10 Things I Wish I Knew About Parenting – 6 Month Edition

Following the success of my Newborn Edition of Top 10s, I figured I’ve learned enough to write another one. Here’s a basic summary of my last 6 months; hopefully it helps you out in some way or at least makes you laugh. Cheers!

1) You won’t care what you look like in public anymore.
Bags under your eyes? So what? Dried spit-up on your shirt as you walk in the door at work? No biggie. Hair all askew from the rushed 30-second shower with no dry time? Pffft, you should get credit just for showing up. Wear it all as badges of pride. To quote the great Patton Oswalt, “I want to apologize to anybody that I ever made fun of for wearing sweatpants in public. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, they’re a miracle. I thought that the pinnacle of mankind would be a Mars colony or teleportation. Nope. Sweatpants!

2) Jet lag is no big deal after you’ve had a child.
Staying up for an extra 4 hours to adjust your clock to the opposite end of the world seems like peanuts after you’ve stayed awake 6 extra hours for 3 straight days tending to a sore and frightened infant who’s going through a growth spurt.

3) The reason time flies is because your child changes literally Every. Single. Day.
Just when you’re done adapting to one skill, mannerism, or habit your child completely switches directions. Time as you know it becomes completely relative to your child’s daily development and activities. That’s why 6 months feels like 6 weeks but 30 seconds of solid crying feels like 30 years.

4) You’ll never know how much disposable diapers suck until you use cloth.
Full disclosure: I’m not a shill for the cloth diaper industry but we use cloth diapers 100% of the time at home and 85% of the time when we travel. I don’t care how you diaper your children. Seriously, you do what’s best for your family. But it is an irrefutable fact that no disposable diaper will ever hold a candle to the quality of a cloth one. Absorbency, containment, softness, ease of use, everything and anything you need a diaper to do, cloth does it better. I completely understand why people use disposables – the upfront cost of cloth can be daunting. BUT, if you are fortunate enough to have a baby shower, the total amount of money people will spend on disposable diaper “cakes” or “towers” and all the required accouterment (diaper “genies”, rash cream, etc.) is roughly the same as they’ll spend on a complete set of cloth diapers for an infant. And the water bill from doing laundry every day? Mine has increased a whole $5 per month. Watch out now! Sarcasm aside, if you want any info or tips on cloth diapers just send me an email or check out some of the links under “Merch” on the right side of the main page.

5) Core strength is underrated.
Hauling a 15-pound 4-month old is no joke. You’ll wish you didn’t go soft on all those ab crunches and twists at the gym before you had a kid when you weren’t feeling motivated because you only got 7 hours of sleep. Seriously, lift with your legs. Speaking of……

6) Leg strength is underrated too.
We have TWO sets of 16 stairs each in our house. Needless to say I see a ranch or a retirement home with an elevator in our future. Bend deep to maximize the power from those quads and calves.

7) You’ll gain the “First Child 15”.
Unless you’re Tiger Mom (and why would you want to be?) or you hire your own personal chef, you’ll gain the weight. Why? Motivation, or lack thereof. Now, before you panic, remember that it’s okay. It’s only temporary, and as you figure out how to adjust your life to get your eating and exercise habits to compliment your new addition, things will eventually drift back to normal. Or they won’t, and that’s probably okay too. Just stay focused on the fact that you are doing the most important job on earth. Period.

8) It still takes two.
Again, a HUGE shoutout to the single parents because I still have no idea how you pull it off. Having a second parent there to share the load is the best thing for everyone’s sanity and for the health of the child. 2 mommies, 2 daddies, or 1 of each, it doesn’t matter. Two is always better than one.

9) Going out in public is like being in the mafia.
Whenever you enter a room you quickly scan for hazards, identify all possible exits and escape routes, and always sit facing the door. When your meal is finished you ask for the check as quick as possible and tip big for any “inconvenience” you’ve caused the staff. Then after you clip the kid in the car seat and close your car door you breathe a sigh of relief, just grateful you’ve survived the night.

10) It’s all still worth it.
Every single moment. I wouldn’t trade any of this for the life I had before my son. It’s everything I wanted it to be and then some.

