Showing posts with label fatherhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fatherhood. Show all posts

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Unnecessary Toughness

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -Thomas Edison


It seems every day, Peanut will say or do something that shows me just how much she's grown up. Not big things, mind you. Little things. Nuances, if you will. Like when she says something that perfectly - if not dramatically - communicates her true feelings...

Take, for instance, the night we told her she could watch a half hour of a movie before bed. "But at 7:30," we warned her beforehand, "we're turning it off and going right upstairs." My Director concluded with a firm, "No fooling around." Fast forward to 7:30. We turn off the movie. Cue Peanut joking around. She's laying on her mom, pretending not to hear her when she asks her to get up. General silly procrastination that we told her would be unacceptable. I snap. "Peanut, stop it right now and let's go to bed."

She immediately stops, stands at attention, furrows her brow and shouts, "Why are you always yelling at me?!"  In the moment, I shot back by telling her I wouldn't have to yell at her if she just listened. But put aside the fact that her use of the word always stabbed me, really making me feel like a jerk of a dad. Peanut is now more capable than ever of expressing her feelings effectively, without crying or whining. Her use of always was deliberate. And timely. Just a couple hours earlier, I snapped at her for lollygagging when she was putting on her shoes for our walk with Luna. (A walk she didn't want to go on but I forced her to because she hadn't been outside all day.)

Sometimes My Director rightfully
throws a penalty flag on me.
My Director perfectly describes it as "piling on." Peanut will do something wrong. I will correct her and if necessary, punish her. Nothing wrong with that. It's called parenting. But I don't stop there. I will then proceed to recall every similar wrongdoing she has committed since the beginning of time, point it out, and use it is as an opportunity to punish her for those prior offenses as well. Because obviously if she's repeating the offense, the prior punishment wasn't effective enough. (At least in my mind.) So I feel the need to "pile on." Or I don't give her a chance to correct it first, before I discipline her. It's my whole ready-fire-aim mentality of parenting.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Calling All Dads

"There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”~ Sue Atkins

There has been a considerable amount of outrage lately throughout the dad community, particularly the dad blogging community, over a label. In its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, the U.S. Census Bureau refers to stay-at-home dads as “child care,” even though those dads are obviously the primary care providers in the family. Essentially, babysitters. The report also lists moms as the “designated parent” if both a mom and dad exist in the household, or in single-parent homes. But dads, stay-at-home dads in particular, are not happy.

Of course, moms have been the traditional primary caregiver pretty much since the beginning of time. Over the past decade or so, a small shift has occurred and more dads are staying home with the kids. Still, we dads have a long way to go before we catch up in the child-care street-cred department.

Just be the best parent you can be.
But that’s not stopping involved dads from circulating a petition to put us on equal footing with moms when dads are the “designated parent.”  I signed the petition in solidarity with the dads I know and admire. Dads who stay at home and take care of the family. Or Dads who, like me, work but are active participants in the lives of their children.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

#PayItFoward: Guest Post from I Hope I Win a Toaster

This week I bring you a special edition of #PayItForward. A guest post from one of my favorite bloggers. Bill, who writes a blog called I Hope I Win a Toaster, is a talented writer and stay-at-home dad who I now consider a friend. Talented because he uses real words like "wont" (not the contraction, either) and makes up cool words like "sillily" (as well as the title of the post below.) Perhaps most impressive, he doesn't sound like a tool when he does it like I am sure I would if I tried.

Bill is always thoughtful, often poignant, and consistently funny. He's insightful and self-deprecating. (Sound familiar?) A pure joy to read. In true #PayItForward fashion, he even mentions other bloggers that he admires and follows in this post. Please enjoy and find a way to follow I Hope I Win a Toaster:

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

"I change by not changing at all." - Pearl Jam

There is no denying that I am an overgrown child. Immature, silly, and easily distracted. I hear but rarely listen. It happens so much My Director often makes me repeat what she just said. And heaven forbid if I forget something, even after I've repeated it for her. She won't tell me what it was. I say, her loss.

But I admit: I am a frustrating, unstoppable, often unbearable, large child. And sprinkle a little bit of moody on top just for good measure. Sometimes she learns this the hard way. And sometimes those lessons are painful.

Take the other night, for instance. Peanut loves our pre-bedtime play frenzies because I usually let her run wild to blow off the remainder of her steam. She climbs me like a jungle gym. We hurl stuffed animals at each other like fake grenades. Play hide-and-seek, where I refuse to come out until she's just about to find me after an exhaustive search and I scare the bejeebus out of her. I throw her on the bed and tickle her into submission until she pleads for mercy. But this night, a new weapon was introduced. And My Director got caught in the crossfire. Twice.

My Ridiculous Weapon
Introducing, the Shooter Dog, a "gun" that shoots hard foam balls from the dog's mouth when you squeeze its belly. For some reason, Santa (My Director) thought this would make a cute stocking stuffer. Even though someone (yours truly) still considered it a gun of sorts and we're not crazy about toy guns of any sort. (I support your Second Amendment rights. I just don't exercise mine. Go ahead and judge, but that's another blog post.)

Peanut finds this thing hysterical. And so do I. The problem is, I am incapable of giving anything less than 100% when using the Shooter Dog. Because I am a child. I am a boy and boys like to shoot things. Boys think it's funny when you say "Ow!"

So as Peanut and I wrestled on her bedroom floor and I managed to seize possession of the Shooter Dog, I had her in my crosshairs. Locked and loaded. Then the warnings My Director gave as we began playing flashed through my hazy memory. Something about not shoving the ball all the way in. Something else about not squeezing too hard. Something about those two things making the ball hurtle at warp speed toward your supposed loved ones, blistering them in an instant. But that just makes me want to do it more.

So I shoved that ball as far as it would go, and I squeezed as hard as I could. Taking My Director's warnings into consideration, I quickly shifted my aim away from Peanut. Now I'm targeting My Director's legs. She was sitting, crossed-legged on the chair in the bedroom, directing of course. But a sneak attack from Luna threw off my aim. I shot high and hit her glasses.

