The Monster Phase

“I think Jack is working on a shit,” my friend said as my son Jack tensed up his face, arms, and hands while letting out a noise of growling frustration. “Ainsley likes to make those noises too,” he continued, offering up a pretty hilarious mental picture of his cute little baby daughter squeezing one out. She’s going to hate you some day when I tell her about this conversation, I thought, as I watched my son tense up his body again, shake his fists, and make the same noise but with more spitting.

I had taken Jack over to my friend’s place in Omaha to watch some playoff football, but we ended up paying more attention to how our kids, only nine days apart, would interact now that they were both mobile. I’m not quite sure what either of us expected, but I’m sure it was slightly different than the slow motion, invalid wrestling match that it turned out to be. She sat on his back, he tackled her and crawled on top of her, and they both tried to pet each other’s faces and grab each other’s eyeballs. Then they pretty much ignored each other unless they were trying to climb on the same thing at the same time. At that moment, the same thing they were both trying to climb on was my friend Dan sitting on his couch.

“Nope, that’s just his monster face,” I responded, “Though, he does tend to make noises when he takes a dump too. That, however, was just his monster face. He’s weird.” Dan chuckled and the look on his face made it clear that his daughter did not have a monster face. I actually thought Jack was over his, but in the past week or so, it appeared that the monster face had returned. It was even more hilarious than ever.

Over the holidays, Jack had started all of this monster face nonsense. He’d clench his fists, straighten his arms and legs, scrunch up his face into a hilariously stressed look, and growl or scream with his mouth closed and fists shaking. He would do it while you were trying to feed him. He would do it while playing. He would do it to get a laugh out of you.

My family came up with a variety of reasons why I did it: he liked the way it felt, he was entertaining us, he was showing his infamous Miller family temper, or he was displaying signs of a mental problem. The paranoid father inside of me was convinced it was the latter. But, then my friends told me that their son used to do it all the time too and they called it his “strong-face” because he looked like he was trying to lift heavy weights. Seeing as their little guy turned out better than okay, I dropped my worry, dubbed my Jack’s antics the “monster face,” and chalked it all up to a phase. A completely odd and hilarious phase that had everyone laughing for a week. Then he just stopped doing it; until a few days ago. Now we are officially in Monster Phase 2: The Return of Monster Face.

It’s hasn’t even been nine months and Jack has already gone through a variety of phases that have come and gone and some, like the monster face, come back again. Other things, like his obsession with electrical wires and outlets, I can only hope are just a phase. I spent a frustrating week trying to feed him while he went through his spitting phase. During said phase, he would allow you to put food into his mouth for the express purpose of making a high pitched squeal while spitting it all over the place like he was a rotating sprinkler. He spent a week doing raspberries during every waking moment, including meals. He stopped for two or three weeks, and then rekindled that phase after seeing my friend’s daughter doing it. That led to mouth raspberries for a solid two weeks again. He spent another week clicking non-stop, night and day. Another, he spent smacking himself in the face. When that didn’t suffice, he prodded us to smack him in the face with stuff.

He went through a week or two where all he wanted to do was sit in the kitchen and play with onions. The week after that, he was only happy when you held him upside down. The most fun phase was when he refused to let anyone put a diaper on him without a twenty minute struggle. He would lay on the changing table naked and completely stretched out, muscles clenched, refusing to bend a single joint to allow a diaper to be fastened. There was the no eating phase, the no sleeping phase, and the much celebrated four naps a day phase. Then there was his choking phase where he would try to stick everything that he picked up as far down his throat as possible. He would gag, laugh, and then do it again, and again, and again. His “no socks” phase is still going strong. Same for his beard grabbing phase, which has unfortunately returned after a three week hiatus. This time, I swear he’s doing it with a vengeance.

The worst part is that these phases, though sometimes frustrating, are just a taste of what my wife and I are in store for as the days, weeks, months, years, and countless new phases come and go. Luckily, I’m a veteran of many phases as well, and I’ll have been there from the beginning. Eventually we’ll get to his trouble-making phase, or his talking back phase, or his “I don’t want to do my homework” phase. I’m sure there will be a lazy teenager phase, a smart ass teenager phase, and a dumbass teenager phase. I’m ready for the goth phase, the vegan phase, and the professional wrestling phase. I’m ready for the cigarette phase, the piercing phase, and the atrocious haircut phase. I’m ready for the less than desirable friends phase, the older girlfriend phase, and the loner phase. I’m ready for the karate class, the bass lessons, and the improv group. I’m ready to buy the sports equipment, the musical instruments, and the art supplies that may or may not ever be used before they end up in the garage or the basement collecting dust. I’ll support the death metal band, the hip-hop career, and the poetry readings. You want to be a dancer? Okay Michael Flatley, dance, dance, dance! You want to be a Republican? Go live with your Grandmother.

