The First Letter Home

Note From the Editor: It’s Friday and the means we hear from the Dads! Today, we hear from John, from The Daddy Yo Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDaddyYoDude. His post discusses what it’s like to get that first note home from the teacher… Read, Relate, Comment. Much Love- Kelly

To my knowledge, I never wrote any letters home from summer camp. Probably because I never went to camp that was longer than a week or a church trip my mom didn’t chaperone. In fact, I don’t think I have ever written too many letters home. That’s not really the point. This is the point: The first letter home that you always receive as a parent, is often not the kind of letter you expect. For me, this first letter came this week. A letter about my son, who is not cooperating with his teachers.

Okay, so I hope I didn’t lead you on to think that this was going to be a shocker post. If it was that kind of letter, I probably wouldn’t write about it so quickly. Anyways, there is a reason that this note, sent home by LM’s teacher, made the “first letter home” phrase seem like a poignant title. It ushered in the beginning of a nw chapter in my journey through dadhood.

I have now reached the point where I have to not only help explain to my son why he got in trouble at school, but understand why that gets him in trouble at home too. On top of that, I now have to really start enforcing the boundaries of “want to do” and “have to do”. I admit that our children may be a little on the spoiled side, but tell me you haven’t spoiled yours at some point or another, then I might feel a little bad. Now though, more of the real life “cause and effect” pattern is creeping in to his life and I have to man up a little more to playing “Daddy Law Enforcement Agent”.

I do have to say, when my wife first told me about it, I was a little upset with myself. I was thinking “It’s my fault he didn’t do his work” and “I’ve let him down by not teaching him these things sooner.” Quickly though, it turned to thoughts of “well that’s what I get for not setting the ground rules for similar situations at home”. That’s when I realized that both of us were about to start doing a little more growing up.

It’s hard to make the transition from the guy who tells the rules, to the dad who enforces the rules because he has to. You remember the whole saying of “it’s going to hurt me a lot worse than it hurts you”? Yeah, it’s true. I hate hearing my kids cry at anytime. But when it happens because I have to enforce the rules, I will admit that it pulls at my heart strings just a little.

That’s just one of those stops though. On the ride of parenthood, we often find ourselves stopping in some unusual and unfamiliar places. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. That’s how it goes. We go with it, we change, we grow. From the first letter home, to the last hug goodbye on their wedding day, our children grow, but so do we.

Playtime Guilt

Note from the editor: I love Friday… we have a talented group of dads writing with us each week! (I promise that I, the mom that owns this blog, will write more soon) But in the meantime… these guys are great! This week we have Jeff from Out With the Kids. You can find him on Twitter @OWTK. Today… Jeff discusses playtime with your child. His opening question really got me thinking…

I gotta ask you something, parent to parent: it’s okay that I don’t play with my kids all the time, right?

I fancy riding my high horse across the internets whilst calling myself a pro-active father, but to be perfectly honest I love – and I mean hot-fudge-brownie-sundae love – sitting on the couch writing an article, working on my book, or designing a silly t-shirt graphic while my little ladies frolic on the floor beneath me playing with ponies, Mary Poppins Barbie dolls, or on their dueling Magna Doodles.

The problem is that I cannot let go of the guilt.  I’m a stay at home dad so a sizable part of me believes I should be engaged like a fighter pilot locked onto his target, only without the helmet and the altitude.  I can convince myself only to a point that it’s perfectly okay to not be knee deep in blocks and toys on a daily basis.  It’s obviously good on some level to raise children that can play independently but Paranoid Jeff can hear my oldest complaining that I’m not involved even when she’s happily entertaining herself. Paranoid Jeff can also envision us on the sofa of a daytime talk show, baring it all to whoever is the Dr. Phil of 2025, while my girls confess that they turned to a life of pasties, stripper poles, and unemployed losers because daddy didn’t want to play Polly Pockets that one Tuesday afternoon.

Obsess much?

The reality of my situation is that I’ve got the attention span of a 2 year old.  I can dive in and go crazy with imaginary play for like 10 minutes tops.  Then I’m fresh out of ideas, not interested in doing the same bits over again, and full of a desire to break free and check Twitter or get down some clever turn of a phrase that just popped into my head before my 35-going-on-65-year old brain loses it forever. The reality of my situation is that I like to work on this unusual career that I’ve carved out for myself.  I just do and I’m kind of tired of beating myself up about it.

