Ten Memorable Parenting Moments of 2017

Let’s face it – 2017 has been a shit year. So much so that it’s been incredibly difficult to find the inspiration to write much here. But, as with most New Year’s Eves, it’s good to reflect back on some better moments before we give this year the middle finger and turn the page. So in the spirit of the season here are ten of my top parenting moments of the year, in no particular order:

1) Freedom From Diapers (Mostly). Do you hear that? It’s the angels of the heavens singing the Hallelujah Chorus!! This has been the year of real potty independence. And while we’re still not 100% there (I’m convinced he won’t poop in the toilet until he’s 37), he’s a rock star with peeing and keeping his overnight diapers dry. Sidenote: I’m fairly positive I never thought I would think this sentence, let alone write it for public viewing. Ah, parenting. Oh, and yet another shoutout to our cloth diapers for being rock solid for over 4 straight years now. Honorable mention to our washer and dryer for surviving semi-industrial usage for that same time. Y’all are the real deal.

2) Travelin’ Man. As you may or may not know, we were fortunate enough to live in The Netherlands for half of this year. And we traveled. A lot. Our son was a friggin’ road warrior, surviving 9-hour flights, drives of 10, 14, and 18-1/2 hours, and being thrown into a brand new society and culture. All at the tender age of 3 where he was just learning to speak his native language, let alone deal with a completely new one. While he may not remember everything (or anything) from our time there, I can already tell that the experience changed him forever.

3) Roger the Rabbit’s European Adventures. Along the same lines, T’s favorite stuffed animal, Roger the Rabbit, went everywhere with us – from riding the bus in Rome to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to relaxing in a beach house in Sweden. If you’re on Instagram (@comma.splice) I have a decent amount of photos of T and Roger on their adventures together. This rabbit has seen more of the world than most children!

4) The Colliding Hugs. Every day I come home from work he does this awesome thing where he’ll say my name (“Daddy”) and start running toward me. The faster he gets the faster and louder he says my name until WHAM! he collides with my midsection and wraps his arms around me for a giant hug. This will never, EVER get old. Can I just be greeted like this everywhere I go?

5) School Days. One of the hardest things for me has been realizing that I can’t teach him everything he’ll need to know to survive in the world; I just don’t have the capacity. So watching him develop further and really like going to preschool has been immensely satisfying. Until he comes home with a cold picked up from some other snotty-nosed, drool-faced kid and gives it to ALL. OF. US. Thanks, drooly-face.

6) Building Blocks and Lego Sets. We’re doing LEGO now!! And not just the Duplo stuff, but real, serious, “Age 5-12” sets! I’m not sure who gets more excited by them, me or him, but they’ve really captured his imagination and attention span, all while advancing his fine motor skills and spatial abilities. And the best part? This is only going to get more awesome over time!

7) Music Man. If Lego make me giddy, then music makes me absolutely ecstatic. He’s strumming the guitar, making up songs, singing on pitch, exploring his new keyboard, my trumpet and drums, and memorizing hooks from songs by bands such as Junius, Nirvana, and Hole. We’re also playing a lot of “Song Like/Do Not Like”, which is how I know he likes certain songs by some complex bands like Lamb of God, Opeth, Static X, and Gojira. Oh, and he’s really into Skrillex and Glitch Mob, so we have an EDM thing going too. I’m fairly certain he’s in rarified 4-year-old air in terms of musical palette. Quick, someone get me some Frank Zappa!

8) Friendship. He’s got genuine friends! Partners in crime, even! On the surface, it’s not surprising since he’s got all of the extrovert genes of me and my wife combined then multiplied by 5. But I was a socially awkward kid and sometimes a barely functioning adult in social situations, so it’s been wonderful to see him reach out and connect with others. Oh, and not be a dick to them, too. That’s important.

9) Family Connection. One of our best memories of Europe was driving to Sweden to visit my sister-in-law and her beautiful family. Not only did T get to see his Swedish cousins for the first time (one of which may as well be his doppelgänger), but this was the first time my father-in-law was with all four of his grandchildren at the same time. A moment that would make Hallmark jealous.

