Seven Things I Learned in Three Years As A Parent

A few weeks ago, Cristian celebrated his third birthday—how did that happen.  I still remember clicking my infant son’s car seat into its base so gently you’d thought I was handling a carton of eggs.  Time passed and we’ve grown as parents.  We don’t have it all figured out, but we aren’t tiptoeing into his room to see if he’s breathing anymore.

Parenting is on the job training.  Here’s what 3 years taught me:

The Difference Between A Fake Cry And A Tantrum – It takes time to figure this one out, so let me educate you.  Like its cousin, the tantrum, the fake cry is another one of those joyous ways toddlers communicate.  If you can’t tell the difference, watch your child the next time he or she is freaking out at the cash register at Toys R Us or the supermarket checkout when you try taking away a toy or box of Fruit Loops. If your child is smiling, smirking, or checking if there’s an audience, it’s a fake cry.  When fake cries are addressed quickly your adorable toddler soon returns to normal.  Ignoring the fake cry runs the risk of the kind of full-fledged tantrum ensuring parents a trip to the drug store to stock up on condoms.

Don’t move just one more picture.

We’re Not Wrapping Him In Bubble Wrap – Esther and I approach playdates and playground days differently. We both want to wear him out but approach how we get there differently.  Cristian is a super energetic toddler who is totally fearless when it comes to climbing things.  He’s also clumsy, he gets that from me—sorry son.   Wiping out, falling on his face, or crashing into things again and again is business as usual.  He just smiles and continues playing before falling again.  The difference is mom sees a trip to the emergency room, while I’ll laugh and take a few pictures before he gets up.

Converting from Crib to Toddler Bed is Game Changer – I miss the days when Cristian slept in a crib. It’s not me being sentimental—it’s purely practical—cribs form natural barriers.  Once upon a time putting Cristian to bed was as simple as putting him down with a stuffed animal and a bottle and he was sleeping within 20 minutes.

After his second birthday, he became adventurous, staking out his bedroom they way convicts plan prison breaks.  Then one morning, we were awakened by the sound of little feet running across his bedroom floor.  Before long he was climbing in and out of his crib like a ninja, forcing us to convert the crib to a toddler bed and changing his bedtime dynamic for the three of us.  More than once Esther or I have fallen asleep on the bedroom floor keeping Cristian in his crib-less environment.

Cristian and his stuffed animals in his crib planning their next break.

Find Your Tupperware Party – Growing up in the early 70s Tupperware parties were all the rage among the neighborhood moms.  Becoming a parent some forty-years later, I have a fresh perspective on what they were about—a chance to socialize.  Sure a few plastic containers were purchased here and there.  That was secondary to emptying a few bottles of semi-fancy wine they couldn’t pronounce with the other moms while the kids were at school.

DIY projects were the dad’s equivalent of the Tupperware Party.  Many of my friend’s dads spent countless hours planning and replanning projects around the house.  Translation, hiding in the garage with a six pack and hidden stash of nuddie magazines.  A new kitchen counter was eventually installed but the time away from their whiny kids was priceless.

Esther isn’t a big drinker and I’m all thumbs with power tools so we’ve had to find our own equivilent.  On Sunday mornings, I’ll distract Cristian with breakfast and cartoons while Esther sneaks out for a morning run.  (See the section on fake cries and tantrums if you are wondering why she’s sneaks out for her run).  Later in the day, she takes over giving me some quiet time to write or go to the gym.  It’s all about maintaing one’s sanity.

Couple Time is Important –  We’ve come a long way since our first date night as parents.  Esther’s sister watched the baby giving us a Valentine-ish date a few months after Cristian was born.  It was just dinner and a movie, but we didn’t make it that far.  When the movie ended, we went straight to the drive-through window, instead of a local restaurant, calling for my sister-in-law and nephew’s order before heading home.

At first, we were over protective but finding reliable babysitters remains a challenge.  Lately we’ve gotten lucky, a friend or relative offering to watch our little guy giving us a chance to go out to dinner and not talk about preschool, daycare or developmental milestones.

Some Friends Will Disappear – Learning this one was rough.  Everything starts out great when you’re new parents and the little one has the new baby smell.  Slowly things change.  Friends slowly disappear, not all of them, but patterns develop.  You hear things like, “we need to get together more often,” but they are never available when you try making plans.  They’re always “busy” or “things are always crazy at work.” Then you see them out and about in numerous Facebook posts.

Felipe the Goat and I after pounding down a few Patron shots.

It’s A Kid’s Birthday Party Not A Coronation – I’m not a big fan of birthdays, I don’t make a big deal about mine, in fact only a few friends know the actual date—I prefer it that way.  That said I’m not Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to Cristian’s birthday.

