2020 – Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

It’s September 8th, Labor Day Weekend has come and gone.  Fall will be here soon, with the promise of cooler weather and pumpkin-spiced everything.  Calling 2020 an odd year would be an understatement.  If I woke up tomorrow morning to find an alien ship on my front lawn, it wouldn’t faze me, I’d probably make them coffee and ask them about their trip.  That’s an indicator of how the year has gone so far.

I’m about to start my sixth month of working from home, fully aware I won’t be returning to the office anytime soon.  Back in March, when I went underground, they instructed us to stay home and flatten the curve, but in New York City, the line kept going straight up.  Those first months were rough. Bars, restaurants, and movie theaters were closed, the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball, the Kentucky Derby, and the 2020 Summer Olympics were all canceled.  Sports fans wondered aloud if this is what the Middle Ages were like. 

The biggest problem was people trying to lead their lives the way they did before the Pandemic — some still are. 

I’ve been home since St. Patrick’s Day, how’s that for irony?  In the 176 days I’ve been home, I realized the glass wasn’t empty or half full. Good things happened along the way too.  You just had to be paying attention.

In the past 176 days, I noticed:

I Enjoyed Spending Time With My Son – This may run counter to my last two posts.  I’ve written about remote learning with an overactive five-year-old with a short attention span as he ran, bounced, and climbed the walls like he had three Red Bulls for breakfast. It’s been enough to make me reach for my emotional-support bourbon.

The benefit of spending the past months with Cristian, is I’ve seen his growth and development in real-time.  He now dresses himself, is potty trained, and speaks more clearly.  Sitting next to him during class time and therapy sessions showed me how smart he is and gave me a glimpse of his playful personality.

Another Afternoon at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve

I Found Things Hiding In Plain Sight – Taking Cristian out to play was easy in March and April when the weather was cold and the parks were empty.  That changed when the weather warmed up in May.  When Cristian’s Saturday OT Sessions were canceled because of a state mandate, Esther suggested taking him to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve.  Set on 9,000 acres, the preserve has hiking trails, saltwater marshes, and freshwater ponds.  It was mostly empty and the perfect place to run, play, and look at the Canadian Geese.  I’ve driven past it on my way to the Rockaways for years.  It took a Pandemic for me to discover this amazing location, less than two miles from my home.

Esther and Cristian during his Moving-up Ceremony

I Enjoyed A Moving-Up Ceremony – If you know me or follow this blog, you probably read that last sentence and thought, WHAT!  That’s valid.  I always thought Moving-up Ceremonies were the product of a generation who received participation trophies in Little League.  Through the course of my education, I had three graduation ceremonies, junior high school, high school, and college.  Cristian had three in the past three years.  Every year, the wife gets excited and plans a celebration, while I have images of George and Weezy.  This year was different.  Maybe being locked up like a hermit for three months affected me, or that the virtual ceremony was quick. It lasted only 30 minutes.  Cristian finally got a piece of the pie.

Cristian enjoying his day at the zoo.

Family Day At A Socially Distant Zoo – As Cristian’s Moving-up Ceremony approached, Esther scoured the internet looking for a way to celebrate Cristian’s achievements in basic crayon.  New York Zoos and Aquariums were closed, so she searched across state lines. She found the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  They had just reopened with heavy restrictions and an emphasis on social distancing.  Guests reserved spots in advance, wore masks, and could only walk in designated areas.  A year ago, I had no idea we would have enjoyed an hour at the zoo as much as we did.

I Had Time To Write My Memoirs – No, really.  I’m aware the concept of a white-haired fifty-something man sitting at a typewriter and writing his memoirs is beyond cliché.  Like several bloggers I follow, I’ve considered adapting I’m Not Grandpa to book form.  I’ve spent the past two years reviewing notes and blog posts and even alluded to it here. I started a 10-week memoir-writing course in January and really enjoyed it.  When the virus hit, eight of us formed a writing group that meets on Wednesday nights.  Being around this talented group of writers has given me the discipline to stop thinking about writing a book and start writing one.

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Was Darwin Right? Surviving the Coronavirus.

