Class Now In Session

Monthly Archives: April 2012

I realized today how hard it is being mama.  Jackie, nearly in tears, talked to me about how she doesn’t know if she can breast feed any longer.  I listened as best I could, trying hard not to say anything that didn’t agree with her reasoning or say anything that agreed with her reasoning too much, so I didn’t say anything at all.  She was anxious, nervous, and under enormous pressure to meet the goals she had set for herself with this endeavor.  It was hard to see, hard to be there and try to console her when I couldn’t completely understand what she was going through.  Baby cried, too, and I could tell in her eyes that she was having a mama breakdown which was breaking my heart.

What I learned today about being a father:

Jackie is a rock.  She works hard at everything she does and is not one to accept any type of failure whether it falls on her or people she sets expectations for.  This, however, has her baffled.

I’ve noticed the frustration with his feedings over the last two days, tried hard to be understanding and do whatever I can to help.  I offer to make a bottle, give her mama breaks, get her favorite dinner and just about everything else under the sun that I think might make a difference but nothing does.  And everything I do isn’t enough, or is wrong, or isn’t what she wanted from me.  I’m trying to understand, still, but I’m not quite getting it.

During yesterday’s afternoon feeding she spoke out loud to Griffin about his feeding habits.  They have changed, over the last few days, and he has become more fussy, picky, if you will, about when he feeds and what he is feeding on.  It seems to change by the minute and has become insatiable.  Then, during lunch and dinner I noticed something completely changed about my wife; she complained about both meals.  Her feeding times were off, too.  She wanted lunch at 1:30PM, dinner at 5; and everything that touched her mouth wasn’t good enough.  It even carried over to breakfast this morning too, and it hit me; Baby and mama were now eating out of habit rather than necessity.

What I think I know:

My mind may be playing tricks on me, but what I think I know is that mama and baby are facing the same challenges when it comes to their temperaments and their eating habits.  Neither eats a complete meal and both show distaste for whatever it is they are eating.  When she is fussy, he is fussy, and vice verse.  When I started to mention it to her to try to relax her assumptions she went off on a tyrant about all the things I didn’t know, what I didn’t understand, and how I would never get it.

Listening to her isn’t easy, and understanding both of them is extremely hard.  Part of being daddy is getting to know what the faces and sounds our babies make mean, drawing from past experiences on what calms them down and what does not.  Whether it’s a certain position or a particular Nuk, our babies need us to get them, and our partners need us to listen, be here, and never let their frustrations get the best of them.

Jackie took a shower to relax, and I took Griffin, crying baby and all, and put to work one of the realizations that I came about the other day.  I plugged in the iPhone, opened up the windows, and danced while singing to Coldplay.  I don’t know what it is but my voice, no matter how bad it sounds, grabs his attention, makes him hold still, and gives me amble Babyface Time with my son.

Jackie got her mama break too.  And when she sees Griffin smiling and being calm she smiles and is calm.  She hugs daddy, kisses her son, and gets ready for his afternoon feeding.  Today, above all days, she fed him strictly from the breast.  “All right Grif, I’m not letting you off that easy,” she said.  And then it happened.  Griffin took from the breast, mama ate her salad, and I realized that being daddy is not just about trying to understand the things I hear but understanding better the things I can’t.


I can’t dance, and I’ll be the first to admit it.  Tonight, after 23 days of being latched at the nip, mama decided to take some time for herself and hand daddy the reigns to child.  She was reluctant, stalled with excuses like reading him a book, pumping, maybe doing a basket of laundry (maybe), but in the end I gave her my certificate of reassurance that I wouldn’t burn the house down (see Stupid Things Daddy Does II) and I wouldn’t submit Griffin to any of my crazy daddy ideas that I have floating around in my head (not yet, at least).

Once the door closed behind her Griffin pooped, I changed him, plugged in the iPhone to the iDock and turned it up.

And we danced.

What I learned today about being a father:

This was the moment I didn’t know if I was ready for.  I mean, I’ve thought about for 23 days, thought about the time when he and I would be alone and how I would handle all the things that happen that mama usually takes care of.  Jackie, bless her heart, went over all the precautionary details if he was fussy, how I could tell if he needed to be changed, where the bottles were and how much to feed him (not too much, though, when she gets home she wants to breast feed!).  The Nuk came in handy, I fought off serving him bottle as long as I could, and played and danced until daddy ran out of gas.

Kids are tough and desire a lot of attention, especially now.  In two hours I realized what mamas put up with for a whole day.  I was inspired, however, by the music of O.A.R., Grasshopper Takeover (a band from my hometown who didn’t sell many records but made some beautiful music), Phoenix, The Head and The Heart and Dave Mathews Band.  When I didn’t think I could keep him entertained much longer I just did what I thought I had to do, I turned the music up!