As of today I’m once again a 2-day-a-week empty nester.  My youngest starts a pre-kindergarten class at a local daycare leaving me a quiet house on Tuesday and Thursdays to, theoretically, work on the numerous projects I have going on at once.  Often though, just because I can, I’ll take 2 of those roughly 16 hours and go out to see a matinee movie.  I take comfort in the fact that the kids don’t feel neglected when I do.  The wife on the other hand…

Under Siege: Orbit

One of the toughest moments I’ve had as a parent, so far, happened exactly 2 years and 2 days ago. That was the day before my twin daughters, Emma and Maddie, were born. Yeah, Friday was their birthday, and that’s a very exciting thing around here. But in my heart, this day is also the anniversary of the day our oldest daughters world changed too.

There was always, like most parents I suspect, a very elevated spot that we placed our first child on. We didn’t spoil her…well, we tried not to spoil her, but she was the center of our world. We orbited around her. Her happiness, safety and health were the most important thing to her mother and I. We took grief from Grandma at times because we didn’t let her stay overnight at her house. Not because we didn’t trust Grandma, but because we didn’t want to be away from her that long. We wanted her to wake up in her home, in her bed, with her Mommy and Daddy right there if she needed them.

In hindsight, we kind of did her a disservice, in a way, by being so attentive and centering all in our life around her so much. Now, at 5 years old, she can hardly stay the night away from her parents without getting upset and typically having to be picked up early because she wants her Mom and Dad.  Sorry about that, Sydney.

I’m sure it’s not a unique consideration, my reasons for feeling this way. The day that my very pregnant wife and I went to the hospital to bring these twin midgets into our world, we took a few moments and sat on the hearth of my mother’s living room fireplace, knowing all was about to change in our lives. I remember the feeling, and acknowledging so, that these were our last moments as a family of three: Mom, Dad and Sydney. Soon, we’d be bringing the twins home and everything would change.  How would I ever love these two kids as much as I love their big sister? How can we do this to Sydney? How is she going to handle not being the center of our attention…. She was sun which around which we orbit?

Last week, Sydney started Kindergarten. It was a big, emotional event in our family that day too. We were excited for all the reason a parent gets excited about these things. Mostly, we were proud of how Syd was meeting a new challenge head-on and with excitement. Her first day entering this new world just made me think of how things have changed, and how they’ll continue to change as we all grow as a family. Thinking about that change made me reflect back to that day 2 years ago.

Emma and Maddie will never know the impact that they’ve had on our lives in such a wonderful and challenging way. Today, though, that question of  “How am I going to be able to love these two as much as I love their big sister” has been answered: How could I not?

So, we celebrate Emma & Maddie’s birthday, and Sydney’s Big Sister Day…The biggest change though, not that they’re getting older or maturing in new ways, it’s that all 5 of us now move around each other, pushing and pulling in a comfy, noisy, baked-goldfish fueled low orbit.

Happy Birthday Emma & Maddie… and Happy Big Sister Day, Syd.

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.

ABC’s, 123’s, and Four Years Later

Note from the Editor: It’s Friday… and we’re doing some Dad Stalking! This week, we’re hearing from John @TheDaddyYoDude. In this post he talks about what it’s like for a dad to send his child off to school for the first time. As a mom, this really touched my heart. You can read more from John on his own blog The Daddy Yo Blog. Happy Weekend! xo Kel

It has been four years and three months since my son was born. Not that long in the grand scheme of
things. I have watched this little guy grow from an attached infant, to explorer one year old, jabbering
two year old, stubborn three year old, and now, growing four year old. I have listened as he learned to
sing his ABC’s completely and count from one to 20. Now? Monday he will head into a whole new world.
A new environment with new faces, new noises and smells. Is he nervous? Why of course not. Guess
who is?

Yeah, you guessed right. It’s daddy who is more nervous. This year, Little Man heads to 4 year old
preschool at the primary elementary school in town. Suddenly, I have realized how fast this precious
time really goes by and how fast it can be that you lose a moment that you could have had. I have also
discovered a new set of fears, concerns, and worries.

