Role Reversal: I Get No Respect!

 “What about me, Dudicle?” I asked my eleven month old as he balled his eyes out, staring longingly at the empty stairwell where my wife once stood.  She left for work, and I was left with what I’m always left with at this time of day: tears and an overwhelming urge to quote the late, great, Rodney Dangerfield.  Yes indeed, when it comes to my son, “I get no respect!”

Never mind the fact that I have been nothing if not a humble servant to his majesty for almost a year.  Never mind all of the shit explosions I’ve cleaned up.  Never mind all of the clothes he’s ruined with his toxic drool and puke exorcisms.  Never mind the daily dance parties.  Never mind the songs I have to make up on the spot.  Never mind the hours spent teaching him how to crawl, walk, and bang on stuff.  Never mind the constant task of cleaning up Cheerios out of every nook, cranny, and crevice.  Never mind the books read, meals fed, and less time in my own bed.  He doesn’t care.  He only cares about his mother.  To say I get taken for granted is being polite. I’m merely the opening act, while she shows up late, skips the encore, and always keeps ’em wanting more.  Yes, she’s Axl Rose circa 1989 and I might as well be an undocumented nanny.   

You should see his face light up when she gets home from work.  He can’t get to her soon enough.  He’ll force himself out of my grasp and sprint across the house climbing over couches, hurdling obstacles, and squealing with delight.  No, he doesn’t walk yet, but he sure runs to her at the end of the day.  Days that I’ve spent dealing with his mood swings, the failed naps, the inhumane diaper loads, the one-sided food fights, the constant cat and mouse games, and of course, the crying.  Days all said and done by the time my wife comes home to all smiles and fireworks and the beloved noises he makes when he’s so excited he can’t control himself.  Even the dog thinks he goes a little overboard.  She can’t even compete.  So we retire to a game of feel sorry for ourselves fetch while the mother-son love and laughter-fest continues in the living room.  Then he goes to bed.

When my wife had to split town for two weeks to deal with a death in the family, I held down the fort, nursing him through a cold and the emergence of two new teeth.  Waking him up, putting him to bed, personally entertaining him 24/7.  When she returned, his face lit up like I’ve never seen.  Daddy who?  I was immediately forgotten.  However, when we both took a few days off to play tourist in Chicago, my return was met with utter indifference.  He couldn’t have cared less.  I was a bit let down, I must admit. 
 

To make matters worse, one day he decided to break his silence with his first real word used in the proper context, “Momma.”  He said it as he climbed up her legs in the kitchen the other day.  It was crystal clear and deliberate, unlike the random collection of syllables tossed out at me on a daily basis.  Now, I know it’s not a contest.  My wife and I are a team.  I know that she knows all I do for him.  I know that he doesn’t really take me for granted, no matter how it looks.  But, I will admit that it stung just a little bit underneath the joy of hearing him finally grasp some aspect of the English language.  For all I do for that little fucker, it’s a bit of a let down to know that she is now “Momma” and I am still “chopped liver.” 

“I figured that would happen,” my wife told me later that evening in reference to the “Momma” incident, stifling her desire to flaunt.  “Studies show that most of the time ‘Daddy’ or some form of it is usually the first word kids say because they hear their mothers saying it while the dad’s at work and especially when he comes home,” she continued, trying to console me with her scholarly wisdom, “So you shouldn’t be surprised or feel bad about it.”  It seems that the traditional gender roles have been reversed. I guess it’s official: I have become Mr. Mom.

“‘220-221, whatever it takes,'” I replied, then sulked into the couch with the dog.

The primary “stay at home” caregiver typically gets all of the work but none of the credit.  Yes, that’s a mild exaggeration, and there are countless perks that I have discovered in the past eight months.  However, it can be a bit disheartening sometimes.  Other times, even if just for a second, you wonder why you put in the effort at all.  You spend hours dealing with the trials of a crabby kid and end up handing off a bundle of joy to the working parent when they get home.  Then the bundle has the nerve to not even look back.  I know moms…welcome to your world.  I realize that I’m new here, bare with me. I feel your pain.

