The misadventures of a first time father

Bins and bins of baby clothes

The basement.

Like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is a sea of forgotten memories. Some that elicit the light of joy, while others are best left forgotten, begging the question of why we hung onto them in the first place.

We’ve been in our current house for six years and only now have we gotten to tackling what we thought would be a cinch so early on – cleaning, organizing and making the basement space useful. It’s required taking pretty much everything and placing it into the middle of the basement in one big clump so that the walls could be painted from gray to white and the floor I painted half off a few years ago could finally be joined by the other fifty percent.

I feel like this venture will eventually elicit several blog posts spurred on by the memories unearthed, but for now, I want to talk about baby clothes.

Yes. Baby clothes.

There we sat, my wife and I, with bins upon bins of baby clothes brought up from the basement and sitting in our living room like we were ready to open a store that rivaled Babies R Us. Between hand me downs as various family members have children that outgrow clothes, the clothes we had bought for the little guy, and the clothes purchased by family members as gifts that filled probably half of those bins, we had a lot to sort through.

We spent the night sorting through all those old clothes, both for organizational reasons as we try to make better use of space, but also in prep for the new baby to take stock of what we already have.

As I noticed how our piles and plastic bins were all sorted by the age ranges on the clothing tags, from 3 months to 9 months to 24 months, I thought, why not do this for adults?

Instead of going to the store and looking for a medium, we could tell them “I need a 30-35 years top. You know what. Make it a onesie. Cuz who needs pants?”

Sesame Street makes the move to a more expensive neighborhood

So today it was announced that the Children’s Television Workshop, which of course produces the legendary Sesame Street, has inked a deal with HBO to air the next five years worth of new episodes on the premium television channel.

Those new episodes, will then later be made available for airing on PBS Stations.

And I kind of feel like it’s serving a lot of kids and families the leftover scraps.

The program isn’t leaving PBS, its home for the past 45 years. But it is being cut down from an hour to a half-hour and will be reruns that have been re-edited.

Any new episodes of the show will air on HBO first, finding their way to PBS some nine months later. Will these new episodes be an hour on HBO and cut down to a half-hour on PBS as is being done with reruns? Or will they be a half hour on HBO and then presented as-is on PBS? I haven’t found that to be clear just yet.

However, the move to HBO will allow them to nearly double the number of episodes they produce each year, from 18 to 35.

So more episodes. Something that was getting harder to do financially for PBS. That’s good, right? But the only families and children who will get to watch them are those paying for HBO or HBO’s streaming service. Nine months later they’ll be able to catch them on television on PBS.

I can already see the critics of PBS using this in arguments against public funding, citing what seems to be the big thing lately, privatization, or that trendy new buzzword, ‘public-private partnerships’ in the fight against the use of funding for something they may not be a fan of.

Much of this deal is wrapped up in the concept of streaming, something I tend to, admittedly, forget about. HBO will get the exclusive digital/streaming rights to Sesame Street. Many news articles on this deal cite that two-thirds of children watch Sesame Street via a streaming device.

So, if that is the case, two-thirds of children watch Sesame Street via streaming. And that streaming option is now being removed from Netflix, Amazon, and most importantly, the free PBS Kids app. (Or at least, it’s implied it will disappear from the PBS Kids app. That doesn’t seem to be directly addressed in any article I’ve come across so far. I’ll gladly correct if I find one.)

This is nagging at me because I keep thinking about the purpose of Sesame Street being on public television to begin with – to have its educational lessons via entertainment accessible to all, regardless of the economic status of the household.

If you had a television set, whether it was antenna, premium cable, or just basic cable as we have (the cable company refers to it as ‘lifeline cable’ sometimes. It’s just channels 2-13), you could still learn along with Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and company.

I’ve gone back and forth but keep feeling like overall, there’s a loss here for anyone that’s not HBO or an HBO subscriber.

PBS keeps the reruns and down-the-line gets some new episodes and doesn’t have to pay for it. Great, but if all these articles are true, stating that two-thirds of children get Sesame Street via a streaming service or app, then that’s just been taken away from them if their families don’t subscribe to HBO.

I dunno.

If your childhood home gets saved from being torn down, but you don’t get to live in it anymore because it’s not in your financial reach, who is it a win for?

Searching for Carvel

judgehardyandsonI’m a big fan of old movies.

And among those old movies that rank up there as some of my favorites are The Andy Hardy movies that starred Mickey Rooney as the impetuous, excitable youth learning about life, love, family and friendship in his small town of Carvel in the 1930s and ‘40s.

