When Did I Become My Parents?

Like every parent I thought I’d be cooler and more laid back than my parents were, 33 months later, I’ve had to rethink that.  My parents weren’t always the strict, stressed couple I remember growing up.  I’ve seen old pictures — there was a time when they were young and energetic.  Raising two sons has a way of catching up with you.

Over the past months I’ve noticed changes, I’d like to say subtle changes, but I don’t do subtle — I started morphing into my parents.  If you are a parent you’ve either experienced this or are in denial.

I’ve put together this list to see if you’ve become your parents.

Me explaining the family tantrum policy to Cristian

The Bulging Vein in My Forehead – I first noticed this during Mommy and Me Class.  I thought being the only Daddy in Mommy and Me class would have set the vein a popping but bringing a cooler of beer tucked under the baby stroller took care of that for me.  However spending most of the classes prying open Cristian’s mouth making sure he wasn’t eating Play Doh, stopping him from gobbling up other kids’ snacks, and keeping us both from looking like an old drop cloth while he played with paint and shaving cream made me twitchy.

Daddy Doesn’t Do Tantrums – I was born in the mid 60s before parenting books, websites—or even the internet.  In those days common sense was an essential component to parenting.  My Dad comes to mind, he had no tolerance for tantrums so he used an old-school approach — he ignored them.  Tantrums are Toddler Performance Art, they work best in front of an engaged audience — the show ends quickly when there’s no audience entertaining them.

Heeding Dad’s wisdom, I adopted this policy on Day One.  Holding my crying one-hour old son, I whispered to him gently, “Cristian, I love you but you need to know something, Daddy doesn’t do tantrums.  I’m going to let this one slide because it’s your birthday and you don’t know the rules yet, but going forward I want you to remember this little talk.”  To date, he’s been slow picking up on this one.

Parents Say No, Grandparents Say Yes – You know karma’s bitten you in the ass the first time this happens.  When I was a kid visiting my grandparents meant I’d get away with things I never could at home.  I remember my grandmother saving a six-year old me from a butt whipping or two.  These days Mom is the one spoiling the little one.  I usually find her chuckling as she sees my expression as she’s giving Cristian a sugary snack right before his bedtime.

Tunneling in My Gym classs

You’ve Become Your Child’s Personal Driver – Mom never learned to drive, so in addition to being the sole breadwinner, Dad sometimes had to drive a group of us home from soccer practice, or drop me off at a hockey game in Williamsburg.  After working on job sites as a carpenter, he preferred to relax with a beer or two and the evening news, but off we would go.

These days I take Cristian to play dates, My Gym classes, or to the park to play and burn off excess energy.  It’s inconvenient at times, especially after a nutty week at work but I knew I’d this was part of becoming a Dad.

Of course it’s all a matter of perspective, one of my favorite memories  of my Dad was the two of us battling rush-hour traffic to get into Manhattan. Although he hated driving into Manhattan under most circumstances, he drove me and about 30 pounds of props in to a photo studio on 18th Street, because third-year photo majors rarely get access to a professor’s photo studio for a shoot. Hopefully when he grows up Cristian will have similar memories of me.

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My Favorite Posts from I’m Not Grandpa’s Second Year*

Happy Anniversary!   Two years ago I launched I’m Not Grandpa—kinda sorta.  I posted the Introduction, on September 26th 2014 and a second post shortly afterward.  Esther and I were well into a high-risk pregnancy and my mind was elsewhere, so I took a break from blogging until after the baby was born.

Parenthood was overwhelming for this cranky old dad so it took me months to hit my stride as a parent and find my voice as a writer.  Looking back I may have been overthinking it.  The first few weeks of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and friends stopping by to see the baby provided material, I just needed to sort through it.

Two years ago today, my second first post went live.  A lot’s changed in two years.  Entertaining a toddler requires more attention than a newborn—the sleepless nights and writers block are about the same.

Fatherhood and blogging are two of my favorite things—I’m learning as I go.

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past year.

