The misadventures of a first time father

“Trick or Treat” OR “Put down that snickers bar and pick up this comic”

I’ve always wondered how dentists feel about Halloween.

Back when I was anchoring the news, we would occasionally have dentists on-set once a month, and when it came to this time of year they’d often have candy-returns that they would plug, where their offices would collect candy and ship it overseas to people in the armed services. In return, kids would be put into the running for contests.

But I can’t help but think that, despite pushing for moderation, there’s got to be some dentist offices filling up with kids who just go overboard with the stuff.

Anyway, that was a bit of a stream of consciousness.

My mind was on candy because this year, we’re trying something a little different. In years past, we’ve always given the option of candy or a comic book, culled from stacks I would accumulate throughout the year to give away. However, as time has gone on, those kiddie comics of the past that used to be so easy to find in “6 for a $1″ bins, have disappeared.

So, this year, imagine my delightful surprise when I walked into my local comic shop (where I’ve been going regularly since the age of about 7, when I had to stand on a footstool to peer into the back issue boxes) and found pre-packaged stacks of mini-comic books, ready to hand out and completely kid-appropriate.

I was thrilled!

Halloween ComicsComing 20 per pack, they had varying titles and topics, but all were labeled ‘all ages,” meaning, it’s okay for little ones to get them. And, I admit, I love the slogan on the package “lasts longer than candy!” You’re darn tootin’ it does. I would have went nuts with glee as a kid if I had gone to a house on Halloween and gotten a comic book instead of a mini Snickers, and in the years past when I’ve given out comics, I’ve smiled ear to ear at having some kids genuinely feel the same way, running feverishly down our sidewalk to their parents yelling “Comics!! They gave me comics!!!” It’s been pretty darn cool.

So, this year, I’m keeping up the tradition, thanks to these Halloween Comicfest comic packets, and Meg has also ordered some Halloween toys (glow in the dark vampire fangs and spider-rings) as an option as well.

So, it’s a candy-free Halloween this year for us, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I like the idea of finding something that’s still fun, but a little bit different for the kids. They are items that can be enjoyed long after the wrapper is taken off and at the same time, safe for everyone, even kids with allergies or diabetes, as has been very popular with the Teal pumpkin initiative as of late.

And I mean, it’s not like we’re handing out toothbrushes. :)

A pumpkin-carving time-saver with a toddler

With Halloween fast-approaching, we carved a pumpkin this weekend. While it may not be rocket science, I want to offer one bit of advice that I found made our whole process incredibly easier - if your child is taking an afternoon nap, use that nap-time to get all the gutting of your pumpkin out of the way.

It may not seem like much, because it’s such a small, simple thing, but it can make a world of difference if you’re little one is not quite at the age of carving themselves, but still wants to take part.

I’ve heard a lot lately about how pumpkin’s last longer if you carve them from the bottom, but I went for the traditional method of cutting around the stem and pulling it out to make my way inside.

carving 01

Then, using the carving knife and an ice cream scoops, I gutted all of those seeds and pumpkin-innards until we were left with one big, hollow pumpkin.

carving 02

This made things so incredibly easy when the little guy woke up from his nap and wanted to carve his pumpkin after dinner. We weren’t trying to juggle the circus of a 2-year-old wanting to pull everything out himself, getting it everywhere, or just losing interest.

carving 03

carving 04

With just the hollow pumpkin, ready to go, we simply put him at the table (with his little step stool) and he guided us through the process of what he wanted his pumpkin to look like, from the eyes, to the shape of the nose and what kind of mouth he wanted. (“Happy pumpkin!” was pretty much the description he gave us to work from for the mouth).

carving 05

carving 06

So, here we have it – our Little Carving Supervisor’s Pumpkin, made all the easier by getting the prep out-of-the-way during nap-time.

I totally recommend it.

carving 07

Happy Halloween!

Dreaming in the dark

House at NightMy eyes opened to darkness.

Outside our window, the street lights brought some illumination to the pavement and yards below, but the thick, black darkness filled our home.

I moved my head to the left, seeing the glowing red numbers of my alarm clock. Not quite 5 a.m. I was curled in an odd, not very comfortable S-Shape, my body wrapped around the slumbering cats curled up in our bed throughout the night.

Then, I heard it. A tiny little voice from the other room.

Our son, talking in his sleep.

He called out the name of one of my parents’ dogs, the same playful way he does when he wants them to chase him around their house.

A few minutes later, I heard “Ernie! Elmo! Help me with...(a slew of words that were unintelligible).”

Shortly after that giggles and laughter.

