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Category Archives: How To Be A Dad

mismatched socksIt’s been nearly 7 months since my last post and boy, a lot has happened.  I tried keeping this blog in the loop of the things daddy does but with a career, working on starting a company to move into a new career, keeping mommy happy which in turn keeps baby happy, and writing the first page of many different novels to come and some times revisiting those novels late at night when baby was keeping us awake, well, you know…

As you can imagine, Griffin has hit certain milestones.  Some early then others and some later, but hitting them just the same.  Like any good father, being daddy has been a lot about making time for those milestones so I can take pictures of them, video tape them, and then re-watch them with mommy over and over again after Grif goes to sleep.  I can say that this never was the plan, and the more I just get to watch him eat his first meal of solid, try to take his first crawl, or stand up for the first time in the crib all his own I know some of these milestones are just better served as a memory that I’ll hold on to until I can’t anymore.

Jackie has tried her best to keep up with the milestones in Griffin’s baby book, a chore better left to mommy, but being daddy means we have to hear about it over and over again and look at the book every time a new milestone is complete.  Though it may seem redundant at first, being daddy is about remembering the labor intensive work mommy puts in to keeping that baby book up to date, in line, and fresh.  Milestones, like matching socks, are better kept together; nice, neat, and organized.  But like the best pair of socks, it’s the ones that we find after they go missing that we cherish the most.  And those milestones are usually stored away somewhere deep in our memory, peeking out when we need them to the most.

What I learned today about being a father:

I’ve been sick for the past three days.  So sick, in fact, that both jobs were ignored and Jackie took Grif to the in-laws for the day to stay away from me.  I made the suggestion, but while they were gone I went through the motions of thinking about how empty our apartment was, and how much more miserable that made me.


Being daddy is about working and doing everything you can to provide for your family.  So I spend the majority of my week sitting in an office working on keeping a business I run afloat, then spending more time at my home office building a business I run to try to get it afloat.  All this time is spent away from my family, and even though I’m at home during my second job I am trying to deal with clients while they are in the office so I don’t have to bother them at home when they are with their family!  Quite the conundrum really, but I’ve tried to make it work as best as I can so I can give my family something better than what we have now.  But being away from my family is hard, especially because I’m consistently reminded of the milestones I’ve missed from the pictures Jackie texts me or the videos she shows me when I get home.  I love being kept in the loop, but being there is much, much more rewarding.

What I learned about being a father was two-fold; when I saw Griffin standing in his crib without our help, his childhood literally flashed before my eyes.  Less than 8 months ago he was still just a tiny being inside Jackie’s belly and we worried about him being healthy or what kind of parents we would be.  Back then, like it was so long ago, we called the doctor when something didn’t seem right or sought advice from people who have been through this before, worried that w

e would screw something up along the way and our child would learn to hate us before he was even 1 year of age!  But as he stood tall and proud, balancing himself up on the side of his crib, a new set of thoughts ran through me…damn, I’ve got lower that crib.

Kids grow up, and they grow up fast.  And I also learned that when you’re sick, no matter which parent it is, parenting doesn’t just shut down or go away.  I had it easy for most of the day I stayed home sick.  Jackie took Griffin to her parents for half the day, giving me time to rest and try to make myself better.  When she got home she was frustrated, even angry, and let me know that being daddy doesn’t get a break just because I’m not feeling well or because my partners in another country need me on a conference call at 10PM while Griffin is trying to sleep.  Being daddy, she tells me, is also about being present and especially about being quite when baby sleeps.

What I think I know:

For those who have read this blog in the past, I can honestly tell you that everything I thought I knew did not teach me anything about what I know now, and that still isn’t very much.  Eight months later and mommy is still the most important part of baby’s life.  Jackie is Griffin’s lifeline, his go-to when something doesn’t feel right or he doesn’t think daddy can take care of his needs.  When mommy leaves the room, baby notices.