Selfquarantining at home

COVID19 aka, the Coronavirus has changed our lives globally.  Working from home, social distancing, and wearing rubber gloves and masks before going outside is the new normal.  Initially, it wasn’t so bad, but once schools were closed, our kids were home with us.  There is a difference between staying home and being forced to stay home. 

Spending the past two weeks working from home on a laptop while keeping an eye on a hyperactive five-year-old is NOT a snow day.  Did I mention that Cristian is autistic and ADHD?  I’ve spent two weeks watching my little guy bounce off the walls like the Tazmanian Devil in a Looney Tunes cartoon.  Don’t you wish you were me?

Here’s what I observed watching COVID19 go from a health emergency to a global pandemic from the comfort of my living room.

People Are Stupid – We were given one task — stay home. Mayors, Governors, and the President, for maybe a week, told us two things: Stay Home, and employ social distancing. It’s not rocket science. We’re a country of fat, lazy, people, who have been waiting for this kind of national emergency, but we didn’t follow orders.  Let’s add stupid to the list.

Don’t believe me? I have four words for you, Starbucks and cruise ships. Before shutting them down, both were jammed with people like filthy Petri dishes in high-school lab experiments, yet we couldn’t stay away.

Pandemics are Different than Blizzards – Stocking our homes with supplies has forced us to become hunter/gatherers. It’s the pandemic equivalent of going out with a crossbow and taking down a deer.  I live in the Northeast and am no stranger to blizzards and nor’easters. During a blizzard, milk, eggs, and bread are the first things to disappear from supermarket shelves. Why does an intense snowstorm makes people crave french toast?

My mom and dad grew up poor and knew what it was like to go to bed hungry. It prepared them for this type of situation. Their home was always stocked with enough supplies to survive any natural disaster.  This was my guide while foraging for toilet paper, bleach, and paper towels. My 90-year old mother beamed with pride every time I can home with a new haul of supplies as if I dragged home a 300-pound deer.

COVID19 Has Kept Conspiracy Theorists Busy – The geniuses spotting UFOs outside their trailers are busy indulging a new hobby—conspiracy theories.   I’ve heard everything from COVID19 is a Democrat Hoax started to bring down the Trump Administration, it was engineered in lab in China, or is the actual version of Captain Tripps, the virus in Steven King’s The Stand. The nutcases are having a field day aligning their specific theory to match their ideology. Listen to it long enough and you’ll want to rush out and lick a few doorknobs.

Donald Trump and Andrew Cuomo Replaced March Madness – If you follow me, you know I’m not a fan of March Madness..  In recent weeks, the NBA, the NHL, March Madness, and Major League Baseball all suspended operations.  Sports fans and degenerate gamblers were never able to fill out their brackets.  Instead, we’ve watched Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Trump hold daily briefings.  I’d gladly fill out a bracket every year for the rest of my life to never hear either of them again.

Maybe It’s Time to Thin the Herd – Darwin believed humans and animals in the wild were subject to the same laws of natural selection. Throughout human existence, wars, plagues, and famines prevented overpopulation. I’ve seen college students enjoying Spring Break in Florida, while others who are treating this pandemic like it’s a joke.  Maybe Darwin was right.

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Five More Things I Learned Since Becoming a Parent

My last post was well received, thank you readers and Dad 2.0 Summit, but there was more to write. Sitting down with my notes, I crafted a new post from deleted bullet points – a blog post sequel. Am I being insightful, or shamelessly churning out another post using existing material?  You be the judge.

Your Quality Time Lasts About Two Hours A Night – Remember those quiet evenings when you curled up on the couch with Netflix. Those quiet nights when you caught up on movies you missed in the theatre or watched unviewed programs in your DVR was always quality couple time. Then we had a child. These days our viewing habits revolve around what keeps him entertained. Our couple time doesn’t start until Cristian goes to sleep.

To speed up the process, we use a tag-team approach. While I’m bathing him, my better half is taking out his pajamas and getting the next day’s clothes reedy. Our evening starts once he falls asleep.   That’s if he doesn’t wake up or sneak out his room 20 minutes later. Sometimes we’ll watch a movie, or I’ll write. More often than not, Esther comes downstairs and finds me asleep in my favorite chair with the remote in my hand.

