LBK, LAK and reincarnation.

I realized early this morning while watching the minute hand on the kitchen clock sweep towards sixteen with the hour hand seemingly stuck on three that last time around I did not have a blog. Last time around was over three years ago when my first son was born and the only blog experience was a few posts on Blogger about my beloved fountain pens in 2007 when I was living my other life – LBK (aka life before kids). Then I was reincarnated as a bumbling idiot who didn’t know what the heck to do with the tiny wriggling body that they plopped in my hands as they pushed me out of the hospital.

Many of my esteemed colleagues and fellow writers have spent copious keyboard strokes on LBK and LAK (aka life after kids). In my case the year my oldest was born was 2008 LBK (if you were looking at a marble façade in ancient Rome it would read MMVIII) and instead today would be 3 LAK (or for the pagan Romans MMXI). Most of us will agree that although LBK was pretty great and lots of fun, LAK is certainly much more fulfilling albeit stressful. But back to me alone in the dark watching the seconds tick ever so slowly away with my newborn son sleeping in my arms. I am actually happy that I get a chance to write about him from the start and it will make up for the fact that I kept a physical journal about our first pregnancy and newborn experience and instead have been (predictably) a lazy bastard about our youngest boy. The sensations have been similar, but with the experience of our first it gives you a whole new perspective. The confidence is certainly there, but in so many cases the experience with our first is not the same with our second: sleeping, feeding, burping, pooping, crankiness and so on are quite different. The expressions, though, are oddly the same: pensive, angry, hungry, uncomfortable and so on. I cannot wait to see how he develops and how his personality takes over. Although, I must say he seems to have a lot to say already – more than his big brother did – so it’s going to be interesting!

I would compare the second time around to “déjà vu”, you feel you’ve seen it all before, but you just can’t say so for sure.

 

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice…

I am a new dad – again. I get to deal with breastfeeding, poop, burps, spit up and less no sleep. The second time around, though, I realize that the first time was not so bad after all. Newborns really do just eat, poop and sleep. It’s the whining and now jealous older toddler that kills you. I was warned and I read dissertations about it, but as when you become a parent the first time you don’t really get it until you live it. I must premise all of this by saying that I am a lucky man. I have two beautiful and healthy boys and a lovely and loving wife. I had my kids at a time in my life when I was in a good place and was ready (although who am I kidding, you are never really ready for parenthood) to start a family. So for all these reasons I am a happy camper.

Reality is, though, that now it’s just one-on-one. There is no double-teaming my son anymore. He’s got help and no matter how reluctant he may be to have that baby brother around to take away a piece of his pie, he sure loves the added distraction to mom and dad’s vigilance.

It all started a few weeks ago (although my three year old new something was up months ago) when roughly twenty-four hours before we were scheduled to go in for an induction my second son decided he was going to one up his big brother (who was induced) and come out of his own volition.

After a false start we were back in the hospital after only a few hours and chance would have it in the same exact delivery room as my first son. My son also happened to get whisked away to the NICU with me in tow since they were worried he had inhaled some fluid, but it was a false alarm. Sure enough my second son decided that he too must visit the NICU, but this time he wanted yet again to crawl out from under his older sibling’s shadow and stayed there a full week since he actually did inhale fluid.

An earthquake and a hurricane later, we were finally allowed to bring him home and made sure to bring his big brother to the hospital to see him being brought out by myself and the nurse. We wanted him to understand that we hadn’t just bought a baby at the local pharmacy since mom had already come home without a belly or the much talked about baby brother. We even did the whole baby brother gift tactic to smooth things over.

So far I will say there has been no overt Cain and Able moments, but whatever tenderness big brother has shown to baby brother (we caught him reading to baby brother the other day of his own accord) his alter-ego, Big Bad Brother, has stricken down upon us with great vengeance and furious anger. But that my friends is whole other post altogether.

The Parenthood Hymn

There was a game we used to play

We would hit the town on Friday night

And stay in bed until Sunday

We used to be so free

We were living for the love we had and

Living not for reality

 

It was just my imagination

 

(Just My Imagination, Bury The Hatchet – 1999)

 

I find it amazing how the meaning of lyrics to a song that I have listened to for years can change so drastically. Until recently it was another sappy song about love and heartbreak. Now it has become my parenthood hymn and as another great band sings “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’”.

Clichés and growth spurts.

