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Category: hanging with dad

10 Tips for Surviving the Family Road Trip

Rules for a Family Road Trip

As Spring Break approaches, I’m reminded of the nostalgic family road trip. As a child, I don’t remember a single vacation that was not taken on the highways of America.

When our holidays rolled around, we rolled out of the driveway in our simulated wood-paneled wagon, which was awkwardly hitched to the pop-up camper. Today, people fly, and the family road trip has slipped in popularity along with the fondue parties and potluck dinners of yesteryear. I say we bring it back.

But first, you need to be prepared. Thus…

Top 10 Tips For Surviving a Modern Day Family Road Trip:

1. Don’t Leave the Directions to Dad, Leave Them to the GPS
The problem with dads isn’t that they don’t have good directional skills. It’s that if they get lost, they have too much pride to admit that they don’t have good directional skills. Your father might knowingly drive 1500 miles in the wrong

It Will All Be OK: Assurances to My Infant Son

Nicholas-June-8-2016

It’s shortly after 8:00 pm, and my six-month-old, Nicholas, is inconsolable.

He’s been changed, fed and burped. He’s been read to in a soothing, upbeat tone in comedic contrast to his panicky, bloody-murder shrieks. He is up on my shoulder, snug in his sleep sack, wailing away as I gently pat his back.

My voice drops to a half-notch above a whisper as I nuzzle my mouth next to Nicholas’ ear.

“It’s all gonna be OK,” I promise, unconvincingly.

It will all be OK. This, like all moments big and small, shall pass. You’ll settle down, do your adorable little stretch-yawn, and sleep. And when you wake up, you’ll have the benefit, exclusive to infancy, of having remembered none of this trauma.

It will all be OK. Considering the desperate or downtrodden environments into which you could have been born, you lucked out. You have two married parents, each of whom has good jobs. You

College Tour: You Can’t Go Home Again

Photo by: Ken Zirkel (Flickr CC)

As our Corolla rounded the last turn on the Maine country road, unresplendent now with foliage as ground cover, my alma mater’s monolithic athletic complex cropped up suddenly, separating the boondocks from academia.

The gym was my savior in the bitterly cold Maine winters, when even on a sunny day the sun was a slacker. Unlike a lot of my outdoorsy classmates who loved the winter for the skiing, skating, snow-shoeing and snow-yellowing, I was an indoor guy. I would have gone stir crazy without nights of pick-up B-ball with my friends in the cozy gym. It was a luxury to work up an enjoyable sweat in a -15 degree world.

But the real fun was getting back to my dorm in the Martian environment that awaited outside. The athletic complex was a campus outpost, several icy walkways and parking lots from the dorm. Even dressed in my artic parka, the trek

Love in the Time of Rainbow Dash

Photo: Hina Ichigo (Flickr CC)

“She wants to dress up as Rainbow Dash for Halloween,” I explained to my wife about our four-year-old daughter’s request for a costume.

“What the hell is a Rainbow Bash?” she asked.

“Okay, first of all, it’s Rainbow Dash, not Bash,” I said in the tone of a petulant five year old. “A Rainbow Bash sounds like the after-party of a Pride parade. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, is a Pegasus.”

“A what?” she asked.

“A Pegasus. A horse that can fly. They’re one of three species of horse that populate Ponyville.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

I inhaled. “Ponyville is a town in the land of Equestria. Canterlot, of course, is the capital city of Equestria. Anyways, Ponyville is where Princess Celestia sent Twilight Sparkle, her prize student, to study and learn from the interactions among the residents and thus learn more about interpony relationships.”

“I understood four words from what you just

Trying on the Coach’s Hat

Photo by Jarl Berg (Flickr CC)

When my wife suggested that we coach an under-four YMCA soccer team; I felt a deep internal groan bellow throughout my being.

I had questions. I uncovered that my wife’s best friend had sent out feelers for coaches. I guess finding a fearless leader for four year olds was a difficult task.

Another piece of this puzzle was that my wife was a shade over three months pregnant with our first child. This was supposed to be a selling point to prepare ourselves for endeavors to follow.

She wanted me to coach a team of wildling children who may or may not be interested in the sport of soccer. I played soccer when I was a young boy, and at some point mentioned this to my attentive wife. Her maternal instinct mixed with the fact that I knew the basic rules of a sport equaled a signed, sealed and delivered proposal.

