Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fathered @ 45: 4: Have No Fear, The Monster's Gone

Fathered @ 45: 4: Have No Fear, The Monster's Gone: "Close your eyes Have no fear The monster's gone He's on the run and your daddy's here" -- John Lennon, Beautiful Boy  If you haven't fi...

4: Have No Fear, The Monster's Gone

"Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster's gone
He's on the run and your daddy's here"
-- John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

 If you haven't figured it out yet, I title each blog post with a snippet of a song lyric that somehow relates to my topic.  Sometimes it works out better than others, but I think this week's is pretty on target.

See, I've been giving a lot of thought to what it means to be a parent recently.  Although our twins are now 8 months old, it's only recently that we had our first serious illness.  Griffin came down with an ear and sinus infection, recently that threw us for a loop.  Now, I'm sure for you experienced parents, you'll laugh at us for thinking that's a "serious" illness and I'm sure you're right.  I'm also sure we'll have much more serious issues to deal with in the coming years that will make this seem trivial.

For us, however, seeing how miserable Griffin was, how he couldn't sleep or get  comfortable or understand why he was hurting killed us inside.  Of course, there's no way for us to comfort him, get him a treat or let him watch TV to take the edge off.  No way for explain to him that it will pass, or why he has to take the medication to get better.

Which made me realize that you don't become a parent/father/mother when your kid(s) are born.  Sure, technically it's true -- but at that point you're looking for 10 fingers and toes, and a healthy kid.  If you get that, you're golden and feeling pretty good about it.  In reality, it isn't until you deal with something like an illness, that you start to understand what it means to be a parent.  Our kids were premature and in the NICU, but only for a short time and always seemed to get better and better.  Plus we had plenty of help from the NICU nurses (who, by the way, don't get near enough credit for the great work they do.)

Dealing with an infant illness at home is a whole different thing.  Frankly, it is just about as helpless as you can feel.

Luckily for us, it wasn't a huge deal, he's on the mend and if you've met Griffin you know he's a pretty resilient and happy kid -- there were time's when he felt absolutely miserable, but was still letting out big belly laughs as he played.  We're truly blessed.

Out of curiosity, I pulled the definition of "Parent" from  Eight months in, I can tell you this order is out of whack -- protector/guardian is way more important than just #4.  They just don't know it yet.

par·ent [pair-uhnt, par-]  noun

1. a father or a mother.
2. an ancestor, precursor, or progenitor.
3. a source, origin, or cause.
4. a protector or guardian.
5. Biology . any organism that produces or generates another.
PS:  On an unrelated note, I think it's interesting that infant medications come in bubblegum flavor -- something that an infant would (should) never have tasted -- Anyone know why that is, I'd have expected a fruit flavor like banana or apple.

Monday, January 14, 2013

3: Ch-Ch-Changes (Time may change me, but I can't trace time)

NJHUGV78G9J2 Here's something that's hard to admit -- the more I think about it, the more new parents seem like people who've just found religion and can't wait to tell everyone about it.  We're bursting to tell everyone about how amazing it is, share all of our stories about how cute our kids are as drool, put the dog's tail in their mouth and force us to sprint across the floor when we catch them gumming the lamp cord.  (By the way, even with all that, it is amazing.  Sorry.)

Kids are the equivalent of your co-worker's fantasy football team.  We suffer through them talking about their great trade or how they missed out on the playoffs by one stupid field goal, only because it gives us an excuse to eventually talk about our crappy teams, which are much more interesting to us.  It's the same with kids.  "What, little Debbie gets the cutest look on her face when she poops?  Well, let me tell you what my cute little thing my kids do."  I can't even begin to apologize for forcing those without kids to suffer through our stories.  They don't even get to inflict their pain on us as compensation.  Although telling me about that Duck Dynasty show comes close.

Which is a round about way to get to today's topic, being "judgy".  Simply put, the things that I thought about people with kids before I had kids were wrong.  To all of you who came before, I'm sorry.  And since I'm now going to talk about my fantasy football team (kids), I'll apologize again.

I think the first time I realized it was shortly after the twins were born.  We had someone kind enough to offer to watch the kids so, we could take our sleep-deprived and semi-coherent selves to Qdoba just to feel like we had left the house.  Not wanting to be greedy with the babysitter, we brought our son with us so it was a little more manageable.