Sometimes You Need A Night Out – Parenting is demanding. Keeping up with schoolwork, playdates, and eight or nine other things is both exhausting. Lazy parenting is the gateway to huge therapy bills in your future.

Parents need a break too. Hobbies and mental health breaks are the best way to avoid sitting in the car chugging exhaust fumes. My better half and I learned to spot when the other needs a break from the little guy. It could be an hour at Starbucks with a book and some coffee. The other parent entertains Cristian with a puzzle or watching Yo Gabba Gabba.

Back when Cristian preferred CNN to Peppa Pig

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same – Parents in the 70s had a creative method for grabbing an extra hour of sleep on Saturday mornings – Looney Tunes.  They introduced me to eccentric millionaires, smart-assed rabbits, and the defective nature of Acme products.  Forty years later Cristian and I spend Saturday mornings watching his favorite programs over breakfast.  Although he’s not getting exposed to opera, like I did with Kill the Wabbit, they aren’t bad.  More than once, I’ve waited to see how Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko outsmarted Night Ninja.

Beware of Overeager Grandparents Offering to Babysit – I’ve written about our challenges in finding a babysitter while adding to the GDP of a certain Central American country. My better half and I are not fortunate enough to have overeager grandparents stepping up at a moment’s notice. That may not be such a bad thing, have you ever wondered why they are so eager?

I’ve learned overeager grandparents have an ulterior motive – payback. Do you think your parents forgot all the times you skipped curfew dated dodgy types, and took inches off their hairline?  It’s all question of picking your poison, what’s more important, a much-needed a night out or your three-year-old asking for M&Ms before dinner time?

You Will Become Your Parents – Every expectant parent thinks they will be more laid back than their parents were.  That theory goes up in flames once the baby starts walking.  I’ve noticed I’ve adopted some of my dad’s signature moves from the vein popping in his forehead, to going room to room flipping off light switches.  Becoming a father has given me a greater appreciation of how much of a standup guy my dad was.Share This:
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Nine Things I Learned Since Becoming A Parent

With the Birthday Boy at his pre-school.

Recently, Cristian celebrated his fourth birthday. For about a week, Esther and I relived our first days as parents.  There is something nostalgic about birthdays.

We remembered Esther’s aunt brushing his hair into a baby Mohawk in the hospital, friends stopping by to visit, and his first days of preschool. After a few days, I sat down and put a list together of things I didn’t expect. I apologize in advance if it sounds like a greatest hits package.

Cleaning products are a parent’s best friend.

Pee, Poop & Puke — I came into parenthood with my eyes wide open. I knew there would be dirty diapers, and baby-related messes. I just had no idea that something so small could make such a huge mess.  Play dates and MyGym classes have given me a chance to swap stories with other parents.

We’ve spent time comparing notes.  We swapped stories on getting peed on and bleaching the bathtub after the baby dropped a deuce during bath time.  So far, no one has found a sure-fire way to get the puke smell out of toddler bedding. If you are considering starting a family, reread the last two sentences a few times until it sinks in. Remember, you’ve been warned.

Don’t dad-shame Bond.

I’m Not the Babysitter, I’m His Father – I was a Stay at Home Dad for two years, and the quickest way to piss me off was calling me the babysitter. Let me explain the difference — babysitters get paid — parents raise their children. Do I look like a teen-aged kid spending more time with their Snapchat feed than watching the baby?

These days, grandparents and older family members aren’t the only ones who can’t tell the difference. Journalists can be just as clueless. Piers Morgan recently mocked Daniel Craig for carrying his one-month old daughter in a baby carrier. Many outraged dads lashed out via Twitter making Mr. Morgan aware that Dads take an active role in parenting.

Separation Anxiety Can Be Rough – We found this out when Cristian was six weeks old. Driving Esther to work on her first day back from maternity leave, Cristian started crying before I stopped the car. I thought it was a one-time thing — silly me. He soon adapted to our feeble attempts at distracting him with Sesame Street as Mommy tried sneaking off to work, or even to the bathroom.