I'm dangerous
Then I started laughing. Hysterically. Gut-wrenching, belly-aching, wheezing, coughing, drooling, tear-stained laughter. My Director, forever my straight man, her glasses now askew from my unprovoked, surprise attack, was even holding back laughter herself. Peanut laughed too. Not a great moment in parenting history, mind you.

In hindsight, I should not have laughed, let alone laughed as hard as I did. But funny is funny and this was funny. Nor should I have done it again. That's right. Another full-force, ball-in-the-mouth, tummy-squeezing shot that hit My Director directly in her right cheek. Now she's pissed and storming off to our bedroom.

Now Peanut is stomping right behind her, slamming the door, telling me how naughty I am. And I am sorry... truly. Sorry that I didn't listen to her. Sorry that I hurt her. And sorry that Peanut witnessed it all.

Sometimes I can't help myself. I play to win, and I play hard. Shouldn't My Director know that? Yes, she should. And she does. That's why she took the Shooter Dog away from me until I prove to her I can play with it responsibly.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

What I Miss

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss

Every day, you amaze me. Every day you do something, big or small, that makes me realize how much you've grown up already. And while you still have a long way to go, it's mind-boggling to think how far you've come.

You started pre-K earlier this month. You knew it was a big deal, that now you're a big girl. Even though you still go to the same building you've been going to for three years, you and I both know pre-K is a huge step.

I used to roll my eyes at the parents who said they couldn't stop the tears from flowing at pre-K graduation. Then at the end of the school year I saw the bulletin board with all of the pictures of the pre-K kids as babies. I almost lost it right there. And you've still got a full year of pre-K left until that's your baby picture up there. I'm going to be such a mess.

It seems like I blinked and you stopped being my baby. Even though I still call you that. Even though every time I do you correct me and tell me you're a little girl now. You've been calling yourself that for years. But now it's true. You're such a little girl and I love it and I love you so much.

You're gaining your independence. Writing your name. Dressing yourself. Brushing your teeth. Washing your hands. Going to the bathroom. All by yourself.

You're fearless. Riding the rides at the amusement park without hesitation. In fact, you love them and beg for more. We were nervous when you stood in line to go on your first roller coaster with one of your older cousins. Even though it was a kiddie coaster, we just didn't know how you'd react. What were we so worried about? All you did was laugh the whole time. Every time you passed us you looked like you were having the time of your life. A few weeks later at Great Adventure, you sat in the front seat on the Log Flume. You were giggling uncontrollably. Even on that last, big drop. You were soaked. And you wanted to go again.

The next day, I brought you to the playground, and caught you climbing this:
That little  boy was stalking you and you wanted no part of him
When did this happen? I'd never seen you do that before. You were always so cautious. So calculating. So careful. Not anymore.

You're growing up so fast. There are so many things I miss so much already.

I miss holding you, without you desperately trying to get away. I miss sitting in the rocking chair in your room and singing you to sleep. I miss singing you whatever I wanted. I miss when you were finally old enough to choose, and you chose "Thunder Road" every time. I thought that was so cool.

Now, singing isn't a part of the bedtime routine anymore. On the rare nights you're having trouble falling asleep, you ask me to sing you "Goodnight My Angel." That's fine. That song means a lot to your mom and me. It's the song she and Pop Pop danced to at our wedding after all. Maybe we'll do the same someday.

You're gaining your confidence. Almost swimming on your own now. I don't even go into the pool with you at swim class anymore. When we're not at swim class, you don't cling to me and demand I hold you in the water. That happened just this summer. On our last vacation, you were going under without us even asking you.
I miss giving you a bath... when giving you a bath was peaceful. When we would sing that ridiculous song "It's Naked Baby Time" to the tune of "It's Howdy Doody Time." You would get all excited, and we would walk you into the bathroom while holding your hands over your head and you would dance to that ridiculous song. I miss that.

I miss having your undivided attention. I miss sitting you somewhere and talking to or playing with or singing to you. Now, you're running wild all over the place. Asking us to do multiple things, play multiple roles, in multiple rooms.


Now you demand OUR undivided attention. Sometimes you ask to be left alone. There's that independence again.

You're getting so big. You're growing up so fast. I miss those times when you were little. But I'm so glad I'm not actually missing anything.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

The Joys of Homeownership: Goodnight, Irene

I promise this is the last time I mention the hurricane. Why? Because the final remnants of the damage the storm did to our property are now on the curb awaiting pickup. The long weekend enabled procrastinating old me to finish the work that needed to be done.

First, the big branch that split and fell from this tree on our sidewalk:

Sad and breaky

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Dude Looks Like a Lady

"I'm not a girl's toy. I'm not. Why do you guys keep saying that?" -Michael Keaton, in his masterful performance as Ken in Toy Story 3

There I was. Laying on the floor after another long day. I lay on the floor for several reasons. To play with the dog. To stretch out. And to cool off.

But my fun and relaxation came to an abrupt end when I innocently turned my head for what was supposed to be a split second. I couldn't believe what I was staring at. I was face-to-face with him.

He's so pretty.
Ken.

And not just Ken. Buck-naked Ken.

Suddenly, I was awash in awkwardness. Partly because I couldn't take my eyes off of him. So disturbing and yet impressive at the same time. And partly because not only was I marveling at his physique, but at his situation as well.

Quite the pool party
You see, Ken was laying there, with a big sh!t-eatin' grin on his face, in the Peanut's Barbie pool... with two women. Having a good old time. Lucky dog.

I stared at him, more like grimaced uncomfortably. With the Peanut safely tucked away in bed, I had an open forum.

"Why is Ken naked?" I asked my wife.

"That's what she does. She takes off their clothes and plays with them naked. We could be in trouble when she's older."

And then, my wife... the reserved one of the two of us. My straight man, if you will. The Abbott to my Costello... she says, "Maybe she's headed for a life on the pole."

Oh. My. Gawd.

