The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Barnes and Noble

I am fascinated with the ways children evolve from their completely dependent forms – making nothing but sounds or cries, but eventually forming words, then sentences, then complete conversations like little adults. From needing to be spoon-fed mushy puree to sitting down to a meal with mommy and daddy like the little human they are.

Lately I’ve gotten to witness more of the evolution as our son, now four, suddenly has begun to recognize words.

Image result for garbage can thank youWe were at Barnes and Noble recently with a friend and her little one, waiting for a cup of tea at the cafe (I love that African Autumn tea) before heading back to the children’s section for some Thomas the Train Engine time and general book browsing. Nearby stood the little countertop with napkins, creamers, stirrers, etc, and the flapping door of the garbage can underneath, with two words embossed across it.

“Does that say thank you?” his little voice asked.

“Does what, buddy?”

“That,” he said, pointing to the flapping door on the garbage can, clearly saying “Thank You” on it to those who throw away their trash and not litter.

“It does, buddy! How did you know that?!”

“I dunno. I just did.”

alphabet-1223623_960_720And thus has been a bit of a trend lately. We’ve been fortunate enough that he’s been interested in and fluent in his alphabet since early on, but this…THIS….to see his eyes move from one end to the other, his mind taking in these letters and putting them together, and recognizing the words they form. It has truly been a remarkable experience, as a parent, and just as a human being.

I thought back to a time in recent months at my mom’s house, where he was hanging out for a bit while Meg and I ran some errands and my mom asked about lunch. Not wanting to give away the options up front and lock ourselves into something he’d hear, we spelled our options, including when she said “I can make g-r-i-l-l-e-d c-h-e-e-s-e?”

“That would be great,” I said.

Then his little voice popped up, “Yeah, I LOVE grilled cheese.”

alphabet-1219546_960_720Or when I asked my wife what she was in the mood to watch as a family one particular evening, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or some Adam West B-a-t-m-a-n.

“Batman?” we heard pipe up.

Suddenly it dawned on me as we stood there at the cafe in front of the thank you sign, hearing him read this aloud, that he’s been doing it, little by little, right along – only I haven’t paid close enough attention to realize these are no flukes.

Seeing this string of word revelations over time is a revelation to me that we are in a brand new stage, one that will open the door to a whole new era of life, and of knowledge for him. I couldn’t be happier. Or prouder.

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It's always a train wreck trying to get him away.

It’s always a train wreck trying to get him away.

Colorful book covers surround you at every turn, enticing you to crack open the spine and see what magic lies inside these children’s tales. A small stage where storytimes are held, entrancing children with tales of wonder. In a corner, a wooden table adorned with wooden train tracks, and little toy versions of Thomas and his Friends. And the blood curdling scream of a child who refuses to leave that table when it’s time to go.

Oh, wait. That child is ours.

And as the other children at the table look around at each other to fathom the situation, a familiar face to us, an employee of Barnes and Noble comes over to ask if everybody was okay and if anyone was hurt.

Only my pride. Only my pride.

You see, this has, unfortunately been more of the trend recently when we go to Barnes and Noble.

When he first started showing an interest in it, the challenge was getting him to not take the trains out of the hands of other kids who would either come over to play or already be there when we arrived.

He’s gotten much better at that, thankfully, so there are baby steps in the right direction.

But when it’s time to leave, look out. He wants to hear nothing but the little world in front of him and whether it be advance warning (“You can play for a bit more, buddy, but then we have to go” or the follow-up some time later that “We have to go now”) are met with a blood curdling “No! No! No! Noooooo!!!” that then devolves into very loud screaming and crying.

He’s 2 1/2 and I know that these are the times when we’re all trying to communicate with each other and he is still trying to understand and effectively communicate the many emotions he’s feeling. But I admit, in the heat of the moment, it can be rough.

As we resort to picking him up and carrying him out of the Children’s Section, a slew of questions fly through our brain:

  • Did we do the right thing?
  • Is everyone in this store staring at us?
  • Why is he SO angry?
  • Are we bad parents?
  • Are we raising a brat?

We’re hoping this is a phase. We work with him and talk with him all the time about sharing, behavior, both at home and in public, but sometimes it just can be all too much.

It’s a work in progress, but not without some bumps along the way.


SONY DSCFrom our last adventure of father-son bonding with dinner at Uno, the little monkey and I then headed to Barnes and Noble.

The image in my head before we got there was of me sipping a coffee, while pushing him in the stroller, looking at children’s books and generally enjoying a calm night of books and bonding.

Yeah, no.

When we got out of the car, I realized that I had become so used to pulling the stroller out…of my wife’s car. You know, the car that was with her at the theatre. So, no stroller. Okay, no problem. We’d walk it. But that also meant I couldn’t take his big ol’ bag with me since there was no stroller to put it or him in. So, I took out a diaper and a wipe and shoved them in my coat pocket, just in case.

Heading into the store, we ran into a newspaper reporter I know from my newspaper days and we were chatting for a few moments about a recent article he had written and some slack he was getting from the public about it. It was an interesting conversation, but one that was abruptly cut short, as my little guy’s eye caught some children playing with Nooks in the Nook area of the store and pushed himself off of me, to the ground, and sped over to them as fast as his little feet could take him.

He just loves other little kids. His hand flailing in a non stop wave, he kept smiling ear to ear and saying “Hi! Hi!” in that tiny little voice to this little boy and little girl. Their dad, a hipster-looking guy with beard and a knit cap told me the little boy was just a week younger than our guy. It really made me realize how big our guy is. He was born big (10 pounds, 2 ounces), but I really saw it when he was standing there with a kid just around his age who was so much smaller than he.

Then, my son just opened his arms and hugged this other little boy. It was adorable. Absolutely adorable. But then, he wouldn’t stop. This other little boy would move back and here my son would go, arms out, like a cute little Frankenstein’s Monster, ready to embrace once more. I could see the look of fear on the other child’s face and tried telling my son that we should hold off on more hugs and look around some more. The dad was very nice, saying ‘hey, man, hugs make the world go round,” but I don’t think that did anything for that other little kid’s anxiety, or mine as the father of the kid accosting him.

The little girl, slightly older got a hug from my little man as well, and she just so happened to be wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt. Well that did it for our guy. He kept pointing at Wonder Woman and all over this little girl’s shirt. She was very nice about it, but again, it’s hard to tell when you have little kids, where the line is being crossed from friendliness and cute to overbearing and assault.

I have to admit, I was sort of surprised when Hipster-Dad saw my son falling in love with the little girl’s Wonder Woman t-shirt and said ‘I take it he’s got a sister, huh?”

I explained that no, our guy just likes Wonder Woman. He’s got a Fisher Price Wonder Woman toy and Invisible Jet, along with some other DC Super Friends. Is that weird that I was so caught off guard by that question? If anything, I would have expected a hipster-dad to get the whole no gender slanting of toys thing.  Odd, or maybe I’m just off. Who knows.

With a little prodding, I finally got my son to move down an aisle, but it turned out to be an aisle that was journals and non-fiction books, not to his liking. He started out well, holding my hand, but the minute he realized his place in the store and the destination of the children’s section, he took off, with me chasing him between aisles as he shouted ‘no no no no no!’ when I’d ask him to come back to daddy.

Boy, did I feel like a terrible father.

We got to the children’s section and started looking at books. He found old friends Elephant and Piggie, Daniel Tiger, and some new things that caught his eye. But then, he spotted the staple of the kids section at Barnes and Noble – the Thomas the Tank Engine play-set table. Only this time, unlike past visits, there were other children there using it.

Now, I’m sure we all idealize how our children will act, behave, etc and it’s probably always the same. They’ll calmly walk over and say hi to another child, find something no one else is using, and all will get along swimmingly.

I can fool myself for only so long.

He ran over, and immediately started playing with a train car that was part of the train another child was using. And when I walked over and stopped him, was met with a big ‘no no no no no!’ – his favorite new reaction. The father of these children was kind, much like Hipster-Dad up front, and said they were wrapping up anyway and that ‘we’ve all been there.’ The kids left and my little man played for a bit, but with no children around, he lost interest rather quickly.

He let out more energy with a one man show on the stage area of the children’s room, dancing for anybody who came by before heading to a corner to look at Sesame Street books. The night was getting on, and I could see him getting a little tired. I was proud of the fact that we were wrapping up without having bought a single thing. I didn’t want him to come to think of solo time out with daddy as a time to get/buy something. I scooped him up and brought him to the car where we had a pretty calm ride home to the tune of some classical music.

I was feeling like a daddy-failure. I was tired, but you know what? It turned out, he was pretty tired too. And for the first time since Meg rejoined the theatre, he actually fell asleep for me. I read to him, put him to bed and he fell asleep!

Now THAT, that felt like a success, if even a small one. 🙂


elephant piggie readingStorytime has pretty much become ritual in our house.

Aside from dinnertime and bath time, it’s the other consistent that’s needed for a complete wrap-up of our day. We started very early reading to the little guy (in utero) and have carried it over practically every night since. In fact, we’re now at a point where, even though he’s not walking just yet, he’s crawling over to his bookshelf in his room and pulling off a book or two when we bring him in for bed. He knows what time it is and what comes with it.

And one of the most frequent authors gracing our bookshelf and storytimes is Mo Willems.

I came across his work by pure accident early on in this adventure of parenthood, when I picked up “We Are in a Book” with Elephant and Piggie. Little did I know what an amazing world of doodles that was going to send us rocketing into for both baby and parents alike.

Sometimes I worry I’m always using the Mo Willems books as a go-to at night, but it’s because I just love reading them so much. And now that the little monkey is one year old, I can say that over that year, no other books have made him giggle and react aloud the way a Mo Willems book does.

That one Elephant and Piggie book has quickly grown this past year into a good portion of our bookshelf, along with several Pigeon books (my personal favorite), along with their stuffed doppelgangers.

I can’t quite put my finger on what makes his work just so darn appealing to all of us. There’s the obvious humor, as the books are all hilarious and relatable in their situations and emotions, whether you be one or one hundred. Is it any wonder he won Emmy Awards for his work on Sesame Street? Then there’s the art – simple in its doodle-like manner that you’re automatically put at ease and drawn in. With his word-bubble dialogue for some of his books, it becomes more like acting out a play than anything else.

bn reading 02We’re such fans of Mo Willems’ work that several months ago, I jumped at the chance when my job as a TV journalist gave me the opportunity to do storytimes at our local Barnes and Noble. It was usually a once a year event at Christmas reading The Polar Express alongside my good friend and Meteorologist, Bill. When they gave me the chance to do another stortyime, this time a night of Mo Willems, I thought I was going to practically beat down the doors of the store. I couldn’t wait! And when the time came, what a night we had!

I got to break out all of the character voices I’ve accumulated while reading to our little guy over the past year, and the kids who showed up at Barnes and Noble seemed to enjoy it, although I don’t think anyone enjoyed it as much as I did. I had to explain to the kids that we all have our own voices for characters when we read, so mine may not be what they’re used to for Pigeon, or Piggie, etc, but they got it and seemed to laugh along anyway. (For the record, MY Pigeon voice is based on the voice Meg and I give to our cat, Winston. Just the right blend of demanding child and mr. sassypants.) We were having so much fun, I think we ended up reading four books in total instead of the one or two advertised. I even read a new one called “This is Not a Good Idea!” which is set up like an old silent film. I couldn’t resist and we ended up buying it that night.

bn reading 03The whole evening was such a thrill!

Our own little guy even got involved. When I introduced him to the crowd as my son and the one I usually read to at night, he stood up and held out his arms as if to shout ‘my people! my people!’ (yup, that’s him to the left with my wife stifling her laughter at his ridiculousness) What a little ham. 🙂

But I digress. If you haven’t yet picked up a Mo Willems book, give it a try. Your little kids will thank you and you’re likely to love storytime even more. And if you ever make it to the northeast, maybe you can add to your parenthood bucket list a trip to see his work at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. We haven’t been able to make it yet, but I’ll tell you, we’ve had numerous conversations to figure out just when we can make it happen. It’s like a mecca of Mo. 🙂 We’ll get there…even if I have to find a Pigeon to drive us there in a bus.

pigeon on the bus



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