The misadventures of a first time father

But really, who has the time?

tumbleweedThe silence is palpable as a tumbleweed spins across your path. This place seems like it’s been dead for quite some time. It’s nothing but a ghost town.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but I haven’t exactly been pounding out the pieces as of late, making this place a virtual deserted city.

I’ve meant to. Truly. I can’t tell you how many times the phrase “blog posts” or sometimes “blog posts!!!!” has been scrawled out on my daily planner, never to be crossed out, left out of the reindeer games of the day like poor little Rudolph. Even those four extra exclamation points haven’t been able to add extra time to the day, even if they have increased the amount of guilt for it.

I at first thought that the greatest challenge in having a second child would be remembering or re-learning how to care for a baby again. I was surprised to find that this came back pretty easily. What I hadn’t really understood was that the greatest challenge to a second child is juggling the care a baby needs alongside the growing needs of a three year old.

From the moment we wake around 5:30 or 5:45 (or earlier if the cats are feeling particularly saucy that morning), it feels like a whirlwind begins, feeding cats, showering, dressing, cleaning litter boxes, prepping lunches, waking kids, getting the little guy on the potty, dressing kids, out the door, a full workday, and then back again around 6 for the nightly responsibilities of dinner, bathtime, storytime, bedtime, and a little bit of playtime or family time squeezed in the moments between.

If both my wife and I are in the same room at the same time, that often means a divide and conquer strategy, with one of us handling the baby while the other plays with, talks with, keeps engaged, our three year old son.

And that has left very little time for much else. Yes, yes, I’ve heard the “just work on it when the kids are asleep” or “get up earlier” suggestions before, and I admit, it certainly was more doable with a growing little boy who eventually had a bedtime, and went to sleep. But with a new baby in the mix, his bedtime doesn’t mean free-time, just the two of us to handle the baby at once instead of the divide and conquer of earlier in the evening.

I truly don’t know how some folks do it, and to those of you who do, I commend you. I really, really do. Bravo. But I have to ask, how? How does one balance a full day of work, kid pickups and drop offs, home life and responsibilities, and still find the time to write and blog on such a regular basis? Are you all wearing chrono-belts that let you slow down the time-stream? Tell me your secrets!!!! :)

collar grabSorry. Didn’t mean to grab your collar like that. I got a little carried away.

It has, admittedly, been tough to find time to do anything.

That’s not bad. First, it won’t always be this way. Before we know it, that three year old boy will be a six year old boy, 12 year old boy, 18 year old boy, and off into adulthood. That little baby girl will shortly after be doing the same. There are moments where sure, we think to ourselves that we’d like the time to do things we want, but let’s be honest – it never outweighs what we don’t want – for this time to go by in a blink, for these moments to blow past us like a drag race.

No, no, no.

These are the times to savor, to enjoy, to live.

Having the memories written to reflect upon one day might be nice, but they’re only half a memory if they aren’t truly lived.

Yes, we all get down on ourselves for not always accomplishing the things on our to-do list, whether it be a room clean-up or repair around the house, or a blog post to be written.

But no, it’s not terrible, and I think we all need little reminders of that when we start to feel that we don’t always have the luxury of time we once had for such things.

It’s not bad. It just means that we’re too busy being parents and living life with our children to actually always write about it.

I’d rather take take the moments as fully as they can be than to forsake them or short change them for the sake of writing them down.

Did we just do that?

When you’re in your twenties (or at least when some of us were in our twenties), you’d occasionally find yourself waking up after a night with friends (and drinks), asking questions about if you really did do that thing you’d never ordinarily do sober. “Did that really happen?”

When you’re a parent in their 30s up during the wee hours of the night and morning with a new baby in need, you find yourself watching television you’d never normally watch.

And when you only have basic cable, those choices are pretty limited.

And sometimes that choice is watching QVC.

And sometimes things on QVC at 3 in the morning seem like brilliant ideas that during more coherent times of day you might not ordinarily consider.

That’s when you wake up the next day and ask your spouse “Did we really order gourmet caramel apples off of QVC last night?”

Enjoy your Mrs. Prindables gourmet caramel apples, all our relatives at Christmas.

