Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hey...I'm A Real Live Parent!

First let me start by saying I've completely become that parent who used to annoy me so much. You know the ones. Big goofs who overly dote on their kid?

Check. Or how about the ones who post their kid's finger paintings? 

Check. What about the ones who take pictures of every. Little. Thing?

Check. Check. And to whom do I make out the check?

And now with the new school year upon us, my wife, the teacher, the maker of dinners and tamer of wild men and boys, was busy last night meeting parents and kids. Yes, it's that time again. Time to usher in another wonderful first week of school. (Okay, I put a spin on that, her classroom is currently without air conditioning and twelve hour days are kind of a bummer.) But never to fear. As  I'm the do-it-all kind of parent that I claim to be, I was up for the task, and came out to pick up our son after work. 

I entered the school to a circus of animated kids and exhausted parents roaming the halls. I nodded to administrators and teachers, all of whom seemed a little bewildered at the thought of another whole year of school. Making my way through the debris of checklists and guidlines, I found my son tucked away from the disarray and thankfully out of harm's way.

Simon was in Mommy's classroom, content and quiet, coloring at the table while parents filled out forms at the desk. Oh, and when I say coloring, I mean tattooing himself with Crayola markers, both arms were inked up to the elbow. But then he looked up and smiled, I felt my knees get a little weak when he let go with a big old "Daaadeee!"

You know those parents who really, really can't believe how fast their kid is growing up? 


It was Daddy to the rescue. And with Mom up to her eyeballs with parents and forms and, well, chaos, I scooped up the kid and we got out of dodge. 

First stop was the grocery store, where I we got just the necessities. Bread and Ice Cream. Okay we got apples too, but I quickly realized that we needed to hurry. I tried keeping him in the cart, but he wanted out and let the whole store know about it. And I don’t have little tricks or snacks in my purse to keep him occupied. I don’t even have a purse.

At home, we got busy with manly activities. Well, after we did the dishes--his idea. If my kid loves two things, it’s a vacuum and the sink. Well, maybe three things, because you should have seen his little face light up when he assisted me with some small projects around the house, fixing those rickety old chairs in the dining room—which involved the drill.

Playing around the house, things were moving quickly. It was already dinnertime. I took the easy route. PB & J, and then sat back and watched him destroy it, nearly losing a finger in the process. As he ate, I thought back to those times when it was just my dad and me. Cue flashback music...

When my dad was in charge of dinner, it usually involved grilled cheese and the fire alarm. He could also do eggs, sorta, just nothing fancy. But what I enjoyed most during those times was the great conversations we’d have over dessert. 

I’m kidding, we just stuffed our faces.

But I do remember how Dad fixed dessert, vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate syrup. Popping the can open, (yes, can), he'd warm it on the stove. Then we’d sit down at the table with our two bowls of vanilla ice cream, and drizzle the steaming Hershey’s syrup over our heaping mounds of ice cream. Sugary madness.

And that's what I had in mind when I grabbed the plastic container of syrup and nuked it for thirty seconds. (Don’t worry, he just had plain old vanilla). And for the next five minutes, the house settled into a delicious, lip-smacking silence. 

The rest of the night was standard fare—vacuum time, a little outside time, then bath time. We had a lot of fun, and I realized that at some point I have become a real, live parent. And that just about blows my mind. 

After bath, I got the little guy all cleaned up and in pajamas, snuggling up on me as we read Curious George until Mom came home and scooped him up for herself. I handed him over with a smile, because I'd held the fort down and every thing was running on schedule. At least until this morning, when my wife noticed that the kitchen was covered in chocolate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Captain Chaos...

According to the school calendar, summer is just about over. And so tomorrow, my wife heads back to the classroom to prepare for another wave of children arriving on Monday. I’ll be taking Thursday and Friday off from work to substitute parent at the house.

kid with cereal bowl
"Teaching Moment"
I need to mentally prepare for this time with him. While it seems effortless--watching my wife parent, she's already been warned that there is a chance that she may come home and find me in tucked into a tight ball, rocking in the corner of the room, finger-paint and yogurt in my hair as the dogs and the kid take full reign over the house.

I’m kidding, sorta. But it is true that my wife is the better parent. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it's the truth. Maybe it’s her teaching background, but she’s better with all the structure and calm. She plans out little activities, each piece of the day carved into neat blocks, always ready to jump in with a "teaching moment". With me, it's anarchy.

