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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.

 

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I take pride in my work ethic, working hard and going above and beyond to do what’s best for my family and my company.  There has never been a time in my life where anyone would have found me asleep on the job.  I’ve worked in many different environments since I was ten years old, work days that lasted over 15 hours, and have somehow managed to put in the extra time to keep up with my personal activities and entertain Jackie’s very often at times warped idea of what constitute as “doing something fun.”

All that changes in an instant, and on a short elevator ride from the basement of my office building to the third floor I became a victim the second worst kind of enemy behind time, sleep.

What I learned today about being a father:

When the elevator reached the 8th floor a co-worker of mine tapped me on the shoulder.  “You OK?”  I was startled and nearly buckled, leaning into the corner of the elevator I had shut my eyes for what I thought was just a second, but on the way up I had dozed, just like that.

He smiled widely and, aware of our new baby, simply said “You’ll get used to it.”

Please be aware, you’ll never get used to falling asleep in an elevator.  I mean seriously, it’s a metal box with no soft edges.  The mirrored plates that line the inner workings of most elevators are usually cold, sticky to the touch.  Has anyone else ever noticed the unnatural film that is invisible to the naked eye that builds up inside elevators?  The sides of my hair changed drastically from said film, sticking out in ways I never thought possible.  A quick trip to the bathroom and a few finger-fulls of water would do nothing to contain the new bend that had formed.  And though it was only  a few bunches of hair, by the looks of me it had become obvious to myself (and everyone else in the office) that being daddy has changed me.

What I think I know:

To make it through the day I was extra caffeinated and made a point to walk around for at least 20 minutes of every hour.  It was the longest day of my life, and my coworkers all had something to say about how pale I looked, how my the redness of my eyes was out of control, and there were only a few pokes of fun about my stint of sleeping in the elevator (like all great work stories, mine made its way through office email).

Though it was tough to get through the work day, it was much easier when I got home.  At home it’s go-go-go, and being daddy means that I have to be prepared to take Griffin out of mama’s hands so she can take care of her needs, make dinner while baby feeds and mama pumps, rock child when he’s fussy, change pants when it is needed, and by all means never, ever, forget to take out the garbage.  Being daddy is about resilience, fighting off being tired and finding the extra energy throughout the day to make things happen.  Today, when I got home, Jackie could tell I was tired, worn out, beat up from the inside and that I needed some time, just a few minutes, to rest my body…And then she went all in about the dealings of her day and I can tell you this much, no matter how hard the day is at work, no matter how tired I think I am, it’s nothing compared to being mommy.


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 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.


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).


I work with a bunch of women, seriously.  My current career path has me working long hours around a bunch of mothers and grandmothers, easily making up 80% of the people I am around on a daily basis, in meetings with, or working in close quarters to.  They have seen me in all of my glory, through my promotions and my wedding and now the birth of child and I can not stress enough how these women, whom I know so well but also know so little, are proud of daddy.

What I learned today about being a father:

Newborn children, especially first borns, are the doorstep into any meaningful conversation.  I write this with a smile, because I’ve learned so much more about the people who surround me on a much deeper emotional level.  For some, I am their boss, for others co-workers and for others clients, but all these people want nothing to do with me work-wise until they can talk about child. 

They want to see pictures, which I now show with honor, and talk about the birthing process and the sleep processes and the nursing.  They want to ask about mama, tell me what she’s going through and how I can be more help and then listen as I explain my goals and what I’ve realized being daddy is all about so far (because, they will tell me, there is so much more to learn). 

Some cry, others just hug.  Today, of all days, more and more people have come to me to for something other than business plans, correspondences or advice.  They have come to congratulate, pat me on the back, and tell me how proud they are of me, and I couldn’t feel better about my life.

What I think I know:

It’s all in the pictures.  A few days ago I wrote a litte about catching the moments, and I came to the conclusion that those moments are better captured not with the lense but with my own eyes.  I still believe this, but through the thousands of pictures I took (seriously, thousands) everyone else is able to get an idea of the moment and ascertain for themselves what they think of baby.  It truly is an experience to watch faces light up with joy, to see the disgruntled co-worker (because we all have them) take part in the celebration of a new being, a baby, whom all immediately consider him one of their own.  They love his small mouth, his round head, the simplesest expressions that they get from the pictures and especially his big toes!  (akwardly large, even the doctor said so)

The point I’m trying to get to, I guess, is that even though I’ve gotten to know these women enough to know something about them through the birth of my son I’ve become closer to them then I could ever have imagined.  I have become, in a strange sense, one of the ladies.  It is different with other fathers, sure, and this feeling of camaraderie probably changes with time, but for now I’ll take my hugs and I’ll show my pictures, I’ll listen to the wonderful stories of parenthood that people come out of the woodwork to share, and I’ll continue to do my best to raise my son and be the best husband I can be.  My family makes daddy proud.  With each picture I show and with each smile my little guy brings I’m reminded just how proud I am.


My wife, Jackie, turned 29 years-young 10 days exactly after our son was born.  We celebrated in good fashion with her friends and family making the trip in from out of town and her parents holding the party at their house.  Our small two-bedroom can not accomodate all the people, plus there would be limited amount of place that mama could take baby to nurse. 

We arrived fashionably late, last, actually, and Jackie justified this by taking the stance that now we have a new baby and are allowed 15 additional late minutes on our typical 30 late minutes she uses to get herself ready.  I was ready by 10AM for the 12:30PM party and took care of baby until mama got ready.  As she took baby from me she looked at my bare feet, “Now who’s running late?”, she said, with jaw dropping simplicity and seriousness that nearly set me on fire.  Some things never change.

What I learned today about being a father:

Celebrations are great, but celebrating with your loved ones is even better.  We have been super lucky that her family members have made the extra effort to come in and see baby and celebrate her birthday with us over this last weekend because in life family matters.

As a young boy my family, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, did just about everything together.  We went on summer trips together, saw baseball games together, spent Sundays at grandma and grandpa’s house.  We lived like a community, and every weekend we stayed with our cousins or they stayed with us or we all stayed at G&G’s (grandma & grandpa’s) because our parents believed spending time with family was important.  This weekend was an eye opener, a realization that as a young adult through my early thirties I lost sight of the important roles are families play in raising us as individuals.  My son won’t remember anything from this weekend, but it was great for Jackie and I to relive the simpliest childhood moments from our past that helped shape who we both are, and those moments we talked about all weekend all had to do with family.

What I think I know:

For my family to come to Madison, WI, they would have to travel from Omaha, NE; about eight hours by road one way and hard to get to through the air, so they have yet to meet baby.  Though they couldn’t be here with us, technology has shortened the distance gap and allowed us to connect on a totally virutal level.  My parents, both ripe for their ages, are not technically savy but have mastered the art of Skype.  They love it, actually introduced it to me last year as a way to communicate face to face, and it’s been fantastic!  I come from a large family and we are somewhat spread out over the midwest, but by Skyping I have been able to introduce baby Griffin (child) to his aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents via technology.  I have spoken to my family more often in the last 12 days then I had in the previous 60, and now that I think I have mastered Skyping I know there are more face to face interactions to come. 

Griffin probably can’t even see everyone through the computer screen, but for me and Jackie we have been able to stay connected, one way or another, with family.  They say it takes a village, but what I think I know is the saying doesn’t mean the village has to do, it just means the village has to be, and we are lucky enough to be able to surround child with a village no matter the distance.