Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Wish My Commute was Longer

‘I wish my commute was longer…’

Yep, that is what I was actually thinking as I sat in traffic, idling down the highway. 

I had been moving at a very leisurely pace, waiting patiently at each progressive lane closure, and signing along with each new classic rock song as I approached my exit.  The windows of my minivan were rolled down, including the sunroof. (Why do minivans have sun roofs?)  Most importantly every single car seat was empty.  Other then the radio and the horns of the stress-filled rush hour commuters there was complete silence.  It was pure, unmitigated bliss.

I’ll guess I have to back up a bit, because I always tell people I am a stay at home dad.  Even though that answer isn't really correct. I usually leave it at that.  As a stay at home parent the question is a bit intimidating.  I’d like to tell you it is especially frustrating for men, compared to women, but it’s probably not true.  The question?

“What do you do?”

What do I do?  We should start with what I don’t do.  When someone asks you that question, they are looking for an easy answer.   Like, ‘ I’m in customer service, I work in retail, or I am an account exec.’  These are all very good box answers that people want when they ask this question. 

When people ask I always say, ‘I stay home and take care of my boys.’  So I understand why you’re confused when I tell you I was driving to work.  I’ll get to that but you've gotten me on a bit of a tangent I need to finish.

After you tell someone that you stay home, they inevitably tell you how it’s the most important or hardest job there is.  Please stop repeating this dribble.  I dislike the response, because it’s belittling.  Number one, it’s NOT a job…I've discussed that in detail here, but let me give you the cliff notes.  You get paid for jobs.  No doubt staying at home with kids is hard, but so is putting up a fence or solving a rubric’s cube.  (Something I have thus far failed at in life, despite numerous attempts)  It is just work, and we all do it, every day, whether we have a job or not.

Secondly, even if it was a job, it is not the most important.  I get it the children are the future…yada, yada, yada.  Do you know what is important?  The cure to cancer, world hunger, the brain surgeon working on your child, those are important jobs.   I get it though, it’s important to me and my family, but outside of that small circle, it is literally insignificant. 

What the question really means is, ‘what is your profession?’   This really gets at the root of why the question is difficult for both the person asked and eventually the ask-e.  I don’t have one.  I have put my professional life on hold for the betterment of my family.  In American society, no matter how common the practice, the idea of voluntarily not earning money is…unsettling.

Now, you asked what I do.  A lot.  I regularly watch children at my home.  Between that family, my nephew, and my own damn kids, it’s not uncommon   to have 5 or 6 kids running under my feet.  I am often able to count ages from 1 to 5.  I work part time at a hotel.  I only work when my wife is off, and probably average 10-25 hours a week.  That’s not even addressing my own children.  As runner of the house, I am responsible for all schedules, school, speech, and sports for the boys.  I’m usually off Saturdays from 3pm on.  Of course, by off, I mean I take the boys to my sisters and let them have a sleep over.  I’m always on call.  Next school year I will do all of that, PLUS a new born. 

Today was a 5 kid kind of day.  As we approached the 4 O’clock witching hour I had still not gotten ready for work, and could see the pre-emptive signs of melt downs on all of the kids.  Thank goodness my wife was there to cook dinner.  Hell, even my sister was there and the kids almost didn't make it out alive. 
It was like 5-3 hockey.  Somebody should always score.  I got a quick shower, and for the next hour there were always 2 kids crying. It was not pretty.

So yeah, I sat in my minivan, windows down, music up, and as my hotel peaked into view, I wished my commute had been longer. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Son Sucks at Soccer

We are not interested in a trophy.  Thank you.

That was the entirety of my email to my son’s soccer coach.  He had pegged the value of a trophy at ten bucks.  My wife, being on the same page, requested I send the coach a gently worded letter saying we were not interested.

“We are not interested in a trophy.  Thank you.”

I think it was perfect.  Exactly what my wife had in mind.

See here is the thing. My son sucks at soccer. 

Not just in a “He is a five year old, cut him some slack” kind of way but epically bad at soccer.  They are five year olds so it’s not like I go to games expecting to watch the World Cup every Saturday.  As most of the children orbit the soccer ball, like rings of Saturn, my son orbits them.  Orbit seems like too strong of a word for him there.  Meanwhile, eventually the ball heads his direction, and he is all that will stand between it and the goal.  So, he turns around and runs toward the net, oblivious to the fact the he is literally running right next to the ball. The ball which moments later will of course, go into the net when he turns around to locate the ball.

My son SUCKS at soccer.  

We have a few rules that we will follow for sports, because we think sports are important.  Did you know the number one indicator of a future female politician is playing competitive sports?

#1- The first thing out of our mouths is always, “WOW you look like you had fun!”  There is a reason that Saturday afternoons, I’m out on the field, instead of sitting on my coach watching college football.  It’s because I want him to have fun.  So questions always focus on what’s important.

#2- No phone. Ever.  Except halftime. Yeah. Halftime is okay.  Listen, if I have to explain this to you, just stop going to your kid’s sporting events.  Better yet, stop letting them go as well.  Your actions are clearly telling them where your priorities lay. You might as well have the words match.

#3- As a family, we will cheer when both teams do well.  I don’t understand any of the unspoken rules at children’s sporting events, such as where I can or cannot sit.  How about this? You watch and cheer for your kid, I’ll watch and cheer for my kid, and the rest of the afternoon we will politely clap when anyone does well.  You’re already grumpy from missing the Irish beat Michigan St, so let’s just check the judgment and garbage at the car.

#4- I said CHEER…I did not say scream or berate your child.  How have I already seen so many parents yelling and verbally harassing their children at a FIVE-YEAR-OLD KID’S soccer game?  Is this how you talk to them all the time?  I don’t know what you think you are doing, but it is not building up your child. It’s tearing them down, and it’s mean.

#5 - Each kid gets one sport, per season, any sport you like, but you must attend every practice and play in every game.  I will not be dragging my kids around to gazillion different places, although I understand the instinct to do so. I’m a huge sports fan, but I think the value of sports gets watered down a bit too much with so many events.  I mean, are you really running them all over town because they want to do so?

When I was younger, I bounced around to several different sports, not really excelling at any of them.  When I turned 15, I started playing hockey, and it was a very good outlet for me. I sucked too, I’m sure, but I did have fun.  More importantly, it helped eliminate some of that teenage angst we all carry around at that age.

Perhaps I should have titled this, ‘My son sucks at soccer, and I don’t care.’

I would rather the boys be smart over athletic any day of the week.  I want him to enjoy playing and engaging in competitive something, but, for the vast majority of us, smart wins out every time.  I would go so far as to say sports, when done for the right reasons, help make your child smarter, among many other positive things. 

I don’t think my kid will ever read these ramblings. No one else does. If he does, I hope he understands how unimportant his athletic abilities are to his life.  I hope that rule #1 worked, and he keeps pushing himself to have more fun.

Not to be rude, but you’ll have to excuse me, I’m trying to have a conversation with my son. 

I want you to know how much I enjoyed watching you play sports. (See that is a variation of the first rule…I knew, you would listen in)

Dude you were five, give yourself some slack.  Besides I always enjoyed talking with you more.

Just the other day, you came around the corner on all knees and said, ‘Dad I’m a 45 year old dog.’

“Nooo, I’m afraid dogs don’t live that long.”

“Oh, well, how long do they live?” He asked

“Well about 12-15 years, but it varies quite a bit, and you know what you should probably just ask your mom. “ I was trying to cook dinner at the time.

“Well how old is our dog Lola?”

Crap.  “13 years old.”

‘Ohh.’  The speed, at which he put those last two points together, really did impress me. 

Probably gets those smarts, by running next to a soccer ball every Saturday.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Open Letter to my Son


You’re not a man yet, but you’re getting very big.  Right now your only 3, but by the time you read this you’ll be 8 and able to read it on your own.  I’ll try not to use words that are too big for you. 

As a three year old, you've become quite opinionated and VERY independent.  I don’t want to get to side tracked, but you, sir, have a temper.  Quick to temper, quick to calm down and already certain that you have this whole life thing down.  Have some patience with your old man…I do my best.

In case you've forgotten, at the time of this writing you still hadn't met your sister.  You've always been very empathetic, and I am excited to see you take care of her.  I’m sure by now, I have told you this many times, but your senior year in HS will be her first year of HS.  Make sure you keep an eye on her. 

Anyway, it’s not your sister I wanted to talk to you about.  It’s a confession.

Do you remember the balloon you got last week? (As in 3 year old you) You got it at a birthday party for one of your friends.  It even had your name on it.  Your big brother got one as well.  Those were fun weren't they?  Your brothers popped the second day, but yours hung on.  I kept expecting it to pop, but as it survived into the 5th day I began to wonder if it was made from some special balloon material. 

You sat on it, it went past the stove a couple of times, you threw it at the dogs, but nothing seemed to pop this balloon.  As each day of its survival past, you wanted to share it with your brother less and less.  I think it became a symbol to you.  Something you finally had that he did not, and you would rather have it sit on the bookshelf, than share it with your brother.

Oh the fighting!  You would scream, your brother would scream, and I cried in the corner.  Many many tears, just wishing the damn balloon would pop, and we could move on to the next argument.  All the while I was preparing for the gushing of tears that would come when it finally met its maker.

This is going to be hard to hear, but I have had this on my chest for so long I NEED you to know.

I popped it.  

Whew, that feels better.  Yep while you slept, I took a pair of scissors and relieved 5 days’ worth of stress.  You know what?  It felt good!

At the time I even questioned my decision. 

You screamed.  A lot. 

I had managed to keep you distracted from it for a while.  You mentioned it as soon as you woke up, but I told you we had to get your brother to school.  You mentioned it again when we got home, and again after you stopped playing with your Legos, and again, and again. At one point I even helped you look for it, and told you, ‘You should put your toys away better, so you don’t lose them.’  Finally, backed into a corner I did what any father would do.  I blamed it on the dogs.

After what seemed to be an eternity of crying, I finally helped you calm down with my sage fatherly advice.
“Son, there will be lots of balloons in your life.  They will come and go many times.  It’s important to remember the good times you had with the balloon.  Do you want a cookie?”  OK, maybe it was the cookie, not my advice.


You don’t remember?

In that case never mind.  I must have been thinking about your brother…Yeah your brother that’s it. What a silly letter this is, you should just go ahead and delete it or something.

Why don’t we go outside and we can kick the soccer ball together.

Your loving and always supportive Father who never threw out/broke any of your toys…ever

P.S. Your mother threw out your drum set when you were two. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Daniel Murphy is No Hero

You did see that correctly.  The NY Mets pitcher who took paternity leave is NOT a hero.  If you take nothing else away from this, please stop repeating how brave, righteous, or any other adjective you use to describe this man other than normal.  And if this is normal then that makes me sad.

Before we get into that we will need to establish some ground rules for this conversation.

#1 Boomer Esiason, his radio co-host, and anyone who agrees with him is an asshat.  I would challenge you to find one reasonable person who agrees with what they had to say.  If you haven’t seen what they had to say, you will need to Google it.  I refuse to even provide the link to their ignorant words. 

#2 The fact that this is a sport shouldn't really come into the equation.  Listen Daniel Murphy does play a game, a sport that is just entertainment.  Let’s not break down the conversation comparing football players to baseball players, by equating the number of games they play, to their importance.  Let’s not go in the other direction though, and diminish the value sports play in our society, or the financial importance that they provide to their communities. I can assure you that to the employees of the stadium, these events are much more than a game. 

#3 Every family should do what is right by them.  Although I do not believe that Daniel Murphy is a hero, I also don’t want to be the type of person to judge decisions made by others.  Sometimes parents make decisions that I would not, and I’m sure that I make poor decisions in others eyes as well.  We need to get to a place where doing it differently is not the same as doing it wrong. 
Now…Let’s get started.

The MLB collective bargaining agreement allows for players to take 3 days of paternity leave.  When Murphy was lambasted by Esiason for taking those three days, many came to his defense.  HERE is just one example that I enjoyed reading.

Many people talked about how righteous Murphy was for taking his three days leave, and raised him up as an example of the modern father for his actions.  After all, not terribly long ago, men were still in the waiting room when their children were born. 

THREE DAYS???  Every American (male or female) is entitled to 12 weeks of leave for a newborn.  Even in the case of adoption you deserve 12 weeks.  There are many, many societal and medical examples of how important the first 12 weeks are for your child. 

Let’s not lose sight of #3, but let’s also not lose focus of the bigger picture.

Daniel Murphy literally did the very least he could do.  In fact had he done less, many would have judged him for being a poor role model of fatherhood.  It would appear to me, there are only three categories that modern fathers get lumped into.  On the low end we have the douche-bag dads, who although a shrinking number, still garner the most attention and media representation. 

Then there is a large group of present dads.  If they were doctors their creed would be, ‘Do no harm.’ They are engaged, work very hard for their families, and on the weekends they will play catch.

Lastly, there is a smaller, but growing group, of superheroes.  I’m sure by now you may even know one of them, ahem.  You would have seen them changing a diaper, making dinner, doing chores around the house, taking their kids with them to do errands, or you know being a normal PARENT who takes care of their children.

Trust and believe that I am no fan off the douche-bag dads. But, I also don’t think that the superhero dads have done anything worthy of their current lofty status.  The small gap between these groups is VERY concerning.  I have joked in the past that in order to be a good dad all I had to do was to not hit the wife or children and bring home a paycheck.  The difference between poor and average is literally physical violence.  We need to widen that gap. We should think of ourselves as politicians, you know helping the middle class. 

