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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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Griffin is starting to smile, a lot.  He has finally overcome that newborn frown, the grimace of both pleasure and pain, sleep, and utter dismay.  His eyes are starting to lighten up, turning from a deep, metallic blue to a lighter, more southern-Pacific 25-ft wave type blue with eyes so big they are mesmerizing.  He controls a room better than any executive speaker I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, only that Griffin has much less to say.

What I learned today about being a father:

This may be the new high-point in fatherdom.   There have been so many ups since Griffin’s birth that I didn’t know how much further it could go but from my current experience this may be it.

I’m told that there comes a point, around six to eight weeks, when child begins to smile and giggle and begins to understand (how they can tell this, I’m not sure).  Jackie and I have overcome the obstacles of new parents and have gotten to this point where now, more than ever, neither of us wants to put him down.  He is changing so quickly, growing so fast, getting heavy and long, and his facial expressions are becoming more deliberate making every time he smiles that much more special.

Mama has come a long way and worked to make sure that Grif has had everything he needs, and now, she said, he’s starting to give back.

What I think I know:

Nothing can prepare you for that look in your child’s eyes when you feel, no, you know that they are seeing you.  Before I could have sworn up and down that I recognized the connection, but yesterday it was oh-so apparent that there was no questioning that he was smiling at me.  My heart sank, and I nearly broke into tears today telling a co-worker about it. 

I’m a softy, what can I say.

Jackie was happy, too.  And now I feel like I finally can have a conversation with my son about all the things that are on my mind.  It’s interesting what comes out of our mouths as parents, we start talking in the third person, calling ourselves “daddy” and “mommy” explaining to our 6-week old our day or what it is we are doing right at this moment; “Daddy’s going to take a shower”, “Do you want to help daddy cook?” And then answering for them, “Of course you do.  Of course my big boy wants to help daddy with dinner.”

What I realized yesterday is that he is listening, with an intensity I can’t recall having ever in my life.  Not during my education, my college career, or my professional career.  His eyes are a gaze, staring directly into mine, and he reacts to the different pitches of my voice.  He scowles when I try to sing to him, questions when I am humming along to his children’s music, and gives deep, exhausted breathes when I try to tell him my stories.  But when I talk, just to talk and ask him about his day or have a conversation with mama, he hangs on every word.

I know this is what bringing up child is all about, and I can’t but help want more of it.  Being daddy I watch myself, my actions, my words, just about everything I do, because now some body is actually paying attention.  This is how my child is making me better, and when I thank him for it he gives me a smile, a wink, and an “atta boy!”, just for good measure.

 


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 came across a wonderful website, fatherhood.org, that I wanted to share with you.  If you’re a dad or know a dad I suggest that you share this with them, let them check it out and decide what to do with it themselves.

What I learned today about being a father:

I took off work two hours earlier than I normally would.  I wasn’t being productive, thinking about a new idea I came up with rather than doing the work that was in front of me that needs to get done, even if it doesn’t need to get done today.  That’s one of my major flaws, my mind races in different directions, seeing things that aren’t there and wondering how I can get them there.  My new creation has me researching vitamins and energy supplements and how they interact with the chemical balance of juice.  I’d go into detail for you, but I just spent the last 20 minutes writing about it before I realized how boring my description is, so I’ll move on instead.

Anyhow, I thought about going home but I didn’t.  I was missing my family, but I have realized that at home I can’t get any work done at all.  So, I went to the library instead.  I know, not a cool move by daddy, but for two hours I was able to research in peace, no phones ringing at work, no mama needing daddy at home.

When I came home Jackie was on her way out.  She was frustrated, Griffin had been fussy all day.  And when I told her I left work early to do some research I saw a defeated look in her eyes, the longness of her face being pulled further into the ground.  She didn’t say anything at first, kind of shrugged it off, and continued to tell me about her day.

