Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Steering Wheel as Metaphor...

Damn I'm afraid my dad will read this but here goes.....he was right about the steering wheel....actually let me amend that. He was right without knowing he was right.

Back when he taught me how to drive 25 years ago he used to talk about steering. "A good driver will never jerk the wheel back and forth. You make minute adjustments...subtle with the steering you don't have to make major adjustments when your car is going off the road."

Obviously he was talking automobiles but instinctively I took that as a metaphor for life....and that has become especially true as a parent. Let your kids go too far; with junk food or TV or any other bad habit, and you'll be yanking the steering wheel back towards center in a month's time. Or worse, you'll be sitting there a year later with their bad habits so ingrained that you've got little shot to alter them anymore. Then you're really stuck.

Stay on top of your kids every day -- and I don't mean be an overbearing nutjob 24/7, and their "car" will likely stay close to the middle of the road where you want far this metaphor has paid dividends with our two children, so I guess a quick "Thanks dad" is in order....damn that's not easy to admit....

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The....Horror" Volume 1

Your wife wakes you out of a deep, deep sleep at 5:15am. You've been sleeping next to your three year old daughter in the spare bedroom because she's been sick and waking up often. You got to bed around 1am and you're pretty sure when the wife walks in and tugs on your arm, this isn't gonna be good. She tells you she's been up since 2:30am with an infant that has a stuffed nose and can't put herself to sleep for any length of time.

Your wife looks the way you crap. But the little infant in her arms looks wide awake. You're screwed. These are the moments they didn't tell you about -- or if they did maybe I wasn't paying attention...

Choices? Tell your wife to suck it up and keep dealing or drag your ass out of bed and deal with it yourself. The latter idea seems like time spent in purgatory. You're sleeping off a big meal and three glasses of wine and the house is pitch black. But are you really going to ask the wife to tack another three hours onto the three that she's already spent taking care of your sick little girl? No.

So you walk your infant around for 45 minutes in the black downstairs and you feel the discs compressing in your back as the clock on the VCR moves a minute for every hundred steps taken. All you hear is your own voice gently saying, "Shhhhhhhh..." and the shuffle of your feet over the cold tiles. Finally you get her to sleep on your chest and you sit ever-so-gently in your recliner because you're terrified she'll be jostled awake. You lay back afraid to move, exhausted from trying to relax every muscle. She starts snoring and you lay there for exactly 46 minutes.

It's 7:01am, the light is creeping in from under the window treatments, and you feel like you're coming off a three-day bender as she stirs awake. The only thing you feel halfway decent about is that you were able to give your wife 90 minutes of good sleep.

You're shot...already. Physically and mentally.

The day is just about to start.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"T.A.R.Y." #1

They aren't robots. I have to remind myself of that frequently. Daughter #1 is just a little thing that still sucks on a pacifier and pees and poops into a diaper. She isn't an adult and won't be for years and years and years.

If I had to point to my biggest failing as a dad the first time around it would have to be the expectations I viewed my first daughter with -- and perhaps I shouldn't put that in past tense. I still do make that mistake sometimes. A large part of me has always felt that if she reaches for candy and I say "No," that she will understand and act accordingly. When she doesn't I've always had a hard time computing...I mean I did tell her "No," so she should understand and not reach for the candy again, right?

Ahhh, if only parenting were so simple. Unfortunately she's not 13, she's 3. Actually I'll be lucky if she listens any better when she's 13...

Today my wife left for the gym and my little girl stood saying goodbye 54 times like her mom was headed off to dismantle road mines in Iraq. As the garage closed she had a pitiful little whimper that lasted 5 minutes. Tomorrow my wife will go to the gym and my daughter will run around the house, bouncing off furniture like bumper cars, barely noticing. What's the difference in 24 hours? Beats me, I'm just the dad.

I do know that I dropped my daughter off at school a few weeks ago and the same thing occurred. Monday she could barely wait to say goodbye. She was off to play and daddy didn't matter for a second. Wednesday she was stuck to me like a barnacle. I said to her teacher, "I don't get it..." She looked at me and said, "Hey she's barely even three years old, she's just starting to figure things out..."


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz #5 (PPPQ5)

This one happened yesterday. Not pleasant.

Daughter #1 is a great girl but when she's off....? Be someplace else. She gets moody and the next thing you know she's impossible to please. Like a hormonal woman of 33, only she's 3. It's actually a great test of your parenting ability in a way. If you aren't strong you'll spend four hours being driven from pillar to post by a miserable child.

Today you were all at the mall and you could see her slip into one of those moods. The first "tell" was how quiet she got and how often she wanted to be picked up. Next she clutches you in a death-grip when you try to leave her with your dad and use the bathroom at the mall...

Then at the playground she starts off happy for five minutes but things go downhill. Fast. Slide, see-saw, monkey-bars....Nothing makes her happy and you quiz and probe for five minutes but if she knows what's wrong she sure isn't telling. There are some tears but mostly just sad melancholy. The kind where you want to smack her on the ass (if not the mouth) and tell her to snap out of it. Nothing stems the tide. Back in the car she melts down again and when you try to help fasten her seat belt she starts balling. What do you do? Keep in mind she's had a cold for the last three days so there are extenuating circumstances...

A) Bite your tongue and keep an even keel. You really want to tell her to "Shut the F*** up!" but she's still under the weather and you'll stay calm and give her a very, very big benefit of the doubt...

B) Let her have it. It's all well and good to be supportive and not jump off the deep end but that has its limits and she just passed them. At this point she's going to get a finger in the face and you'll get right in her grill. Hopefully this will help her -- you know it'll help you.

C) Take her out of the car, give her a timeout in the park. Basically an extension of B taken to the next level. Unbuckle the seat belt, finger in her face, get in her grill and give her some verbiage at high volume.

D) Ignore it. Tell grandpa to drive on, knowing that at some point the meltdown will end. You really don't know why she's melting but you've tried your level-headed best to stop it with no result. At this point let it play out on its own...

And the answer is...?