Why am I so optimistic about the phases? How can I be ready? Well, phases were a part of my life, and they are already a part of his. They are a part of who we are. We all go through phases. Sometimes they last for a week, sometimes close to a lifetime. Either way, my son will go through them whether I understand them or not, whether I agree with them or not, and whether I want him to or not. There’s no point in getting so worked up about them. There’s no point in being afraid of them. Instead, I will cherish them when I can, learn from them when I can’t, and support him 100% when appropriate. When it all seems like too much, I will remember what my Mom has said to me many times since Jack was born, “this too shall pass.”

At the last radio station that I worked for, there was an advertising sales manager that offered up what I believe will eventually go down as the best parenting advice I have ever heard. It didn’t really mean much at the time, but I still haven’t forgotten it and I now know that I never will. He was telling some of my coworkers a story about his teenage son and relating some of his feelings about the trials of being a parent. I noticed the moment for what it was and listened in on the conversation from one of the production studios.

He walked in between two cubicles, sat his tall frame awkwardly into an office chair, leaned back with his hands folded behind his head, and said, “I always have to remember that it’s just a phase. Everything is a phase. From the moment they are born until the moment you die, whatever they do that might disturb you, annoy you, anger you, or confuse you, is most likely just a phase. Everything else is a phase too. Everything is a phase. If you don’t like it, soon enough, they’ll be on to the next one. It’s just a phase. I remind myself of that every day. It’s the only thing that has kept me sane as a father.”

Having been a dad for a mere fraction of the time he had, I knew that I needed to remember what he said. His words would ring true someday. It was like Obi-Wan talking to Luke if Luke was a radio deejay with a two-month old at home. I will hear his voice forever in my new life as a father, “Luuuuke, it’s just a phase, Luke.” Weirdly, the monster face is definitely one phase I will miss when he finally moves on from it…again. I will be sad to see that face and this phase go. But I know there will be others.

Don’t Be Drool!

It’s something that I do every day at least a dozen times. I’m not proud of it, but it happens. I’m probably, at least in a small way, addicted to doing it. Usually, it’s a pretty non-eventful occurrence, but yesterday, it got messy. I removed my Blackberry from its case to check my messages and was confronted by a sight so disgustingly shocking that I almost vomited. Okay, so it probably wasn’t that bad, but it could have been tragic. My Blackberry could have been destroyed by an element that has become as much a part of my life as my first cup of coffee in the morning. I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least, but like everything else that I’m lately confronted with on a daily basis, it caught me slightly off guard. It probably had something to do with the sheer volume of it. It was gag-worthy and it completely covered my Blackberry and the inside of its case. It was the most drool I had ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of it.

At some point during the day, as I was distracted with composing an email or making fun of my friend Rahul on Twitter, my son got possession of my empty Blackberry case. Doing what he does with everything, he apparently had his way with it. It was clear that at some point he must have had the entire thing in his mouth. Either that, or he merely used it as a spitoon and moved on. Jack is so infatuated with my Blackberry, that I often let him play with the case to distract him. Thus, I didn’t think anything of it when I saw him amusing himself with it on the floor next to the couch. He wasn’t eating a power cord or crying so I just let him go about his business while I typed away. Eventually, he got bored and moved on to trying to swallow the string from my hooded sweatshirt or something, and I picked up my case and slid my Blackberry inside without a second thought. I vaguely remember the outside being a bit wet, but that’s pretty much par for the course with anything around here. I dried it off on my pants and went on with my day.

Soon after, while fighting with Jack over some peas and waiting for my wife to come home, I decided to see if she had called or left me a text message. I grabbed my Blackberry while I let the crab-ass in the high chair decide between hunger and peas, and was completely shocked by my discovery. Someone call the Ghostbusters, I thought, because my Blackberry has been slimed. Then, just like in the movies, I had a flashback to the moments of the day leading up to this point. Me taking my Blackberry out of the case, Jack playing with it on the ground, me picking up the case, me putting my Blackberry in the case, and me wiping the case drool onto my pants. Son of a bitch. Don’t be drool, don’t be drool, I thought. Drool! Tons of it. Everywhere. It had obviously collected inside the bottom of the case and was dispersed over the entire smartphone instantly when I slid it back in. It was even oozing out of the top, and it smelled like formula and baby mouth. Then Jack suddenly laughed as if he did it on purpose, drool oozing down his chin onto the kitchen table.

