The misadventures of a first time father

Category Archives: School

img_5420We certainly live in strange times.

Like much of the world as of this writing, America is dealing with the growing impact and spread of the COVID-19 virus. The numbers seem to grow at more rapid paces each day, and this week the big word has been “social distancing.”

In our area, like countless others, schools have been shut down, and health officials from the federal to the state and local levels are urging those who have the ability to work from home to do so and stay put.

Let me stop right here to acknowledge upfront my privilege, in that I am lucky to have a workplace that, in attempts to be proactive, has directed many of its employees to work from home during this time. My wife, an educator, has the same luxury.

So many are not as fortunate and I want to take a moment to recognize all you’re dealing with – physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically amid already heightened times.

My father, my brother, and other family and friends are among them.

I worry about my parents. I worry about whether my father (who has had 3-4 bouts with respiratory health issues this year) is coming into contact with individuals who could be carriers and not even know it, in a job that shows no sign of making changes to their daily business. I worry about my mother, who has her own share of health issues, who watches our children during the workday and whom I Skyped with for the very first time Sunday night.

It felt a little surreal. They weren’t in another state. They weren’t on vacation. They were their usually 20+ minute drive away. It’s surreal and weird, and I’m sure it unnerved them as well to be talking to a son and grandchildren they see practically every day through now only a screen, but it’s to do our best and protect them. Or at least as best we can.

We’re all just trying our best to watch out for one another. And keep each other safe. Our family. Our friends. Our communities.

In our household, these first few days we are setting our expectations low, but hoping to do our best managing the day to day office work while trying to maintain some type of routine or schedule for the kids when it comes to schoolwork and learning so they don’t fall behind. It will be rough, it will be messy, and it will require patience that I’m not convinced we have, but we’re going to do our best.

It’s an adjustment to a whole new way of living for a bit and acknowledging (and accepting) the interruption to the way of daily life you’re used to.

I have no doubt that, to many, these types of actions may seem overreactive. It’s hard to really feel a threat that you not only don’t see, but don’t see it’s effects immediately around you. But then, I guess that’s the point. If nothing happens, then that means it worked. And that’s good.

Sometimes doing what you feel is right is not always what’s popular.


Classic SesameCan you tell me how to get…how to get to Sesame Street?

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this world who can’t tell you where on dial (okay, even if there are no dials anymore) to find that famous neighborhood where sunny days sweep the clouds away.

I personally have a hard time thinking of any other children’s television program that has consistency come into the homes of families as long as Sesame Street has, talking directly to their audience and guiding them through the essentials of childhood learning, from ABCs and 123s, colors and patterns, and just plain being good people.

The show has left five decades worth of legacy behind as of this writing. Five decades. It is incredible to stop and think about how many childhoods that encompasses, that have been touched and impacted by this product of the Children’s Television Workshop, now known as Sesame Workshop.

So it was with great joy that our family gathered around the television a few weeks back to watch Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Special on PBS Kids. For us, it was a family event. I even made popcorn.

The look-back celebration didn’t disappoint. With songs and clips from throughout the shows storied history, it was a trip down nostalgia lane with Muppets last seen long ago reappearing in various cameos (looking at you, Amazing Mumford, Roosevelt Franklin, Sherlock Hemlock, Harvey Kneeslapper, and Guy Smiley, among so many others).

Even the Baker who famously dropped his plate of whatever it would be at the time, re-emerged, most of his face cleverly hidden by pies, but his voice still provided thanks to a recording from the late, great Jim Henson. “Ten…banana cream…pies!!!!” **tumble** **crash**

And much to my delight, even Kermit the Frog re-emerged for a visit back to Sesame Street, as let’s not forget Kermit was once a regular on the Street back in the day.

Sesame 50th - Susan and BobAnd the humans. Sigh. It just wouldn’t have been a Sesame Street anniversary without a check-in of the human cast members from days gone by. Maria, Gordon, Susan, Luis, Bob, even Linda were all back to join in the fun with a few lines and songs that would make even the most curmudgeonly viewers feel like a kid again. I beamed.

All that in itself would have been enough, but they did even better by having a few performers on the special’s back end to talk about what the show meant to them personally. I was especially touched by the words of Jason Schwartzman, who talked about what the introduction of the character Julia meant to his family.

I can’t think of Sesame Street without thinking of the episode that stayed with me my entire life. Sure, there were songs, and characters and skits that were memorable. And yes, long before I had been working in the world of journalism as a reporter, toddler-aged me used to sit in our apartment using a paper lunch bag to make a trench coat for my stuffed Kermit the Frog so he could be “Kermit the Frog, reporting live from Sesame Street.”

sesame - mr hooperBut what struck me the most throughout the years, no matter how old I got, was the episode that dealt with the death of actor Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper. The episode first aired in 1982, and my memory can’t distinguish if I had seen it then (I would have been 2 at the time) or as a rerun a year or so after that. But it’s the one that I’ll never forget. It was my first understanding of death, just like Big Bird, and an emotional impact that stays with me to this day.

Five decades of teaching. Five decades of helping. Five decades of giving kids from all backgrounds and all walks of life a chance to say “hey, that’s like me.” It’s what makes Sesame Street so darn special to so many people and has for so many years.

It’s part of why we all wish we could live on a street like Sesame.

Sesame 50th Group


lonely childI was driving our son to school recently when, staring out the back window at the houses and businesses passing us by, he suddenly asked why one of the kids at school didn’t want to be his friend.

“I say hello and I’m nice to them, but they tell me they don’t want to be my friend.”

This was not a conversation I expected to get into within the time frame of a car ride to school. But, there we were. We were doing this, whether I was ready or not, so I had to wing it.

I said, “Buddy, not everybody has to like you. Or us. You are a wonderful person. You are kind. You are smart. You are funny, and you have the biggest heart of anyone I know. You are all those things. But even with all that, there are still going to be people you come across who just, no matter how nice you try to be, will not be the same. It doesn’t mean you should stop being who you are, please don’t do that, but just remember that there are going to be people who just don’t want to be friends. With you. With me. With anyone. You have to keep being you and let the people who don’t want to be a part of that go.”

It’s okay when people don’t click together. You are choosing who you spend your time with, so why spend the time and energy on someone who takes all your energy, your support, and your air?

Even adults struggle with this. How many of us deal with toxic people in our lives, or our workplace, who no matter how nice you try to be, no matter how much you reach out, you’re constantly left feeling drained and defeated as if you did something wrong. We grown-ups are not immune to these feelings either. Even we need to learn to continue on our way and not expend all we have to give for nothing but drainage in return.

It was only within a few days later that he told us that he saw this schoolmate and cheerfully greeted them with a “Good morning!” to receive a mean-spirited “Duh!” in response. I asked him what happened after that, to which he said “I just smiled and kept on going my own way.”

Keep on your own way. It’s the only way that’s right for you.


crayons-coloring-schoolAn open letter to our son…

Tomorrow, you start kindergarten.

The mornings of pure play have passed, and the lessons of preschool now behind us, you set forth on an amazing and new adventure.

I’ll never forget that time driving in the car, back from vacation, when mommy was pregnant with your sister, that you sang twinkle, twinkle little star in the backseat. It wasn’t surprising. We sang it a lot back then. But when we heard you say “how I wonder what you are” instead of the “how me wonder what you are” that we had heard those first two and a half years of your life, mommy and I looked at each other, realizing that change is inevitable. You were growing as you’re destined to do. At some point mama became mommy and dada became daddy. Letters became sounds and words.

You may not realize it as it happens, and there may be times when it feels as though you’re in school “forever,” but a day will come when you look back and smile at what are the most fun-filled, exploratory, and intriguing adventures of your life. Full days. Lunches in the cafeteria. Days on the playground. New friends, and new lessons to be had. It all awaits you as you step off the curb and into this brand new world tomorrow.

You know your ABCs. You can count past 100. You love to sing, to dance, to draw, to create, to fathom worlds of wonder that amaze me more each day, and teach me more about animals and space exploration than I ever learned back in school.

I hope you’ll always enjoy The Beatles and The Monkees as much as you do today, without fear of what’s not current, of what many around you may like or dislike – that the things you love, though they may change over time, are still rooted and attached to the giant heart that beats beneath your chest.

drawing heartPlease remember that not everyone has to like you, agree with you, and that’s okay. Don’t let optimism, the hope, and the bright light that pours out of you ever be dimmed by those who wish to tear others down. Fill the buckets of those around you, but never at the expense of someone else’s, or your own. Just be you. You’re great at it.

As I walk back to my car, I will smile, I will wave, but inside I’ll be juggling the anxiety of knowing we are “letting you go,” off to the next chapter of your life with the hope and confidence (and touch of anxiety, because it comes naturally) that we have given you what you need up to this point to stand tall, to stay strong, to never stop learning, to be kind, and to just be your unique self, no matter what or who you may encounter along the way.

Know that you are loved. That no matter where your path takes you, you will be loved, with all our hearts. Above all else, at this start of your journey and hereon in, please, if there’s one thing to remember, it’s to always be true to yourself. That is the greatest gift you can give to this world, and to yourself.

Just be you.

Love,

Daddy and Mommy


Prek Grad 01Like a breeze it arrived, swift and sweeping (in emotion).

It seemed like only a few weeks ago I was dropping out little guy off for his first-ever day of pre-k and yet, inexplicably, ten months passed in the blink of an eye and there we were, sitting in the seats as he and his classmates, received a certificate that said they were kindergarten-bound.

I was a barrel of mixed emotions. Proud of the little guy who sat before the crowd, coming into a classroom where he knew not a single adult or child last fall, with no anxiety, no fear, only enthusiasm to make friends, explore, and learn. In fact, the only anxiety I can recall from him was not about going to school, but about when having to leave when it was time to come home. Our first few months were a bit painful at pick-up time, as he was enjoying everything far too much and didn’t want to leave it behind for the day. I only hope he maintains that enthusiasm for learning as the years go on.

But back to the present.

Against a backdrop of superhero-themed backgrounds, the little guy and his classmates, dressed in custom-decorated capes and masks, performed some songs, some dance, and eventually were told they were walking off the stage, out of preschool and onward to kindergarten and elementary school.

It was bittersweet, not just for us adults, realizing how swiftly the sands of time pass for us all, but for him too. A week later it’s finally dawned on him that he’s not going back to school on a regular basis and with tear in his eyes he tells us how much he misses it, and his friends.

IMG_4664Added to that, his young world and expectations were thrown for a loop when we told him the weekend following his moving-up ceremony that he would be attending a different school than the one we were planning, the one he had attended multiple orientation nights for, where several of his friends from Pre-k were headed.

You see, the plan all along had been for him to head to work with mommy in the fall at the elementary school she’s been working at this past year. However, about a week or so before his Pre-k ended, my wife’s superintendent informed her they were moving her to an area high school. It meant no school with mommy as planned, and we could either continue to send him there, or send him to the school just minutes from our house.

Sometimes kids take such changes in stride with an admirable adaptability, and other times it’s a slow simmer of sadness as we work our way through the changes to our lives and days. In this case, it seem it’s currently the slow simmer of emotion and change that we’ll have to work through.

And I’m confident we will, but I don’t kid myself that it will take time. Heck, we moved to our new house seven months ago and we still have to have periodic conversations about change not always being bad and to look for the good when a teary eyed, head hanging low little boy starts to bring up why he misses his old house.

hallway at schoolSo change is not always the adaptable, easygoing “get over it” that so many folks think is a default for all kids. It will take time. Time, time, time. You are a tricky thing. Filled with good, filled with bad, but most of all, filled with change that keeps our worlds from ever getting boring, and teaching us to learn as we go and figure out how to change with you (even if it takes some of us a little longer to accept) at the risk of being left behind.

Change is the only constant, and I’m constantly astounded by just how quickly it all comes. From the hospital nursery to running through the yard, to Pre-k and now across the stage, cape billowing as a young super hero sets out, up, up and away toward the the next chapter of childhood.

He’s growing up.


That title totally sounds like something out of an episode of the 1966 Batman TV Series, doesn’t it?

IMG_4722“…but the Riddler’s clue, Robin. When is a door not a door?”

“When it’s ajar! He’s going to strike at the jarred fruit exhibit at the Gotham Pavilion!”

“I don’t think so, Robin. That’s too obvious. No, his devious mind works like an onion. You must peel back the onions to get to the core of his twisted scheme.”

“Ajar. Ajar…wait, Batman! Isn’t millionaire explorer Thaddeus A. Jar showing off his priceless collection of souvenirs at the Gotham Millionaire’s Club this afternoon?”

“Precisely, Robin! Good work, chum! Let’s race there fast!”

And yet, it’s all I could really come up with.

When is a door much more than a door?

When it gets me so darn excited, that’s when.

IMG_4664We’ve been making a lot of trips recently to what will soon be our son’s new elementary school for a series of Kindergarten nights designed to get the kids used to the environment, to the lessons (lots of tactile activities, games tied into words, letters, etc), and getting to know their soon to be teachers and classmates.

It’s been enjoyable on many levels. We’ve loved to watch him start up conversations with the other kids and take to the games/activities so well. He loves a new adventure, that’s for sure. There’s an excitement to the idea of a new start, of the next chapter, and that’s certainly what it is as we wind down the last few weeks of pre-school, a concept I can’t quite fathom yet, and will likely have to ponder in another post upon graduation.

But you’re going to laugh when I tell you that one of the things that got me the most excited during one of these kindergarten prep nights was…just a door. Sure, the nostalgia of a small school, the same hallways, decorations and smells of the ones I remember as a kid sent me swirling into a delirium of reminiscence. But it was when the little guy asked to use the bathroom and I showed him where it was that I had my mind blown.

IMG_3963There, in the bathroom, were of course the sinks, the standard toilets, etc. But then, as if rays of sunlight poured out of it, was a stall with a urinal. Yes. A urinal within a stall, with a door that closed. And if you’ve ever been in a public bathroom with your son, standing at a urinal with his pants around his ankles and his bum sticking out for the world to see, you’ll understand why I thought this was such a cool concept.

Look, they’re still little and they’re still figuring things out, and that includes things we take for granted as adults, like knowing how much/little to show in a public bathroom.

So, yeah. I got so excited about a bathroom stall door, I had to write about it.

I should get out more often. Who knows what I’d find.



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