Advertisements

The Littlest Fan

Blackhawks_LogoLast week we took my 5.25-month-old son to his first Chicago Blackhawks hockey game. In the playoffs. He’d been to 3 previous games in utero (all wins), so we were hoping for some additional luck here so we could even the series against St. Louis. Regardless of the outcome, being able to experience his first NHL game with him was magical. Here are my top 5 incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moments from the game:

5) If you know anything about Blackhawks games at home, you know they’re loud. You probably also know the National Anthem is LOUD. He was a trooper for the entire thing, not batting an eye as mommy and daddy went partially deaf for 3 solid minutes. NOTE: He did have hearing protection. We may be crazy parents, but we’re not stupid. 🙂

4) All the fans we met in the stadium and around us in our seats (even the drunk ones) were respectful, courteous, and downright happy to see such a young kid at the game. In any other venue I can see this one going completely FUBAR with people whining and complaining about a young kid fussing, general looks of “he’s not supposed to be here”, or shock/disgust/general discontent over breastfeeding (see #3). But not at the Madhouse on Madison, proving once again that Blackhawks fans are the greatest fans in the world.

3) Speaking of breastfeeding, my wife was able to feed him during the game. In her seat. While the game was being played. All with no issues from any fans around us. She and I are of the same mind that we don’t care (kid’s gotta eat, right?), but we’re very aware that other people make it their business to care for some stupid reason. But again, not at the Hawks game. So BIG kudos to my wife and son both for making breastfeeding at a professional sports stadium during the game look like just another meal at home.

2) I mean it when I say this kid was a trooper. The stadium was loud for the entire game (as it should be), yet he fell asleep while mommy was wearing him in the 3rd period. And then he stayed asleep until the end of the game in OVERTIME. All while maintaining his mellow, laid back personality as if to say “as long as I have mommy and daddy everything is no big deal.”

1) Holding my son as the red lamp lights up, the horns blare, and over 22,000 of the greatest fans in hockey belt out “Chelsea Dagger”. There is truly no other experience like this in the world. He shoots, he scores. Go Hawks.

 

Epilogue: The Blackhawks won the game in overtime, 4-3. This kid now has 4 wins under his belt including 2 in the playoffs. Maybe you’ll see us at more games. 🙂

My Top 10 Father/Son Moments (So Far)

What? Another Top 10 list? What is this, Letterman? Nah, just a repository for my thoughts so I don’t forget them. Enjoy! 🙂

10) Mastering the art of changing a cloth pre-fold diaper while half-awake/half-asleep at 3am.
9) Watching him fall asleep on my shoulder, setting him in the crib, and having him stay asleep for longer than 0.34 seconds (but not longer than it takes to type this sentence).
8) Feeding him with a bottle for the first time. It was awkward since we hadn’t developed our feeding rapport yet but still, up until then it was all Mom. Yet another way for me to connect with him.
7) The first story I read to him – I Broke My Trunk.
6) Giving him his first bath in the nursery when he was less than 3 hours old. He will never be that small again.
5) Watching Great Grandmama (BuBu) hold him for the first time. He is her first great grandchild so naturally she had the biggest smile I’ve seen in a long, long time!
4) Holding him while I sang to him and danced with him to some of my favorite songs by Clutch. For an hour. Twice.
3) After my first full day back at work in nearly 3 weeks I came home and he had the brightest eyes and widest smile. I asked him how his day was and we “talked” for nearly a half hour!
2) A few hours after his first vaccinations he woke up from a nap and was inconsolable. Not even feeding would help; he was obviously irritated and probably in pain. I changed his diaper, picked him up, and just held him. Rocked him. Whispered to him that “it was all going to be okay.” It took little while but he settled down, nestled himself on my shoulder, and eventually fell asleep. I felt his breathing go from rapid hysterics to calm, peaceful sleep. He knew I would comfort him, protect him, and that as long as he was in my arms everything would be alright.
1) Turning to my rock star wife after 20 minutes of pushing, over 8 hours of active labor, and at least 24 hours without sleep, with eyes full of pride and love, and announcing “It’s A Boy!”

If this is how awesome it’s been after only 2 months I can’t wait for what’s in store later on!

Of Music and Men

There are a lot of things in my life that I value highly and want to pass on as important to my son. Music is definitely near the top of the list. I’m a lifelong musician – I studied classical trumpet for 10 years and dabbled in jazz, have been playing drums for 16 years and am currently in a successful local heavy metal band, and I took piano and organ lessons as a kid. My mom is a piano player and my dad has acted and sang in many community musicals despite not being able to read music. My brother played baritone and tuba in school and is a bass player in another successful local heavy metal band. I have a wide variety of musical tastes as evidenced by the 4,381 songs on my iPhone and the 7,654 songs on my computer. So you could say music is a rather large part of my life.