Drool is ubiquitous in my life. It used to be that the only drool I had to deal with was on my wife’s pillow every morning. Now I find puddles of drool on our wooden floors. I find drool stains on every single article of my clothing, even if I’ve only been wearing it for ten minutes. Drool is on the remote control. Drool is on my laptop. Drool is on my headphones and my Ipod. There is often a pool of drool collected on his walker tray or in the back of Chuck, the talking dump truck. Bibs and onesies soaked with drool are strewn all over all three floors of my house. There is often even drool on the dog. I can’t escape it. Have you ever gotten someone else’s drool in your beard? I have–more times than I can remember. Cleaning it out is a gross task, but not as gross as drool dripping down directly into your open mouth below. Yes, I’ve also gotten Jack’s drool in my mouth; at least three times.

I love when we go places with carpet, like say my parent’s house or my in laws’. Carpet is a drooling baby’s best friend, or at least his parents. I just sit back and let that shit soak in like a floor sized sponge. Other people freak out about drool. I don’t even notice it. We’ll be over at someone’s house and they will practically lose it because drool is dripping down his chin. “Do you have something to wipe this up with?” they’ll ask, urgently or, “Hey! Hey! He’s drooling! Watch out!” I usually just tell them that yes, he is drooling, that’s what he does. It’s still odd to me that I’m so completely unfazed by drool and puke now, unless of course it’s glazing my Blackberry.

Being a new dad, especially one who spends just about every second of every day with my son, I’ve thought of a bunch of things that should be invented to help this whole child raising, baby adventure. Take for instance, what I like to call “Baby Hooks.” These would be hooks that you can place in every room of the house to hang your baby from. Your baby would wear a harness type contraption that would work with the hooks so that you can allow your baby to “hang out” and look around while you go about your business. I thought of this when he still had to be carried around everywhere but didn’t want to be set on the floor, however I think it would come in handy at the mobile stage as well. It never hurts to know where your baby is at all times, even if it means hanging on the wall. My other great brainstorm was for a baby drool catcher that I call “The Drool Strap.”

The Drool Strap would be like a modified football helmet chin strap. It would collect all of the drool into a receptacle that could be removed and emptied. I suppose if you wanted to “go green” you could also then use the collected drool to make the next bottle of formula instead of water. At the risk of making your kid look like a “special” baby, it could also actually be attached to a helmet, which would allow you to leave your baby unattended on couches and beds without fear of a head injury from tumbling off. It’s a win-win.

Coming up with The Drool Strap was not the last time I thought about collecting drool. I’ve often wanted to collect it for curiosity. I mean, how much drool can a baby actually drool? Am I the only one that wants to know this? It’s a discussion that we often have in our house. What if we did collect it? So, I think we are, and it’s all because of THE DROOL BET. I’ve been tossing around the idea of THE DROOL BET since before the holidays. We collect the drool for either a whole day or a whole week. Then, we make a bet. The loser of the bet then has to drink the drool. It’s so gloriously disgusting, and I’ve been trying to get my wife to agree to it. The other night I just so happened to catch her after a couple of Captain and Diet Cokes and got her to agree to THE DROOL BET. It all centers around the Super Bowl. If the NFC team wins, I lose big time and my beard will be covered in the slop. However, if the AFC team wins, I get to watch as my lovely, professor wife has to chug from the soon to be infamous drool cup. Sure, we probably won’t go through with it. But, I did go through with the mohawk and she went through with our marriage, so who knows? All I know is that THE DROOL BET is officially on! Go Jets!

The Omahawk Dad

“Do you want to buy any girl scout cookies?” the cute little scout with the blond bob haircut and the green vest asked me during the early hours of Sunday afternoon. I noticed she had attained quite a few merit badges in her short time, and I also noticed her grandmother that was joining her out in the cold, keeping her distance off to the side of my front porch. It was the first day of the year with positive temperatures, and I had heard of the infamous cookies’ arrival into the Omaha metro area on the morning news a few days prior. I should have been ready, but I wasn’t.

My son had just went down for a nap and I was about to jump into the shower when my dog started barking like a maniac. I yelled to her from the bathroom and noticed she was standing on top of the couch, yapping at the front door. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she would not be talked down that easily, but I hadn’t heard the knock on the door. I ran out in my boxers, trying to pacify the situation that was unfolding in the living room, wondering why my dog was being such an asshole. Then, I heard the little knock. I ran to the bathroom to get dressed, and scurried back to the front door ready to choke my dog and do even worse to whomever decided to get her all riled up by meekly rapping on the door at such an inopportune moment.