What I think I know:

Wrong.  Everything about being daddy over the last 24 days told me that what I was doing was completely wrong.  It wasn’t wrong because I left work early, every thing was covered and the work that needed to get finished did, but it was because I used being daddy as an excuse to sneak away for a few hours to do the things that I love do, attempt at being creative.

She thinks I take up enough time with this blog, doesn’t understand why I do it or why I anyone would read it.  I can’t explain it to her, but the reason she fell in love with me was because I aspired to be a writer.  She liked my creativity, my inspiration from life events that gives me ideas to better our future, to create some thing or write some thing that changes the way one person, just one, looks at the world.  I have always wanted to do that, but being daddy is what I’ve done to change a life.

She didn’t have to tell me she was tired, or that she was disappointed that I didn’t come home when I left work.  She didn’t need to, rather she just went about what she was doing.  On her way out she looked at me and simply said she was proud of me.

And being me, I didn’t get it.  I still don’t.  Jackie, my wonderful wife, knows me well enough to support my ideas, whether they are crazy, intangible, out of the ordinary or just plain weird.  Being daddy has created a different future for us, a new path that hasn’t been written or paved and who knows, maybe future daddy’s ideas will be the ones to change the world.

But in the meantime I need to just focus on being daddy today.  Future daddying depends on it.

Daddy Question:

The blogosphere is full of creative people who have creative ideas and unique perspectives.   How do you balance your creative side while being the best parent that you can be?

Griffin John, Future of Me

My Future, Griffin John


If you haven’t gathered from my thoughts and whisperings I am not from where I live.  I moved to Madison with my wife so she could attend grad school.  She is an Educational Psychology student shooting for her PhD within the next two years.  Being here with her has improved my life dramatically, but my birth family isn’t here and when Griffin was born I was worried that he may never get to know my side of our family.

My sister is in town on business for the next three weeks.  She is six years younger than I, much more smart and much better looking than me, and yet sitting with her in our small two-bedroom listening to her stories amazes me the more I get to know her better.

What I learned today about being a father:

My sister is awesome.  She tries to keep in touch through all the different modes of communication you can think of.  She’s driven to be the rock that holds my three brothers and me together even though she moved away from home four years ago.  She is driven to be as successful as possible, to put her mark on the world as a young business woman and to retire before she’s 40.  She loves talking about money, her life, her husband and his family but more important she completely understands why I am the way am and likes me just the same.

In my eyes she is still my little sister, the young girl who cheered me on at my basketball games and would get excited when she was a part of what the boys were up to.  She was always the smart one, always the one we all said would make something of herself because we could all see the it in her.  And as she sits here, with Jackie, Griffin and I, and she tells the stories about her life, I can’t help think how fast she has grown up.

What I think I know:

So nothing I previously said explains what I learned today about being a father, but as much as I can remember about my sister when she was just a girl, I can’t for the life of me remember why we ever thought she would turn out the way she did.  I mean, I lived in the same house with her for 12 years, came back from college for some weekends and holidays and made sure I was there to stare down her date to her first high school dance.

That’s what being a brother was all about, but what I didn’t realize is that it’s these same qualities that go into being daddy.  I’ve got to see the good qualities that my son portrays, reinforce the positives and deal with any negatives in a way that teaches him to be a good person.

Seeing my sister makes my day, and I’m glad she’s in town for a few weeks to share in the life of her new nephew.  My parents are on their way from Omaha, NE, to spend some time with us and meet their new grandchild as well.  These are the first of my clan that Griffin will meet, and there are many more to come, which is awesome and scary at the same time.  Awesome because my family has a lot of different components to take from, scary because even today I can see the differences in Griffin.  He is bigger, longer, more wide-eyed than I would have thought after only 25 days.  He’s growing up faster than I want him to, but there’s no stopping it, it’s going to happen.  But it was my sisters presence with us tonight that made me realize that I’m still her big brother, and that even though she’s grown up she is still my little sister.  As old as he gets, and as grown up as becomes, he will never be too grown up to be anything less than my son.

I like that.


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.


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.