Young at Heart or Merely Delusional?

Do I look like his father or grandfather?

I spent my fiftieth birthday sitting in a movie theater on a humid Summer afternoon.  Waiting for the previews to start, I thought about my life, as I sat in air-conditioned comfort On that day, I was an unemployed project manager, preparing to reinvent myself for my next major project — fatherhood.

In addition to the afternoon matinee, Esther and I planned to see another movie later that evening.  I took advantage of the day knowing such opportunities would not exist in the next 60 days.

When Cristian was born four years ago, I was about twenty years older than the average new father. I didn’t feel my age, wasn’t delusional, or trying to trying to shave twenty years off my age to get more Tinder matches.  I just wanted to start a family.

When Esther and I announced we were expecting a child, I heard the phrase fifty is the new forty — a lot. That phrase always made me laugh.  It gave me images of buying a 1968 GTO without checking under the hood, or looking for rust.

Four years later, I’ve reinvented myself again, this time as an academic advisor at a college.  A few weeks ago, Esther and I were discussing our work schedules for the coming week.  My calendar was full of scheduled class visits at the college where I work. I mentioned the next day’s visit was with a younger guy, about my age. I wasn’t expecting the smirk she replied with.

Unlike other 50-Somethings, I don’t need this stuff.

The instructor wasn’t the Central Casting version of a college professor, a bearded white-haired gentleman, wearing a tweed blazer.  He was an active fifty-something, with two kids under six, who runs, hikes and snowboards.

Since that conversation, I wondered, if I’m the fit, active dad, I believe myself to be or just delusional.

I’m aware that I became a father at an age where many friends were sending their kids off to college. They were touring college campuses when I was finding the Baby First Channel and rediscovering Sesame Street.

I’ve always thought of myself as young at heart, with a younger maturity level.  I’m the one watching cartoons with Cristian on weekends.  When Netflix dropped the Minions from rotation, I immediately ordered the blu ray from Amazon.  I’d like to say I did it for him but…

Fifty-four years put some wear and tear on my body. The difference between me and the rusting fifty-year-old muscle car in the garage is, they are gentle miles.  I’m in decent shape, am not taking prescription medication, and don’t need a few cocktails to unwind after work.

Life has a way of creeping up on you. I remember when I looked great for my age. Then I was the guy who got the approving nods when friends checked out my fiancé. These days. I hope they don’t think Cristian’s my grandson.

My motto to this adulting stuff.
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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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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. Are your wife’s friends using possessive terms like our baby?
    5. Are you calling 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 Life of a Stay at Home Dad

Cristian with some old guy.
Cristian with some old guy.

Before becoming a Stay at Home Dad, I had no idea of what to expect.  It was so bad I did a Google search to find out what SAHD meant.  Working without a road map the first months were a bumpy ride but its gotten smoother along the way.  Taking care of Cristian is the toughest job I’ve had, multitasking and improvising are only two of the skills needed for the job.

Since little information exists regarding Stay at Home Dads I decided to share a few details on the glamourous lives we lead.

Taking care of him was easier before he started walking
Taking care of him was easier before he started walking

Start Me Up – I’m up at 6:30 every morning.  Jumping or staggering out of bed depends on how the baby slept.  He’s usually up once a night.  He rolls over and goes back to sleep after snatching the bottle from my hand—on a good night.  Teething and ear infections have a way of throwing things out of whack.  I start my day with a cup of coffee and some quiet time with Esther as we straighten up the baby’s toys.  How Cristian slept the night before determines how strong I brew the coffee.

All the tools needed for starting the day off right
All the tools needed for starting the day off right

Daddy’s Wardrobe – This varies from dad to dad but it’s not business casual.  Most parenting books don’t offer wardrobe suggestions.  Since a lot of my day is spent chasing him around the house, the playground, and keeping him out of the bathroom, he loves bathrooms, I wear the same gear I wear on training runs, a tech t-shirt and sweats.   They’re light-weight, comfortable and washes easier than a cashmere sweater, because you will be drooled, spilled and pooped on.

No more CNN Daddy, I want to watch Sesame Street.
No more CNN Daddy, I want to watch Sesame Street.