I couldn't believe she had just said that. I definitely didn't want to think about it. Thankfully, she changed the subject saying, "I most certainly remember Ken having underwear. And he certainly wasn't as pretty."

I looked at Ken again. Is he pretty? Now a new set of emotions is bubbling up inside of me.  She was right. He is pretty. I'm not afraid to admit it.

Bad enough he's got the perfectly chiseled body. Now he's got to be pretty too? Just look that fabulous head of hair. So jealous. And if I'm not mistaken, he's wearing lipstick. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Now it was time to investigate the first part of my wife's statement. I forced myself to look where his underwear should be. I said the only thing that came to mind.

What the hell is this?
"So you're saying your Ken doll growing up didn't have a man-gina?"

"No," my wife said holding back laughter. "He definitely didn't have a man-gina." (I love her for repeating "man-gina.")

What is UP with Ken's man-gina? They couldn't mold him some plastastic boxers or something? All the clothes they have for this guy... and he suddenly goes commando with his man-gina?

Barbie is one thing, with her stereotypes, curves, and cliches. And always with her constant nudity too. Now I've got to deal with Ken and the whole other boxload of innuendos and awkwardness he brings. A Pandora's boxload, if you will.

I'm not sure which situation is more disturbing: the Peanut's insistence that these dolls always be naked. Or the fact that I can't stop looking.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

THE PEANUT GALLERY: Evidence

When I was growing up my mom had a particular term she would use to describe the messes I left in the house. She would walk into the kitchen and perform a 360 degree scan of the all of the rooms. She'd spot a cereal box on the counter, an empty glass on the coffee table, a textbook on the floor where I was doing homework.

Then she'd ask, "Why do I always have to come home to evidence?"

Evidence. Genius.

Last weekend, my wife said something similar. "Why does all of your crap have to be strewn all over the counter all of the time?" I had no answer, except to compliment her on her exceptional use of the funky word "strewn."

She was right:
Laptop, iPod, running watch, 2 pairs of glasses, keys, and more....

A few days later, I noticed a similar trend when I stayed at home one day with the Peanut:

We played princesses

We camped out in the kitchen

And of course, the chair train. All aboard!

My wife mentioned the famous chair train in her now viral guest post that she wrote for my birthday. Click here to read it.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Where I Want to Be

This was my Week 6 entry for Blogger Idol: my answer to the age-old question: "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'm a big kid.


Remember those old Toys R Us commercials? "I don't wanna grow up. I'm a Toys R Us kid..." That's me.

I want to run in the sprinkler with my daughter. I want to play Candy Land with her even though Candy Land is the never ending bane of every parent's existence. I want to ride the rides with her at the boardwalk all night and then eat funnel cake until I'm nauseous.

I want to ride my bike to the deli and play Mr. Do while drinking Yoo-Hoo. Just like I did when I was a blonde-haired, skinny kid.

I want to be that chunky, uncoordinated pre-teen  who dreamed of playing football in the NFL, of quarterbacking the New York Jets to a Super Bowl championship. I want to be that cocky but still unsure teenager who thought he could be the next legendary play-by-play voice of the New York Yankees.

I want to be a kid again so I can dream impossible dreams that aren't so impossible.

Now that I am grown up, I know exactly what I want to be. I want to be a teacher. I want to be a dream keeper. I want to teach my daughter and the still-to-be-conceived second child that we keep talking about having, yet keep putting off, the error of my ways. I want to tell them it's ok to dream. I want to encourage their dreams. Nourish and nurture them.

What do I want to be when I grow up? A dad who sits in the stands, or the audience, or the pew with pride in his heart and tears in his eyes.

am a grown up. My dreams are now the dreams of my children.

My path has brought me here
Make no mistake: I have no regrets about my life. I have a wonderful wife, an amazing child, a great house and I get paid to do something I truly enjoy. Sure, a little more money could ease some of the stress. Yes, we'd like more living space downstairs. But I have no complaints. I'm here because I chose to be here. There's no place else I'd rather be.

And while the path I chose to get here may not be the one I'd choose for my child(ren), had I not traveled it I would be somewhere else. I would be someone else. And maybe not as happy. Maybe not as content.

My dream is simple. It's for my family to live long happy healthy lives. To love and to be loved. To laugh and to make people laugh. To enjoy the simple things and endure the difficult ones.

What do I want to be when I grow up? A granddad, surrounded by my children and grandchildren, listening to the next great play-by-play voice of the Yankees, or watching the next great young quarterback lead the Jets to another Super Bowl championship.

Happy. Proud. Content. That's where I want to be. I'm well on my way.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Working on Sunday

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." - from the Our Father

We decided to skip church today. Again. It's not a trend, and it's not a reflection of any crisis of faith. It's just that sometimes skipping church is a necessary evil, if you will.

I used to affectionately but a little guiltily refer to these days as "Lazy Sunday." But not anymore.

When we skipped church one rainy Sunday a few months ago, that description sparked an interesting conversation between me and another daddy blogger on Twitter (you can follow me here: @DKLblog). He was doing the same thing (from the other side of the country, mind you). And he gave me a new perspective. 

He said he doesn't consider it to be lazy... that we're doing His work by giving love and attention to the things that are most important: family, home. This blogger's name is Joe, he lives outside Seattle and calls his blog Manhood v. Dadhood.  Click and check him out. He's worth following because he's deep and one of the nicest guys I've 'met' in the daddy blogosphere.

His description has allowed me to feel less guilty on Sundays we stay home. Our decision to join an Episcopal church is also a big factor in my lack of guilt. I was raised Catholic, so I know all about the guilt. My mother still gives me a guilt trip about joining an Episcopal church.

Sure, our immediate motivation, or lack thereof, for staying home is rooted in laziness. That particular day back in May, we felt we needed a day to decompress after going non-stop for a few weeks and having several busy weekends in a row. Some long overdue projects in the house needed tending to as well. And like I mentioned, it was raining.

