Just let me lie here for a while…

As Spring continues to stumble out of the blocks, I fell victim to the tail-end of Winter as I got sick like I have rarely been. My son brought home one of the many bugs crawling around daycare any given day and luckily it was on a Friday night that he started sliming over. We did not get much sleep over the weekend, but that beats losing weeknight sleeps for a 9-to-5er like myself. My son is actually rather cuddly and extremely well behaved when he gets the sniffles, albeit a bit whiney. He’ll crawl onto the coach or into the bed next to us clutching his blankie and nestle curl up into a tiny ball with watering eyes and runny nose. Some eucalyptus rub helps get him through the night and lots of orange juice, hot milk and water do the rest. Kids are kids so max 48 hours and he is up and running (although I have video proof of him running wild around the apartment with 103 fever). There is nothing new about a child’s natural resilience.

Us old farts on the other hand have the resilience of dry bark and as I dragged myself to the office that Monday I felt very much again to a log. Or rather that infamous bump on the log. We are used to get a little bit of the sniffles ourselves. Comes with the parenting job description. Nothing you can’t shake of with a little will power and OJ. By Monday evening I was getting the shivers and I felt my eyes watering. I’ll spare you the next four days, but the fever hovered on average around the 103.5 mark. Now in the pre-parenting days I would on the rare occasion I got hit this bad, crawl under a comforter and create a sweat lodge in bed for a day or so. Sleep all day. Soup. Sleep. Moan. Groan. Tylenol. Tissues. Shower. Moan. Sweat. Sleep. And finally I would emerge in tip top shape. Well kids, as we all know, don’t care what you did before them. They live in the now. As in “I want it now!” or “I need it now!” And my son is no exception. As I lay face down in my own snot shivering uncontrollably and trying to picture myself on a tropical island beach bathed in sunlight and a cooled by a gentle sea breeze my son landed on my rib cage with both knees. “Daddy! Daddy! Coooome!” What the…?! “Daaaaaddyyyy!” What! “Daaaaadddyyy! Come walking! Come read Cat Hat!” Honey?! Help?! “Daaaaady!” Can you stop pulling my finger I thing you dislocated it? Where’s your mother?! “Mommy’s in the kitchen. Daaaaady! Come! Come! Daddy! Now!” Please God, I know I don’t come to church often, but I’ll owe you one buddy… “Daaaady! Come waaaaaalking!” The latest tug on my finger is so painfully that I try clumsily to twist away and land on the floor with a sickening thud. Ouch. “Daddy! Get up! Wake up! Mommy daddy needs to wake up!” Where am I and why won’t the voice in my head go away? “Daddy? Boo-boo? Mommy, Daddy boo-boo needs ice!” No little man I’m fine just let me lie down here for a few hours. No don’t put ice on me. Arrrrgh! That was cold. I hear him scurry off. I drift back to sleep on the hardwood floor. In the distance I hear my wife’s voice “What are you doing down there?!” Just inspecting the floor for scratches. “Get back into to bed and stop goofing around with your son. You’re never going to get better if you just lie on the floor!” So I crawl back into bed which, as Bill Cosby famously said, “is where I wanted to be in the first place!”


Our inside joke and the blogosphere…

I happened upon an old blog of mine the other day from 2007 called Verba Manent Scripta Volant (purposefully put in the that order) that marks my very first interest in putting something up on the web. It is similar to my The Dapper Dad blog (both on WP and tumblr) where I mainly talk about my love of style, pens, stationery and such. Blogger was at the time the option that was readily available to me and I thought I would be blogging forever. As is often the case, a couple of posts into it I dropped the ball.

As I looked through the few posts I still have up on that old blog, I started thinking about what blogging is all about. I have seen the evolution over time albeit not as intently as over the last year when I happened upon the blogosphere again and fell in love (again?). I have seen weblogs evolve from simple online diaries with thoughts, poems, ramblings and text more or less organized, comprehensible and grammatically correct into web pages with sidebars, feeds, ads and other bells and whistles (some more or less interesting and useful). When I first started, I felt I was talking to myself, which I guess was the original intent of a weblog, but the content I was putting out there was (in my naive mind) meant to be shared and discussed. I think I was discouraged to continue blogging back in 2007 (ironically) by reading other blogs and reading comments and realizing that what I had to say was not reaching the right people if anyone at all (the tools we have today were not there and you really had to keep at it to build a group of readers).