Seven Things to Know Before Having Kids – This is my most read post.  My public service describing the sacrifices parents make captured the attention of both parents and non-parents.  If you are thinking of starting a family check it out here.

Parenting Against Memories of the Past – Being a parent means you get second guessed—a lot. This post is the result of a lot of subtle, who am I kidding about subtle, second guessing from our family elders.  Parents learn as they go, grandparents and older relatives critique your new skillset.  Oh selective memory is a wonderful thing.  This post is the result of spending too much time with family, check it out here.

Five Signs You Need a Night Out – I wrote this while experiencing Cabin Fever.  Spending the winter in a sensory-deprivation chamber changing diapers, watching Sesame Street, Pepa Pig and CNN’s coverage of the 2016 Presidential Primaries had me screaming for a night out.  If you are parent who isn’t sure whether or not you need a night out, I posted this helpful guide.

Remembering Dad A Year Later – This change of pace post was written a year after my Dad passed away.  I miss my Dad—he was old-school man of honor who spent years paying forward the kindness of an old friend named Viña.  He was a man of simple pleasures, family, a backyard barbeque and a nice glass of wine.  He made parenting look easy and taught me as much by his actions as he did with his words.  Read about him here.

Am I the Only One with Sore Nipples – I write about my experiences in Mommy and Me Class.  I channeled my parents as we explored finger painting, confusing orange goldfish and orange play doh, and debating whether or not a bringing a cooler full of light beer with me was a bad idea.  Read about it here.

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What to Expect at a Weight Watcher’s Meeting

A few posts back, I shared my battle with maintaining a healthy weight.  Before stepping off the scale, my better half and I knew we had to do something.  We headed back to our old standby—Weight Watchers.

If you’ve never joined Weight Watchers you may have a few preconceived notions—I did before joining.  Let me clarify a few.  Weight Watchers meetings are not a group of hefty soccer moms holding a low-fat muffin in one hand and a Starbucks Venti cup in the other.  Members don’t sit around listening as the group leader shares the latest recipes for low-calorie baked goods.  Like Mommy and Me Class Weight Watchers meetings are not strictly women-only events, men go to Weight Watchers too.

If you are undecided here are a few things I noticed.

This could have been modeled after,me.

The Weigh-in – If you want the full Weight Watchers experience, start with the weigh-in.  It’s not as entertaining as The Biggest Loser but it has its moments.  Picture a long line of overweight people clutching little books and stripping down to as little as possible before climbing aboard the scale.  It’s not a pretty sight, or so I’ve been told—repeatedly by the wife.  If you’re hyper obsessive like we are, you wake up early on weigh-in mornings looking for ways to shave off an extra half pound.  We’ve taken Chico for two-mile walks, done full gym workouts, and run half-marathons before stepping on the scale.

The Plan Changes Weekly or So It Seems – If you’ve jumped on and off the program like an adrenaline junkie at the X Games, you notice the plan changes—a lot.  Staring over means another post-meeting walk of shame to your group leader so you can learn the latest buzz words and changes to the Points Plus plan.  The only thing changing more is the celebrity endorser—I’ve been through Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, and Oprah during my many memberships.

They Sell More Products than QVC – If you’ve taken three children to Disneyland you have an idea of the kind of money a brand-new gung-ho member can spend.  Offering a full catalog of branded products including starter kits, cookbooks, and prepackaged snacks, members can easily drop more dollars than pounds on the program.

It’s an AA Meeting for Fat People – Weight Watchers is a support group for those having an unhealthy relationship with food.  Although we don’t introduce ourselves, “Hi I’m Frank and I’m a fat person,” meetings offer support and encouragement during those rough weeks.  The group leader offers constructive suggestions and keeps the conversation from going off course.  I’ve seen meetings sidetracked for twenty or thirty minutes as members discussed Oreo binges and debated the point value for a bag of microwave popcorn.  One meeting went off the rails explaining the term food porn to a confused member.  To this day I’m pretty sure she thinks it means something else.

