A Letter To My Son On His Fourth Birthday

The Birthday Boy

Happy Birthday Cristian, today you are four years old. You looked so happy when we put you on the school bus this morning. Mommy and I have a surprise for you, we planned a birthday party for you later today. You’re going to love the yummy cupcakes Mommy’s friend Angie made for you – they are so good that Mommy and I will probably have one too.

We have special memories of your very first birthday four years ago. We didn’t get much sleep because the nurses spent the night trying to induce Mommy.  Daddy kept making Facebook posts to keep everyone up to date. We knew then that you inherited your parent’s stubborn streak, and Mommy’s habit of making everyone wait for her. You’ll understand more about that when you get older.

Don’t worry son, Daddy has it under control.

You were born at 1:20 pm on a sunny Thursday afternoon. We were anxious to meet you and curious to see who you looked like. I remember you were crying and Mommy asked me to try and soothe you by talking to you. Since we hadn’t agreed on your name yet, Daddy put on his best Darth Vader voice and said, “Son, I am your father.” The nurses all laughed, but don’t worry, Daddy knows how to talk to you now.

Your first few days were a blur of feedings, diaper changes, and watching you sleep through bloodshot eyes. It took us a few days to establish a routine, but every time you smiled at us, you made us forget how tired we were.

A few weeks later, Mommy’s maternity leave was over and she had to go back to work. We spent a lot of time together as you gave Daddy a crash course in Stay at Home Dad 101.  Although no one admits it, there were a few concerned family members. To be honest, Daddy was a little worried, too.

Getting Cristian ready for our morning training run.

We had fun together, we watched Sid the Science Kid, discovered the Sprout Channel, and Daddy introduced you to Sesame Street. I took you everywhere, you rode along on Daddy’s training runs, we went to MyGym classes, and you helped Daddy deliver documents when he worked as a medical biller.

We are constantly amazed at how much you are learning and we love seeing your personality develop. Mommy and Daddy took turns chasing you around the playground and the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.  We love how much your face lights up when we take you to the zoo or the aquarium, and were both happy, yet a little sad when you started daycare. You have to understand that when we look at you, we still see the spunky, chubby-cheeked little guy, who peed on the pediatrician during his first doctor’s appointment.

I know you don’t remember your grandfather, but you made quite an impression on him. He waited so long for a grandson, and you will never know the joy you brought that old man. The smile on his face the first time he met you is my favorite memory of him. You are also too young to comprehend that although you drive grandma crazy from time to time, having you around helps her cope with your grandpa’s loss.

You don’t understand this yet, but you are a little different than the other kids and may have a few rough years ahead of you as you learn to adjust to things. Watching you adjust will be rough on Mommy and Daddy too, but remember we love you very much and will be there for you. We may not give you everything you want, but we will always have your back.

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Daddy, can we go for ice cream?
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Are Stay at Home Dads as Rare as Unicorns?

Don't worry son, Daddy has it under control.
Don’t worry son, Daddy has it under control.

Becoming a father was an experience filling me with a pride I’d never felt before.  When the initial euphoria passed my emotions ranged from happiness to concern.   Realizing I’d be responsible for caring for this this fragile little thing my biggest worry was please don’t let me screw this up.

Esther and I started out as tag-team parents.  She gave me my initial parental crash course—SAHD 101.  It was all new to me, my first time feeding, changing and bathing a baby, it went well but I was working with a net—Esther was there to grab the reins if there was a problem.

Esther’s returning to work from maternity leave meant it was time for me to fly solo.  Easing my transition she packed the baby bag and left three outfits for Cristian daily.  I eased her separation anxiety by texting her status updates and pictures of the baby throughout the day.

In addition to my initial anxiety, a few family members were concerned—okay maybe more than a few.  Trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s always seemed to coincide with aunts, uncles and cousins stopping by for a visit.  Although many wanted to see the baby—sometimes it was more than that.  There were too many offers to feed and change the baby.   I guess they thought I didn’t know what I was doing.  If I knew this in advance I’d have loaded Cristian up on prunes for an extra gooey diaper.

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Coming from a large family means my family tree is filled with many older cousins who are more like aunts and uncles.   My generation’s male children were the first taking a greater part in the parenting responsibilities than our fathers did. The older guys never fed or changed a baby.  Looking at us they must be wondering where did we go wrong.

Initially my aunts were confused by all this shared responsibility.  My brother, for example was an excellent Dad from Day One.  It didn’t surprise me—my aunts didn’t know what to make of it.  Watching their confused expressions the first time they saw him giving his daughter a bottle, you would have thought he split the atom.

It’s been 16-months and I still hear “how cute” from aunts, uncles and even a few neighbors when they see me taking care of the baby.  If my brother feeding and bathing his daughter was a surprise then I must be a Unicorn.  I mean I’m home taking care of him every day.

What the older generation hasn’t grasped is this isn’t about being cute—I’ll leave that to the baby.  I’m not alone, there are many like me doing the same thing either by choice or because of their current situation.  I’ve thought about leaving the baby home on the couch with a bottle and the remote while I go out, but it probably wouldn’t work out so well.  So maybe not.

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