I answered the door wearing my AC/DC pajama pants and a “Grateful Dead Soldier Field ’95” T-shirt, holding my barking dog in one arm and opening the screen door with the other. It was, unfortunately, standard operating procedure these days when unexpected visitors came to the door. It was also a less than desirable way to have an interaction with someone, and usually makes for a quick yet frustrating conversation, and one hell of a first impression. I asked the girl to repeat herself over the incessant yelping while trying to keep my dog from jumping out of my arms and out the door. Though, judging by the uniform, I knew exactly what she had asked, and was pretty much just buying some time while I prayed that my son wasn’t waking up above us.

Seconds prior, I was dumbfounded as to who might be knocking on my door, on a Sunday no less. I figured it was probably my law student neighbor interested in my shovel again, or his wife coming around for some allspice and a peek of me in my p-js. Instead, I opened the door and saw no one, until I looked down and noticed the miniature drug dealer with a pen in one mitten and a clipboard in the other. Like crack or meth, Girl Scout Cookies are quickly addictive and ultimately destructive, and I knew I should say “no.” They try to lure you in with their cuteness, and the next thing you know you’ve destroyed three boxes and you can’t fit into your pants. It’s quite a scam that these Girl Scouts run. Whoever is in charge of the Girl Scouts is, in essence, the biggest pimp and pusher in America, and they know it. You have to just say “no.” It’s not that easy though.

Sure, I wanted to order some Samoas more than life itself, but I’m more for instant gratification when it comes to snacks, and it didn’t look like the girl or granny was carrying a haul of the bright purple boxes. I also wasn’t sure of the protocol. Do you invite the girl scout inside for a few seconds respite from the winter cold while she does her cookie pushing pitch? I couldn’t imagine that a grown man should ever get into the habit of inviting young girls into his house, with or without their grandmothers. Plus, my wife wasn’t home, so I didn’t have access to any money anyways, and a couple of boxes of Samoas and Tag-a-longs would have completely sabotaged many of my 2010 resolutions very early in the game.

I smiled at her with a look of apology and said, “Um…no thanks. Good luck.” She countered with what seemed like an odd and overly exaggerated smile of her own, said “Thank you,” returned to her grandmother’s side, and the pair trudged through the snow to my neighbor’s house. The grandmother did a double take as she guided the scout down the driveway, which I thought seemed odd at the time, so I waved at them as they left, and turned to put down the dog while giving her a scolding look. It wasn’t until I closed the door that I remembered the mohawk.

I had half-seriously presented the mohawk idea to my family while we were back in Chicago for the holidays and my sister’s wedding. Their response could be characterized as something between mocking laughter and indifference. My wife, knowing full well that I would go through with it, suggested I wait until after the wedding. My sister already hated my beard, so, as a gift to her, I opted to postpone any realization of the mohawk until after the new year. When you are not employed and paid by the outside world, you have to give from the heart, so I waited. I held off on taking the clippers to my head until after the wedding. I knew full well that I would probably go mohawk at some point, even if I waited until 2010 to do so, even if only for a couple of hours, and especially because no one actually believed I would go through with it.

I returned to Omaha, plugged in my clippers, said goodbye to most of my hair, and then I did it. I’m a 32 year old father of one, and I gave myself a mohawk. If I was seventeen, my dad would have disowned me. In fact, he still might. What was to be a mohawk for a couple of hours has now turned into a mohawk for almost a couple of weeks, and I have no desire to shave it off any time soon. Yes, I am officially mohawked, I am the Omahawk Dad, and the kicker is that I keep forgetting about it.

The first time my new hairstyle slipped my mind was on the very first day after I did it. I was standing on my front porch checking for the mail and making small talk with my neighbor who was doing yet another pass with the shovel on his driveway. He was telling me all about being snowed in on Christmas and the day after and about the forcast for the next week. I guess that’s what neighbors do, talk about the weather. Though, I suppose it’s best that way. You don’t want to know too much about your neighbors, and vice-versa. It’s like fucking a coworker. If you become friends with your neighbors, and then the friendship ends, you still have to live next to them. Things can get awkward fast. I’ve seen it before. It’s best to keep neighbors at a distance, and keep the conversations to neighborly things like snow, the mail carrier, kids on the lawn, and other neighbors.