I will admit

How Reading to My Kids Changed Our Relationship

Reading to children

 

I love spending quality time with my kids, but the hectic pace of life gets in the way. From their school activities to my work, it’s rare that we get to do more than just pass each other on the way to our respective engagements.

But I’ve discovered one thing that lets me to carve out time with my children, and it doesn’t take (much) time or money: Reading a book together.

Reading a bedtime story every night has actually changed my relationship with my kids.

When my wife and I were first starting out, money was tight. I was in graduate school full time and also working full time when our oldest son was just three years old. I knew the time I was putting into school and my job would create a better life for him, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on some

Sleep Deprived/Sleep Depriver

Sleep Deprived Parent

10 Things Never to Say to Your Pregnant Wife

Tatiana Vdb

I’ve been there, done that, and now can share: Ten things you should never say to your pregnant wife.

1. Well yes, you are putting on weight! But to be fair to you, you haven’t trained in ages and have eaten whatever you wanted for six months. Given all that, you look okay.
2. While watching “One Born Every Minute”: “Oh my god, the stretch marks on that woman are horrendous. No amount of cream is getting rid of them!”
3. When the baby comes, it’ll be okay if I sleep in the spare room, so you can breastfeed and I can get some sleep, right?
4. When the baby comes, I’ll still be okay to go out a few nights a week with my friends, right?

5. Actually, now you mention it, I have noticed a few hormonal changes in you.

6. You don’t look pregnant in that dress, just a bit overweight, which is

The Definition of Insanity

Child Reading, by Dihl et Guerhard Manufactory (Boston, MA)

 

There’s nothing sweeter or more rewarding than reading to kids. Or so I thought, until this happened:

My one year old brings a book over, saying “Hi Da-Da!” and wants to sit on my lap.

His book of choice: “Snuggle Puppy,” and I read it with spirit and enthusiasm. He loves it. When it’s over, he holds the book up and says, “More!”

Obviously I’m a hit. Sure.

Oh wait, what’s that?

You want to read Snuggle Puppy a third time?

Why sure! But this time I change up the voices, add some snaps to jazz it up and give him a huge raspberry to the neck for a spectacular grand finale to this Snuggle Puppy Trilogy … an encore Bruce Springsteen would envy.

Huh. I must be really good at this because now it’s all Snuggle Puppy, all the time.

A fourth reading has been strongly requested and of course I fulfill it. Obviously my award-winning raspberry-ending

Port-a-Potty Parenting 101

Port-a-Potty Parenting 101

I’m always on potty watch. It’s my God-given duty to take care of the dooty. I can’t stand it. It’s the bane of my existence. Anything pleasurable to me is a trigger for them. Sitting down to a movie, pouring a cup of fresh coffee taking that first bite of ice cream; someone always has to poop. It’s always an emergency, and if we’re out of the house, it’s always in the most vile latrine I’ve ever seen and smelled.

Independence Day, 2014. I knew it would happen. I planned ahead. I made sure all children went potty before we left. I forced them to poop. I threatened to take away toys, I threatened to take away TV. I was serious.

Satisfied that all poops were out, we joyfully set up camp along the lakeshore to enjoy the annual celebratory fireworks. It was a beautiful evening; hot and clear, no bugs, a

Holding On

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roland/254481373/in/photolist-ouhrT-4Rpopg-8ZYcxi-K3z4v-vWViM-bXxdXm-Uysq-hS8jb1-5Gn9AU-obv8q6-8c2Qne-rmArRs-fYGk5-7WsDG8-ek2mes-724ARX-5zM9LZ-5DPXgo-7enmvo-oom1Mf-8mjUSf-c2v1jN-qihZr3-usryf-4uaqGB-rgqZXk-aLPLs-qAzFpp-5MW23a-7X4KRw-9bpCS-2fqC2-oDHG1r-81Fk59-fmehmd-op6vdo-7CeDhn-9fgYLg-3Mzwp-6GjMfQ-k3iA6-9aDaa-MxynM-29g2A-cPvNh-2Yx2Jo-aUkFSH-aK6aEX-jGgBW-8eWrt2

He’s too old to need this. He shouldn’t need to be cuddled and huddled to sleep. But I do it. I shouldn’t need it either. But we’re simpatico this way.

