The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘fatherhood’

13 Months, Or One … And 1

Once again I have made the big mistake of not writing this down RIGHT on the 13th month day and lo and behold, here I am thinking of the latest and greatest developments which are all 14th month feats.

But that’s not what we’re here for, self. We’re here for month 13.

The month felt like it flew by. I wrote that statement in a note to myself a few weeks ago when I initially sat down to write this and I look back at that note and think, huh … all right. Seems fitting that a note I don’t remember writing about time flying by is a note that was written weeks ago. Enough of me blabbing about that note.

IMG_20180902_121720906The 13th month included Labor Day weekend which was a very adventuresome weekend for my wife and I. We went out on a FIVE MILE HIKE! The kiddo lived in backpack land the whole time, with quite a few stops to check if he wanted water. For the most part, with the cool weather that day, the brisk pace of our hike, and the other hikers as eye diversions … the kiddo was content with the ride along. Shockingly, he didn’t go to sleep at all during the trip – but we did bribe him with a graham cracker or two toward the end to keep him awake. It was a ton of fun for my wife and I to be out and taking advantage of the outdoors here, and the day went just so darn well. Generally it’s hard to have days where everything goes according to plan, but this day deviated from the plan only to have EVEN BETTER outcomes. You can’t ask for more than that.

We did our hour long drive to get to the hike which we planned during his first nap. Fantastic. Went great. Then the hike, which included a stop for all of us to have lunch. And then when we finished we had another snack sitting next to a river. It was pristine and beautiful and foot-numbingly cold water (which felt nice after the hike).

The bonus came when we left. We had planned to leave during nap two and drive home then. But the kiddo sat in the backseat awake and content. With about twenty minutes left in the drive my wife hopped out and sat in the back with him to make sure he didn’t conk out. When we got home we put him down for a nap and ended up with an unexpected lounging time. We had assumed both naps would be occupied by car rides so that was quite the treat to have that bonus free time.

Other fun Labor Day weekend plans included the pool (which he has grown to love) and a delightful picnic lunch outside. The kiddo is not exactly in restaurant-friendly territory these days so with the weather being so beautiful we decided to get ourselves some burritos and head to a park.

All in all, just about as good a weekend as one could hope for. The next weekend balanced it a bit because we again drove a long ways to a hike but this time it was so hot the kiddo was uncomfortable and unhappy and probably cooking in his backpack … so we turned around quickly. A long hike drive for a little jaunt, and then back home. That involved a bit more entertaining of the kiddo on the drive home because that was a good stretch of being cooped up.

My wife’s folks got the kiddo a teepee for his 1st birthday and that has managed to up our chase game. The little chaser would start to crawl, then look back at you and speed up toward the teepee. If you followed him he would make his excited little noises and pop his head up to look out at you from the little window in the teepee. It’s been a nice enhancement to our hide-and-go-seek / crawl-and-chase-me games.

Speaking of upping the ante … the kiddo can say no now! But. Here’s the thing. 1, I’m not sure he knows what he is saying. And 2, he says it to mock us. Great, right? He loves electrical outlets (great) and I’m pretty sure it’s just because he gets so much attention by crawling up to it. But he would crawl up to it, put his hand up on it, stand up, and look around. One time he did this and looked at me expectantly. I knew then how well he had trained me. My wife and I got in the habit of saying ‘no’ or ‘no, no’ or any number of times using the word no over and over. And occasionally he’d look at you with a big pout like, ‘how dare you take a firm voice with me’ but more often he would look at you and said back, ‘nonononono’ … great. Message clearly not received. Was it cute though? You bet it was.

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I decided to make a box an airplane, because why not. And it is the worst bit of DIY you have ever seen … til you look at the ‘pinup girl’ on the side. I told my wife she should draw one so it’d be like an old war plane and … my God. That pinup would make someone want to die at war.

My wife works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I’ve probably said that before, but what … am I supposed to remember everything I say? I say too much to have that kind of expectation thrown at me. Anywho. That means we have a morning ritual that is nice (when sleep allows it to be normal). Part of that morning ritual involves the kiddo and I being downstairs together for a bit while mom gets ready (or while mom catches some downtime on Mondays and Fridays before running the show all day). And we always go outside. The little outdoorsman loves it. LOVES it. He got used to the routine and came to know it, so just walking toward the front door would elicit little squawks of joy. Then, once outside, he got to show off one of his new favorite ways of communicating – the POINT.