I do believe that sometimes we can better serve God by bettering our home and making those in it happier and more comfortable. What a great way to look at things. That Sunday, I cleaned out and reorganized our garage. We played more games and read more books with the peanut than we had the other six days of the week combined.

She liked this one because it reminded her of nighttime
On another "Skip Sunday," we took her to an art museum to see an Andy Warhol exhibit. She and I played a game. Every time we entered a new room with a new group of artwork hanging on the walls, we had to run to our favorite and then say why we liked it (sounds very Pagan, I admit). She loved it, though.

I think God understands. I think we all worship Him and love Him and follow Him in different ways.

The Monday after that museum trip, we arrived home after daycare pickup. The peanut wanted to color. I love when she chooses anything besides television to occupy her while I cook. I set her up with paper and crayons at her little craft table, and started dinner. A few minutes later, she came into the kitchen holding a picture.

She hung her picture on the fridge.
"Do you know who it is, daddy?"

"Is it me?"

"No. Look. He has a beard."

I was totally stumped. Santa? My Uncle Norb? Ulysses S. Grant?

She finally enlightened me: "It's Jesus."

Holy crap.

We hadn't been to church in two weeks. And she sat down at her table and drew a picture of Jesus, cross and all, without prompting.

If that's not God's work... I don't know what is.

This isn't the first time the peanut has reminded me of our faith. Click here to read about it


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Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's Up To You, New York

"If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." -Frank Sinatra

There are moments when I truly love New York. When it shows you its heart and soul and you really wonder why the greatest city in the world gets such a bad rap.

Then there are moments when I just want to punch the city in the face and then demand an apology for making me do it.
This is the story of one of those punch-in-the-face moments.

On the Friday before Fourth of July weekend, my wife took the peanut to work with her. Daycare was closed and my wife had a half day because of the holiday. The peanut actually gets excited for these days. The train ride in, the subway, all of the attention from co-workers. But these days are exhausting for her.

Always an adventure. Especially this time because my wife had decided to leave the stroller at home. "It's too heavy," she proclaimed. "Besides, she's old enough to walk the few blocks from the subway to my office." Fine.

The large bouquet of flowers
I left my work in midtown early to meet them downtown where my wife works. We were ready to start our vacation together. That day my wife's boss had given her a large bouquet of flowers for her birthday. My primary function was to carry these flowers three long blocks to the subway, three stops on the subway, one long block to the bus station, and on the bus ride home.

Remember, the peanut is walking this whole time and being such a good sport about it despite the heat. She's holding our hands, listening, and even staying within reasonable distance when she had insisted on walking by herself.
We get on the subway and, naturally, there are no seats. At this point, the peanut starts complaining. Out loud. "Mommy, I really want to sit down."

Nothing from the other passengers.

She says it again.

My wife explains that there are no seats.

Nothing still.

One woman is actually looking directly at my daughter as she is requesting a seat. And still she doesn't get up.

This is when I want to punch New York in the face.

What possesses people to sit there while a little girl is asking to sit down? She's not even whining. Just stating that she's tired and wanted a seat.

Someone finally gets up to offer her his seat. But it turns out he was getting off at the next stop. So to me, that doesn't count.

We all get seats at that stop. A dad and his little boy, a kid about a year younger than my daughter, slide down to make room for me.

Remember I'm still holding this enormous vase of flowers.

The moment I crouch to sit, I hear the dad who moved over for me start screaming. Yes, screaming.

"Whoa! WHOOAAA! WHOAAAA!"

I had accidentally tipped the flowers and some of the water inside had dripped out onto his son, who was sitting next to me. This father then proceeded to make a ridiculous scene out of the whole thing. Shaking his head in disapproval. Scowling. Checking his son's black t-shirt for, I guess, water stains.

It was a disproportionate response that was so out of line he probably didn't hear my heartfelt apology because he was screaming so loudly. I no longer cared that his stupid kid was wet because of me. I kind of felt at that point it was payback for everyone else not giving up their seats for a little girl.

My wife, annoyed at this moron and the rest of the car full of jerks who wouldn't give the peanut a seat then chimed in, "It's only water. It'll probably cool him off on this hot day."

Had my daughter not been there, I may have added a " you a$$hole" before he and his not-quite-soggy kid got off at the next stop.

These are the moments when I want to punch New York in the face and then demand an apology for making me do it.

Luckily, a ten day vacation followed.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Puttin' on the Hits

"I just didn't want to hit a slow roller to third base and have it be replayed forever." -Derek Jeter, on hitting a home run for his 3,000th hit.

It's not often you get to witness history. I was fortunate enough to be there two years ago when the Yankees won their 27th World Series. I happened to be in the right place at the right time when someone had a free ticket to offer. (Click here to read about it.)

If you can't be there (and with the cost of taking your family to a ballgame these days who can?), then watching it on television is the next best thing.

This is the situation I found myself in as Derek Jeter sat two hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

He stood on the precipice of baseball immortality (only 27 other players in history have ever reached 3,000 hits). And I realized one thing: The peanut was monopolizing the only television in the house while watching a movie. "Meet the Robinsons," in fact.

My wife and I were lounging by the pool at my parents' house. I had checked my blackberry and saw that Jeter had singled in his first at bat. So I told my wife, "We're going to have to interrupt her when Jeter comes up again. He's one hit away."

"Then you'd better start laying the groundwork now," she wisely answered.

I opened the sliding glass door and entered the family room with a pit of dread bubbling in my stomach. The same feeling I might get when I was a boy and I knew I had misbehaved and my father was sitting right there in his recliner.

Only this time, I was dreading a confrontation with my 4 year-old daughter.

"Sweetie, in a few minutes I'm going to pause the movie so we can watch the Yankees for a little bit."

"But I don't want toooo," she whined, almost on the verge of tears. A morning in the pool had taken a lot out of her.
"Not right now. In a few minutes. And it'll be real quick. Then you can watch your movie again."

"Noooooo," she offered feebly.

I went back outside, hit refresh on my blackberry, and saw the Yankees were due up again. And Jeter was hitting second that inning.