10) Reading Rainbows He’s always loved books, but Now. He. Can. READ. THEM!!!! He’s actively spelling words, sounding them out, and putting it all together. This was the official first book, and he read it all the way through!!! Watching his mind work and actually hearing the connection turn into words is one of the most amazing experiences for me. It’s literally indescribable.

And with that, we look ahead to 2018, which will no doubt be big year in a lot of ways.

Adios, 2017!!

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To Be Kind

Kindness is a virtue always best practiced but starts with modeling and teaching. I’ve been taking some mental notes lately about the behaviors and values I want to instill in my son. Here are just a few in no particular order that are near  and dear to my heart. Feel free to add your own in the comments; the more kindness in this world the better off we will all be!

1)Basic manners. Please, thank you, yes/no sir/ma’am, excuse me, bless you, I’m sorry, the list goes on. Let’s start with the basics and go from there.

2) Empathy. Admittedly I am not as good at this as I want to be, but I try to remember that everyone is fighting their own internal battles.

3) Sharing. Not just with toys and things you have, but with things other people do not have. To quote the great Louis C.K., “You should not look in your neighbor’s bowl to see how much they have, but rather to see if they have enough.”

4) Say Hello. My son currently has no problem with this, but that’s because it’s natural at 2 years old. As we become older this openness tends to fade. I can’t tell you how many people won’t say “hello” back when I greet them in the hallways at work; some won’t even make eye contact. I do it from time-to-time as well when I’m just not feeling people, but in order to keep my son’s momentum rolling I need to lead by example.

5) Acknowledge your privilege and use it to help the persecuted. I completely understand White Privilege. My son is in a very unique situation as a biracial child in that his racial identity can be fluid and adapt to his environment. While this could certainly be exploited for selfish reasons, I would rather foster a sense of empowerment and obligation to connect with both sides of his racial identity and obliterate White Privilege for everyone. [Sidebar: This topic is probably worth a separate blog post on its own.]

6) Use emotions to connect. Emotions are extremely powerful, especially shared emotions. Connecting with people on an emotional level tends to get lost in this ever-digital world of Instant Messages, auto-erasing chat sessions, and social feed algorithms designed to mainline your preferences straight to your neural core. Let’s look people straight in the eyes again and attempt to read their souls. [Personal Note: I really need to stop constantly checking my f0cking iPhone status.]

That’s it for now; not exactly a full “Top 10” but that’s where YOU come in! Add yours in the comments so we can help this generation create a kinder and gentler world.

Hourglasses

2015. Wow, what a year. Lots of highs, way too many lows, and our first full year over 2,000 miles away from family, friends, and everything we used to know. All while trying to learn this whole parenting thing? Yeah, let’s just say it wasn’t the best of years for me. But, I did learn quite a lot. Here’s my year in review – 10 things I learned about parenting and about myself:

1) Co-sleeping is still awesome. Even though my son has gotten much bigger (91st percentile height at age 2), I still really do like having him in the bed and falling asleep next to me, no matter how long it takes. I know he won’t be this small forever so I’m cherishing as much of it as I can.

2) Toddlers are ridiculously cool. Or at least mine is. Language. Curiosity. Motor skills. Emotions. Music. Rough-housing. Cuddles. Hugs. Kisses. High fives. Fist bumps. Every single bit of it is cool. Since he’s experiencing it for the first time, so am I. On the flip side….

3) I am not the infinite well of patience I need to be. Every day my patience limit is tested. None of it is his fault; he’s only 2 years old after all. Patience is a humbling lesson to learn, coupled most of the time with healthy doses of regret and edible crow. Pro Tip: There’s always a reason for a child’s behavior; things don’t happen “just because”. It’s my job as a parent to figure it out, and at that part of the job I’m usually pretty bad.

4) I severely underestimated the importance of our existing support network and the challenge of establishing a new one. Moving out here has been hard. Really, really, really hard. If I had to do it all over again I’m not sure I would. Hindsight is a motherfucker.

