Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Reliever

According to Wikipedia--only the most trusted source of information in the world, a relief pitcher enters the game after the starting pitcher is removed due to injury or ineffectiveness, fatigue, or other strategic reasons. 

I wonder if lack of breast milk falls under the vast scope of strategic reasons.  For all I know it could be a banned substance.

Barry Bonds admits to drinking breast milk during record breaking season!!! 
It wouldn’t surprise me. 

And I shouldn't have been surprised when I came home from work and walked into the buzz saw that was my house. Our son was on nap strike, refusing to budge and voicing his displeasure with shrieks that had the dogs running for cover.

None of our tricks were working (having been a parent for 5 weeks, our bag of tricks is a bit sparse), and it seemed we were in for a long night.  I couldn't help but laugh as we sat down to eat dinner at the table, where my wife ate her dinner with one hand while feeding our baby with the other.  This is exactly what I envisioned on our first date when we sipped adult beverages and ate dinner at a human pace. 
At seven he was crying, by 9 he was still going strong, by 11 he was doing the Harlem Shake.  As our starting pitcher, my wife was fatigued.  Phone the bullpen, it’s time for some relief.
As a rookie, I was a little nervous getting the call. Blissfully asleep on my side of the bed, I usually come in and sleepwalk through a diaper change a few times during the night.  But my wife informed me that after 18 hours, she needed a break.  She had nursed and burped, she had done all she could.  Chalk it up to fatigue, I began warming up.
I was surprisingly serviceable.  After a shaky start, I warmed up and after some fussing, I was able to get the little guy to finally drift off, giving my wife an hour and a half of well deserved rest.
Getting the call, I was happy to step up and be of some use.  Well not happy, but glad to come in and help.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A House Becomes A Home

My wife and I bought our house over two years ago with our hopes held high and our sleeves rolled up.  Or maybe it was with our hopes rolled up into a low interest FHA loan.  Regardless, we bought the house in foreclosure and faced many obstacles along the way, but nothing compared to what we would face after we held the deed in our hands.

living room before pictureThere were the little things, the cleaning, the painting, did I mention the cleaning?  And then there were some bigger things.
  
The living room had no flooring, there were piles of trash in the basement and scattered throughout the backyard. In the kitchen, the dirt inspired linoleum  had empty squares where one would expect to find appliances. 

As is means just that.

This is all you, sucker.

None of this—including the internal combustion engine sitting on the basement floor or the bumper found in the woods behind the house—managed to scare away my wife.  We dove in, almost literally, and got to work.

With the help of friends, who showed up expecting light work and plenty of beer, we put flooring in the living room, tore down layers of wallpaper, replaced toilets, and light fixtures.  We sanded, patched, painted, scraped, cleaned, and, at times, cried (I did so on trips to Lowes, my wife didn’t tolerate crying in the house). 

We worked furiously, and a month later we moved in. Being the patient type, I proposed on our first night in our house.  My line of thinking being, if we didn’t kill each other during that, then we should be good. We got married and soon after the projects continued, one after another…..after another….after…you get the point.

Today the house is still a work in progress.  There are several things we want to do, but many of them will have to wait. 

For now, I’m content with the current project at hand, our most ambitious undertaking to date. 

Speaking of which, the other night  I was hiding in the kitchen, when I heard my son squealing from his room. I smiled to myself as I listened to his mother talk to him in soft soothing tones. 

A sudden warmth came over me, and I felt an intense glow on my chest as tears began to well in my eyes, (I had spilled soup down my shirt and it really, really, hurt).

My wife came down the hall--the hallway in which I once spent an arduous weekend peeling away three layers of pink wall paper, the baby wide awake and content in her arms. I stood on the floors we had put in, smiling at my little family and thinking to myself, 

So this is what our house was missing...



Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Third Wheel...


baby with nukWhen my wife was pregnant, I read numerous articles about the part fathers play during the first few months of the baby’s life. I thought I was prepared for my role as the supporting cast, but nothing I read described how utterly helpless it can feel at times.   

I don't always feel like a third wheel, at times I'm more like a spare tire, buried in the trunk under boxes of diapers, baby wipes, and that old tennis racket I won't be using anytime soon. To him, I'm just some guy off the street who occasionally changes a diaper and can't figure out the buttons on his onesie.   

I know, I know, poor me, right?  As I write this my wife is feeding him and pumping simultaneously.  