I gave it a minute, went inside, and ripped off the proverbial Band-Aid.

"I'm going to put the Yankees game on now, sweetie. I want you to watch too because something big might happen here."

She protested, but there was no stopping me. And as Brett Gardner was called out just barely as he dove head first to beat out a ground ball to second, I entered Yankee fan mode. Hands cupped over my mouth and nose. Then clasping them on top of my head. Rocking back and forth as I stood in place.

No longer were the peanut's pleas relevant. We were watching this no matter what. I opened the sliding glass door and yelled to my wife, "Hon, Jeter's up." and she knew.

She came in. And we watched. As a family. The peanut on the couch. My wife sitting on the floor next to her. I standing behind them in hopeful anticipation.

He fouled off a few pitches. One he hit straight back, meaning he barely missed it. The count went full. "He's facing one of the best pitchers in the league here," I offered to my otherwise ambivalent audience of two. I was referring to Tampa's David Price.

#3,000 (image courtesy of yankeesdaily.com)
Then: the pitch. A curveball that didn't quite curve enough. Jeter, not a home run hitter, blasted it into the left centerfield seats for number 3,000. Awesome. Captain Clutch does it again. Only the second player ever to hit a home run on his 3,000th hit.
I yelled, "He hit a home run!" (Very original). "Woooooo! He did it!"

I was fighting back tears as I looked over at the peanut, only to see her holding her blanket in front of her face saying, "I'm NOT going to watch."


About five minutes later, after we watched the celebration and the excitement had worn off, I knelt down to my daughter.

I told her, "I'm glad we got to watch that together. Thank you for letting us watch. You don't know it now, but that was a big deal and you'll tell your children about it some day."

To which she answered, "Daddy, may you please put Meet the Robinsons back on now?"
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Bode in My Abode

"Fish and house guests smell after three days" -Ben Franklin

Those are words of wisdom from one of our country's founding fathers as we head into July 4th weekend. I wonder if he'd feel the same way about hamsters.

Bode in action
I never thought we would welcome a rodent into our home, much less feed it and play with it. Enter our neighbor's pride and joy, Bode the Hamster. We were pet sitting for the weekend.

The members of my family were spilt evenly when it came to being excited about our furry friend.

I have to admit, I was in the "anti" group. I'm not an animal person. I'm not against them, per se. I just don't like them. Especially furry little rats that pretend to be cute. How, you may be wondering, can I be against animals if I own a dog? Well, I love my dog. I. Love. My. Dog. My love for her borders on inappropriate. I am, however, not a dog person. I am a Luna person. She's my dog and I lover her.

It took my wife the better part of eight years to finally break me down and agree to get a dog.

So I don't gush over other dogs or any other animal for that matter. Coincidentally, the other person in my household who was anti-Bode, was Luna. In fact, she would take the widest route possible from the family room to the stairs just to avoid the hamster's cage when we were going up to bed. That's my girl. 

I didn't touch Bode all weekend. Neither did Luna.

Bode in his exercise ball
My wife and daughter were all in. I actually cringed and my stomach turned when they let Bode run around in the kitchen. As soon as they picked him up to return him to his cage, I was wet Swiffering the floor. Gives me the willies just thinking about it.

My wife is an animal lover. She had a menagerie of pets growing up. She says she'd do the same for the peanut when she's of age. I say I will put up a fight with every fiber of my being.

When our neighbors came to retrieve Bode on Monday evening, the peanut was sad. She didn't want him to go, even though she mostly ignored him until it was time to let him out for some exercise. After we closed the door, some of my anti-Bode sentiments melted away. That's what a daughter's sadness will do to the most stubborn of dads.

I asked her if she wants a hamster like Bode, when she's old enough. She said no.

That's my girl.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gender Gap

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. " ~Dr. Seuss

When you found out you were going to be a parent, what was the first thing you really wanted to know? Boy or girl, right?  Whether you found out before the birth or at the birth, that's the one thing we are all dying to know. (I personally don't see any point in waiting - but that's for another post.)

Now imagine being so excited about your baby boy or girl, loving and nurturing that child for three or four years, then sending them to a school that refuses to identify your child by gender. Nobody - not the teachers, not the principal, not the other students, refers to him or her as "him" or "her." A preschool in Sweden is doing this. They're referring to the kids as a group, as "friends."

Sorry, friends, I just don't agree.

While I also don't agree with enforcing gender stereotypes, I can't support flat out ignoring gender. What about potty time? Will everyone have to stand to pee? Or sit for that matter?

My daughter is being raised in a house where her father does all of the cooking and most of the kitchen clean-up. Her mother pays the bills and is better at fixing most things. It's up to the parents to teach their children that it's ok for boys to cook and girls to assemble patio furniture.

At her school, there is a boy whose favorite color is pink. There's nothing wrong with that. There is another boy who loves dance class. I find nothing wrong with that, either. Nor is it wrong that I carried my baseball cards in a purse when I was a boy. You can read about that here. Those kids are busting the stereotypes, and I'm pretty sure they're doing it all by themselves.

Even the inflatable pool is princes themed
But sometimes, the stereotypes find the child. We tried to avoid the whole princess craze with our daughter. Didn't introduce her to them, buy her any toys or books or show her any movies with princesses. We weren't making a political statement. We just felt like they were a little cheesy and a lot cliche'. Well, guess who is fascinated by princesses anyway? We've got the nightgowns and the books and we watch the movies all of the time and when she plays dress-up daddy has to be the prince or the king.

Her choice. Naturally.

This past weekend, we were headed to a birthday party for one of her classmates. The boy had chosen a Spiderman theme for his party. As we drove there, my daughter volunteered, "Daddy, I hope there are girl superheroes at this party, like Wonder Woman."

My Feminist Superhero
Our little women's libber, perhaps? We probably won't know for a few more years. But she did get a pink Batman painted on her face at the party. Sorry... Batgirl.

