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.

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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.

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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 a 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’re the queasy type whose stomach turns at the sight and smell of a bowl of raw octopus? Does the thought uneasy 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, 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 domanatrix 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.

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Finding A Babysitter — The Search Continues

The past three years of parenthood has brought its share of challenges.  One of our bigger challenges is finding a reliable babysitter.

As first-time parents, we were involved in every little thing. I remember both of us watching him nap and changing those first diapers together.  Like most newbies, we wanted to be the perfect parents, forgetting you don’t achieve perfection, you strive for it.  Little things like that kept us from going out much those first months.

Esther’s aunt Titi Luisa, the original baby whisperer, instinctively called and offered to watch the baby.  The calls always came at the right time, giving us a chance to run a few errands or maybe go to Starbucks for a blissful hour in a baby-free environment.

It’s easy to get caught up in the perception of perfection — especially when you grew up watching Brady Bunch reruns.  I watch the Brady Bunch now and see Mike and Carol Brady knocking back a few cocktails and leaving the stressful stuff to Alice, the maid.

Looks like the babysitter loaded him up on Benadryl.

Titi Luisa wasn’t the only person who offered to watch Cristian during early days but as new parents we were a bit overprotective.  Maybe our expectations are a bit unrealistic.  Our ideal babysitter had the compassion of Mother Theresa and the strength and the resiliency of a Navy Seal.  We had a vetting process more stringent than the White House.  Of course, their vetting process has slipped a bit over the past year.

Watching a three-month old baby is easy, just give him a bottle and wait for him to take a nap.  It’s amazing how fast those initial babysitting offers dried up once Cristian started walking.  Of course posts like this don’t help.

Babysitting a hyperactive three-year old without using Benadryl isn’t for the faint of heart.  Your neighbor’s 13-year old daughter checking her Instagram page on her iPhone isn’t getting it done.  Try that with Cristian and the house will look like Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria within 15 minutes.

We found an excellent babysitter who flew through our vetting process easily, a pleasant 30-something Central American woman.  She came highly recommended by family members, and was bilingual. She was incredibly energetic, taking Cristian to the park, playing with him at home, and bringing an iPad to keep him entertained.

Esther with the boys

Our Latina Mary Poppins was very pricey — the GDP of a third-world country pricey.  She was building her dream home in her country, babysitting Cristian allowed her to send home money to finance the construction.  She stepped up when my dad was sick, babysitting Cristian at a moment’s notice, sometimes staying with him until late into the night.  Rumor has it her waterfront villa has a wing in it named after him, paid for from with babysitting earnings.

We’re currently vetting her replacement, because we didn’t want to put up a kidney as collateral as she priced tennis courts and an Olympic-sized pool.  Over the past months we’ve swapped babysitting chores with my in-laws — giving each other a breather by watching each other’s kids.  The results have been great.   The boys play together, the adults get a night out, and I keep my vital organs.

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The Quest For The Perfect Christmas Card

The 2017 Priegue Family Christmas Card – English Version.

It’s almost Christmas making it a perfect time to talk about holiday traditions.  A new one for us is family Christmas cards.  Back when I was single and happy, they were easy—I rarely sent out any.  After getting married, my wife sent out cards for both of us.  My contributions were limited to printing mailing labels and dropping the cards in the mailbox.

Our 2010 Christmas Card.

Becoming proud parents meant sending out family cards.  We weren’t going for the preppy central casting version of the family posed in front of a fireplace wearing matching Christmas sweaters with a golden retriever in the foreground.  We don’t have a fireplace, matching Christmas sweaters, or a dog.

I spent countless holiday seasons goofing on friends sending pictures of their kids that doubled as Christmas cards.  The cards either said “we successfully reproduced” or “here’s a picture of our precious child sitting on a creepy old man’s lap, what were we thinking.”

It’s amazing how becoming parents changes one’s perspective.

Before Cristian was born we sent out cards bearing the image of our practice child—Chico.  We even took him to the mall one year getting a picture of him sitting on Santa’s lap.  Looking back, Christmas came early for Chico that year as he humped Santa’s leg for a good ten minutes.  That was the card we should have sent out.

A few years later it was Cristian’s turn as we took our infant child to the mall to meet Santa.  It should have been a no-brainer.  Cristian was all smiles that day, Esther picked the perfect outfit and we timed his nap perfectly.  What could go wrong?

It started after leaving him in the hands of an old man smelling of Ben Gay and malt liquor then backing away.  He didn’t cry because mommy and daddy were nearby making silly faces, but the deer in the headlights look was not what we were going for.

Who is this creepy old man you’re leaving me with?

The following year Esther’s sister and son Justin met us at the mall.  They boys had a great time playing as the line slowly moved forward.  We hoped Justin flashing Santa a smile as he tried convincing Santa to leave an extra toy of two under the tree would motivate Cristian—it didn’t.  He threw a tantrum Mariah Carey would have been proud of.

Last year we skipped the mall and headed to Hicks, a garden center on Long Island.  Sure fertilizer, snow shovels and Santa Claus just screams Christmas, but our annual holiday tradition was like Wile E. Coyote unpacking the latest Acme product and chasing after the Road Runner, so what the hell.

Hicks was a pleasant surprise, it didn’t have the Home Depot feel I pictured.  Cristian entertained himself running between poinsettias, colorful displays, and a Christmas Village as Esther waited in line.  However, new year, new location, same result.  Cristian started wailing as soon as we put him on Santa’s lap, as if he told the baby he was getting coal in his stocking.  He ignored me when I tried soothing him by mentioning coal mining was a dying industry.

I still think this would have made a great Christmas card.

Although preschool taught Cristian about Santa and he now points him out whenever he sees him images of him, we set the bar low this year.  Once again, we dressed him up and headed to the mall but he wasn’t feeling it.  Esther and I decided to go with Plan B when he froze at the front of the line.

We spent the past year collecting a library of cute images of Cristian.  While it doesn’t exactly scream Christmas it did keep daddy from cracking open a tequila bottle when we got home from the mall.  I dropped the cards in the mail this morning.  Merry Christmas!

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