50 Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Father.

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Time has a way of sneaking up on you.  I have a hard time believing I’ve been a parent for over year and a half.  Spending time with friends recently reminded me how much my life’s changed in that time.  I love my son and being a dad, but it’s a lot of work.

This list is a public service to anyone thinking about starting a family.  Take a good look, this is required reading.  I invite any parent to add anything I missed or to share what lies ahead.

  1. Did your better half’s pregnancy hormones make you look forward to your next prostate exam?
  2. Did picking a baby name remind you of Congress trying to agree on immigration reform?
  3. Let’s work on the nursery means she plans layout and design and you move furniture back and forth again, and again, and again.
  4. Did your wife’s friends use possessive terms like our baby?
  5. Did you call them up at 3am because our baby was screaming like a banshee?
  6. Did you carry your newborn son around like Mufasa carrying Simba at the beginning of the Lion King?
  7. Did you show the baby to everyone on the maternity ward, including security guards and the maintenance staff?
  8. Was putting the baby in your father’s arms for the first time the best gift you ever gave him?

    Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
    Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
  9. Did it take you at least 45 minutes to figure out how to install the car seat correctly?
  10. Did you put the baby’s car seat into the car gently like you were handing a carton of eggs?
  11. Was driving your wife and child home from the hospital the slowest you’ve driven since you took your road test for your driver’s license.
  12. Was your first night home alone with your baby the scariest night of your life?
  13. Did the first few days of childcare make you feel like a sequestered juror on a high-profile trial?
  14. Friends and family will want to see the baby. This isn’t a bad thing.
  15. Remember when friends ask what can I bring, think big. It’s a limited offer so think surf and turf not chicken nuggets.
  16. I’ve spent many a sleepless night wonder at the logic of giving a baby with a well-functioning digestive system prunes.
  17. How long did it take to you to learn, babies will pee on you?
  18. Have the words onesie, boppy and binky become part of your vocabulary?
  19. Do the words Butt Paste make you giggle?
  20. I’m convinced anyone advising sleep when the baby sleeps, never took care of a baby.
  21. Things are easier if you know a good Baby Whisperer
  22. You will be required to take your child on a Baby Tour for the benefit of family members who couldn’t make it to your home.
  23. The dog or cat who was your child before the baby was born will go back to being a dog or cat. Sorry Chico.
  24. Don’t expect to sleep through the night for a few years.
  25. Why are the baby wipes and diapers always at the bottom of the diaper bag?
  26. Few things in life change your mood faster than a diaper blowout.
  27. Are you the only Dad in Mommy and Me class?
  28. Am I the only Dad whose nipples were sore after Mommy and Me class?
  29. Mommy and Me class will make you channel your parents.
  30. Do you wonder who is more annoying Daniel Tiger or Caillou?
  31. Competitive parents suck.
  32. Don’t be too anxious for the baby to start walking. Trust me.
  33. It’s okay to look silly in front of the baby.
  34. Your home will look like the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.
  35. Does Netflix and Chill mean you actually sit on the couch and watch a movie?
  36. How long did it take you to learn there are no quick trips to pick up anything for the baby?
  37. If you think babies don’t throw tantrums until they are two-years old, I have a surprise for you.
  38. Is getting your toddler to sleep a Darwinian Survival of the Fittest?
  39. Have you thought of putting a Fitbit on your toddler to see how many steps he takes in a day?
  40. Do you compare notes with other parents on the strangest places you’ve found poop and puke?
  41. Do you remember when being awakened at 3am meant you were getting lucky, now you hope the baby rolls over and goes to sleep once you’ve given him a bottle.
  42. Are your iPhone and iPad high-tech pacifiers.
  43. Have you told people, “Don’t let his smile fool you?”
  44. Do you flood social media sites with pictures of your child?
  45. Have your family and friends planned an intervention because of posting too many baby pictures?
  46. Have you chased a twenty-something working in GNC around the store with your screaming child to reinforce the importance of birth control?
  47. Do you think sitting in cramped airplane seat with a screaming toddler in your lap should be used as a fraternity-hazing ritual?
  48. Your child will soon crawl in and out of his crib with ninja-like efficiency.
  49. When you are singing Elmo’s Greatest Hits or humming the Pepa Pig theme, it’s time for a night out.
  50. Everyone is an expert.  You will get lots of unsolicited advice from all sides.  Get used to it.
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Parenting Against the Memories of the Past

My brother showing me how to hold a baby.
My brother showing me the proper way to hold a baby.