Along the same lines, I had a random revelation – I think I would be absolutely devastated if my son did not have similar musical interests as me. I know he’s going to grow up to be whatever he wants to be, but music is such a critical piece of my being that I will make it one of my prime missions to impress upon him how much it can be a force for happiness, comfort, inspiration, guidance, and creativity. But I have so much music! I can literally play music for him 24/7 for a LONG time and not play the same song twice! I do have a few favorites though, so I’ve come up with a list of 10 albums across a wide variety of musical genres that I will do my very best to show him how awesome they are. It was ridiculously hard to narrow this list down to just 10, but these albums have each deeply touched and altered my life in some way. I’m hoping my passion for them will enable my son to have similar experiences with music. There is so much for me to teach him!

[Note: A lot of these albums have explicit lyrics and some people may think they are not suitable for children. While I generally do not condone profanity, I believe that it has valuable uses in certain musical contexts. That is is abused by so-called musicians in lots of modern music is a discussion for another day.]

1) Lateralus by Tool220px-Tool_-_Lateralus
This my favorite and most listened to album of all time and Tool is also my favorite band by more than a country mile. The musical genius, passion, and emotion from this album are beyond words. I can listen to it front to back over and over and over again.

220px-The_Ultimate_Experience2) The Ultimate Experience by Jimi Hendrix
It’s Jimi Hendrix, do I need to say more?

bodyandsoul3) Body and Soul by Rick Braun
Rick Braun is one of my modern idols as a trumpet player. His range is incredible and he makes it sound soooo easy. Plus his Getzen Genesis sound is so smooth it’s ridiculous! This album got tons of playing time during my high school trumpet playing years.

220px-Led_Zeppelin_-_Remasters4) Remasters by Led Zeppelin
Really I could just play the entire Zeppelin catalog from front to back, but this album hits most of the high points. Sidenote: Heart’s rendition of Stairway to Heaven will bring you to tears!

Hybrid_wide_angle5) Wider Angle by Hybrid
Hybrid are the pioneers of UK progressive breakbeat music. This double album showcases their incredible writing abilities and collaboration with the Russian Federal Orchestra as well as captures the energy in their live mix sessions.

220px-Cracktheskye6) Crack the Skye by Mastodon
A wondrous concept album that explores the heart and spirit of its astra-traveling main character. Definitely a stretch album for the metal masters but one that struck a vibe with me.

220px-TheSwordWarpRiders7) Warp Riders by The Sword
Another concept album by a little-known band that has all the best elements of classic and hard rock with thundering drums and ripping guitar riffs.

220px-Strappingyoungladalien8) Alien by Strapping Young Lad
Devin Townsend is a musical genius. On this album he is somehow able to channel all the pain, anguish, and suffering into some of the most brilliant music I’ve ever heard.

220px-Nine_Inch_Nails_With_Teeth_Standard9) With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails
Speaking of turning pain and anguish into music, there are none better than Trent Reznor. Pro tip: He was one of the influences behind picking my son’s name. 🙂

220px-Swans_The_Seer_album10) The Seer by Swans
I bought this double album after hearing part of 1 song in an indie music shop in Seattle. Aside from the jaw-dropping musical brilliance, I especially like this album because it teaches a lesson about music as art. This album requires total concentration to listen to and appreciate; it cannot be listened to as multitasking background noise. Listening through it completely is a life-altering experience on its own and takes my mind to lots of places trying to figure it out and interpret it. It’s pure art.

220px-NirvanaNevermindalbumcoverBonus: Nevermind by Nirvana
This album is indisputably awesome, but the main reason it’s on the list is because of its significance and impact to the direction of music. This album literally changed the direction of all music and launched arguably the most prolific and influential period in American music – the 1990s grunge and alternative rock movement.

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Parenting – Newborn Edition

Like many an expectant father I had done quite a bit of reading during the pregnancy to get ready for parenthood (albeit not nearly as much reading as my wife had done, but still). Even with all that preparation I knew I could never truly be ready, but the point of reading the books was to at least have some indication of how things were going to be, right?. Yeah, that’s where the learning curve is more of a learning step function, as I found out. Here are 10 things I wish the books would have told me about our newborn. Here’s hoping it helps you see what’s coming.

1) The first night home is pure hell.
You haven’t slept in days from the long labor (yes, both you and your wife). “Sleep” at the hospital is loosely defined as laying on a 30-year-old cot (or couch if you’re really lucky) while nurses come in and out of your room every hour to check on your wife and newborn. So by the time you get home, you really haven’t slept in, say, 15 years. And now you’re on your own! New environment for your baby and you think he’ll sleep? Yeah good luck with that. You’re just trying to survive by keeping your wits about you while fighting fatigue knowing you’ve basically forfeited your sleeping privileges for at least the next 18 years. While you can’t really prepare for that, just knowing that this is coming could prevent the additional disappointment of your expectations of a blissful, celebratory first night home from being dashed. Because that’s just like kicking you while you’re down. The first night is a matter of pure survival, and yes, you will get through it one way or another.