These are her politics, not her parents'. Not that we disagree with them. During dinner one evening late in October of 2009, my wife and I were discussing the race for governor in New Jersey, and we asked our daughter, "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?"
Halloween 2009

"I'm a cupcake," she answered, because that's what she was dressing as for Halloween a week later.

A cupcake. A princess. Wonder Woman. Sweet, strong, independent. All words that describe my daughter. All things she chose. Based on gender? Probably. Based on nature or nurture? I think mostly nature, with a little bit of unintended nurture.

Because I knew she was going to be a princess the minute I found out we were having a girl.
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Monday, June 27, 2011

About Being a Dad

"Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad." -Anne Geddes

Last week was Father's Day. I didn't write a traditional post about it. Instead, I wrote one about me and my dad. I wanted to take a step back and reflect on the actual day.

Since my daughter is now four years old, Father's Day is starting to really mean something because she's old enough to be aware that there is a special day for me. And right there is where I have trouble.

While I certainly appreciate the wonderful cards (I actually choked up reading my wife's card because it was so spot on. How does she do that every time?), the gifts, the chocolate chip pancakes, the extra attention and affection, it makes me uncomfortable.

To me, every day is Father's Day because I am a dad every day. It's why I didn't mind planting some shrubs in the front yard and trimming the hedges on Father's Day. We don't get a day off. And while I truly cherish the rare opportunity to sleep in, I actually look forward to waking up early with my daughter on the weekends... most of the time. I work twelve hours a day, including commute. I get to see her for three hours a night during the week... maximum. And those hours are usually jam-packed with obligations like dinner, potty, teeth brushing and bath time.

Don't get me wrong, I find sleep to be a wonderful thing. We used to get along swimmingly. There was a period of time where we were best buds. Now? While I sleep well, I just don't sleep a lot. Fine.

There is something inherently magical about sipping a cup of coffee while sitting on the couch in her play room. She is immersed in her Calico Critters, asking you to help her dress them. Then surprising her by saying "Let's go to Dunkin' Donuts" because it's 7:30am and you've already been awake for an hour and don't know what else to do. And no, you don't have to change out of your Dora nightgown first.

Sure, I teach her the rules and the manners and the traditions and I discipline her and protect her. But I love having fun with her the most.
How she sees me
(apparently with one mutton chop)

What does my daughter think being a dad is all about? Well, she knows I am her ultimate playmate, I'm the guy she can knock around and - for the most part - get away with it. She knows that when I'm serious, she's in trouble.

She even knows what I wear to work. One morning recently I went into her room to kiss her goodbye and she was already awake. So I pounced on the unique opportunity to spend a little time with her. She asked me why I wasn't wearing a tie. And thus began our introductory lesson to casual Friday.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Naked Truth

"Sometimes life seems like a dream, especially when I look down and see that I forgot to put on my pants." - Jack Handy

Thanks to my daughter, a few strangers at the Gap now know that I wear Papa Smurf boxer shorts. I was trying on pants in the dressing room while my wife was occupying the peanut. When I called my wife over for her opinion on whether my new threads were a good fit, my daughter refused to enter the dressing room.

Is Smurfy Sexy?
So now my wife wants to try something on and the peanut still won't budge, and for no other reason than we wanted her to. By this point, I had taken the pants off, revealing the aforementioned Papa Smurf boxers. Two women walk by the open door. Now I'm annoyed.

Still refusing to listen, I grab my daughter's arm and pull her into the dressing room with a stern, "Get in here now!" She freaks out. I try to calm her down, for her, for me, and for the people overhearing this chaotic scene from the other dressing rooms.

I tell her I had to do it because "it's inappropriate for strangers to see daddy in his underwear" (Papa Smurf underwear, mind you).

She brushed me off, then moved on. Maybe she didn't think anything of it because my daughter herself finds every opportunity she can to take off her pants. I will come home and she will be lying on the couch watching television, in her undies. Or playing in her playroom. When does this start being weird? At what age? At this point, I think it's mostly a comfort thing. It's been hot out, and we don't turn on the air conditioning unless it's absolutely necessary.

But there have been times when we try to compel her to wear pants, leading to a tantrum.

Thus, I've invented a new term: the "temper pantrum:" when your child throws a fit because you're forcing them to wear pants.

That's an actual phone call I received from my wife one morning at work. "I'm going to be late for work because she was so difficult this morning." So I ask, "Why she was so difficult?" The answer: "Because she didn't want to wear pants."

I was speechless. What do you possibly say to that?

When I picked her up later that day, I asked the teachers, hypothetically, what they would do if we dropped her off in the morning and she weren't wearing pants. "That's fine," one of them politely responded. "We know you guys do your best."

If our best is sending our daughter out in the world half-naked, then we're in trouble, lady.

To take this from the ridiculous to the even more blog-worthy... one morning she and I were horsing around in her playroom. Wrestling on the floor. My wife was sitting on the couch, cheering us on. We were having a great time. Laughing out loud, tears in your eyes kind of funny. She'd jump on me. I'd tickle her. I was truly afraid for my safety at certain points because she was hurtling herself at me with such reckless abandon.

All of a sudden, she ran out of the room. Was she getting something? No... she was getting rid of something. Her pants. We played for another minute, and she ran out again. Now what? She returned without a shirt. We kept playing, she only in her underwear. I said out loud, through my laughs, "ok this is getting a little weird."

She left a third time. My wife, trying to catch her breath, simply coughed out forebodingly, "Oh, no..." I thought to myself, she's not going to come back naked is she?

Of course she is. "Honey," I attempted as our laughter reached hysterical heights. "Remember how daddy tells you sometimes that things are inappropriate? Like when you ask me to tickle (my mother-in-law)?" She's paying me no attention as she belly flops on top of me. I lift her naked kicking body, holding her above me like Supergirl and try to explain through her giggles. "You have to put your underwear back on," I say while repressing my laughter. Followed by the jackpot: "Wrestling naked is inappropriate."