From his ‘man to man’ talks with his father, Carvel Judge James Hardy, to his active involvement in the school and its social scene, to walking down the sidewalks of a quaint Main Street full of grocers, mechanics, druggists and any other essential store, manned by a smiling face tha knows everyone in town, to gliding beside the white picket fences that adorned the houses of people who lived beside each other, laughed with each other and looked out for each other, the Andy Hardy movies provide life as an optimistic, we’re in this together, looking out for your fellow man journey to being a better person, even if you get into a scrape along the way.

It defines that ideal that we look back on thanks to those movies (and later, TV shows) of life during those years of perfection. Of Americana.

06-mickey-rooneyAnd it’s not real.

Oh, how I wish it was, but deep down, I know it’s not.

The films, set in the fictional town of Carvel (somewhere, never named, in the Midwest) were sentimental comedies that celebrated ordinary American life as if it walked off the cover of a Norman Rockwell cover to the Saturday Evening Post. The people in Carvel were generally pious, patriotic, generous and tolerant.

But it was not real. Not even for the time.

The town of Carvel was a representation of what MGM movie mogul Louis B. Mayer wanted his adoptive country of America to be. It was an idealized vision.

As writer Victoria Balloon points out in a 2011 Matinee at The Bijou Blog post brilliantly dissecting the Andy Hardy film series, Louis B. Mayer was not looking to reflect what America was at the time. He was instead looking to instill an idea of what he, as the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants, wanted America to be. Rooney himself referred to it as “part of L.B. Mayer’s master plan to reinvent America….He wanted values to be instilled in the country and knew how influential films could be…”

I know this. Every time I watch one of these movies I know this, and yet, it makes no difference in my longing to find such a place for my son (and soon to be children) grow up.

We love our little house, purchased right before we got married. Our next door neighbor’s are always there with a helping hand and watchful eye when we need it, families across and down the road that are a pleasure to see and chat with, and up until a few years ago, we had two WWII vets (one next to us and one across from us) also among our daily cast of characters. Both have since passed away.

Andy Hardy HomeBut I’m fooling myself if I didn’t admit that with our family expanding, we continue to be on the lookout for something a little bigger, something with a little more space. While our street itself is relatively calm (with a few exceptions), it’s becoming apparent to me that the surrounding area as a whole is not faring as well, be it crime, drugs, or other issues. Maybe it’s a residual effect of working in news and having the press releases constantly stream across your desk, making you realize what’s going on in your tiny village, but it of course has me concerned how long things can hold.

But when we do, even casually, look outward, I find myself constantly shrugging my shoulders at potential locations.

Because it’s not Carvel.

Maybe not Carvel specifically, but it’s because in the back of my mind, even if it’s not conscious, I am looking for Carvel. And it doesn’t exist.

It never did.

If I could just convince my subconscious mind of that…

Leaving Carvel

Nap-A-Roo

Every now and then I get a new book to try out at storytime via the Independent Book Publishers Association. Storytime always proves to be the best litmus test, as opposed to me just reading a book and telling you what I thought.

Honestly, who cares what I think if the book is for kids. Let’s see what the little guy thinks.

So, with that in mind, the other night we read “Nap-A-Roo” by Kristy Kurjan and Illustrated by Tyler Parker. A board book from KPO Creative LLC, it’s the quick tale of a Kangaroo in a zoo in Timbuktu who is ready to take a nap-a-roo.

Sensing a pattern yet?

That’s right. It’s my favorite type of book to read at bedtime. One with rhymes. And boy does our little guy love rhyming. There’s times in the car, or when he’s sitting on the potty that all he wants to do is rhyme, shouting out a word (“cat!” “bat!” “rat!”) and waiting for me to chime in with words that rhyme.

It causes fits of giggles, and needless to say, so did the cute rhymes of “Nap-A-Roo.”

In fact, by the time we got to page 3 and the word “Timbuktu” he was giggling, rhyming and having a wonderful time., even anticipating some of the rhyming words to come. I was able to pause at the end of one page and he instantly knew, based on the rhyming pattern, what word was coming.

A quick, brisk read, it really was a lot of fun. Coupled with adorable illustrations by Parker, I think this is one we’re going to be pulling out again and again.

Three

Father and SonThree years. How quickly they go by.

It seems like only yesterday I cradled you in my arms, swaddled in a blanket covered in baby footprints, wondering how I was so lucky to get to welcome you into this world.

When we brought you home, I never thought I could feel so exhausted again in my life. I wondered how how your mom was even standing. And yet, as I write this, we’ll be going through it all over again in just a few short months.

I sat in awe the first time you smiled. I laughed when you pooped on my hand during a diaper change. I watched you roll over, then crawl, then stand up and walk and with each step you took, you walked deeper and deeper into my heart.

The awe in which you saw everything for the first time left me inspired.

You gave me new eyes in which to see the world.

