Tag Archives: Will

Why All Parents Should Volunteer in Their Child’s Classroom

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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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A Love of Dinosaurs, Netflix Style

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February is for lovers. But since we’re not really a Valentine’s Day household, we don’t get all sappy with overpriced cards, chocolates, and schmoopy movies. Instead, we engage in hobbies we love.

Will wants to be a paleontologist. It’s been that way since he was in daycare. That means he is OBSESSED with all things dinosaurs, and so we spend a lot of time nurturing that. And when you’ve had six days of school canceled in a three-week span due to 7 feet of snow that’s fallen, that time has increased exponentially as we have to find things for him to do inside.

One such thing was a piece of plaster with dinosaur bones hidden inside. Kids get a tool to chip away at the plaster and reveal a T-Rex skeleton in about a half dozen pieces. It’s a brilliant idea and Will absolutely loved it.

He was so careful as he was chipping away at our kitchen table his “dig site” because “I know how fragile the bones are, dad.” He’d fine the edge of some bone and dance around the kitch — sorry, ahem — the dig site like I did when the Patriots won the Super Bowl. And he was so exacting and precise when extricating bone from plaster, I couldn’t help but be impressed.

But like all good paleontologists, his ultimate success was due in large part to his preparation.

If kids want to learn about dinosaurs, Netflix is a fantastic resource — both for education and entertainment. He has used the online movie streaming service to watch documentary after documentary regarding dinosaurs. Right now, here are some fun ones currently available:

dinosaurtraindinotasiadinoking

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StreamTeamBadgeI was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an iPad Mini. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

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The Timer and the Parenting Clock

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“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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Parenting: “It’s Hard, But Great”

handsIt started with chocolate frappes and peppermint stick sundaes.

There’s a restaurant one town over from us called Bliss Bros. It’s been a local fixture in southeastern Massachusetts for 85 years, and if you ask the old townies where to go for ice cream and good food cheap, they’ll point you to Bliss. And rightfully so. My family loves it because we can fill our bellies (including dessert), without emptying our wallet.

But I’ve come to appreciate more than just the food there.

The clientele at Bliss is…well, let’s just say it’s on the older side. That used to be a deterrent for me because — if we’re being completely honest — old people kind of freaked me out. And old people eating used to REALLY freak me out. I know that sounds horrible, but it’s the truth. It’s amazing how quickly affordability and quick service trump luxury and extravagance when you become a parent.

When we take the boys, we generally arrive like a collective hurricane. Will is running ahead and we’re yelling at him to be careful in a parking lot. Sam is squealing because he wants to keep up with his brother, but it’s faster than his little legs can carry him. MJ lugs an ever-increasing-in-size diaper bag while I scramble after the kids.

When we get inside, we seat ourselves and I wrestle Sam into a highchair seconds before he goes into the alligator death roll of escape. Will immediately starts asking for crayons and once again requesting only ice cream for dinner, only to whine when we answer no for the 2,000th time. MJ and I haven’t even been able to sit down in the booth yet.

And this is supposed to be easier than cooking at home?

By the time we order I’m already at my wit’s end and Sam is ready to leave. I look down at the table not to eat, but because I’m looking for a spot on which to repeatedly bang my head and make it all stop.

And that’s when it happens.

Sam starts making eyes at the elderly couple across from us. If they don’t notice or they don’t respond, he commences cooing, oohing, and ahhing. They eventually notice and do a double take, but then immediately break into a smile.

Now they’re hooked.

Sam gives them the toothy grin and they’re captivated. Then he throws them a wave from his cherubic little hand, and they stop eating altogether to give him their undivided attention. I know what’s coming next. For his grand finale while soaking up the attention he loves so much, he brings his hand to his mouth, blows a kiss, and makes an adorable “MMMUUUAAAAHHH!” sound.

When they’re done eating and they’ve paid the bill, they come over to chat. And let me tell you, for a guy who used to HATE having strangers talk to him, it’s amazing how much I’ve come to love and appreciate the conversations I’ve had with people like this.

They come over and smile at Sam. They ask Will about being a big brother. Sometimes they gently run leathery fingers through the golden curls on the back of Sam’s head, but mostly they just stare. And smile. And once in a while, I see tears.

Their kids are either grown, moved out of the area, or in some tragic cases, passed away. But right then — right in that moment — they’re back. The wistful smiles tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt, they’re transported back to the days of carpools, school lunches, and the general hustle and bustle of child-rearing. Days they thought were stressful at the time, but are now viewed through the lens of hindsight for what they really were — the good times.

And for a second, the smiles erase the years. It’s like they’ve walked into a warm mist of memories that seems to smooth out the wrinkles and hard lines like no restorative beauty cream ever could.

I think I like it because I’m already fully aware I’ll be that old guy someday. Hell, I’m that guy now when I’m out somewhere sans family and I start missing my kids. Without even realizing it, I find myself gravitating toward families just to be near everything I’m missing. I laugh when I hear the exasperated parents tell their kid to sit with his butt on the seat for the fifth time, and smile when a little sister steals her brother’s crayons and a sibling spat breaks out.

When I took both boys to Bliss by myself recently, I had one of the encounters described above. A very sweet older woman was enamored with Sam and Will and then came over to chat. It was after a dust-up between Sam and Will over Will using my cell phone much to Sam’s dismay, and my playing referee. I shrugged and frowned and said something along the lines of parenthood being a tough job.

What she said in response will always stick with me.

“Parenting is hard, but it’s great,” she said with a sage profoundness. “Never forget that the great should always win out.”

It may have all started with chocolate frappes and peppermint stick sundaes, but it continues to be a reminder of what’s important in life.

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