A few years later (or a century in Internet terms) I find myself inside a wonderful community of parents and people with whom, for the most part, I can relate and share thoughts with because of the common thread that brings us together – parenthood.

This does not mean that we raise our kids the same way or believe in the same things or that we share the same values, but raising children is our inside joke whether we like it or not. From that foundation we can find a greater affinity to some as opposed to others thanks to all those details that make me prefer talking about pens and watches and the next person to talk about their stamp collection and the other’s love of Klein’s IKB paintings.

There are also many different ways to transmit our Morse code to each other via Blogger or WordPress or tumblr or Posterous and many others. There are so many blogs out there that I wish I had time to read, but as parents know all too well there are not enough hours in the day to be parents let alone experiment blogging platforms (although I am crazy enough to try several). I am sure that a few years for now the mouthpieces available to each of us will multiply and morph adding layers and variations to the already multi-colored blogosphere. I can’t wait!

Who needs mommy?! I can handle my son on my own…

I recently wrote a sort of poem to single parents over at Dad Revolution (with typos and no rhyme or meter). I do not want to renege on that declaration of love and as far as I am concerned my opinion stands despite what I am about to write.

I have a hypothesis and a very unscientific approach to proving it. I believe that with all variables staying the same, a child is more apt to behave in the presence of one parent than if both are present.

I know. This has Noble prize written all over it and who really cares if I am not the first to think of it.

My son has a gift, like most toddlers, to smell frustration. Just like dogs smell fear in their master and a class of teenagers can sense weakness in a teacher. He gets you at your most vulnerable. Early morning, when you are sick, after an irritating call and a really bad day at work – he knows and uses it to his full advantage.

When you are alone with him, though, there is really not much room for his skullduggery. He cannot run off calling the other parent’s name or throw a tantrum that breaks one of you first so that you help plead his case in a similar whiny voice to the other.

I had my son all to myself for four days and four nights (as I said my methodology was not scientific per se) and I noticed that there was a remarkable shift of power towards the parent once the little guy saw that he could not play his highly successful “prisoner’s dilemma”-like mind games on me and my wife.

He seemed rather helpless the last two days when his calls for “mommy” echoed through the empty apartment reverberating off the walls unanswered. I caught myself grinning a few times as I realized that I was gaining the upper hand despite the constant ringing in my ears and throbbing in my head. Who needs aspirin when you hold the key to breaking your kid?

My hypothesis was further verified upon my wife’s return. You could see my son’s mind racing behind his fake puppy dog eyes as he held on to my wife for dear life as soon as she walked in the door. The crocodile tears were a master stroke. She consoled him, hugging him tightly and whispering how much she missed him. He gently placed his head on her shoulder and as she turned away his face came into full view. Our eyes met for a brief moment and I felt the power drain from me as I saw that all too familiar twinkle in his eyes. It was good while it lasted, but the power balance had been reestablished in one fell swoop and I suddenly felt exhausted again.

Flying solo…

I’m pretty psyched (he said with a touch of sarcasm). On Sunday morning my beautiful wife, the mother of my sweet boy is leaving on a four-day business trip. “Oh Crap!” you say? That was what I thought when she first revealed her dastardly plan to evade parenthood using the centuries-old excuse of “I have to work.” What kind of an excuse is that? I have to work too you know! Who is going to take my son’s right flank when we need to dress him for school in the morning? Who is going to distract him when I sneak off to read a chapter of my book in the bathroom? Who is going to listen to me bitch and moan about whatever I want to bitch and moan about at any given moment? This is a disaster!

That’s what I was thinking when she first broke the news to me, but then I got to thinking. Sunday is supposed to be a lovely autumn day here in the Big Apple. We can walk to his favorite swing set and run around for a bit in the park. Then head off to the Natural History Museum and see the dinosaurs and the big blue whale. Another stroll in the park, something to eat and he’ll fall asleep for his afternoon nap. I can read my book without hiding in a bathroom. When he wakes up we can go to his favorite ice cream place (don’t tell mom) and then to the zoo (so it’s not the Bronx zoo, but he loves the sea lions and it’s all about the boy, right?). Some more playground time should bring us close to home and dinner. A series of “I don’t waaaant it!” before settling for his Greek yogurt with honey. Some time playing with his beloved cars or rather parking his beloved cars that he hands to me (as you’ve heard from me before he’s got lots and lots of them). Wrestle him towards the bathtub (more “I don’t waaaaant it!”) and then wrestle him out of the bathtub (more “I don’t waaaaant it!”). Chase him to put his PJs on. Eventually get him to bed. Dance a little happy jig. Turn Neanderthal. Drag my knuckles and club to the kitchen. Grab chips and beer and watch whatever I want (don’t tell mom).