Similarly, the difference between average and superhero is the difference between 2 and 3 days leave???  When we raise up Daniel Murphy’s actions to superhero status we further erode our expectations of fatherhood.  Do you know what would have been amazing?  Had he taken his 12 weeks of federally protected paternity leave. 

Yes, his job is how he takes care of his family, and it is important for him to earn money, so I don’t begrudge him going back to work…I just like to imagine.  Imagine if every expecting father saw athletes taking 12 weeks to bond with their child.

So, let’s move the conversation forward people.  Don’t repeat the lie that Daniel Murphy is a hero. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Love Condoleezza Rice

I’m attracted to Condoleezza Rice.

My wife need not worry, because I am pretty sure she is out of my league.  Not to say that I couldn't, but given my current state of bliss with my own wife, I’d rather not try.  I’m certain any man reading this already gets it, but for the women let me give you a brief summary of her hotness.

-       At age 19, Rice awarded a B.A., cum laude, in political science by the University of Denver
-       In 1981, at the age of 26, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Denver. Her dissertation centered on military policy and politics in what was then the communist state of Czechoslovakia.
-       Her ultimate career goal is to become the Commissioner of the NFL.

It’s not just that she is crazy smart, and rest assured she could match wits with any idiot reading this, but she is also driven, strong, assertive, passionate and confident, not at all unlike my wife.

As parents we are always dreaming of the person we will raise.  If I didn't think I could help someone do it better, I wouldn't have been so driven to have children.  Condoleezza is the type of women I envision my wife and I raising.

Yep, we’re having a girl!  We (my wife) is 20 weeks along and halfway there.

I couldn't be more excited.  When Glenn was born I was terrified of having a girl.  I thought there was no way I would be able to manage to raise a happy, strong, healthy woman.  With a boy, at least I understood what it meant to be a man, even if I failed to meet those expectations, either by choice or situation. 

Already I can see it is going to be an uphill battle. I’m glad to be a dude.  As long as we perform some basic acts of physicality and attribute, society will leave us alone.  Sure, as we grow into men, either our success or failure will be picked at.  Yet, for better or worse your emotional development is left to yourself.

There is just so much more societal pressure put on little girls.  Before Glenn was born no one ever asked me if I was nervous to have a boy.  Yet, in 20 short weeks I’ve already heard things I never heard with either of the boys.

1.       Are you nervous? 
-       Yeah you’re damn right I am.  Do you know why?  This isn’t my first dance, I know what a 2 month old is like, and I despise it.  What this statement really means says, ‘Are you nervous…because you know your baby is going to become sexual active…right?’  No one gives two shits about teenage boys, because the assumption is the worst they will do is break shit or create problems (read as babies) for somebody else.  I am more nervous about my boys getting a girl pregnant, than I am about leading through example for my daughter. 

2.       Princess
-       Seriously, Shut the F up.  Do not call my girl a princess.  I will punch you in the face.  There is so much about her that you can’t possibly understand by looking at her.  If this is how you judge people, I need you to step away.  I’m not joking, I’m going to hit you.

3.       She will have you wrapped around your finger
-       Come on.  This one probably makes me the angriest.  She does not have special powers.  This sexiest statement is wrapped in a context of sweetness.  Do you know why people say it?  Because without a man’s hand she wouldn't be worth much.  Women are good once they are wrapped around a man’s finger (marriage) and so they are assumed to be better at it.

4.       Did you know there was a color war?
-       Who knew?  With boys it’s never in your face, like it is with girls.  Glenn’s favorite colors have included blue, red, green, and orange.  Even before she has gotten here, it is clear that pink is going to play a large role.  Instead I’m just going to hang a sign around her neck.

5.       Are you guys finished?
-       “Aww how perfect for you.  Now that you get a girl are ya’ll done?”  This…This alone do I love.  Your damn right we are done.  Not only can I finally see the end of toddlerhood, in the close enough future, but Jesus Christ am I one lucky SOB.  Amazing wife, amazing boys, and amazing girl.  I don’t know what previous Craig did in his past life, but THANK YOU previous Craig.

Make no mistake about it folks.  There is a wrecking ball coming, and I am not prepared.  I will struggle her whole life to contain her, but it will have very little to do with her lack of penis. 

Go ahead and underestimate her, that’s what she wants you to do.  Like my wife and Condolezza before her, there is nothing these women can’t do, once their mind is made up.