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 Social Media Baby

Social Media Baby

Another time-honored part of parenting is showing the latest pictures of their son or daughter to friends, family and anyone else who look at them.  Bringing stacks of pictures to summer cookouts, Thanksgiving dinner and cornering coworkers in the company break room is part of the tradition.

It’s been this way throughout history—you can trace it back to the caveman.  The paintings on the Lascaux Cave walls were primitive baby pictures.  Visiting guests endured an hour or so of the latest images of Junior before settling down to a meal of sautéed wolf paired with a nice Sauvignon Blanc.  White wine served with red meat—now that was primitive.

My parents were guilty too. Christmas Eve 1969. I'm the little guy on the right.
My parents were guilty too. Christmas Eve 1969. I’m the little guy on the right.

Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock, brandished selfies and baby pictures taken aboard the Mayflower, sharing them with members of the local tribes during the first Thanksgiving Dinner and a tradition was started.

Technology improved over the years, film was replaced by digital cameras and Al Gore invented the internet.  Then came the iPhone, turning everyone a photographer.  Before you can say selfie stick a new phenomenon was born—social media.

It started with MySpace, the social media equivalent of the cave painting.   Before long it was replaced by Facebook and Twitter.  Soon distant relatives and complete strangers were posting, tweeting and pinning the most intimate details of their lives with reckless abandon for all to see.

Talk about building a better mousetrap, Facebook and Instagram gives users a virtual means of cornering family, friends and virtual friends, with the latest family pictures that are draining the storage from their iPhones.  It’s found a home for all those blurry, underexposed iPhone images of today’s lunch, the latest pictures of their dogs or cats, and their children’s everything.

I always said I’d never be one of those parents whipping out and showing off baby pictures to anyone within site, whether they wanted to see them or not, before I became a parent.  According to (multiple) family members that ship sailed long ago.  So far there’s been no intervention, yet    

Cristian is a Social Media Baby—he was born in the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/You Tube era.  His birth announcement was posted on Facebook and Twitter.  Since we have family and friends (real and virtual) all across the Americas and Europe, it was the best way to get the word out.  He’s had iPhones or digital cameras in his face literally since birth.   

Used for Cristian's Baby Announcement
The Image used for Cristian’s Baby Announcement

I’m a Stay at Home Dad who blogs—sites like Facebook and Twitter is essential for promoting I’m Not Grandpa.  Blog posts and social media posts are made with an eye towards not embarrassing the baby.  Cheesy pictures of him could have repercussions, he’ll probably be taking care of me in my golden years and payback is a bitch.

Many fellow bloggers are careful regarding their children.   Pseudonyms replace their children’s names and some are careful regarding how much they share because you never know.

The flip side of the argument is this. Facebook has allowed me to keep distant relatives in Spain and not so distant ones on Long Island posted on all things Cristian.  Esther and I are amazed at how many follow our posts.  In November she took the baby to Puerto Rico, giving family members a chance to meet our newest addition.  She was surprised how many told her they checked their feeds daily looking for new pictures and updates.          

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Is Parenting at 50 Easier?

A Twenty-Something me, with beard and mullet (I know) tailgating before a Grateful Dead show. Photo Randall Luttenburg
A Twenty-Something me, with beard and mullet (I know) tailgating before a Grateful Dead show. Photo Randall Luttenburg

Becoming a SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) at 50 concerned me a little—okay maybe more than a little.  I worried about, bathing, diaper changes, and being the responsible adult.  I was working without a net—it was just me and the baby—without an adult more adult than me nearby.

I’ve outgrown my initial concerns but still dread the day when someone asks, “How old is your grandson?”  Hopefully Cristian will do the right thing and kick them in the leg.  I’m counting on you son.

I spent Sunday’s Super Bowl Party comparing notes with Dads who’ve been there and done that.  We agreed first-moments are great, tantrums suck, and debated which was more annoying, the Teletubbies or Caillou.

Here’s what I learned:

Looking Silly is Okay – My friends may be wondering about this one.  Silliness and an off-beat sense of humor is kind of who I am. I have a hard time seeing a thirty-something me bopping around to kiddie songs during a My Gym class or even out of class. These days I’ve become a rhythmless-dancing machine—it’s easier when you embrace the silly.