5) Proper lifting techniques and ergonomics are paramount. He’s over 3(!) feet tall and 30(!) pounds now. The repetitive lifts, twists, bends, etc. can wreak havoc on my body. I’ve got an elbow, a toe, 2 fingers, and a shoulder out of whack. Always lift with your legs and use your core.

6) Baby talk is for the birds. I’ve never, ever used baby talk around him, mostly because I suck at it and feel stupid and awkward. Turns out he’s an advanced human even at his age and deserves to be treated like one. I think this has helped both of us figure out our communication styles and advanced his language skills. Also, here’s a good article on why that’s important when he’s learning about his body. Bonus.

7) Cloth diapering still kicks ass. I take it for granted on a day-to-day basis, but the ease of use and financial savings have made our initial investment pay off huge dividends in the last 2+ years. And there’s been zero effect on our water bill from the additional laundry. That said, I’m immensely grateful our washer and dryer have held up to near-daily use. We lost use of our washer for about 24 hours while I fixed a drain blockage and we almost reached DEFCON5 panic level. Again, investments up front are key. If you’re having a baby, look into cloth diapers (or ask me!) and ask for them as baby shower gifts. You absolutely will not regret it.

8) He can travel like a boss. 10-hour car rides? No problem. 5-hour flights at the crack of dawn? Piece of cake. 7 errands in 2 hours with constant strapping in and out of the car seat? Bring it on. The kid’s a better traveler than most toddlers I’ve seen and in some ways a better traveler than I am. I can only hope he carries that adaptability and resilience forward with everything in his life. Pro Tip: If you’re flying with a car seat drop some cash on one of these. It’s a game-changer, seriously.

9) I failed at preparing to be a father. My wife read the books and did the research. She tried so hard to get me to read them as well. I prioritized other things, read what I thought was necessary, and figured I could learn the rest on the job. After all, 90% of the advice in the books goes out the window when you get to practical application, right? Yeah, no. Fuck no. Of course going completely by the book is impossible, but having the same knowledge base is critical so both parents can be aligned and feel like they’re working as a team. I absolutely failed here and instead I’m playing catch-up and making mistakes that could have easily been prevented if I had done my work up front. In lots of ways my wife has to be a parent to both our son and me. I’m not out for sympathy here; use my failure as a cautionary tale for future parents. This is one of the very few things in my life I truly regret and wish I could take back.

10) He’s growing up too fast and that makes me sad. For his birthday he got a patchwork space-themed backpack and some books. Dressed in his cargo shorts and flannel button-down shirt he tried the backpack on and loved it. He doesn’t look 2 years old, he looks like he’s 6 and ready to blast off to school. No, no, no. Stay little for awhile longer, where the hugs are pure, the bond is strong, there are no obligations, and the moments can live on. I’m not ready to let go.

So here’s Auf Wiedersehen to 2015 as I look forward to the next year with open eyes and a hopeful heart. Best of luck everyone; we’re gonna need it.

Toddler Top Ten

With all the articles about the “Terrible Twos”, “Toddler Meltdowns”, and other crazy (but absolutely true) stuff, I figured it was time to spin it the other way. Time for another Top Ten!

1) He understands what I say. Oh boy, does he understand what I say. One of the most frustrating things about his infancy was the natural communication and understanding gap. But now? I can talk to him like an adult and he gets it, even if he can’t articulate it. One one hand that’s amazing, but on the other hand it’s made me check myself and analyze my words like I never have before.

2) Words words words. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he learns to associate things with the words we say and the names we call them. And when the new words come out? It’s like a tiny little candy hearts exploded and melted in my chest. And the rate at which he’s picking them up now is astounding. Here are some (probably not all) that he knows, more for record-keeping but possibly for your enjoyment too: Up, down, ball, rabbit, fox, socks, shoes, broccoli, potato, bathroom, cheese, cookie, water, rock, teeth, mama, dada, papa (grandpa), uh oh, balloon, vacuum.

3) Singing!! Yep, that’s right! Apparently one of his favorite (or at least most memorable) songs from Music Together class is a song called “Me, You, We”. And my wife caught him singing it to himself one day!! Since then he’ll sing it every once and awhile, but the fact that he caught on and can sing it? Unbelievably cool.