What I think I know:

If the neighbors were looking in our windows they would have seen a wiley young man in his early 20’s (days, that is) in his diapers and his aging daddy in his underwear dancing the night away.  It was majestic, our flow, our glide across the hardwood floors, the way his legs struggled  about without notion or rhythm.  In the end, it was the greatest time of both our lives.

I lulled him to sleep while singing along to Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do…”, and held him in my arms until mama got home.  He was half asleep, she was sweaty and lovely, beautiful mama.  Right then and there I knew that I was lucky, because I knew that I had more and more dancing to look forward to.


When Jackie hands Griffin over to me after he falls asleep and she goes off to take care of some of her mama duties like breast feed, feed herself, bathe, study, search the internet endlessly for information on what she might think is wrong with him, I secretly hope that he wakes up in my arms, opens his eyes, and sees me first.

What I learned today about being a father:

I could sit for hours with my little guy and watch his little chest move up and down as he breathes in his sleep.  I get goo-goo when he is dreaming, and then suddenly his little arms shoot up and over his head and then they slowly descend back down by his sides, his hands resting peacefully on his bulging belly.  He’s growing, I can tell and the doctor said so and when I see his now pudgy fingers I waive Jackie over quietly just to point them out.  “Here here here, you’ve got to see these things.(!)”  She runs over on tip-toes and looks at what I’m holding up, his fingers gripping my pinky, and shakes her head at me.

“Can you believe that little wonder was in my belly?”

She says it with inspiration, amazement, awe, and pats her tummy and goes back to doing whatever mamas do.  I grin daddy proud, and slowly one eye pops open, Griffin’s right eye, and his pupil moves around to see what’s going on.  He doesn’t open his left eye, not yet at least, but it’s at this point, when he first wakes up, that he is always smiling, and it’s daddy’s turn for babyface time.

What I think I know:

Children are a wonder, and it’s amazing what women have to go through to get them here.  I wanted to share that moment today because it was a first for me to experience what Jackie calls ‘Babyface Time.’  I have had the luxury of witnessing many handfuls of time when she has woken him from his sleep, but it was a first for it actually happening to me.  He doesn’t like me as much, I can tell by the scowls and way his eyes crease and his brow raises and lowers, but in that moment I feel like I get it, whatever it is.

I started writing a long time ago on accident, just pros and anecdotes about my life and my thoughts and I moved on to other things like fiction and screenplays (all for personal use of course) and in everything I do I write about the it in life that defines us.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel like I’ve been searching for it, researching it through the various religions and texts and stories and movies for a long, long time.  I’ve spent so much of my life breaking down and discussing with people the in’s and out’s of destiny and nature, the ideals of philosophers, theologians, naturalists and my dog Archie, that I failed at the time to realize one thing; I’ve never done anything as significant before as being daddy.

I could talk all I want to about life but never really know anything about it until I was a part in creating it.  Babyface time, looking into Griffin’s eyes and thinking about all the world that I have to offer him, made it  pretty clear, but I don’t know how to explain it other than with the moment when he opened his one eye, his right eye, and he looked right into me and smiled.

And like so many others before her I took an hour of Jackie’s time trying to explain to her the feelings and the emotions and the clarity involved in the simple look that Griffin exposed me to listened with as much might as she could before she readily put my insights and pontificating into simple terms that being daddy made me understand, “He probably just shat in his pants.”

As usual, she was correct.


Mommy took Griffin to work to show him off tonight and I thought this would be a great opportunity for me dazzle her with my culinary expertise.  No simple mac and cheese or pasta Primavera, no, not for my wife!  I prepped the kitchen utensils and cleaned off the countertops and took aim at her favorite dish; Swanson‘s canned chicken chunks mixed with Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Pizza cheese wrapped in a Pillsbury croissant roll with broccoli rice and home-made egg rolls.  Oh, it was to be stupendous!  Alas, however, my sister Skyped me!  And while in Skype my mind must have wandered, for croissants began to burst and flake than rice got overcooked…but in the end, it was those dang egg rolls that  got the best of me.  Home made (not by me, by a co-worker who makes them delicious) and ready to fry in oil over the stove top preheated to high.  I pulled five rolls from freezer and a sixth (just in case), and dropped them into the high heat and nearly set the kitchen on fire!

What I learned today about being a father:

If Griffin could understand what I just did, he’d laugh.  Mama didn’t find it so funny though.  Our cramped two-bedroom smells of burnt…something?  I can’t place it really.  It just smells like smoke.  Everything smells like smoke.

