dancing from me and MJ.
None of it worked.
I racked my brain for ways to get this kid to defecate in the toilet. All the expert books say to make a really big deal out of even the smallest achievements. I tried to think of more ways I could do just that, when all of a sudden I got an idea. The spectacular Corey Haim 80s movie “Lucas” was on recently. And at the end, after Lucas had almost been killed during the varsity football game, he comes back to school and finds a letterman jacket in his locker. And then—as is the case with all transcendent 80s movies—someone starts the “slow clap.”
Here’s what happens when you try to apply a love of crappy movies with potty training your kids.
He’s not even 3 yet and already he’s reduced to just covering his eyes while his wackjob parents try to slow clap a poop, as he utters “This is too weird.”
Get used to it kid. Your parental humiliation has not even begun!
(And no, he didn’t poop. But we’re working on it.)