A funny thing happened a few weeks ago, Cristian turned 18 months old.  A lot’s changed in a year and a half, I no longer look like a gorilla dragging a baby around the cage.  My better half doesn’t have to stuff the baby bag and leave three complete outfits for the baby—she still does—but doesn’t have to, and it’s been over a year since I looked at the extensive list of care instructions posted in the kitchen.

Cristian’s grown into a hyperactive toddler, kind of like the Tazmanian Devil on Red Bull, and I’ve become a functional Stay at Home Dad.  Getting here was twisty road of diaper blowouts (his not mine), empty bottles (mine not his) and unsolicited advice from just about everyone.

Feeding, bathing and dressing the baby is now part of my daily routine.  I no longer hear It looks like Daddy dressed you today, okay maybe from Esther—geez you forget to fasten the snaps on his onesie a few times.

A year ago, women at Target sniffed out diaper changes, people at the post office suggested he may need a nap, and families at Costco gave me stink eye when I put the baby into the same shopping cart with a few gallons of bleach, a case of motor oil and 10 pounds of seafood.  Imagine if I threw the live lobsters into the cart, like I wanted to.

What are you doing with those lobsters Daddy?
What are you doing with those lobsters Daddy?

The family has gotten better too.  They no longer rush to feed or change the baby when he cries, just when I thought I had them trained.  Watching me take care of him eased their anxiety, or maybe they realized they’ve become material for a post or two.

You think that would be the end of it, of course it isn’t.  Haven’t you been reading this blog?

Having graduated from feedings and diaper changes, Parenting 101, I’ve moved onto the advanced course.  It started with a few subtle hints from the family elders, who am I kidding about subtle.

To give you some background on the family elders, I once overheard them remark about how a new mom still had her baby belly—two days after a grueling 20-hours of labor ending in a C-Section.  To hear them talk they all went straight home from the delivery room and did three loads of laundry.

According to them when they raised us we always ate elaborately-planned home-cooked meals, didn’t fight them at bedtime, and never got dirty.  Oh selective memory is a wonderful thing because I remember being called a bad child, constantly being scolded for getting dirty.

Parenting guidelines and norms changed over the years.  When I was a child, parents barely childproofed their homes, small children rode in the car’s backseat without a child seat or seatbelt, and moms did the heavy lifting regarding childcare.  So I can only imagine their shock at watching us raise our own children.  I don’t need to, I hear it constantly, but that’s okay.  As Cristian keeps growing and hitting developmental milestones, I’m hitting mine as a parent.  I guess it’s a good thing I keep a blog.

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Guest Post – Tips for the Comparing Mom

I’m excited to announce I’m Not Grandpa’s first Guest Post.  Please allow me to introduce my new friend Lisa E Hill, a Child Development Consultant and Blogger.

It’s in our nature as human beings to always be comparing. It’s what we do every day in a myriad of situations and environments, we compare. Technology and the wonderful world of the Internet, has given us the ability to quickly read reviews on products and restaurants, thus comparing.

Is it not assumed that when we become mothers that we will continue to compare? It happens, but it is rarely something we will think about the months leading up to the delivery of our tiny humans. Oh sure, we will compare what breast pump to buy or what stroller to register for. We will compare child care centres and mini vans. But, the unspoken truth is we will compare the development of our babies to our friends babies and the babies we meet along the way. We will enter into the anxiety ridden, Google searching and Doctor calling comparing mom.

How do we get a hold of ourselves and take control over our constant comparing and worrying?

 

TIP #1 – IT’S NATURAL

Always remember that comparing is natural. It’s how we weed out the bad and focus on the good. It’s how you ended up with your sports car edition of the mini van.

Comparing Moms - No 1

However, it’s important to get a grip on the amount of time you spend comparing. Although it’s natural, it’s not natural to be completely overwhelmed and focused on comparing. If it starts to affect your ability to be present and involved with your child, you need to stop, take a breath and focus on why you are so worried.

TIP #2 – YOU WORRY FOR A REASON

Yes, you are now a mom. You have committed to an entire life of worry. You will worry about tiny things and bigs things.
I’m not telling you not to compare, I’m here to educate you on how to compare especially when it comes to your child’s overall development. You will compare, but if you have a worry then it is valid! It’s called your gut.

As my best friend was getting ready to leave my house the other day, she was talking out her worries that came straight from her continuous comparing. She finally said to me, “I need to just stop comparing!” Yes and no my friend! Comparing is natural yes, but if your worried and you continue to be worried, act on it.

TIP #3 – EDUCATE YOURSELF

There are developmental check lists available to you online, at your doctors office and various children’s centres. Take the checklists, use them and either ease your mind or call your doctor if you’re still concerned.

Whatever you do, do NOT take a bunch of “symptoms” and plug into the Google search engine! I mean it, do NOT do it! Yes, it’s easily accessible and there are SO many forums with other moms with the same concerns, but every story is different with different outcomes! Unless your googling developmental stages and expectancies, do not Google symptoms!

Education is the key to understanding and fostering your child’s development. Comparing your child’s development to children around you is natural yes, but educate yourself first. No need to get worried if you don’t need to! You have to remember that children grow and develop at varying rates!

TIP #4 – TALK IT OUT

Do not keep it all bottled up inside of you, this comparing and worrying business. Talk about it! Talk it out with your partner, your friend (yes even the ones whose child your comparing), your mom, community partners. Heck, talk it out with yourself. You have to take control of your anxiety now before it takes control over you. Talk to your anxiety and hash it out.

Comparing Moms - No 2

The more you talk about your concerns or worries, the more information you will receive. If you have talked about it, read about it and your still concerned, call your doctor. Again, go with your gut. Your still unsettled for a reason!

TIP #5 – SOCIALIZE

Do not sit in your house and analyze your child’s development over and over again. Get out and socialize. Go to community drop in’s. Visit a friend. Time and time again I have found many children who are behind in their development will flourish when consistently socialized with other children around the same age.

Getting out and socializing your child also provides them with varying environments to explore and expand on their exploding development. Not to mention it builds relationships for both you and your child!

TIP #6 – GO WITH YOUR GUT

It’s tough being a mom. No one said it would be easy and who even warned you that you were signing up for a life long sentence of worry?!

The one thing we are all equipped with is this little aching feeling that lies at the pit of our stomach and rears it’s ugly head when something feels wrong. It usually goes hand in hand with that voice in our head that also tells us that something could be wrong.

My point is, after you feel like you’ve talked about it a million times, you’ve Googled it (yes, I know you won’t listen to me and NOT Google it), you’ve provided ample opportunities to socialize and you feel like your fairly educated on it AND your STILL questioning and comparing and worrying… LISTEN TO YOUR GUT!

Remember, you compare because it’s natural, you worry for a reason and you act because you know you have to! Welcome to motherhood!

 

Lisa E. Hill is a Child Development Consultant who works with families who are struggling with everyday parenting issues and parents of children with Special Needs. Lisa strives to Simplify Impossible Parenting by offering strategies and suggestions, resources and 1:1 support to families worldwide.  You can follow her blog Loud Parent here.
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A 5K Run to Honor Lola’s Memory

Lola's children, Esther, Rose Marie and Bobby will be back in Prospect Park tomorrow morning to honor Mami's memory.
Lola’s children, Esther, Rose Marie and Bobby will be back in Prospect Park tomorrow morning to honor Mami’s memory.

Tomorrow morning Esther, Cristian and I are running a 5K race in Prospect Park, okay Cristian will be riding in his stroller while I push him, but he’ll be participating.  Although we are no strangers to 5K races or Prospect Park’s notorious hill tomorrow’s race isn’t about goal times or P.R.s—this one’s personal—we’ll be honoring Esther’s Mom’s memory.

10298777In 2013, Maria Hernandez, Lola to her friends, lost her battle with Pancreatic Cancer so for a third-straight year her three children will be participating in the PanCan Purple Stride 5K Run/Walk to honor her memory.

Pancreatic Cancer is a brutal disease with an extremely low survival rate.  Besides taking the lives of celebrities like Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti, it’s affected the lives of many non-celebrity families as well.   Last year my Dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  Dad was lucky, if you can say that for any cancer patient, he died of pneumonia before the cancer fully took hold, Lola wasn’t so fortunate.

17171717Long-distance runners are no strangers to pain—it’s who we are.  I’ve run a 60K race, just over nine four-mile loops in Central Park on a cranky knee.  Esther started a marathon on a badly-injured ankle that got worse with every step taken—both were minor twinges compared to Lola’s battle.  She fought a tough fight, the worse things got, the harder she fought, but no one beats Pancreatic Cancer.