But Seriously – I keep going back because the program works.  I’ve learned portion control, healthy options, and not to get too down on myself after a bad week.  Since starting on January 2nd, I’ve lost 17 pounds—a good start but still a long way off from my final goal.  Sitting next to members who’ve lost over 70 pounds and have maintained it over ten years says maybe there’s hope for me too.

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Nine Things No One Tells You about Two Year Olds

Cristian taking off on the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.

Once again it’s time for I’m Not Grandpa to provide valuable information for those considering having children.  Parenthood is pretty much a learn as you go proposition.  Sure you can pick up a parenting book or do a Google search but that’s time consuming.

In effort to save time I compiled my list of Things No One Tells You about Two-Year Olds.

You Spend a Lot of Time Chasing Them – Remember how excited you were when the baby took his first steps?  The excitement fades when you’re chasing after him.  I coach running, I’ve lead many speed drills—few prepared me for a hyperactive toddler possessing the curiosity of an MIT student and the speed of Usain Bolt.  Over the past year, I’ve chased Cristian around playgrounds, up and down Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk, and through the aisles at Target. The cashiers at Key Food barely look up as I’m chasing him as he turns lap after lap, while my better half does the grocery shopping.

Projectile Vomit – You thought diaper blowouts were bad, wait until you’re cleaning puke.  I’ve heard my share of horror stories but figured they were like nightmarish stories of appendix and gall bladder removals—not something everyone experiences.  Then it happened.  It starts with a splashing sound, and you find the baby standing in a puddle of vomit.  It’s not just on the floor—it’s on the walls, the bedding, maybe even the ceiling.  Think it’s over, not a chance.  After changing the bedding and scrubbing the room with Fabuloso and bleach, he’ll puke again, just to keep you on your toes.

Tantrums are New and Improved – You thought those early tantrums were bad, wait until the baby turns two.  Those early toddler tantrums were mere tremors warning you of the full-fledged earthquake looming on the horizon.  Two-year old tantrums include screaming, tearless crying, kicking, banging his head on the floor, and Daddy rushing off to the bar so he could meet his tantrum-support group.

Don’t let the face fool you. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Establishing a Regular Bedtime
 Routine– Getting there takes work and differs from child to child.  Some only need a bottle and they’re good to go.  If this is you, I hate you. We turned Cristian’s bedroom into a sensory-deprivation chamber, we soundproofed the walls, put blackout curtains on the windows, and tiptoed around like a submarine crew rigged for silent running.  Establishing a regular bedtime is important for a child’s development and his parents’ sanity.

The Consequences of Breaking the Bedtime Routine – There will be times when you break the baby’s routine. A word of warning, Keep this to an absolute minimum.  Life happens, friends visit, running errands took longer than planned, or he was so cute playing with blocks and puzzles you put him to bed an hour later than his regular bedtime.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, like when you downed that fifth tequila shot, and hit on the tall girl with the Adam’s apple during your college days.  Waking up the next morning with a monster headache, and a massive sense of what did I do, is nothing compared to waking, dressing and dropping off a pissed off sleep-deprived baby at daycare.

Babies Have No Sense of Sleeping in on the Weekend – This runs counter to my last point but two-year olds haven’t grasped the concept of sleeping in on a weekend morning.  Call it Baby Logic.  You had a long week and decide keeping him up until 2am feeding him Coco Puffs and Cotton Candy washed down with three Red Bulls is the best way to get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning.  Guess again, I guarantee he’ll be chirping the alphabet and figuring out how to climb out of his crib at 6:30 the next morning.

Don’t let the face fool you, Mommyitis can be rough.

Mommyitis 2.0 – In previous posts I described Mommyitis as: the baby emitting ear-piercing screams, similar to those an adult makes upon stepping in a bear trap.   Two-year olds scream just as loud, but now it takes less to trigger them. My son once became upset when he couldn’t find Mommy during a game of peek-a-boo.  Children are an extension of their parents, watching him clutched onto my better half, has convinced me of this.

