The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘dad’

Is the Fog Beginning to Lift?

The kiddo is approaching 3 months of life, so it’s time for an update from the rambling, scrambling, tired, wired, and foggy brain of dear old pops. Aka, me.

My sister had told me about a book she read that mentioned that the first 3 months of life are almost like a fourth trimester, where they are so dependent on you that you’d almost think ‘why didn’t you keep cooking?’ Although, the physical ramifications of that would be dire. With that in mind, my wife and I thought, ‘so what’s that mean for us?’ With him being almost 2 months early, does that mean a 5 month long ‘fourth trimester?’

One positive note is that him being early really throws off any thought of tracking him against the ‘normal’ milestones. From a book I have read some of (note to self: get back to that after this post) it has information like, ‘at this age, you can expect your baby to be doing … you can be delighted if your baby is doing … and you can be over the moon if your baby is doing …’ But with preemies, you go based on the ‘adjusted age’ or how many days old he/she is after their due date. Our kiddo is almost 3 months old real age, alost 1 month old adjusted age. This has resulted in a hodgepodge of behavior that is sometimes older than his adjusted age, sometimes not. And when you combine that with the fact that every baby is different anyway it almost makes you think it’s pointless to try and track and compare every little thing. Pft. Like that’ll happen. What else will I do with my time but to be equal doses of proud and afraid?

I have been on the receiving and giving end of this – the instant calm. It feels like such a compliment when the kiddo is fussy, angry, crying, upset, you name it … and then I take over holding him and a calm washes over him. That’s pretty wonderful. To be fair, I think it’s often a change of scenery that does the trick for him, so I really shouldn’t take that much pleasure in it. But it’s great. (And when I hand him over and he calms … well fine, I didn’t want to calm you anyway!)

There is a distinct baby clothes market for those who have yet to change or dress an upset baby. My wife and I bought into this market before his arrival, and I think clothing manufacturer’s know what they’re doing. That outfit that is absurdly cute? Probably impossible to put on or take off without your child making you think he or she is going through a hellish torture session only Dante could dream up. There are outfits that are enjoyable, and not tortuous, and each parent probably has their own preference (learned after a few weeks) for what type they prefer.

Lately he has begun to give occasional ‘social smiles.’ For those of you not in the baby know, it’s like this. There is the ‘gassy’ smile (that’s what people say, no one knows why babies occasionally smile) that can happen right away (I think?) but it’s not a conscious choice. AND, the smile is not a full face smile, it’s more like the mouth just moves … you don’t see it around their eyes. Later, the baby might experience something, or look at you, and give a ‘social smile’ which is an ACTUAL, I CHOSE THIS SMILE FOR YOU kind of smile. It’s magical. My parents were in town recently and Sunday morning I got up with him at 6 am, I picked him up and he gave me a big smile for I don’t know how long. 30 seconds? A minute? It was long enough that my wife was able to get back from the bathroom and see too. It was magical. And then, last week on Wednesday, I got home from work, picked up the kiddo from my wife and BOOM, he gave me a little smile. I don’t know what it is to be addicted to drugs, but I can’t wait for my next dose of a little smile.

Speaking of random rewards, the kid can be like a video game. You just grind, and grind, change diaper, feed, dance, change diaper, ask him why why why are you still crying what is wronnnnnng?, dance, attempt to feed, get an angry look, dance more, pace, wrap him up tigheter, dance, finally feed, burp, dance, etc. And randomly in the mix of all that you may see a little smile, a glimmer of hope, and you think YES, more of that! Video games are designed to give random rewards, with random weights to how big a reward it is, and as you play more the rewards are spaced out more so you just keep grinding, and grinding … But, you know, instead of a new fictional gun or armor it’s a smile. From my son. Which is pretty glorious.

Those random rewards are the rays of light through the fog that is being tired, being wary, and being tested by the tiny screaming controller of your life. Nature, well done. A baby’s cry is a whip cracking motivator that’ll spring you into action. Or, if the cries continue, sometimes lead you to put the kiddo down, take off your hoody (he’s a toaster) take a deep breath, and pick him back up to try again.