Don't get me wrong, the mother/baby bond is a natural thing of beauty.  But it still kind of stings.  When I come home from work I'm usually ready for some father/son time, but when he's handed off to me, things often turn nasty.  His brow curls as his little face transforms from one of absolute content to emerging terror.  He gives me a look I know all too well, because I invented it. It's a look that holds both panic and dread, like the feeling I get after pouring a bowl of Fruity Pebbles only to find there is no milk.  He begins with threats, a few squeaks and squirms. I pat his back, walking from room to room as I break into song as he winds up into a roar.  From there it only gets worse.

My wife encourages me, offering tips and suggestions, (which might be of use if I could hear her over the deafening screams in my ear).  I try not to get discouraged, but inside I’m frustrated that we don’t have that bond. I can’t get him to stop crying.  

I try the swing, the nuk, the play pad, and even that Bjorn thing to no avail. He takes it up a notch, ratcheting the screams to DEFCON levels.  His face goes all code red, and the dogs look at me as if to say, Dude, just give him back to Mom. And I do, I give up and hand him back to mom, and just like a switch, happy baby returns. The sun comes out and magical cartoon birds land on the mantle and break into song. 

Once again mom saves the day.  And although I’m relieved to have him calm, I’m irritated because all it takes is the touch of her hand or the sound of her voice to lull him peacefully back to sleep.  I'm only good for fetching water or a snack.

Being a dad, this comes with the territory, and I'm content with playing second fiddle.  After all, I do have my moments with him. Like when he's fat and happy after being fed, or in the mornings when we wake up.  Just a few nights ago I was able to soothe him with no help at all, albeit only for a few minutes, but it's a start.  Those are the times that being a third wheel doesn't feel so bad, it feels like a tricycle.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love and Basketball

I've made my return to basketball night after a brief hiatus, coming back as a dad  with with a heightened sense of maturity and composure. 

Okay, not quite. Coming back as a dad, I felt a bit guilty enjoying a couple hours of playing ball while my wife sat at home, her only exile from the house in the past month being a trip to the grocery store.

But I was on a roll, and it was only for two hours. Two.  Out of 168 hours in the week, minus the 40 for work of course.  That leaves all those other hours to hold, bounce, change, and make up songs for my son.

A few of the guys were surprised at my quick return. Others were more impressed with my wife and her allowing me to return. This made me start to question my being out there, and I began to wonder if I should be helping out a little more?  (At home, not on defense).

So I asked my wife again when I got home, and she confirmed that she is cool with basketball night.  Even if it does mean that she'll get no relief until I come home, sweaty and tired, and being of little use. 

I thought that was the end of it, but then a few days ago, as our son was pooping in the tub and screaming for all the neighbors to hear, I slithered off into the night with my gym bag tucked under my arms. Now that I type it, I do kinda suck...

Before Simon was born, I used to play two or even three nights a week.  I know that is not an option anymore, and I wouldn't want to leave him anyway.  I only ask for that one night to get out.  Is that too selfish? 

And this debate rages on, not between my wife and me, but between me and that little voice in my head...the one that sounds like hers. 
I’m getting exercise, in effort to prolong my life, isn't that a good thing? Why, it's not like you're helping out, deadbeat! 

I’m letting off some steam, getting out of the house is good for my well being. It's all about you isn't it? 

It's not like I can breast feed him.  No, but you could clean up while your wife keeps your son alive!  

Man, it's exhausting being me...

I'm looking forward to when he's two or three, maybe then he can come along and work on his game with dad.  He's already boxing me out on the boob.

In all seriousness, I fully understand that life will ever be the same, I knew that going in. In the end, I guess my question is this:  As parents, what happens to our time?

Is it too much to think that we can carve out time for ourselves, or did our time end upon delivery?  Does it resume after a year, after two, 18? I'm not sure my jumpshot can endure that much time off.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quiet Time