At least those of us on this end of things have our expertise to rely on. It’s nice to have my wife defer to me on issues related to my son.  The questions come from all angles.  When do you do this?  What does he eat then? Does he get a bottle now? When should I put him down for a nap?  I used to be clueless, now I’m the go to guy.  When I’m not around, sometimes the well oiled machine that is our household starts to derail.  I’ll come home to dirty bottles, empty formula containers, no baby food in the fridge, overflowing diaper pails, a frustrated mom, and a cranky baby. It’s nice to swoop in and be the hero.  At least those of us in the same house slippers can fall back on that and savor a bit of consolation. Some things are better left to the experts, I suppose, and we are the experts. 

I still, however, have nothing but love for the parents that go off to work on a daily basis.  The parents that allow us to stay home and experience the day to day growth of our children and explore options we may not be able to if we had to go to an outside job.  The parents that have to leave the home to spend time with people they may or may not want to, doing things they may or may not want to, instead of doing the things they do want to with those they love.  The parents that miss out on the little things.  The parents who deal with having to feel out of the loop, out of practice, and out of place in their own homes with their own families.  The parents who are truly making the biggest sacrifice a parent can make, for the good of the family.  Parents like my wife, who make the whole damn thing work.  They deserve those precious moments in the morning and evening, the tears when they leave, and the honor of being the recipient of the first words.  They deserve so much more.  It’s good to keep that in mind.  I try to.

Lucky for me, my wife and I seem to have it worked out so far.  We’ve figured out how to operate as a team, get past our misgivings, and make sure we let each other know how important the other is to the success of the whole.  It took us the entire year, but we’ve figured out how to blur those traditional gender lines and share the work and the wealth.  She even had me speak to her Sociology of Gender class the other day.  The fact that there needs to be classes like that and that a discussion with me would be enlightening at all, speaks volumes as to where we are.  Talking with her students was eye opening, to say the least.  What I’m starting to learn is that in addition to the uphill task of rewriting the gender rules, if more people realize how much of an actual job staying at home and raising your child all day is, then we’ll really start to get somewhere as equals, partners, parents, families, and citizens.  It’s something “Stay at Home” moms have been trying to get people to understand ever since before the two income family became hip or necessary.

Unfortunately that won’t happen until more men join in on the experience and until outdated gender roles are finally recognized as such.  We’re getting there.  It’s something I’m more proud of doing each day.  It’s something I would highly recommend. I’m glad I’m able to set this example for my son.  I’m glad I’m taking part in trying to erase the lines between gender roles.  Perhaps the idea won’t seem so odd to the next generation of men being currently cared for by stay at home dads, single dads, and most importantly, empathetic dads.  Equality begins in the home.  But, it’s not going to happen until we as a society put more value into being an active parent in general, getting our priorities straight, and acknowledging that child care and the work that goes into being a stay at home caregiver (male or female) is a proper and noble profession, even if the child may not offer up that same respect.  But hey, that’s how it goes. Kids are selfish bastards.

Despite my slight jealousy, it’s still great to watch the two of them together at the end of the work day.  It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I cherish it everyday.  Today was no different.  I took in every second of my wife sitting on the back deck, my son, on her lap, eating Cheerios and peas on the hottest afternoon of the year so far in Omaha.  The first strong Spring sun, my son, my wife, and myself listening to The Hold Steady, contemplating breakfast for dinner, and waiting on the twister.  Then my wife ran inside to pee and Jack turned on the tear faucet, destroying the peace of the scene.  “What about me?” I asked him as he looked up at the door and I looked for the dog who was barking at a squirrel in the corner of the yard.  Go figure.  I get no respect!

(Photos courtesy of Christina Reinicke-Chicago)

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Baby’s Day Out

There it was.  That oh so familiar whine emanating from the baby monitor.  I knew he would wake up.  It was a guarantee.  It took my eleven month old son a half hour to fall asleep for his afternoon nap and now, twenty minutes in, the perfect storm of noise decided to shit all over my afternoon.

