Second Verse. (Not the) Same as the First.

We had our second son on Wednesday. Jack Peter now has a little brother. Reid Parker. We take him home today.

Already, I’ve a new parental philosophy. (In my mind, I can see Angela Chase fix Jordan Catalano with that look. “You have a philosophy?” I miss My So-Called Life.)

Different. Not better. Just different.

It’s a mantra, a Buddist ‘om’ said between breaths. Having two of anything begs comparison. As parents, my wife and I have no other frames of reference.

One came out with a full head of Blagojevich-esque hair (Jack.) One did not. (Reid.) One came quick and easy. (Reid.) One did not. (Jack.) One makes a lot of noise, little mews and cries. (Reid.) One didn’t. (Jack.)

This list could go on, stretching well into their adulthood. It is my sacred mission as a father to make sure that it doesn’t.

My worry is that these kinds of comparisons become the way I talk about my boys for the rest of my life. That they hear these comparisons as proof of preference. My preference.

If I had one fear as a re-new Dad, aside from dropping Reid on his soft little head, it’s that my heart wouldn’t have room for them both. That I would be incapable of giving each of them the love and attention that they deserve.

Silly. The fears of a rank amateur.

Our best stretch in the hospital so far was Thursday morning, when my mother-in-law brought Jack in to meet his brother. As much love as I’d focused on Reid, I realized I’d missed my other little guy. As much as Jack wanted to see Lara and I, he loved sitting in my lap while we looked at Reid. “Baby brother,” he kept saying, then looking at us to smile.

The hair. The mewing. The delivery time. None of it matters. It’s just description. How I anchor you each in my mind, boys. What makes you different from each other. Not better. Just different.

I love you just the same. And for exactly who you are.

Note From the Editor: This post made me shed many tears as a mom. Tears that could relate. Tears that wonder if I secretly or maybe not so secretly compare my girls. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanKercinik and read more of his blog at Always Jacked. And as always… leave a note. Can you relate?

From first-time Dad to just a Dad

Note from the Editor: Happy Friday friends! It’s time for some Dad Stalking! This week we hear from my good friend, Alan Kercinik, out of Chicago. Alan writes his own blog, Always Jacked, and I’m so humbled that he finds time between his real job, his family, and his blog to write once a month for lil’ ol’ me. Thanks Alan! This week, we get a glimpse into the life of a father who’s expecting his second son. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment! Ask questions! Participate! We love it. Thanks for reading each week. xo -Kel

Our second son is due in six weeks.

Six weeks.

It sounds awful to say this, but sometimes I almost forget that we’re having another kid. Not forget, exactly. Clearly I know my wife is pregnant. I’ve been to the doctor’s with her. I’ve heard his heartbeat.

But just like you don’t ever really forget your first love, you don’t forget the experience of having your first child. Firsts of anything take all of your energy and thought.

Every doctor’s visit was a major event. Every kick and movement was a wonder. Every unusual feeling was a consult to What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

It’s different now. This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve seen the movie. Heard the song. We know what to expect.

At least, we think we do. You never know what the kid is going to be like until they actually show up, do you?

The other difference this time, of course, is Jack. Our two-year old tornado. I don’t think he can walk. He trots everywhere.

I didn’t know it was possible to love someone with the ferocity I do my son.

Well, I did. I love my wife that way. Both of them, I just watch them being them and they make me laugh for not other reason than I like them both so much.

Most of my spare energy and thought goes to Jack. Hanging out with him. Playing. Reading him stories. Singing to him at bedtime. (The Monkees and the Spider-Man theme song are currently in heavy rotation.) Keeping him from jumping off couches or climbing up the kitchen cabinets.

He takes a lot of energy, so it’s sometimes hard to find the brain space to think about his brother.

This scares the holy hell out of me.

I was the older of two boys. There was a pretty big age gap between us, almost seven years. When he was born, I was already in kindergarten.

Of course, he needed the majority of my parents’ attention. Of course, people came to the house to see the baby. Or course, he was cute and cooed over.

Of course, I felt like I had suddenly been forgotten.