We thought it would pass, but it’s gotten worse — now he does it to me. Gone are the days when I could leave him in the gym’s nursery with a tablet and get in a quick workout. It’s effected how we plan date nights.  These days, the babysitter meets his school bus when he gets home from preschool, saving us all from a tantrum.

Kids Will Repeat Anything They Hear –  Remember how excited you were when your child said its first word? That joy fades quickly once your child starts repeating things, like a voice-activated recording device.  Esther now has to worry about what both men in her life might say.

A child’s vocabulary grows exponentially, once they start preschool, leaving parents wondering where they learned certain words.  I remember Cristian proudly sharing a new word with me. It had four letters and started with F. Worried, because I’d have to explain the origins of this new word to Mommy, I asked him to repeat it. I was relieved when he repeated the word, adding ribbit ribbit. Since then I’ve picked my words carefully around him.

A Sick Child Will Make You Feel Helpless – There is one thing consistent to all parents regardless of age, gender, or financial status — it sucks when your kid is sick. Cristian was fifteen months old, the first time he experienced a high fever. Crying, uncomfortable, and giving off a furnace-like heat, he looked to Mommy and Daddy to make everything better.  We grew increasingly frustrated when we couldn’t.  I’ve never felt more helpless in my entire life than I did on that night.

Friends Will Disappear From Your Life – Losing touch friends is a sad part of life.  How many friends have you kept in touch with since high school?  The number of friends we’ve lost touch with since becoming parents has been eye-opening. Things changed since the early days when friends stopped by to “see the baby,” These days we hear everything from, “It’s been tool long” to “We were giving you space.”

I understand that spending an afternoon at the zoo isn’t for everyone, Neither is spending an evening with a toddler bouncing off the walls like he’s in a pinball machine. We all have busy schedules, but I learned – some will make an effort, and others will make excuses. I never thought starting a family would make friends disappear like they were in the Witness Protection Program.

If Things Are Too Quiet, Be Very Afraid – Say goodbye to any semblance of quiet time, once your child reaches toddlerhood.  A child playing quietly in the other room is not your friend.  If you think you scored a chance to binge watch Game of Thrones, guess again. When things get too quiet, I immediately grab a broom and a box of hefty bags.

Spontaneity Is Replaced By Structure – Remember the days before parenthood, also known as the good old days.  Being spontaneous was easy, we could go to the movies or away for the weekend at a moment’s notice.  I miss those days.

With parenthood comes responsibility, or the ability to fake it for those who don’t know better.  Once your child starts daycare parents start establishing routines and schedules.  Vacation and time off from work revolves around school.  These days our evenings are about keeping Cristian on a schedule.  Although we mix things up, it’s some variation of playtime, dinnertime, bath time, bedtime.  Deviating from this will have dire consequences.

Despite the Challenges, Parenthood is Rewarding – Since becoming a Dad, I’ve congratulated new parents the same way, Congratulations, your life is about to change, but it will be worth it.  Being a Dad is the toughest job I ever had — and I’ve had many.  The hours suck, you don’t get weekends off, and the boss is extremely demanding.  Looking at Cristian playing happily with his tablet as I write this, fills me with awe.  I still can’t believe I helped create this awesome little being.Share This:
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The Shop Teacher’s Guide to Childbirth

The Finished Product

You’re in the twilight hours of your pregnancy surviving the baby shower, Lamaze classes, and pregnancy hormones so intense they make a rectal exam from a longshoreman seem enviable.  Just one thing remains — having the baby.  If you thought the past forty weeks were rough —just wait.

Being raised in a blue-collar environment taught me not to complicate things that should be left simple.  I learned many important life lessons from my high school shop teachers.  I know you’re wondering how does something taught by a middle aged man with three fingers on one hand, who spent way too much time inhaling paint fumes apply to childbirth.  I learned not to overthink things or take six steps when you only need two.

This did nothing to prepare me for a drippy deuce.

Expectant parents rarely get an accurate picture of what to expect.  Reading parenting books, or loading a few new apps onto your iPhone, doesn’t prepare you for the real thing.  It’s like changing your practice doll’s diaper in childbirth classes, then handling a full-fledged blowout.