The point is an all-encompassing, all-powerful way of telling us … we’re not sure what. You want to walk over there? You want to eat that? You want to look at that from here, you’re just letting me know that there is a thing over there? Generally, if you’re up and at ‘em, walking to whatever he is pointing at makes him happy. But sometimes when he’s eating he’ll point to a hat and you just have to look at him and wonder, what would you tell me if you could speak? Get that hat off the dinner table, dad? Is that it?

But when we are outside, the tree in the front yard is often a favorite target of the point, and the go to activity is trying to rip leaves off it. When it had crab apples on it, he would also relish trying to eat those … but ol mom and pop generally denied him of that fun.

Outside the former GREATEST THING ON EARTH was a neighbor’s dog. Move over dogs, because airplanes have taken over. We live pretty close to an airport and are treating to many planes flying overhead, and they have been the hit of the month. First we’ll hear one, and that results in a quick jerk of the neck to look skyward while we scan the skies until, aha!, there it is! At first in the month a plane would cause a little giggle, a point, and a lot of smiles. As time has gone on it is less exciting, and now it’s just a smile, and an excited point. I think he enjoys the challenge of hearing them and then trying to spot them.

Dear reader, if you want to, you should really treat yourself to an intermission. This post is more than 50% done, but boy is it a long one. And I’d apologize for that, but you’ve probably already stopped reading so it’s fine.

Back at it? Refreshed? Ok. Let’s do this.

My folks came out for a visit during this month as well, which was great to see them. Unfortunately, the kiddo does not see any of his grandparents enough for them to be an instantly recognized presence. There is an inevitable, ‘uhhhh … I don’t know about you, lady’ with the grandmas and the grandpas all tend to take a more hands-off, I’ll be over here approach which the kiddo digs. He would squawk back and forth happily with my dad, then crawl to me if my mom would try to play with him. It’s unfortunate that he is yet to recognize the grandparents as a steady, good presence but it’ll happen over time. And in the meantime, for the next trip, we’ll get the grandparents to feed him which ought to warm him up post-haste.

Two fun things coincided with my parents trip, too.

First is that the kiddo learned how to make a face. This is a weird statement, but it’s true. I think from my wife, though I’m not sure how this started, he would glance down very deliberately, then furrow his brows, tighten his lips, and stare at you! It’s a very adorable mean mugging that you are receiving. It’s especially adorable because he will often do this, and then grin at the end because he’s so pleased. My wife and I generally do this face back to him when he does it. One thing I have found pretty funny about this is when the occasional stranger is treated to this face. Generally it’s reserved for my wife and I, but randomly a stranger will get the treatment which usually gives them a bit of a surprise. Normally he is very smiley and, basically, flirty with strangers. He’ll smile, wave, and then sort of bury himself into my chest if I’m holding him and a stranger says hi. It’s heart-melting. But then there’s that blue moon and some stranger will smile sweetly at him and BAM, you’ve been mean mugged. And then the stranger probably feels worse because I just laugh and laugh while my baby stares, seemingly, with anger at him or her.

It’s pretty fun.

The other fun that happened was the kiddo’s first swim lesson! Woah! I signed us up for a ‘parent and me’ swim class which is thirty minutes once a week. So far we have loved it. Well, he has been ok with. His favorite activity at the pool is watching kids play, but he doesn’t mind being floated around in the water. I can tell you that he does NOT like when you put him on his back and try to float him around. No sir. He also has taken being dumped quite well! My wife was shocked when she did a lesson (meanwhile I was off on a hike) and the instructor said, ‘blow in your baby’s face, and then dunk them.’ But he has since been dunked by both mom and dad and he comes up, a little surprised looking, but still intent on the number one goal at the pool – finding and watching other big kids play. This whole underwater thing is just a brief deviation from the ability to accomplish that goal.

Right at the end of the 13th month a new skill also reared it’s adorable head – shaking his head no! My wife had made a point to emphasize offering foods and saying, ‘yes? Or no?’ while she would shake her head to represent those. Eventually, our little wunderkind got it because he too began shaking his head no! At first it was a very involved, whole upper body shaking of the head that made him look, and I say this with love, as though he was having a seizure of some sort. But he quickly managed to calm things down and now it is truly a head shake. He also mostly gets what it means … but he occasionally delights in looking at you and just shaking his head no over and over. Or saying no to random items. It’s just a fun thing to shake your head no, you know?

Stay tuned for next month, because it’ll include … oh wait. Crap. The 15th month is when Halloween hits. I bought him his costume this month which I’m QUITE excited about, and I really hoped he would be walking because he’d look like a little zombie (as all first-time walkers do) … but alas, he’ll likely have to resign himself to being a crawling Ewok rather than a walking one. But that’s ok, it’ll still be incredibly adorable.