I wonder, sometimes, that if I love Jack as much as I do, how I can possibly love another child nearly as much. Do I have that much love in me to give? Because as I get older, I feel like I have less. Or rather, I’m willing to dole it around to fewer people. I’ve gotten stingier with my affections.

Like right now. I’m in my office, writing this post. Jack is up earlier than he should be and he’s calling for me. “Dada. Dada. Daddy!.” That didn’t work, so he switches tactics. “Alan! Alan! Alan!” He knows what I think when he calls me by my first name.

How can I not give this kid as much of my time and attention as possible? I never want him to feel, for one second, ignored or forgotten. But he’s going to, no matter how hard we try to make sure that he isn’t.

Women are better at this. They’re emotions seem to run so much deeper, an endless, bottomless pool. My wife, she lives for other people. She’ll do this well.

It’s me I worry about.

I don’t worry about Jack.

We had an ultrasound this week. When I came home from work that night, he had the pictures in his hand when I came into the house. My wife was smiling.

“Tell Dada who that is.”

“Baby brother,” Jack told me. Then he smiled this smile that about broke my heart.

“That’s right, buddy,” I said, putting down my bag. “You’re going to be a big brother. What do you think?”

He considers. “Ooooh. Fun.”

He’s right, the way that children often are because they just react instead of spending too much time fretting over all the junk that will cloud their heads when they’re older.

It will be fun.

Knowing how to hold a baby. Teaching him to crawl and walk. Even though these things feel like they happened a million years ago, they will all come back to me.

I hope one other thing does, too.

I used to take the night feedings with Jack. Three in the morning and we’d sit on our living room couch, the world dark and quiet around us. Just the two of us. I truly think this is how we bonded, those moments when I held him and he could tell that he was safe and loved.

I would be tired and bleary eyed at work the next morning. Sore in the small of my back from too little sleep. In need of two cups of coffee.

I was happy about it.

And I’m going to be, again.

Always Jacked About Fatherhood

Note from the Editor: I’m sharing with you an excerpt from @AlanKercinik‘s blog Always Jacked. You can find the link to the complete post at the end of this excerpt. Happy reading! -Kelly

A kerfuffle has kerfuffled among my fellow male bloggers because ‘they’ are trying to determine the greatest Dad bloggers in the universe.

(Curious about ‘them’? Ron Mattocks over at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox took a pretty good look and came up with his own blogger rating system that would put Netflix’s recommendation algorithm to shame. Or at least reduce it to fits of spastic giggling.)

The whole thing is a waste of time. For one, you, my faithful, loved readers, already know who the greatest Dad blogger in the universe is, right? Right?

*taps microphone* *looks around* (I audibly answered Alan! -Kelly)

Ranking something is one of the easiest ways to cause an argument. Take movies. For every impassioned fan of Howard the Duck who says that it is the greatest movie of all time (my wife), there are people who will say that movie is beyond terrible (me).

But here’s the thing. As more parents become their own media outlet, what kind of impact does worrying about our place on lists like these have on our kids? Continue reading Alan’s post HERE.

Raising The Karate Kid

*Editor’s Note: I love Alan’s writing. It’s entertaining. It resonates (especially if you love all things 80’s). This post is no different. Read as Alan channel’s his inner Mr. Miyagi and teaches his son Jack about character.

I think most people have one movie that, no matter when it’s on, they’ll sit down and watch it. It’s like a surprise when you’re flicking channels and stumble on it, one that settles you back into the couch even if it’s half over.

Mine is The Karate Kid. (The one with Ralph Macchio, not the Will Smith Junior remake.)

I don’t know what it is about this movie, still, that speaks to me. Maybe it’s that, growing up, I was small for my age and had skipped a grade to boot, so until my sophomore year in high school, I felt like everyone’s little brother. The little brother who could get his ass handed to him by pretty much everyone.

Last Saturday afternoon, I watched it again. If you want to really analyze it, it’s kind of a weird movie. What are the odds that you’d move to a neighborhood lorded over by a bunch of motorcycle-riding, skeleton-costume-wearing, karate-kicking teenagers? Or that your handyman could teach you karate by getting you to wash cars, paint fences or sand decks?