2) You have to be everything to everyone and then some.
Even with a smooth, natural childbirth your wife still has quite a bit of recovery to do, plus she now has that additional responsibility of feeding the poor bugger every 2 hours or so. Guess what? You’re the main man now. Food prep, chores, handling visitors and phone calls, scheduling follow-up doctor visits, anything and everything is now your responsibility. If you have vacation time or paternity leave, now is the time to use it. All. Of. It.

3) You can’t be everything to everyone and then some.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re not Superman. Get some help because you’re gonna need it. Parents, friends, relatives, anyone with a pulse who can look at your situation and figure out what needs to be done and how to do it. Because you’ll be too exhausted to form coherent sentences. My mother, father-in-law, and some really close friends definitely came through in the clutch for us here. Without them we would not have been able to get back on our feet.

4) “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is advice best left in the textbook.
Sure it makes perfect sense in theory, but then reality smacks you upside the head with an anvil. You think baby is just going to pass out in the crib and you can retire to your master suite for some shut-eye? Think again. IF you can get baby to sleep it’s most likely in your arms or on your chest, so you’re propped up at a 45-degree angle looking like the saddest, lumpiest, dirtiest, smelliest recliner chair ever. Your chiropractor will put their next kid through Harvard because of the money you’re about to spend getting your body back in line.

5) Breastfeeding is HARD. FREAKING. WORK. And you can barely help.
Bleeding nipples. Poor latch. Cluster feeding. Growth spurts. Gas bubbles. Tongue and lip ties. Clogged ducts. Engorgement pain. Breastfeeding is hard, painful, and both mom and baby need to figure it out. What can you do? Stand there like an oaf with your hands and your pockets, mostly. You can be a gopher, you can be a sympathetic supportive husband, but that’s about it. Sometimes that’s enough, though, so be there for them no matter what. Support her feeding choices no matter what they are. The fact that baby is eating is the only thing that matters.

6) Learn to like the taste of crow.
Remember all those idealistic thoughts you had of how you would parent your kid? How you weren’t going to use pacifiers or bouncy swings, how you were going to get your child on a sleep schedule early, and that you were convinced that you could do things better than other parents? Yeah buddy, that crow ought to be tasting mighty good right now, assuming you even have the energy to use your one free hand to lift the fork into your mouth. I think the phrase “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes” was invented by the second set of parents who ever lived. The bottom line is that every good parent is doing the best they possibly can under the circumstances. You play the hand you’re dealt even though you have no idea what you’re doing, and if something works then it works.

7) Don’t let your lack of confidence paralyze you.
Nobody knows what they’re doing when they become parents. Your baby is trying to figure out this new world just as you are and that process is unique to every single family. What worked for your parents may not work for you. But just because you tried something and it didn’t work doesn’t mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re not capable. Keep trying new things. Try the old thing again tomorrow as it may work under different circumstances. But keep trying. Deep down I believe your baby knows you’re trying to work things out the same as he is. You’ll figure it out, even if it takes longer than you thought it would.

8) It truly does take two.
I offer my utmost respect and admiration to single parents out there as I honestly don’t know how you all do it. It’s definitely hard enough with two parents trying to figure this all out at the same time; I couldn’t imagine trying to do it on my own. If you have a partner please please please do whatever you can to work as a team. Change diapers together. Watch them breastfeed and then take turns burping baby. Alternate sleep/babywatch shifts. Talk to each other and acknowledge you both have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t judge your partner as everyone parents differently and that’s OK. Recognize it takes time to figure out your own style of parenting, and that’s OK too. Go easy on each other and be there together. Even if your relationship isn’t in the best place, call a ceasefire for your baby’s good and your own good.

9) I have no idea what I’m talking about.
This list is based on my mere 3 weeks of experience as a father. In any other job that barely qualifies me to take orders at the drive-thru so definitely take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. Hell, take everything in this blog with a giant block of salt and a few shots of tequila for that matter. 🙂

10) It’s all worth it.
A glimpse of a smile, clutching my pinkie with his tiny fingers, falling asleep with his face buried in my chest, me staring into his big beautiful eyes knowing he feels comforted, protected, safe, and loved. All of those things make even the toughest, most sleep-deprived night fade away. I loved him so much for the 40 weeks and 1 day my wife carried him and I love him even more now. All the fear, anxiety, fatigue, panic, discomfort, it’s all worth it for those moments. He’s worth it.