The misadventures of a first time father

Monthly Archives: January 2013

bringing up bebeI just finished Pamela Druckerman’s book, “Bringing Up Bébé.”

.She’s an American journalist who moved to France with her husband where they gave birth to a daughter and two twin boys and quickly learned about the vast differences in culture, parenthood, and child rearing in France versus in America.

Druckerman covers a wide variety of topics in the course of her three kids’ arrivals into the world, but one of the most reoccurring observations is how calm and collected children in France are in contrast to the American parents often found chasing their kids around the park, the house, etc. They refer to it as “being sage,” a sense of calm in a child, whether they be at home or out in public.

From the French culture, she learns that parents give their children rules, but it’s a limited set of rules. Those rules are important and very strict, but there is freedom within those rules. For example, one example from her French friends is children having to be in their room at a certain time each night. Now, the children may play in the room, read, etc, but that’s where they go, to the room. The method behind this is that, eventually, the children will get tired and know it’s time to climb into bed and go to sleep. The line of thinking is that this sets up boundaries for children, but is not overbearing enough where they feel they have no freedom. Rules, with freedom within the rules.

Another big topic throughout Druckerman’s journey is food. American children can be notoriously picky eaters, but she finds that by starting children off with real food at an early age, and having them try new foods, adult foods, even if it’s puree early on, will develop an open-minded taste palate in children. She even recounts how many kids in restaurants in France aren’t offering off of some ‘children’s menu’ of pizza, chicken nuggets, etc, but real food off the real menu. Very very fascinating.

I’m really just cherry picking two topics that stood out the most to me in the course of her book.

So, is it possible?

french child beretDruckerman finds a way to take the good of the French style of parenting and blend it with her own American upbringing, but she does so why she’s living in France, a place where all children take part in a grand lunch so that their meals at dinner aren’t as large. There’s even a gouter in between. French kids don’t graze throughout the day like the American kids constantly walking around with a bowl of Cheerios. They have their breakfast, their larger meal of the day at lunch, a gouter (snack) in the afternoon, and then a smaller dinner.

And just because they are better behaved and understand that they have their own lives as do their parents, the children don’t appear to be automatons from this. No, they seem to be joyous, fun-loving little people, thoroughly enjoying life.

However, Druckerman does this while living amid the French culture for years, surrounded by the system that was already in place and having to adjust their American ways to it.

But what about Americans living in America? Do we have to pack up and live in Paris in order to make such a switch in the way our children grow in these aspects without American ‘norms’ getting in the way? Is it possible without peers and family saying that it’s “not how you raise a kid?” because it’s not how we were raised?

Now, notice I used the term “cherry picking” earlier. I did this for a reason, which is that I’m not making a blanket statement that I feel everyone should run out and do absolutely everything that the French parents do, or even what Druckerman’s family did in this book.

In fact, here’s an article from Forbes completely blasting the book, saying the methods take away a child’s individuality, promote socialism and promote forms of child neglect.

I can’t say I agree completely with that author, Erika Brown Ekiel, either.

Like much of life, it’s not about blanket statements or ideas that are cure-alls. It’s about finding your personal balance and what works for you.

For example, I love the idea about raising a child who loves the idea of exploring new foods and tastes, who aren’t raised on the kids’ menus of pizza and chicken nuggets. However, as I’ve stated in the past, I’m not a fan of the “crying it out method” when a child can’t sleep.

I like the way that  Druckerman describes the French authority of parents, creating a framework with a few key phrases throughout their childhood that produces those well-behaved children who are still having fun with the other kids, at the park or playroom. However, I’m not a fan of the dismissive nature of breast-feeding, as it comes across in the book, as I’m a big proponent of breast-feeding for mothers who have the ability to do so.

There’s a lot of question marks up in the air and you know what? Neither one of the authors I’ve mentioned (the book, or the article disapproving of the book) has all the answers. That’s why we, as readers, as consumers of knowledge, have to take in what we can, digest it, and discover what is appealing and useful to us, and what might not serve us well in life.

Maybe the best way to end this one is simply to say c’est la vie!

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One of the great things about fatherhood is how my son often reminds me of the vast number of things we take for granted each day, what we look at as “old hat.”

My wife was giving our little guy a bath in the sink last night, something that he always seems to enjoy. The latest marvel at bath time, though, is how intrigued he is by running water.

As he sat there in the water, Meg took his small cup and poured the water down from above, and into his open little hands. The water poured over and through his moving little fingers, as his face and eyes lit up with an expression that can only be described as awestruck.

Pouring water.
© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation
We don’t give it a second thought, but to this little man, it is something completely new, something amazing and something so wonderful as it intrigues so many of his senses.

He’s teaching me a lot of things about the world,this little guy, many of which have been in front of me all my life. I just forget how to open my eyes to them.

Thanks to him, though, I get to see the world through a whole new set of eyes and realize just how wondrous these “every day things” as we look at them, can be.

Thanks, buddy.


I have to give credit where credit is due.

If you noticed the cool “dorky daddy” graphic at the top of the blog in the past month, that comes courtesy of a really talented artist and friend of mine named Tom.

Tom is a terrific illustrator and even better friend whom I’ve known for many years.

He was kind enough to offer to create an illustration for the blog, and I’m very very grateful to have it proudly greeting readers.


© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationYou can take a lot for granted before you have a kid.

Before our son was born, I never thought of how easily we would come and go from the house, run an errand here and there, pick up some groceries, or grab a bite to eat, without giving it a second thought.

Now, going to the grocery store is like planning the storming of Normandy.

A date night? Well, they don’t even really come into play, at least not this early in our little guy’s career as a being on Earth.