Baby-Related Entertainment – My days are consumed binge watching Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid and Pepa Pig.  Going to show or museum used to be a comedy club or MOMA now it’s Sesame Street Live or the Children’s Museum of New York.  Cristian’s smiling face makes up for the crowds and loud crying children.

Cristian and I heading to the Chilldren's Museum of New York
Cristian and I heading to the Chilldren’s Museum of New York

Pacing and Energy – Twenty years ago I was younger, fitter, and had washboard abs.  Today, I’m older and grayer, okay mostly white without the hair color.  A keg replaced the six-pack. Caring for and chasing after a toddler requires endurance.  Finishing twelve marathons taught me how to pace myself. Occasionally I hit the wall, but push through until Esther comes home from work or I’ve worn the baby out.

I’m Older, Calmer, and More Secure with Myself – It’s not like I’m doing yoga, sipping green tea, or reading the Dalai Lama but twenty years mellowed me.  I no longer stress things I can’t control.  I’ve learned to enjoy the moment because they won’t last forever.  That’s not to say I haven’t fired a baby bottle or thrown an iPhone across the room during those special moments.

Payback’s a Bitch – I watched from the sidelines when my friends became parents in their 20s and 30s.  Knowing I could bolt when the tantrums started was a good option to have.  Those same friends are now empty nesters, offering advice and even babysitting here and there.  These days they’re the ones reaching for their coats when the tantrums kick in.

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Baby 2.0 – Your Survival Guide

Congratulations you survived the first year of parenthood!  It was rough but worth it. This post is an INTERVENTION to any parent thinking it gets easier from here on out.  In the coming year your adorable little one will be hitting a new set of developmental milestones.

You thought the first year was rough?  The year ahead will have you longing for little annoyances like a diaper blowout.  Forget everything you learned—that was merely the warmup—you are about to embark on Baby 2.0.

Here are a few things you can expect:

Don't let the smile fool you. You are in for a rough time.
Don’t let the smile fool you. You are in for a rough ride.
Walking is about to commence
Walking is about to commence

Walking – You knew it would happen—you either looked forward to it with anxious anticipation or dreaded it like the plague. Walking is a game changer—it’s crawling on steroids.  A walking baby means now more than ever you and your partner must work as a team, keeping watch on, and chasing after your child.  Those teams on The Amazing Race have nothing on a set of parents chasing down an eager toddler headed for an open doorway or towards a flight of stairs.

Tantrums – I’m going to let you in on a secret, toddlers throw tantrums.  Boy do they throw tantrums.   Thought you had a year of tranquility before the Terrible-Twos tantrums kicked in.  Surprise!  Fear not, tantrum support groups exist—they meet at most local bars.

Curiosity – In addition to walking your toddler is developing a sense of curiosity, as in how much will it take to piss Mommy off, or what can I do to make the vein in Daddy’s forehead buldge?  I’m not talking about crawling under the kitchen sink or banging pots and pans—today’s toddler goes after the big ticket items.  Nothing stimulates the mind of a fifteen-month old baby more than an iPhone, iPad or Smart TV remote. They become adept swiping the iPhone from Daddy’s pocket or grabbing the unattended iPad or remote sitting on the end table.  See the previous paragraph on Tantrums when you try taking one these devices away.

Get the Red Bull Daddy, because tonight It's On!
Get the Red Bull Daddy, because tonight It’s On!

Mommyitis Also known as Daddyitis (if Mommy isn’t around) or Separation Anxiety.  Your adorable social-butterfly child, the one who smiles at anyone in supermarket checkout lines or the mall, now emits ear-piercing screams, similar to those an adult makes upon stepping in a bear trap.  This happens when Mommy tries handing him off to Daddy or anyone else.  Simple things like heading to work or even to the bathroom must now be handled with the same covert urgency Seal Team Six uses in planning its ops.

Bedtime/Sleep C’mon you didn’t think the sleep thing was going to improve did you?  Do you also believe in unicorns and the tooth fairy?  Besides being awakened several times a night, bedtime becomes a Darwinian survival of the fittest.  Who will outlast who?  We’ve held the upper hand, but more than once the last one standing put the baby in his crib before taking care of the sleeping spouse.  Who thought the baby’s bedtime required Red Bull or a strong cup of coffee?

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