father and son shadowIt’s Sunday evening.  The sun is just beginning to set, its orange rays sift in through the blinds, leaving distinct shadows on the wall.  The dogs are asleep, tuckered out from their morning run in the woods.  I’m in the recliner, enjoying the rhythmic sounds of the house.
The breast pump whines softly, humming in harmonic melody with the baby swing.  Together they perform what has become the soundtrack to my weekends. 
I'm enjoying quiet time these days like I never imagined.  Bits and pieces of rest when the elements of our house align and nap times coincide.  Animals and baby, completely asleep.  These precious moments are as rare as they are short.
This is usually when someone knocks on the door, and bedlam ensues.  The dogs begin their riot, barking furiously and aimlessly in all directions, ready to defend the baby against threats such as gift bearing neighbors or elderly couples on an evening stroll.
I scream at the dogs in a whisper that would make a librarian blush.  But it’s of no use, the baby is awake, and he suddenly remembers that he really, really, wants to eat.  He wants a boob in his mouth yesterday, and I run around trying to restore order, but it's no use, the moment is over.
I'm reminded of a childhood memory.
coffee pot
When I was around 9, my parents used to have what was referred to as coffee time.  Twenty to thirty minutes after dinner in the seclusion of the den.  I would wait by the door, watching the clock on the microwave with torturous anticipation.  Finally, they would come out, relaxed and refreshed until I would hit my dad with a barrage of questions I had thought of during my idle time alone.
As a child, I had no idea why they would want to spend time away from the kids, (or maybe just me, as I seemed to be the only one lying on the floor next to the door).  But now I get it.  They needed a moment to themselves, to unwind after a long day and enjoy each other's company...away from the hyperactive ball of annoying awaiting them on the other side.  And who could blame them? I'm tired just thinking about my younger self.
So chalk another one up for parents….the older I get the righter they were…

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Everything's Changed


Ten years ago, while fully embracing the blur that was my twenties, I thought that I would never have children.  It just wasn't for me.  

I was too busy partying on the weekends, pursuing my rap career (don’t ask), and spending my money on clothes with numbers on them.  Basically living my life to the fullest. What can I say? I knew it all and I knew nothing. I certainly wasn’t ready to commit the time and effort that I’m quickly finding out is needed in order to raise a child.

As I climbed through my thirties, I began to see the world a little differently. I started having dreams about a kid, my kid. After that, I thought, Maybe it's a possibility.  A year later I was baby crazy and begging my wife to stop taking the pill.   

So here we are. I'm a dad, and the timing is perfect. Ten years ago, I wasn’t ready.  I wasn’t even close.  Who knows how things would have turned out for the child I never had, but I'm guessing it would have involved serious therapy. And things wouldn't have been so great for the child either.

father and sonThese days, I'm mature and wiser, handling anything life throws at me with the ease and grace of a late summer sunset.  That may be pushing it, but I'm glad I waited.  I just hope I have the stamina to raise a son.  I’ve spent 37 years fine tuning my routine, achieving the perfect balance of procrastination and effortless waste.  And now it can all be scrapped.  Everything has changed...

Idle time is a thing of the past.  When I'm not pasting butt cream on my son's rear I'm walking around the house with him in my arms coming up with new ways to help him fall asleep. 

The bathroom has a plastic baby tub in it and baby washcloths dry in the sink. Tiny socks can be found strewn all over the house, the boppy pillow jabs me in the neck at night, and I still can't get used to a car seat base in my backseat. And this is only the beginning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving this change, most of it anyway.

I only hope that I don’t grow too mature (my wife tells me my time would be better spent worrying about the next asteroid encounter). I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, the old guy dad who never has any fun. So let’s see, when he’s 10, I’ll be 47. But according to my formula, the one I just came up with while typing this, I act, say, 25 now, so (37 – 12 +10 = 35). 35 puts me at a good age to join him in some mischief.  (My wife’s formula puts me at a much younger age, but we’ll go with mine for the sake of this post).

Today I know enough to know that I know very little.  But I do know this, I’m going to enjoy being a family man.  


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Protective Custody

I was born in the seventies. Back when asbestos were eaten as a snack, served with a side of lead paint chips.  Black mold was a wall pattern, and a child learned the hard way not to play around the kerosene heater. 

We played with rocks and sticks, in creeks with dirt and mud.  Our playgrounds were merely large jagged shards of rust and our big wheels had built in ash trays. It was a different time, when a car seat was a lap, and seat belts were something you found while looking for spare change.
And yet most of us made it, wearing our scabs proudly and comparing our scars as we swapped stories involving barbed wire, nails, and on more than one occasion, bb guns.  But now I'm a Dad, and everything has changed...


bubble wrap

Maybe it comes with being a first time parent, but I can’t help being an overprotective dad.  I want to line the wall of the house with bubble wrap. I want to banish all pointy edges and sharp corners.  Suddenly everything needs to be rounder, softer, safer.

My wife has taken to calling me Marlin, the coddling parent from Finding Nemo.  But what does she know about protecting a child?  Just last night I caught her torturing our son. Well, she called it "bathing" him but I’m not quite sold on the way the whole thing went down.
I’m relentless, even telling my own mother--who has three children and now three grandchildren-- to be careful with him.  As if she would get the sudden urge to punt him like a football.  Visitors have to pass through a rigorous bio decontamination process before clearance to hold him is granted, after which I hover like a hawk, ready to swoop in if things get messy.

