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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Nine Things I Learned Since Becoming A Parent

With the Birthday Boy at his pre-school.

Recently, Cristian celebrated his fourth birthday. For about a week, Esther and I relived our first days as parents.  There is something nostalgic about birthdays.

We remembered Esther’s aunt brushing his hair into a baby Mohawk in the hospital, friends stopping by to visit, and his first days of preschool. After a few days, I sat down and put a list together of things I didn’t expect. I apologize in advance if it sounds like a greatest hits package.

Cleaning products are a parent’s best friend.

Pee, Poop & Puke — I came into parenthood with my eyes wide open. I knew there would be dirty diapers, and baby-related messes. I just had no idea that something so small could make such a huge mess.  Play dates and MyGym classes have given me a chance to swap stories with other parents.

We’ve spent time comparing notes.  We swapped stories on getting peed on and bleaching the bathtub after the baby dropped a deuce during bath time.  So far, no one has found a sure-fire way to get the puke smell out of toddler bedding. If you are considering starting a family, reread the last two sentences a few times until it sinks in. Remember, you’ve been warned.

Don’t dad-shame Bond.

I’m Not the Babysitter, I’m His Father – I was a Stay at Home Dad for two years, and the quickest way to piss me off was calling me the babysitter. Let me explain the difference — babysitters get paid — parents raise their children. Do I look like a teen-aged kid spending more time with their Snapchat feed than watching the baby?

These days, grandparents and older family members aren’t the only ones who can’t tell the difference. Journalists can be just as clueless. Piers Morgan recently mocked Daniel Craig for carrying his one-month old daughter in a baby carrier. Many outraged dads lashed out via Twitter making Mr. Morgan aware that Dads take an active role in parenting.

Separation Anxiety Can Be Rough – We found this out when Cristian was six weeks old. Driving Esther to work on her first day back from maternity leave, Cristian started crying before I stopped the car. I thought it was a one-time thing — silly me. He soon adapted to our feeble attempts at distracting him with Sesame Street as Mommy tried sneaking off to work, or even to the bathroom.

We thought it would pass, but it’s gotten worse — now he does it to me. Gone are the days when I could leave him in the gym’s nursery with a tablet and get in a quick workout. It’s effected how we plan date nights.  These days, the babysitter meets his school bus when he gets home from preschool, saving us all from a tantrum.

Kids Will Repeat Anything They Hear –  Remember how excited you were when your child said its first word? That joy fades quickly once your child starts repeating things, like a voice-activated recording device.  Esther now has to worry about what both men in her life might say.

A child’s vocabulary grows exponentially, once they start preschool, leaving parents wondering where they learned certain words.  I remember Cristian proudly sharing a new word with me. It had four letters and started with F. Worried, because I’d have to explain the origins of this new word to Mommy, I asked him to repeat it. I was relieved when he repeated the word, adding ribbit ribbit. Since then I’ve picked my words carefully around him.

A Sick Child Will Make You Feel Helpless – There is one thing consistent to all parents regardless of age, gender, or financial status — it sucks when your kid is sick. Cristian was fifteen months old, the first time he experienced a high fever. Crying, uncomfortable, and giving off a furnace-like heat, he looked to Mommy and Daddy to make everything better.  We grew increasingly frustrated when we couldn’t.  I’ve never felt more helpless in my entire life than I did on that night.

Friends Will Disappear From Your Life – Losing touch friends is a sad part of life.  How many friends have you kept in touch with since high school?  The number of friends we’ve lost touch with since becoming parents has been eye-opening. Things changed since the early days when friends stopped by to “see the baby,” These days we hear everything from, “It’s been tool long” to “We were giving you space.”

I understand that spending an afternoon at the zoo isn’t for everyone, Neither is spending an evening with a toddler bouncing off the walls like he’s in a pinball machine. We all have busy schedules, but I learned – some will make an effort, and others will make excuses. I never thought starting a family would make friends disappear like they were in the Witness Protection Program.

If Things Are Too Quiet, Be Very Afraid – Say goodbye to any semblance of quiet time, once your child reaches toddlerhood.  A child playing quietly in the other room is not your friend.  If you think you scored a chance to binge watch Game of Thrones, guess again. When things get too quiet, I immediately grab a broom and a box of hefty bags.

Spontaneity Is Replaced By Structure – Remember the days before parenthood, also known as the good old days.  Being spontaneous was easy, we could go to the movies or away for the weekend at a moment’s notice.  I miss those days.

With parenthood comes responsibility, or the ability to fake it for those who don’t know better.  Once your child starts daycare parents start establishing routines and schedules.  Vacation and time off from work revolves around school.  These days our evenings are about keeping Cristian on a schedule.  Although we mix things up, it’s some variation of playtime, dinnertime, bath time, bedtime.  Deviating from this will have dire consequences.

Despite the Challenges, Parenthood is Rewarding – Since becoming a Dad, I’ve congratulated new parents the same way, Congratulations, your life is about to change, but it will be worth it.  Being a Dad is the toughest job I ever had — and I’ve had many.  The hours suck, you don’t get weekends off, and the boss is extremely demanding.  Looking at Cristian playing happily with his tablet as I write this, fills me with awe.  I still can’t believe I helped create this awesome little being.

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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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My Favorite Posts from I’m Not Grandpa’s Second Year*

Happy Anniversary!   Two years ago I launched I’m Not Grandpa—kinda sorta.  I posted the Introduction, on September 26th 2014 and a second post shortly afterward.  Esther and I were well into a high-risk pregnancy and my mind was elsewhere, so I took a break from blogging until after the baby was born.

Parenthood was overwhelming for this cranky old dad so it took me months to hit my stride as a parent and find my voice as a writer.  Looking back I may have been overthinking it.  The first few weeks of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and friends stopping by to see the baby provided material, I just needed to sort through it.

Two years ago today, my second first post went live.  A lot’s changed in two years.  Entertaining a toddler requires more attention than a newborn—the sleepless nights and writers block are about the same.

Fatherhood and blogging are two of my favorite things—I’m learning as I go.

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past year.

Seven Things to Know Before Having Kids – This is my most read post.  My public service describing the sacrifices parents make captured the attention of both parents and non-parents.  If you are thinking of starting a family check it out here.

Parenting Against Memories of the Past – Being a parent means you get second guessed—a lot. This post is the result of a lot of subtle, who am I kidding about subtle, second guessing from our family elders.  Parents learn as they go, grandparents and older relatives critique your new skillset.  Oh selective memory is a wonderful thing.  This post is the result of spending too much time with family, check it out here.

Five Signs You Need a Night Out – I wrote this while experiencing Cabin Fever.  Spending the winter in a sensory-deprivation chamber changing diapers, watching Sesame Street, Pepa Pig and CNN’s coverage of the 2016 Presidential Primaries had me screaming for a night out.  If you are parent who isn’t sure whether or not you need a night out, I posted this helpful guide.

Remembering Dad A Year Later – This change of pace post was written a year after my Dad passed away.  I miss my Dad—he was old-school man of honor who spent years paying forward the kindness of an old friend named Viña.  He was a man of simple pleasures, family, a backyard barbeque and a nice glass of wine.  He made parenting look easy and taught me as much by his actions as he did with his words.  Read about him here.

Am I the Only One with Sore Nipples – I write about my experiences in Mommy and Me Class.  I channeled my parents as we explored finger painting, confusing orange goldfish and orange play doh, and debating whether or not a bringing a cooler full of light beer with me was a bad idea.  Read about it here.

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The Night Owl

IMG_3432 (2)A few posts back I wrote about the winter of 2016 wreaking havoc on my family.  It’s been a rough one for the baby.  After a healthy first year, he’s endured a severe diaper rash, lingering cold, a virus, and an ear infection.

A few doctor’s appointments and rounds of antibiotics later we’re all mostly recovered—mostly recovered.  One thing remains unsettled, Cristian’s sleep pattern.  Sleepless nights are something Dad Bloggers write about—along with drippy diapers and do Dads parent their children or babysit them.

I went back and checked, fifteen of my posts mentioned sleep deprivation or Cristian’s sleep patterns in one way or another—maybe I should chime in on the parenting vs babysitting debate.

Establishing a toddler’s sleep pattern isn’t an exact science, it requires lots of trial and error.  We started putting him to bed at 10 pm with a bottle and Sesame Street or Pepa Pig running on a tablet.  We were making progress until he got sick.

I miss nights like this one
I miss nights like this one

Lately he’s been knocking out between eight and nine, which sounds like a good thing—but really isn’t—it only upset the balance.  Cristian used to wake up once a night, upon receiving his bottle, he rolled over and went back to sleep—not anymore.

I’m now staggering down the hall two or three times a night, like a sleepwalker carrying a dog named Lulu (let’s see who gets that reference).  After taking the first bottle, he’s up an hour or two later.  When a second bottle or walking him around doesn’t work, it’s time for my fellow tag-team parent.

Mommy working her magic was once the gold-standard in soothing our cranky baby.   It irritated me a little, but if it got him back to sleep so be it.  Lately Mommy’s magic stopped working, so we’ve resorted to desperate measures.

For the past week we’ve tried exhausting our wired son binge-watching every baby program imaginable, with mixed results.  Some nights we only needed 45 minutes. However other nights we’ve taken turns napping while Cristian turned laps around the living room.

It’s amazing how children change things.  Once upon a time a sleepless night meant Esther and I went to work slightly exhausted but smiling.  Now it’s just exhausted.

 

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