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Posts Tagged ‘fatherhood’

Hi everybody! How have you been?

These past few weekends, Gilly and I have been taking classes on childbirth, newborn care, and breastfeeding. These are all very important classes to take. If you miss one, you won’t know how to deliver your baby, you won’t know what all those blankets you just received are for, and your baby will never know the importance of squirrels.

Placenta, baby, and pelvis, minus stovepipe.

I may have my facts a little bit jumbled. Bear with me, they’ve been throwing a lot of information at us.

Did you know that…a baby makes its journey through a 90-degree elbow stovepipe? At least, that’s what the display model seemed to indicate.

Did you know that…swaddling a newborn is easy? First, you need a swaddling blanket and a newborn. Second, you need to fill out a job application at your local Qdoba, Chipotle, or favorite Mexican restaurant of choice. Step three, ask to be placed on the burrito line. Step four, go home, substitute the tortilla and fillings for your swaddle blanket and baby, and you’re all set! NOTE: Do not follow step five, which might involve you accidentally eating your spicy little baby burrito.

Did you know that…girls are made of sugar, spice, and everything nice? You just need to go easy on the “honey boo boo.”

Did you know that…a father plays an important role in breastfeeding? According to our lactation consultant, a man’s job is to be the FUN one. And, evidently, “fun” constitutes one very important skill: We must be expert squirrel spotters. (I believe, if I got this straight, I am also *required* to say, “Lookit! A squirrel!” if my baby is to have her full measure of fun.)

Men find breastfeeding more comfortable in side-lying position

Did you know that…our lives will never be the same again?

Finally, we learned our most invaluable lesson of all: We’re ready to be parents.

Now, c’mon, baby, let’s get this show on the road. I’ve got some squirrels to show you.

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Lulu chills with her scary peeps.

I love horror movies. I have for as long as I can remember – ever since I was a kid watching Chilly Billy Cardille’s Chiller Theater on late night TV. I especially love the old black and white Universal ones – Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man – but there are plenty of newer ones that I love too, from The Exorcist to The Ring. (But don’t get me started on splatter or torture movies. They show an alarming lack of imagination.)

This is all a long preamble in order to say that I don’t scare easily. Things that go bump in the night? No big deal. Thrills and chills? Bring them on. But here’s my confession: Babies terrify me. They terrify the sweet bejesus out of me.

I think it’s the fragility. I’m afraid to pick one up, worried that in one brief moment of clumsiness, I might break the baby. (Have I mentioned that I’m a worrier?)

This fear of the wee-est of wee ones was raised to Full Red Alert when I watched Nursery No-No’s featuring friend of the blog and American Baby Magazine’s Senior Lifestyle Editor, Jessica Hartshorn.

I trust Jessica. She knows her stuff. And apparently, on top of all the other stuff I was already worried about, I now have to add these to the list: blankets, pillows, baby monitors, and cribs.

So you’ll forgive me when I say that the most terrifying creatures on the planet are the little peanuts. And my future peanut will be the scariest of them all.

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A friend of the blog and soon-to-be eccentric Swiss baroness recently said to me: “I was a much better mother before I had children.”

This made me think, because I am a really, really awesome dad now that I don’t have children. I’m a playful, loving, fun, and wise father for these future offspring. But is that because I don’t, well, actually have them yet?

Granted, I do actually have 7 nieces and nephews, and I am an awesome *actual* uncle to them. But it’s a lot different being an uncle than a father. (For one thing, there are no givebacks.) They all turned out great, but I may have to acknowledge that their actual parents had something to do with that.

But what will I be like when I’m tired, or trying to juggle home, work, and parenting responsibilities? Sometimes I worry – okay, worry is my natural state of existence, so most of the time I worry – that I will struggle to find the balance. And I do wonder if my friend is right, and it will all be uphill from here.

So, let me ask you, readers of the blog, what are your secrets? How does one find the energy, the patience, and the perseverance to be a good parent – actual or imagined?

Will I wield a Jello Pudding Pop or Red Light Saber?

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Dearest Future Baby,

When in Spain, walk like an Egyptian

I have a guilty secret. No matter how hard I try, I can’t dance. Now, don’t get me wrong. I try. Man, how I try. When I was growing up, I wanted to be just like Michael Jackson. (I might have even wanted to *be* Michael Jackson.) But no matter how much I practiced, I never mastered the art of the moonwalk. I never could overcome my, um, natural limitations.

By college, I could fake it. New Wave and mosh pits made it easier. Chumbawumba proved that you could get knocked down, get up again, and never keep me off the dance floor. I was limber and energetic and able to morph into the Lord of the Spastic Flailing Dance well enough to fool most people.

Now I’m older and no longer limber. A limbo contest is an invitation to the chiropractor. A night in the mosh pit would send me straight to the emergency room. Even a salsa only comes with chips these days.

Given my limitations, I did what any sensible man would do: I married a woman who can shake it like a Polaroid picture. She makes me look good, and I’m smart enough to know that I can look effortless on the dance floor if I just let her do all the work. I’ve got crazy mad skills that way.

Just remind me to never challenge your mama to Dance Central. Don’t get me wrong, I very nearly beat her. But that’s only because she was rolling on the floor laughing so hard she nearly couldn’t get up to finish.