Is TV the Babysitter? – Everyone thinks Stay at Home Dads binge watch Netflix while the baby plays.  In addition to being a Stay at Home Dad, I’m also a Work from Home Dad.  Working as a consultant and freelance writing gigs keep me busy while Cristian watches Sesame Street or Baby Genius.  That doesn’t mean he spends all day in front of the TV.   I read to him, we play in the park, and he comes along on my daily errands. That said Cristian’s watched more CNN than the average toddler—we both agree HD isn’t doing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton any favors.

Sleep When They Sleep – I mentioned this before but it bears repeating.  I’m convinced anyone offering this advice never took care of a baby. Maybe they had a nanny or they’ve forgotten how demanding babies are.  A baby’s nap time is like hitting Lotto.  Here’s your chance to do a load of laundry, take a quick shower, or catch up on whatever you’ve fallen behind on.  Use the time wisely.  I’ve written and published blog posts during Cristian’s naps.

Everyone’s An Expert – Stay at Home Dads are still considered an oddity—much like caged animals at the zoo.  On any given day, I’ll hear comments and receive unsolicited advice on all things baby.  Everything from it looks mommy dressed him today, to how cute you’re babysitting, to he looks hungry.  Okay that last one was from Grandma who thinks everyone looks hungry but you get my point.

Multi-Tasking Required – Most job descriptions these days require strong time-management skills and the ability to multitask, they’re also prerequisites for any SAHD.  One any given day I’m chauffeuring Cristian to playdates, My Gym classes, or the park for an hour, while maintaining a full work-load and finding time to write. Am I babysitting or parenting—maybe a little of both depending on the day.

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Flying Solo

One of several care charts left for me
One of several care charts left for me

After six weeks of Tag-Team Parenting Esther’s maternity leave was over. Returning to work meant it was time for me to fly solo.  Although my newborn crash course taught me much, this was a new challenge.

Photo texted to Esther letting her know Crisitan is ok
Photo texted to Esther letting her know Crisitan is ok

I’m no stranger to challenges.  I’ve run a dozen marathons and two ultramarathons, and managed a complicated trading-system installation for the U.S. Treasury Secretary but taking care of my six-week old son had me a little nervous.

Esther did her best to ease this rookie Dad’s growing pains, packing the diaper bag, leaving three matching outfits, onesie, pants, and socks per day and posting care instructions that rivaled nuclear launch codes.  Turn your key now Frank.

Cristian and I drove her to work on her first day back.  Sure there was some crying and carrying one but before long Esther was ok.  I kept her in the parental loop texting pictures and updates several times a day.

Another photo texted to Esther
Another photo texted to Esther

Why Is He Crying-A crying baby usually means one of three things, I’m hungry, diaper change, or nap time.  Of course it’s never that easy.   A few times Cristian wasn’t hungry, had a dry diaper, and wouldn’t go down for a nap—he just cried louder.  This was usually when Chico wanted attention.  Why are you ignoring me Frank?  Now what?  Keep your cool— don’t pull your hair out, don’t throw the baby bottle across the room.  Stay calm.  Put him in the swing, walk him, or take him out in the stroller.

Sleep When They Sleep-I’m convinced whoever offered this advice never took care of a baby. Maybe the nanny cared for the children, or they’ve forgotten how demanding babies can be.  Feel free to contact me if you want to relive those memories and I let you change a few diapers.

I ran and Cristian slept, it works for both of us.
I ran and Cristian slept, it works for both of us.

When the baby napped, I’d scramble like a contestant on a game show.   I sterilized baby bottles, folded laundry, and prepped dinner (I’m not just another pretty face, I cook), take a quick shower and if I’m lucky shave before he woke up.

Baby Friendly Programing-Like many new parents I was introduced to Sprout and the Baby First Chanel and searched Netflix. We watched Curious George, Peppa Pig and Sid the Science Kid. You know you’re watching too much of it, when you’re singing along with the songs.  I’d cringe when it was time for Susy to sing, but she kept Cristian entertained for 20 or 30 minutes so I dealt with it.

Motion Is Your Best Friend-Whether it was riding in the car or cruising in his jog stroller while I ran (that’s a different post) motion lulled Cristian to sleep. Taking advantage of this I took him everywhere, grocery shopping, the post office, and off to Grandmas.  It served a dual purpose of getting me out of the house and getting the baby a nap.

Thinking back I realized I’m pretty lucky.  Cristian’s a happy baby, he’s easy to take care of (despite my growing pains) and watching his daily development gives me unspeakable joy.  Although I’ve needed to de-stress from time to time when Esther came home from work I can’t imagine doing this another way.

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