I sat awake in a chair in the hospital while you and your mom slept, unaware that febrile seizures even existed, let alone it was what put you there in the first place. We hoped and prayed we would see you return to the exuberant force of nature you are. Lucky for us, you did.

Pigeon HospitalAnd that was just the first year and a half.

You turned two and I thought how fast the time had passed. You impressed us with your counting and letter knowledge, and the way you’d chat up a storm. Now I look back at video of that time and realize how crude those words may have been in the beginning, but they were there, and we knew every word you meant.

Some days you were unhappy. It happens to us all. And when you’re a kid it can be magnified. Sure, it’s been 32 years since I’ve been in your shoes, but I get it. You’re having the time of your life, tons of fun, playing up a storm and suddenly being told you’ve got to go, that it’s time to go to sleep. You were just getting warmed up. Or it was a cool toy, a great book or the open space of green grass. I may tell you it’s time to nap or go home, buddy, but deep inside, I get it. I really do. Who wants to be dragged away from all of that with no choice in the matter?

Our car rides are legendary…well they are to me. The fact that you’ve made it your own game to guess which composer is on when I play the classical station makes me simultaneously chuckle and beam. Other days you want to listen to music from cartoons ranging from Thomas the Tank Engine to Winnie the Pooh, to DuckTales, and it makes me rediscover childhood all over again. Only I get to experience it with you.

To see you play with my old toys or watch cartoons that I watched as a kid and have just as much fun with them strikes a chord deep inside.

You help me stay eternally a child, little buddy. It’s something I’ve longed for and long-lost in this crazy world of adulthood. Some people never lose it, some never had it. Me, I’ve lost my way here and there, looking back wistfully at those bygone days. But thanks to you, I’ve been in touch with them all over again. And It’s something I’ve needed for quite a while.

I admit there have been times when I’ve wished we could speed through a troublesome phase or moment. But honestly, more often than not, I’ve wanted nothing more than to stop the sands of time, and live these moments forever with you.

I can’t believe I get to be your dad. Whether it’s the intelligence and thought you show in the decisions you make, the stories you tell, or the compassion and kindness you show to others, be they a baby, a fellow kid, an animal, or an adult, you inspire me.

You make me a better person each and every day and I thank the stars above every moment of my day (yes, even when you’re kicking and screaming) that you’re here.

Happy Birthday, little man.

Storytime.

I’m so excited and I just can’t…eh, not really…

When was the last time you were excited? I mean really, really excited? Not ‘hey, free coffee’ excited, but I mean, through the roof, all-consuming excited?

Because I don’t think I really have.

It came to my attention through, of all things, hockey.

You see, my hometown in just the past few years, has become home to an AHL team. While I’m not a sports person, I think it’s been a big boost for the area and many of the venues contained within. And it seems to bring people together. Like, really brings people together, en masse as they cheer on their team. I mean, for some, it’s like a ritual. They are at every game, they wear the paraphernalia, they know the players. It’s all-in. So there’s a lot of people enjoying it, which is great – for them, for the organizers, for the entire area.

And as the team progressed in their quest for titles or championships, or however it’s referred to (Meg often shakes her head at me for not really having any grasp of these things), I saw people reaching a level of excitability at the mere mention of the team’s name that I thought they would burst.

From social media, to news broadcasts, standing in line a day or so ahead of time, they were, as I say all-in like nothing I’ve ever seen.

And as I watched it all, I realized that aside from the birth of my son and getting married, I can’t think of too many other moments where I’ve been bursting from the gut excited. In fact, Meg will tell you that I was more nervous than excited on our wedding day. So let’s bring it down to the birth of our son.

So what’s going on? Is there something inherently off in me that I don’t seem to ever get that level of excited about things?

Of course, when I say never felt this way, I’m talking about adult-Dave. I’m sure, almost positive that as a child I felt that level of excitement. Heck, I see it in our little guy at something as small as getting to watch a cartoon he asks for, putting his hands together, a grin from ear to ear, looking like he’s about to leap off the ground shouting “goody! goody!” or “oh boy! oh boy!”

I don’t want him to lose that. The past month of seeing the excitement on the people of my hometown when it comes to their beloved hockey team shows me there’s many out there who haven’t.

So where and when did I? At what point did ‘oh boy! oh boy!,’ full of excitement Dave of youth become the ‘huh. neat.’ or ‘that’s pretty interesting’ Dave that seems to be so detached from the world at times that nothing ever rises to that level of exuberance any more.

I’d like to find him again. I’d like my son to meet him. But honestly, I have no idea where to start looking.

Kindermusik

The beat of the drums. The shaking of maracas. And our son running around a room wanting to play with a hula hoop on the wall.

It’s Kindermusik time.

What’s Kindermusik? I will explain to you, as I was completely unaware myself until Meg sent me the links one day that led to our signing the little guy up for our once a week outings.