Some say don’t drink and Prime (as in Amazon Prime). Let’s add to that, don’t late night nurse and QVC.

On the plus side, the one we tried was pretty tasty.

You really had a wonderful life

georgebailey1“You really have built yourself a wonderful life.”

For a lot of folks, the end of a year is a bit of a refresher, closing out the bad of the previous 365 days while welcoming the good and the potential of the year ahead. But it can also be quite a time of reflection, looking back at the year that’s coming to an end and seeing how far our lives have come from the year before, the year before that, the decade before that, and so on.

Relatively recently, as a friend and I were catching up on life, and what was going on, including the birth of my daughter this past Fall, the incredible growth of my son, now 3, and what both my wife and I had been up this past year (from family outings and projects, to fixing up our little home, her increased freelance writing gigs, my baby steps into some publishing), my friend looked at me and said, very casually “you really have built a wonderful life for yourself.”

And he’s right.

It’s the kind of thing that I don’t take stock of as often as I really should. I’ve admitted in the past to what a list-maker I am – constantly setting multiple goals each day and mentally flogging myself for not accomplishing all of them. Always looking to what the next project or accomplishment can be. Whether it’s another attempt at trying to sell a script, a job pursuit, a house hunt. It’s always something. Some, next attainable goal, leaving little to no time to reflect on how much I really do already have.

When I met this friend roughly ten years ago, I was in my mid-20s. I was fresh off a delayed graduation from college, living at home, trying to cut it art-wise as a low-budget indie filmmaker, and working a quality control job at a factory with my eyes set on journalism.

Needless to say, my life’s changed quite a bit in those past ten years. I left the Quality Control Job at the factory, landing an entry-level reporter job at a weekly paper. That led to a full-fledged reporter job at the daily paper soon after, leading into a foot-in-the-door job doing digital media/web content for a local television news station. That in itself then led to various positions over the years, from assignment editor, assistant news director, a reporter, and a new anchor. It was a long journey over almost a decade, but the experiences along the way were, despite the struggles within, what was dreamed off as I sat doing quality control forms back in the day. And during my tenure in news, I re-sparked my love of the theatre by getting involved in community theatre productions, meeting the woman who’d become my wife, bought a house, got married, and had our first child.

I’d leave news for a job on the professional side of academia, keeping my feet in the creative pool through pieces for this blog, various websites, and the occasional TV appearance on Mass Appeal, one of my favorite stops in New England, to pal around with hosts Ashley and Seth and some mid-morning Dorky Daddy life tips.

I’d see the publication of my first comic book series, which, as a fan of comics most of my life, is still an incredible feeling, to hold one’s own work, tangibly, in their hands.

This year we welcomed our second child, our daughter, to the world, and nothing beats coming home to see her crack a smile and the open arms of my son, who can make you feel like you’ve been gone an eternity with the welcoming hug upon arrival.

In those 10+ years, I went from drowning in credit card debt to not owning a single credit card. Sure, the student loan debt is still there, but it’s paid on, steadily, and more than the minimum amount, every month, chipping away as best I can.

The day job isn’t always perfect. But then, very few jobs are, am I right? Neither was my career in news, no matter how much I miss the work at times.

Yes, there are bills. There will always be bills. Yes, the small house that was perfect for the two of us seems a bit cramped with us, two kids and three cats. But that too will eventually change over time.

You catch my drift, I think.

George Bailey drinksSo much time can be spent focusing on what we feel has to be accomplished next, that we don’t step back and see just how far we’ve come.

And man, I feel I’ve come a damn long way.

Thanks for the reminder, Clarence. My friend’s name isn’t Clarence, but it seems appropriate in name-changing to protect the innocent.

Maybe with a new year beginning, I need to make it a point to still maintain goals, but not to allow them to make me lose sight of what wonderful things I already have in this life. Because it will (and already has) go by pretty quick. If you don’t realize, respect, and appreciate what you have while you have it, it’s going to go by even quicker.

Seeing red

Mad DOnaldIn recent years, I had felt very proud that I had sort of, gotten myself to a point where my emotions don’t get the better of me.  Where I can take a step back, take in what’s happening, and not react with emotions outweighing logic and thought. It felt like a huge step forward from the very emotionally-driven actions and reactions of much of my youth, teen years and young adulthood.

