I’m generally not a very patient person but in some cases, I can be foolishly patient. For example, getting gas. Maybe it’s the fact that I used to pay for gas with whatever I had in my ashtray when I was a poor teenager and then college student, but I can’t bring myself to fill up on gas until I absolutely need to. Contrast this with my mom who gets uncomfortable when her gas tank gets below the halfway mark. In fact, I’ve often viewed the gas light as a challenge. Generally, the gas light coming on means you have about 20 miles until your tank is empty. ORLY?!?! In the past, I’ve proudly proclaimed that I once drove 40 miles after the check engine light came on, to which my friend(s) say, “you’re an idiot.” What I fail to mention is that one time my wife ran out of gas because of my “patience.”
One of the potential venues my fiancee and I looked into for our wedding was the Glenview Mansion in Rockville, MD. My fiancee was driving my old Corolla at the time, and when we were leaving, she said she should probably get gas. “Did the check engine light come on,” I asked her. “No,” she replied, “But it’s awfully low…” “Don’t worry,” I assured her, “I know that car and I can get gas for it later.” This statement turned out to be very, very true. So we made plans to meet back at her house and then head somewhere for dinner.
It was rush hour on Viers Mill Rd, and for those that are familiar with the Rockville area, rush hour gets pretty intense on Rockville Pike, Viers Mill Rd, and Norbeck Rd, etc…my fiancee was following me but we eventually got separated. As I was driving along, I get a phone call. “I’M OUT OF GAS!!!”
I generally try not to curse; this was not one of those situations. Well, I didn’t curse out loud because that wouldn’t have helped anything. But my brain was stringing profane words together together like some super hit combos in a fighting game.
Me: “WHERE ARE YOU?!”
Her (clearly upset): “At the intersection of Viers Mill and Norbeck Rd…”
Me: “I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!!!”
I get to the nearest gas station. There’s only one gas tank in the shop and there’s no price tag on it. “HOW MUCH IS THIS,” I ask. “$10,” the clerk replied. I’m sure seeing me in a state of panic added several dollars to the cost. I paid the cost and filled it up and rushed back to my fiancee.
There’s nowhere to park in that area and it would’ve taken forever to make my way around to get my car behind hers. As I pull up, I utter more profanities as I see the traffic jam being caused by her broken down car. I end up parking illegally at someone’s home and having to run across this big field, which is no longer there (they built up several homes). I think the field was maybe 100 ft long; it felt like a mile. Several irritated drivers looked over and saw me running with a gas can and shouted pleasantries at me. Many made note of my race and the fact that I like to do things to other men’s butts or mentioned the things they’d love to do to my butt, particularly inserting objects into it. How pleasant.
I finally get to the car and more pleasantries are being uttered by passersby. Turns out my fiancee ran out of gas a little further up the road but I nice gentleman pushed the car to this spot, which eased the backup slightly. The worst part of this whole thing? The gas can I just paid $10 for is broken. I’m getting more gas onto the side of the car and onto Viers Mill Rd than I am into the gas tank. My guess is that $10 gas can transferred 10% of the gas I bought into the car.
So as I walk back across the field to my car, I’m praying probably harder than I’ve ever prayed before that my fiancee would be able to make it home. (she did).
Fast forward to roughly 2 weeks ago. My wife and my mom mention that we are running low on diapers. “I’ll order them from Amazon soon,” I maintained. Ever since Amazon Mom started, whenever I’ve ordered diapers, they’ve arrived at our house no more than 3 days from the day I ordered them – sometimes, the next day. They remind me again that we’re low on diapers last week and I went ahead and ordered them. The next day, the diapers still haven’t shipped and now I’m starting to get nervous. Then my mom calls me and says, “Hey, I thought there were some extra diapers downstairs but we actually don’t have any left.”
I generally try not to curse; this was not one of those situations.