You can't expect a four year-old to sit there and listen and comprehend everything you're saying, especially after you've gotten her riled up like I did. Especially when you're throwing around big words like inappropriate.

But my God... I hope that last lesson sinks in eventually and sticks for as long as possible.

Speaking of "inappropriate," click on this and read if you dare. But be warned: TMI. No... really. EXTREME TMI.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Sorry Apology

"An apology is a good way to have the last word."  ~Author Unknown

Without a doubt my least favorite thing about my daughter is her inability to apologize. She's horrible at it. It's biting into tin foil with silver fillings annoying. A close second is her refusal to accept any help or instructions when she's doing something wrong.

And where does she get this from? Yours truly, of course.

I'm thinking of apologies after the latest in a long line of high profile apologies that didn't quite cut it. I'm talking about, of course, Congressman Anthony Weiner. Let's be honest: this guy only apologized because he got caught, not because he's sorry. He denied and dodged for weeks only to "come clean" if you want to call it that, because he couldn't keep up the lie any longer.

Other athletes or celebrities often say things like, "I'm sorry you were offended." Nothing like making the people whose feelings you may have hurt feel worse just for having feelings.

The fact is, saying your sorry doesn't make it right. You've got to mean it. You've got to be sorry. Then you've got to not do it again.

I know this because I am working on it myself as I try to teach my daughter the same thing.

You know what we both do? We try to immediately cover up our indiscretions by making jokes or getting defensive. Sound familiar, Mr. Weiner?

When she does apologize, it's insincere. That is, if you can hear it at all.

It starts with an act of wrongdoing. Say you're playing with her and she's getting rough. You ask her to stop, or to be careful, because she's going to hurt someone. She doesn't, and she kicks you in the ribs... hard. You're in pain. You tell her she hurt you. You ask her to apologize. She stands there and refuses. Not only does she refuse, she goes silent. Not only does she go silent, she won't even make eye contact.

Then your wife comes in because you are too furious with both pain and the situation to handle it properly.

After the refusal, the silence, and the no eye contact... she will finally apologize. It will barely be audible, but she'll do it. You ask her to repeat it. She says, "I said I was sorry." Now she's getting mad... at her victim... just like the athlete who says, "I'm sorry you were offended."

"How would you like it if mommy or daddy hurt you? Would you like that?"

She shakes her head no as she continues her silent treatment while still not making eye contact.

"Then why did you hurt daddy?"

Silence.

"You need to say you're sorry."

"I did."

"You need to say it louder."

She shouts it.

"No, honey... you need to say it nicely. And you need to give daddy a hug."

Nothing.

I can deal with the tantrums, the irrationality, the stubbornness, the refusal to allow us to help her, the occasional not listening, the messes. I can deal with all that... barely.

But I can't deal with her crappy apologies. Now I know how my wife feels.

She used to be good at saying she's sorry... until we changed the rules on her. Click here to read.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Judge For Yourself

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." -Albert Einstein

One of the many perks of being a parent is the freedom to judge other parents. Few things are more annoying to me as a parent than when a person who doesn't have children talks about what parents are doing wrong.

I admit that I too did this before I became a father... definitely to my sisters and possibly to a cousin or friend. My wife and I would occasionally say things like, "we're not going to do that when we're parents.

I get it, childless people... you think you have all the answers. But you don't. Maybe you think you're smarter because you get more sleep than we parents get. But you're not.

I dare you to keep your patience in the pizzeria when you're running on fumes after a stressful and exhausting day of work and the little person to whom you devote your life, love and sanity refuses to listen to a word you say because he wanted a bag of potato chips and you had the nerve to say no and now he's throwing a fit on the filthy restaurant floor.

Do you think you can do that? I've seen it done. It's impressive. But we still slip... we still lose it sometimes. Parenting is stressful.

And when you finally do become parents... and you're truly ready to judge... there's a big rule.

The rule is you don't do it to someone's face. This isn't American Idol. We're not performing for you and looking for immediate feedback. We're parenting at the Improv. But it's not just for a night. It's every minute of every day for the rest of your life. You never know what's going to come out of your child's mouth. But once they've said it you need to respond. And you need to respond well... and calmly.

On Monday I picked up my daughter at daycare. They were having a book fair. Translation: entrapping parents into shelling out $10-$20 because all we want to do is collect our child and his/her things quickly and without drama.

I was looking forward to this because I had scouted out some of the books on the Friday before. There were a couple I wanted to push on my daughter. One by Al Yankovic, of all people, titled "When I Grow Up." (We didn't end up getting this one).

After I found her on the playground, we went inside to get some books. In my mind I had a budget of $20... I figured three books. I never told her that number, however. She had said on Friday that she wanted a princess book she had spotted. Gag. I mean... fine.

As we entered the building, she immediately spotted another book instead- a non-princess one. It was actually a book that teaches writing and how to tell time. So I said absolutely.

Then she asked, "Daddy may I have three books?" She had her eye on a Barbie book as well as the princess one.

Did she read my mind? Did she know my plan? I didn't have time to ponder these existential questions because immediately I spotted a mom who was looking at books herself. I caught her mouthing, under her breath, "May I have three books?" Emphasis on the three... not on the may.

I immediately said "yes" since that was my plan all along. And as I caught that mom, pouting her lips and shrugging her shoulders judgementally at my perceived inability not to spoil my child I said, "at least it's not a candy fair." Because I can't let you get away with that crap.

Are you really going to judge me to my face like that?

Listen, I'm a blogger. Obviously. I put myself out there to be judged. I get it. But I'm also judging myself in the process. And I really try not to judge other parents because I really am no authority because this is the first time I am raising a four year-old girl. You may fall into a rhythm, but everything is always new.

So don't judge me to my face. If you must, go home and do it in private. Or feel free to post a comment below.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Walk in the Park

"No symphony orchestra ever played music like a (little) girl laughing with a puppy." -Bern Williams

Walking the dog is not what it used to be. Not what it was two years ago. Heck, not what it was two months ago.