It all started with a fucking motorcycle. I finally snagged some time to write and some asshole decided to pick up his daughter from the middle school across the street on a loud as hell crotch rocket.  “Go-fuckin figure,” I whispered to myself as I spun around on my green leather seventies chair, turning my attention from the makeshift desk in my attic room to the ruckus outside my window.  I don’t even know why I whispered.  My dog was barking her ass off downstairs at the douche-bag who was apparently on my front lawn doing donuts.  The nap was sabotaged no matter how loud I swore to myself.  I looked out the window to see that said douche-bag was in fact not on my front lawn, but in the middle of the road, blocking traffic from both directions.  I watched him hand his daughter an extra helmet.  She put the helmet on and attempted to climb onto the back of the bike. 

“Other side!” he yelled as loud as he could over the noise of the bike and the muffle of his teal motorcycle helmet as he waved his daughter to the street side of the bike to board.  She scurried around and awkwardly climbed onto the back of the seat, putting her hands on her father’s shoulders. “Is your helmet on right?” he yelled, unbelievably louder than before, “Hang on!” She put her arms around his neck.  “No, not there! Hang on down here!” She lowered her embrace to underneath his armpits and the bike quickly growled away.  The dog was still barking like a lunatic downstairs.  

I never before had wanted to put a dog down so badly.  I thought about going to the vet’s house next door and asking.  I sat back down in my chair disgusted at the sudden turn of events, clicked the play button on iTunes, and started up the Steve Dahl podcast I had been listening to before Wild Hog disrupted the peace of my afternoon.  Then I waited.  Two seconds later I heard Jack in the baby monitor from his room downstairs.  I heard the dog sprinting up the stairs and gave her my most evil possible glare as I stood up from in front of the computer and headed downstairs.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this parenting trip that keeps coming back to me it’s that you can’t have any expectations once you have a kid.  You can barely have free time.  

Luckily the hard time I’ve put in this first year as a “Stay at Home” Dad has helped me to master the basics of this childcare thing so far, because it’s starting to get a bit more complicated.  Now when he naps, I feel like I need to save the world.  I feel like I have to take advantage of every second.  When he’s awake, those opportunities are few.  He’s is constantly moving.  He is a wind up toy.  You set him on the ground and he’s off until he crashes into something.  These days, having a nap sabotaged by a dog and a douche-bag is as heartbreaking as your first girlfriend telling you you have a small penis.  It’s like clouds and rain on the 4th of July.  Shitty.

But, you have to persevere.  Letting yourself get upset for too long fixes nothing.  It’s really hard to be a good parent when you are in a bad mood.  So, you regroup, and you let the animal out of its cage so you can do it all over again.  Out of the crib and into the fire as the chase continues.  Like I said, he never stops moving.  He’s crawling, climbing, drooling, exploring, and sticking things into his mouth.  Who knows what he’s doing when I turn my back?  He may be stopping crime.  I feel like I’m trapped inside the movie Baby’s Day Out. I’ve only ever seen the previews, but I imagine it’s similar. It has started to take some creativity just to keep up with him; creativity and intelligence.  Luckily, I’m still a bit smarter than him.

My son is like Indiana Jones and Batman rolled into one, trapped inside the body of the Gerber baby.  While I, on the other hand, have been relegated to the role of Short Round and Alfred respectively.  I say this because of his sense of adventure and fearlessness and my blind loyalty and uncanny ability to assist him in getting in and out of trouble.  And let’s not forget his choice of interesting toys and his effortless way with women. 

Jack would run away from home if we let him.  However, this is not a reflection of our lack of providing a loving home and life for him but more a side effect of his curiosity and our desire to encourage it.  Turn your back on him and he’ll be halfway across the house and on another floor.  Set him in the front lawn and next thing you know you’ll look up from your well-read copy of Catcher in the Rye and see him examining the rocks in front of the neighbor’s front porch.  We set him on the front porch and he desires the driveway.  Set him on the driveway, and he heads straight for sidewalk.  Set him on the sidewalk, and he puts his head down and sprint-crawls to the end of the block.  I’ve had to start hanging out in the backyard for the fences.