4) He’s an outdoor kid. So far, he seems content with playing outside as long as possible and protesting when it’s time to come in for a nap. This bodes well for the future where I see him as I saw myself in childhood – playing outside until called home for dinner or until the sun went down. That’s one of the main reasons why we moved to the Pacific Northwest: more outdoor opportunities. So it’s slides, parks, play structures, nature trail walks, and wagon rides until the cows come home. This will just get more and more fun as he gets older.

5) Adventures in food. About the only thing better than playing outside is eating. We have yet to reach the age where he starts rejecting the food we feed him. Even at 19 months, this kid loves his food. Salmon, kale, cole slaw, mustard greens, sushi (Tamago), tuna, avocado, tomatoes, you name it, he’ll eat it. He’s clearly related to us. 🙂

6) Kiss it and make it better. I’m not sure who he picked this up from, but whenever he hurts himself he’ll point to it and look at me. I ask him if he wants me to kiss it and make it better. He brings it close to me, I kiss it, and apparently all is well as he goes about his day. Just like him understanding me, this is incredible. And I didn’t realize I had the magic power to heal dings and dents with a kiss. 🙂

7) Hugs & cuddles. He’s an affectionate boy. I love it. I’ll never force him to kiss or hug anyone he doesn’t want to (related or not), but I know there may be a time where he doesn’t want to be as affectionate (“Ew, dad, gross!”). So for now I’ll soak up every hug, cuddle, and Eskimo kiss I get.

8) Motor skills. Everything from climbing to looking under couches and beds to dipping french fries in ketchup. His skills are accelerating at a breakneck pace. “Child proofing” is an ever evolving practice where I feel I’m at least 2 steps behind him.

9) Music class! We’ve been going to Music Together class since he was 2 months old, and while he’s always seemed to enjoy it, it’s only in the last month or so that he’s really blossoming into it. Dancing, hand motions, drum playing, it’s all happening now. And I can’t get enough.

10) We’re not done yet. Not by a long shot. Here’s to whatever the future will bring. I love this kid.

Smiley Time!

My son is over 14 months old now. I’m still not sure where the time went, but this stage of his life is a ton of fun. He’s exploring the world, expanding his mind, pushing his limits, and testing mine to see where the lines are. It’s been so fascinating watching his growth and development, passing through all the stages from infancy to toddlerhood. Lately there have been lots of things that just make my heart explode into a million tiny rainbows with smiley faces and google eyes. Here are 10 of them, and feel free to post your own in the comments! This is a happy post!

1) Hugs. I get on my knees, stretch my arms out, and ask, “Can I have a hug?” A big grin spreads on his face and he walks over to me, colliding with my midsection and hugging me with his ear to my chest.

2) Saying “da-da, da-da, da-da” on repeat when I walk in the door from work. He knows when I’m home and he’s excited to see me. Even if he’s not jumping up and down and squealing with delight like some kids I can tell he looks forward to his time with me.

3) That wide-eyed smile when his favorite song plays. Yes, he has a favorite song. No, it’s not The Wiggles. It’s “The Incomparable Mr. Flannery,” by Clutch. Huh?!?!? I started playing this song when he was only weeks old, as I held him and danced to it during the stir-crazy longest, most brutal winter of our lives last year. Ever since then, all it takes is that opening guitar lick for him to break into a grin.

4) Picking up books, bringing them over to me, and climbing in my lap while I read them. I’m thrilled that he likes books. I’m ecstatic that he wants me to read them to him. I turn into a big ‘ol softie when he climbs over my leg and into my lap, sitting legs folded, with full attention as I read him a story.

5) Playing my drums. This kid’s already got rhythm, and he loves exploring the different sounds that all the drums and cymbals make. He’s super fascinated by the double bass pedals; I can see the gears in his head turning as he tries to figure out the mechanics.

6) Playing peek-a-boo around corners. I hide around a corner, wait a few seconds, and poke my head out. He can barely contain his excitement as his limbs shake and he practically dances in place. We can play this game for quite awhile and never get bored.

