The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Time goes by

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make your day. And ever since becoming a dad, I’ve found that it’s often the smallest of gestures, of words that make it so.

As a child’s ability to speak grows and their vocabulary expands, sometimes the words coming out don’t always make sense, or require the need for a parent to translate to others what those words are.

Other times it can be as clear as day and out of the blue.

And it can make your day.

This morning we were driving along on a dark Fall day, when out of the blue, a handful of words came from the back seat and changed the tone of everything.

“Dada, you a nice person.”

That one comment was all it took to put me on Cloud Nine.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

“Thanks, buddy. You’re a nice person too.”

Advertisements

I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic as of late.

I’m not sure if it’s the changing colors of the Fall leaves here in the Northeast, which always make me think of the many returns ‘back to school’ for almost two decades, or sitting outside the cafe in college with my portable CD player and headphones providing ample musical accompaniment as I’d write. Maybe it’s helping my parents pack up and move out of the house we were a family in from the age of 13 onward. Or maybe it’s watching the only sitcom these days that I tune into each week, The Goldbergs, which washes over me like a wave of reminiscences to my youth in a ‘1980 something’ blur.

Either way, there’s been something about the past. Something about how life used to be. Something that, in the words of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon on 30 Rock – ‘I want to go to there.’

Watching my son walking talking, counting, and just becoming a little person all his own, with his own ideas, decisions, and views, even at two, has made me think more and more about the world he is going to grow up into. Most of all, I think about just how different that world is from the one I look back so fondly on.

couple-on-phonesWe went to lunch as a family not too long ago and were talking when my wife nudged her head slightly to the table next to us. I glanced over, where I saw a young couple who had come in just before us. They were seated at the table, ready for a meal, like anyone else in a restaurant would be, but instead of talking to each other, both had their heads down, glued to the phones in their hands.

I sighed.

Yeah. I know. I’m already three steps into ‘Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” territory, but I can’t help but feel a longing for a time that, despite the melodramas that (let’s face it) we created ourselves in our youth, was much simpler. Workplace tasks didn’t include making sure Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, yadda, yadda, yadda, were updated constantly.

A time when asking someone out on a date meant walking up to them and doing so in person or building up the nerve to pick up the phone and hope that a parent didn’t answer first. Now it’s a text, a Facebook message, a tweet. A ‘wanna hang out?’ There is something…lacking in it all.

Yes, yes. I realize that in many ways the Internet and Social Media have opened up the world to so many. Heck, would these thoughts running through my head have anywhere to go other than to my friends over a beer if it wasn’t for the power of the world wide webs?

nice-neighborhoodThere was once a time when the worst you had to worry about when doing something foolish was a friend taking a picture that they’d show your friends. Now, that picture can be seen by the world in a matter of seconds, with no way to take it back.

Bullies may have caused trouble at school or on the bus, but you could go home and take a break from it, regroup, feel you were safe. Today, computers, the internet and phones bring the bullying right there into the living room or bedroom of the child, giving them no break, no moment to gather thoughts – a constant bombardment of assault that would drive even the strongest adult to question their own sanity at times, I’m sure.

Sigh.

And this is the world my little boy is growing up in. How could I possibly be prepared for it?

I was blessed to have a family unit with caring parents and a great younger brother. I went to a high school that was so close-knit (don’t get me wrong. there were issues here and there. there always is with teens.) that when I wax nostalgic about it, my wife has often asked me if I went to school in a time warp or the 1950s.

I was very lucky and I want him to be too.

And yet, I can’t help but be fearful of the changing world we live in when I look back on the carefree days of riding my bike to the little league field, of walking to school or to the public pool, or being able to walk at night in my neighborhood to a friend’s house around the corner or just blocks away without worry for me or my parents.

They were wonderful times and I will treasure them always.

social_mediaWhen I was in college, I wrote a paper about what was then, the ‘height’ of social media in that pre-myspace, pre-friendster, pre-facebook days – AOL Instant Messenger. My theory was that through the use of technology like Instant Messenger, we as a civilization were becoming less human. We were losing our humanity in the way we communicate.