But what I think I know is this; being daddy is about cherishing those few moments after birth that we get to have with our sons and daughters when mommy is away.  Sure, it takes a few minutes for our infants to realize that things will be alright, but being daddy is also about earning that trust, taking care of our babies and spending time with them no matter the situation.  We can’t be present for all of their milestones no matter how hard we try, but it’s just as important to be there for them when we can, make an effort and turn off the TV, put down the cell phone, reschedule that important meeting, and speak to your child as much as possible.

Those milestones, the time you spend with your child, will always be kept up somewhere, in the back of your mind, for you to look forward to remembering again.  And if you want to be a real hero for your wife, always keep an eye out for that missing sock, because you just might be rewarded handsomely when you find it.

 

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Baby. Check.

Mama. Check.

Being Daddy’s Survival Guide to the Coming Apocalypse.  Check.

Now that I’ve got your attention, there are going to be so many things you can’t take with you when the apocalypse strikes.  And even if it doesn’t strike, as daddy I want to be über prepared, ultra ready, and light years ahead of the game so that I can take care of Griffin’s needs, mama’s wants, and keep daddy’s sanity, even if I don’t know exactly what I’m talking about.

What I learned today about being a father:

Basketball is my zen.  Shooting hoops on the open court relieves any type of stress that builds up inside me, relaxes all tension in my torso, my back, and especially my head, so when the apocalypse hits the fan, the needs for myself are few and far between, but I know that a basketball and a needle and pump will be key to keeping me cool, calm, and collective.  As for baby and mama, well, those are two extraordinarily different beasts all together.  Jackie, my beautiful wife, has already stated that if an apocalypse does show up in 2012 she’s going to be super angry, and even if her anger doesn’t stop it from happening, it may just slow it down.  Because trust me, you don’t want to make mama angry.

What I think I know:

Baby’s needs come first.  Clothing of all shapes and sizes is key to battling the things we can’t control, like the weather.  Make sure to pack no less than one pair of each size of baby clothes 6 months from child’s age.  The thinking behind this is  pretty simple, no matter the situation Griffin is going to keep growing.  At the beginning it’s better to keep him comfortable, so whatever he’s wearing at the time plus five outfits his size are key to the transition from pre-apocalypse living to post-apocalypse surviving, but watch out for that nuclear summer, it could throw a complete wrench in what types of clothes you’ve prepped.

Next you’ll need at least three blankets.  Imagine, if you will, a slow-moving apocalypse, one that doesn’t “happen” right away, but takes some time to rev itself up.  Blankets cover baby, keep him warm, add just another layer of protection to whatever might be ailing us at the time.  Three blankets because most likely one will get ruined from the running around, trying to survive mode that mama and daddy will be in.  So you will need one to replace the one you lost and another back-up for when baby blows out and dirties the one you are using.

The next thing you’ll need to think about is baby stuff; what are necessary items that need to fit in the small back-pack already being filled with 10 days of baby clothes, three blankets, a basketball (deflated, of course), pump, and needle (and we haven’t even gotten to mama yet!).  The first thing I can think of is Griffin’s Nuks.  When we need something to calm him down or help put him to sleep his Nuk comes in really handy…But wait!  There are Nuks for the different stages of his life, so how do I decide which Nuks to take?  Easy, even though there are Nuks for all stages, the best Nuks are his newborn ones, so I pack three of those and then two more for down the road or barter material (because I’m sure we’ll need some good barter material, and what if we run into a family with no Nuks and acrying child but has an extra tent, don’t you think they’d be up for trading the tent for a Nuk?).