Like him, I too am refusing some transitions now that I know there’ll likely be no return, no future facsimile, no one ever who will need me this way again. It’s really hard early on, but it’s also so simple. The hours are neverending but the repeated need–once the electricity is on, the fridge is stocked, the house is clean and warm, the bum is wiped, powdered and covered–is just love. Hugs and kisses and cuddles. It’s all I need really. Its what he gives me in exchange for everything I can provide him.

I’m getting the better end of the deal. It’s not even that close.

He was sleep trained before. At least this part. The “going to bed” part of the

Drowning in Mucus: A Love Story

Drowning in Mucus

You stand alone in the kitchen sipping coffee, enjoying a quiet morning sunrise when you hear a tiny sneeze. Normally this would be odd, but you’re holding a baby, so it’s just cute.

Especially when the baby smiles because she finds sneezing funny.

Coffee in one hand, baby in the other. Out of the corner of your eye you notice something other than the smile on the baby’s face. Actually, you notice two things: two long strands of thick, yellow mucus oozing out of her nostrils.

She doesn’t seem to notice them, as the hilarity of the sneeze occupies her mind enough to ignore the sensation of the fluid leaking out of her face. Then her fist twitches, and starts to move.

The flash of a possible future barrels through your mind… the tiny fist, smearing mucus over her face in a wide swath… caked and crusty eyebrows… eyelashes delicately holding droplets of snot,

This Father’s Day, Appreciation for my Co-Parent

photo by John McElhenney

I’m divorced, with two wonderful kids (ages 14 and 12). This Father’s Day, I’m giving respect and love to the mother of my children. She’s a hard working, strong loving and efficient woman. As our kids’ counselor said, “It takes two strong parents to raise such smart and happy children.”

She’s always been clear about providing the best experience and opportunities for our kids. Maybe that’s how the divorce came to light for her. Somehow, along the way, she decided that “apart” would be healthier for her and for the kids.

We did our best, but we didn’t anticipate some of the changes that would take place in our marriage. We don’t always deal with them very well. At least now, the arrangements will be spoken and negotiated in the open.

We had money issues in the marriage. We have money issues as co-parents. Perhaps it was this issue that caused the divorce

Lice of the Party

Lice

“You still have a fever. You can’t go to the party.”

“But daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad, daaaaaaaaaaaaaady, everyone will be there. It’s my first sleepover party. You’re so mean. I’m never talking to you again!”

And so it goes. Back and forth between mom and dad, trying to drive a wedge between resolute (wife) and wavering (dad), my highly motivated, high-fevered daughter is turning up the heat, doing anything and everything to get herself to that sleepover. Even if her parents separate, divorce and reconcile all in the same night.

But we hold firm, barely. And so she goes to sleep overwrought, and over medicated with bubble gum-flavored Motrin®. Today’s battle won, we go to sleep ready for the tests and tribulations that come with the perils and pitfalls of tween parenting.

Cells buzzing, phones ringing, we are awoken to a cacophony of sound. Someone is sounding the alarm and we rise to the reverie of suburban

Wild Family: This Super-Scary Thing We Do

Wild Family

I met my wife, Kate, when her son, Daniel, was almost two. It felt like a family from the beginning, complete with hill rolling, kite flying, a bubble machine, and peas in my water glass. Kate and I were married in the same year we met, and our daughter, Rosalie, quickly joined us. Then came the perpetual messes, screams in car seats, sleepless nights, diaper hell, and arguing. Our third child arrives this fall.

I used to think I’d be a natural dad, but it’s been hard for me to find my groove. I’ve invested in relationship counseling, psychotherapy, parenting coaching. We have a shelf-full of books on parenting, but it feels as if each one only worsens the pressure I feel to perform at my best at all times. But how’s a guy supposed to perform at his peak when he’s stressed about bills, low on sleep and sex, knee-deep in

Music to His Ears

Richard Thompson

One of my happiest memories as a father is the night I took my son to see a musician who wrote one of the saddest songs ever written.

For close to 25 years, I’ve been a fan of cult singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, formerly with the 1960s folk-rock band Fairport Convention. My wife, Beth, and I chose one of his songs for the first dance at our wedding, I wear my Richard Thompson baseball cap regularly and I refer to my autographed songbooks to look up his lyrics.