We chatted for about a minute or two in the sub zero temperature, yelling back and forth from across the yard, and then I hurried on inside. I had my AC/DC pants on. I wasn’t wearing a coat. I also, wasn’t wearing a hat. I was, however, wearing my fresh mohawk. I’m sure I looked like a weirdo, but I didn’t remember that I had a mohawk until about an hour later. I think he already had built some opinions based on my current career choice, and now I walk out of the house in pajamas, a full beard, and a mohawk at 3:30 in the afternoon on a weekday. I can only imagine what his puritan, lawyer mind was thinking. Probably the same thing my Mom and Dad would think if I was their neighbor.

My son, on the other hand, loves my mohawk. More specifically, it doesn’t make him cry. I think my wife loves it too. Well, maybe love is too strong of a word, but my wife is a saint and she more than puts up with my random whims when it comes to my hair. She’s grown used to my full beard, and she’s taken to my mohawk even quicker. I probably would have shaved it off after a day, but she thinks it looks cool, so it’s staying. Just what I need, more fucking encouragement for my asinine behavior.

After displaying my mohawk to three people outside of my house unintentionally, I ventured out of the house on Sunday without a hat. It was my first time out of the house for something other than shoveling this year, so I put some real pants on, left the kid with Mom, and drove over to the infamous Dr. Sanchez’s house for some Jacobo’s tamales, fresh pumpkin empanadas, and a couple of extra hoppy beers. After one Bonnaroo together sharing a campsite, and six months living in the same city, the doctor has become well accustomed to my flights of fancy with regard to my behavior, personality, and appearance, so unveiling the mohawk to him was no big feat. The look on his face told me that he wasn’t surprised, and that he would probably do the same if the University establishment didn’t already look at him weirdly because he was half-Mexican and wore his hair long. There would be other guests arriving later though, he told me, as he opened the fridge and offered me a choice of microbrews.

We opened a growler of Rogue Yellow Snow IPA, toasted the new year, and fell into some nice childless conversation. I was just getting settled in when the first of the other guests arrived. The couple were friends of the doctor’s fiance, so to me they were complete strangers. They were also going to be the first people to see my mohawk in all it’s glory, on purpose. I shook hands with them upon their entrance into the kitchen, sheepishly telling them to disregard my hair; that it was a joke gone a bit too far. It pretty much was, but after they left, Dr. Sanchez scolded me on my excuse.

“Don’t tell people that your mohawk is a joke. Don’t say a word about it unless they ask. People will think you are crazy. That’s never a bad thing,” he said while pouring another beer, “If you’re going to have it, you have to own it.” So I did. So I am. I am owning it. What exactly I’m owning, I’m not too sure of, but I can tell you one thing; you wish you had a job where you could make yourself look like I do on purpose and not be fired.

I look at myself in the mirror and see a thirty-two year old with a big fluffy beard and a mohawk. I look like a fictional character. But, fuck it. I gave myself a mohawk because, well, because I can. I’ve grown out my beard, because I can. I wear AC/DC pajama pants all day, because I can. I spend all day singing songs to my son and laughing at him laugh at me, because I can. I more than love my job, because I can do whatever I want to do as long as it doesn’t interfere with me being a Dad.

I thought being a radio deejay was the best job in the world. I had no idea. But, what I do have is a mohawk, and I’m no longer weary about people seeing me with it while I have it, even when I forget that I have it. Hell, people already don’t know what to make of the fact that I am a “Stay At Home Dad.” It often takes people by surprise even more than a weird haircut. For some people, it’s still really hard to wrap their minds around the concept of a man opting to give up a job outside the home to become a primary caregiver for a child. It amazes me, but truthfully, it’s sometimes still hard for me to come out and tell certain people what I do for a living without feeling the need to defend my choice, without qualifiers, and without a rundown of my past accomplishments. But, I’m getting better at that too. I’m a Stay at Home Dad and I’m owning it. Just like my mohawk.

Goin’ Mobile!

“I miss my lay there baby!” my wife yelled to me from across the room a few days ago while my son tried to climb off of her and attack our still standing Christmas tree.

“Already?” I asked, laughing, “It’s barely been a weekend.”

Jack had started his unique form of crawling on New Year’s Eve and hasn’t stopped since. It’s been close to a two month process for him to figure everything out. He started by realizing that he wanted to move. He would balance on his belly, kick his feet, and move his arms as if he was swimming or flying. This technique was pretty hilarious, but highly ineffective as far as movement was concerned. It was also the hardest habit for him to break as he advanced through the process, as he would often fall back into land swimming even after figuring out other, more productive techniques.

Eventually, he started lifting himself up with his arms into a form of the upward dog yoga pose. This was a pretty key development, but he wasn’t really strong enough to maintain the pose nor drag himself around. So, he would basically do a push-up and then revert back to land swimming; this time with moaning and groaning as his frustration with being stationary increased. He would get pissed, turn red, puff out his lower lip, and I would laugh.