As clichéd as this may sound, it is really astounding how fast kids grow up. Not height wise, mind you, although that is just as incredible, but how Mini Me they become. They pick up on different tones of voice, they can ask for things, they ask about things, they give you attitude, they give you affection, they give you heartburn, they are fiercely independent and stubborn to boot. I am as proud of my son as I am ready to plunk him on the top of his head. He surprises us with words, thoughts and deeds and then a second later drives us nuts with an act of utter stupidity like only a toddler can manage. The need to stay a step ahead is always thwarted by his improvisation and diversion from what is otherwise his self-imposed routine of eating, blankie, playground, snack time, song time etc. As exhausting as it is for parents, I also feel it keeps the mind sharp much like playing Bridge or Chess does.

I do miss the days of eating, pooping and sleeping, but as you watch him mold into his own shape and form his own, albeit often exasperating, thoughts and desires you feel a parent’s pride that despite all the doubts and fears of failing as a parent, you are doing something right (or so I like to tell myself whenever my son is throwing a tantrum at my feet).

“He’s a regular…”

That’s what the kind lady said to me as she walked around the bakery counter and recognized my son sitting in the stroller. She handed him a mini vanilla (or banilla as my son says) cupcake and smiled as he devoured the icing. Luckily he has been less of a regular these days since he is no longer going to the daycare next door. She laughed and said,”he always goes for the icing first. “He ONLY eats the icing”, I thought to myself. She got out of her crouch next to the stroller and mussed his hair, “what a cutie and so well mannered!” (huh?!) And she went back to her other customers.

Half way down he block my son sticks out his now empty crumb encrusted hand and says,”Daaaady?! I want another one!” And stood up in the stroller, harness and all – to punctuate his quasi-interjection.

“You just had one. Sit down and put your feet up. It’s 115 degrees and Daddy is melting faster than the Wicked Witch.”

“Daaaady?!”

“What.”

“I neeeeeed it!”

“No, you really don’t. Let’s go.”

“Daaaady?!”

“What.”(sighing)

“I love you!”

“Nice try. Feet up let’s go.”

The stand off finally ended and I made it home dripping with sweat as my son bounced up and down in the stroller in the grip of a full fledged sugar high. I could just imagine if the bakery had installed a few stools they would greet my son as he walked in with a “Norm!” and he’d slide onto “his” stool and wait for the nice lady behind the counter to slide him a cupcake.

WTF are you looking at?!

So my son is having a full-blown tantrum, what exactly is your problem? I am talking to you old lady. The one shaking her head with that “Oh dear!” look on her face. This is what kids do. Do you think I am enjoying myself? Picking up boxes of cereal off the supermarket floor, or worse splattered produce, is not something I asked for when I walked in with my kid. Listen Blondie. Just wait until you get knocked up and you find burp stains all over that pretty blouse. Think about that while you roll your eyes at me from behind those oversized sunglasses. Am I happy that he keeps pulling up and down the tray table a thousand times before take-off? Of course not, but I am not sure that stuffing him in the overhead bin would stop him from screaming. And yes, I do realize that this business trip you are on, Sir, is considered a vacation from your family, but such is life with a kid (you of all people should know!). Whatever you are thinking in your head is the solution (spanking, reasoning, punishing, pleading…) keep it to yourself because you obviously don’t get it. It’s just not that simple. That’s parenthood and sometimes it just plain sucks. Like right now when my son is spread eagle in the middle of the street kicking and screaming. I deal with it and frankly so should you.

Summer Sanctuaries

With the sweltering heat upon us, the weekends are spent hunting for cool spots (cool as in not hot, but not hot as in uncool rather… oh never mind). This past weekend we had settled under one of our favorite trees in the park for a picnic and some games and within minutes we had packed up and headed off leaving behind gnats, mosquito’s, humidity, and sweaty and spitting softball players (not to mention the constant need to grope themselves to make sure they really are men since, let’s face it, they’re playing softball). Our son was also not taking his usual nap which was making him, well you know, cranky. We were close enough to the Natural History Museum and I thought we could at least distract him and hopefully get him to sleep in the cooler and often darker recesses of the museum’s halls.

Suffice it to say that museums, aquariums and zoos are a Godsend. Chock-full of distractions, they allow you to entertain your kid for hours on end. I know it is no always easy if they decide to make a break for it or pass by the museum shop, but it has been more of a positive experience than a negative one. The yearly memberships are always reasonable (and partly tax deductible) and you waive your membership card and access these sanctuaries when it is too hot or too cold outside.