B and C were the heavy favorites but I successfully managed to stay silent when I had the urge to tell her to "Shut the F*** up!" As usual it was a gut call and there was no right or wrong. Tomorrow if the same thing happened I might have gone with B because she was really acting foul and I thought there was no excuse for it -- well almost no excuse. She was still a bit sick and that might have helped me hang on and answer A...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz #4 -- (PPPQ4)

So here's one...daughter #1 is what we call, "slow on the draw" as a life habit. She was slow to crawl, slow to walk, slow to speak and right now she's slow to use the potty. She just turned three so no cause for big concern but most kids around her age are peeing and dumping on the toilet and she isn't.

Now my biggest regret as a parent the first time around was how I wanted to treat her as a functioning adult. Meaning when she was slow to walk I forced her hand (or foot) a little bit. I basically MADE her take two steps towards me one day. It was a little traumatic but the upshot was that daughter #1 was walking a week later. Looking back I can't say the ends justified the means. Sure I wish she was walking earlier but there really wasn't a good reason to push her when I did.

So. Daughter #1 is now at the same point with her potty training. We're getting advice from friends, family and Mohammud the cab driver on how to get her out of diapers. I'm starting to get a tad impatient and beginning to feel the itch to push. Should I...

A) Let her go as long as it takes. Hopefully she won't be entering her high school years in pampers but it may take a while to get her on the potty. does no good to push her in areas like this, you'll only give her a complex.

B) Start applying growing pressure; verbal cues, reminders, non-verbal cues. Giving her juice in the morning and sitting her on the toilet 30 minutes later as one friend suggested...

C) Start getting a little aggro on her as another friend politely suggested. At three she's old enough to take some pushing as opposed to when you made her walk. By now she should be potty trained and it's about time to start getting her there...

D) Start subscribing to magazines on ranching and scan ads for cattle prods. This potty-training crap is for the birds and why let this drag on when getting her fannie on the can should be a simple matter of voltage?

And the answer is?

For right now a combo of A and my eyes we're not at the point where big pressure needs to be applied. The wife and I would like to live in a world that's size-5 diaper free but we aren't there yet. We'll get there soon I think. And if not, then yeah it's time to renew that subscription to "Cattleman's Illustrated" and let the sparks fly...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


As usual, travel wasn't nearly as bad as I dreaded it would be. Two flights meant neither was longer than 1:50 in length and that meant travel in digestible chunks. Get to the airport, get to the Presidents Club, get on flight one, get to the Presidents Club, get on flight two, get to the house. No meltdowns, both kids behaving very, very well. We got to sleep last night feeling less than exhausted, minimal drama during the day...could we ask for more?

I'm watching daughter #1 playing catch with her grandfather. The wife and I went for a run today, something we haven't done in months. Both of us were feeling the effects of a long travel day yesterday so it wasn't a world class run but damn, just being able go four miles, just the two of us, felt like a vacation. When you've got two young children you tunnel vision so much, your attention is so focused on them, that when you have 45 minutes to spend with the wife it feels like 4 hours. Damn right we'll be doing as much of that as possible in the next two weeks...

More dispatches from the family front to come...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Travel Time...

Tomorrow we leave for Florida and a family vacation...since we're leaving both cars behind it means a visit to the airport and two plane rides to get there.

Parenting and planes have always been a tough mix for me. The first time we flew with daughter #1 was honestly the most stress I had felt in the first year of her life. I remembered how I was for decades as a passenger. Dreading the woman with the screaming infant plodding along, ready to occupy the seat next to me and make my life a living hell for the next two or three hours.

That's what I assumed everyone was thinking when the wife and I walked onto the plane with daughter #1 almost three years ago. And you know what? As soon as the plane took off she was down for the count. Two-and-a-half hours later when the wheels touched ground she woke up. Painless. Here's hoping tomorrow runs along the same lines...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dancing in the Dark...

Yesterday you were with your infant daughter and you wanted to get her to sleep but you weren't sure she would.

So you walked her around as she cried a little and you felt her make a nest of your shoulder. She wanted to go down but she needed your help so you stood there walking and singing badly in low tones but you thought it would help. And you looked at the two of you a lot in the mirror in the bathroom. She was wearing white and you were wearing a black shirt. You looked at her in the darkness as the nightlight reflected off her eyes and you swayed back and forth rocking her slowly in the silence. Her hand around your arm, her head laying limp between your collarbone and your shoulder...

You danced with her in the dark...a slow dance just you and your little girl in the shadows. You rocked her back and forth until the nightlight caught no reflection at all and you heard the faintest sound of snoring...a sound softer than snow falling right there in your bathroom...

And then...

And then there are moments like yesterday...

...When daughter #2 pooped a bucketful and I was in completely over my head trying to change her and my wife came to my rescue and I ran to the kitchen to get paper towels and we both burst into laughter over the craziness of it all....a silly little two minutes we shared that left me thinking I wouldn't trade this for anything and wondering how anybody could...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dark Side of the Moon...

There are days with your family that just flow on endlessly like a high you can't beat and a bar that is set so high you feel like you'll spend the rest of your life chasing it. There are days you are the greatest dad in the world and your wife is the best mom and there's nothing you can do to screw up the feeling. Minutes stretch to hours and the high just keeps getting higher until you finally have to let it end when you put them to touch their fingers, kiss their linger at their crib or bedside because you really don't want the day -- or that high -- to end...

And then there are days like was the dark side of the moon.

Maybe you weren't feeling so great this morning because you were up late last night working and not sleeping because you were worrying about money. Maybe that didn't help but in the afternoon when the wife was out running errands, it all fell apart. Daughter #1 was needy all day. Stuck to the two of you like a barnacle...and whiny. God we hate whiny. Meanwhile daughter #2 woke up from her nap miserable. Crying -- no not crying, screaming. That wail that pierces your skull and tells you somethings wrong. But hell, you didn't know what it was and so you felt all the more helpless. Like a punching bag that was destined to take it for as long as daughter #2 dished it out...