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Month 7, Or Oh the Places You’ll Go (Developmentally)

It’s a few days until the kiddo is 7 months old and I thought I’d go ahead and get a start on this post. Hopefully, dare I say it, finish it today too.

This month I had a personal success which was abandoning the idea of reading a book. I had checked it out from the library and it was just eh. But I kept on. I would read a few pages before bed, feel disheartened at how much there was to go, and pass out. But then one day – BOOM – I said NO MORE. I re-read an old comic book series instead. This may seem like a non-accomplishment, but giving up on a book is a challenge for me. Now I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale.

Let’s get into month 7, shall we?

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I have also learned I am much more inclined to spoil the boy than myself. Frivolous spending ahoy!

I have mentioned this before, but the doc advised we keep the kiddo out of day care for a long time. Multiple docs at the NICU suggested a start date of April. And, with flexible work, my wife only working two days a week, and very helpful grandmas, we will accomplish that goal!

Part of that involved me taking vacation days on the two days a week my wife works for three weeks. One of those weeks was during month 6, but two of the weeks (four days of kiddo and dad time) fell during this past month!

One day the kiddo and I headed to the library, a little shop, and then a tortilla shop (they make delicious burritos) so I could load up on food before a long nap drive. The library was fun, the kiddo LOVES the front facing Bjorn (a new delight in life) and he will kick his legs and or give huge smiles when excited. And he is a little charmer and flash a big smile at strangers no problem.*

From the library we head to a few little shops (including buying my wife her Christmas gift – BOO YAH PREPAREDNESS) and the interactions with strangers continue. It is always ladies, or old men. Never men my age or really any male I’ll say between 10 and 75. This was ESPECIALLY true at the tortilla shop where I am surrounded by construction workers. Not one ‘aw look at the cute baby’ instead just stares like I am an alien. I will say that I don’t think I ever noticed another dad and baby. I noticed moms and babies, and moms and dads and babies … but no dude and baby. What’s the deal, fellas? Why so lazy?

That was a lot of chatter. Let’s do some quick highlights.

The sleep stuff continues to be pretty good … He had occasional nights where he would wake up and have a long cry, which is BRUTAL because of our ‘sleep wave’ method where you don’t really do much to comfort the kiddo. But for the most part it has been great.

My mom was in town this past week and my wife and I felt very nervous about the sleep. It’s one thing to feel bad for your crying baby when it’s just you … but to have your mom 10 feet away while your kiddo cries and you stare at a timer? Oof. We ended up ‘cheating’ a few times this past week which actually felt pretty great. My wife rocked him back to sleep and put him down in bed between us. Waking up next to his tiny adorable body was fun. Another night I went in about 5:15 am because he had woken up (and we prefer him to sleep till 6), I rocked him to sleep then just snuggled with his tiny head tilted 6am. And this morning my mom is out of town but he was having a rough go from 430-5 am, so my wife fed him then laid him between us. We all woke up naturally about 715am and he looked back and forth between my wife and I, taking turns reaching his little hands out to squeeze our noses. It was very odd, and delightful.

One thing that has helped and hurt his sleep is that he is now rolling from his back to his tummy. When he rolls onto his tummy and is happy about it, hello glorious sleep. When he rolls onto his tummy and feels regret … one of us slips into his room, rolls him onto his back, and then sneaks out. Generally this leads to a tiny brief cry and then calm. The odd thing is he KNOWS how to roll from tummy to back, but it’s like he suddenly finds himself in that position and says ‘WHAT HAVE I DONE!? WHAT IS THIS PERSONAL HELL!?’

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Semi-pictured and also a new favorite thing: the mirror! We have one on the floor for tummy time social hour.

He also often has a pretty intense workout regime before falling asleep. You go through the routine, put him down (described in last month’s post) and then he rolls around, chews on his hands, chews on his lovie, rolls back and forth a few times, sometimes onto his tummy and then off. It’s a lot of work going on. My wife said he’s like a gymnast making sure he uses the whole floor space.

Another fun and simple pleasure in life is discovering him figure out his thumb. Before he would generally suck on his middle and ring finger (I don’t know why). This month he has figured out, I guess, how to pop his thumb out because boom, that is a new favorite too. His thumb is basically a slightly large tic tac, so you generally hear a lot of slurping when he is using his thumb.

A funny thing that is happening this month (funny to me that is) – he is very easily distracted while breastfeeding. My wife used to be able to call someone or watch TV while feeding the kiddo. Now? If she even coughs while feeding him he’ll look up at her. It could be a blank look, or a sly smile, or outright laughter on a few occasions.