I believe a child’s birthday party should be simple and about the child.  Places like Chuck E. Cheese and Funtopia where kids run, play and have a slice of bad pizza and a piece of birthday cake are all you need.  The guest list should be simple, parents, godparents, aunts and uncles actual aunts and uncles not the family friend claiming aunt or uncle rights and significant others, maybe a friend or two and their kids.  That’s all you need.  Isn’t it?  Silly me.

My better half believes it takes a village to raise a child.  I just didn’t think it meant inviting the entire village.  Guests arriving at this year’s party reminded me of clowns spilling out that little car at the circus.  It wasn’t just family, it was friends, neighbors and their pet goat Felipe. “Just because the barista at Starbucks puts a perfect foam on your latte doesn’t mean you have to invite her to Cristian’s party.  One positive note was Felipe the Goat and I had a great time.  We pounded Coronas down chased with chilled Patron shots.

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What to Expect During the Last Month of Your Pregnancy and More

So you’re expecting a baby?  I’ve taken the same phone call several times over the past months.  “Hey Frank, great news, Stephanie’s pregnant, we’re having a baby.”  I flashed back to when I was the excited dad-to be making the same call.   After wishing them well, and hanging up I thought, those poor bastards, have no clue what’s waiting for them. 

Whether you got here tracking your ovulation cycles on an iPhone, used the test tube and turkey baster method, or maybe something more traditional, like Netflix and chill, your life will change drastically in the next month or so.  If you’re somewhere between a little nervous and terrified I’ve written this guide so you can avoid some of the mistakes I made.

I love my son but parenthood is not all sunsets and rainbows.  Here are a few things to expect.

The Baby Shower – Whether it’s planned by a group of old women who’ve forgotten the day isn’t about them, or a group of hipsters sipping Cosmos while noticing how good the Filipino surrogate looks for eight months along, this is an important part of the parenting process.   Baby showers are the best way of filling your home with tons of free stuff, but it comes at a price, you will be sitting through hours of cheesy games like Baby Bingo, watching drunken women comparing C-Section scars, and navigating through enough estrogen to fill a swimming pool.  

Helpful Hint –Remarking how fat your wife has gotten should be avoided at all costs.

Baby Showers are a great way of filling your home with lots of free stuff.

You Have to Agree on a Name – I’ve mentioned this before but cannot stress the importance too many times.   Pick a wimpy name and you’ve pissed off the person caring for you when you’re old and feeble.  Let your wife make the decision without any input and the results can be disastrous.

Here are a few examples.   Name your daughter Brandy, Ginger or Destiny and she might be swinging from a pole and bitching about you to Dr. Phil when she’s 19.  Name your son Cody, Tucker, or Rene and risk a future of wedgies by the bigger kids in gym class.  Most important name your child Bryce, Colt, or Tripp and risk him being the douchy kid who becomes the douchy adult.

Helpful Hint-Pick a name you’ll be comfortable yelling about 5000 times before your child’s fifth birthday.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid – My cousin Leslie gave me the best piece of advice when my son was born.  She said, “Congratulations you just experienced the best moment of your life.  Your first night alone with the baby will the worst.”  We didn’t get much sleep during our first night at the hospital, but we had a charming Caribbean Baby Whisperer doing most of the heavy lifting.

Our first night at home reminded me of a Steven King novel.  We had no system in place, camped out in the living room because our bedroom was too cold for a newborn, and struggled with a cranky baby who hadn’t gotten the hang of breast feeding but still managed to keep loading up diaper after diaper.

Helpful Hint-Remove the diaper too quickly and you will be cleaning more than the baby’s butt.

Friends Will Want to See the Baby — After you’ve been home a few days your friends will want to come over to see the baby.  I thought I’d dread this but being locked up like a sequestered juror on a high-profile trial has a way of changing things.  Don’t be shy when your friends ask, “What can I bring.”  Think decadent, like lobster mac and cheese, or ravioli lasagna, it’s also helps you line up a pool of potential baby sitters.

Helpful Hint – Remember friends offering to bring dinner and baby sit only last a few weeks, so think big.

Buy Buy Baby is to Women what Home Depot is to Men — If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll notice I keep coming back to this, because it’s important.  You are going need all sorts of things for your child as they grow so you’ll be visiting places like Baby’s R Us, The Children’s Place and Buy Buy Baby a lot.  I’ve found if I spend too much time shopping there with my wife, I start craving chocolate and bitching about the outfit she’s wearing.

Helpful Hint- Bring snacks and a fully charged tablet and grab a seat with the other Dads where they sell baby furniture , this is going to take awhile.

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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 an 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.   Soundproofing the walls, puttting 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 in college, when you downed that fifth tequila shot, and hit on the tall girl with the Adam’s apple.  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.  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 climbing out of his crib at 6:30 the next morning.

Mommyitis is not for the faint of heart.

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.  My better half and I take 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.  I’ve 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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