Since tomorrow morning’s weather forecast calls for windy conditions with a chance of snow I’m expecting less than the fifty people who came out last year.  Cold weather does that, but Esther, Bobby, Rose Marie, Cristian and I will be there regardless of the conditions.  This ugly disease took Robert, Lucas, and Justin’s grandmother.  Cristian will never know his La La Maria because of it, it’s our biggest regret.

If you know anyone suffering or lost someone to Pancreatic Cancer or are interested in donating to a good cause click here.

This entry is being posted to both of my blogs North Queens Runner and I’m Not Grandpa.

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For Dad

Preface – This is one of my favorite posts.  I wrote this as a new father reflecting on childhood memories of my Dad.  I’m reposting it on what would have been his 90th birthday.

My Grandmother holding my Dad when he was 3-years old.
My Grandmother holding my Dad when he was 3-years old.

Becoming a father has made me a think a lot about my Dad. In my mind’s eye I relived memories of him seen through the eyes of a small child, teenager, and newly-minted Dad. He turns 89 tomorrow so I decided to write this post about him.

In his prime Dad was a small energetic man whose childhood was so much different than mine.  Born in 1926 the youngest of five children in El Freijo, a small town in rural Spain.  Since they were able to grow what they ate the family survived.

Dad and his older brothers Manuel and Francisco became carpenters out of necessity.  Building and selling rowboats enabled the family to buy food and other necessities to survive. Through this difficult time my grandmother Mama Maria fed as many hungry children from other families as she could.

In 1936 a Civil War broke out in Spain taking an estimated 500.000 lives, including both brothers, I was named after Francisco.  His father died a few years later, apparently of a broken heart.

Twenty years old with little opportunity or future in post-World War II Europe Dad joined the Merchant Marine. When he left my grandmother told him, go and try find a better life for yourself but remember if things don’t work out you always have a home to come back to.

My Brother Bob and I during our 1970 family vacation in Spain. I'm the little guy on the right.
My Brother Bob and I during our 1970 family vacation in Spain. I’m the little guy on the right.

In 1956, after ten years of travelling the world on merchant ships Dad settled in Camden New Jersey.  I remember the colorful stories of his experiences shared with family sitting around a table usually with a glass of wine or cognac after holiday dinners. It took a few years and some of our own life experiences until my brother Bob and I truly appreciated Dad’s stories of Pre-Castro Havana or arriving in Argentina the day after Juan Peron was overthrown.

Dad moved from Camden to Spanish Harlem, and then to Brooklyn where he married.  After starting a family Mom and Dad moved to Queens.  He built the house I grew up in and where he still lives in 14 months of weekends and vacations.

Working hard to provide for his family, he rarely took a vacation, but when he did he made them count.   We took us to Puerto Rico or Spain for six or eight weeks.  If you asked him he would say his favorite was taking us to Spain in 1970.

I was six-years old so most of my memories consist of my brother and I running through corn fields, feeding chickens, and riding in an oxcart El Carro de las Vacas with my aunts.  I also remember meeting my grandmother, Mama Maria and how much she spoiled us.  He always said bringing his kids to Spain so his mother could get to know them was the best gift he ever gave her.

Dad blowing with his three grandchildren getting ready to blow out a pre-birthday candle.
Dad blowing with his three grandchildren getting ready to blow out a pre-birthday candle.

Dad became a grandpa when my niece Katie was born, he waited 74 years.  Two years later a second granddaughter, Jenny was born.  Bob and I immediately noticed he was different as a grandfather than he was as a father.  This wasn’t our strict old-school father, he was a doting grandpa.  He adored his granddaughters spoiling them like our grandmother spoiled us but one thing was missing—a grandson.

Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.
Dad holding Cristian. He was the best gift I could have given him.

Collecting thoughts for this post I realized we have more in common than I originally thought.  Besides being engaging storytellers, we are both the youngest child, share a sarcastic sense of humor and posses a stubborn streak.  Don’t believe me ask my Mom or Esther.  We also are the child who moved the family name forward another generation.

Dad doesn’t like receiving gifts, Christmas, Birthday, Father’s Day—his response is always the same.  Why did you have to get me that?  So last year on his birthday, I gave him a gift he could appreciate, I told him, the grandchild we were expecting was a boy.  Words weren’t necessary, the Kool-Aid grin on his face spoke volumes.

That memory is special but it’s no longer my most precious, it was replaced when I placed Cristian in his arms the first time.  Seeing his smiling face I truly understood how special a gift it was.

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