7) Bed “falls”. Holding him, I make a falling noise and start to tip over like a tree. I can feel him clutch on to me and brace for impact, all with a huge smile on his face. We land on the bed and he explodes into a fit of giggles. If this tree fell in the forest not only would you hear it, but you would want it to fall over and over again.

8) Saying “Hi” when getting out of the car. It’s become our ritual. The car stops, I get out, open his door, and greet him with an enthusiastic “Hi!” and wide eyes. That infectious smile shows up again, along with a flurry of waving and kicking as he knows he’ll be in my arms shortly.

9) Eskimo kisses. Similar to hugs, all I have to ask is, “Can I have an Eskimo?”, and he’ll saunter over and nudge my nose with his nose. Grandpa taught him that. 🙂

10) “Eating” Legos. He’ll pick through his box of Duplo Legos, carefully selecting the one that “tastes” the best, then slowly place it in my mouth until it sticks. “On second thought, this one tastes better. Let me take that one out of your mouth, Dad. Here, try this one!” And so we go. 🙂

Alright, assuming your heart hasn’t completely melted into your shoes, it’s your turn! Post your moments and let’s keep the happy going!!!

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Parenting – 1 Year Edition

Yep, it’s that time again! It’s still hard to believe over an entire year has passed. What happened?!?!?! While I’m searching for answers to questions Don Quixote style, here are 10 new things I wished they would have told me.

1) It doesn’t get easier; it gets different. Sure, the nights of being up every 2 hours and changing infant diapers in a semi-conscious state are gone, but they’ve been replaced by babyproofing the house, getting kicked in the back by a rogue child foot at night, and following my son around the house to make sure he doesn’t put everything in his mouth (including the cat’s tail). As he grows, the problems become more complex. So be wary of anyone who tries to tell you “it gets easier”. Either they’ve never had kids or they just enjoy the schadenfreude.

2) You’re wrong. Every. Single. Day. My inner voice is constantly telling me I suck at this. I’m not asking for a pity party, but sometimes it’s near impossible to muster up the strength to get up off the mat after another knockdown. Metaphorically, of course. Being a parent means you will screw up at least one thing every day for the rest of your life. Everyone tells me that’s OK, so I’m figuring out how to accept that.

3) Solid food diapers are the second nastiest thing on the planet. I previously covered formula diapers as #1. But having to scrape solid, putty-like waste out of a cloth diaper into a toilet? Yeah, I’ll give you a minute to wipe your previously-digested lunch off your computer screen.

4) “Tight-fitting” pajama sets are the Devil’s work. Yes, I understand they should be well-fitted for safety reasons, but trying to squeeze a pre-Chernobyl toddler into PJs at bedtime should be an Olympic event. Either plan on spending an hour putting them on or saying “Fuck it, let ’em sleep naked.” And getting them off the next morning? Better get the Jaws of Life.

5) Bedsharing is awesome. OK, full disclosure here: Since my wife breastfeeds, she gets the brunt of the waking and feeding in the middle of the night, sleeping in uncomfortable positions, getting kicked, kneed, elbowed, and punched at random, and just generally dealing with the fallout of having a little dude invade your bed space. That said, I enjoy having my little guy sleeping soundly next to me. Of course it’s nice to have a king size bed, but still. He wants to be asleep next to us because that’s where he feels safe and secure in a world he barely knows. Why would I want to take that away from him?

6) You’ll start having “remember when” conversations. About your kid. Yeah, nostalgia after only 12 months. Funny thing about your brain: it has a way of softening the insanely brutal memories of the first few months and somehow magically trick you into thinking you might want to do that again.

7) Watching kids learn to eat solid foods is both wildy fascinating and utterly terrifying. Ever try chewing and swallowing your food without using your molars? Yeah, it’s wicked hard. “What do I do if he chokes?” “Oh God, he’s choking.” “Wait, no he’s not.” “Yes he is.” “No he’s not.” “Yes he his.” “No he’s not.” “Wait, he just swallowed it.” “He swallowed it?” “YAY! HE SWALLOWED IT!!!”