We pulled into the parking lot, grabbed our stuff and started walking into the restaurant.  It wasn't until we were about half-way across the parking lot that we realized we'd left our son in the car. (Please note: Sarah and I differ on how far away from the car we were.  She thinks it was only a few steps.  Regardless, we left our infant child in a locked car.  Hardly our finest parenting moment.)  

Now, if I'd heard that story before we'd had kids, I'd be judging those parents up and down and asking how a parent could leave their kid in the car.  Luckily it was a harmless slip for us, although for others it sometimes ends tragically.  And, true, there are just some crappy parents out there.  The real point is, I saw how easily it could happen, if it could happen to us (if only briefly.)  There but for the grace of God go I, right?

I took a little lesson away to try to be a little less judgmental of others, and other parents in particular.  Because it's hard, and they didn't come with an owner's manual.   Not even one of those bad Ikea ones that always show more parts than you seem to have. And, if those parents are anything like us, they're just trying to keep the kids alive another day and hopefully teach them a thing or two along the way.

As for the kids forcing us to sprint across the room to keep them safe? Let's just say those kid leashes are starting to seem like a really good idea.  And don't you dare judge me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2: All Is Quiet On New Year's Day

So, it's the beginning of a new year, and I'm sure that many of you have made some resolutions. Maybe, it was to stop smoking, lose weight, get a new job, some ideal that will make for a better life. Hey, you might even have made and broken them already.

But resolutions aren't just for the new year. I made a resolution on the day my kids were born and I held them in my arms for the first time. I resolved to be the best father ever. Period.

Better than my dad, who wasn't a bad dad. Better than Ward Cleaver and Cliff Huxtable combined. The kind of dad that always has the right answer, the kind of dad that always shows the right mix of caring and discipline, the kind of dad that other dad's look at and say, "Wow, how can I compete with that guy?"

I broke that resolution about 48 hours in. Turns out they don't tell you how hard it is to be the best father ever.

How at 3am the last thing you want to do is get up and feed them. Just how disgusting some of those poopy diapers can be. How hard it is to keep an eye on them at all times just to keep them from chewing on an extension cord. How horrible it feels when they're sick and there's nothing you can do to help them. How selfish you feel when you wish they would just fall asleep and give you a little quiet.

Eventually you're broken. You begin to set your sights a little lower, just making sure that they're fed when they're hungry, changed when they're wet and held when they're crying. And you hope it's enough.

So, I have a new resolution. Rather than be the best father, I'm just going to do the best I can, and understand that I'm going to fall short.

Probably every day. And I'll start all over again.

And I'll hope that that is good enough that in 18 years, we'll have a couple of happy and healthy kids that can look back on their dad and say, "He wasn't Ward Cleaver, but he did alright."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1: Into The Wilderness

Ok, so here's the deal... At the age of 45, I found myself a first-time father of twins, Cassidy and Griffin, currently 7 months old.

To be clear, it wasn't a surprise.

On the contrary, my wife and I had been trying for a few years to have a kid with no luck. We'd married late in life, and knew that the odds were against us. We'd mentally prepared to spend the rest of our lives together, traveling to interesting places, eating at nice restaurants, spoiling the nieces and nephews, enjoying time with our friends and just generally live a good, happy life pleasing only ourselves.

Then we found out we were finally pregnant. And everything changed. Well, most everything. In the movie version, the stork comes and we live in family bliss for the rest of our days.

Turns out real life is a little bit, well, messier. And I was (and still am) completely unprepared for everything fatherhood entails. Oh, everyone will try to tell you, but you can't really comprehend. And being 45 only complicates things further.

I've decided over the coming year to document what I've learned, in the hopes that it might help any other older new dads who find themselves walking down this scary road.

So, if you end up following in my footsteps, having a child (or multiples) later in life, consider this blog and future posts a survival guide, a path through the wilderness.

Because, trust me, what you thought you knew was wrong. You can't begin to imagine the horrors that await you. You'll be covered in pee, poop, vomit, and snot and you'll actually not mind after awhile. It's sort of like college, I guess.

Except you'll enjoy it more.