However, the exception was this past week when, for the first time since he was born, my wife and I actually got a chance to go out and have a night of our own. While the little one spent some quality time with one of his grandmas, we went out to dinner, and then caught a performance of “A Chorus Line” on its tour stop in town.

It seemed a little weird, the whole night. At dinner, while we both thoroughly enjoyed the meal (we both ordered steak, so this MUST have been a big night) there was the occasional “you think he’s okay?” sprinkled throughout our conversations, the glancing at the phones to make sure there were no messages.

After dinner, we went to the theatre, she checked in via phone and things were going all right except for the usual fussiness, and then we enjoyed the show.

CHORUS LINEI had never seen “A Chorus Line.” Meg had caught it in NYC some years ago, but it was all new to me. At first, I was sort of skeptical, finding the opening number just a tad too long for my liking and leaving me wondering if I was going to make it through the whole story.

I like when I’m pleasantly surprised, though. Once the characters started revealing themselves and the story took shape, I really ended up having a great time and enjoying the show. Don’t judge a book by its cover…or a show by its opening tune, I suppose.

When the curtain fell, we walked back to the car and hit the road, wondering the whole ride if we had been out too late, if he was okay the rest of the night, and if he had driven grandma to drink.

Upon our arrival, he was asleep in bed and all was well with the world.

Before we became parents, it was nothing to say ‘I’m just going to run to the store’ or ‘let’s go grab some dinner.’ Heck, if you go back to when we were dating, we went out without a thought all the time.

During all those periods of life, you never give a thought to the amount of leeway and freedom you have in the decisions you make and can choose at a split second. Honestly, why would you back then?

Now, there’s a lot more planning, a lot more shifting of the to-do lists.

But, it certainly makes you enjoy those rare date nights a lot more when the chance arises.


Like all good things, vacation too, must eventually come to an end.

I’ve had the pleasure of being on vacation for a little over a week from the day job, and I’ve been loving it. From that extra time to run an errand or two at all the places that are normally closed before I go into or get out of work each day, to working on long-dormant house projects, and of course, spending some extra time with the family, it has been wonderful.

vacation beardIt’s sort of become a bit of an unofficial tradition for me while on vacation not to shave unless I absolutely have to. Not for any particular reason, mind you. I’m not fond of having facial hair or anything. It’s just that it acts as a small reminder that I don’t HAVE to shave, that I can be scruffy without the worried need of having to cut off the whiskers before showing up to work.

I refer to it as my “beard of defiance.”

Naturally, that makes “the shaving” at the end of vacation a symbolic return to routine.

It was a good run, vacation and I.

I worked on this blog, I did some writing on other projects that I’ll eventually be shamelessly plugging on here, I’m sure. Between my wife and myself, we started Phase One of our long overdue bathroom renovation, which included seven coats of white paint to cover up the Crayola Brown (or Poop Brown) color that the previous owners slathered over the fine woodwork of the bathroom. We did some cleaning, some organizing, sorting through outfits the baby has outgrown these past few months (a more emotional process for us than I would have thought at first).

Best of all, though, I got to spend those times during the day laughing with my little boy, helping my wife around the house, or just plain kicking back, watching a classic film, or working on some creative projects that have been out of reach with the everyday workload. It’s been nice, and I will be sad to see it leave my life on such a full-time basis.

However, if vacation does anything, it generates a sense of rejuvenation, reminding us of what is important in our lives, why we do what we do, and what our goals ultimately are.

Yes, I’ll return to work today and I will do my best to make it a bright, clean slate. To not let the Negative Nellies that make it their routine to criticize and pick everything apart get to me, to be a little nicer whether they deserve it or not, to treat every day with a little more sunny of an outlook, and remember that just like vacation, everything in life is temporary and to enjoy every moment of it while we can, whether it be a week at a time, an evening after work at a time, or those few moments in between.

Because, while we may shave off the whiskers of the vacation beard, you know sooner or later they will be back. 🙂


thin man at homeA new year – a clean slate or a mere flip of the calendar page?

For some, it’s about making sure they’re at the right party, with the right person, and the right drink in their hand.

For others, it’s a time to reflect on the past and look to a future yet to be written.

These past few years, my wife and I have developed our own New Year’s Eve tradition, which doesn’t include a ball drop, but does include a couple of timeless boozehounds solving a murder or two.

A few years ago we unknowingly began what has become this New Year’s Eve tradition of ordering (yes, we know how unhealthy it is for us) Chinese food and watching a movie from “The Thin Man” series.

the thin man powell loyFor the uninitiated, “The Thin Man” was a series of films starring the great on-screen duo of William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a married couple with sharp tongues, sharp wits, and a love of alcohol that they often put to use as they solved crimes across 1940s American night life.

The second film even takes place on New Year’s Eve, with a brilliant performance by a young James Stewart in a supporting role. Chinese restaurants also play a role in that film, which added the food portion of our tradition and has carried over ever since.

This year, we’re on film #4, “Shadow of the Thin Man” from 1941.

These films encompass so much of what we love about that era – the style, the architecture, the atmosphere. The time when a man wore his suit and hat even to travel to the market, and when a vacation was just a train ride away.

charles familyAs the film series went on, Nick and Nora became parents and their son, Nicky Jr, would begin going along with his parents on their adventures. So, it’s even more appropriate that as our tradition has carried on each year, our own family has grown along with the Charles’.

Our little guy enjoyed some oatmeal and apples before going to bed (and falling asleep relatively quickly for a change) and mommy and daddy enjoyed ringing in the New Year with classic Hollywood at its finest.

It may not sound too exciting to some, but for us, it’s like re-visiting old, classy friends as we leave another year in the books and begin writing our own adventure for the next.

Happy New Year to you all. Whatever your traditions, resolutions, whatever, enjoy them.

nick and nora drink



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