Ask a mother to describe her childbirth experience and the answer will vary depending on how doped up she was. As someone who’s been there,  I can tell you, any mother droning on using words like breathtaking or empowering — that’s the drugs talking — my guess is she was probably doped up on a combination of Vicodin, an Epidural, and some Flintstones vitamins.

If you are looking for a brutally honest description of childbirth, embrace the wisdom of the shop teacher.

Keep It Simple Stupid – During his first class each semester, Mr. Donnelley, my ninth-grade shop teacher, taught students the acronym K.I.S.S, Keep It Simple Stupid.  It’s direct and less cruel than ID10T universallused in the Information Technology field.

K.I.S.S should be used whenever an expectant mother’s Hippy Pre-Natal yoga instructor sells her on water birth.  Let me guess, you’re planning a Gender Reveal Party too?  In twenty years, you’ll be wondering if it was worth the time and effort when their child embraces gender fluidity.  Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself but there’s a good chance your child won’t be the next Michael Phelps, so why risk infection or a severed umbilical cord. You can plan your child’s first birthday party at the aquarium.

Some of the non-scary medical equipment,

Childbirth is Not a Dignified Experience – Are you the queasy type whose stomach turns at the sight and smell of a bowl of raw octopus? Does the thought of the doctor, a classroom full of interns, and the janitor checking out your partner’s junk make you uneasy?  Wait until you get your first glimpse of the slime-covered, cone-headed mess that’s waiting for you. Remember when your partner came home from Victoria’s Secrets with three shopping bags of lingerie and you demanded a fashion show?  After a few pre-natal check-ups, Victoria won’t have any secrets left.  If you got here using a test tube and turkey baster, keep repeating, “We really wanted this.”

Picking the Hospital – This should be a no brainer, but people keeping screwing it up.  Remember K.I.S.S.  Ignore suggestions from your hipster friends suggesting a hospital because they heard the bedding has a high thread count or it’s where Beyoncé had her children.

Babies arrive at the most inconvenient time.  Like at three in the morning, in the middle of rush hour, or during a raging snowstorm.  If you’re crossing a bridge and tunnel to get to the hospital, the Uber driver might be delivering your child.

Make Those Hormones Work For You — You’ve had a rough pregnancy, and are ten days past your due date.  Your unborn child has barred the doors and is giving the doctor the middle finger.  She’s tired and moody because the doctor keeps sending her home, saying, “Let’s give it a few more days shall we?”

There’s only one thing to do – piss her off.  It sounds cruel, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one.   If it’s your 42nd week, she’s gassy and has the hemorrhoids of a long-haul trucker. Trust me you’re doing her a favor, so churn up those hormones and point her at the doctor.  If I had done this my son would have been born two weeks and fifty hormonal outbursts earlier.

Its Go Time – The delivery room is where the myths and expectations of childbirth are shattered.  It’s not the breathtaking experience you were led to believe, it’s gross, slimy, and eye-opening. My wife and I saw things so scary, we made a pact not to share what really happened with anyone – the way couples do after spending a wild weekend in Vegas.

If you want to foreshadow your childbirth experience, start with the Mucus Plug.  When this slimy mess keeping the baby in place pops, it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Let’s get this party started.”  What follows are several hours of farting, pooping, and vomiting – kind of like a college frat house on Cinco de Mayo.

Children are rarely born in the O.R., meaning the room the hospital assigns you, is your delivery room.  The transformation from hospital room to delivery room is terrifying. Scary looking medical tools and devices appear for mystery compartments.  Your tastefully decorated room becomes a fully-equipped bondage chamber any dominatrix would be proud of.  I’m pretty sure I saw a ball gag among the medical equipment.

As you watch your better half sliced with the medical equivalent of gardening sheers in ways I won’t describe, be prepared to be a little disappointed. The child you’ve been anxiously awaiting is compressed, cone-shaped, and covered in slime, and your room will need a thorough scouring with industrial strength cleaning products.  Most guys experience a Post-Natal PTS.  After watching their partners pass something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a hard-boiled egg.  This is part of nature’s plan, it gives new mothers the time they need to heal as their men won’t go near them for a few weeks.Share This:
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