I try to watch her, to learn some of the tricks. Like when he gets sidetracked, trying to climb into the fridge or the dog food under the cabinet (don’t judge), she’ll just announce happily that we’re, “all done now!”, and he’ll actually do what she wants him to do. It’s like she speaks in a way that he understands. I speak….clown.

He’s pretty much talking now. With his bench mark at 15-20 words, he’s easily at thirty, maybe more if you count those gurgling sounds he makes when her runs. He’s a lot of fun, and he’s still trying to find his voice— like this morning when I almost had him saying ET phone home. We’ll get there.

But he’s got quite the temper on him, and sometimes I panic. Of course, my wife knows how to coax him out of a fit. Just the other night, I had to get him out of the car, and he let the world know that he wasn’t happy about it. He kicked and screamed, thrashing and flailing as his face went cartoon-devil-red and his tear ducts were all systems go. I looked at my wife. While I’m not completely useless, this was one doozy of a tantrum.

Then my wife calmly left the room, only to return with Patrick the monkey. She handed our son the monkey and I watched as he wrapped a chubby arm around Patrick and then his thumb found his mouth. I sat on the floor, watching as she rocked him back to a normal human being.

I can make him laugh. But she can calm his world.

But my poor wife, last night after putting him to sleep, she walked in the room and fell on the bed. “I’m going to miss him,” she said with moist eyes, and I thought about how she’s spent every single day with him over the summer. How he clings to her sometimes and they go on grocery shopping trips and she lets him carry around a balloon and he sees the dog food and starts barking. Her little pieces of the day with him are getting smaller.

But back to me.  With the end of summer comes another year of school. And beginning next week, I’ll have to get up nearly an hour earlier only to strap him in the car and haul him off to day care. It’s weird to think how I was just carrying him around everywhere in his car seat and now he has to walk or run wherever he goes. Man, I guess we have our moments, too.

After all, it’s not a competition, and even if it was, he’s clearly the winner. Besides, like I tell my wife, I'm doing the best with what I have. And I’ve got a whole bunch of love for that kid.

But still, wish me luck...

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Chiggers, Red bugs, scrub-itch, berry bugs, harvest mites. That’s what I got going on right now. Being that I’m in the woods nearly every day--wearing shorts and ankle socks because I’m an idiot who doesn’t learn from past mistakes--it seems every summer I find myself scraping away at my ankles and behind my knees, driven to the brink of madness by the little red bumps and vowing to find a remedy that works.

Here, from Wikipedia:

After returning from a chigger-infested area, launder the field clothes in soapy, hot water. As soon as possible, take a good hot bath or shower and soap repeatedly. The chiggers may be dislodged, but you will still have the stylostomes, causing the severe itch. Scratching deep to remove stylostomes can cause secondary infections. For temporary relief of itching, apply ointments of benzocaine, hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, New Skin, After Bite, or others recommended by your pharmacist or medical doctor. Some use Vaseline, cold cream, baby oil, or fingernail polish. 

I noticed that there is nothing in the above about lopping off your feet with a chainsaw. Perhaps I’ll add that as a public service. And as bad as it is while typing this, it's even worse at night while lying in bed, fantasizing about hair brush bristles, the sharp teeth of keys, rubbing my legs against flakes of rusty metal, anything, ANYTHING to stop the madness. Miserable and out of my senses with itch syndrome (it’s a thing, right?), my condition only worsened by all of the salt in the bed.

Salt? You ask? Well let’s back up to the real embarrassing part, when I got home from work yesterday and fell to the floor, stripping my clothes and tearing into my skin like I was wearing an invisible straight jacket. I jumped on the computer and bravely Googled Chiggers. Why was this brave? Well, because only the day before I saw a red mark on my son and freaked out, thinking it was Ring Worm. It wasn’t, so you can stop thinking my family is a bunch of lepers. But what did happen was that I clicked images and I will never, ever be the same, because I was treated to the twisted, hairy recesses of Google's servers, and it’s a place that I don’t want to visit again if I can help it. Moving on.