So we’ve got some basics handy, ready to roll.  Now we need to decide if we load the rest of the space up with toys or formula.  This is the tough spot we are put in being daddy, but for me, formula makes the most sense.  Because Jackie is able to nurse I work it out with her first that she’ll continue to nurse as long as possible because we can only get so much formula in our bag that’s filling up fast.  Jackie agrees (even though I know she will argue against my suggestions, just because I suggested it), so we grab two containers of formula and put them into Zip-Lock bags.  Why Zip-Lock bags, you ask?  Because they are more pliable and take up less space in our carry along, leaving more room for our next essential objects:

Our E-Reader.  Now bear with me here.  Even though the apocalypse has come and energy will be hard to come by, by taking our E-Reader we can load as many children’s books on there as they have in a library, thus saving tons of space (and weight) than packing all of Griffin’s books into the limited space that we have.  We will purchase a solar pack that plugs into our E-Reader, what, with the nuclear summer and all…

And lastly, but not least, our digital camera.  Even though we’re facing the apocalypse, we are still going to want to get pictures of Griffin growing up, and plus we have yet to get our first family photo.

Though I haven’t gotten to what Jackie would bring just yet, I can tell you from experience that she wouldn’t bring anything if it meant taking up space for baby things, and we’d be just as fine as we are now (though she’d probably make me leave my basketball, it’s OK though, because I always lose those pesky needles to fill them up with air, pesky needles).


I feel like I’m starting from scratch again!  You wouldn’t have guessed that Jackie gave birth over a month ago because it feels like it’s happening all over again.  The constant complaining, the shouting at the Playstation 3 for cutting out on shows, the weeps and sobs when that commercial about the orphaned dogs comes on TV, and that’s just me!

Seriously though, Jackie is going through some new emotions and changes in her attitude that I just don’t get.  Griffin is feeling it too, following right along with mamas reactions towards how daddy makes a bottle, how daddy folds baby’s clothes, and how daddy can’t seem to utter a word in when mama’s yelling at everything and anything.  I’ve always liked rollercoasters, no, loved rollercoasters, but this is the bumpiest, loopiest, most upside-down ride I’ve ever been on! (Speaking of rollercoasters I suggest Six Flags in the Chicago land area, epic rides)

What I learned today about being a father:

It’s been nearly four days since my last post, and I know what you’re thinking, “Why so lazy daddy?”  I promise when I say I’m motivated, obligated, and doing my best to emancipate myself from my wife to keep up on this blog.  I am trying to convey this in the best way possible, but over the last four days my wife and sister (who is in from out-of-town) planned a Cinco De Mayo party without telling me; one that I had to take off early from work to prepare for.  My sister was supposed to help me cook, Jackie run errands and prep our small two-bed for company, while I did all the grocery shopping, meal and bar preparation.  Though I wasn’t keen on the idea of making food I for twenty in our little kitchen, at 6AM I had it in my mind that with all the help from the other two this wouldn’t be an issue.

Daddies, never make plans that something won’t go wrong.

My sister ended up lame with a hurt back, one that would end up making sending us to a hospital and making her bed ridden for the remainder of her stay in town, at a hotel room, with my parents coming into town.  Jackie called grandma over to help clean the apartment which turned into grandma and mama sitting on the couch watching Grey’s goo-gooing and ga-gaing over baby.  Daddy went to work until 11AM, then to the store to buy the goods, then home and unloaded and went straight to work prepping, baking, and cooking for the next 7 hours.  It was a whirlwind of on-goings and what-the-heck-am-I-doing dessert making, but it all worked out in the end.

And that’s the thing, Jackie, completely ignoring my pleas for help, just kept saying, “B, it will all work out in the end.  Everything will be great.”  Smiling wide, looking at baby.

What I think I know:

Despite the problems with my sister and Jackie’s emotional ups and downs, all in all it was a great weekend.  My parents were able to meet their grandson for the first time, and though they had to take turns, one watching my sister, one at the two-bed holding Griffin, they couldn’t have asked for a better, more complete weekend.

I didn’t get it, to be honest.  I talked it over with my parents Sunday night, wondering with the serious back issue my sister faced (and I mean serious-serious, she couldn’t walk, stand up, move from her laying position, or get to the bathroom in time because of the pain) and the long road they took to get here why they thought it was such a great weekend?  It was damp and rained off-and-on all weekend, we didn’t even get a chance to go out for dinner or lunch or hang out as a family.  Moms (I call her moms, can’t really explain why) and dad chuckled, and they agreed that it was great because they got the chance to not only be fun, loving grandparents, but they got to be parents again.