Monday will be a challenge. My office is open, but school is not. Sucks for me, right? Well the morning will be a field trip with my son coming to the office with me (I am lucky enough that I can do this) and people there will actually be happy to see him. I can get some things out of the way before the novelty wears off and he gets bored (this will happen before anyone in the office gets bored of cooing about him). He does not know this part of town much so I can probably walk around and show him how different the fire engines and police cars look. Then up to the park to sample different playgrounds, lunch and nap. Daddy checks in with work. When he wakes up his favorite treat: the carousel. I need to buy at least three go-rounds because otherwise there is no way to pry his grip off of the horse. Then his favorite swing set on the way home. Nightly routine. Happy jig. Choice of beverage, snacks and programming.

Tuesday and Wednesday I return to the work force full time which is actually sort of sad because I will only get the worst of the morning “get ready for school” tantrums and not a lot of tickle time and parking cars in the evening.

And then my loving wife returns well rested and relaxed after her vacat… business trip.

nyc listings > manhattan > parenting > relocation > no fee

2yr old / male / needs potty training / frequent tantrums / does not like to get changed / does not like to eat anything / only drinks milk / does not listen / must have cars and trains at all times / likes sirens and loud noises which he imitates over and over and over again / must ride bus or taxi cab at least once a day / obsessed with swings and other children’s tricycles / whines / average diaper change takes 45 – 50 minutes / wants PJs during the day and street clothes at night / uses the interjection “No!” very often / will scream because Tonka dump truck does not fit into Thomas the Tank Train shed / will go nuts if you pass a Mister Softee truck without purchasing ice cream even if already eating one / did I mention that he uses the expression “No!” frequently? / WARNING: will use pouts, smiles, gleeful laughs and hugs to manipulate and elicit pity and love / etc. etc. etc.

Open-ended loan. I am willing to provide transportation to new location (U.S. and Canada only – International rates and customs will be the sole responsibility of recipient). Return transportation is available when he is potty trained and starts to behave himself. No need for updates as long as long-term parental goals are met.

First come first serve so hurry up! Don’t let this unique opportunity get away!

Tell ‘em what he wins…

If you immediately thought of a car then you are spot on. My son has reached that two-year-old milestone – he’s car obsessed. Not the “I like cars.” obsessed, but the “I need to see cars, ride in cars, eat and sleep in them, I have to park them exactly as I want to, don’t move them once they are exactly how I put them, if I hand you a car you have to telephathically know exactly what to do with it or you are in for what I like to call ‘tantrum lighting round’ and make sure that I don’t catch you trying to put my cars anywhere other than in the middle of the dark room where you will certainly step on them and kill yourself falling backwards – I have to love ’em and squeeze ’em and call ’em George” kind of obsessed. Raise your hand if your little boy has never done this… Anyone?

So aside from the suitcase of cars that we brought with us to Italy and the boxes of cars that the relatives already had prepared for him upon arriving he also was constantly hoarding other kid’s cars (his cousins’, the neighbors’ etc.). I caught him trying to stuff an actual FIAT 500 into his pocket in the parking lot.

The first thing he says in the morning after screaming “Daddy Milk, Please!” directly into my ear is “Macchina! Macchina!” (car in Italian). We spent hours during our vacation in the parking lot with him running to each and every single car (there were 63… yup I counted them) pointing at them and delightedly declaring with a genuinely surprised twinkle in his eye: “Oooooo Macchina! Che bella…” as if it was the first time he saw it. You all have those goofy smiles on your face, don’t you? Probably thinking to yourself: “Aww well isn’t that the cutest…” What about me?! That’s right. Does anyone give a rat’s ass that I had to spend 12.5% of each day of the last three weeks (about 3 hours) in a freaking parking lot looking at the same cars over and over and over again? Well, someone should because I sure feel sorry for myself.