It took less than five seconds for our place to be engulfed in the fumes and smoke, 10 seconds for our fire alarm to go off, 12 for the one in the hallway outside our door.  I pulled the oil off the flame, but smoke poured over the sides, the oil popped, and the carbon filled my lungs.  I was coughing with such force that I dropped the frying oil, with egg rolls, into the sink.  More smoke, more popping, skin getting burnt from the drops of popping oil into the air, and then the oven timer goes off…Let me just end right here, what a mess.

What I think I know:

I am no chef, and I’ve never claimed to be one.  I tried to do something nice for mama because she was trying so hard to be mama and take care of obligations that she had at work which she couldn’t hand over to some one else.  I thought it’d be sweet, thoughtful, the husbandry thing to do.

I called her to warn her not to bring Griffin home for a few hours.  It was just too smoky, my eyes still burn and my lungs hurt and I didn’t want to put them through that.  I opened all the windows (Wisconsin in April!) and let the smoke take it’s course.  Four hours later, four hours, Jackie knocked on the door and I let her in.

“It still smells in here.”  She gave me a kiss and handed me dinner, a McDonald’s bag with the french fries mostly eaten.  Griffin made a face, and we sat down at the table to eat my wife’s second favorite meal and laughed our heads off.

These are the days we don’t forget, one of the stories we’ll share with Griffin when he makes a mistake or is feeling bad about not being good at something.  And if I know Jackie as well as I think I do I know we’ll be laughing our heads off then, too.

It took this many to put out my kitchen fire...


When her hand waves across her lips I know she’s telling me to get baby‘s nuk.  When she holds him out in front of me and he has that relieved look on his face I know he needs to be changed.  When she’s ready to nurse looking at me frantically I know she’s looking for her nipple shield.  When she sits down next to me, lays her head on my shoulder and sighs, I know mommy needs a break.  Welcome to mommy speak.

What I learned today about being a father:

My wife has always had her things,you know, a look that says how she feels or sound she makes when she needs you to do something for her.  I have them too, but Jackie’s are less subtle, somewhat more aggressive, and now she has added new mommy speak territory that I can barely keep up with.

I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches, but yesterday I was missing cues left and right.  She started doing this thing with her elbow, waving it up and down as she bottle feeds saying things like, “Hey, B, over there…” than pointing with her tip-toes to something on the floor, or maybe on the desk, or maybe in the kitchen.  I scamper back and forth in our little two-bedroom, picking up items and showcasing them like I’m the Price-Is-Right.  I’m no show model, either, but when I don’t get whatever it is she’s asking for correct she rolls her eyes at me and let’s me know how she has to do everything herself. 

“Honey,” I say.  “Just tell me what you need and I’ll get it.”  She sits down with baby, ignoring my incompetence completely at this point, and let’s baby know how hard it is being mommy, out loud of course.

What I think I know:

Griffin is three weeks into this world now and I can tell you that he understands mommy speak better than I ever will.  He laughs at her jokes (with me as the punch line) and snarls when I do something wrong or handle him in a way that doesn’t suit his mood.  I see it already, baby and mommy conspiring against daddy to take over the household (which they already rule) and soon, one day, his soul. 

The bond created between mother and child is very unique.  She can hush him up with the twist of his body, make him smile just by looking at him, and when she gives me that look, that “You’re in the doghouse” look, he does too. 

Mommy’s needs are great and her life is moving at a pace that I will never quite understand.  I’ve studied her moods and her antics for over five years now and have gotten pretty good at heading off any issues at the pass, but mommy speak is different, more complicated, and now involves another entity that is attached to mommy’s hip like the two guys from that move “Stuck On You“, starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.  Being Daddy is all about making adjustments, and I have realized that if I can relearn to read my wife better I can also understand my son.

And when mommy sends me text with pictures like this,

Good morning Daddy!

I know she’s telling me she loves me.


What do you want to be when you grow up?

Looking at this question now, I wonder if any of us really had a chance to answer it?  I’m starting to hear it already, from friends and family alike, how child looks like this and that and how adament my wife is about him becoming a swimmer.  My lovely wife, she’s a fiesty one, and she gets pretty competitive when it comes to playing board games, running a 10K, working out at the gym, her education, her accolades, and now our baby boy.  Fathers, sure!  That’s who I hear it from the most!  Guys want to know if I’m going to breed my son to play basketball (as I was pretty good once upon a time) or baseball (that too) or soccer (yep) or if I’m going to push him to be writer (still working on that) or a magician (I was terrible), but what I tell them is he’ll decide exactly what he’s going to be…Unless my wife has her way.

What I learned today about being a father:

Kids don’t have choices, they have options.  Jackie and I talk about what our expectations are for our child, and I firmly believe that you need them, but as I’m putting our list together I start to wonder if our expectations are too demanding.  Not demanding in that they are too much (though they most likely are) but demanding as in how will are boy now whathewants out of life? 