Dude. Really?! The lifeguard?!

Why does my kid listen to the old lady in the elevator and completely ignores me? That’s more of a rhetorical question in parenthood, but one that I am currently asking often – too often in fact. It’s not so much the ignoring me part because I have learned very quickly that it comes with the territory. It’s the same behavior that the grandparents all react to with the same disdain as they shake their heads and pedantically (petulantly?) state their favorite phrase, “When you were kids you never acted this way…” (yeah right!). Usually this is said over your shoulder as you try to control your kid and his latest rebellious act. It reminds me of my fraternity days when my spite for all that I had to go through when pledging was reversed back onto the new pledges with cutting sarcasm and a heavy dose of jeering at their helplessness and ineptitude – very constructive. Much like kicking someone when they are down except that this is your own flesh and blood doing it to you. But I digress.

Last summer we struggled to get my son to wear his armbands. We tried everything, force, coaxing, bribery, comparison to the older kids, deceit, reverse psychology, you name it we tried it. Then along comes the pimple faced dorky lifeguard and he looks down at our son and says, “Hey buddy! You better put those bad boys on so you can go for a swim.” And yes our son giggling with delight put them on.

What possesses my son to follow the instructions of a perfect stranger? I understand that his early onset rebelliousness is no different than the next three year olds’, but aren’t they supposed to learn “stranger danger” and seek out a parent?!

I have never had to use this much of my brain to outwit, outflank, outrun, out-everything anyone since I was cramming for my SATs and that was multiple-choice.

We have, though, found a quasi-solution. We basically kid swap with friends when we are out at the park or at the museum and find that the ruse works perfectly. If my friend asks my son to take his hand, he will. If he asks him to sit in the stroller, he will. If he asks him if he wants to drink some water, he will. And vice versa their kid will do pretty much anything we ask him or her to do. It’s not perfect, but it’s a Darwinian world out there and parents need to find a way to scramble to the top of the pyramid before their kids do or we’re toast. Wait, what’s that smell?

 

What’s that this one?!

The phrase du jour at my house and unfortunately it has been for the last month. I do try to explain to my son that curiosity killed the cat, but to no avail. I know: How unfair of me! Here is my sweet sponge of a child soaking up his surroundings and thirsty for knowledge to fire off neurons left and right. Does he have to sound like a woodpecker?

“Daddy, daaaaaddy!”

“What?”

“What’s that this one?!”

“That is a fly.”

“Hi fly!”

(Brief pause)

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“What’s that this one?!”

“It’s Daddy’s book.”

“Read it! Reeeead it Daddy!”

“I’m trying.”

“Daaaaddy!”

“Yes?”

“What’s that this one?!”

“That is a dust bunny.”

“Hop! Hop! Hop!”

“Daaaaaddy!”

“What!”

“I love you Daddy! Hug you Daddy?”

Blink. Blink. Goofy smile and puppy dog eyes.

(Why you little…).

The Terrible Threes

I’ve been warned that it would be different. Not necessarily worse, just different. As my son turns three years old the rebellious moments are probably less frequent, but more intense. The tantrums that used to be scattered throughout the day in small burst are now concentrated once or twice during the day, but seem to last an eternity. The stubbornness has intensified and distracting him from whatever seemingly petty issue has set him off becomes more and more difficult. He has learned what buttons to push and the perfect time to push them for maximum returns. Like most wild animals little kids adapt quickly to their environment and learn through their survival instinct how to get what they need (aka what they want at that particular moment) to stay at the top of the food chain. For those of you who know Shrek by heart, he is Puss in boots, using his cuteness as a cunning ruse to catch you flat-footed right before springing his trap. Sucked in by those big eyes and meek manner that he can flip on like a switch you find yourself disarmed as you prepare to discipline or punish him for his latest act of rebellion or worse right before performing such an act.

I always thought I was good, back in my days. When I was a kid I was pretty good at pulling out the whole “do you really thing that a cure thing like me could ever do that?”, but genetics often have a funny way of reinforcing the less desirable strong traits (at least from a parent’s point of view). My wife and I are bracing ourselves and taking solace in a colleague of mine’s story of his teenage son taking his car in the middle of the night during a sleep over with friends and with barely a driving permit among them took off for the nearest town to get a late night snack at the drive thru. It’s good to know that it only gets easier.