Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Season’s Greetings!

Spring is in full swing and temperatures here in Virginia have warmed up as we hit the eighties over the weekend. Our yard had transformed from brown and bare to rich and green with colorful blooms and I was itching to get out and wake up my lawnmower from its hibernation.

But wait. Why is that ice cream truck playing Christmas music?

That's right. I was in shorts, having just finished mowing the lawn when I heard it. I shielded my eyes from the blizzard of swirling pollen to see that yes, it was in fact an ice cream truck. A dingy green sinister-looking wreck of a van that couldn't pass a farm use inspection and may even be in violation of the Geneva Convention. But it's that creepy polyphonic blast of Silent Night that had me worried.

It's just as well I suppose, because if there's one thing I've noticed about having a toddler in the house (besides having a shirtless guy shouting at me all the time), it's that Christmas....just....never....ends.

Call it the gift that keeps on giving. And while it's bad enough that my neighbor won't remove that plastic poinsettia from her flagpole (despite my desperate offerings to help), or that I'm still finding wind strewn ornaments caught in bushes after decorating the Cypress trees for the holidays, it's what's happening indoors that has me shouting Bah Humbug!

Let me explain. Over the holidays my son commandeered our neighbor’s old toy choo choo train. It was really sweet of her, our neighbor, to let my two year old get his grubby hands on it. It has a track and some cars and it plays merry little Christmas songs as it chugs along headed for the North Pole.

Cute, right?

No. For the love of ice cream the Christmas Express is still chugging along. It's a little worn and wrecked and it chuffs along in a wounded, wobbling way after one too many plunges off the coffee table, but on it goes. And goes....

I remember putting it up sometime in mid-January. You know, when I naively thought that we were kind of done with the whole Christmas thing. Ah yes, the days before I was aware that were raising a real life Buddy the Elf. Those were good times, But then Spring Break happened, when I came home and found the old Chrismas Express charging away with merriment, it’s tired batteries giving it’s song a warbled tilt that rivals the ice cream truck for creepiness supremacy.

Oh and the books. Frosty the Snowman, and a slew of others. Now who wants to be the book confiscator and get all Fahrenheit 911 on a little kid trying to read? Not me, so let the yule tide burn, even while the last time I checked we were on the backside of April and should be breaking out the sunblock and the beach towels.

Maybe I'm just being a grinch here. Perhaps tonight we'll have some egg nogg and go out caroling. Then maybe we'll stop for ice cream? Or even better it will stop for us! I need to get into the spirit, sing with me now...

Have a Holly-Jolly Christmas...It's the best time of the year....

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do What Works...

It snowed on the way home from the hospital. Not much, hardly more than some light dust on my windshield. But to me, a dad for all of 48 hours, it may as well have been the polar vortex slamming into our car.

My wife told me to relax, and she’d just done all of the work—even though I was the one who’d nearly fainted during delivery—so I took it down from reckless seven to a much safer five miles per hour.

Traffic lined behind us, head shaking and honking, snaking back for as long as I could see in my millisecond glimpses out of the rearview mirror. I put the car seat in right? They checked it, everything’s fine. I thought to myself, sweating profusely as my white knuckles on the steering wheel were proof that I was taking on the new job seriously.

At home the real work began. No more nurses checking in on us or emergency lever to pull. But so many people had given me advice that I felt prepared with a plan for every minute of the day. Bath times and naptimes. If there was a little trick to make things hum along, I was all ears. 

On top of that I’d done enough research to earn a degree in reading about parenting. Checking out library books, taking notes and studying at night. We’d even taken that baby course and besides dinging that baby doll head on the edge of the desk I felt that I'd mastered the swaddling technique.

But only a few days (and sleepless nights) into the vast struggle that is parenthood I arrived at one major realization: A lot of what I’d read wasn’t working. Each book or blog seemed to vary due to the latest studies and research. And sure, maybe it had worked wonders for other people, but as I scribbled down my son's bowel movements and charted his breast feeding I couldn’t help hearing that nagging voice in my head.

You have no idea what you’re doing.

No, I didn’t. Sure, I’d  become a pro at getting that plastic doll into a diaper at baby class, but peeling off a soiled sack of horrid orange muck while weaving out of harm’s way from a gushing fountain of urinal while trying not to shriek at the sight of a freshly circumcised male part forced me to realize that nothing, not the reading or advice, had prepped me for the real thing. Because you can’t be fully prepared.

Sure, there was some useful information passed along. Helpful tips and timesavers. But you have to be on your schedule, not someone else’s.  Do what works for you.

There’s no one-size-fits all parenting style. Each kid is unique and requires a customized parenting style (and an endless supply of batteries) to fit his or her needs. If it doesn’t work try something else. That’s what we  did, and do, and so far so good. We have one bright, inquisitive little guy on our hands. So take what works and toss out the rest, because there are many ways to accomplish what hopefully is everyone’s main goal here: Successful Parenting.