Parents are driven to create success situations for our children and to teach them all that we can.  I know a few things about sports and could teach child about the sports I grew up to know best, but I couldn’t teach him anything about what I don’t know.  I want to be able to open him up to his own experiences, let him make choices based on his interests and preferences so he shapes his life.  In my late teens I became pretty independent, made decisions good or bad and was held responsible.  It was hard, but sometimes I think what made it harder was the fact that my parents tried to direct my lifes path.  There was nothing wrong with their direction, but I created a fork when I was 16 and when my path began to pull away from the path they had begun to build it created immense friction in our relationship.

I look back on it all now and chuckle, knowing that my parents were doing what they thought was best for me and I know my wife and I will do what’s best for Griffin, but will we?

What I think I know:

There has to be a point in our children’s lives when we let them make choices, whether good or bad, so they can learn to take responsibility of their life.  But when does that happen?  Is there an age that we, as parents, have to let go of the strings, stop trying to build a road that they don’t want to travel down anymore and if so how do we know?

Being daddy doesn’t give me the answers to any of this, nor does my life experience.  I know I’m better off letting Jackie talk about the future Griffin is going to have rather than deter her from being the best mama she is going to be.  It was only three weeks ago that he joined the outside world, and everyday I watch him change from this incredible, tiny thing, into a small child.  Soon he will be a boy and then a teenager and at some point he will become his own man, but I’m scared, even worried sometimes because I don’t want to push him into his future.  In a snap, just like that, he will be his own person.  Maybe an explorer or a writer, an actor, a scientist or star in his own podcast reality show, I don’t know, but whatever he’s going to be, it can wait.  For now, I am enjoying the moment, him being him and me being daddy, and letting mama worry about teaching him how to swim (I was never good at that).


Welcome to How To Be a Dad

I just came across another compelling website, HowToBeADad.com.  Like so many other fatherhood websites this isn’t a site that defines dads or dads to be.  It’s a fun play on the musings of two different fathers and their livelyhoods and has some great articles to entertain and somewhat enlighten us.

But is this it for us daddies?  In my research this is pretty typical of what I find, sites dedicated to being daddy for our entertainment only.  Below is how they introduce their site:

If you were looking for a website telling you how to be a dad… You didn’t find it. We aren’t experts in “dadology.” We aren’t even sure such a thing exists. We’re just here to tell you that being a parent sometimes means experiencing things without an authority, letting love and humor get you through. For those other times, we recommend a sturdy helmet.” – Charlie & Andy, The Dads

We are not looking for the answer or the authority on daddying, but for many of us we are looking for some advice that doesn’t hint just towards the funny. I know, I know, you might be saying, “why so blue?” I’m not down or out, just searching for information and trying to provide an alternative to what isn’t out there.

What I learned today about being a father:

HowToBeADad.com is funny and whimsical and has many great blurbs that I will gravitate back to.  I like to joke around, and Jackie tends to my jokes with some laughter when necessary, but mostly hates my sarcasm and tells me to save my jokes for her father (because we get along really well and understand each others jokes, it’s a guy thing).  But as for understanding how to be a dad, I fell we, dads, are all in this together and it has been proven time and time again, through avid internet research, the lack of daddy articles in any parenting/baby magazines, that we, dads, are like fish out of water when it comes to parenting.

What I think I know:

Women have a sixth sense when it comes to being mama that seems to be in direct correlation with the zero sense men have being daddy.  Give a women a baby and she may look at him/her funny for a second, but then it all just works out.  Motherhood is embedded in the back of their subconsciousness.  Men, on the other hand, takes weeks, months, years and maybe a lifetime to figure out what being daddy is all about.  There isn’t enough information out their for us, so we have to work together to at being daddy.  I know we need some relief from our everyday contributions in the realms of parenthood, and I’m glad that I can find them with websites like howtobeadad.com.  But I also know that we need to take ourselves and the lives of our children seriously.

I believe that being daddy represents an opportunity for all fathers to help mold a good life for our children and give them the tools and opportunities to be successful human beings, and that learning to be daddy has been a fun and challenging experience for me.  We need to enjoy the experience, but referring to the experiences and challenges we face in a manner that doesn’t take parenthood seriously may not be the best approach to fatherhood that we can take.

Tip of the Week:

Being daddy is great, but know the difference between taking care of your child and watching your child grow up.  My wife, bless her heart, got into the habit of asking, “Can you watch our son for a minute?”  I nipped that in the but when I caught on to the trap she was setting for herself and me, and told her to ask me to take care of our son so that I could feel like the little things I could do mattered.