The art of being a parent never really goes away.  My parents house has been empty for over five years, and though the enjoy us staying over when we come into town they never, ever have to take care of us.  This weekend moms and dad went to work on my sister, and I, older brother and all, got a chance to give good brotherly help as well.

As everything changes, some things never do.  My parents, the guardian of their children, went into protection/take care of mode without hesitation.  They relished this role, the role of parent, husband and wife taking care of their little girl.  It was amazing, perfect even, just watching them do what they do best hoping that in the coming years I can be the best daddy I can be.

Once the smoke cleared, the grandparents gone and my sister back home, I sat with Jackie and listened to her complain about our dinner, yell at her phone, scold the dog, and tell me how need to stop telling people stories because it takes me too long to get to the point.  The point is, and I’m sorry it took this long, she gave me a kiss, thanked me for watching Grey’s with her, let me hold baby and got me ice cream, just because. 

Being daddy it sometimes feels like we are starting over again and again, but it all works out in the end.


I’m a martial arts junky and a fan of foreign films of just about every genre.  Last night little Grif wouldn’t go to sleep.  I did the dance with him, actually dancing with him, singing in elaborate voices that sound more like Cartman from South Park than a real human being, and pushing him back and forth in his stroller in our small two-bedroom (he likes the car seat, even when not in a car).

I did everything I thought I knew I could before having to sit down on the couch.  He kept grabbing, whining, smiling, making baby noises that creep out the neighbors.  I was spent, so I turned on the Netflix, him dangling from my arms.  I strolled through the offerings and settled on a movie about 17th century Mongolia.  From the moment the movie started Griffin, now sitting up in my left arm looking like daddy, became fixated with the television.  His eyes were wide, his mouth shaped in a small “o”, and he was still.

What I learned today (tonight) about being a father:

When mama grasps for peace and quiet she hands baby over to daddy.  Being daddy is a mix of taking care of mama and baby, but when she relinquishes control of her child its double duty for daddy. 

It’s important for mama to get her sleep and for us dads to learn how to take care of ous infants.  But be warned, because everything I thought I knew up to this point went out the window.  I ran through the list in my head titled “How to Keep Baby Quiet”, thumbed through chapters 1, 2, and 3, until the list went blank.  Jackie got out of bed, twice, but each time she reached for him I told her “I got it.”

I really thought I did, and when I didn’t I gave up trying so hard, sat down and turned on the telly, and that’s when my miracle happened…silence.

What I think I know:

As new parents we trend on proven ways to calm our babies down.  I had to watch a video before leaving the hospital, the 5 S’s (Swaddle, Side, Shoosh, Shake, Suck) and it worked for all of two days before my being daddy radar kicked in.  From there I moved on to other things, like singing, humming, skin-to-skin, dancing, baby-walking, cheering on mama when she was about ready to nurse, etc.  All those things were great, and here I am four weeks into his life and everything has changed again!

Being daddy is all about adapting and babies changing quickly.  Sooner or later he might be a terror on the bike path, a car junkie, a rodeo clown or a professional skydiver but the one thing I know is that I have to learn now how to take care of him today.  I never thought TV would be the answer, and I know that I don’t want it to be a staple in my sons life.  Heck, when he was born we dumped our cable company for this very reason!

But it was dimwitted luck that I found success through my martial arts films, and even though I know it wasn’t because of the film, rather, it was because I used the one piece of advice I actually think helps from the 5 S’s film; I relaxed. 

No amount of training or film study can prepare us for the changes in our children.  We have to roll with their punches, adapt to their environment by creating an environment based on merits we choose and hope that some day they succumb to our wills, willingly or with force.  But until then we can’t let our emotions get out of control.  Their crying won’t stop the more anxious we get, so when the time comes find something that calms you down, and baby will take cue and follow suit.

Then enjoy some Stir Fry for lunch, and celebrate passing the lesson of being Kung Fu papa.


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...