That was not enough, though, to satiate his hunger for cars. He wanted, nay, needed more. Like a Rhesus monkey looking to earn his next banana (or whatever the lab gives them for figuring out a puzzle) he parks his toy cars either in an “S” or in perfect rows. He drives them around and then parks them. Do not touch them lest the little monkey gnashes its teeth and lashes out at you! If you are unfortunate enough to pass by during this operation and he feels that he needs an assistant he orders you to ”Sit, Daddy!” and now you are in trouble. He passes you a car and you dutifully place it next to the other parked cars at which point you are berated “No!” and he swats your hand. OK. So maybe I do a lap with the car and then try to park it? “No!” Right. So how about driving it up my arm? “No! No!” Relax. How about under my leg, around my back, hop on one foot, flap my arms, over my head and park it? Silence. He hands me the next car as I feel sweat starting to trickle down my back.

Just when you think you’ve gotten the routine down you board a plane with even more cars than before and pray that he will just play quietly and sleep for most of the flight. Well it turns out that he does just that, but he will need a volunteer from the audience. ”Daddy?”. Yes? “Macchina!” Right. Over the head. Under the arm. Behind… “No!” Under the arm and then over the head? “No!”

Needless to say the flight was a good nine hours and only when the pilot announced our initial decent into JFK did my son finally fall silent and hand me another car.

A lifesaver without the hole…

As soon as the words “diaper change” come out of my mouth, a flurry of “No! No! No!” is left hanging in the room as my son scurries off to the farthest corner of the apartment he can find. This is followed by what, to the outsider or uninitiated (a.k.a. non-parent), may seem like an idyllic scene of father chasing around his son who shrieks with delight at the game. Look a little closer and you will notice the grimace on the father’s face and a mixed expression of amusement and apprehension on the son’s. After a couple of fakes around the dining room table I can usually grab my son and immediately cup the back of his head in my hand as he makes his first evasive maneuver by going completely limp. I accompany his head to the floor as he tucks and rolls away all the time yelling “No! No! No!”. He then attempts another mad dash while wiggling his whole body to get me to release my grip. As I scoop him up he attempts his most daring and dangerous move – the backwards somersault. It’s certainly an Olympic moment as he tries to push off, arms forming a perfect “Y”, his back curving backwards and his head snapping back for momentum. This is followed by a quick lurch forward with head hurtling back towards my face. I have learned to move my head to avoid contact after the first few swollen lips, but my reflexes are not what they used to be so I find that I must start the motion while he is still executing his back flip. Given his strength and purpose I really should pile drive him into the changing table and knock the wind out of him to settle him down, but he’s a kid or so the little voice in my head tells me in the heat of the moment, so I attempt to lay him gently onto the table – flailing arms, splayed legs and all.

Now comes the hard part. He does not want to part with his sopping wet stinky diaper. No Sir. And he tells you that in no uncertain terms: “No! No! No!” while pushing your hands away and holding onto his diaper as he does with his beloved blankie. This is where it gets tricky. He barely fits on the changing table and so his sustained struggle to maintain possession of his stinky diaper is causing him to teeter on the edge and to threaten falling off the table. Even a solid forearm and elbow pin cannot stop him these days (left arm and elbow slanted across torso while left hand unfastens and fastens the diaper and also secures the ankles for the lift and tuck). The right hand works feverishly to wipe, remove stinky diaper, apply cream, replace and fasten a new diaper. All of this while avoiding direct contact with the stinky part of the diaper. When the wriggling is too intense contact is, unfortunately, inevitable. And to think of how worried I was when we first brought him home two years ago. My main concern then was how do I change his diaper without breaking him?

We are at a point now where diaper changes – for everyone’s safety – must occur on the floor. This gives him unlimited roll around range so the traditional changing pads are practically useless. This is bad news for our rugs since stinky diaper stuff transfers so easily. I have, though, found a pad that is a lifesaver in more ways than one. I recently met Grace, the inventor of the patemm changing pad. It seems so simple and yet she’s the only one who thought of a round changing pad. For my current diaper change situation it’s perfect and I will say that I wish I had found it sooner because it would have saved me a lot of grief. Just to be clear it is not an ultra-portable pad, but the padding and the configuration are, in my opinion worth it. There are plenty of patterns to choose from as well as laminated (for the spill prone) and non-laminated cotton versions. For the patriots, the pad is Made in USA. For the worrywarts, the pads are free of lead, phthalate, latex, BPA, or formaldehyde. These are durable pads that will grow with your kids until they no longer need diapers so you will only need to make the purchase once unless you are a shopaholic or want to make sure you have different colors to match all of your diaper bags. The patemm pad has certainly cut down the diaper change time for me from 30 minutes to 20 minutes which these days is another small parenting victory.