Hunger? No, she spit out the bottle. And when you're a dad if it isn't hunger you're really just guessing. 40 minutes of waling and there was jack you could do about it. You picked her up, put her down, bounced her, kissed her...what you really wanted to do was throw her.

You thought to yourself thoughts you've had before. That you understood how someone could lose it and mash their child against the wall in a fit of rage. You really did. You worried for a second that might be you on this day...but just for a second. You always knew if you got to that point you would just put her in her crib and walk away. But god it was hard. You felt pissed and numb and sick of it all in different doses in different moments. And daughter #1 was calling out from her room because she needed attention and you wondered what the hell, was she listening to the same shrieking you were? I mean you were a little busy and screw her, now was not the time to be needy...

You called your wife and told her you'd like her to speed up her return if possible. This helped you feel like an idiot because you always wanted to be able to handle ANYthing and not need mom to play fixer...You found yourself pushing daughter #1 over your shoulder and craning your head to the back of her neck so when she screamed it wouldn't be directly in your ear and so it wouldn't be all that bad.

You felt like a crappy dad and a miserable human being because you were screwing up two kids and dying for the wife to relieve you and by the way 6pm couldn't come fast enough for that first glass of thought about being 14 years old and curling up in your bed watching "Odd Couple" reruns at night because you had nothing else to do and it made you very happy...and you knew that time in your life was long, long gone......

In the end it seemed she was hungry...the wife burst through the door, slammed the "tap" into the daughter's mouth and two minutes later she'd calmed down enough to eat. Why wouldn't she take the bottle from me? Who knows. Maybe she just got to a point where she was too pissed to eat if it wasn't mom's boob. What I do know is today was that place you never want to go as a dad. The intersection of reality and insanity. You're at the end of your rope and about to lose it on your two young kids. You feel no love, no happiness, nothing. Only anger and a desire to escape -- or go cry -- or go anywhere or to any situation but the one you're in.

So the wife fed your little girl and she was happy and she has your ears and she laughed and knew nothing about how you nearly broke down or broke HER into pieces only 30 minutes ago. But she bounced up and down on her mother's lap and beamed that radiant smile your way and in that instant you felt nothing but powerless and completely and utterly ashamed of yourself...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ankles? What ankles?

For all who have doubted how, shall we say, "stout" or "portly" daughter #2 is, check out the photo above. Look ma, no ankles...there's just a place where the legs ends and a place where the feet begins inside a mass of shapeless gelatin...

And guaranteed in 14 or 15 months all that fat will melt away like it was never there. Amazing what happens when you actually use the muscles in your body. For now it's a good talking point as in, "Crap she's a porker, hon" or "How is the michelin-girl doing today..." You can say these things when they're yours...

"Let Them Be Little"....Post Script

It’s two days after posting that bit about “Let Them Be Little.” My wife’s Ipod is on shuffle. Daughter #1 is in my arms on the couch and we’re having fun on the computer when the shuffle plays “Just the Two of Us” by Will Smith. I feel that inexplicable surge of somethingorother behind my eyes. I feel in love and blessed and happy to have my arm around a beautiful, healthy little girl.

I’m also thinking if the wife had more songs on her Ipod, the shuffle probably wouldn’t have found that song and I wouldn’t be sitting here feeling like a hopeless choad, completely head over heels in love with his three year old daughter

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz #3 (PPPQ#3)

Daughter #1 is transitioning between her crib and a “big girl bed” that’s been set up for her. The transition has been a little rockier than I would like.

If she’s sleeping by 8:30pm, guaranteed she’s up and scared by 1am. Then usually again by 4am. Not always the wake-up where she mumbles in her sleep and she’s going right back down. The wake-up where I know she’ll be up for awhile and I need to put in extended time to get her back to sleep. Or I can bring her into our bed which is what my little girl really wants.

Now I'm not gorgeous to start with so I need all the beauty sleep I can get. And since mom is up three times a night with daughter #2, I know the decision with daughter #1 is all mine. So tonight at 1am she wakes up again in a fright….what do I do?

A) Crawl into her big girl bed with her and sleep for five minutes -- sometimes five hours -- depending on how hard I fall asleep. It’s better than going back to my bed and waking up two more times that night…

B) I take her into my own bed if I think she’s really going to be up for awhile. No sense fighting a one-hour battle and getting sleep deprived when bringing her into my bed will have her down in three minutes…

C) I turn on an extra light. I calm her down but make sure she understands I'm not staying for an extended visit.

D) I tell her she’s absolutely right. The world is a frightening place; monsters under the bed, Obama in the White House, Osama Bin Laden still at large. I further tell her that if the boogie-man is in the closet that she shouldn’t worry because after he “gets” her he’s going to get both her parents so none of us will see the sun rise in the morning…with that I tell her to have a good night and please stop whining. I shut out all the lights and go back to bed...

And the answer is????

I’ll let you know when I have this one figured out. Right now as tempting as D is, I’ve been working a combo of A, B and C….

A, a little more than I’d like, B, a little more than I should. C, as much as possible. It just hasn’t been all that possible yet. Crap this parenting thing isn't easy. And often times it doesn't stop when they go to bed -- or I go to bed, for that matter...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Can Remember When....

All right this will probably rip away any vestiges of uber-masculinity people might have when thinking about me but here goes. This was on my mind for whatever reason yesterday...

If you want to see a new dad cry, play “Let Them Be Little” by Lonestar. Oh my god. Guaranteed water works.

Now, I’m a fanatical music fan. Punk was there for me as a rebellious teen and Bruce has been with me ever since. Not to mention a host of other musicians like Social Distortion, Nick Cave, the Misfits, Graham Parker, Superchunk, the Clash…Collectively they’ve played the soundtrack to my life. Special songs have made me want to have sex, to punch walls, to get through races, to scream at the top of my lungs and sometimes made me even relax. But never had a song made me cry until I held my infant daughter and listened to “Let Them Be Little.” Actually another song made me cry too, now that I think about it but I’ll get to that later.

There was a six or eight month stretch a few years back when we were new parents and I just felt floored by the sheer emotion of it all. I’d pop that song on and start to cry holding my little girl. Now tears shouldn’t be particularly fun, but I made my way back to that song time after time. There was a comfort in it, somehow. My wife would always look at me and say, “Not again….”