Next came the spin technique, as I liked to call it. As he built up strength in his arms, he was able to move around in a circle. This allowed him to explore a small circumference of space around him, but, like land swimming, wasn’t very productive as far as getting from Point A to Point B. He would still try to move forward, but of course, his attempts were thwarted by his incessant desire to revert back to the land swimming maneuver. It did, however, extend his stints on the floor playing by himself with toys, which made my life a hell of a lot easier. I was actually able to leave the room, make a sandwich, and go to the bathroom by myself from time to time. They were glorious days that I already look back on with fondness, despite the fact that while they were occurring, I was anxious to see him crawl. I was so naive.

Soon enough, he started realizing that he had to not just kick his legs, but get them under him. During this stage, I would often find him in full, proper crawling position. He might rock, he might not. But he always went back to land swimming when he attempted to move. I would mock him openly as he would continue to want to regress to old habits. It was as if his brain was fighting with his body. He didn’t want to give up his old way of doing things, even if the land swim technique was counter-productive, even as he was discovering new and better ways to accomplish his goal. It was a true life lesson that we all could benefit from witnessing and remembering.

It’s amazing how, as adult humans, we tend to make the same mistakes in judgment that we made as infants. Why are we so afraid of change when it’s almost always beneficial, and as I’ve realized throughout my three decades on earth,and from watching my son through the first part of his time here, pretty much a key component to the enjoyment of a full life? It’s why life exists as it does in the first place. Why are so many people so afraid of progress? Why don’t we ever outgrow the part of us that wants to land swim? Most of us are no better than we were at seven months. Our society, as a whole, can really be one big fucking baby sometimes.

Then, it happened. One day he just gave it up. He stopped land swimming, and he started moving. He decided to progress. He lifted himself off of his belly, onto his hands and knees, and lunged forward. He wanted my Blackberry. I guess they call them “Crackberries” for a reason. Even a seven month old can’t resist. He probably had something important to Tweet. Probably bitching about me. Next thing you know, he was lunging forward for toys, lunging forward to grab the dog, and lunging forward to attain the power cord from my laptop. It was only a matter of time. I predicted that he would be crawling by the new year. He was. Though, he still hasn’t quite mastered it, and I’m not sure if he’s really yet satisfied with this new discovery.

It’s a work in progress for sure, but at least he finally realized that he needs to keep his hands on the ground and his belly off of it. He starts on his hands and knees but alternates each “step” with a weird hands and feet monkey crawl. Sometimes he can’t decide if he should use his knees or his feet and he just hangs there, stuck in a push-up position. Usually he limps along as if he’s a soldier with one wounded leg crawling across the battle field. Sometimes he cries because he can’t get where he wants to go fast enough. I can tell that now that he’s figured out how to crawl, he really would rather walk. Nonetheless, he has figured out how to move. He is officially mobile and I am so excited for him. I will, however, miss his land swimming though, now that it’s gone. I will also miss my sanity.

Apparently when a kid learns to crawl, they also begin to learn how to be a total asshole. This kid has been barely crawling for a week and he already can’t sit still. I get it, he wants to move, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a dick about it. He thinks that because he can crawl, he should be able to crawl any and all the time, anywhere. Why sit on the floor and play with toys when you can crawl? Okay then kid, go ahead and crawl, I’m not stopping you. But no, he wants to be moving at a quicker pace or with a more upright posture, and his body just won’t cooperate yet. Therefore, he’ll start to crawl and then he’ll just get frustrated and start crying his ass off because he’s too slow, or his arms get tired, or he can’t decide whether to use his feet or his knees, or because, as I mentioned before, he’s not walking. One thing at a time, man. I was definitely not ready for this.

I was also not ready for his desire to go places and touch things that he shouldn’t. Go figure, our kid is independent. I can no longer leave the room without him, unless he’s asleep. I now have an audience when I shit. I mean, I’ve heard the horror stories, but nothing can prepare you for the stress of having to watch this little fucker every second of the day. Nothing can prepare you for the incessant arguments. The ones where I say “No,” and he looks at me like I’m the douchebag. He is starting to know what it means, but he’s also starting to know that he doesn’t care. It’s crazy; I’ve never said “no” so much in my life! I feel like my first college girlfriend. It’s a whole new ballgame, and it’s only been seven damn days.

“Wait until he starts eating the dog food,” a friend told me during a poker game over the holidays. I suppose not eating the dog food is a little bit too much to ask? So is listening to me, I guess. The thing is, I probably wouldn’t have to say “no” so much if he wasn’t purposefully trying to test me. I can see it in his eyes. Set him on the floor, and he darts straight for the nearest power cord. Fuck the toys all of his relatives bought him for Christmas, my kid wants to eat the lamp. This kid’s infatuation with power cords, power strips, and small appliances is insatiable. He loves to grab them, he loves to pull them, and he especially loves to bite them. If he had more than two teeth, I’d be in trouble; or more likely, I’d be out of a job. Bite away buddy! We’ll see who’s right.

Power cords aren’t the only issue. He wants to touch the stereo, bang on the laptop, or drool all over the remote control while unknowingly changing the channel or turning the volume up to outrageous levels. He’ll cry to get picked up and then he’ll just try to crawl away or crawl all over us. He uses my wife and I like human jungle gyms. He wants to crawl in his crib when he should be sleeping. He wants to crawl out of his high chair, off our bed, and off the couch. He crawls after the dog, sneaking up on her while she’s licking herself and grabbing her paw or a handful of ear. He finds things that I don’t even see or know exist. Every little string, fuzzy, dust bunny, crumb, or piece of paper within reach goes into his hand and usually right into his mouth. We might as well sell the vacuum cleaner. What the dog doesn’t find and eat, Jack will, I’m sure of it. Unless of course, he spots an electric cord. Like I said, insatiable.

I know. I asked for it. I wanted him to crawl so bad, but I’m not taking the blame for his mobility. He was going to crawl eventually. Eventually, he’ll also walk. I was actually looking forward to that, too. In fact, as asinine as it might sound, I still am. But that’s probably just because I don’t know any better. Walking has to be better than crawling, right? Who knows? All I really know is that I need one hell of a raise.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I love tuxedos. The tuxedo vest is the best friend of the beer belly. The adjustable pants are great too. Let’s just say women aren’t the only ones who put on baby weight. It’s been quite the year, and I probably had too much beer, among other things. It’s hard to find time to work out when you’re at the beckon call of a tyrant all day. But still, I felt good. I had close to five months of being a “Stay at Home Dad” under my ever loosening belt, and my son was actually becoming less Ghengis Khan and more of a joy. I had a system. I had him trained. I had myself trained. We were a well oiled machine prior to leaving Omaha for an extended holiday in the land of Lincoln. It would be a whole different ball game upon our return.

I was getting dressed in front of my suburban Chicago hotel room mirror on New Year’s Eve, trying to decide whether to wear my pants over or under my gut so I could adjust the side clips accordingly. I felt like Santa Claus after eating Baby New Year. I am definitely going to fix that in 2010, I thought, as I adjusted my tie and fussed with my beard. In order to do that, I’ll have to cut back on the beer. I shuddered at the thought and popped the top on a Three Floyds’ Gumballhead using the metal part of the bathroom door clasp. “There will be time for resolutions later,” I said to my reflection as I toasted the sharp looking bearded guy in the tux. I took a few healthy swigs off the bottle, adjusted my pants again, and headed downstairs to watch my baby sister get married.

My sister’s New Year’s Eve wedding was the finale of our fifteen day Christmas Caravan trip back to Illinois. We packed up my newly seventh month old son, the dog, and only what we assumed we’d absolutely need for the trip into my wife’s Hyundai. We purposefully packed lighter than usual, envisioning the piles of gifts that were coming to the newest member of our family, even opting to forgo the cloth diapers for the trip. You know your life is different when two weeks without having to wash diapers is your new definition of vacation. I was psyched, yet weary. It was either going to be two weeks of holiday bliss, or a complete fucking disaster.

You never know what’s going to transpire when you take a seven month old out of his comfort zone for more than two weeks. I expected the worst, but was pleasantly surprised with Jack’s ability to go with the flow despite missing naps, late bedtimes, and being passed around like a roofied college girl in a frat house. I also got a much needed break. I probably changed five diapers tops the whole time. I got to sleep in on the majority of days. It was glorious.

Two cities, three extended families, thirteen days, and 970 miles on the Hyundai later, Jack and I were in our tuxes, my wife in her stylish bridesmaid dress, and we were ready to pop the cork and celebrate. Sure, there would be toasting to the New Year and the newlyweds, but I was saving at least one toast to celebrate our survival of Christmas vacation. We just needed to get through the ceremony.

I swallowed the last bit of my beer, stepped off the elevator, and headed toward the banquet rooms reserved for the ceremony and reception, hugging my grandmothers and unsuccessfully dodging a sloppy kiss from my aunt. I joined the rest of the bridal party and posed for a graciously small amount of photos before ushering people from the bar to their seats and escorting both of my grandmothers to the second row on the left side. The usher at a wedding is a thankless role; all the work and none of the respect.

With everyone seated and waiting, I headed back into the hallway to see if my mom was ready to be walked down the aisle, and unwittingly noticed the cleavage she was sporting for her only daughter’s big day. There’s nothing worse than showy cleavage on your mother. It’s more than awkward for your eyes to continuously be drawn to something you don’t want to look at. It was like a miracle bra train wreck. I averted my eyes and caught a glimpse of my son vomiting all over the front of my wife’s dress.

Chaos ensued in the hallway. It was as if someone had suddenly spilled an Arby’s Jamocha milkshake down the front of my wife’s black dress and it was almost time for the grand entrance. There was plenty of joking around throughout the afternoon about wearing garbage bags over our wedding attire to avoid such an occurrence, but no one expected Jack to actually spit up on someone seconds before the main event. No one except me. Spitting up at an inopportune time is to be expected with a seven month old stuffed with milk and incessantly jostled around.

I quickly grabbed Jack from my wife and took some regurgitated formula shrapnel on my lapel in the process, as the wedding coordinator from the hotel scurried to find something to wipe off the mess slowly seeping into my wife’s bridesmaid dress. The bridal party entrance music started to play from inside the banquet room, those inside oblivious to the exorcist scene transpiring outside the wooden doors. I handed off my son to a bridesmaid and grabbed a cocktail napkin from under my mom’s lemon drop martini glass on the podium in the hallway. I smeared the vomit into my tux, watching it disappear into the dark fabric, before shrugging off the whole scene. I offered my arm to my mom, wished my wife luck, and casually walked my mom’s tits to their place in the front row.

My wife and son made it down the aisle without a hitch and with only a semi-noticeable puke stain on her dress, my sister looked beautiful and happy, and Jack occupied himself through the entire wedding ceremony by peeling apart the rose on my aunt’s corsage and trying to eat it. Later, he would stay up past midnight in my arms, kicking his legs to the beat of the Black Eyed Peas and that cheesy Metro Station song on the dance-floor, smiling his usual open mouthed smile, and burying his head in my shoulder. Hell, he showed up a four year old in the good behavior category, and it was way past his bedtime already. But hey, it was a special occasion; his aunt was getting married on the same day he started to crawl. I was proud. Proud of my Daddy skills and even prouder of him. Looking back on it now, Jack couldn’t have been a better sport throughout the wedding, or the multiple Christmas gatherings, or the countless hours in the car. I was beaming all night.

Then we got back to Omaha.

Let’s just say that the first day back on the job was less than ideal. In fact, there’s a perfect word to sum up the day. That word is, “Regression.” Yes, with a capital “R.” After weeks of being coddled and carried, Jack wanted nothing of our usual routine. He wanted nothing to do with Chuck the Truck, the noise making fish, or any of his sets of plastic keys. He wanted no part of his applesauce, green beans, or oatmeal. He screamed when put into his highchair or walker, and he threw his bottle back at me twice. He was being a real grade A asshole, and his new-found crawling ability is a whole other story. So far it’s a shitty one.

My mother and aunt both warned me that I would curse their names when we got back to Omaha. As is often the case in these matters, they were right. Yes Mom, yes Aunt Pam, you both fucking suck. Sure, maybe he’s just having a bad bout of teething again, but I blame them because they told me to. You’d think this kid never sat and played with toys before. You’d think he’d never taken a nap. You’d think he was never put down. No, he wanted constant entertainment, he wanted immediate gratification, and though he can crawl now, he’d much rather just sit and yell at me.

The son that I was so proud of days before, had turned back into a red-faced, screaming, inconsolable tyrant. I spent the last hour before my wife got home from work stifling the urge to scream obscenities at him. He, showing none of the same restraint, screamed at me every chance he got. It was like going back to day one all over again, but this time with scattered mobility. Fuck me!

But never fear, I will turn this around like a Hulk Hogan fight. I will be victorious in the end. I will pose in the ring. Day two is already better than yesterday. He’s learning to be patient again. He’s learning to fend for himself a bit. He’s learning the word “no.” He’s smiling, he’s eating, he’s napping. In fact, he’s sleeping now, and he’s starting to remind me of my son again. The son who brought more than a few tears to my eyes on New Year’s Eve as we cuddled on the dance-floor and slow danced to Haddaway’s “What is Love” just after the stroke of midnight. The son who just started moving on his own. The son who is growing faster than I had ever imagined. My son, my job, my life. Happy New Year.