Wish us luck.

Sincerely,
A Dad Who Thinks He Has Original Thoughts But Countless Centuries Have Thought Variations of the Same Thing

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Easy Praise

This post is a little counter-intuitive, because I’m going to give people reasons to not to say nice things to me, but I think it’s worth saying.

I think, in my very short journey into fatherhood, it’s easier to be called a great dad than it is to be called a great mom. By easier I mean much, much easier. Like the bar is set so low a snail could walk over it. And, unfortunately, I think that’s because of the general expectations that people have for moms and dads. Moms are expected to do … everything, and likely with a full heart and a smile, and dads are expected to help mom take a load off once every 3 weeks or so. I don’t know the exact science, but it’s in there somewhere.

My wife and I are following the traditional route, she is home on maternity leave for a long while, and I am back at work. This means, by the time I get home every day, she will have been full time b for 8+ hours, while I worked on code. In case you didn’t know, code is much more predictable than a baby. I get frustrated when I can’t solve a problem at work (because I always feel like I should know better and be able to solve whatever it is) … and a baby is somewhat similar in a way.

Hear me out. The baby and computer can both give less than ideal messages that something is wrong (cryptic error messages for one, crying so intense it consumes their whole body for the other) … but you know what? I think cryptic error messages are ok compared to crying. Most anything is ok compared to crying.

I get home from a lovely day of work or a long day and if the kiddo is up and unhappy, I’ll dance around with him. Easy peasy. He typically has an unhappy stretch somewhere between or inclusive of 7 pm to 11 pm. Usually he can be calmed pretty well, but you have to be in constant motion. I am consistently logging 3+ miles just in the house, and the majority of that is pacing/dancing from the kitchen to the family room and back. And again. And again. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s not too bad. The only really unpleasant times are when he is inconsolable and so very upset. That is tough. It’s draining to try to keep the monster happy when he is fussy for God knows what reason … And my wife has just had a long day of doing just that.

But you wouldn’t believe how people hear or see that I come home from work, take over to give my wife a break, and then folks offer up lauds generally reserved for those curing cancer.

Was I not involved in the creation of this kiddo? I know my wife, and mom’s in general, are genetically tied to the baby in a way the dad never can be or never will be … But to let that be the justification for being hands off or not trying to contribute as much as possible?

Consider, the next time you want to throw out a kudos, would you be throwing the same kudos if you saw a mom doing this thing? Or is it applause worthy simply because it’s dad?

Really. Pause. Take a moment, and think about it.

Got to go, the kid and wife have both been crying the whole time I’ve been writing this. Just kidding. You hope.

Continuing on the Path of the Toast

(Obviously the spoken version deviated a bit, you know, nerves and all that.)

An Apology to my Future Potential Children

I imagine it might be confusing to listen to me apologize to hypothetical people.

Why, you might be asking, am I apologizing? Apologizing for something I haven’t yet done? Shouldn’t I just NOT do these things I need to apologize for?

Good questions. All very good. Allow me to tell you a story.

When I was in the 7th grade my dad came down to the basement where I was playing video games and said, “let’s play a baseball game.” I imagine that this statement was preceded by a brief conversation between my dad and mom, “You need to spend more time with DumbFunnery.” And my dad, in an eloquent response, probably said, “mm.”

There we were, in the basement, playing this baseball game.

I don’t remember too many different times that we sat there and played because each instance was so much like the other instances. Part of that was because my dad and I are routine-oriented people. But this one particular night stands out because of something I realized.

My dad was up to bat and doing his usual thing. Letting the first pitch go by while he sipped a beer. He never told me to do the same thing, but it was implied by him explaining his strategy, “you have to let the starting pitcher wear himself down. Get the pitch count up.” If you swing on the first pitch and get out, this pitcher will be fresh as a daisy and that’s no good. The second pitch would go by and one more sip might be taken. And if I didn’t follow the strategy, he would explain it again. And again. It’s a pretty effective way to get your point across.