Only this time Google led me to a new treatment, a household procedure that gave me a glimmer of hope: Vicks vapor rub, mixed with salt. Now we're in business, I thought, and that night after a shower, as my wife sat on the couch, I spread myself on the living room floor and basted my arms, legs, and uh, other regions with a salty concoction of Vick’s Vapor Rub and iodized salt. Oh I was a turkey all right. My poor wife, I can’t imagine the bemoaning regret that must have barreled through her head at that moment, because I think her lips were moving, silently repeating our wedding vows like a chant or a spell. I wasn’t in a position to see her.

Now, just in case you ever find yourself wanting to take a fire rake to your shins, let me tell you that the Vapor Rub Mix is not the way to go. Last year I went with diluted bleach, only I don’t think I diluted it enough and the burn was nearly as bad as the itching. Then there’s nail polish, but that’s too time consuming.

And then there’s science. I read today, while scratching at my ankles and after spending my life in the south, I found this on Medicine Net:

Many home remedies for chigger bites are based upon the incorrect belief that chiggers burrow into and remain in the skin. Nail polish, alcohol, and bleach have been applied to the bites to attempt to “suffocate” or kill the chiggers. But because the chiggers are not present in the skin, these methods are not effective.

So there, I'll wait it out with self-control and cortizone. Because I don't need to baste myself with Vick’s Vapor Rub on the living room floor to make my wife scramble her brain trying to remember why she married me. Nope, I can do that on my own.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Case For The Only Child...

“When are you having another one?”

We get this question a lot, and usually it’s not referring to another round of cocktails. It should be phrased, when are you going to do this all over again? And for the past year (I’m just going to assume people were joking when they said it the first six months), our answer has been steadfast. We’re not.

It seems that this is the wrong answer, or at least an unpopular one, because when I say it I'm usually met with a scoff or surprise followed by the standard, You can’t just have one!

But see, you can. You can have just one kid. You can have no kids. In fact, some people shouldn't have kidsThey should stick to the meth cooking and the paint huffing and just avoid the whole child rearing all together. And then again, some people are in a place where they can have five or six, maybe they have farmland that needs plowing. 

My point is that every one's situation is different. Everyone does not need to have X amount of kids. I don’t buy into the whole without-siblings-the-kid-will-grow-up-sad-and-lonely-or-socially-awkward argument. Trust me, I have a brother, two sisters, and I’m a freak. 

That being said, I’m not totally against having another child. My mind could change. (Mind changing, how radical!) But my wife and I have discussed having another kid and we remain around 80/20 against it. Okay 70/30. Sure, there are traps, sometimes I'll come across a little outfit that my son has outgrown, or maybe a toy with a song that transports me back to those sleepless nights of rocking him to sleep in the chair and my memory paints this nice, fuzzy glaze over what in fact were some seriously trying times.

And I see the nostalgia hit my wife too, like over the weekend. We were driving out to see my Aunt and Grandmother and I watched her take more than a fleeting glance at the minivans on the road. I gripped the wheel nervously on the only recently paid for Subaru, while she ogled those vans from front to back, pausing to appreciate those sleek sliding doors before moving to the self-closing hatches. 

But still, why push it? We got lucky with this guy, he’s healthy and fun, and with only the occasional bouts with lunacy. And what about Dad? I’ve got one last year left in my thirties, all the more reason not to flood my house with screaming babies. I’m finally at the age where I love sleep. Rosy memories aside, we have finally established a schedule and some very fragile quiet time. Why would we go messing with this? I could go on and on with reasons, but I just looked at a baby picture of my kid and drained myself of testosterone.

So one it is. He has dogs, and he can always make friends with those other crumb crunchers at daycare. And he has me. I'm a good buddy, I mean, not to brag but I’ve been told on several occasions that I’m highly skilled at being childish. Also, as though not having to compete for my attention wasn’t enough, there will be more money to go around without another drooling mouth at the table. At least if my wife can stop thinking about fifty shades of grey minivans.

And yet, when the house is quiet, like last night when I went to check on my little dude and found him sleeping peacefully on his side--not screaming at the top of his lungs or trying to scale the dinner chair to the table like a shirtless Sir Edmund Hillary--and I listened to his raspy little breaths, overcome with a near crippling love that made me blink a lot and I thought, Well maybe, maybe there is enough of this love to go around. But then I crawled into bed and my wife was already asleep and preseason football was on and I got really comfortable and thought, Do I really want to sacrifice this again?