I’m sure I’m not the only first time parent who's gone a bit overboard with the safety concerns.  It's just that he’s so fragile, with his newborn smell and little neck that can’t hold his head up.  He has no way of protecting himself from the infinite dangers around him.  But that's okay, he has me. 
Hopefully I'll relax over time.  I certainly can't follow him around all his life, walking in front of him with Clorox wipes and a dust mask, whipping out safety glasses before allowing him to shoot a spit ball at a classmate.  After that I'm holding his hand until college, when things could get really awkward.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dinner is Served

The table is set and my stomach is groaning. The aroma of pasta swirls throughout the house, carrying with it the smell of fresh bread. A leafy green side salad compliments the entree as dinner promises to be delicious and fulfilling. All that's missing are the candles...

dinner table with baby"Do you want to eat first?"

"No, you go ahead." 

Wait.  We're not about to enjoy a romantic dinner, there's no Michael Bolton playing lightly in the background.  No, that's the unmistakable sound of a baby screaming for the boob as if he were auditioning for a role in the next Rob Zombie movie. This is survival, and in order to survive we must appease him. 

We eat in shifts, one of us will scarf down a meal while the other tends to the guest, who after all, is a guest.  One who will be staying for, oh say, 18 years.  Eating is just that, eating.  Nothing else.

We are mere servants to his wishes.  My wife will be serving up breast milk while I can rest assured that after dinner I will be stripping him down and wiping his rear. 

We have to be available at all hours, on call and on the clock.  If we do a competent job, we are tipped with peace and quiet, give poor service and we will hear about it well into the night.  Our ill-mannered guest can be brutish and crude.  Belching and passing gas, he may even spit his dinner on my shirt.  Or things could get really ugly.  We could enter a meltdown.

But for all the exhaustion, for all the nightly lessons in patience, and the learn as I go errors, our little guest knows how to turn on the charm. He can melt our hearts and steal our breaths.  His peaceful sleep (when it happens) is a thing of beauty, with light murmurs and adorable grunts. In the mornings he stares up with big blue eyes, eyes that seem to say, Thanks Dad.  And that’s all it takes.  I trudge on to work knowing that it was all worth it. Because although the rewards can be few and far between, this is the best job ever.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Helping Out

video

Mason, our two year old husky is no longer the baby in the house, but he has taken to his new position as helper with all things baby related.  Here's a quick video of him lending a snout as my wife tries to figure out this whole breast pump apparatus thing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Daddysitting

Having only been a father for weeks, there are quite a few things that I've yet to experience.  Sure, I've got a grasp on the basics.  Changing diapers?  Check.  Losing Sleep?  Check.  Staring at baby and wondering just how in the world I had anything to do with something so amazing?  Check plus.
  
But when my wife told me she needed to get out of the house before she lost her mind, a tinge of panic ran through my body.

We’re going to be alone, just him and me?

Things suddenly got real. It hadn't dawned on me that at some point during the coming years we would be alone together. 

Nonetheless, my wife kissed us goodbye as if she were departing for a seasonal tour of Europe.  She waived as she ventured past the mailbox and into the car for a quick trip to the grocery store, wiping a tear from her eye as she drove up the road. 

I looked at my son,

“Well, no adults, what do you want to do?”

He looked up at me, his eyes wide and determined, as if to say:

“Entertain me or pay dearly.  Go.”

I began by introducing my son to stand up comedy, something clean of course.  We settled on Jim Gaffigan on Netflix--we're not quite ready for Eddie Murphy's Raw. Mr. Simon was awake and alert, having just been fed and changed; we sat down to enjoy our show when there was an explosion on my leg.  Ooops, back to the changing table...

We got all cleaned up and changed (again) with minimal crying. I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point, fifteen minutes in and no meltdown.  I got this.

It helped that we’re both very ADD.  Well I am, he’s a baby whose motor skills are still under development, so we make a pretty good pair. I made faces, sang silly songs, and kept him occupied with the ceiling fan until he was ready for a change of scenery.

I stood, rocked, shook (lightly, no need to become the basis for a lifetime movie), and bounced, shifting gears before either of us got too comfortable.  And after that, I sang, danced, baby talked, and pleaded. I did things I never imagined I would do, but it needed to be done.

As time wore on, my biggest concern was hunger, my son is a chow hound and at some point he was bound get hungry and start rooting around for a breast, at which time I would become useless because my nipples aren’t lactating. We were almost an hour in, and I was getting nervous.