Best picture ever taken of Luna
Two months ago, we'd venture out into the dark... winter's chill still hanging in the air. I'd use a flashlight to locate my little black dog and her little brown poop.

I would go alone.

But spring has sprung... which means my dark, solitary walks with Luna are no longer in the dark and are certainly no longer solitary.

"Daddy, may I please come with you on your walk?"

How could I possibly resist that?

So she comes. But before she does, she has to "get ready." And by "get ready," I mean she has to "get her stuff."

Her shoes need to be located, her Lammie needs to be located, her toy baby stroller needs to be located.

The ultimate walking companion
Meanwhile, the dog waits patiently by the door, looking up at me with her sweet haunting puppy eyes as if to say, "I thought this was our quality time together... why is she coming?" (side note: when reading my dog's voice, you must do it as if she's a middle aged Hispanic man. Think Cheech Marin. This is the voice I gave her even though she's a female Asian breed and I'm Italian-American).

The dog starts to whine as my daughter scours the house looking for a toy to take for her Lammie to have while she pushes her in the stroller.

I try to tell her that Luna has to "go," and is waiting... but this just makes her eat up more time.

When we're finally out the door, my daughter insists on going first. This means we're walking so slowly we might as well be going backwards... because she has to stop at every raised portion of sidewalk and lift her toy stroller over it so she doesn't hit the bump. And the dog looks up at me as if to say, "See what you've done? This used to be nice." (Did you do it in the Cheech Marin voice?)

Luckily, our street dead ends into the park (major selling point) so all we have to do to get there is walk down the block. But walking down the block with my daughter is like walking through midtown Manhattan with Derek Jeter. Anyone and everyone wants to stop and say hello. Not that I'm complaining. She deserves - and demands - the attention.

Walks used to be this easy
It used to be, when I walked Luna as a puppy, people would constantly stop us on the street to pet her because "she's so cuuuute." I called her the mayor of our town. How times have changed.

We get to the park and Luna wants to go one way, and my daughter wants to go the other. Every time. Without fail.

Now, I'm one of those dog owners who lets his dog off the leash in the park. Yeah... that guy. Why? Because she listens to me, is friendly, and pays little to no attention to other dogs. Problem is, when my daughter is with us, and she's running off ahead in one direction and the dog is sniffing around in the other direction, I get a little frantic inside.

"Stay close, honey," I shout as calmly as possible to my daughter. I then yell to the dog to "come... this way." At the uttering of those two commands, Luna slowly makes her way towards me. When she's within reach, I put on her leash. Her tail drops and she gives me another look of disgust as if to say, (cue the Cheech) "You have ruined my life with this little girl, you know."

Uh... put down the camera and catch up to your daughter
Once my dog is leashed and my panic has subsided, we walk...  together... kind of. I still have to occasionally shout "stay close" but no longer have to bridge the distance between the two of them. And then... the running ahead becomes a walking ahead... and she eventually asks me if I could carry her stroller.

When I resist, she asks me to carry her.

"Sweetie, this is a walk. So we're walking."

So now I'm carrying the stroller... and the dog hasn't even pooped yet.

Since we got the dog when we still lived in the city, she's used to taking walks to go number two. She still won't go in our yard. And she takes her sweet time.

My girls... both high maintenance in their own ways
When she finally goes, my daughter makes a big deal out of it. She has to come over and count the turds before I pick them up. Then we have to sing the instrumental part of "You Can't Touch This" while Luna does her post-poop MC Hammer dance.

The poop seems to energize the both of them because we're basically sprinting out of the park at this point. Once again she has run way ahead of me, and the panicky feeling returns. I am, of course, holding the toy stroller and a bag of feces, in addition to the dog's leash. My pockets are also filled with whatever toys my daughter had brought along and since discarded and any "pretty leaves for mommy" she has picked up along the way.

This is why they invented cargo shorts.

A simple, otherwise mundane task like walking the dog is never simple and mundane with a four year-old.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Solving for Why

Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked "why."  ~Bernard Baruch


With one little word... three little letters... the conversation I had anticipated, dreaded, feared was underway. And once that little word... those three little letters.. were spoken, they hung in the air like a thick fog.

And I was speechless. I felt powerless.

So many questions
"Why?"

How many times a day does she ask that question? Dozens. But never, had she asked this.

She finally wanted to know where Popsie is. My dad.

"Where is he?," she inquired when we brought up his name for the thousandth or so time. Has never happened before. We always talk about him. His name is part of the conversation pretty much every time we mention my family. Or my wife's family for that matter. We've made a point of it. Just last week we were looking at swing sets at an outdoor store and she thought it was just a really big park (Good thing because I don't think we're getting one), and at one point she asked me, "Daddy, did Popsie used to take you here when you were a boy?"

My dad at our wedding 12/7/02
And I told her yes.

This, however, was obviously different.

My wife answered her, "He's in heaven, honey."

And then... "Why?"

I ask myself that same question almost every day. Why? Why isn't he here? Why is he missing all of this? His youngest granddaughter. Our house... and everything I've needed him to fix. Why did this happen to us, so soon after our wedding? Why did it have to happen to him? He had just bought a bag of discount Christmas decorations at Target that day for crying out loud. Does that sound like a man who was ready to die?

Maybe that's why I didn't have the answer. Thankfully my wife was poised to respond. As always. She said pretty much the only thing you could say. "Because God wanted him in heaven."

Beauty & the Beast doesn't dance around death
And that was it... until minutes later when we reached the point in her Beatuty and the Beast book that she was "reading" to us, where the beast dies. (And I was worried bout Tangled).

My wife was surprised she had made the connection so soon after the conversation about my dad. Or did she? We never said he had died. We told her he was in heaven. That God wanted him. That he's her guardian angel. "Do you know what it means when someone dies," my wife cautiously pressed her. "That's what happens when bad guys hurt you," she said.

Freakin' movies.

She wasn't interested into getting philosophical. She wanted to move on and read books. So we dropped it. Until the next "why."

I might not ever have the answer, but at least we've started the conversation.
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