The third pitch was pretty much always a ball because the game had a predictable AI. And finally on the fourth pitch my dad would swing, often resulting in an, “AGH!” Which meant he struck out, popped out, grounded out, whatever it was .. he was out.

On this particular night my 7th grade brain was feeling cocky. I thought to myself, “he sounds like a monkey with those crazy noises he makes.” And I just knew I was about to get a hit.

I let pitch one go by. Pitch two comes, I keep with my dad’s strategy, pitch three is of course a ball and pitch four … “AGH!”

What.

I just made the EXACT same noise. I had limitless options but I chose the exact same approach, and when the opportunity came it resulted in the exact same thing.

I. Am. My. Dad. This was heavy news for my 7th grade brain.

Therefore, I am very qualified to apologize to hypothetical future kids – because I have been the annoyee, and now I am the annoyer. I have tried to avoid some of these things … but I think for some it’s hard-coded, and for others it’s just going to come so naturally to me I won’t realize something was frustrating til years later.

In light of the fact that I know some of my future – I’d like to go ahead and apologize for three particular things.

From as far back as I can remember until my senior year of high-school, I can tell you exactly how the morning routine went. Remember how my dad and I are routine-oriented people? I’d wake up, my dad would’ve already been awake for an hour or more, and he’d say cheerily, “good morning!” and I’d say in response, “num-morning.” Usually following that my dad would do an impression of me and then laugh. And occasionally I might be treated to a , “what’s for breakfast? Cereal? Sounds pretty good!”

My freshman year of college a switch flipped. Suddenly I couldn’t be a chipper and enthusiastic enough morning person. Late to class? Woah buddy, better hustle huh? Dribbled while eating cereal in the cafeteria with me? Hey there mister, you missed your mouth!

And it’s only grown stronger. My wife, when she was growing up, had nicknames like “prickly pear” and “thundercloud.” Do you know who loves to bug her in the mornings? ME.

I … “apologize,” I suppose, for the inevitable obnoxious doses of good cheer and happiness in the mornings.

Secondly, I’d like to apologize for my phrasing. Do you know that experience when someone says something serious and you should listen attentively and respond sincerely with something intelligent … but instead you thought of a joke. And not just any joke, but something like a pun? The kind of joke that’s so bad it’s good? And who are you to deny that person this brilliant joke? So instead of something nice you say that joke?

You know that kind of … heavy, frustrated, silence? I know that. I really know that.

And my kids will know that too. Because at some point they’re going to say something where I should respond with something intelligent, and instead I’m going to crack a joke. But I also know the sound of my name being said in such a way that I get it IMMEDIATELY. My wife has crafted a tone of voice that communicates ever so clearly, “I appreciate your sense of humor, it’s one of the reasons we’re married, BUT. NOT. NOW.”

Last up … emotions. I know. They’re scary.

I am capable of experiencing emotions. In fact, at different points in my life, I have experienced all five three. Just kidding, I know there are only two.

I’m going to be Mr. Even Keel, and if there is something emotionally-charged to talk about, my wife will be a much better audience. That doesn’t mean I can’t listen or that I don’t want to listen, it’s just that I might say something like a heartfelt, “sorry buddy” in response to a big, long, emotional story. Whereas my wife’s eyes will reflect every emotion, her jaw will drop, she’ll throw in an occasional “NO!” while you talk about something awful.

I’m going to work on that, I’m going to try and be there for you emotionally … But that’s not going to come easy for me. But just know that I will comfort you in my own ways. I’ll crack dumb jokes, I’ll be silly or a clown for you, because that’s going to be easier and much more natural for me than finding the right words to comfort you.

Heck, I don’t even know those words for myself, but I do know about ice cream. And so will you.

Why the speech, then? Why bother apologizing for things that I’m sort of, kind of, not actually apologizing for at all?

Why apologize for my chipper am self? For laughing as I watch kids make their way to the kitchen, mummy-like, seemingly having just arisen from the grave?

Why apologize for my sometimes unwanted quips for all occasions?

Why apologize for stumbling through emotions and being an emotionally reticent person in general?