I think back to my elementary school days. I was small, dorky, had a mullet, and some of the worst
glasses to come out of the late 80’s and early 90’s. I talked too much and paid attention too little. They
were some awfully fun days. But I also remember the fear of being laughed at. Those fears that make
you fake sick, head to the nurse’s office, and pray as hard as ever that you will soon be coming home.

My son is such a sweetheart. He has a huge heart, a compassion for others, and the ability to be an
instant companion. He also has the ability to spot shadiness and bad motives at the drop of a hat.
The two combined though turn him instantly shy in situations where he feels intimidated or scared by
others. And I worry that as he enters this new world of elementary school he will find himself in more of
those scary situations.

This year, it may be harder on me than it is him. Stepping into new places and situations is a part of life
he has to go through. I know this deep down. He will have to learn to face objectiveness, meanness, and
humiliation. It happens to everyone in life. But I’m not ready to see him have to do that. To me, he is still
my Little Man. He is still the little dude that danced to Weezer with me when he was 8 months old. He is
still the same little dude with the Mohawk, who was thrilled about figuring out how to put a straw in a
cup. In reality though, he is no longer those things.

This year I find myself at a new challenging point in my fatherhood. I find myself at the point that I have
to force myself to realize that these little things will eventually grow. They will get smarter, taller, more
coordinated. And soon, they will not need this guy to direct every step. I am scared, I am a bit confused,
and even a little sad. This is harder than I thought it would be. I know in my heart that I am watching a
beautiful thing happen. If he only knew the fear behind the smiles. But I choose not to show it.

Instead, I will show the pride that is taking a little longer to swell up this year. I will show the excitement
that is overshadowed in my mind by fear. And I will show him that daddy will still be here whenever he
is needed. To comfort him, to guide him, and to look back on as he gets a little farther down his life’s

Baseball. SPF 45. Lemonade. Bee stings. Corn on the cob. Sweat. Vacation.

Note from the Editor: It’s Dad Stalking Friday and Jeff @OWTK is talking about family vacation memories. I have many fond memories of the ice cream man and running out to meet the truck… burning my feet on the hot Phoenix street. Memories of my family heading out on our yearly road trip to Disneyland… And now I see my own children creating these same vivid summer memories. Except I’m yelling “Don’t forget your flip flops!” as they run out the door *squealing*. Keep reading to take a peek into the summer memories of an icky boy… now called, Dad. And read more of his stuff at Out With The Kids.

If you’re thinking summertime right about now, you’ve nailed it. Congratulations!

My gang of four finished up a 15-day jaunt in southern California early last month. On this epic 75-degree adventure, my wife and I conspired to create indelible memories for our daughters in San Diego (the famed Zoo, USS Midway aircraft carrier, gigantic county fair, strawberry & cream cheese stuffed French toast!) and in the L.A. area (Channel Islands hike, pool party with kindie musician friends, Mulholland Drive, Santa Barbara beach & carrousel, and Legoland!)

Our wonderful west coast journey got me thinking a lot about my own childhood vacation memories. I had enough downtime and, much to my surprise, quiet time in route to fun sights and new cities to remember multiple trips to the pink sands of Bermuda, that 3-game series at old Tiger Stadium in 1987 to watch my beloved Tigers in person for the first time, and the countless civil war battlefields my parents schlepped me around to feed my inner history buff. There are images, sounds, smiles, and smells burned into my brain – all wonderful memories of a time when I was the one being cared for, transported, and entertained.

Taking a coastal holiday as a family should fill young children’s hearts with joy and heads with sunny thoughts of crashing waves, toes buried in sand, ice cold milkshakes, and carrousel music. But woven into such sun-splashed pleasantry for us this summer were, as always, handfuls of tears, four letter words, and slamming doors.

Whether they have faded, been suppressed or were never there to begin with, there’s positively no negativity in my own decades-old internal slideshows. This gives me hope that what my wife and I are giving our daughters are entirely joyous experiences worthy of a romantically tight mental grip, that the senseless bickering and idiotic arguments that pop up when spending 360 consecutive hours together won’t prevent these glorious family moments from becoming cherished summer vacation memories.