Kindermusik is a musical class for kids and parents that uses music, singing, stories (and some occasional hopping and animal re-enactments) to help children as they develop fundamental skills. Those skills, for the toddler level that we’re currently enrolled in, is very much of the listening kind. It’s something we are, at times, struggling with, which makes the class all the more appropriate at this stage.

At the age level of our class (ages 2-3), parents are invited to take part with their children, which for us first-timers is good because we’re not quite at the ‘leave him on his own for a class’ stage yet ourselves. We’ll get there. Promise.

The first session, I went solo with the little guy. There were some kids and parents who were regulars and some other first-timers like us. When we walked into the carpeted room, walls adorned with animals and musical paraphernalia, instruments were in the middle of the room for the kids to try. Our guy immediately gravitated toward the triangle. Although, in all honesty, several minutes into it, the banging of the triangle had lost all novelty and he was using the wand (is it called a wand? I’m not a musician) to both be a conductor (shouting ‘Look, Dada! I’m a conductor! to the entire class) or to point it at me and tell me it was a magic wand (“I gonna shrink you now, dada!”) proceeded by a humming sound he makes to indicate magic.

I love his imagination.

The class itself had numerous, short activities that look to engage each of the kids (with parents joining in) from singing hello to each child with a different motion (clapping, rolling, stamping feet, etc) for each one, using the aforementioned maracas (which are more like little red eggs with rice in them, but they’re just as fun) and storytime with music to accompany it.

That first session’s storytime, it became obvious our guy was new to the group. Aside from being the tallest. He’s about to be three this summer, so in a class of 2-3 year olds, he falls on the older side of the spectrum in comparison to the others. When it was time for stories, some of the children, by routine, helped the instructor pull a blanket from the corner to set down and sit upon in order to hear the story. Well, our little guy hasn’t quite done that type of group storytime (at least not with a blanket involved. He HAS been to a few Barnes and Noble storytimes I’ve been involved with) and instead, he immediately put himself under the blanket, as though he was laying down in bed for one of our nightly stories.

You can’t blame him too much. That is HIS routine each night, after all and what he associates with hearing stories. Boy playing piano

Luckily, by week two, he had it down and was now only sitting ON the blanket, but was helping to move it for the teacher, which was great to see.

Both weeks had its moments (though for week two, both daddy AND mommy were there for class – and believe me, it was great having reinforcements) as he would have a mini meltdown if he wasn’t getting to use the instruments he wanted versus what the teacher wanted kids to use at the moment, or that he wanted the hula hoops hanging high up on the wall for use by another class.

It’s a 45 minute class and I suppose for a child, 45 minutes can seem like a longtime, especially one with as much energy as our has. The nice thing is that he’s not the only kid in the class who gets up and wanders around and the teacher is excellent in incorporating their individual attention spans and penchant for getting up into the class activities and discussion as they go.

I must have looked like a nervous wreck that first class, chasing him around whenever he’d go off for a wander, as a few of the moms there would smile and reassure me he was doing fine. After class, the teacher said the same thing, which was in stark contrast to the exaggerated nightmare version I was creating in my head.

And as I say, having both Meg and myself there the following week made a huge difference as well. Family doing the conga at family Christmas party

We had hoped by Week Three, we’d start finding a routine. I skipped out on the Week Three class and it was just Meg and he. I was having a rough morning mentally (more on that another time), and needed some time to reflect and re prioritize things. I chose to do that with a cup of coffee and sitting on a park bench.

When I returned to pick Meg and the little guy up, I immediately sensed things hadn’t gone well. Apparently it was the worst he had been yet. Not just the running around, but the constant not listening, hitting Meg, hitting the teacher, and riding another kid like a dinosaur, it was one big terrible, musical mess.

People tell us that at this stage of almost three years old, it’s a phase. And I’m sure it is. But while it may be a phase, these are issues. Issues we need to deal with now so that when the phase ends, the seeds aren’t planted for continued bad behavior and dismissiveness to everyone around him.

It’s worrisome. And likely a much more involved blog post for another day when I have time to both reflect on what’s happening, our approach, be it right or wrong, and do a little more research.

When it comes to Kindermusik, the end results those first two weeks were that he had fun.We had hoped him taking part in his very first class, interacting with a teacher and other kids would be good for him. At first, he got over the meltdowns and while wanting to do his own thing at times, was still taking part in the bulk of class activities. But last week seems like a major step backward.

Through a mere glitch in our schedule this week, we were unable to attend our usual class and shifted to another day of the week and time of day. It turned out that there were only two other children in that class, and making for a much better experience for us and the little guy. While he wasn’t necessarily angelic, he was much better behaved than he had been in the large group. Whether or not that’s the key to some progress as we move along, well, we’ll have to see.


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