Well, it’s because I truly AM sorry for the times these parts of me will be annoying.

In the end, I want to be a good person, which will hopefully one day include trying to be a good dad, and this is the way I was taught to do it, and I happened to like my teachers.

The Tim Allen Connection

Last week I got an email from Netflix notifying me that Galaxy Quest is now available for instant play. You can bet your blog-reading self that I was happy to read this. Galaxy Quest, in case you haven’t seen it, is a dorky movie that features outer space. These are some of my favorite things.

I started watching the movie when it him me – The Tim Allen connection.

There it is – the face that assures you ‘you’re not about to experience emotions.’ 

I haven’t gone to the movies too often with my family, but occasionally we’ll do a group outing. Far less rare are times when it’s either just my dad and I or my brother and I. I can only think of two movies that my brother and I saw just the two of us … And only one movie that my dad and I saw just the two of us.

My brother and I saw … The Santa Clause, starring, you guessed it, Tim Allen. When that came out my brother was a hot shot high schooler and I was an elementary school kiddo. I don’t know if my brother was feeling brotherly or my mom forced him to as punishment, but one day he asked about us seeing a movie and before you know it, there we were, at The Santa Clause.

Laughter? You bet. Tears? Extremely unlikely. Male bonding? If two guys not talking about anything of any significance but having spent time together counts as male bonding then yes, I guess so.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in middle school. I have a feeling my mom and sister went to see some movie while my dad and I headed to … Galaxy Quest! Another Tim Allen classic.

Say what you will about him having a certain schtick, but when it comes to male bonding in my family, it’s sports or Tim Allen. Just imagine if he came a baseball coach, attendance would double (so if he coached the <your least favorite team here> there’d be as many people in the stands as players on the field – ZING!).

Attn: Ellen (8/13/14)

Front

Ellen DeGeneres postcard

Back (apologies for my handwriting!)

Ellen DeGeneres postcard

The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

Is it just me, or does this statue of Lincoln have the exact same expression as my dad has when I ask him in a sing-song voice, “who wants a hug?”

Sincerely,
DumbFunnery.com OR @DumbFunnery

Why am I doing this?

Grandpa

Earlier this week my paternal grandfather passed away, which is sad but not entirely unexpected. At first the plan was for some of the grandkids to tell stories at the memorial but that has been changed. Nevertheless, it set my mind thinking about stories about my grandpa and I just wanted to share the ones that came to mind.

One summer when I was in college we (my mom, dad and I) went to “the cabin.” (“The cabin” is a cabin in northern Arizona that my parents and grandparents co-owned. My parents thought it was a great thing because, being a Military family, we didn’t have a permanent home. The cabin was our permanent home.)

At some point after arriving my grandma asked my dad to cut down a branch from a tree. She asked my dad to do this because she was worried about my grandpa hurting himself if he did it (I think grandpa was ok with this in theory, but I think he wanted to be the one to get the work done). I was also sent along on this branch cutting fun. I don’t honestly remember if my dad told me to come along, or my mom – but knowing my dad, I would guess my mom asked me to go (like grandpa, I’m sure my dad was confident and would’ve been perfectly content to do this work himself). This is funny to me – the two wives, and moms, turning to the younger one and saying, “hey, how about you wield the chain saw.”

My dad propped the ladder up against the tree and began to climb. I think I was standing at the ladder, trying to keep it steady, and grandpa was a few feet off. No one was happy. My grandpa was, in his way, worried about my dad’s safety. I was right there, in my own way, doing the same. These worries came out in the form of saying, “ehhh … careful … no … you know … let me do this, huh?”

Eventually (I’m honestly not sure why) my dad decided to hand the reins over to me. It could be that a slight bit more reach was needed, and my lanky frame was fit for the job. I climbed the ladder and now experienced what my dad had just been experiencing – two people worried about my safety and saying hey wait, let me do this instead.

I don’t think I am doing a very good job of describing this moment, because I can’t convey with such a simple, silly thing – cutting a branch down in the woods – how much of each of us was shown there. It really was a very touching, caring moment.