Some time later, I heard “Dada, me take binky outside, peeaassse?” (we’re still working on weaning him off that binky. It only shows up at night for sleep currently as we try to lessen his dependence on it)

I just laid there in bed, smiling, trying to stifle my laughter at these wonderful adventures, laughs and lives he’s living in his sleepy little head.

It was wonderful.

“You a nice person”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make your day. And ever since becoming a dad, I’ve found that it’s often the smallest of gestures, of words that make it so.

As a child’s ability to speak grows and their vocabulary expands, sometimes the words coming out don’t always make sense, or require the need for a parent to translate to others what those words are.

Other times it can be as clear as day and out of the blue.

And it can make your day.

This morning we were driving along on a dark Fall day, when out of the blue, a handful of words came from the back seat and changed the tone of everything.

“Dada, you a nice person.”

That one comment was all it took to put me on Cloud Nine.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

“Thanks, buddy. You’re a nice person too.”

Nostalgic for the lives that once were…

I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic as of late.

I’m not sure if it’s the changing colors of the Fall leaves here in the Northeast, which always make me think of the many returns ‘back to school’ for almost two decades, or sitting outside the cafe in college with my portable CD player and headphones providing ample musical accompaniment as I’d write. Maybe it’s helping my parents pack up and move out of the house we were a family in from the age of 13 onward. Or maybe it’s watching the only sitcom these days that I tune into each week, The Goldbergs, which washes over me like a wave of reminiscences to my youth in a ‘1980 something’ blur.

Either way, there’s been something about the past. Something about how life used to be. Something that, in the words of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon on 30 Rock – ‘I want to go to there.’

Watching my son walking talking, counting, and just becoming a little person all his own, with his own ideas, decisions, and views, even at two, has made me think more and more about the world he is going to grow up into. Most of all, I think about just how different that world is from the one I look back so fondly on.

couple-on-phonesWe went to lunch as a family not too long ago and were talking when my wife nudged her head slightly to the table next to us. I glanced over, where I saw a young couple who had come in just before us. They were seated at the table, ready for a meal, like anyone else in a restaurant would be, but instead of talking to each other, both had their heads down, glued to the phones in their hands.

I sighed.

Yeah. I know. I’m already three steps into ‘Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” territory, but I can’t help but feel a longing for a time that, despite the melodramas that (let’s face it) we created ourselves in our youth, was much simpler. Workplace tasks didn’t include making sure Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, yadda, yadda, yadda, were updated constantly.

A time when asking someone out on a date meant walking up to them and doing so in person or building up the nerve to pick up the phone and hope that a parent didn’t answer first. Now it’s a text, a Facebook message, a tweet. A ‘wanna hang out?’ There is something…lacking in it all.

Yes, yes. I realize that in many ways the Internet and Social Media have opened up the world to so many. Heck, would these thoughts running through my head have anywhere to go other than to my friends over a beer if it wasn’t for the power of the world wide webs?

nice-neighborhoodThere was once a time when the worst you had to worry about when doing something foolish was a friend taking a picture that they’d show your friends. Now, that picture can be seen by the world in a matter of seconds, with no way to take it back.

Bullies may have caused trouble at school or on the bus, but you could go home and take a break from it, regroup, feel you were safe. Today, computers, the internet and phones bring the bullying right there into the living room or bedroom of the child, giving them no break, no moment to gather thoughts – a constant bombardment of assault that would drive even the strongest adult to question their own sanity at times, I’m sure.

Sigh.

And this is the world my little boy is growing up in. How could I possibly be prepared for it?

I was blessed to have a family unit with caring parents and a great younger brother. I went to a high school that was so close-knit (don’t get me wrong. there were issues here and there. there always is with teens.) that when I wax nostalgic about it, my wife has often asked me if I went to school in a time warp or the 1950s.

I was very lucky and I want him to be too.

And yet, I can’t help but be fearful of the changing world we live in when I look back on the carefree days of riding my bike to the little league field, of walking to school or to the public pool, or being able to walk at night in my neighborhood to a friend’s house around the corner or just blocks away without worry for me or my parents.

They were wonderful times and I will treasure them always.

social_mediaWhen I was in college, I wrote a paper about what was then, the ‘height’ of social media in that pre-myspace, pre-friendster, pre-facebook days – AOL Instant Messenger. My theory was that through the use of technology like Instant Messenger, we as a civilization were becoming less human. We were losing our humanity in the way we communicate.

If I had only known what was coming down the pipe in terms of ‘social media’ back then.

But, here we are. All sharing this world – a world made ever smaller by our ability to connect with someone halfway across it in a matter of seconds. Many of us still finding our way.

What kind of people will we be?

Whatever we choose will automatically play a role in who our children choose to be.

I can’t control the world around me and I know that. And that world around me is going to continue to grow with things I’ll never understand and yet, gets smaller by the day as technology grows. How it’s used, how it’s reacted to, that’s all up to the people behind it.

That would be us. And our children. And their children.

I can’t put my son in a bubble or create a world for him without the risks, the fears, and the distractions that come with technology, the internet and social media that have made me look back so much on my own youth as ‘so much simpler.’

But I can make sure the phones are put away at dinner time, or family time, or storytime, or that we make sure we get outside, go for walks, or just enjoy the world that we’ve been given. I can get on the ground and play with toys with him instead of turning on the television.

I can teach him that while there is vast, powerful technology in this world that can either bring us together or rip us apart, it is no match for the imagination of oneself or the true community of family and friends that are found simply reaching out a real hand, not a twitter handle.

I can show him how much this world, this earth, the world around us and everything in it that we walk by each day should be cherished and appreciated, less it fade away and disappear and become nothing more than an image on one of those magic screens.

Hangin’ out down at the playground

Kids holding hands on playgroundIt was an unseasonably sunny and warm Sunday for Fall, and we decided to take full advantage of it by going for a family drive. No set destination, no goal in mind other than just to spend time together.

It ended up turning into a few errands that my wife wanted to run while we were out, but the overall day was devoted to just going ‘wherever.’ By the afternoon, ‘wherever’ was a playground so that we could all enjoy some sun, some warmth and the little guy could have some fun.

When we got there, there were two little kids (a brother and sister) already present and playing – the brother was one year older than our guy and the sister the same age. Though our guy, as seems to be the case, was twice the size of the fellow two year old.

It was fun to see him so quickly make friends and easily play as if he had known these kids all along. Funny how we adults have such an awkward time engaging in new social relationships, bogged down by lifetimes of inhibitions, fears, experiences, when these children have the world before them, and all it takes is a simple ‘hi’ to head down the path to fun, play and friendship.

For the little chatterbox (which we’re quite proud of) that our guy is, aside from introducing himself, he became a bit more quiet on the playground, usually lost in his own little world (such as picking up piles of pebbles and pouring them onto the swing instead of actually using the swing), or following the 3 year old boy around and wanting to do whatever it is that boy did. If the boy walked up the slide, our guy wanted to walk up the slide (even though he’s never attempted it before). If the 3 year old boy wanted to do the small rock wall, our guy wanted to do it.

It was completely an afternoon of new social engagement, new challenges, but most of all, fun. We spent a good amount of the afternoon there and just as easily as he made friends with these kids, it just as quickly came to an end, without issue. No emotional losses, no crying that things were changing, just…carrying on.

That simple hello that led to an afternoon of play ended with just as easily a ‘bye’ as the brother and sister left with their family members and we stayed on, playing on the slide.

I’m often amazed at how much more adaptable children are than we adults as situations arise, change, etc. If we could all only capture and hold on to that as we grow older.

Going potty – the ultimate diversionary tactic

Potty TrainingAs I’ve probably mentioned before, we’ve been incredibly blessed that our little guy started to use the potty when he did, which was around Christmas time at about a year and a half. We were shocked, surprised, a little overwhelmed, but completely over the moon that he decided to guide himself and tell us that he was ready to start using it.

Lately though, there’s been an odd little trend developing – the potty as a delay tactic.

Much like a well-planned army strategy, the little guy will very agreeably go to bed, per routine, after we’ve read a few books. All seems well until he begins to realize he doesn’t quite want to go to sleep. First, you hear the rumbling in the crib of a little one moving around. Next, the toys that talk as he plays, puttering around as we hope he starts to fall asleep. Then it comes.

“Maaaaaammmmmaaaaa…”

“Daaaadddaaaa…”

“It’s sleepy time, buddy. Time to go to sleep.”

(pause)

(pause)

(pause)

“Potty! Go potty!”

One of us enters the room.

“You’ve gotta go potty, buddy?”

“Uh-huh. Potty! Go!”

And it’s into the bathroom, plopping him on the potty (with his cushion-y little seat adapter for little buns) and away we go. Sometimes, yes, it is quite legit, and we’re very thankful that he tells us so that we can avoid the alternative. But there’s some nights, like a recent Monday night, where while legit, quickly turned into a 45 minute gab session as he sat on the potty, done for a while and just wanting to talk.

“I think you’re done, buddy. Are you all done?”

“Noooo!”

“Okay, well give it a try to get anything else out.”

And we sit and we talk, and we talk. And before you know it, a half hour or 45 minutes has flown by and you start to realize “he has completely played us.”

And I fall for it every time.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers

%d bloggers like this: