Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Growing Pains

Imagine uncontrollable weight gain - gaining upwards of 10% of your body weight per month. You have to buy a new wardrobe every two to four months. Your skin is stretching. Teeth are forcing themselves through gums without so much as a starter nail. Urination and defecation are done in your underwear and the only way to keep from sitting in it is to cry out for attention in hopes that someone will understand your limited ability to communicate. These conditions cause rashes over various parts of your body. The only thing you've had to eat for months is milk. Mobility is barely an issue, as you're straining to hold yourself up on your hands and knees, much less move in any desired direction. Sleeping is your only relief, and sometimes you are in so much pain, you have a hard time getting that right.

Welcome to being a baby.

Some of the good things include being waiting on hand and foot. You never have to move yourself, feed yourself, bathe yourself, clean yourself after soiling yourself. People sing to you, play with you, smile at you, and ask to hold you. You can touch a strange woman's boobs without getting slapped. You can cry without feeling oversensitive. All you have to do to brighten someone's day is smile at them.

Some of these things apply to adults, too. We've just forgotten. Maybe it leaves when you have to wipe your own butt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Late Nights and Early Mornings

I play hockey on a men's league team at Johnny's Ice House. For those of you who have played in various adult leagues, hockey has one big difference: inconsistent scheduling. We neither play on the same day nor the same time throughout the season. For example, last night's game (Tuesday) started at 10:00pm, my game next Monday starts at 11:10pm, and the following Saturday is at 12:30pm. Except for the noon game, these can lead to relatively late nights.

My teammates include one of my brothers and one of my best friends. Teams can pay $3 per can of beer before the game for a bucket in the locker room after the game. We are likely going to be sponsored by a local bar, and I am the head of the "sponsorship committee." Therefore, I have to go to the bar after games, if only for a short visit.

Last night I got home at 12:45am. (For those raising their eyebrows, I had one beer after the game and one at the bar.) When you get home after your hockey game, even if you've been out for a while, you cannot fall asleep right away, as you're still charged up. I probably fell asleep around 1:30am.

My son woke me up with a screech at 6:30am.

Nope, no calling in sick or late for this job! It's up-and-adam, make me a bottle! On some weekends after special occasions, my wife will take pity on me and let me sleep. But during the week, I have to live with the choices I made the night before.

Am I dragging a bit? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Accessory

I've been wearing my son on my chest lately. It happens mostly when we go shopping. He is too big for an infant carrier. He is too small to sit upright in a shopping cart. I don't have enough hands to push a stroller and a cart.

There are many contraptions used to carry one's child in this way. Ours is the famous Baby Bjorn. (Don't things always sound gourmet when they have a European name?)

Our son did not like going in it at first. This was when he had to face me. How could I blame him, having to stare at my face or chest for prolonged periods of time. And if he turns his head? Nose to armpit. Need I say more? Now that he can face outwards, he is happy being carried around in this way.

At first I felt a little silly. It's my manliness. No, more like my fading adolescence. How silly I felt with a person strapped to my chest! There are straps hanging off here and there. It certainly doesn't feel "cool".

But now I am happy wearing it. I am a Dad and very proud of it. Our son is very smiley and people always look at him and smile. That works especially well in the grocery store where many of the shoppers are attractive females. Married or not, always nice to get a smile. Puts a charge into your step. Being a good Dad is cool. And, so I've heard, it is attractive. At least my wife thinks so.

Then I can go about my shopping and meal planning with ease. My wife feels better because there is no chance that I'm leaving him alone even for a second. It's easier than lifting that infant carrier. Most of all, he's happy. And as we parents all know, what keeps the baby happy keeps the parents happy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I had my first real experience being a man in a woman's world. It was at a playgroup hosted by a cousin of mine. It was the second playgroup I've been to with our son. The first was a playgroup consisting entirely of at-home Dads. This consisted entirely of Mothers.

The first shock to my system was walking into a house where eight to ten children between two weeks and four years old were running rampant. Or crawling, or just being held.

It was a perfect place to host such a gathering: a quiet, tree lined street, open living room with enough sitting room for the adults while having enough open space for the kids to do lots of playing with little potential for damage - damage to property as well as to themselves.

They've got a good stock of toys. There was a small rocking horse and one or two electronic-based riding toys. There was a black mesh bag filled with toy cars, books, small stuffed animals, hand-held games, and other novelties. A thin foam pad floor occupied a three-by-three space. The rooms were well lit with natural light. A stereo played a mix of rock 'n roll songs, including tunes by the Grateful Dead and what I think was the Indigo Girls.

Being such an early age, the parents were still generally involved in almost all of the play. I, of course, had our son and held him in some fashion almost the entire time. He primarily interacted with a girl of nine months. They did tummy time together. It was amazing seeing her so confident on her front hands, handling a small blue plastic block. She tried to share it with our son, but he is not yet so deft and dexterous. My cousin's son responds to most questions with a resounding, "Yeah!" A little girl of about two years said, "Bye," whenever she saw someone get up, as if they were leaving. The eldest child was a boy a month shy of four years. He had long hair cut like he belonged in the band The Killers. It was great. The kids played, then went to their mothers for treats, then went back to the grind. The rock-star and another boy got on each others' nerves as the morning progressed and, if given the time and the space, may have gotten to fisticuffs. Early in the visit, I pulled out my digital camera. As I took pictures, there was no regard for allowing me to capture the scene I focused on. The kids would walk in front of me mid-shutter, looking directly into the lens from point-blank, then walk around back of me, as they knew that the image would immediately be developed.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I was the only adult male in the room. It was not that I thought there would be other fathers. It was the old Sesame Street, "Three of these things belong together, one of these things is not the same." Indeed, for a moment, I didn't feel that I belonged. Not that they weren't friendly or inviting. Quite the contrary. I was immediately accepted as one of the gang. But the women were mothers. None of them appeared to be out of place. There was breast feeding. There was no talk about sports, except for a passing note that I wore a White Sox hat. There was no raunchy humor. There was talk about schools and homes and such family oriented things. I felt young. I felt for a time as if I was a friend or a younger brother coming over to play with their kids.

And I did play. Some of them climbed on me. With others, I tried unsuccessfully to participate in whatever game they had concocted in their head.

It is taking some time to realize that I am a father, the evolution of my former self. Our son will look at me as I looked at my father. Other kids see me as our son's father. When I walked into that house, I was someone's father, not just some guy. The mothers, as I do, must look around and wonder what happened to their twenties. What happened to working and to happy hour? What happened to getting up late Saturday and / or Sunday mornings? Now, everything is midnight feedings, early mornings, dirty diapers, wet diapers, bottles, breast feeding, formula, solid food, food allergies, tummy time, nap time, cranky time, preschool, kindergarten, testing into elementary school, day care, crying, whining, big smiles, big laughs, little bumps, little falls, little steps, crawling, picking up, laying down, car seats, strollers, and, finally, my time. And "my time" usually revolves around household chores that will get half-done before the little guy wakes up. Or you'll get your chores done and hope to eat. But just after making yourself something simple, like microwaved leftovers, you will hear the sounds of awakening and frown as you know that the next time you look at this plate, the food will no longer be hot.

It really doesn't matter that I am in a gender minority. Just as women have entered the work force and are just as competent as men, men have entered homemaking with equal competency. There are general gender differences that can make the genders differ in parenting styles. What we all do, though, is love our children, love each others' children, and try to give them the best world in which to grow.

In that room, with all of those kids and their mothers, I found that I felt right at home and that I was happy that our son and I could be in such a wonderful environment. After looking at that hot plate knowing that you won't get to eat for at least another hour, you go and, as you pick up that child they give you that thankful smile. And then you're not so hungry as you have filled with something so much more nourishing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Great Moments in Parenting

I hope to remember to do this more often. Just a jot on little things that make parenting worthwhile. Or are just plain funny.

A great moment is the time when you watch your child closing his eyes as he falls asleep. They're open, then they close, then open halfway, then close, and so on until they're sleeping. It's one of the most satisfying and tranquil moments of the day. The next moment is realizing that, "Woohoo!" you have a bit of "free time." Free to do laundry, free to pay bills, free to start dinner, free to clean up last night's dinner...

A Word on Jail

To all of the people saying, "Hooray!" to Paris Hilton going to jail, I have something to say to you: You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Being a father, that was my censored statement. If I felt appropriate, I would use much harsher language about the people rooting for her imprisonment.

People think that she's getting what she deserves. To those who think that the rich always get off easy, think again. If it were you or I in her position, there's no way that we would be in jail for the laws that she's broken. We'd be in outpatient rehab, probably on probation or supervision, a loss of license, possibly even revoked. The likelihood that we'd have received jail time is very slim. She's been made an example to her adoring fans.

This is not the place where I want to discuss why she's a celebrity. That's for another time. Right now, I want to focus on the fact that she's a twenty-something who's been caught partying irresponsibly.

I know that I've broken plenty of laws that, had I been caught, I probably wouldn't be living the life I currently lead. And that's after the trouble that I did get myself into, then dealt with.

Most of you out there have either broken, or know someone who has broken, as many of the same laws as Miss Hilton or more. I've got news for you: just because you or people you know didn't get caught, doesn't mean that you're not as guilty. Every time you're at a bar or a party and someone who's had three or more drinks and drives home is just as guilty as Paris.

This will be a lesson that I will teach my son. It is easier to point a finger at the people you think do the wrong thing, but it is hard to look in the mirror and confess to yourself all of the things that make you imperfect.

Did you break the speed limit today? Did you cut someone off? Did you earn cash and not pay taxes? Did you throw something away in the garbage that is supposed to disposed of in a special manner, like batteries? Did you drink milk past the expiration date?

The next time you hear someone saying how Hilton got what she deserved, just wonder if you got what you deserved when you broke the rules. You might wonder how you're still walking the streets. If you're the person who doesn't break the rules, then please pass judgment. For all you Christians out there, remember your education:

John 8:7 ..."He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."

I think it's a lesson we'd all benefit from.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Great Article

I wonder if some of my friends wonder what it is I do when I'm being an at-home dad. Although I don't think anyone thinks that I'm having a grand ol' time all day every day, even I have a difficult time explaining what it is I do all day. Here's a great article responding to a person who wonders what at-home parents do.

I wanted to add something to what at-homes do, or something that I try to do:
Make sure that, when my wife gets home, she doesn't have to do anything. That dinner is almost ready. That I am presentable as is the house. That the baby is ready for love but is not crying for it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

My Big Mouth

There are many things that I will learn being a young father. Having a raunchy sense of humor will certainly allow me to learn my fair share of lessons.

One never truly knows how their remarks are taken after they're said by the people around them. I am an over-analyzer and often consider events after they've happened, especially when I've made a mistake. Hopefully, some of you reading can learn from me and help yourself avoid social disaster.

First, I made a joke about a friend's newborn, relating him to a movie character. I love their son very much and appreciate their friendship. Because I don't want to spread my ill-humor at this wonderful baby's expense, or his parents, I will not repeat the "joke". I hope that they do not think less of me for what I said. There are times and ways to joke about our children, but it's probably better to keep it to one's own kids rather than about others.

Today, I was at a family event and my 20-month-old nephew was there. He is an amazing child himself, especially with his exceptional verbal skills. Some of the adults were sitting at the table adjacent to the kitchen, talking and joking. This boy walked into the kitchen, looking around with general curiosity. He opened the cabinet under the sink where there was a bottle of Pine-Sol. His father quickly ran over, shut the door, and pointed the youngster in another direction. During this, I joked, "Hey buddy, want some apple juice?" referring to the color of the liquid. The comment drew mixed reactions at best and I quickly realized my biggest error. Sure, the comment lacked taste. It was in mixed company that may not appreciate my raunchy humor. Neither of these would bother me if it wasn't for the following fact: it was said within earshot of my nephew. Hopefully he did not hear or did not put together that I was referring to the household cleaner.

It is likely that everyone forgot what was said five minutes later. I have not.

Knowing to censor myself in front of older kids is easy for me. However, I do not give enough credit to the little ones just learning to grasp language. I would hate to learn the hard way the consequences a slight comment can have. Hopefully, this confession and exercise will help me remember to think the next time I want to spit out an off-color joke.

So, if I want to make jokes about someone's kid, make sure it is about something silly and that they would, or better yet, have joked about themselves in a care-free manner. If I want to make a joke about giving kids, that's just not funny.

I did think of a way I could have made an appropriate joke in that situation: "Hey, while you're down there, want to mop the floors? They're looking a little dull."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Cell Phones

Regarding cell phone usage in cars:

Have you noticed the people who hold their phone to an ear with the opposite ear? For example, they hold the phone to their right ear with their left hand, so that they are steering with their right and the left is crossed over their body.

I do talk on the phone in the car, 90% of the time using a hands-free device. I still ask people to hold when in a tight situation or when leaving a parking space. Some people just don't know when to say, "Hold on a sec."