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A test of one’s self

Before you become a parent, you hear the stories and you are somehow misled into thinking that being a parent can be a bit difficult, and a bit stressful, but once that little tyke looks at you in the eyes and giggles, all that shit melts away and you feel amazing.
It’s true, yeah. But there are days where the trials and tribulations of being a parent become a real test of one’s self and one’s patience. That’s something I would have liked people to tell me as a way to prepare for the tougher moments of parenthood.

For instance, we thought we had it made. Little YY is finally able to sleep through the night, finally able to eat his food without fussing much at all, and things are going swimmingly well. But lately, it’s getting a little tougher. He’s getting messier with his food as he learns how to play with it, and he’s starting to kick up a fuss again in the middle of the night.

Granted, a nasty fever that clocked in the high 38s (or 102F for those so inclined) really disrupted his sleep rhythm to the point that we were up for two hours in the middle of the night taking care of an impossibly non-stop screaming baby. And he’d puke as well – sometimes in the bed, right on our pillows, and sometimes right on the floor in the hallway.

Puking’s probably one of the toughest bits – I can handle the crying because once he stops, he stops, and now I can pour myself a glass of wine and chill. But puking – once he expels the technicolours out of his system and onto the floor or bedsheets, there’s a tremendous amount of maintenance that requires attention right then and there. Off come the bedsheets, off come the pillowcases, down to the laundry room for changing, sometimes taking little YY into the bathroom for a quick bath to wash it all off, sometimes to wash us off, and get new sheets, new towels, new pillowcases, all kinds of new stuff. And finally we can relax, but after 15-20 minutes of this sort of maintenance.

There are times, also, where the in-laws are in town and that gives us a little get-out-of-house-free card, so that we can go on one of our little dates and enjoy time together for a change. We did that tonight, and were able to relax and have a margarita, but on coming home, all of a sudden, we had to resort back to parent mode – with margarita in our bellies and all – and there are times where it does test the patience. You want the little fella to sleep, and to be sleeping peacefully by the time you get home, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you’re going to move YY to the crib from the bed and he wakes up in the process, and that’ll unleash a fresh set of crying that takes a little while to calm down.

OK, end rant. I’m all right, and so is X. And YY is sleeping now. And I’m about to go to sleep. But I can tell you – being a parent can be challenging sometimes. It’s hard on the patience when you don’t have much of it, and a little tyke is not going to consider your patience when he or she opens the floodgates. That’s all right, we know that YY is just a little guy and doesn’t know better, and we love him. But there are days you just wanna have a quiet night, a movie, wine, and sleep especially after a hard week. It’s just human nature, but it also builds character.

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I’ve become my daddy

One of my favourite stories from being a kid is when my dad used to carry me around on his shoulders or in one of those kiddie backpacks that you can put your kid in. When we were halfway through the hike, according to my dad, I apparently hiccuped, burped and then vomited all over my dad’s head. My poor father had to walk all the way back down to the car with dried puke on his head – or at least whatever puke was left over after he’d wiped it off with a handkerchief. He tells me that story every once in awhile.
Now, I realize I’ve now become the dad who carries his kid around in a backpack. We did that for the first time yesterday – myself, X and little YY in a backpack, going for a hike through the woods near our place. I felt like such a proud poppa, finally getting to do this, and I know he was having a great time too. For the first time ever he gets to see the world from the vantage point of his father’s, rather than from just 2.5 feet above the ground. I was a pretty proud poppa that day.

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Feeling like a rotten daddy

This is a short one. The other evening, I was a bit cranky and annoyed with X, and had someplace to go in the meantime. She was upstairs, giving little YY a bath as per the ritual we follow every evening – bath, dinner, brush teeth, bottle of milk, sleep. I was downstairs, and basically hollered upstairs that I was going to my thing, and see you later, and bye bye and all that. I walked out, slammed and locked the door behind me, and went to the car, and drove straight to my meeting.
On the way there, I suddenly started feeling like a real rotten bastard. Why? Because I didn’t take the time to go upstairs and say bye bye to little YY. I didn’t even think about it. I suppose I thought it wouldn’t make a difference one way or another, since he was too young to understand anything.
But boy oh boy, did I chastise myself for it. I’ve always prided myself on being a good, attentive dad, nothing like the deadbeats and absent poppas that populate the world over. I want to do my part, and I want to be there for my son. I want him to wake up and see that I’m there. I want him to not feel scared if he doesn’t see me around. I want him to know that I’m coming back, so that’s why I want to kiss him on the forehead and say bye bye before I go out anywhere. It’s important to do that, methinks.
But I didn’t do it that evening. And for the rest of the evening and overnight, I felt like a total jerk. It’s such a small thing, and likely inconsequential, but boy oh boy, I did not feel good about it.
Perhaps it’s me sending messages to myself, reminding myself not to do that again. I’m a dad, and that’s the way it’s gonna be, and I want to be a present dad. I want to be a here dad. I want to be an accessible dad. I want to be a thoughtful dad. Most of all, I want my boy to look at me and see me as a role model. Hell, more importantly – he probably does see me as a role model without even thinking it, so it’s even more important that I put on the best role model I possibly can. To be the best kind of man for him.
That night, I wasn’t the best kind of man. Small as it may seem, I felt like the worst.
I’ve heard that if you do feel this way, then that means you’re a good poppa. It means you’re very intensely aware of what you’re doing, both good and bad.
If that’s indeed the case, the way I beat myself up that night, I must be one swell poppa. Even though I felt like a rotten one at the time.

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A test of one’s self

Being a poppa isn’t just about being a poppa. No, sirree.
It is a test of one’s self.
It’s one of the toughest jobs anyone can have, especially if you’re a stay-at-home poppa.
But unlike many other tests, which simply build character or give you 14/20 in red ink in the upper left corner of the test you wrote last Tuesday, this test’s results are absolutely great.
For me, I’ve been a stay-at-home poppa for about eight months now. Much of it has been boring, and a real test of my patience. I’m normally the sort who likes to go out all the time and check things out, and talk to people, and explore, and do things. But when we have a little toddler around the house, it’s a little limiting at times. In order to go out and explore, you have to get two people ready: yourself, and the little one. You have to dress both of youse, and you have to brush your teeth, put in your contacts, comb your hair all while watching the little one.
That can be a tad discouraging and sometimes you might think, screw this, I’ll just stay in and watch a movie.
Plus, with New England’s winter being some five or six months long, it was hard to go out in any case.
It is also a bit boring. You can’t have long conversations with your little guy. You can engage him in baby talk, read him baby books, tickle him until you think he’ll explode, and all kinds of other simple things.
But more and more so, lately, I’ve started to really enjoy life with the little one. It’s no longer a test of my character, or a test of my patience. I look back at these eight months and I think, well, I’ve done pretty well. I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to spend time with this little guy so much for so long. Although there were times where I admit I didn’t want to be in this situation any more, I’m overall pleased that I’m doing it. What could possibly trump this? The pub? Right. A conversation with old Joe down the street? Ha ha. A book? A stroll down the river? Whatever. Man, life with a little kid doesn’t get beat. It’s pretty great, especially in hindsight, because I now have the memories to show for it.
So, yes, it’s a test of one’s self, but the rewards make it all worth it.