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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The Baby Whisperer

Me finishing the 2010 National Marathon. © Brightroom Photography
Me finishing the 2010 National Marathon. © Brightroom Photography

As a runner it took many races and many training miles until I learned the subtleties of running a marathon.  I’ve run 12 and I’m still learning.  Patience, experience and good coaching are useful—a little luck doesn’t hurt either.

Shortly after Cristian was born I learned parenting coaches exist—Baby Whisperers.  I’ve mentioned them several times since I first wrote about them in March.  Like Coach Maria, my running coach, they offer wisdom and guidance to inexperienced parents.

Not sure if you know one—sure you do—they’ve been helping new parents since the dawn of time.  She’s the aunt or friend sitting on the couch at a family gathering with a baby in her lap.  Multitasking, a Zen-like calm, and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things baby are just a few traits they possess.  Hungry babies, cranky babies and blowouts are dispatched as easily as breathing.

Titi Luisa, the Gold Standard for Baby Whisperers brushing Cristian's hair.
Titi Luisa, the Gold Standard for Baby Whisperers brushing Cristian’s hair.

Esther’s aunt, Titi Luisa is the Baby Whisperer prototype.  Meeting us at the hospital when Cristian was born she instantly put a pair of anxious new parents at ease, dispensing wisdom as she cradled my son, she even brushed his hair into a Baby Mohawk.  (See my last post regarding Cristian’s hair).

She’s babysat for us—instinctually offering a breather when needed.  A crawling toddler getting into everything doesn’t faze her at all.  She’s mastered the ability to cook dinner as Cristian crawls around the kitchen.     Titi Luisa remains the gold standard but since writing my original post I found Baby Whisperers in unexpected places.

Throughout my life, I’ve been a few steps behind the pack—running my first marathon at 44, getting married at 46, and becoming a father at 50.  A lot of my friends were married and had kids in their 20s and 30s.

A few months back my boss called me into work for last-minute training, leaving me scrambling for a babysitter.  My friend Michele stepped up offering to watch baby for the day.  With one son in college, a second planning his freshman year, and a husband whose inner child runs the ranch, she was a perfect choice.

After dropping off Cristian and his supplies, usually resembling a military drop, she assembled his playpen, when I couldn’t before sending me off to work.  She quickly figured out his quirks and habits, texting pictures throughout the day.

Michele and Cristian spending the day together.
Michele and Cristian spending the day together.

Moving back home was an eye-opener.  We moved in so we could help Mom, but she’s helped me with the baby.  Feeding him breakfast and lunch she’s taught me subtleties, like sniffing out a diaper change—literally.  Laughing as he knocks over her walker to play with the wheels, she’s taught me—enjoy this time with him because it passes quickly.  I guess that makes Mom Baby Whisperer Emeritus.

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Deja Vu All Over Again

FullSizeRender (76)Moving back into my childhood home has given me a sense of Deja Vu. In August 1965 Mom and Dad moved into a new home with two sons—the younger, a chubby one-year old.  Fifty years later, Esther and I moved into the same house with our own chubby-cheeked (almost) one-year old.

Many things changed in the years between the first and second set of Priegue parents moving into the same Cape Cod house in Queens.  In 1965 Lyndon Johnson was President, the Beatles played Shea Stadium and the Kansas City Royals didn’t exist.

Parenting norms and guidelines changed as well:

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Guidance and Advice – Fifty years ago parenting books barely existed.  There were no internet, parenting websites, or Google searches. How did they survive? Parents relied on common sense (not a common commodity these days), family traditions, and baby whisperers.  Some methods were inconsistent but many generations of children were raised this way—I’m one of them.  I won’t say I turned out ok—the jury is still out on that one.

Child Proofing – In the 50s and 60s, it was more of a suggestion than a rule.  It wasn’t as bad as—he fell down a flight of stairs or pulled a heavy chair onto himself. He’ll learn, but it wasn’t too far off either.  Parents can now do a quick Internet search for guidelines, checklists and services to childproof their home taking some of the anxiety out of that loud crashing sound coming from the other room.

FullSizeRender (77)Car Seats– They didn’t exist in the ’60s, and seatbelts were ignored.  Back then mom cradled her newborn in the front seat and the older children rode in the back, unbuckled.  Jamming on the brakes potentially shot one of your children through the windshield like a projectile. This was before ambulance chasers and frivolous lawsuits.  Just roll around on the ground and act hurt.

Today’s parents have multiple car seats options —maybe too many. Infant seats, forward-facing, rear-facing, one-year old seats, two-year old car seats, click and go seats attaching to baby strollers etc.  The four-point restraint system in Cristian’s car seat resembles what NASCAR drivers use.  It keeps him safe, but we’ll have to find another way to pay for his college education.

Corporal Punishment-Fifty years ago slapping, smacking and hitting a child was an acceptable form of discipline.  Things change over time and most parents use other methods, maybe with the exception of Adrian Peterson. Have we evolved or has the invention of the cell phone camera changed our thought process?

Baby Thermometers-This may be the greatest advancement in the past fifty years.  Parents now have an efficient non-invasive tool for taking a child’s temperature.  A quick scan, or swab is all it takes, much better than the old way—the rectal thermometer.  Resembling, and feeling like, a small harpoon, it was the gold standard for many years.  Memories of it and the jar of vaseline it was paired with still give me the full-body shiver.   Technology is a good thing.

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With A Little Help From My Friends

troubleFirst-time parents try doing everything for their baby—so they don’t miss any firsts.  Just a head’s up, rolling and crawling is cute, diaper changes are overrated.  Leaving Cristian with someone else was difficult, we started by taking—pardon the pun, baby steps.

We started small.  First each godparent watched him while we ran errands or went to Buy Buy Baby to stock up on supplies.  Both times we knew the baby was fine because we left him with a Baby Whisperer.

In February we had a Valentine’s Dayish date night—we went out for dinner and a movie.  We saw American Sniper—I know what you’re thinking, he’s a romantic.  After seeing the movie we brought dinner home with us.  Although Esther’s sister watched the baby, cutting the chord was difficult.

smiley

In late April my Dad was hospitalized, diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  Managing his healthcare and Mom’s (she has her own health issues) while caring for a baby and juggling a freelance consulting gig is challenging, like juggling three balls, a kitten and a chainsaw.

Cristian has an excellent babysitter who watched him when I visited Dad at the hospital or took mom to doctors’ appointments, but she wasn’t always available. Paying the babysitter got expensive fast, forcing us to expand the babysitting pool.

Esther and I are lucky–Cristian has a big personality—he loves performing for anyone who smiles at him.  We’ve had many offers to watch him, most having no idea of what that entails–not from the baby—but from his parents.

You're dropping me off where?
You’re dropping me off where?

Potential babysitters were screened, kind of like the way the CIA screens new employees. Fingerprints were checked, references verified and they must first handle a blowout, an overflowing diaper that spilled over up his back and down his legs, usually after Cristian ate a high-fiber meal.  Prunes work really well for blowouts.

Dropping the baby off with friends produced new anxiety. Esther kept asking if we should scrub their apartment first with industrial cleaning products like we did at the hospital.  I had to keep reassuring her, they both graduated from Ivy League Schools, and I’m pretty sure their building isn’t a meth lab.

As time passed, things got easier, still not easy but we are getting there.  It reminds me of a piece of advice given to me by a friend years ago.  When someone offers to help you, don’t be too proud to take it.  It’s still good advice, but thinking back, this friend wasn’t a parent.

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