"I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand
Felt so good in it, no bigger than a minute
How it amazes me, you're changing with every blink
Faster than a flower blooms they grow up all too soon

So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little..."

Boy, that got me every time. It was like going to a little cubbyhole all my own when that song played. My own to share with the little piece of perfection I clutched in my arms. Maybe, as a man who likes to control his life, his surroundings, and yes his emotions…maybe that was my way of embracing the tidal wave I felt. Maybe beneath all the bluster I always thought of myself as a loser. A loser that somehow had made good and lucked into everything he could have ever wanted in life. A wonderful wife. A healthy child. Who knows. I do know I came back to that song again and again and I gripped my little girl tight with both arms as tears zig-zaged all down my face.

Disconcerting – yet comforting. Every time.

Oh and the other song to make me cry? You’d never guess. Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us.” I probably have nothing in common with a famous actor and rapper, yet I felt the power of that song every time. Emotion pouring over me like water. And it felt like the world was just the two of us when I held my sweet, precious daughter and listened to the words…even with my wife close by.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Life and Death

A good friend today told you about a relative who was diagnosed with cancer and may not make it. You felt for her because she's never been through it with a close relative before but it sucks and the only solace is that if it didn't hurt so much that person wouldn't mean very much to you. So in a way it's good that it hurts but you've been through it before and that stuff is for a year down the road and it doesn't help much now.

You've lost relatives before. Some hurt like hell, some didn't mean a goddamn thing so you guess you knew how much those people meant to you in the end but how do you put that into words for someone. That kind of solace is for tomorrow not today.

You're thinking a lot about your daughters now. About the cycle of life and about how one day they're both going to wear black and stick you and your wife six feet underground and shovel dirt on your boxes. You sure hope they will cause the alternative is you burying your children and jesus is there anything worse than the thought of burying your child? You hope your kids will cash the life insurance checks after some tragic skydiving accident where the chutes didn't open for you and your wife. That sounds like a passionate way to go...not lying in a hospital bed surrounded by cards and flowers. God no.

You think a lot about sucking every second of honey out of your life with your family and why you don't always do that and why it takes death or illness to remind you of that. You remember writing a poem about burying your daughter right after she was born. You should find that somewhere and see if the writing was really as bad as you think it was...

But that doesn't help your friend right now and probably not much will other than a new diagnosis or some time...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


There are certain things I think a dad should be able to do for his little girl. Like making her feel safe when there’s nothing but fear in her eyes.

Last night daughter #1 woke up crying at 11:15pm. I was downstairs working on my computer when I heard her. At three years old you can tell the different cries – which one will last a minute and which will keep her up. This was the kind that would last an hour and require parental attention. I bounded up the stairs to her door and saw her sitting up in bed. Sheets pulled down to her feet. Terror and tears in her young eyes.

“Did you have a bad dream sweetie?”

I could barely make out what she was saying through the sobs.

Without asking I knew she needed me to stay with her. To be her daddy. To pull the covers up around her neck and put my arm around her waist. So I did exactly that. And I watched her face and nothing else. Slowly, the sobs turned to sniffles and then to normal breathing. Then her eyes fluttered a few times and she was down again. It took all of five minutes. I probably could have left but I stayed with her the entire night. In a bed that was too small and not very supportive and more than a little uncomfortable.

I’m not sure why I did. Maybe I was afraid she’d wake up again. Maybe I just wanted to feel like a good dad last night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz #2

By the way these things aren’t being graded. These are real scenarios that might be poignant for the non-parent especially because if you plan on procreating you’ll be dealing with this stuff sooner or later and you might as well be thinking about it now.

OK, PPPQ #2. Daughter #1 has a great bond with both her parents, but mom will probably always be #1. So lately when she gets a full diaper or wants food she gives daddy the straight-arm (football term, see picture) and asks for mommy. Sometimes you think she demands mommy. You are a big believer in the 50/50 rule so you should be able to do all this stuff; change her diaper, prep some food, pour some juice, etc. But daughter #1 wants mommy. This is a trend you aren’t taking a liking to. You think about it for awhile and you…

A) Talk to your daughter nicely but in the end, you make the decision to change her diaper, prep her food/drink, etc. You’re the dad and she shouldn’t have the option to play favorites. Plus the wife has enough to worry about with a three month old lying around god knows where…

B) Shut your mouth most of the time and deal…telling yourself that she is a three year old so you pretty much grin and bear it.

C) Pick your battles. Sometimes A, sometimes B. Depending on your mood and how forceful your daughter is. The more forceful the less likely you are to bend....

D) Throw your own tantrum and demand that your daughter preps your food and drink from now on and insist that she changes your diaper just to see what it’s like…

And the Answer is….well for me it is really a combo of A and B so the answer is C with the winner being B more times than not…Parenting is often about making choices and picking your battles. This one I have often chosen not to fight -- sometimes against my better judgment. All things being equal I do not like when our daughter pulls that routine – BUT, she is just a three year old and she wants mommy more than me so I let it slide. It’s a real judgment call. It’s something I think she’ll grow out of so I make the decision not to force her to grow out of it before she’s ready.

Believe me if I’m still fixing her food and changing her diapers at 28 I’ll tackle this one head on…

Monday, December 7, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz #1 (PPPQ #1)

Let’s make our first quiz an easy one….well for me it was easy anyway.

Daughter #1 is a great little girl. She’s nearly three and she’s close to what we would have drawn up on the blackboard. Pretty happy, yet possessing a stubborn streak that we think will serve her well later in life if she keeps it. But in one month “stubborn” became “obstinate.” Often you find that you or your wife has to ask six or seven times before she’ll stop what she’s doing, leave the playground, etc...your wife doesn’t like it. You find it intolerable.

To you it’s a disturbing trend and one that needs to change. You believe that three times is probably as much as a parent should ask a child do to anything. That’s enough space so that they can express themselves but not so much that they’re allowed to be too defiant. Today you are on the beach and she WILL NOT LEAVE. You’ve already warned the wife that daughter #1 was getting close to getting a smackdown in the days leading up. Now your daughter is openly defying you…do you

A) Extend the limit to asking a dozen times and live with the fact that she’s not even three so you put up with this stuff…maybe if a dozen doesn’t work you’ll grab her by the arm and lead her to the car but that’s as tough as you’re willing to get…

B) Keep asking her, knowing that sooner or later she’ll move when she’s ready…again, she’s only three.

C) Lean her over right then and there and smack her ass a few times so she knows you mean business

D) Call NATO, NORAD or any other organization that begins with an “N” so they can NAPALM the entire beach. If you and your family are still on it, so be it. You’re royally pissed and this is going to end now.

And the answer is?????? C

I leaned her over right there and gave her three butt smacks for the first time. Hard. But she was wearing pants and a diaper so it really wasn’t that hard. This was the first time I ever hit her and I think she was more surprised than anything. By the way two minutes later she didn’t get the message so she got it again. Enough to get her attention. Enough to know that when daddy asks something a few times that her job was to listen. Not enough to cause permanent damage. Hell I think I barely affected her for more than an hour. A little while later she was laughing and smiling. The wife wasn’t so sure about my methods but this was one of those rare cases when I wasn’t asking. This was what needed to be done in my mind. No way 7 or 8 times asked was going to become 9 or 10. Children challenge. Parents respond....or they don't.

As a postscript. For the next month we had ZERO problems with our daughter. Six or seven weeks later her behavior started to creep back, but nothing like it was. Like I said she’s a child. One of her jobs is to push her boundaries to see what she can get away with. One of ours is to provide that guidance and show her what those boundaries are…

Sunday, December 6, 2009

“For My Infant Daughter…”

I was going through some old things I’d written back when daughter #1 was “fresh out the kitchen” as both R Kelly and I like to say. What an amazing time, too powerful to really put into words but that didn’t stop me from trying. I came across this old poem that I wince at a little bit but I don’t mind sharing…

Keep in mind I’m not a poet and never will be. Reading it now the “poem,” if you can call it that, was mediocre at best…an amateurish attempt to capture a feeling that was really beyond me. Clearly I was in over my head…looking back I’m more impressed that I even tried the medium…whatever…here it is

"For My Infant Daughter..."

While I'm still strong
and vital
will you know that
a long time ago
you listened to a song with your
and your daddy cried all over
the arm of your
pretty white dress

When I'm elderly
when I lay dying
will you comfort me
wipe my forehead
sing a song from your childhood
to make me smile
will you go so far as to
change me
as I changed you so many times?

When I'm gone
will you cry for me
miss me
hum a tune to yourself
will you wish you could hold me
hold me up
so we could dance together one more time?
the way I danced and whirled you in circles and cried all at

When you have your own daughter
will you rush home to see her?
will your day change when she flashes that
amazing smile?
will you remember us driving
and laughing
me kissing your hair
how you fell asleep on my shoulder
how I put you to bed
how I closed your diaper (a little too tight)
played with your pacifier
and often counted the minutes till you woke up in the morning
so I could see you again....

will you have any idea how we danced and I whirled you in a circle and cried
and cried
and cried
and cried

Drugs and Honey

Driving in my car with the radio on and daughter #1 in the back. Bad country music playing but both of us in sparkling moods. No one on earth could possibly derail this train. The sun is beaming and my little girl is speaking gibberish and acting silly as I spy on her in the rear-view mirror. Head flying side to side in her car seat. Blond hair bouncing. Eyes closed. Reminding me of a white Stevie Wonder with no glasses. A smile as wide as a cave showing off the gaps in her front teeth.

Me feeling radiant. Radioactive. Like a seated super-nova ready to blow through the roof. Like the greatest dad in the world and the center of the universe and that being absolutely good enough when most of what I accomplish isn’t good enough. Taking the 5 minute ride to her school and circling the block because I just don’t want to drop her off. Then circling around again because you’re both in the slipstream of the same mood and the ride is intoxicating and you really don’t care to break it or share it with a single soul. You have no idea how or why this moment came but you feel thankful and alive and what the hell….it feels like drugs or honey and how many moments in your life are really like drugs or honey and so what if she’s a few minutes late…

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz

If there’s one thing I remember about the days before I was a parent, it’s how sure I was of exactly how I wanted to raise my children. I was pretty sure I had every detail nailed down, from how much TV they wouldn’t watch to how I would discipline them to how they would treat their friends and family. A part of me knew that I might be jumping the gun since I didn’t actually have children but that didn’t stop me from feeling I pretty much could handle whatever and thinking I had most of the details nailed down before conception.

What an idiot. Reality is that it’s great to be confident about how you would handle different situations and what kind of parent you’ll want to be, but trust me….real parenting is often way different than “paper parenting” as I call it. Before we had our first little girl I remember feeling with absolute certainty that we’d train her as early as possible to sleep through the night in her own room. If she wailed she wailed, so what? This was what needed to be done and heck if I wasn’t going to stay strong. So at six months of age she was transferred to the crib and on the first night she screamed her brains out at 2am. And there it is. There’s your moment of truth. This isn’t a scenario. Nothing drawn up on a blackboard or discussed over cocktails at the bar. Your kid is peeling the paint off the walls and you’ve got a choice….Real parenting vs. paper parenting. What’s your decision going to be?

Paper parenting lasted three minutes that night. It never had a chance. Our daughter was clearly going to take extended parental duty to get her back down and daddy needed sleep. So in a flash I whisked her into our bed and we lived to fight another day.

This is a scenario you will face a hundred times on a thousand fronts as a first timer. How you think you should parent vs. the reality of making hard choices and sticking to them. Do you fight a battle with your daughter for two hours at 2am or do you bring her into your bed? Do you push for her to read a book when she’s crying because she wants to watch another episode of Dora the Explorer? And so on it goes, every single day. You can lose a battle or two, no problem. But if you lose too many, it may threaten the development of your child.

