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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Can I Ask for a Do Over?

4162016 hasn’t gotten off to the start I expected.  Is it too late to ask for do over?  January started off well-for about nine days–then things started unraveling.

Unraveling started with a stomach virus—changing my definition of morning run.  Being the unselfish guy I am, I shared my virus with the family.  Mom was first, enjoying the queasiness and extra bathroom trips so much, she shared with the baby.

He repaid us too—with crankiness and we’ll-loaded diapers.  That kid could really load one up.  Not wanting to feel left out, Cristian got Mommy sick, completing the clean sweep.

We recovered in time for the Blizzard of 2016—Cristian’s first blizzard.  Taking him out to play after digging out was a highlight.  Then we all got sick again.  The doctor said it was viral but it felt more like the flu.

Taking care of a sick baby sucks, especially when you’re both sick at the same time.  I’ve gotten used to staggering out of bed and bringing Cristian a bottle in the middle of the night.  He usually gives me a pissed off, what took you so long look before snatching the bottle and going back to sleep.  That’s on a good night and we haven’t had many of those since he’s gotten sick.

Cristian experiencing his first blizard
Cristian experiencing his first blizard

We’ve shared a steady diet of sleepless nights trying to soothe our screaming son.  We’ve taken turns walking him around the house.  Being unable to calm a screaming-feverish baby giving off furnace-like heat is the most helpless I’ve felt as a father.

Although the fever broke the next day, this past week included a steady diet of binge watching Sid the Science Kid, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Caillou at 3 am.  You know I love my son if I’m sitting through episode after episode of Caillou.

Although I foresee another late-night/sleepless baby/kiddie programming evening, Pepa Pig tonight, there’s hope.  Cristian’s smile returned today, he spent the afternoon running around getting into mischief.  He’s not there yet but hopefully soon.

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Happy Birthday Cristian

1st Father SonI can’t believe it’s been a year already.  A year ago I spent the night in a hospital room keeping friends and family updated via Facebook posts as nurses induced Esther—it didn’t work.  It turn out, Cristian like his parents is stubborn.  How stubborn we didn’t know at the time.

At 1:26 pm Esther gave birth to a 9 pound 3 ounce   21.5 inch boy, whatshisname.  We hadn’t agreed on his name yet.  Asking me to calm our crying and unnamed son, by speaking to him, I put on my best Darth Vader voice and said, “Son I am your father.”

The first few weeks were a blur or feedings, diaper changes and friends stopping by to see the baby.  Sequestered in our apartment like jurors on a trial while we took turns watching Jeopardy, napping and playing with our new son, the memory still makes me smile.

father-son-chill

I dove headfirst into my stay-at-home dad crash course.  I was introduced to the Sprout Channel, Peppa Pig and Sid the Science Kid and scrambled like a contestant on a gameshow folding laundry, sterilizing baby bottles and grabbing a quick shower while Cristian napped.

In March we enrolled Cristian in My Gym, a children’s fitness center giving him a chance to meet other babies socializing him through structured activities and giving me a chance to compare parenting notes with other parents.

The many faces of Cristian
The many faces of Cristian

Esther and I were amazed as out son grew from a fragile newborn to a chubby cheeked toddler.  His smiling face every morning made us forget the, sacrifice, sleep deprivation and occasional blowout.

As Spring arrived my time was split between caring for my son and managing my father’s healthcare first in a hospital and then in a nursing home.   My blogging suffered as my world was turned upside down, but Esther and I insisted on keeping as much normalcy in Cristian’s routine as possible.  My Gym classes and trips to the park were sandwiched between hospital visits.

Family Selfie
Family Selfie

Cristian will never know the joy be brought his grandfather during his last days or how much his cheery demeanor helps grandma cope with Dad’s loss.  His days consist of playing, crawling and general mischief. His electric smile and big personality changed Mommy and Daddy’s lives in ways we couldn’t comprehend a year ago as we anxiously monitored his vitals as nurses induced his Mommy.

Happy Birthday Cristian!

Cristian and Me

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Time Waits For No Baby

Oct Baby NapI haven’t posted much, only five times in the past four months since I recapped Cristian’s first six months.  Since then his sleep patterns are all over the place, he still draws attractive women like a magnet, and trips to Carter’s or Buy Buy Baby have me wishing for my next prostate exam.

Cristian bears little resemblance to the baby we brought home from the hospital.  Back then he spent most of the day napping in his Moses Basket while we took turns feeding and changing him and watching lots of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.

Time stands still for no baby, our bedroom is full of bins of clothes he’s grown out of and although I haven’t posted Cristian’s been hitting his developmental milestones.    We’ve gone from tummy time and mini pushups to babbling and rolling.   Now he’s crawling and figuring out that walking thing.  Crawling was a game changer.

At this moment, I knew things were going to change quickly
At this moment, I knew things were going to change quickly

Crawling led to baby proofing and reconfiguring our living room.  This time it served a purpose, instead of Esther saying—let’s try the couch over there.   The couch covered electric sockets and cords and moving the recliner and placing a storage ottoman on the other side created the Cristian Zone.

FullSizeRender (57)Chico enters the Cristian Zone at his own risk.   While the baby crawls, plays and grabs furniture he also keeps an eye out for an active baby looking to grab his tail or an ear.  Chico and I both agree it was easier to watch the baby when he was younger.  Those were the days—he sat in his chair or played in his swing watching Sid the Science Kid or Sesame Street.  Elmo rocks!

Crawling Cristian requires more attention.  His natural curiosity gets him into all sorts of mischief, crawling under tables, pulling up on the furniture and grabbing anything within reach.  He’s found things I haven’t seen in months.  I’m convinced if you let a team of babies loose in the Meadowlands parking lot, they will find Jimmy Hoffa.

My son is growing fast, and although it’s brought new challenges, I’ve enjoyed watching his personality develop, even if it means new levels of childproofing.  I knew it would be challenging when I signed up for this and will have it no other way.

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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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