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What’s in your wallet?

Jackie takes the best pictures of babies.  When our niece, Harper, was born she went out and bought one of those expensive Canon cameras with the adjustable lenses, interchangeable flashes, and all the other bells and whistles.  It’s a beautiful piece of electronics that has made her good quality of picture-taking to great. 

Being a grad student has slowed down her ability to take her picture-taking to the next level, but we’ve seen a revival of that passion of hers since Griffin was born.  She takes the best pictures, creates these awesome slide shows and collages intertwining all the things from our courtship, our engagement, our wedding, and beyond.  She keeps her masterpieces on her computer for the most part though, never really satisfied with the way the end product looks.  Something about the generic photograph paper at all the big box stores, just another thing I don’t get.

What I learned today about being a father:

I miss my guy.  Today especially for some reason.  I am fortunate enough to have a bright picture on my desktop of him, though, and I keep a special one that mama took in my wallet.  There is nothing significant about today, neither good or bad.  Today feels like just a day, and maybe that’s why I was thinking about doing something other than my work, like taking the time to read some new blogs, maybe skip out on work and go see  a movie (I love movies, and I’ve heard great things about The Avengers), but looking at my boy’s picture not only stopped me from being foolish, but has given me a reason to do better.

What I think I know:

We all come across these times in our lives, whether it’s a rough day at work or a bad argument with a loved one that makes us want to do something that isn’t typical, something maybe dangerous or completely out of character.  I’ve never thought these things were bad, just some situations call for us to be unconventional and spontaneous and I think we all know when this is and when it’s not. 

Today, when my mind was wandering, wishing I was doing something else and contemplating jumping ship from work, it was the picture of Griffin that stopped me.  I realized that what I’m doing, I’m doing for him and my family, trying to create a good future for us so that he can have a life that he deserves.  He stopped me in my tracks, made me re-think my priorities, and helped me be a good daddy and do the right thing. 

So, if you happened to waiver, watch pictures of your children, because even now they’re talking back to you.  The hard things that come with being daddy feel a lot easier and make a lot more sense when you know why you’re doing them.


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.


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).


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.


Archie

Archie, our dog.

We walked today, for the first time in baby’s life.  Well, mama and I walked, baby rode, and dog (Archie, pictured left) strutted in tow.  It was a top 10 day in Madison, WI, easily one of the best over my five-plus years of living here.  We made it half way up the block before baby fussed, scaring mom into a frenzy of what-could-be-wrongs and maybe-this-or-that suggestions that I couldn’t quite comprehend in the manner they were being shot out of her mouth at me.  I tried my best to listen and agree, but in the end mama didn’t acknowledge with the idea that baby did not need sun, but that fresh air is good for his lungs and brain.  We walked up the hill first, then scurried down it, and back into our little two-bedroom where mama saved baby from whatever it was that ailed him…which was probably my whistling while I walk.

What I learned today about being a father:

My darling wife was in charge of all things baby related when it came to registering for gifts.  She overindulged on things, and half of the stuff that fills our apartment don’t make practical sense to own.  But one thing she got right was baby’s stroller.  I don’t like to name drop, but mama high-rolled on a Britax B-Agile Stroller plus carrier, the high end type of bad-assness stroller that you don’t even expect to get as a baby gift, but ba-bam!  She scored!

Anyhow, this thing turns on a dime, rides on the bike path like a cruise liner through open waters and provides excellent pushing sensations that make one want to walk with child…but I only know this because mama keeps telling me.  It was a simple lesson today, but a heart dropping one as well.  I learned how fold the stroller up, carry it by it’s provided handle to the landing spot outside our apartment, and then unfold back into it’s upright position.  Mama handed me Archie’s leash, thanked me for getting the stroller ready, and set sail for a walk that would end up disappointing everyone involved.