But he was content.  Between the fan and some superb singing/rapping, he had plenty to keep him interested, and flat out amazed.  Approximately 58 minutes later, my wife pulled into the driveway. I smiled proudly, the baby resting safely in my arms.  She walked briskly towards the house, and just before she got to the door my son sold me down the river, screaming as though I was burning his toes and pinching his sides. 

She rescued him from the clutches of big bad daddy, playing unfair with her soft voice and nourishing breasts.  Mom and baby sat down for lunch, while I explained the great time we had together, the singing, the fan, the....forget it.  I'll continue to wait, until he's four or five and wants to do boy stuff.  We'll see who he likes better then.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pooped

In my first two weeks as a father, I'm quickly discovering that men and women react quite differently upon hearing the news that I'm a new dad.  Women want to see pictures, oohing and ahhing over the baby while asking how mom is recovering.  Men usually just start handing out advice.  And by advice I mean telling a good poop story.
daddy diaper change
Dads of all ages will tell a poop anecdote as if it were an epic adventure, leaving nothing to question when it comes to details.  With a twinkle in the eye, they fondly relive their baby days, swelling with pride as they recall their son's stream of pee hitting them in the face or how they went to work wearing a poop stained shirt. 
The stories may vary, but almost always included is the color, texture, and size of what they found in a diaper.   
A poop story brings fathers together like little else.  We may not like the same sports teams or agree politically, but we all have a go to poop joke. 
"So there I was, fresh out of diapers with nothing but a tube sock and some duct tape."

“Oh, that’s nothing, one time junior got into some leftover Mexican food, it peeled the paint right off the hood of the car..."

“Did I ever tell you about the time little Cindi puked in my mouth?”
“We had to hose Aiden down in the backyard; you’ve never smelled anything like it in your entire life!”

"Somebody called the fire department, they wouldn't come near it!"

Maybe it's just how we communicate.  A poop story is a father's way of saying, I was there at three in the morning, or I wiped that kid's butt and now he's in college.  The time flies I'm told, so as I complain about the rigors of my new job I should keep in mind the looks on those father's faces as they laugh and reminisce about late night diaper changes, crying babies, and of course, poop.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a diaper to go change...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Paying A Listen


Perhaps it’s all the crying, the dogs barking, or the voices in my head, but I’ve become keenly adept at tuning it all out.  This would be great news if I were kicking game winning field goals, but not so much when my wife is asking me to help her with something around the house.  Even as I’m typing this, I can hear her calling from the kitchen-- something about a fire.  Oh, she said tired, false alarm. 
Justin Lynham - Flickr

Being male, I've never been considered an astute listener, and until recently it wasn't much of an issue.  But these days I have to catch more than every third or fourth word, and even pay attention to detail. Pay attention and listen, that may be asking a bit much, as evidenced by my recent shopping trip.  

With my wife on house arrest after labor, I was sent out to the grocery store armed with a list and a few detailed pointers that I quickly tuned out.  

Yeah, yeah, I got it. I often nod in an effort to speed up conversations because I can't sit still. Okay, enough with the confessions.  

I set out on the aisles, bumping carts with coupon cutters in an effort to find hidden necessities such as soy milk and feta cheese.  I knew that the grocery store carried milk and beer, but I had never given much thought to what lined all of those shelves in between.  I quickly discovered that I had no idea where I was going, apologizing to other shoppers as I zigzagged through the store.

After several calls home, I painstakingly found the items on the list, including diapers for both wife and son.  I returned with my haul, proudly displaying my finds and bargains for all to see.  But when I handed my wife her diapers, she looked at me like an idiot.

These are adult diapers, I don't need adult diapers.....I just need pads.

But, what's the......Back out I went.

Listening is just one area in need of improvement, multitasking is another. While my wife can do four or five tasks at once, I'm more like that kid in that AT&T commercial, proud of the fact that he can shake his head and wiggle his hand at the same time. 

I have to stay on my toes with our new arrangement. It’s no longer just the two of us, the little monkey towel hanging in the bathroom reminds me of our new addition, so some adjustments are in order.  Plans have to be made before I walk the dogs or even go to the bathroom; and dinner has taking on a drastically different approach.

Don't get me wrong, I’m embracing my new role of being a family man, but after 37 years of doing what I want, when I want, it has been a bit of a shock to my system.   The constant, 24 hour care that my son requires is not always easy, and he has a boisterous way of letting me know what I’m doing wrong.  But have no fear, I am listening.