The Demolition Man…

Hollywood endings, as we all know, are limited to the movies and by our willingness to suspend our disbelief – almost never in real life. For this reason, actors, or I should say the best actors, are able to immerse themselves convincingly into various roles and personas so that we are tricked into thinking they really are who they are pretending to be. Keeping this in mind let me say that there is nothing more exciting as a parent than watching your child explore and interact with the world around them. This includes their face lighting up at a new discovery. Beaming with pride when they learn to stack the Legos so high they can’t reach the top of the stack. Learning new words and shouting them to anyone and everyone they meet on the street. Basically, accomplishing anything and everything that draws the “ooos” and “awws” from the parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents. This feat-enhancing form of parental flattering is augmented by the presence of the aforementioned audience and creates even greater performances – until the camera (or Skype video chat) stops rolling.

That is when my son’s alter ego – the Demolition Man – comes out to play and takes over from the Bob The Builder version of my son who just exited stage-left.

This newest cast member is a mix of Curious George and The Incredible Hulk with a good dose of MacGyver ingenuity sprinkled in.

The Demolition Man’s appearances all start with an eerie silence followed by a rapid succession and crescendo of audible cues such as crackling, thumping, bumping, crashing, splintering, banging etc. Long pause. Gleeful and delighted cackle. Grand finale noise combination (in no particular order) of “Whoop!” “Thump!” “Bash!” “Crack!”. Silence. More gleeful cackling. Jazz hands (OK so that is a visual cue, but I swear I can hear it!).

My wife and I exchange a sidelong glance and do a best-of-three rock-paper-scissor session before one of heads of to investigate. It doesn’t take long to get to the scene of the crime (remember we live in one of those closet apartments that are rampant throughout New York) and as it swings into view your blood starts to boil.

You try the whole “breath and count to 10…” routine, but as you take in the devastation – millions of tiny pieces of (fill-in-the-blank) are scattered, splattered, splintered, smeared across the floor, walls and ceiling – your frayed parenting nerves take a major hit. There is Demolition Man smack dab in the middle of the eye of the storm holding the last surviving piece of the Lego Firefighter House that he just pulverized, babbling away all content and satisfied with his handy work. He looks up at you with that grin, you know the one that could start a war it’s so smug, and just as you are about to have a full fledged conniption, Demolition Man is gone – vanished into thin air.

There in his place is Super Cute and Cuddly Boy and with a twinkle in his eye and that honey drip voice he looks you straight in the eyes and utters the most disarming phrase in parenthood: “Daddy?” The delivery is perfect. Timing, posture, nuance, syllabication – forget the Oscars this is the big leagues. And just like that, I find myself in that classic Hollywood ending as I scoop him up into a hug and toss him high into the air as the sun dips behind the horizon just behind him and he giggles with glee and… Hey, wait a minute!

What do May flowers bring…

Maybe it’s the last teeth pushing through or the start of potty training or the separation anxiety that has started or just early onset “Terrible Twos”, but I suspect the main culprit for the sudden spike in my son’s tantrums is that he is sick of Winter. I can’t really blame him. I’m sick of Winter, too and this year more so because of my son. Not because of my son mind you.

Fact is that 99.99% of New Yorkers live inside storage closets converted into apartments (the other .01% works for Goldman Sachs) so unless you are a sailor in a submarine there is now way you can appreciate what living in tight quarters means (enough with the giggles, boys). Spring is, therefore, welcomed by those of us who are in desperate need of opening up the “cages” and letting our little ones run rampant in the various parks around the City.* This is something that those of you in the warmer parts of the country and world do not have to worry about, but for us “4 Seasons” folks the first Winter thaw brings wide smiles and winks amongst perfect strangers.

Setting aside the urban versus suburban debate with it’s many nuances and necessary premises, there is nothing like taking your kids outdoor and letting them loose, unburdened by heavy clothing and hats, and watching them chase each other, running to and fro and hearing them laughing (and, of course, occasionally whining). They are just happier. They are happier even when they get their scrapes and cuts, bumps and bruises and whatever other minor accidents that are unavoidable when playing in the park – short of bubble wrapping them (and even then they would find a way!). In my new life as a dad, this is something I look forward to and more than ever appreciate.

Luckily, it is Friday and I will try to wrap up my workday quickly so I can join my wife and son in a foray into Central Park to soak in the first inklings of Spring.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

*Yes, the use of a capital “C” is intentional. It’s an annoying habit for anyone who does not live here 😉