You Spend Less Time Visiting Friends – Say goodbye to socializing with all but your closest and bravest friends—especially if their home isn’t childproofed. Much of the visit is spent eating in shifts, taking turns chasing the baby, and keeping him from climbing furniture, cabinets and entertainment centers.  That’s just for starters.  We’ve been blacklisted from a few homes having small dogs that couldn’t defend themselves.

Two Year Olds are a Great Source of Birth Control – If you read this blog you noticed I’ve never mentioned having another child—not even once. I’m a responsible parent who’s gone to great lengths educating those who think raising a child is just like taking care of a puppy.  I’ve taught, written and chased 19 year old employees at Costco, GNC and Target around the store, armed with words and a fully pissed off tantruming two-year old.  Sure the wife shakes her head, and pretends she doesn’t know me while I doing this, but it’s for the greater good.

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A Guy’s Guide to Picking a Daycare Center

Getting ready to go over the wall when he found out his daycare does not show CNN.

After Mommy and Me Class Esther and I talked about putting Cristian into daycare a few days a week so he could learn socialization skills playing with kids his age.  Working from home meant gathering Intel on the local daycare centers was another item on the Honey-do list.  I was in uncharted territory.

Becoming a dad at 50 and an uncle at 36 didn’t help.  I had no part of raising either or my nieces, a decision they’ll thank me for as they get older.  With no practice kid to make mistakes on, I was starting from scratch.

Since Cristian’s a one and done child we didn’t want to leave him with anyone, we wanted someone good.  Our ideal caretaker possessed compassion and sensitivity but was quick on their feet and able to handle anything he could throw at them, I do mean throw.

Not All Daycare Centers are Created Equal. – Daycare providers vary in size and scope ranging from small setups in someone’s basement to large compounds resembling internment camps.  They run the gamut from 5 children sitting around a TV all day watching the Disney Channel, to elaborate programs preparing toddlers for an Ivy-League education.  At one site I sat next to a pregnant mother reserving a spot for her unborn child, six weeks after her due date.

Logistics and Reconnaissance – Being a parent less than two years required me to draw from my experience as a logistics specialist. I started with a Google search of every daycare provider within a 25- mile radius of home, 50-miles was just too much, checking all possible routes, factoring in inclement weather and traffic patterns.  After numerous phone calls, I developed an understanding of all things a baby needs to perform at maximum efficiency, diapers, wipes, bottles, etc.

Then working with the diligence of a British Intelligence agent preparing Donald Trump’s dossier, I watched and observed Daycare Facilities checking everything from curriculum and reputation to compromising information on parents, neighbors and staff.  I learned a lot, but chose not to post my findings on cleanliness and potty training on BuzzFeed.

Making friends with a mermaid at the Long Island Aquarium.

The Interview – After deciding on a daycare center, we scheduled an interview with the owner.  Staying true to form, my better half looked for safety, cleanliness, and a stimulating curriculum—I asked if the staff had paramilitary training, Cristian’s tantrums get pretty bad.   What sold me was the bouncy house in the backyard play area, perfect for tiring the most energetic toddler.

Ready to go from Day One.

Summertime Blues – For his last days of freedom, Esther and I sent him off with style, taking him to the Beach, Sesame Place and the Aquarium—okay we enjoyed it too.  Cristian ran up and down the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, saw his favorite Sesame Street characters in a parade, and made friends with a mermaid.  We found out he loves, water, marine life, and photo bombing tourists at the Aquarium.

Worries/Concerns – Esther and I differed on this one.  As a Mom she worried about leaving the baby with someone other than family.  I worried about getting a phone call an hour after dropping him off. “Mr. Priegue, we are refunding your deposit, please pick up your son.”  We were curious how he’d react.  Would he cry or panic?  Not Cristian, as soon as they opened the gate, he went running in and didn’t look back.  Was he asserting a sense of independence or just happy to see new toys to play with?  We’ll leave that to the historians.

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