So, it was absolutely devastating for all involved when last weekend I flat out lost it, disappointing myself and my family.

I won’t lie. It has been rough in this transition from parents of one to parents of two. There is an incredible amount of sleep deprivation, lack of energy, and very thin patience in ways I never thought imaginable, for things that don’t really mean anything in the scheme of things, yet seem so incredibly irritating.

And it seems as though all our tempers have been bubbling.

The weekend had, for the most part, started off so well. We went out together as a family and got a Christmas tree. The little guy had even decided an impromptu round of Jingle Bells was in order in the car.

Then came lunch, and he knew what always follows lunch – a nap. No one had mentioned it, we just talked about eating, but he knew. And without discussion, without a word, we asked what he wanted for lunch and he completely and utterly broke down into a crying, yelling fit about not eating anything and not napping.

After the eventual nap, which my wife, literally, had to carry him upstairs for, things seemed to calm down.

Note in the midst of this is a crying, fussy newborn. So compounded together, every little thing that our little guy was saying, doing in his obstinance was suddenly becoming the most irritating thing ever.

It was a fight to go upstairs, a fight to sit on the potty. Even putting on pajamas was a fight because he wanted one specific pair of pajamas, but those monkey pajamas that he had worn to death that week, were currently in the wash. And instead of talking about it, the instant reaction was to throw himself on the ground, crying at the top of his lungs, with no words used at all, despite any attempts by us to do so.

There I was, with the dresser drawer open to his PJ drawer and as all this chaos is unfolding, one of our beloved cats (meant seriously, never snarky. I never snark when it comes to cats) jumped in the drawer. I pulled him out and set him down. He jumped in again. I picked him up and set him down. He jumped in again (all amid the crying, screaming and sheer insanity around us).

temperI pulled him out one more time, set him down on the ground and stood up, with more rage in my being than I can remember feeling in a very long time. It was palpable. It was visible. So visible in fact that my wife yelled at me to get out of the room and away from everyone in the family immediately.

I did. I went directly into our former office (now turned quasi-nursery) across the hall and sat on a floor with my head down, because I couldn’t believe that I had let things bubble up so incredibly that it was terrifying to my family that I was losing my sh*t. From the other room I heard the little guy screaming at my wife, “Don’t you yell at my daddy! Don’t yell at my daddy!”

And I sat, head down in the other room, wondering how it all got to this.

A few minutes passed and in came the little guy, tears wiped from his eyes, giving me a hug and all of us saying we were sorry to each other.

It doesn’t change what happened. I still allowed myself to move to the farthest brink of anger, allowing all the pressures of this new household dynamic of parents, toddler, cats, and baby to come undone, falling out of the air like juggling balls I’ve lost all control over.

In that moment, I felt like I had my biggest failure as a father so far. For those of you who’ve been through it longer, grown-up kids, I’m sure you’re chuckling “just you wait. You haven’t seen anything yet,” and I’m sure you’re right.

But there have certainly been lessons to be learned here. Without a doubt, there are takeaways that, while not always easy to implement, or even remember in the midst of such chaotic, emotional moments, they are there to help prevent the situations from escalating to that point again, or worse, even further.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t pretend to. My journey into and through parenthood, like so much else of life, is just a work in progress. And everyone’s case is different.

donmadWhat I can tell you is that I have learned with our little guy that meeting anger with anger does not beget peace. Quite the contrary. A three year old yelling at you and being met with an adult yelling back does not diffuse the situation. If anything, it only makes matters worse. There are definitely times for discipline, times for time-out, but there’s also times where it’s a matter of finding other words.

After reading this article from Positive Parenting Connection, I have realized just how much I say “don’t” to my son in the course of the day. I can’t imagine what that’s like for a child to constantly be hearing that what he’s doing is always wrong.

And it’s not always wrong. We just, as adults, have the way we want things to be, ways that a three year old just has no grasp of. They haven’t lived the lives we lived or worry about the things we do. Nor should they.