Speaking of laughter – his laughs are more common now. Here are his favorite things … my impression of a chicken, crazy chase games (where I hold him and pretend to chase his mom around, then she chases us back), and one glorious time where my wife dropped a toy of his (a ball) and then kept hitting it instead of grabbing it to pick it up. He laughed at her. Genuine, honest to goodness, I’m laughing at you, not with you. It was glorious.

I recognize that this post is insanely long but you know what? A few more.

I was at a Costco on one of my dad-and-kiddo days. I was wearing the Bjorn and had finished my shopping. (Including two slices of pizza and a soda to go for my lunch-nap-drive.) I headed to the bathroom with my happy shopping pal (he loves Costco … well, he seems to love about every location where he can people watch and/or chill in the front-facing Bjorn). I walked inside and, keeping with my constant chatter when walking around with him I said, “ok little mister, let’s do this.” I also happened to notice at that moment a stall door was closed. It delights me to this day to think a stranger was sitting on a Costco toilet, and that stranger thinks he overhead someone talking to his penis … and that the penis was nicknamed, “little mister.”

Ok a few quick hits: he’s had a bunch of different foods this month! Peas, spinach, green beans, and peanut butter. Not surprisingly, peanut butter was the only hit.

He has also had little slivers of solo sitting. Normally my wife or I sit like we’re doing the old grade school sit-and-reach (which I think I could usually reach about to my knees, I’m not very flexible), and then the kiddo sits so that he can balance on either leg and won’t really fall. He has probably hit up to a minute or two of solo sitting. Look out world!

And last but certainly not least this month were two visitors/babysitters/grandmas. Both my mom and my wife’s mom came out to help us extend the kiddo’s daycare free life to seven months. Pretty fantastic. It’s going to be heartbreaking to drop him off at daycare soon, especially since he has just recently entered a ‘stranger danger’ phase of life (previously anyone could pick him up, now if someone else picks him up he locks eyes on my wife or I). But, it is amazing that he got to spend so much time around family. And my wife and I are very fortunate to have such kind moms, and ones who are able to afford to do us such a big favor.

Ok sports fans. This one was truly a blog post just for me. Til month 8.

*Except today. This was pretty funny to me. My wife, the kiddo and I headed to a downtown area to check out shops, walk around, sip coffee, and just enjoy the day. The kiddo is in the front-facing Bjorn and we are in line at a coffee shop. Two college aged girls walk up and one of them gets relatively close and says, ‘your baby is gorgeous!’ She gives him a big smile and for the first time ever he does not smile in response … he gives her a huge pout and a little semi-cry. She looks aghast, seems genuinely hurt … and I start laughing. I kiss his little cheek till he cracks a smile. The rest of the day out smiles, and smiles, and smiles for any and all strangers. Random ladies stop and ogle and talk to him and he grins and kicks. The mystery of the sad-face girl will live on. I wasn’t laughing at you girl, I was laughing at the situation. (She was wearing overalls, maybe he thought they were his.)

Month Six, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Short Nap

That title is a ruse. I would love it if the kid would take a longer nap. But let’s forego the details for the moment and get a little reflective.

My wife and I were talking about sleep. (remember month 5’s theme? Sleep? Well, that has continued on to month 6.) Our initial strategy with nighttime sleep was to do a modification of put him down awake, pick him up as soon as he cried, comfort him, put him down awake, repeat till he slept. That had started out and we thought ‘ok! We get to hang out after we put him down!’ but it wasn’t really improving. That is, every night it seemed like he really only went to sleep after all his cries were out.

At the recommendation of a friend, we read (the relevant chapters of) the happy sleeper. This book calls for the ‘sleep wave’ which is all about predictability and stability. You have a routine that you follow precisely for naps and nighttime (different routines for the two) and you lay the kiddo down awake. When he or she cries, you go in after five minutes of crying and you say this particular phrase (ours is, “Have a good sleep. I’ll be right outside. I love you.”) then you leave the room without providing physical comfort. The idea is that your child knows you exist, and that by this age (we started this when he was about 5.5 months) they don’t think you have up and ceased to exist when you’re out of sight. The child is left to their own devices for self-soothing. Our son had become a whiz at finding his hand and sucking on it (strangely, his typical fingers are the middle and ring fingers).

The approach worked surprisingly well. But wait, it’s reflective time.