What I think I know:

Honestly, there is so much to say about what I think I know that I could go on and on about the state of the world, the workings of mobile magicians, and how every act is in and of itself purposeful no matter how small the act, but I don’t know squat about mamas and babies.  I try to understand and listen to the reason that is mama, but babies cry, sometimes, to test us.  Today baby cried, and mama, like many mamas do, got scared.  She blah-blah-blahed me about all the things that could be going on with baby and convinced me (not rationally, but by turning towards home and leaving me holding Archie) that baby needed to get back inside.  She rushed me, “come on, come on” and waved me along only because I had the keys. I unlocked the front door, her grabbing baby and keys and leaving the heavy lifting to me.

We never went back out on that walk like she said we would, so I went running instead.  But now my back hurts, and I equate the partial walk, the quick turns and twists to get back inside while navigating Archie backwards-forwards and the constant folding/lifting/unfolding/setting down of said stroller/car seat combo for the blame.  It’s the small acts of being daddy that have made my back hurt, but like so many new things in our life my wife made me realize family walks will happen.  Being daddy means that I need jut need to bare with her and take it slowly before she’s completely comfortable, “One step at time,” she said.

And when she’s ready to let go, she promised she’d let me walk behind the stroller, too.  One step at a time, that’s what being daddy is all about.


Baby’s first Easter was eventful, gratifying, and lots of fun.  It was the first time I felt the need to do more than just be a part of the Easter celebration, it allowed me to open my heart up to Easter baskets and candy and fake grass and dress kiddo up in his first Easter outfit; and it was all magical.  Being daddy gave me incentive to initiate celebration rather than just sit back and watch it happen.

What I learned today about being a father:

Too many times I found myself on the sidelines watching things happen around me.  Today was the first “event” that my young son experienced, and I found myself being immersed in the entire process.  I thought about what I went through as child and how I’ve ignored it all up until this point because I had no one to celebrate it for.  My parents and in-laws continue to do things for their kids, like put out Easter baskets and hang up Christmas stockings, and until today I always thought it was foolish.  I thought that the kid stage had passed and that as an adult they could skip the hubbub that surrounds events and just try to enjoy each others’ company, what I learned today about being daddy proved otherwise.

Buying my son’s first Easter basket and filling it with all the unnecessary Easter stuff made me feel like I was being in the moment and taking advantage of the few moments that we actually get to enjoy until kids are adults and think these moments are silly and childish.  And now I know why our parents still treat us kids even as we become adults, because it’s what they do.

What I think I know:

We’ve had a rough road that has been filled with memorable experiences and some of the happiest moments of my life, but what I know is from the moment mama went into contraction mode we’ve had little to no sleep.  She’s been amazing through this whole transition and I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone tougher in my life.

Everything mama has gone through has inspired me to be a better husband, better person, and better father than I think I can be even if I don’t know what being a father is all about.  With all her drive and will there was one thing mama was missing, sleep.  Today was the first time in my life I put my foot down to her resistance and made her get some rest.  She cried, told me I didn’t know what she was going through, and then she tried to justify why she didn’t need to get more sleep.

I can tell you with complete honesty that mama gets her way more than not, but today she scared me.  Since contractions began she’s slept no more than 3 hours in any given day.  Yesterday she racked up 1 ½ hours of sleep and continued to do her motherly duties throughout the day with little to no hiccup, but it was in her eyes and in her face, she needed the sleep.  I was scared for her, and rather than let her get her way and give in to her sobbing and firm grip on the situation I rationally explained to her that it wasn’t just in her best interest anymore, but baby’s too.  I feel for my wife, she is my rock, my family, my reason to do, and I think I know now that being forceful in a situation that is in the best interests mama and family is a part of being daddy; but I also know not to push it.

To keep things interesting I would like anyone who has something to add or a question to please come forward and do so.  I would like to dedicate my Sunday posts to quick quibs and responses to develop repartee between all of us.  Being daddy is something that I know I can’t do alone.  We all have interesting experiences and fun stories to share or questions that need answering, so if you feel up to it please send me questions or stories through my contact page and I will add or respond accordingly.