“There he goes,” my wife said as she sipped her wine near the bird feeder in our backyard.  I looked on from the back deck and saw Jack, head down, scampering across the yard to the far corner a few inches from the fence.  He stopped, took a roundabout look to gain his new bearings, then proceeded to pick up every stick in his vicinity until he found the right one.  Then he swung the stick around for ten minutes, smiling a huge open mouthed smile when he noticed we were watching, but refusing to give up the distance between us.  I thought about our trip to the park the prior weekend and how he left us in his wake and crawled almost fifty yards towards some kids and a dog without looking back once.  

“He’s all about pushing boundaries,” I responded with a smile, “and he’s not afraid of grass.”  We shared a laugh as we watched Jack narrowly avoid a collision with our dog who was sprinting across the yard chasing squirrels from tree to telephone pole to fencepost to tree. Our friends’ daughter of the same age is currently afraid of grass.  Jack gravitates toward it.  He can’t get enough.  His face lights up when you open a door.  He drools like a junkie until you set him down in the sea of green.  He pulls at the blades of grass, sometimes attempting to eat them, and then he moves on and searches for rocks or dirt or dog poo.  I’m so glad he’s not afraid of grass, but it turns out he doesn’t seem to be afraid of much of anything.  Plus, with my ever present watching eye and quick reflexes, he probably feels invincible.  It’s not a good combination for my sanity.

The best part about his adventurousness is that he’s pretty open to going places and doing things.  The grocery store, Beertopia, restaurants, the park, art museums, the zoo: he’s game for all of them anytime and all the time.  We took him to his first baseball game just last week.  Figuring we’d test the waters with a minor league game before trying out the big leagues, we took him along to opening night of the final season of the Omaha Royals at Rosenblatt Stadium.  He split his time between watching the people in the seats behind him and crawling up and down the aisle playing with empty Miller High Life cans and discarded boxes of popcorn.  Though my mother would have probably gone nuts over the whole scene, if he hadn’t found some interest in the beer cans he may have just kept on going down the aisle and found his way into the bullpen to hang with the relievers.  Luckily, he’s easily distracted.  Unfortunately his attention span is smaller than his pinky toe.  He loses concentration between spoonfuls of dinner.  One second he’s starving, the next he’s chewing on the strap from his highchair. 

Until recently, the weather in Omaha has kept us mostly trapped inside.  Lately, this has been quite the test of both of our creativity and patience.  I’ve worked to become proficient in my distractions, and extremely liberal in what I’m willing to let him occupy his time doing.  Jack’s on board with these progressive ideas as well.  Brushing off the more traditional baby toys we’ve inherited or he’s gotten as gifts, Jack likes to erase the boundaries of what is and isn’t a toy.  For instance, he’ll push a large calculator around on our wooden floors for many minutes at a time.  He gets so much enjoyment from that, we’ve started to carry the calculator around in our diaper bag wherever we go.  I figure that’s not as weird as carrying around some of his other favorite toys of the moment like my belt, an old plastic roladex/recipe container, a metal bookend, or the small curtain rod that he loves to swing around like a lightsaber.  He is obsessed with all of them, which is fine with me as long as it keeps him occupied for a few seconds at a time so that I can eat, clean, shit, shower, write, or read something–even if I have to do it all at once.  Plus it keeps me from having to remove loose change from his mouth every ten minutes.  I don’t know what the deal is, but he finds pennies everywhere; pennies I don’t even notice.  My mantra for the past week has been “money is not for eating.”  I’ve even turned it into a song.  Hey, whatever it takes. And it often takes Cheerios.

What I have noticed as we inch ever closer to the end of my first year as a dad, is that the older they get, the easier it becomes to figure them out and the harder it becomes to keep up with them.  Eventually you do figure out the handful of real needs.  You figure out the moods.  You learn the art of distraction.  You learn new tricks.  You realize that they can be easily entertained as well as motivated.  You realize that babies fall for every trick in the book.  Lucky for us they do, because otherwise we’d totally be fucked.

In the end, we got past the missed nap and made it to Mom’s return from work relatively unscathed, despite the dog, the douche-bag, the lost nap, and the Energizer baby.  Now more than ever, when my wife comes home from work it’s a daily celebration.  We’re both excited to see her after the rat race of our day and it’s always nice to pass the baton to someone else for the anchor leg of the Jack relay.  Today’s celebration erupted into an impromptu dance party to the new album from LCD Soundsystem, as we tried to teach Jack to clap.  He still refused.  For a kid so willing to explore the world, he’s extremely unwilling to clap.  Perhaps little things like that are beneath him?  Perhaps he’s got more important things to discover?  Perhaps he’s just waiting for his first White Sox game? 

As we danced around our kitchen table, I thought back to that first baseball game a week ago and the possibility of taking him to that first White Sox game sometime this season.  I thought about how happy I was that it was finally baseball season.  It was finally Spring.  The remedy for our cabin fever couldn’t have come soon enough.  Jack had spent the entire winter inspecting every inch of our home, and now it was easy to see that he was ready to find that next frontier.  I thought about all that will probably happen in Jack’s life over the course of this baseball season.  Sure, a White Sox game was almost a given.  But, he will most likely reach several other first milestones over the course of 162 games: his first birthday, his first step, his first word, his first swim, and maybe even his first clap to cheer on the Sox in his first World Series?  It’s going to be one hell of a season.  We’re ready.  Jack’s ready.  Let’s play ball.

My advice: Yes, you may be touching it too much.

“How did you even know what to do?” a friend asked me as he reached past me to grab his beer from the bartender.  I was at a friend’s daughter’s first birthday party.  It was a big shindig at a public golf course clubhouse.  The few people that I knew were huddled around the bar watching the Final Four games, talking about the upcoming White Sox season, and drinking Miller Lites from the open bar. The birthday girl was nowhere in sight, not that it mattered anyways.  First birthday parties are pretty much for the enjoyment of adults anyways.  As parents, you make sure your guests get drunk, watch your kid shove cake in their face, and celebrate the fact that you made it an entire year without fucking up and killing your kid. It’s an American tradition.     

“Good luck,” I responded.  The priceless look on my friend’s face told me I had answered correctly.  I ordered a High Life from the bartender and watched as the entire group of guys shifted their gaze from the game to her tight black stretch pants.  An old guy that looked like Walter Mathau squeezed past me on his way outside for a smoke break, trying to avoid the impending Easter egg hunt that was about to occur near the putting green.

“Funny.  No big advice from the Omaha Dad?” he continued. I ignored the sarcasm and thought it about it for a minute as I watched a middle aged weirdo in suspenders make mediocre balloon animals.

“When it comes down to it, the only advice I could give you is this: don’t shake your baby no matter how much you want to,” I said.  He thought I was joking.  I couldn’t have been more serious.  It really is the best advice.  There are times, especially early on, when you want to shake your baby.  This is the first test you must pass.  Cross that line, and we find out really quick who is up for this parenting thing and who isn’t.  It seems pretty simple, but there’s a reason we have something called “shaken baby syndrome.”  It happens.  “Get past that urge, and you’ll be fine,” I added, still not sure if he was taking me seriously.  The childless can be so naive.

I looked at the time on my phone and intuitively scanned the room for the diaper bag.  I noticed it on a bar stool and rummaged through it for a bottle and some formula right as my wife inquired about the time.  “Yep, I’m making him a bottle right now,” I answered, heading off her question as I walked around the corner to the bathroom.  My mom stopped me halfway.

“Do you want me to get some bottled water from the bar?” she asked, a look of fear in her eye at the prospect of me getting water from the men’s restroom.

“I’ll be fine,” I quipped as I pushed open the door and slid inside.  I laughed out loud in the empty men’s room as I thought about Mom’s water suggestion.  A formula bottle made of tap water wouldn’t kill the kid.  Besides, Jack prefers his bottles warm and immediate, and you can be sure as hell my mom poured that same Lake Michigan tap water down my throat for all of my formative years. It’s funny how much pickier my parents are with my son.  They treat him like baby Jesus. 

I left the men’s room and located the “blessed one” in the arms of my sister.  I grabbed him from her and set him down on the floor to groans from both my sister and mother.  I leaned him up against his diaper bag next to the gift table and let him chug his bottle as much of the room looked on, some snapping pictures, as Jack sat oblivious to anything but the sweet fake boob juice flowing down his throat.  My mom wasn’t pleased, but let it go for the time being.  Heaven forbid the “Christ child” touches the floor.  She quickly scooped him up as soon as he finished the last drop and took him home to put him to bed.