8) Going out to eat is like trying to diffuse a ticking time bomb. Except this bomb doesn’t have a predictable timer and needs constant distraction via toys, games, or food. Look, I’m terrified of having my child melt down in a restaurant (and believe me, it’s happened), but the only way to get kids comfortable in those situations is trial by fire. The more my son is exposed to it the more he’ll be comfortable with it. So the next time you see a parent frantically trying to calm their Tasmanian Devil, show a little compassion. Unless you’ve been there you’ll never know. Now I’ll just hop off my soapbox and head to the next one….

9) Yep, it still takes two. Like I said, it doesn’t get any easier. In my case, I know I wouldn’t be able to have the career I have and raise my son the way I want without the never ending and unconditional support from my wife. My awe and praise for her could fill up an entire post and then some (hey, there’s an idea for another post!). How on earth a single parent does it all is still beyond me. Mad props to all the single parents out there. You have my undying respect and admiration.

10) You’ll still love being a parent. Hell yeah it’s hard. Hell yeah I think I suck at it. But it’s everything I wanted it to be and added a huge new dimension to my life. Seeing his eyes light up when he sees me and says “dada” is THE best feeling in the world.

4 Days in the Hot Seat

So this past weekend my wife went on a 4-day vacation getaway with some friends from high school. Without our son. This marks the first time in his entire existence that he has been away from mommy overnight. So who gets to take care of baby? Me. Taking care of him. For FOUR. WHOLE. DAYS. A daunting task no doubt, so naturally I headed straight up to Grandma’s house for some support. So how did things go? Well here’s 10 things I learned on my adventure:

1) This was not the same as being a single parent. I got tons of help from my mother and I knew that after four days my wife would be back. That’s a huge difference from knowing that you are the sole provider and responsible party for a child day in and day out. As I’ve said before, it really does take two. Mad props again to all the single parents out there.

2) It takes a TON of energy to care for a child. “Duh” statement, right? It’s definitely a full-time job, and I knew that going in. But having to plan, prepare, be on point, and supervise nearly every second of the day? Downright exhausting. My wife deserves an award.

3) Despite the energy expenditure, it was actually fun. Even before I had kids I could see myself as a stay-at-home dad. This weekend confirmed that I’d actually like it.

4) My son and I grew closer. A lot closer. I’m the one he needed to depend on for feeding, changing, transport, and getting to sleep. When things got rough he clung even tighter to me. Regardless of whoever else we were visiting, I was his entire world. That’s immensely humbling.

5) He really did miss his mommy. His closeness to me was also a necessity. Mommy wasn’t there to nurse him to sleep, comfort him when he’s upset, or play with him. I had to figure out how to live up to the task.

6) He made it really easy for me. Went down for naps with no fuss. Took a bottle, even with formula in it. Slept for unprecedented stretches at a time (7 hours!!!). Slept in every morning. Travelled like a champ. Smiled, and smiled, and smiled. It’s like he knew it was my rookie debut so he took it easy on me instead of putting me through the wringer.

7) I never thought I’d rejoice over my son pooping. My son has been breast-fed 99.9% of his existence. This weekend we used a combination of pumped breast milk and formula to get us through (YOU try pumping enough milk for 4 entire days while also feeding a baby. It ain’t easy.). So naturally the formula messed with his little digestive system and he didn’t poop until Day 3. Worried? You bet I was. And thus when the poop cometh forward, there was much rejoicing! Now that said…..

8) Formula diapers are friggin’ nasty. In retrospect I’m sooooooo glad my wife was able to breastfeed because nearly a week later I’m still trying to get that awful diaper smell out of my nose. I now see the value in Diaper Genies. Do they make Diaper Incinerators?

9) The time bomb never went off. I kept waiting for the meltdown. The nuclear “You-all-suck-and-mommy-needs-to-come-home-now-because-she’s-the-only-one-I-want” tirade. Considering these were the first four days ever that he was away from mommy, it would have been completely justified. Yet it never happened, which makes my son all the more awesome.

10) We were both excited and relieved when mommy came home. As fun as the adventure was, there’s no place like home, and there’s truly nothing better than being together as a family.