Those lyrics, though, posed a bit of a problem for a father trying to introduce his very young son to music and musicians. The words are almost always dark, bleak, biting and bitter. The lyrics for arguably the Most Depressing Song Ever portray a man talking to an infant:

Life seems so rosy in the cradle, but I’ll be a friend, I’ll tell you what’s in

What to Expect … When You’re a Dad

What to expect when you're a Dad

So you’re sitting there, it’s evening, and you’re watching TV. It’s been a long day and you’re exhausted. Your mind is drained; carrying on a conversation at this point would be as daunting as advanced calculus to a four year old.

You happen to glance to the side to see an inquisitive preschooler eyeballing you up and down as if you’re a space invader who just moonwalked to her front door.

“Why are you staring at me like that baby?” I asked.

“Daddy, you’re a boy … Do you have a wiener?” my daughter inquired.

I felt as though I had just walked face-first into a glass door. That question took me completely by surprise.

Clueless as to the appropriate response to give a three year old, my brain just threw up its hands and said, “You’re on your on bub.” I was torn between not wanting to lie to her and knowing this wasn’t the

The First Two Years with Bruce

The First Two Years

[This is a special edition of Great Moments in Parenting: a mother (Lola) and a father (Jason) perform a written duet to peel back the curtain on the first two years of life with their baby ( Bruce).]

LOLA: I remember being told that women forget the pain of childbirth; that they have to, or else they would never be willing to do it again. What I was not told is that this is true for the first six months of the baby’s life. When new mothers ask me for advice about the first few months, I feel like someone trying to recall a particularly debaucherous music festival: “I don’t know, man … I mean, I know I was there, but it’s all kind of lost in a haze of crying and vomit …”

JASON: Speaking of vomit, there was an awful lot of that during those first months, not all of it Bruce’s either.

LOLA: Yup. I remember that first experience of all three of us being sick at the same time. I was taking care of you, I was taking care of Bruce, and during a fit of particularly excruciating stomach cramps I remember thinking, “Who’s going to take care of me?” That was a harsh realization that I still struggle with: Not only did I need to learn to care for this new, tiny person, but I also needed to re-learn how to take care of myself. “Moms don’t get sick days” is a cliché but it’s true. If I don’t treat self-care as a serious responsibility, I’m putting the care of my family on a very shaky foundation.

JASON: I suck so bad at being sick … sorry for all the puke.

LOLA: Oh I’m over it. It’s the carpet that never quite recovered.

JASON: What no one tells you about the first six months is that they will last approximately three years …

The Playboy Effect: Does Youth Equal Beauty?

The Playboy Effect

Back before the Internet, Playboy Magazine was a head rush for the imagination of curious little boys. Finding a Playboy somewhere was like a high that lasted for lustful days, depending on your imagination and usage. Needless to say, it was the gateway drug for things to come in our sexual futures.

But of course Playboy Magazine offered a very top-heavy, warped version of attainable beauty and theoretical romance. Yes, those beautiful women existed–you could see they were real in the pictures (this was before Photoshop). But some of us got stuck there with the Playboy bunny as the ideal female. Rarely was there a woman in our sphere (much less interested in us) who could fulfill our reinforced fantasy of a sexy woman.

Jump-cut to today, and the concerns that free access to pornography is corrupting young boys’ minds and their expectations of sexual fulfillment. Often the pornography is sublimating the actual pursuit of a real “flesh and blood” relationship. As in the movie Don Juan, how can Scarlett Johannsen even come close to the raw punch of 19-year-olds ready for action?

As an adult I know my early experience with Playboy Magazine–and seeing an unrealistic body type that was accompanied by “breast-waist-hip” measurement–has had a lingering effect on my sexual preferences.

And the current mainstream media obsession with rail-thin 19-year-olds is similarly unrealistic. Even my 11-year-old daughter is considering dieting because of the images she sees in pre-teen magazines. It’s gross, what we’ve done to objectify women’s bodies, and how far we’ve distorted those images.

The Perfect Anniversary Gift

Sharing their lives with each other

What do you get the woman you love to celebrate 16 years of marriage? In my case, I knew the answer. There’s only one thing my wife wants more than anything else, and that’s a healthy future for our son.

Along with being a bright, energetic, playful kid with a quirky sense of humor, our son