Without the mini-me responsibility, I went back to the bar to wait for the kid-cake comedy fiasco, stepping on a balloon puppy as my brother in law asked me about my weight loss regimen.  “It doesn’t include many of these,” I said as I ordered another beer from the bar.  The draft came back flat so I waited around for the bartender to return and traded it in for a High Life bottle that I placed in my ever present beer coozie after instinctively retrieving it from my back pocket.  My brother in law always gets a kick out of that.

“Hey kids, let’s find the Easter eggs hidden in my pants,” interrupted my younger brother, mocking the suspender guy who was now dressed in an Easter Bunny costume and posing for pictures with the remaining children who were up way past any sensible bedtime.  I noticed that the birthday girl was less than enthused, which was no surprise since she hadn’t even been allowed to paint her face with chocolate cake and frosting yet and we had been here for four hours already.  I was running out of patience for the entire scene, and believe it or not, despite being free, I was pretty much over drinking beer for the time being.  

I had just spent three and a half glorious beer filled childless days  in downtown Chicago while my wife attended a Sociology conference, and now I felt like a kid on the last day of summer vacation.  After ten and a half months, my first three and a half day respite from my fatherly duties was a godsend.  Unfortunately and predictably, it had gone by too fast, and now I was one day away from getting back on the Daddy horse and riding seven hours back to Omaha.  It was no longer time to celebrate, I had to start getting back into the full-time “Daddy” mode frame of mind.  Knowing full well that I’d get to witness my own child covered in cake in less that two months, I decided not to wait any longer, left the childless ones at the bar and bummed a ride to my parent’s place.
 
I lay in bed that night savoring the last few minutes of my Spring Break from daddy day care.  I thought about the past few days and how simultaneously wonderful and odd it was to be relieved of my child for seventy-two hours.  I thought about the past ten and a half months, what I had learned, and how different my life now was for better or worse.  I came to the conclusion that it was mostly better, especially now, as we approached my own son’s first birthday.  Then I thought about the question my friend asked me earlier: “How did you even know what to do?”

The truth is, I didn’t.  I stand by the advice that I had given him about the baby shaking, but that’s obviously only part of the puzzle.  Sure, I do have a ton of advice, but does it really matter? Children are like the world’s hardest Rubik’s Cube that you have to try and solve blindfolded before it explodes in your face.  As soon as the O.R. nurse handed me my bloody, gooey, tear inducing bundle of joy, it was go time. She had a smile on her face, but behind it was the reality of it all that said, “Good luck, don’t fuck up.”  That’s pretty much all you get.  I couldn’t believe that they just send you home with your new baby and that’s that.  There are no instructions.  There is no owner’s manual.  There are no training wheels or batting practice.

My friend Dan and I began fatherhood nine days apart, yet our children couldn’t be more different.  During many of our discussions about parenthood and parenting advice, he’s tossed around the idea of writing our own parenting advice book.  We settled on the title, “Something up with your kid? Here are one million things you can try that may or may not work for you.”  That pretty much sums up parental advice as far as I’m concerned.   It can often be a game of throwing everything at the wall and praying your ass off that something sticks.  An idea lottery where you’re hoping that your number gets called just once so you can sleep.

Despite this, or maybe because of it, there is no shortage of good or bad “help” available online, in magazines, in books, on television, and often among friends and family. Some of this is great.  Sometimes you don’t know where to start.  Sometimes you need a hint to point you in the right direction.  Sometimes it’s nice to know you are not alone.  Sometimes you just want some reassurances that what you are experiencing or feeling is normal.  The only problem is, there is no “normal.”  There is no “right way.”  No two babies are the same, yet they are all the same.  It can get pretty damn confusing sometimes.

There’s a reason that there’s a huge market for baby blogs and baby books and baby magazines.  We are all just trying to not fuck up the whole thing.  We think that we can’t figure it out on our own in our own way. For some parents, it can be downright overwhelming.  They are so afraid of doing something wrong.  They are afraid to let their children figure things out, explore their environment, or just plain live.  They try to avoid all the dirt, all the germs, and often, all the fun. They fear the stupid shit and ignore the problems later in life when it’s really time to worry.  I get it, but I see the absurdity in many of these sterile, “by the book” parents, and I’m striving to do it our way.  Though, I sometimes do need a little help.

I will admit I’ve spent some time perusing online message boards myself, especially in the early days. Hell, the internet in general has done wonders for parenting in my opinion.You feel less alone in the sometimes solitary world of parenthood. Social networking online can be a savior to the stay at home caregiver stuck inside all winter with a child too young to communicate.  You don’t feel so out of touch.  Plus, when you need that little bit of help, it’s often just a few clicks away.

There’s something comforting in knowing that what you are experiencing with your baby is not new or unique.  It gives you a slight sense of relief when you realize that there are hundreds of other people dealing with the same issues that you are.  You feel like you are part of a club.  It also helps to get a nice variety of “solutions” from people who have already gone through what you have, whether the circumstance is exactly similar or not.  It gives you some other things to try.  It hopefully keeps you from shaking your baby.

My wife and I spent a good couple of months in agony over Jack’s lack of desire to sleep or stay asleep.  It was an underlying issue that was affecting every aspect of our lives. I’d go online daily looking for books, websites, or other afflicted parents looking for answers.  In the end, I was referred to a book about the sleep issues we were dealing with from a good old friend of mine after a discussion of the topic at my brother’s wedding.  I went on Amazon.com upon our return to Omaha and ordered it.  Then, at some point between the ordering of the book and its arrival, we pretty much solved our own problem through a combination of trial and error and heeding advice from multiple sources, including the comments on Amazon under the book listing.  When the book arrived, it only backed up what we had already figured out.  We never looked at it again.  Go figure.  Maybe I should write a book?

In fact, being the cocky ten month veteran of parenthood that I am, I’ll now sometimes find myself scoffing at many of the often hilarious questions that new parents want answers to and are not afraid to ask online or in nationally published books or magazines.  You can feel the desperation in their posts online, and you realize how good you have it compared to some of the other rubes who can barely tread water in the baby pool.  People have examples for everything and questions about anything.  If you can dream it up, somebody’s kid probably did it somewhere and their online asking if it’s normal.  As always, there will also be someone else that can relate.  It’s a never ending source of laughs.

Take for instance the often helpful bestseller What to Expect: The First Year, a series that I like better than most in the genre because they present a good broad view of just that, what you might be able to expect from your new parenting adventure.  You can take or leave the advice offered, but again, it’s nice to at least have an idea of what’s coming your way and whether or not you should be concerned.  The questions they use are golden. One day I stumbled upon this gem of a question on page 397 regarding the eighth month: “When I’m diapering my baby, he sometimes gets an erection.  Am I handling his penis too much?”

Short answer: If you have to ask, then the answer is probably, “yes.”  I’ve spent ten months diapering and bathing my son and he’s never gotten an erection.  I’ve touched his penis more than any other penis aside from my own, and I still haven’t touched it enough to give him a baby erection.  Therefore, yes, you may be touching it too much.  Thanks for your question, and thanks for buying my book. The end. 

As a parent, it’s hard to not want all of the answers all of the time.   But sometimes a little trial and error is the only option. Sometimes you need to make mistakes to learn.  Sometimes you have to put the book down and just figure it out at your own pace.  It’s okay to seek advice.  It’s okay to ask for help.  However, it’s also okay to relax and let nature take its course without worrying about fucking up a little.  Parenting is about learning not only how to raise your children and keep them alive, but also about learning about yourself, and learning how to be a better person and parent.  Every day is an education.

Today it’s back to the internet to search for helpful hints on potty training before the age of one.  I noticed that Jack has finally discovered his penis, so I guess now is about as perfect a time as ever to see if he wants to learn how to use it outside of his diaper. Plus, we don’t want to have to buy the next size up in cloth diapers, which is quickly becoming a necessity.  So, as has been the case for the last ten months of my life, I’m open to any and all advice from everywhere. And here’s hoping I won’t have to touch it too much.