My grandpa was an electrical engineer. My dad is a mechanical engineer. I am a software engineer. And here’s what I’ve noticed about engineers – we (very often wrongly) think we’re better than you. My logic is the most sound logic – your logic is flawed and, frankly, illogical. We’re obnoxious.

Generally, if an engineer wants to take over doing something for you it’s not because you’re doing it wrong, it’s that you’re not doing it just right. But here was a moment where each of us wanted to take over in our very engineering way, “no, no, don’t do that …” (watching and analyzing and seeing that you should have your feet more spread apart on the ladder, can’t you see that your positioning is troublesome at that height) – except instead of wanting to take over to correct the wrong it was all out of care and love.

So, that’s  that.

The other two memories that come to mind are fast. I promise.

1 – One time when I stood up (my sister says from a chair, I thought it was me getting out of a car) my grandpa said, “wow! Look at those limbs! You’re like a spider!”

My grandpa had a very quick wit and was a clever fella. Unfortunately, those jokes he had usually left my mind because they were spot on in that moment, but then you forgot about them after the situation passed. I really do wish I had written down some of the gems he’d said.

2 – One day at the cabin I headed out to the back deck to read. Not long after I headed out there, my grandpa came outside and sat down with a book as well. He looked up at me and grinned. It felt like he was a little brother who wanted to do something together. I could be all wrong there, but I like thinking that he wanted to come join me and he was enjoying it just being us two sitting outside, reading.

3 – Bonus third! One time (according to my mom), my grandpa called me handsome. So take that!

Lastly – you know what’s awkward? Co-workers saying, “ooooh where are you going? Big trip!” and you saying, “ah … no … um … it’s not a good trip,” but still they’re looking for an answer, so eventually you spit out that it’s for a funeral and you get emotional and close to tears in a cubical. Cubicals are no place for tears!! (Don’t worry Story Teller, if you’re reading this, I appreciated you asking and I found the moment funny and awkward – just my style.)

I’ll be back to blogging regular stuff next week sometime.

Happy (Belated) Clone Creation Day!

This is one of my favorite stories about my dad. Here are a few other stories about the pops. Now for another fun pops story …

Happy Clone Creation Day!

In the 7th grade my dad and I made a habit of playing a baseball game on the Nintendo. If I had to guess, I would say that my mom told my dad that he and I needed to bond, and to think up something. My dad, brother and I had played a whole season (which is fairly impressive) on Ken Griffey, Jr. baseball back when I was in the 4th or 5th grade. The baseball idea had come around again, this time with an upgraded system – the 64.

We played as the Arizona Diamondbacks, which was the first or second year of the team’s existence. I have no recollection of how often we played, but I remember sitting in the basement with my dad, playing that game.

  • He never swung at the first pitch. Usually not the second or third, either. He was always wanting to wear out the starting pitcher. With the game’s AI, you could expect with about 99% confidence that after three pitches you’d have 2 strikes and one ball on you.
  • The first two pitches were usually strikes. During them, he would sip his beer.
  • After the second pitch (which was usually your second strike), he would pick up his controller.
  • If he got a hit, then he got a hit.
  • If he struck out or had a bad pop-up the same sound would generally escape him – an aggravated, quick, “agh!”

On one particular day, we were playing the game and my dad was up to bat. After the usual ritual, he struck out. The familiar grunt/sound of exasperation came.

I smirked. My dad is a funny guy. He’s like a monkey over there with those crazy grunt noises. I thought, ‘ok, my turn … I can do better.’ After all, I’m young and I play a lot of video games – this is what I’m built for. I waited out the strikes like my dad, not because I wanted to necessarily, but because it was a good strategy. It’s a video game! It’s not the place where you exhibit patience and strategy! Nevertheless, I did it (when he was around).

What do you know – I also get out.

And what do you know, the same, “agh!” came out of me.

Holy crap, I realized, I am my dad.

All the times I’d laughed at him, poked fun at him (just in my head, not out loud) … those would all be coming home to roost. Shoot.

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