Mercifully, the diapers shipped via UPS later that afternoon, but they wouldn’t arrive until Monday. Thankfully, we had some emergency diapers we keep stored in our cars – we wised up after forgetting our diaper bag on several crucial occasions. “Maybe we should just go buy a pack of diapers,” my wife asked me. Again, I’m foolishly patient with some things, especially when buying a pack of diapers in the stores is crazy expensive.
The diapers are out for delivery this morning. So my mom is at home, left with one diaper. UPS is delivering a package, which I hope gets there before D2 delivers her daily brown package. Gives new meaning to the slogan, “What can brown do for you?”
Over the past year or so, there have been a handful of nights where D1 woke up screaming – this is different from when she screams just before having to go to bed, which happens quite frequently. When I got to her, she was sweaty and her heart rate was insanely high. I tried to talk to her to ask her what was wrong, but she was completely unresponsive. Our pediatrician later diagnosed these episodes as night terrors. If you need more info on night terrors/sleep terrors, including possible causes and treatment, please consult your pediatrician or Dr. Google. If you’d like to read about my experience or need some support, read on.
Though they’ve been infrequent, they certainly aren’t a welcome development. Particularly now that D1 and D2 share a bed, D1’s night terrors will wake D2 up. As any parent can attest, getting kids to sleep is difficult; getting them to fall back asleep in the middle of the night is down right frustrating, if not infuriating.
I’d like to say I’ve responded well to the night terrors, but I haven’t. Generally speaking, I don’t respond well when I’m woken up in the middle of the night. And if you remember my guest post over at Natalie’s, Monster Mommy Moment – Pop Style, how I’ve responded late at night has been a significant source of parenting guilt for me.
The first episode of night terrors D1 ever had, I woke up really frustrated. Last spring, we moved out of our old home and moved in with my parents. D1 was a very good sleeper and loved having her own room at our old place. We’d also spent the night at my parents from time to time and D1 also slept in her own bed, so we had no reason to believe she wouldn’t sleep well in a room by herself. But she had a tough time sleeping by herself. A really tough time. So we’d been working hard for a month or so to comfort her as she went to bed and we finally made some progress. Around the same time, D2 began sleeping through the night, so all was well in Pop’s family.
Then one night, D1 woke up screaming. My first reaction was that this looked like something from a horror movie – she was tossing about and screaming like she was possessed or something. Not a fun visual by any means. So with all frustration built up over the past month or so, I did what anyloving father would do: I yelled.
D1! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHAT IS WRONG?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
The fact that she wasn’t responding and just crying made me even more frustrated. I kept trying to force her to lie down and she’d sit back up. I’d lie her down, she’d sit back up. This went on for about 10 minutes or so and then she finally fell back asleep.
It didn’t happen again for a few months, so we kind of forgot about it. When it happened again, my wife and I decided we needed to talk to our pediatrician about it. When I found out that it was an actual disorder and not something that D1 was willfully doing to wear me out, I felt horrible and repented.
A few months later, another episode. Now that I know what night terrors are, I responded well, right? Wrong. My fuse was about thisshort and I was probably worse than I was the first few times. SIGH
When I came back to bed, my wife thanked me for trying, and she acknowledged and appreciated that I was doing it so that she and her 6-month pregnant self didn’t have to get up, but by me yelling, she ends up waking up anyway.
Cue Man in the Mirror. (Am I the only one that thinks of that song & performance when I know I need to make a change)
The next time D1 had a night terror episode, I decided I’d handle it differently. I went in and just held her until she calmed down. Imagine that – being calm, calmed her down and yelling didn’t? We’ve also tried to make sure she’s not overtired by getting her to bed at a regular time. My pediatrician also says that 1-8% of children experience night terrors. Sweet! D1’s in the 90th percentile!
But the real ace up my sleeve?
When D1 wakes up with night terrors, I imagine Darkwing Duck going, “I am the terror, that wakes your kids up at night.” And it’s scientifically proven that you can’t be mad when you think of the Disney Afternoon.
What about you? Did your kids suffer from night terrors? What helped you get through it? Did you run home after school every day to watch the Disney Afternoon?
I pressed record and carefully crept out of the room. One of our guests asked me, “What’d you do?” “Oh, I just setup the tripod in D1’s room and I’m recording her nap just in case she does something cute.” “Seriously,” he replied, “She’s 2 months old!” “Well, sometimes she makes cute little sounds and stuff. I don’t want to miss it!” “Just watch,” he said, “If you have more kids, you’re not going to do anything remotely like this.” “Whatever,” I maintained, “If I have more kids I’m going to take even more footage of them!”
Up until D2 was born, I guaranteed that I’d take just as many, if not more, pictures and videos of her.
A year later, when I went to edit the video for her Dol, I was shocked! “Ummmm, Ok. Let’s see…We have quite a few clips in August 2010…..and OH! Some good ones in September….and….that can’t be right. The next clip is in December?!?!?! Did I lose some clips?!?!” Our pictures were even more sparse. In one picture, D2 is chunky like this, and in the next, she’s got teeth.
At this rate, Baby #3 will be lucky if he/she gets any pictures taken.
Obsessively documenting feetstones (get it? they’re so close together, you can’t call them a milestone?! sigh) isn’t the only way that I’ve grown up as a dad.
When D1 was little, I thought my #1 priority as a father was to make sure she was obedient. Since D1 was a girl, we initially thought that she would have me wrapped around her finger and mommy would have to discipline her, but my wife became infatuated with her. So much so that she began having thoughts of giving up her career and staying at home with our kids. So although I was absolutely enamored with D1, I took upon myself to be the disciplinarian.
This often led to screwups. Painful, painful screwups. “Of course I’ll have to yell initially,” I thought, “But as she gets more and more disciplined, I’ll be like those supermoms who can control their kids without even raising their voice.”
A steady dose of Super Nanny and watching other moms nodding approvingly of other such moms at the mall gave me the idea that being a good parent means you are in control, not the child.
Sleep training by crying it out, time outs, spankings. You name it, I tried it. The worst part is, it was actually working and I patted myself on the back and made myself feel better by saying, “Sure, she may dislike you now, but she’ll thank you when she’s older.”
Then one morning I came to Romans 8:14-16 in my devotional:
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
I prayed, “Father, thank You that You don’t lead me with fear but with love.” Then I heard God speak (no, it wasn’t like James Earl Jones in my head), “Do likewise.”
At that moment, I realized I was leading my daughter out of fear. I was afraid of other moms at the mall judging me. I was afraid of being called a bad parent. I was afraid that by not meeting certain milestones, she’d be doomed to a minimum-wage job for the rest of her life. Overreact or neurotic much?
So what does fear do? It leads to the desire to control, whether that be the situation or people.
I realized it was time for daddy to grow up. To let go of my fears and understand that obedience isn’t the goal of parenting but love.
That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped spankings and time outs – I still discipline my children. But my mindset has changed. My goal isn’t to put a system of control around my children but to inspire and love them. And that’s made all the difference in my relationship with my kids.
What about you? How have you “grown up” as a parent? How has your parenting changed from your first child to second and beyond?
Aunt Becky wrote an affecting post yesterday: I Am The Face of PTSD. If that doesn’t move you, you’re probably a sentient robot, so let me be the first to welcome our new robot overlords who will never cry at a chick flick or become emotional at the end of Glory. Not only was the post inspiring, but it also alerted me to the fact that May is National Mental Health Month.
So in light of that, I’d like to talk to you about something that quite honestly came as a shock to me when I became a dad: postpartum depression. Prior to the birth of our first child, my wife and I rarely heard anything about the topic except through the news, so we thought postpartum depression was limited to those crazy moms who drove their kids into the river or something heinous like that. We rarely ever thought about the mental effects of becoming parents and instead we were far more concerned about the color of the nursery, educational toys, and all the SIDS prevention things we could get our hands on. When we considered the emotional effects of becoming a parent, everything we considered was usually warm, soft and fuzzy.
So needless to say, I was a bit surprised when my wife didn’t quite seem herself a few days after D1 was born. I attributed this to the fact that she wasn’t getting any sleep and D1 had a hard time latching on for breastfeeding. A few days later, she seemed genuinely sad and then a day later, she seemed sullen.”Uh oh,” I thought, “Is she going to harm our kid?” My mind began to race, frantically trying to figure out what to do and all I had in my arsenal were Baby Einstein toys and some Halo SleepSacks.
Before I go on, if you’re a dad, let me just say that the following is general advice. You know your wife better than I do (or you really should anyway), and since every birth, newborn, home environment, support network, etc… is different, please pick and choose what you think would be helpful to you. There’s also a difference between Baby Blues and postpartum depression. And did you know that men, particularly new fathers experience postpartum depression as well? So anywho, here’s some advice from one dad to another.
Dadvice #1: understand that postpartum depression is ok. Particularly in Asian communities, any sort of mental illness carries a stigma, so they’re rarely discussed and you certainly wouldn’t want anyone to know. So when it became clear my wife was suffering from it, I began to panic and tried to find a solution. Which leads me to my second bit of dadvice:
Dadvice #2: don’t rush to find a solution. The first thing I did was respond like most men would: try to figure out what’s wrong and fix it. How could she be so sad? Our daughter is so cute and she’s such a joy! Is it me? Am I being unsupportive or too overbearing? The best bits of advice I learned about women were from Homer Simpson:
Son, when a woman says nothing’s wrong, it means everything’s wrong. When a woman says everything’s wrong, it means everything’s wrong. And when a woman says that something isn’t funny, you’d better not laugh your ass off!
and White Men Can’t Jump.
See. if I’m thirsty. I don’t want a glass of water, I want you to sympathize. I want you to say, “Gloria, I too know what it feels like to be thirsty. I too have had a dry mouth.” I want you to connect with me through sharing and understanding the concept of dry mouthedness.
The quote from Gloria definitely applies here. I’m no psychologist, but I did suffer through several bouts of depression, and I know that there was no specific way to fix my depression. People tried to offer solutions, often telling me how great I had it, counting my blessings and all that, but nothing really worked. I just needed people to be with me. So just be with your wife. Be there for her. Listen. And don’t be afraid of counseling.
Dadvice #3: It’s ok to feel powerless. From the beginning of labor through much of the first year of D1’s life, I felt worthless. Worthless because I couldn’t do anything. Worthless because I had to sit idly by as my wife labored for hours on end. Worthless because I didn’t have the solution to help my wife out of the baby blues. Worthless because I thought I should’ve been able to prevent her from suffering from postpartum depression. But fact of the matter is, yes, I was powerless to do much of anything concerning labor and the emotions my wife was going through, but that’s very different from being worthless. When it comes to supporting your wife through postpartum depression, your value isn’t in what you can do but who you are.
Dadvice #4: Screw stigmas. In the 3 years of being a father, I often found that I made decisions based on what others would think of my parenting rather than what I thought was best for my child. Screw what other parents and their often judgmental eyes think of you. As I wrote on Nat’s blog: you’re the perfect parent for your child. In the same vein, you’re the perfect partner for your wife. Forget what everyone else thinks – do what’s best for you and your family.
So what about you? Any advice for dads from you moms out there?
A major snow storm is about to hit the North East Warmer weather, al fresco dining, people watching, and love is in the air in the form of plant sperm. And as usual around this time of year, we are getting invite after invite to various weddings and anticipating more as the year progresses. Now there are certain rules for attending a wedding that apply to everyone: send in the RSVP, resist the urge to wear your tuxedo shirt, don’t wear a white dress, show up on time, get a gift, and tipping at the open bar stand out to me. But I believe there should be a set of rules for parents as well. So if you’re a new parent and you’re invited to a wedding, consider this your guide.
DO attend the wedding. Remember when you were dating (no? Me neither) and some of your friends would
bite the dust get married and once they got married you never saw them again? And if they had kids shortly thereafter? You definitely never saw them again. And remember how you swore to yourselves you wouldn’t become one of those couples who isolates themselves and does nothing but spend time with their kids? (No? Me neither). Well this is your opportunity to show that you’re still hip (do kids even use that word these days? Did I just suddenly become unhip by using that word?). That invite means that some couple feels obligated to invite you thinks you’re still cool!
DON’T bring your kids. I know, I know. Junior(s) and/or princess(es) is/are the cutest thing(s) in the world. I know, I know. The video of them you posted on Facebook or Youtube has even gotten 4 comments, 3 likes, and 75 views, and you’re thisclose to monetizing their cuteness. I know. But guess what?! Unless there’s already a bun in the oven (can’t entirely rule that out, btw), the bride and groom likely aren’t thinking of having babies; they’re thinking about all the sex they’re going to have. Or maybe that was just me? And they don’t need any more reminders of why they don’t want to have kids.
DO get a babysitter. Yeah, it’s expensive. Yeah, you may not entirely trust them but…
DON’T forget about the open bar. There’s usually a lot of wine at weddings. If that hasn’t convinced you, I don’t know what will.
DO enjoy yourselves. Shhhhhh…do you hear that? It’s called adult conversation! I know, I know. It’s easy to forget what that sounds like. And shhhhhhh…do you hear that? Yup. That’s a baby crying because some parents didn’t follow DON’T #1. At this point, DO speak up and shout, “WILL SOMEONE CALM THAT BABY DOWN! SHEESH!!!” As a parent, that opportunity doesn’t come around often – do not miss that golden opportunity.
DON’T be surprised when you’re seated at the table with the other parents and if your table is all the way in the back. See? It’s because brides and grooms are wising up – they know us parents can be ghetto and will bring our kids everywhere and that some parents even view the words: “no kids, please” as a challenge. See parents? Only we can ensure that we all get to enjoy a night out
with an open bar without the kids.
DO hit the dance floor. So your hips are a little wider than they used to be. So the top button on your shirt is hanging on for dear life as your 3rd chin constantly applies pressure and your necktie is increasingly feeling like a noose. Who cares? Show them younguns how it’s done.
DON’T forget to stretch afterward.
What about you? If you’re a parent, what are some rules you follow for weddings? If you’re a newlywed, what are some ghetto things parents have done?
Being a Christian, my wife and I want to raise our kids with our core values: love God, love people, and never become a vegetarian. (That last one might just be my core value) Now that D1 is becoming more human, her logic is getting much better, which also means that what we teach her could have long term ramifications.
Lately, she’s becoming more and more self aware and also becoming more afraid of certain things. Thunderstorms are one example; vegetables are another (that’s my girl!). I used to love the sound of rain and thunder when I’m sleeping, but now? It usually means I need to wake up and go console D1. So my wife and I have been teaching her that if she’s in trouble or afraid, she can pray for Jesus to help her and He will (and I can continue sleeping).
So the other day, D1 is testing me and I warn her that if her behavior continues, I’ll put her in a time out. She briefly contemplates the consequences and decides to continue on. I like to have fun when performing my daddy duties, so I don’t just put her in a time out, I like to T her up like an NBA ref. So I make the T sign and sit her down in her time out chair and go about my business. And then I hear
“Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jesus!!!……Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jesus!!!….”
Just over 3 years old, and she may have discovered daddy’s kryptonite. I’ve studied quite a bit of theology over the years but I’ve never had to consider the theology of the time out.
What about you? What clever ways have your kids found to get out of discipline?
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I love being a dad. The last 3+ years of my life have been fantastic and my series, I’m A Dad, is proof. That being said, there’s one thing about parenting that is not so awesome: kid’s birthday parties. D1 is a little more than 3 years old, so the concept of a friend is about as clear to her as why it’s not actually amusing to pick your nose and fart or why it’s not really necessary to shout, “APPA! I PEED!” and running to give me a high five when she exits the bathroom. Despite not understanding the concept of friendship, somehow she has actual friends, which means she gets actual invites to birthday parties, which means our Saturdays fill up faster than my love handles at a buffet.
Some people think that sex education, contraceptives, or teaching on abstinence are effective birth control methods; I disagree. When my daughters come of age, I’m taking them to a little kid’s birthday party. When their heads are about to explode and they begin to lose their hearing and/or minds, I’ll ask them, “Is THIS what you want your Saturdays to be like? No. Then keep ’em closed, got it?”
But not all kid’s birthday parties are created equal. There’s the type where there’s a pool in the backyard, the parents rented a moonbounce, they serve hors d’oeuvres (yes, I had to google that and copy+paste to get the right spelling), and have top-shelf liquor for the parents – trust me, you want something to take the edge off. These birthday parties are kind of like unicorns to me – mythical and though I’ve heard they exist, I’ve never seen one in person. Then there’s the type where the parents host it at their home, serve the kids pizza, and the parents sit around with a plastic red cup, which is sometimes filled with happy juice but most often, it’s just a soda or Juicy Juice. There are other types of parties too of course but this isn’t a discourse on how most parents spend their Saturdays; this is a discourse on that special type of parenting netherworld known as Chuck E. Cheese.
Just the mere mention and parents *shudder* kinda like the hyenas in The Lion King when they hear, “Mufasa!” Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Chuck E. Cheese in and of itself, after all, it’s like a kids Dave & Busters – just replace the alcohol with sugar. And when I was a kid, I longed to go to Chuck E. Cheese, but often settled for the local rip-off, with some whack character running around (though I guess a giant rat isn’t much better). But it’s when the place is overrun with what seems to be a legion of kids when there’s a problem. Here’s a visual for you:
Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you that they’ve been tempted on multiple occasions to do like Ahnold and scream, “SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!” But we don’t, because we’re responsible adults, so instead, we secretly head to the bathroom and bang our heads on a wall until we lose all feeling – sort of like a quick and dirty lobotomy.
Anytime you have a large gathering of kids, you’ll always have crying, lots of screaming, kids who can’t wait their turn and especially bad at Chuck E Cheese: kids who try and steal your tickets that are being dispensed as you’re playing a game!
Before I go on, let me just tell you that several coworkers have told me that when their kids were little, Chuck E. Cheese served cheap beer. Let that sink in for a minute. Cheap beer and decent pizza. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday if you ask me.
So when I get an evite in my inbox with a birthday party being held at Chuck E. Cheese, I end up going through the Five Stages of Grief:
Denial: It’s no big deal. It’s just Chuck E. Cheese. How bad can it be? Ok, let me open up this invite and….uhhhhh, there are 46 kids attending?….
Anger: Well, this is just perfect! Why’d I open up the evite? Now they’ll know that I’ve viewed the invitation. Dang it! Where’s my debilitating disease when I need it?! 46 kids?!?! Not even a Costco-sized bottle of Purell is going to suffice! (I’m not one for salty language, but this is where most parents would lace their comments/thoughts with [BLEEP]s and [BLEEPITY]s)
Bargaining: Ok…how close are we to these guys? Did we invite them to D1’s birthday party? Couldn’t we say we’re busy? Could we come late and leave early?
Depression: *uncontrollable sobbing*
Acceptance: You know, I’m cool with this. The pizza and wings aren’t that bad and D1 likes places like that. And besides, I can own the kids in the basketball shootout thing. MOVE OVER KID!
How about you? Do you lament the loss of your Saturdays? Do you enjoy Chuck E. Cheese? What is THE worst kid’s birthday party location in your opinion?