If I had only known what was coming down the pipe in terms of ‘social media’ back then.

But, here we are. All sharing this world – a world made ever smaller by our ability to connect with someone halfway across it in a matter of seconds. Many of us still finding our way.

What kind of people will we be?

Whatever we choose will automatically play a role in who our children choose to be.

I can’t control the world around me and I know that. And that world around me is going to continue to grow with things I’ll never understand and yet, gets smaller by the day as technology grows. How it’s used, how it’s reacted to, that’s all up to the people behind it.

That would be us. And our children. And their children.

I can’t put my son in a bubble or create a world for him without the risks, the fears, and the distractions that come with technology, the internet and social media that have made me look back so much on my own youth as ‘so much simpler.’

But I can make sure the phones are put away at dinner time, or family time, or storytime, or that we make sure we get outside, go for walks, or just enjoy the world that we’ve been given. I can get on the ground and play with toys with him instead of turning on the television.

I can teach him that while there is vast, powerful technology in this world that can either bring us together or rip us apart, it is no match for the imagination of oneself or the true community of family and friends that are found simply reaching out a real hand, not a twitter handle.

I can show him how much this world, this earth, the world around us and everything in it that we walk by each day should be cherished and appreciated, less it fade away and disappear and become nothing more than an image on one of those magic screens.


Building BlocksTonight I sat on the couch and stared. Just stared down at the scene in front of me as though I was witnessing the miraculous. And in my mind I was.

There, on the floor, humming a little song to himself, was our son, now two and in full-on toddler mode, playing. Just playing. With a combination of toy animals, Fisher Price Little People and equally little Sesame Street characters, they were being placed in and out of a barn, a hay loft, or into a tractor, all against the carefree humming of a song I’ll never know, but makes me so glad to hear.

A plastic crate of apples (from the Little People farm stand set he got for his birthday), was placed inside his Little People plane.

“Who’s going on the plane, buddy?”

“Apples!”

“Where are they going?”

“Home!”

“Where’s home for the apples?”

“Barn!”

Little Ernie, in a construction worker outfit, was bounced along the roof of the barn along with a Little Boy Farmer toy. Were they hitting each other, I wondered, as he pushed them together.

“What are they doing, buddy?”

“They’re hugging, dada! Hugging!”

I couldn’t but help but smile at the delight and laughter that followed. His toys knew the power of a hug, because he does. It made me feel wonderful.

This time goes by quick. I realize I’ve been lax in keeping up to date on the standard childhood milestone – something you’d think I would be better at as a fatherhood blogger. A lot’s happened in recent months and I’ve sort of glossed over it in terms of chronicling.

We consider ourselves very very lucky that he’s shown an interest in the potty since he got one for Christmas back in December. He’s fortunately kept that interest and while still in diapers, he lets us know (most of the time, but admittedly not all) when he has to go, with a pat to his bottom and a “Dada! Mama! Potty!” giving us the cue that it’s time to take action and get him onto the pot!

Letters and numbers started cropping up on a regular basis in the winter and spring and once we noticed it, have tried to keep it up every day in some form or another. He took it upon himself to take letter magnets off the fridge and tell us which letters were in his hand. Within months, it’s only gotten better, and we sing our ABCs together as a family, and sometimes stop to let him fill in a gap and try his hand at what letter comes next. When we heard him mumbling in the winter as he’d go up and down the stairs, we weren’t quite sure what he was saying – until we listened closer and realized he was counting the steps as he went. Now, we count everything and anything. Sometimes we go straight through, and sometimes there’s a 7-8-9-10-9-7 based on his mood at the time.

Regardless, he’s interested. He’s curious. He wants to know and I love it.

He climbs into his car seat on his own now, which only in this past week, I turned around to face the same way I do when I drive him to and from each morning. We talk about what we see out the window.

He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a little boy.