But there’s a lesson I want to leave you with, future baby. Just because your daddy can’t dance*, doesn’t mean he won’t dance. That foot-tapping, head-bobbing thing that drives your mama crazy? That’s your daddy, dancing to the perpetual dance track in his head. So I’ll say this to you, little dragon. If you want to dance, dance! Be wild! Be free! Don’t let anyone ever stop you! Because once you want to dance, and shout, you’re not going to be satisfied until you shake your body down to the ground.

Love,
Daddy

*Except for that crazy awesome dance move that I taught your cousin, the professional ballerina. I swear, she learned everything she knows from me.

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Just yesterday, Gilly wrote this post about the lily-whiteness of Baby Book covers. At the risk of turning this TTC blog into a treatise on race relations in America, I have to share our experiences tonight: Not once, but twice in the span of half an hour, two different checkout clerks in two different grocery chains in “liberal New England” tried to ring up my basket of items individually, while ignoring my dear wife who stood next to me holding the rest of the items that we had collected together.

I know what you’re thinking – perhaps this is mere coincidence. Perhaps, like Beauty and the Beast, the sight of Gilly next to me seemed a mismatch of such Disney-esque proportions that it confused both of these befuddled, overworked, and underpaid clerks. Or perhaps they were simply too busy to notice when Gilly put her full basket down on top of my recently emptied one (in the first instance) or were confused by the lack of dividers among our combined conveyor belt’s worth of items (in the second instance).

Now, I don’t tend to notice racial issues. In fact, I tend to be oblivious to them. It can be both a blessing and a curse, but growing up white in a white-bread suburb of western Pennsylvania, I never really had to notice them. Today, I like to think we’re living in a post-racial 21st century society. But clearly, we’re not there yet. And this troubles me. It makes me wonder if one day I will experience the same reaction when I am carrying our future, brown, multiracial children in the supermarket. Will I have to worry about comments from perhaps otherwise well-meaning strangers who are set up for certain racial expectations? Or far worse?

It may not bother me personally, but I guarantee you it will bother me if it upsets my children in any way.

But then, just as I was about to sink into a state of despair, I saw a ray of light in the card aisle of another store tonight:

You can judge this card by its cover.

So I’m going to rejoice in our one victory this evening: Babies of many shades on a card together.

Now there is the post-racial 21stcentury I’ve yearned for.

Just like these baby animals sitting in multi-species harmony together.

In the future, people won't judge them for their color.

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If the Steelers had cheerleaders and Lulu liked to smile, she'd only wave pom-poms for the Steelers!

One of the things I was thinking this evening while watching the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Philadelphia Eagles in preseason football (well, besides thinking that the state of Pennsylvania has one team that looks ready for the Super Bowl and one team that doesn’t) was this: Are my football-watching days numbered?

I know that every prospective parent-to-be in the history of ever is concerned with the loss of leisure time that comes with being responsible for a little crib-critter. It goes with the territory. But still, there must be a way that one learns to balance one’s responsibilities with one’s desire to function as a human in the world. How does someone manage to be both a parent and someone who wants to watch football, to read a book, or to know enough about pop culture to know that the ending of Lost sucked and the ending of Harry Potter was pitch-perfect?

I know my priorities will shift as a parent – and who knows, I might simply not even have the time to remember what my former priorities used to be – but I imagine that to remain relatively sane one must find some time in the day to do the things he or she loves to do.

So tell me, parents, where do you find the time for yourselves? What are your means of escape? Is it all in the scheduling? In finding some untapped reservoir of energy after the little knee-high private eyes go to bed at night? Or is it all in trading favors with one’s spouse? Or bribing your parents and siblings?

Maybe I should just resolve myself to the understanding that somewhere around the year 2030, if I’m lucky, future Patrick will be waiting, older but wiser and ready to resume life as he once knew it. That is, unless the Mayans have it right and we can all just cash it in in 2012.

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Naughty Lulu in Timeout

As I spent the better part of the morning dealing with Lulu’s rambunctious behavior, I realized that I have no clear idea of where I stand on the subject of discipline. I feel comfortable in saying only that I am woefully unprepared to hand it out (Gilly agrees).

While I feel relatively confident – as confident as one can be when dealing with the little nibblers – in saying that I will fall somewhere between the extremes of Severus Snape-strict enforcement and Where the Wild Things are levels of abandonment, it’s that wide swath of middle ground that’s giving me cause to ponder.

Do I reward positive behavior and withhold for negative? Do timeouts really work? Is the occasional spanking a bad thing? Do I raise my voice or keep a neutral tone? Do I let Gilly deal with it?

I’m an uncle seven times over, and let me tell you – it’s easy being an uncle. In fact, if you’re doing your job right, sometimes you even instigate their misbehavior and then simply return the child before you have to deal with the consequences. But, from what I’ve been told, there are no givebacks where parents are concerned.

I suddenly realize I have tons of questions and very few answers. I suppose like so many other things in life parental discipline is another one of those Things-You-Figure-Out-As-You-Go-Along, but it might be helpful to have a strategy in place first.

Now, Lulu, we need to have a talk…

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