So, I’m trying my damndest to replace the don’ts with other words. For example, when he didn’t want to use the bathroom to go potty after waking up (instead wanting to use the portable training potty in the living room) I told him “we’re going to use this one and then go downstairs.” He still didn’t want to. He lazily placed himself on the floor, going limp. I told him I needed the help of a superhero who could stand up, that we’d never be able to stop the bad guys if we couldn’t stand. And slowly, he did.

I don’t always have it well in hand. I’ve already noticed ‘don’ts’ that still come out or times I stop and realize I’m saying it and have to attempt to try and find new words.

This is not a cure-all, this is not groundbreaking research. What it is, is a start. A start of a new attempt on my part to change the outcomes of so many situations as of late. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result, then maybe it’s time I try a different approach.

But that’s just it. I’m trying.

donald nice nephews

It’s a Girl!

Its a girl 1If I’ve failed to write as of late, it’s like the old saying goes, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Or blame it on the sleep deprivation.

Yes, Meg and I have been up late once again, all for a wonderful reason – a little over a week ago, we welcomed our second child into the world – a beautiful baby girl.

Just like with our little guy three-plus years ago, we chose to be surprised about the gender of the child, and boy, were we ever surprised! We were convinced, almost entirely, that this one would be a boy, and when we heard the words “It’s a girl!” that morning, we couldn’t believe it. I think sometimes we still can’t. The awe still washes over me, realizing we have a little girl joining our little (though he’ll tell you “i’m a grown up!”) monkey.

While he was born a week and a half late and weighing over ten pounds, this little lady was a week early and just a little over eight pounds, making her a peanut in comparison to what it was like holding her brother.

All talk of lightweight/heavyweight classes aside, none of those little details mattered when I was holding her in my arms in that hospital room, seeing the tears of joy in Meg’s eyes as I had the privilege of showing her our daughter for the very first time.

I stared into her eyes the first night we had her home, and just thought, “Of all the people in the entire universe, I get to be your daddy. Me! How absolutely lucky I am.”

There will be a whole new set of adventures, a whole new set of lessons for me to learn, but I look forward to all of it. I just am thrilled that our family has grown once again.

And you know, the sleep may be few and far between and the poopy diapers may seem like they keep coming, but deep down in my heart, I wouldn’t have it any other way,

Sometimes I feel like there’s a bit of amnesia once a few years have passed from having a baby. It’s like we forget all about all the trials, tribulations, sacrifices, mental, emotional, and physical tolls that come with a baby, infant, then toddler.

Or maybe we just secretly miss it all and have an inherent need to start the process again.

I admit that I thought the biggest challenge of having a second child would be having to learn/remember how to raise and care for a baby all over again.

I was so wrong. Not even close.

No, I’m quickly learning that the biggest challenge with a second child is raising them while simultaneously raising your first.

Here’s one example – With your first child, those late night feedings, cryings, etc, wake you up, sure. They leave you a little sleep deprived for a while, of course. But the second time around (and I’m sure the third, fourth, etc, for those of you so inclined), you’re no longer the only ones who that baby can wake. So now, while you’re up at 2:30 a.m. changing a diaper, feeding, or generally just trying to soothe a baby to sleep, you’re also praying to high heaven that your first child isn’t going to wake up as well, adding an entirely new level of obstacles to the night. (Not to mention the crankiness that will come the next day from a toddler who doesn’t sleep)

All that aside, though (and fodder for future pieces, no doubt), it’s been incredible to welcome her to the world.

We’re all very happy, and we’re all very tired.

More to come…Stay tuned.

Ready or not, here they come

baby toys“You’re never going to truly be ready.”

That was a piece advice given to me some years ago by a friend when I asked her how she and her husband knew when they were ready to have their first child.

And she was right. No matter how much running we did to prepare for our little guy more than three years ago already, when the moment comes, you’re never quite ready for just how much life changes after that.

Now, we’re here all over again.

Three years have gone by and the little baby I once held in my arms at the hospital is a walking, talking, potty-using little boy who wants to talk to me about animals and superheroes, and “all that stuff” (his all encompassing catchphrase). And very, very soon, we’ll be back in the hospital all over again, welcoming another little life into the world and into our lives.