In last month’s blog I mentioned saying that I wanted to baby my son because … he’s a baby. But it struck me, later on, that my mom’s saying over and over that her children will always be her babies could prove true for myself as well. Pain and discomfort are good things – they are really educational. I’m glad I struggled at times in school, I’m glad I had my heart broken, I’m glad I lost at many, many things. And yet, it’s a struggle to knowingly allow my son to feel discomfort or pain. And then I bounce right back, come on, self, he’s just crying a little bit while going to sleep! Anyway, it was a moment of wonder realizing that I will likely forever feel his pain as though it is my own.

My wife and I have a system where, if the kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night and struggles to go back to sleep, one of us tends to him while the other stays in bed. We have a white noise machine in our room for just such an occasion. But occasionally, if the white noise isn’t loud or he has an especially upset cry, you still hear him. And then you lay in bed, not sleeping and not helping anything. It made me think of my mom, wondering if she did this same thing while her children were grown, after, say, one of her kid’s experienced a heartbreak. Somewhere my child is in pain.

Those aren’t particularly deep thoughts – but they were interesting to me. Suddenly I was generation-less, just a person in a line of parents and children, where each person has felt love and heartbreak for others.

/End reflection!

Back to the sleep thing. The first night the kiddo protested, of course, but it took hold and he slept 11 hours with only one wakeup to eat. Holy pleasant night of sleep Batman. That was incredible. Before that he was waking up 1-3 times a night, sometimes to eat, other times just … I don’t know. Because why not?

The next night he slept THROUGH THE NIGHT! MY GOD.

But, that day was rough on the kiddo and dear old mom and dad. Up to that point I would walk him around or dance in the Bjorn to get him to sleep. This meant sometimes two hours of constant dancing and moving in the Bjorn. Trust me when I tell you this is really uncomfortable and tiring. BUT! He was a happy kiddo. Tough to get to sleep, yes, but happy. That day he was a not happy kiddo. He began to recognize the sleep routine and he would start crying, and crying.

Our nap routine is simple – change his diaper, put him in a sleep sack, pick him up and sing to him while you/he holds on to his ‘lovie’ (Harry Elefante) and then you put him down. The last nap of the day I was putting him down and he started crying from go. Oof. It was heartbreaking. Putting him down on the changing pad the face immediately turned to a look of devastation and there was no coming back. When it came time to sing to him peacefully to soothe his little soul before putting him down? Forget it. I was crying and singing (quite a sight). I sang all of about 10 seconds because no words were coming.

The nap, not surprisingly, did not go well. It involved a lot of the going in to check every 5 minutes.

But … here’s the bright spot. For the most part the night sleep turned tremendous. Suddenly we were able to wake up feeling somewhat rested. Hurrah!

***

I’ll be honest … I started writing this about two weeks ago, so now he is about 6.5 months old (so grown up) and already month 6 feels so far away. As is typical of this past half year, it’s hard to remember last week’s woes because this week’s woes are all important. Two of the last three nights he has struggled to fall asleep, and we hadn’t experienced that since we started down this road, pretty much one month ago today. It is disheartening, and a little confusing. But hopefully things will be back on track soon enough.

Also, about the title. That’s a lie. I have not embraced the short nap. It is what he does, and that’s that … But we have done a number of car rides to create a 1 – 1.5 hour nap. A great joy of mine is taking the kiddo out to some shop or area to have strangers ooh and ahh and tell me how cute he is, and then buy some junk food, then cruise and listen to the radio while eating said junk food. Oh yessir.

***

Random thoughts, you say? Sure.

  • Sometimes when I blow my nose in front of my son I feel guilty. Like he is looking at me thinking, ‘oh if only I could do that.’ Imagine sneezing and then just sitting there … not having the ability to blow your nose. Torturous.
  • My wife and I have not been posting pictures on Facebook or any social media for a number of reasons. But, like probably every parent, I feel the world is being deprived of cute baby pictures. The other day a coworker stopped by my cube and said, ‘any new pictures?’ then glanced quickly at the ones I have hung up and said, ‘nope’ and walked away. Smart move, dude, because I was about to bust out my phone and put you through a three hour photo sharing session.

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    The spinny-thing has some sort of bug type creature on it.

  • We have a toy with a little wheel-type device with pictures on it. Sometime in this month he began to realize he could spin this. My wife likes to say he is looking through his rolodex. Spin, spin, stop, stare (we comment, ‘oh Bob, haven’t talked to him in ages, hmmm should I call Bob?’), aggressively spin (‘eh, Bob’s a loser’), slowly rotate, stop, stare (‘oh Jean, wonder how -‘), spin (‘FORGET JEAN!’).

***

Ok, note to self. Do month 7 on THAT day. I swear, last week is already a blur.

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