So look for some pop quizzes to come. I’ll throw out a scenario we faced as parents and then tell you how we handled it. It may be very different than the way you would want to handle the situation. BUT remember there are two parenting categories ….those people who are actually living it and those who are paper parenting and guessing. And guesses are often very, very different from reality…

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hell and Red Lights

You want to know what hell is like? Hell is a fussy baby balling her eyes out while you navigate the streets of your town with a headache. Wife to your right. Daughter #1 behind her. Daughter #2 right behind you exercising the full extent of her lungs.

At this point a red light is your worst nightmare. Your daughter isn’t like most infants you know who fall asleep as soon as the engine turns over. Unless she’s dead tired the motion of a car seems only to piss her off. Then you find yourself stopped dead at a big intersection waiting for the crosstown traffic to have their five minute green while she just about screams the hair off your neck and you see red and do a slow burn behind the wheel.

You don’t remember it being so bad with daughter #1 but your wife reminds you that it sort of was and you’ve just erased it from your memory. Anyway the light seems to take an eternity and you’re pissed at everyone, even the homeless dude on the corner, not to mention yourself because she’s just an infant and infants cry and that’s life and you should know that by now only that doesn’t help.

The only thing that will soothe you is the sight of a green light and even that doesn’t fix it because you’re behind an octogenarian who seems to have forgotten that the gas pedal is on the right. So you’d really like to bumper-bash granny at warp speed but you just smack the steering wheel and in the end it doesn’t matter much cause now daughter #2 is wailing like a banshee and getting the car moving will only piss her off more.

Yep, this is hell.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

School and the Supermarket

All you really remember about your daughter’s first day at school is the supermarket. And a lot of tears. Yours.

You recall driving to school with your wife and your little girl. Your wife had spent weeks afraid your daughter would be stuck to the two of you like glue, petrified of her new world. Having to be peeled away from her parents and her safety. You spent so much time reassuring your wife everything would be fine that you didn’t realize how nervous you were about the day.

You were amazed that she took to her new surroundings without a single sob. You were so amazed, that when you said goodbye you weren’t sure your little girl understood that meant you and your wife weren’t going to be there for the next three hours. You tried to count the number of times she’d been away from both of you for that long and there weren’t very many. You drove away giggling with your wife about the ease of it all.

But you needed food and there was a supermarket to visit and a coffee shop to the left and in the parking lot you just sat there and burst into tears. You didn’t know why, really. You just did. Your wife was shocked and you were shocked and you just cried. Fat tears filling the valleys of an unshaven face while you buried your face in your palms...

Were you relieved at how quickly she adjusted?
Were you scared that she didn’t need you today like she needed you yesterday?
Were you feeling her grow up before your eyes?
Were you just being a goddamn woman?

You hadn’t figured it out. Moments like that, you rarely get a handle on until later. But your wife held you like a baby as people shopped for bananas and oatmeal in the supermarket and just cried and cried in her arms in the parking lot.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Like a Game...

A non-parent a while back asked me what being a dad was like, knowing I wasn't shy about elaborating on parenthood.

I told her what I've told 100 other people. There's being a parent and there's everything else in your life. Take everything else you've ever gone through; childhood, college, the day you got married, the day you got divorced...everything. Take the sum of what you've experienced, put it all together and it still doesn't match the day your child is born.

That's the only day of my life I felt different...changed as a human being. From that day on your kids have you playing chutes and ladders on the game-board of life...sucking on the sweetest highs for as long as you can and scraping subterranean floors enduring the most unforgiving lows...but your life will never be the same.

She said she understood but we both knew she really didn't. I told her not to worry. Some things in life are like that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dad Will Never Be Mom...

I look at my wife and my two daughters and I know that no matter how good a dad I am, no matter how well I raise my children, I will never have the bond with them that my wife will.

For the first three or four months of a baby's life it's hard for most men I know. Me included. You do your best and you love them because they're yours but let's face that age they're just a mass of protoplasm that craps and poops and eats. Then around four months they start smiling some and at least you get some feedback for your troubles. But you're a man and no matter how you slice it, it ain't the same. My wife carried them. She dealt with the nausea, the mood swings, the gut expansion, the weight gain, the euphoria, the pure and simple love of pregnancy. She's the one that saved every printout from every ultra-sound.

What did I do? I tried to be comforting. To give her space when necessary, support when needed and relief when she hurt. But when my children were born she was the one who got up every night with them. She did the breast feeding while I watched -- grateful she had something that soothed our crying child. In awe at the way they looked at each other. Listening intently at the sucking sound my daughter makes when feeding. Just that voracious "slurp" over pure silence. I watched knowing this was something I would never quite be a part of no matter how hard I tried or how good a parent I became. I would always be on the outside.

I hurt when my children hurt. I'm touched in ways I never thought possible. I hold them and play with them and devote chunks of my life to them. But I'm still just the dad. Second fiddle. I'm not the mom and I never will be. I find myself envious once in a while, but mostly I'm content....second fiddle is hard enough...

The Doctor

Little things never mattered much to you until you had a daughter. Today you walked into the hospital a little frightened that your little girl would be petrified at the sight of a doctor and her white coat. You've seen her scared before at the sight of that coat and you never want to see that look again in her never want her grab you again in terror and bury her head in your shoulder as if she was avoiding being witness to a murder

You had to smile when she weighed-in and hopped up and down on the scale even though she probably shouldn't have. It meant she was happy. And every happy minute for her felt like a win for you. You felt just the slightest push of moisture behind your eyes when she aced her hearing test and smiled, her blond hair bouncing up and down as she laughed. You thought you were halfway home -- halfway to leaving the doctor's office without a meltdown. You knew you were all the way when the doctor came in without a white coat and your little girl was still smiling. You wondered if she was growing up before your eyes or maybe she was just having a good day.

You wanted to hug the doctor when the exam was over and she offered your little girl a lollipop. You could have handled the meltdown but as you all walked out the door you were quietly thrilled you didn't have thought this was a small victory...a two-hour win in the never ending war...

The Manual

If I heard "there's no manual to being a parent" once I heard it 1,000 times.