Jack woke up from his nap just as Daniel-san was about to start competing in the dreaded All Valley Karate Tournament.

“Whuzzat?” he’d point.

“They’re doing karate.”

He’d watch, then try to mimic them. Jab. Jab. Jab. Front kick. An occasional, “Oh!”

He walked around our bedroom doing karate and I love this kid so much, watching him writhe around on the ground, just like Daniel was after Kreese gave the order for that little bastard Johnny to sweep the leg.

“Ow. Foot. Foot.” Jack says, holding his own.

Daniel wins the tournament and gets his trophy. Then the synthesizer kicks on and Survivor’s “Moment of Truth” starts and Jack is transfixed.

I am too, watching him bob back and forth, listening to the words in a way I don’t know that I have before. Take the 80s cheese out it. These are things I want to instill in my son.

It’s the moment of truth
You’re giving it all
Standing alone, willing to fall.
If you can do it
Get up and prove it.
Get up and show them who you are.

The song ended and he turned to me. “More karate song.” I went to my computer and found the track on Rhapsody and played it for him. More than once. And I’ve done the same every morning this week, because he’s asked.

Jack is at that age where he shows interests, but we have no idea if any of them will stick. Right now, he’s into superheroes and cars and shooting basketballs. Right now he’s into an 80’s power pop ballad.

I don’t know that he always will be. But I hope he always hears these lyrics when he needs to. I hope I teach him to believe that they’re true, that if he works and believes and tries, what he wants will happen.

And I hope that he knows that even when he is standing alone, that I am still there with him, no matter what.

Read more of Alan’s writing on his blog Always Jacked. Follow him on Twitter @alankercinik.

Getting Preschooled

*Note from the editor: This week… we’re stalking one of my favorite Dad writers, Alan Kercinik. He writes at Always Jacked about life with his son, Jack. Alan’s writing honestly captivates me. I laugh, I cry, I am often transported, as if I’m watching a scene in a movie. Isn’t that what good writing is about? So sit back and read as he unravels a tale of preschool enrollment.

Now that Jack is two years old, it’s high time for us to start focusing on his academic career.

Both of our alma maters are in the mix, which is good because blue and orange look good on him. (University of Illinois for me, Bucknell for her.) Stanford has some good programs. And, despite it’s ridiculous price tag, we have to consider Harvard.

This is all nonsense, of course. But it feels that way, a little, as we enroll the boy into preschool.

One of the reasons that we recently migrated to the northern suburbs of Chicago was for schooling. As we looked at programs in the city, we were shocked by the cost. We could buy a small car for the price of dropping Jack off to shove crayons up his nose three days a week.

It’s considerably easier to find a suitable preschool where we live now. We toured our top choice last week. There is no three year waiting list. Tuition is far from five figures. But it’s still a little stressful.

Stressful. That’s probably the wrong word.

Stress isn’t quite I was felt when we walked into each class to watch a group of young and happy children, playing or painting or digging into dirt and pretending to garden. Stress wasn’t what I felt when I held Jack up to a wall so he could touch the small ceramic squares that had been painted by the school’s students. Stress isn’t what I felt while we talked to the principal about curriculum and theories on discipline and what a typical day looks like.

I felt wistful. The boy, on the other hand …

Our first stop was the four-year old classroom. There was no hiding behind a parental pant leg or asking to be held. He immediately bolted to a table of four little artists and slapped his hands onto a plate of finger paint. He played well in every class. On our last stop, to see his fellow two-year olds, he offered a toy to a crying little girl. “Sad. Sad.” he said, looking at me, then looking back at the kid in question, car extended.

I’m sad, too, that I’m saying the first of my many good-byes to him. That my position, as one of the twin centers of his little world, is so quickly about to end.

But I’m so proud of him. How could I not be? He’s running, literally running, toward the potential of a larger world with a smile on his face. How often do you see that, a person so happy while confronting change and new challenge and uncertainty?

I’m probably reading into this. He’s two. It’s preschool. There were new toys. I get it.

Even so. I’m hopeful that it’s an indicator of how he’ll live. That he’ll take that attitude with him everywhere he goes. Even if it makes me a little sad to watch him leave.