Yet, it seems as though this has, for lack of a better term, snuck up on us. Like a whirlwind, these nine months have breezed by, snatching us up in its winds of craziness at the tail end, sometimes leaving us with that crazed “how can we possibly be ready?!” feeling.

Before our little guy, it was just Meg and I (and the cats, of course). So throughout the nine months leading up to his arrival, it felt like all the time in the world to prepare, to get ready.

crib in progressNow, though, it feels like we’re all just trying to keep our heads above water, be it work, life, or just keeping up with the little guy. And it’s with that hurried-rush of each day that nine months went by in the blink of an eye.

Here we are. Any day now it happens. Sure, we’ve done a lot. We cleaned out the office. We moved in the crib. We’ve put up shelves. Pulled out baby clothes. Decorated. Made the house a home for a baby once more.

I’ll admit. No matter how much we cross off the list, how much running around we do to get things ready, it never feels like we’ve done enough, been ready enough, but ready or not, here they come.

Boxing up comics, unboxing me

box of comicsLittle by little over the past few months, we’ve been clearing out much of our home office, converting it into a hybrid office/nursery with the arrival of our newest addition. Packing books up, taking down wall art not quite suitable for a newborn, and taking the numerous boxes filled with comic books and packing them away in our basement.

Part of that process includes protecting them from the elements and time, so each comic is placed in a protective plastic with a flap taped on the back to keep moisture, dust and other undesirables out.

Here and there during a nap time, I’ll take a few minutes and go down to the basement and work a little more on bagging up the books and filing them away in a box, on a shelf, for posterity and safe keeping.

During a recent session of ‘archiving,’ though, I found myself swept away by the various memories associated with these books, accumulated over a lifetime of reading, and yet, carrying with them numerous lives, numerous versions of me, long gone.

With every piece of tape snapped, every comic bagged, boarded and slid away into a box, I realized so with it was a small piece of me. By that I mean it was like flipping through the pages of a yearbook unearthed after years in a box. Many of these books I hadn’t seen in decades. Music playing from Pandora as I worked (some Steve Winwood, some Asia, Phil Collins, all music I used to hear growing up in the 80s, often while I sat reading this comics originally), I was transported to the various parts of my life that coincided with each of these books.

JSA comicEach one a representation in some weird way of who I was at any given time. Of what I was going through, feeling, of who I was, be it the kid sitting under his bedroom window at 13, wondering if the girls playing down the street were going to come knocking at the window; the 20 year old who, after several years away from them, started picking up comics again while away at college, finding comfort while away from home in things that re-connected me to my childhood, yet opened my eyes to storytelling, characters, and perspectives I had never quite known of (thank you, indie comics); the 24 year old, out of college, trying to find his place in the world, thriving on creating art in the form of low budget filmmaking, yet finding inspiration and solace in the full-color panels of the comic pages; or the 27 year old single journalist, coming home exhausted, wanting nothing more than to crash on the couch, casually grabbing a floppy comic book from the ever-growing reading pile on the end table as time started becoming more of a commodity.

Or today. Though the books are incredibly fewer than ever before, the reading piles still add up with the day-to-day responsibilities of a worker, a husband, a father, a homeowner. They’re still there, though. Connecting the me of today with all the mes of the past.

I have been so many different people in my lifetime already. A son. A brother. A friend. A student. A newspaper delivery boy. A restaurant host. An actor. A library aide. A coffee barista. A film projectionist. An indie filmmaker. A newspaper reporter. A comic book writer. A news anchor. And a father.

Sometimes it can be difficult to reconcile all of those identities into one being today, the same yet different in so many ways.

This is not necessarily a negative thing. What it is, I think, is a reminder.

Flash comicWe grow, we change, we learn from our experiences and transform into a new being made up of and shaped by the lessons, mistakes, and thoughts of our past. We shake away the being we are unhappy with, even in the smallest of increments, on a never-ending journey to transform, to become better. In effect, the old us dies and is reborn as something new, molded by our experiences.

We all have our own “comics,” our own items carried with us throughout our lives that carry with them the remnants of our own past.  And when we occasionally uncover them, it’s like an archaeological dig to rediscover when we were, where we were, who we were, and most importantly, who we’ve become.


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