Nonsense. The problem is there are too many manuals. Too many books. And too many people who think just because they raised a kid and managed to keep them away from drugs, alcohol and unwanted teen pregnancy, they're experts on child-rearing.

When your daughter is crying her ass off for 6 hours a day and you want to throw her through a wall the problem isn't getting advice. The problem is that everyone who has-a-third-cousin-who-had-a-friend-who-had-a-baby-that-cried-a-lot-too is giving you advice that you didn't really ask for. You'll hear it all.
Gas. Indigestion (isn't that the same thing?) Not sleeping enough. Sleeping too much. No schedule. And my all time favorite...


What is colic anyways besides a catch-all phrase that tells you your life has gone to hell and you might as well deal with it because your daughter is going to scream in your ear for an hour no matter what position you put her in? I've looked it up in books, on-line, talked to doctors and I can't get a straight answer on what colic really is... "Ahhh, she must be colicky." I've heard that plenty. "No, she's just a miserable infant right now."

So for all the grandmothers and grandfathers and Aunt Mabel's and Uncle Floyd's who can tell you just what you need to do to soothe your child I say relax...just because you had kids doesn't make you the expert. And GOD, it doesn't mean I have to listen to you blabber on about "I remember when Johnny was up every night for a month....." Great. You fought your war and survived. Sweet. Now let me fight mine in peace...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Continental Divide...

The continental divide in your marriage starts with a small fissure and grows from there. Here’s an example. You enter marriage and have children with the idea that everything is going to be roughly 50/50. Other than breastfeeding you didn’t want there to be anything that you couldn’t do with your children. Changing diapers, bathing them, cooking their food when they were older. Everything.

But here’s how reality sometimes works. Since you’re the breadwinner and you’re gone 60 – 70 hours a week, the wife starts doing a lot of the heavy lifting. She has a particular way she makes the food, a certain way she changes the diapers, and so on. And since being a mother is everything to her she gets pretty militant for the first time in her life. When you’re off the road or back from the office you want to pitch in and do your share. You’re looking forward to it, even. I mean they are your kids too and you should be able to handle just about everything.

But when you defrost the breast-milk from the freezer you don’t quite do it the way she does. Meaning you heated it for 23 seconds instead of 25 and those two seconds make for the advent of the apocalypse. And by the way when you strap on your daughter’s diaper you sometimes make it a bit too tight since you’re out of practice and you don’t always pull the folds down on her leg to prevent leakage. So the wife is pissed because she’s been doing it forever and it isn’t too hard and here you are screwing things up and the poo and piss are going to leak all over her because the diaper wasn’t put on right. Now you’re pissed because you work your ass off to make a comfortable life for your wife and kids and by the way, most of the parents you know BOTH have to work and your wife doesn’t so she should be grateful she’s even around 24/7 to change diapers and make baby food to begin with.

So you start saying “screw it.” Since I’m so bad at this let her make the food and change the diapers all the time. It’ll make her happy because she’ll get to do it right every time and you’ll be happy because you won’t feel like an ass for being told how wrong you’re doing it. Only she isn’t happy because she thinks she shouldn’t have to change the diapers and make the food every single time. She’s peeved because you aren’t pitching in and you are the dad after all and she knows two dads down the street who change diapers without the apocalypse descending on mankind and why can’t you either? And she’s further pissed because she has no free time because she’s covering for your ass when you should be helping out.

Now you’re pissed because you’ve busted your ass at your job and when you get home your self-esteem takes a bath because now you’re convinced you can’t heat milk and strap a piece of cloth to your child. And you say "screw it mom, go do it yourself." So six months later you realize that mom does just about everything, she resents it and you resent it too but you don’t talk much about it cause that’s just how it is and there are other battles to fight and you have to pick them carefully because by 8pm at night you feel like a zombie and you’re ready for 38 hours of sleep.

Welcome to the fissure. Congratulations. You’re well on your way to the continental divide. Enjoy the view.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

One Good Minute Can Last Me A Whole Year....

I had three minutes of nirvana today. Daughter #1 and I laying on the couch. Me tickling her on the ribs. Horsing around. She was so happy. Laughing and giggling together it seemed like forever but it was probably only three minutes or so. The unintended taste of her hair in my mouth as I wrapped my arms around her waist and squeezed. The feel of her head banging against my chin in recoil.

Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” was playing in the dining room. His voice swelling as the song hits nearly impossible heights of beauty…then softens…then crescendo’s again…mirroring the way the world felt for a second. Spitting out her hair I thought this moment is why I had kids. I made a little memory today – just me and my daughter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Diapers and the Damage Done...

Changing an infant’s diaper is brutal. Couple it with changing the diaper of a three year old at the same time and you feel like you’re in the middle of an episode of keystone cops.

First you change the infant. She’s daughter #2 because she came second down the “turnpike.” You place both of them next to each other on the floor of their bedroom. Now it’s a race against the clock to keep both of them happy – or at least not crying and miserable.

So you operate at warp speed. You peel off the onesy with it’s complicated button pattern and then you peel off the diaper. You try your best to remember what button fits with what button hole but you’re sure you’ll forget because around the crotch area it gets a little complicated. Trust me, it does. Usually your infant’s dump has the consistency and color of rancid squash and today’s edition is no exception. So you lift her legs like a Thanksgiving turkey to scoop out the poo from her crack. It’s around this time you think to yourself, “Christ she’s fat.” Michelin-man legs. No tone. Rolls with no butter. You console yourself with the fact that your first daughter was pretty fat too, though not this bad, and that as soon as she started crawling, walking and actually using those leg muscles, that she dropped half a ton.

Daughter #2 has yet to reach that stage so she hasn’t been “chiseled out of her fat jacket” as you like to tell people daughter #1 was. Now you’re trying to keep #2 occupied and happy and you feel like you’re doing a song and dance just to keep her from crying. Smiling and mouthing unintelligible words because you want her to forget you’ve got your hand all up in her nether-regions. Then it’s back on with the diaper and as you try to put the onesy back on you see the big squash colored stain on the back and you realize she poo’d through her diaper. Now you’re on one knee, rummaging through her drawer because the wife puts all the kids clothes away and you’ve got no clue where her next onesy is. Finally you find one that could be onesy pajamas but you don’t really give a crap as long as they have buttons. You force her arms and legs into it and you button everything up. You’re sure half the buttons are in the wrong button holes but hell, you feel like a rock star anyway. You’re thrilled that daughter #1 is still happy and not a fusspot because trying to fit two arms and two legs into a onesy when she’s writhing around is the reason they invented straight-jackets for adults…

Then you’re off to your older daughter who has waited patiently while you’ve managed not to maul her baby sister. Daughter #1 has also made a #2 and 50% of the time hers look like rabbit turds. You’re in luck. Today’s movement is long and strong but daughter #1 wants to pause and admire her dump as if she gave birth to it. She'll freak if you wrap it and toss it out without gazing upon her creation. So you lovingly show it to her, meanwhile daughter #2 is two feet away and starting to squawk…squawking is a prelude to crying and this is a must to avoid. You know that once the avalanche starts rolling downhill it never stops. If she starts crying now she may cry for 30 minutes straight and mom’s boob isn’t here to make the world right. Hell if mom’s boob, not to mention the rest of her, was on premises she’d be doing the changing anyway and you could be watching football like a man was meant to on a Sunday…

So you all admire daughter #1’s dump…then it’s wipe up time and she’s complaining because she has a rash “down there.” When you piss and poop in a diaper this happens a lot, trust me. So you want to wipe hard and fast like a window washer before lunch break but instead you have to operate in slow-mo with surgical precision while both daughter’s grunt. You want to tell daughter #1 that if she was potty trained like a lot of other girls her age neither of you would be dealing with her painful butt-rash but that’s another story and besides, you’d only make her cry.

So on goes the diaper, back on go the pants. Up comes the infant in one arm, up goes two poo diapers in the other and you make a pilgrimage to the toilet where daughter #1 insists on it being flushed and she’s going to do the flushing. The room looks like a war zone; clothes, diapers and wipes. But at least no one is sobbing and no one has lost a limb and you feel like you’ll live tear-free for at least the next 20 minutes of your life….and where the hell is your wife anyways???

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dead Poets Society

I firmly believe that most of the life lessons you need to learn are contained in "Dead Poets Society." Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, etc. It's all there. Great movie. Go watch it and tell me it doesn't speak to a part of your soul.

There's a section in the middle when Robin Williams huddles up his class and talks about the things we do to sustain our lives...becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a carpenter etc...noble professions all...but poetry, love, romance...this is what we sustain life FOR...

I often think of that with my wife and children. Even without a full time job right now I feel like we spend so much of our time on the things that sustain our lives; getting our daughter to school, making sure our kids eat right, keeping them from watching too much TV and making the house an utter disaster 24/7, blah blah blah...sometimes we forget what we had kids for...we rush around so much that we forget just how at any instant, one of them can give us three seconds of joy that can make us smile for months. How our three-year old can let out a loud fart and say "I beefed!" with the biggest grin you've even seen. And how our youngest is just now learning how to smile. It's tentative at first, like she doesn't quite know what she's doing, but then the corners of her mouth rise up towards her cheeks like curtains being drawn at the best Broadway play you've ever seen and she bursts into a full-on grin. So, so rewarding after months of fussiness. Sometimes we miss these silly little, wonderful nuggets because we're worried about whether one of them will get swine flu or whether the wash needs to be put in the dryer and another load started...

I'm afraid that I'll wake up tomorrow and be 80 years old and I'll realize I wasted too much time sustaining our lives and not enough time savoring every morsel of the sweetness we've worked so hard to create. I know this. I just haven't changed it yet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sleeping Angels

I love watching my first daughter sleep in her crib. Sometimes I do it for five or ten minutes at a time. She reminds me of the way my brother used to look 25 years ago.


Blond hair falling almost over her eyes. Gently snoring and sucking on her pacifier. 3 years old. Long before boys and school and self-esteem problems and food issues. Way before peer pressure and decisions about drugs and birth control and drinking and driving. Years before she has to be a grown up. Looking like her only concern is her blanket, her pillow and the sweetness of her dreams. Blanket pulled up around the base of her neck. Nothing but sweetness and light.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Truth About Parenting...

People used to tell me for years that children take years off your life. And many of the people who've uttered those words are what I would describe as "good" and "happy" parents. It made me think a billion times before we took the plunge (pun intended) and became parents.

In the three years since our first child was born I've personally experienced the most incredible highs of my life...your heart swells with pride when your daughter aces a hearing test of all things! You find yourself crying at the sound of songs you would have laughed at for years -- their lyrics making sense to you on levels never before imaginable. Life takes on a completely different perspective than when it was all about you -- or maybe you and your wife...

It's also been in some ways, the most difficult three years of my life. And the reason is the same...because it isn't all about you and your wife. You have a 10 pound lump of flesh that's completely dependent upon you for EVERYthing. And for the first seven or eight months all they do is eat, sleep, poop, cry and poop some more. There is no feedback. They don't slap you on the back at night and say, "Hey dad I really like how you handled that rough stretch I had at 4am when I cried for an hour and spit up on your back..."

They can barely smile to let you know all of this is worth it. That in a few years they're going to be a living, breathing independent organism that can smile and laugh and worship you for all the suffering you went through...So this blog is dedicated to the daddy's who have taken on the relentless challenge of parenthood. I will try document the immeasurable highs and the lowest lows that being a father entails...oh and one note, I tend to write in third person sometimes. When things feel a little too raw, emotionally, I sometimes write "you," as in "you knew your daughter was tired but you didn't care because you thought she was acting like a brat." Don't be put off. It's just a mechanism to get the words out when part of me wants to choke them back...

And to get back to the sentiment expressed to me by the parents in my opening paragraph...yes, I do think my two children will probably take about 5 to 10 years off of my natural life...but my life will be a hundred times richer for having had them. That's a trade-off worth making, no?