As all these things were going on, I wasn’t writing them down because I now realize I was far too busy enjoying every single minute of it as it was happening.

How could I not?

He just turned two this summer. It’s flown by, and if I don’t savor every moment I can (taking a few moments here and there for reflection), well, I’ll let an old favorite of mine, Ferris Bueller sum it up:

 


Carpted stepsWe were headed up the stairs last night, as is pretty much the course at that time of night, on our way to bathtime, when my son suddenly stopped several steps up.

“No!” he said to me, his brow furrowed.

“What is it, buddy?” I ask.

“Dada, move!”

What do you mean, move?”

“Move, dada!” he said, fiercely, waiting for me to move several steps behind him as opposed to the usual ‘right behind him to spot him’ we’ve done since he started walking up those stairs on his own.

“You don’t want me behind you, buddy?”

“No!”

I obliged and went three steps back. And wouldn’t you know it, every few steps, he would stop and turn around to make sure I was giving him that space.

And up-up-up he went.

How quickly the urge to declare one’s independence comes.

 


Aside from playing and singing, bath time sometimes involves a special (feline) guest.

Aside from playing and singing, bath time sometimes involves a special (feline) guest.

My wife has decided to jump back into theatre. She’s missed it for quite some time, as it was a very large part of her life for so long (and how we met), but we both felt when she was pregnant that it was best to step away from the stage and take some time to just be a family.

Sooner or later, that itch is hard to resist and now that the little guy is in that stage between 1 1/2 and 2 years old, I think she was really starting to feel the pull of the performing arts once again.

A side note: I think it was also spurred on by an incident in the Fall when we got a call from a theatre director who lost a cast member two weeks before open and asked me if I would jump in to help out. I did, but it wasn’t out of a great love to go back; it was merely to help someone out who helped me in the past. That was only a few weeks, and usually when I’d get home, he would be fast asleep and Meg would be enjoying a nice cup of tea.

We sort of thought that’s how it would go this time around for her.

Not exactly.

In many ways, it’s been a wonderful experience, and an educational one at that. She’s been off to rehearsals by the time he and I get home, so on an average night, I’m feeding him his dinner (which she’s been nice enough and helpful enough to leave behind, making life easier), we have some playtime, he gets a bath, we do some story time, etc., but solo.

It has allowed for some incredible bonding between me and our little monkey, I will say. Just thinking of how anxious I would be of giving baths prior to the past few months, I realize how much this time has helped. Previously, Meg tended to give him baths. I would occasionally, but she did it on a regular basis. So, now that it’s been in my hands, it has somehow gone from the ‘ugh, how are we gonna do this?’ or ‘what am i doing?’ to ‘you do this, buddy, while I get the bath ready’ and it has turned into a very seamless (and fun) process.

We have fun, we splash, we talk and sing, and the whole thing just goes like any other motion I go through like putting him in the car or reading him a story. It’s helped me evolve as a dad, honestly. And I like it.

The only hitch we have run into with this ‘guys night’ scenario is that the little guy can spend an entire day or evening with me and we’re just fine, up until storytime is over and it’s time for bed. He refuses to go to bed without mommy home. We read book after book after book, and I think ‘is this the one that’ll get him tired?’ and he does get pretty tired, but he fights it. He fights it with a longing and hope that mommy is going to walk through that door and put him to bed, proper, because daddy is just not what he wants at that moment.

I’ve tried a lot of different things – rocking him, singing to him, giving him a few minutes to calm down once he’s in the crib and yelling for mommy, but unlike when Meg does it, he doesn’t calm down. He only makes himself worse. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and if I lay him on our bed after that, he’ll be tired enough to fall asleep next to me or on my arm or something like that, where we tend to remain until Meg comes home and somehow, through mystical or magic powers, because there’s no other way I can comprehend, picks him up and places him in the crib without him blinking. It’s amazing.

I know it won’t be like this forever, and while I would LOVE for him to be able to fall asleep comfortably with me like he does with her, I wouldn’t change this past month or so. After almost three years (counting pregnancy), she finally has the chance to get out and have a life outside of being ‘mommy’ for a change. It’s something she not only deserves, but needs to have in her life, especially when it’s something she’s so passionate about, like theatre. I admit, I haven’t been the most communicative about her show by the time she gets home, not out of disinterest, but mostly just due to the combination of fatigue and irritability after a long fight to get him down. But I’m happy she’s getting back to something she loves and something she identifies with.

I also wouldn’t change a thing because, despite all that difficulty, all the fighting he may give me when it’s time to go to bed, those hours of the night beforehand, when it’s just the two of us, laughing, playing, putting blankets on our backs like capes, giving him a bath and singing songs along with the radio, or just reading story upon story with him curled up in my arms, makes any difficult part so trivial. This is my son, this is my little guy, and these are times that will only last for so long.

I want to enjoy them and learn from them as much as I can.


Who is this guy in the mirrorThe little guy was getting a bath the other night when my wife asked me to run into his room and fetch a pair of pajamas for him.

Up to his room I went and into the dresser to find something comfy enough for the night, but not so heavy that he’d be overheated. We’ve had some really fluctuating temperatures the past several weeks.

That’s when I suddenly stopped and took notice at the sight beside me. In the mirror on the wall next to his dresser, there was someone looking back at me. The light was a little dimmer than normal, as I had only turned on the small table lamp in his room, but along with that half-lit face, was tints of gray in the (i’m sad to admit) receding hair that sat atop his head. The light accentuated the bags and wear under the eyes and he looked…older.

I stood there for quite a few minutes. Not out of vanity, but out of reflection, and a hint of sadness.

How could this be? Was I not just bouncing around the halls of high school? Wait. No. That was 16-19 years ago. Surely, it was just a little while ago that I was pulling all-nighters to film low-budget movies while studying screenwriting in college, right? Wow. No, that was over ten years ago already. And that plucky young journalist transitioning from a newspaper to broadcasting, that wasn’t that far away, right? It was. It was eight years ago. The guy who leaned over the seats of the theatre and asked Meg out on our first date during a play rehearsal? More than five years ago.

I gazed onward at this figure in the mirror before me, wondering where he came from, what caused him to be. When did it all happen, I wondered, and why is it only in this moment that I’m noticing? I stand before the bathroom sink everyday without a flinch. But somehow, in this moment, in this room and in this light, it was like staring into time and having another version of yourself staring back.

A reminder, I suppose, that no matter how much your life may change, still do everything to make it the time of your life, because it will go by in a blink if you let it.


potty trainingI’ll spare you the more graphic details, I promise.

Suffice it to say, Santa brought the little guy a Baby Bjorn potty for Christmas and we’ve already started putting it to use.

While at first, he just wanted to carry it around the house and use it as a convenient chair when he wanted to sit down, we explained to him each time that it’s actually used for. (Sometimes using the term ‘poopies,’ ‘potty,’ or ‘uh-ohs,’ the phrase he has started using sometimes when he realizes he’s going to go to the bathroom.)

At one and a half, we honestly were not sure what he would understand or if any of it would make sense, but I think some of it has started to sink in. While I don’t see us ditching the diapers anytime soon, we have had a handful of incidents since Christmas (including one at grandma and grandpa’s) where he made it known that he wanted to use the potty. It sometimes involves carrying the potty out to grown-ups, going to it and pointing, or just grabbing his diaper. If we can act quick enough, off the diaper goes and we give it a try.

I know it sounds cliché, but it seems like it was only a week ago that we were in the hospital and I was changing those black-as-tar diaper messes of a newborn. Now, he’s letting me know when he has to go. The changes are coming and their coming fast.

And so this latest phase, the potty training, has begun in its own small way. While we’ve had a few successes so far,  I don’t want to get overly optimistic. I’m certainly hopeful, though. It would be nice if we can keep it up and keep the momentum flowing. (Bad use of words?)



%d bloggers like this: