Monthly Archives: April 2015

Thank God It’s Finally Spring… Because Being A Parent In The Winter Is Rough

Living in New England has its positives and negatives just like most places. However, one of the hardest parts of living here is the winter. Winter in New England starts on roughly October 12th, and it continues through sometime in early May. Being a parent of a toddler on those long winter days can be really rough. Everyone is cooped up in the house, except when you are going outside to shovel for the fourth time in three hours.

Now I know some of you love winter for some inexplicable reason, but you are all beyond help and there is nothing I can do for you. As for the rest of us trying to raise kids during winter, we all know the truth. There are not enough activities in any house on this planet to keep kids occupied and happy all winter long. Especially without a bit too much TV. In the end everyone starts to go a bit stir crazy.

I know what you parents smart enough to live in areas with real climates are saying… “Kids love playing in the snow! Just go out and play!” However, here is the truth on that topic. Toddlers love the idea of snow. They love to play in the snow in short intervals, and then they realize snow is freezing, wet, and overall pretty miserable to be covered in. So the general rotation of spending an hour getting the kiddo ready, 24 minutes outside, and another hour returning the child to their un-bundled state (and cleaning the inevitable pool of water off the floor upon house re-entry) gets old pretty quick.

So what do you do? Anything you can to keep occupied. You color, you do puzzles, you build legos, you go to indoor museums and aquariums, etc. but you run out of ideas sometime in the second week of January. Even your kids start to realize you are really reaching around the 9th time you find yourself at Barnes and Noble sitting on one of those comically small benches reading an Elephant and Piggie book about sneezing…

Spoiler Alert: Elephant just has a cold and isn’t allergic to his best friend.  Just don’t want you all to worry.

Then, finally, everything changes! The first few days of spring are magical. Kids can run around outside, playgrounds are full, and the sun doesn’t set at 2:15 PM. Come bedtime your child actually sleeps since they ran around all day. You see the sun again, and remember that world actually isn’t only two colors (for those of you who don’t know, New England winter can be drawn with a palette of light and dark grey). You even start to make plans “We could go here! We could do this! We don’t have to watch The Lego Movie again!”

Being outside just makes everyone happier including you and your kids. Happy parenting is always easier and more fun than frustrated or tired parenting. It also makes the rainy days where you are stuck doing inside activities seem way less like a punishment being inflicted by an angry mother nature. There is nothing wrong with time inside, or watching some TV here and there. It’s just the constant bombardment of winter that makes us all a little more on edge and dreary.

All that being said, spring is a wonderful release. Spring in New England is every bit as great as winter is awful. So go enjoy it… for the next 3 months until the snow is back.

5 Things I Learned From Having a Child in the NICU

The March for Babies is coming up. Every year my family (and some wonderful close friends) get together and walk to help raise money for March of Dimes to help newborns who need some extra assistance. For those who don’t know, my daughter was about six weeks premature and spent two weeks in the NICU before coming home. Having her in the NICU was the toughest two weeks of my life, and I thought talking about it might help give some other people perspective.

5 Things I Learned By Having a Child in the NICU…



My daughter at a day or two old

5) You Are Told When You Can and Cannot Hold Your Child…

I want to preface this by saying the NICU doctors and nurses we had were absolutely incredible people. They were kind, informative, professional, and as far as I am concerned a main reason my daughter did so well. As part of their job, they have to be very firm about when you can and cannot hold your baby. A lot of the time my daughter was sleeping, and needed the rest to get better. The basic rule was unless it was time for food, we weren’t allowed to disturb her if she was sleeping.

Of course you logically understa

nd the situation, but it doesn’t matter. All you want to do is sit with your child and hold them. I remember my wife, who was on a lot of pain meds post c-section, would try and time her trips to the NICU just to get to hold her. It took her forever to get out of bed and get there, and a lot of time she would miss her few minute window to hold our daughter. This made her incredibly upset, and she began to sit for four or five hours in the NICU just to make sure she got a few minutes to cuddle our little girl.

4) Your Joy is Shrouded in Fear

For most people having a child is the best day of their life. It’s an unbridled joy. Of course there are other feelings as well, but not as strong as the overwhelming happiness. When your child is born with major health concerns, this goes out the window. You can’t be happy. You want to be happy, but you are just terrified. The first few hours, nobody could really tell us anything other than that we would have to wait and see. They told us about how she wasn’t getting enough oxygen internally, and how they didn’t know how that affected her brain. They also told us some things about her tone, and APGAR scores, but mostly what we heard was that our daughter could be in a lot of trouble.

I can’t accurately describe the mix of helplessness and fear that just sweeps over you. Especially for those first few unknown hours or days. As my daughter improved, the happiness began to come back stronger, but the fear takes a long time to subside. Even when you leave the NICU, certain things aren’t resolved. One doctor told us that we would have to watch her for the first year to see if she had permanent brain damage from oxygen deprivation. It’s impossible to block that fear out of your head, it nagged at me for a long time.

3) There Is No Balance

To be fair, new parents cannot really find much of a balance no matter what their situation is. However, when your child is in the NICU it is compounded by wanting to be there as often as possible. Due to the fact that I worked in retail and I could not take off more than a week, I was back at work before my daughter was home. So I would work an 8-9 hour shift, then instead of going home I would go to the hospital and sit with my daughter for 2 or 3 hours until they basically kicked me out for my own health. I would get up early the next day and do it again.

After my wife’s c-section she was in the hospital for almost a week. I did everything I could to take care of her and my daughter, but I totally forgot to take care of myself. The first 40 hours I didn’t sleep at all, and I couldn’t even relax for five minutes. Eventually, my wife kicked me out and told me to rest, and people ran errands for us to help. I thought I was helping, and I’m sure I was on some level, but I had tipped the scales so far that I almost made myself sick in that first week. The problem is that there is no correct balance. Still, you have to take care of yourself, but I openly admit that is easier said than done.

2) You Start to Feel Guilty

My daughter was extremely lucky in many regards. She was born in an area with a world class NICU, and she only needed to be there for two weeks. Compound that with the fact that she is now a happy and healthy little three year old, and we are certainly counting our blessings. That being said, having a child in the NICU is still really difficult. It is physically and emotionally taxing, and the bottom line is no parent should ever have to leave their baby in the hospital.

There is an odd thing that happens when you are in the NICU though, and really it continues when you come home as well. You start to compare your story to other parents stories, and you begin to feel guilty. I started thinking we didn’t have the right to be upset, because my daughter was only in the hospital for two weeks, and some kids were there much longer. Some kids had major birth defects, and some never even made it home at all (even typing that still hurts).

This is obviously counter productive, and really complete nonsense. We had the right to be upset that our daughter had a complicated birth and subsequently needed more care. It was scary, difficult, and it is a part of my life I will never forget. However, I still feel bad talking about it sometimes, because of how much worse other people’s stories are.

1) The Appreciation of Parenthood

I’ve heard that sometimes dads can take a little longer to connect to infants than moms do. It’s understandable. We didn’t have the kid in our bodies for months, and we don’t have the immediate physical connection. Add this to the fact that the first few months of parenthood are really, really tough, and that connection can be harder for some people.

This wasn’t the case in my house. The day my daughter came home was like a load was lifted off my back. I remember just cuddling up with her and passing out. She was home, and nobody could tell me when to hold her, or when to leave. Everything else I could deal with. The crying at night, the diaper changes, the constant exhaustion, etc. The things that I think usually got to new parents just made me happy. She was doing normal baby stuff, and after the NICU all normality was welcomed. I was basically walking on air (OK, maybe it was more of sleepwalking on air), and none of the usual infant stuff aggravated me. As long as she was healthy, everything else was going to be alright.

Thank you to the doctors and nurses at the UMASS NICU for all their help and care.

This is the little girl you helped save 🙂


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10 Things I Learned From My Two Year Old Last Year (Part 2)…

Sorry for the slight delay due to my little one’s birthday weekend, but here is part two of the previous post 10 Things I Learned From My Two Year Old Last Year…

Click the link for Part 1, or stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion… this week on DADLUNCH!




5. “Daddy… Do You Want To Play With Me?” (Try And Have As Much Fun As Your Kids Do)

Kids live on the extremes of emotion, and they move between them as fast as balls through a jugglers hands. Let’s try to focus on the positive emotions though. When kids are having fun, they are having the most fun that anyone has ever had in the history of fun. Sure, the downswing is around the corner, but that doesn’t negate the fun part. Try to have as much fun as your kids do while playing with them.

I probably get asked to play with my daughter ten to twelve times a day. If we are already playing, there is always the classic “Ok, but we could play something else!” There are a plethora of activities you can do with your kids, and lord knows there are many days where you feel like you have done all of them for about two minutes each, since toddlers are not known for their impressive attention spans. Almost no

ne of these activities are really that fun for adults (except for slides and ball pits, those are still awesome). The simple reason is that they aren’t for you… they’re for kids. Sure, we have all done the “Hey kid, can we just sit for a minute?” groan that comes after realizing you just finished activity four on their list of “183 Games For A Tuesday Evening”.

However, if you let yourself enjoy your kid having fun as much as they enjoy the actual activity then everyone wins. So just relax, and let yourself enjoy the amazement on their faces as they draw the cinnamon bun card while playing Candy Land… again (don’t be afraid to cheat though, nobody has ever completed a legitimate round of Candy Land, it’s extremely long and painfully boring. If you attempted to do so with an easily distracted toddler you would probably finish right in time for them to start college).

4. No More Spatula… (You Will Be Surprised At The Things You Miss When They Are Done With Them)

My daughter’s first favorite toy was a spatula with a rubber end. She loved the spatula from when she was a few months old until a few months after her first birthday. She would drum on things, and chew on the one end. We always kept a clean backup, because it calmed her down and almost instantly made her giggle. Then one day, the spatula was completely meaningless. It wasn’t a toy, it wasn’t fun, it was just a spatula. She had no idea why her crazy parents would even suggest this was a fun item. If you told me before I was a parent that I would lament the day my daughter gave up her spatula, I would have laughed (and been a little creeped out by your oddly specific prediction about my future). However, that was her first favorite toy, and her dismissing it was just a sign of how quick she was getting older.

Kids grow up so fast, and the things that you thought you didn’t care about, or even the things that may have annoyed you along the way take on an endearing quality while looking back on them. A way they pronounced a word incorrectly or a habit they had that faded naturally as they got older all become memories you are illogically attached to. So enjoy the little oddities and quirks while they have them, because believe it or not, you are going to miss the spatula.

3. “I NEED A COOKIE!” (There Is No Want, Only Need)

One thing to remember about toddlers is that they basically function on a binary system. This creates some pretty amusing interactions around the idea of wants and needs. As adults we are pretty aware of what constitutes a want and what constitutes a need. Toddlers have no clue. Everything is a need, and all needs are equal. Your two year old needs the blue crayon as much as they need a roof over their head. That blue crayon is the gateway to happiness, and all other objects are useless roadblocks thrown down to stop them from getting there. This is why when they don’t get what they want, the meltdowns can be so epic. In their head, they didn’t get the blue crayon… and humanity as we know it is doomed.

Sometimes this is very frustrating, and we just wish they could understand degrees of want. However, you also have to try and find the humor in the absurdity of it all. They aren’t having a meltdown because they want to have a meltdown, they just have no idea how to cope with the fact that the grilled cheese is cut into squares and not triangles.

2. Your Kid Isn’t Perfect… (Good News Is They Don’t Have To Be)

One of the things I always see new parents do that drives me up the wall is constantly compare their kids to other kids. Which kid is walking, talking, sitting, using the toilet, traversing the multiverses of space and time, etc. It’s not fair to you or your kid. Kids all learn to do things at different speeds, and truthfully by the time they get to about three, it’s a relatively even playing field for most of them. We all check milestones, and worry if our child is real late. We also get proud and excited if they do things first. A little bit of this is fine and just human nature, but don’t dwell on it too much. The milestones and the comparison game will drive you completely nuts. Obviously for kids who need extra help due to a plethora of reasons, this could be something you have to monitor more closely, but for most of us it’s just not worth the stress load we give it.

This ties into my other point on the topic. Your kid isn’t perfect. I know… I know, it’s a shock, but really it’s OK. Your kid is going to be awesome at some stuff, and really bad at some stuff. They are going to have meltdowns and tantrums about absurd things. They are gonna tell you they don’t need the bathroom then poop all over your car. They are going to run up to a stranger and tell they they smell funny. All of this is embarrassing and/or frustrating at the time, but try to keep a level head about it. Expect the mistakes and the inappropriateness. I’m not saying ignore these things. Just try to keep a level head, and realize they aren’t perfect, but they will be just fine.

1. It Is Far Easier To Parent Happy… (Don’t Let The Little Things Agitate You Too Much)

If you haven’t realized, there is a running theme to most of my entries on this list and really on this site in general. You have to focus on the positive things when parenting, and try to find the humor in the less positive things. Parenting is hard, and it takes constant dedication. However, it is so much easier if you parent from a happy perspective. I understand that sometimes we all get caught up in the frustration of a current situation with our kids, or we are exhausted and can’t find the energy to be upbeat. That’s fine, we’re human and it happens.

Still, try to smile and laugh a lot. My daughter does something ridiculous several times a day. Sometimes that ridiculous thing is positive and endearing, and sometimes it’s a meltdown and/or an impossible request (a few weeks ago my daughter was upset because she didn’t want toast for breakfast… she wanted toast, and that isn’t a typo). Those moments on both sides of the spectrum are some of the great parts of having kids, and especially young kids. They aren’t ever coming from a place of maliciousness, they are just ridiculous creatures trying to figure out the world around them. Sometimes it makes them overjoyed, and sometimes it makes them upset. We really aren’t much different; toddlers just feel no need to hide their reactions. So, just try to enjoy them and their crazy little worlds.

10 Things I Learned From My Two Year Old Last Year (Part 1)…

My daughter will be three years old on Monday (insert obligatory “I can’t believe how fast it’s gone!” comment here). Two is a wild year, and she really started becoming her own person. She has her own thoughts, likes, dislikes, and plans. She’s no longer just a little cute lump that we need to care for. In a lot of ways, it allows us as parents to enjoy our kids more once every moment of the day isn’t simply fulfilling a necessity like we did in the infancy stage. We can play with them more, interact via conversation, and learn all sorts of fun things from them. With that in mind I present to you…

10 Things I Learned From My Two Year Old In The Last Year

10. Sometimes In Life You Have to Dance On The Ceiling… (Kids Are Absurd, Just Enjoy It)

One night, about two or three hours after we put my daughter to bed, we heard her crying. My wife went in to check on her, and the little lady was wide awake and upset. When my wife asked what was wrong, she told my wife she was sad. Why was she sad?

“The ceiling is so high mommy…”

“Yes it is…”

“BUT I WANT TO DANCE ON IT!!!”

With toddlers this kind of absurdity is a constant thing. You have to enjoy it, it’s an innocent absurdity that only a kid who has no idea of reasonable and unreasonable can achieve. We handled this request by telling her that she couldn’t dance on the ceiling, but next time she saw her tall grandfather he would help her do it. She went to bed happy, and we left the room shaking our heads and laughing. Obviously, next time she saw her grandpa, he turned her upside down and she danced all over the ceiling while giggling uproariously.

9. “Daddy, We Need To Talk…” (If It Is Important To Them, Then It Is Important)

My daughter came up to me at one point, and in a tone usually reserved for sitcom parents about to confront their teenager about drunk driving, said we needed to talk. I was completely confused, what serious topic could this little girl have on her mind that warranted such a somber approach? So I told her she could talk about anything with me.

“Daddy, have you heard about Minnie-rella?”

For those of you without kids (or lucky enough to have kids that don’t watch the Disney cash grab known as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), Minnie-rella is a retelling of the Cinderella story. It has all the originality and cultural significance that you would expect. Top that off with the fact that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has animation that wouldn’t be out of place in an 1980’s Dire Strait’s music video, and you have something that would be very difficult to describe as “important”.

 I hope you like that background, because they reuse it in functionally every scene.

That doesn’t matter though. Minnie-rella losing her slipper for some reason had struck a nerve with my daughter. She needed to walk through the story, and needed reassurance at the end that everything turned out OK because Prince Mickey found the slipper. This was important to her, and therefore it was important. Dismissing it would only convey the message that coming to me with certain things was OK, and other things were a waste of my time. She is never wasting my time, and I never want her balancing that in her head before talking to me. If she needs me to break something down for her, or just to talk about it then we will talk about Minnie’s slipper.

8. The Trampolines Are Closed… (There Is No Worse Feeling Than Letting Your Kids Down)

There is a trampoline park in our area that usually does a “Toddler Time” on Sunday morning. One Sunday, we got my little girl all excited to go. She was ready to jump and have a blast. We drove the twenty or so minutes out to the place, with a happy kiddo in back talking about all the jumping she would do, how high she would jump, and all the other fun she would have. Obviously, or I wouldn’t be telling this story with this headline, the place was closed. Apparently, it closed on every Sunday in the summer. My kid was really let down, and really upset.

We all know this isn’t a big deal in the long run. Kids need to learn disappointment, and if this is the biggest one I can think of, then she is living a pretty good life. That being said, I still felt awful. Of course things like the trampoline park being closed, or various other things can change plans. I’m not saying occasional incidents of the type are a big deal at all. However, it is important to remember, to your kids your word is gold. If dad says something is going to happen, then it is going to happen. The more they see you not following through on promises, the less they will believe you. It is important to keep your word to your kids as much as reasonably possible. Do not promise things you cannot deliver, and if you promise it, then you do it.

7. Hubba, Hubba… (Your Kid Is A Sponge, Be Careful What You Do)

One night my wife was getting ready to go somewhere, and was putting on her outfit. She was wearing a cute skirt and shirt, and I jokingly said “Oooo, Hubba, Hubba baby…” Because if I can’t make terrible passes at my beautiful wife, then why did I get married in the first place?

The next thing I hear is my daughter going “HUBBA, HUBBA BABY!” Although it was really funny at the time, it’s also a perfect example of how quickly and effectively kids pick up what we say or do. I don’t swear around my daughter, and for those who know me well, this is quite the accomplishment in its own right, but obscenities aren’t the only things kids pick up. This is the age where they really start to see what you do and make it their own. Do positive things and they will be positive; do negative things and don’t be surprised if they mimic that as well. Just don’t think they aren’t watching and learning, they are basically always on, and you are their biggest influence by an unbelievable amount.

6. “Daddy, Put Your Phone Down!” (It Can Wait, They’re More Important)

I am completely guilty of using my phone or laptop too often. I try to be conscious of it, but I also get caught up in doing things on my devices that keep me distracted. Some of these things are legitimately important, and some less so. However, I try to make sure I give my daughter plenty of time without distractions. I am not anti-TV or screen time in general, but if it is limiting our interaction with our kids than it is too much.

This extends to all activities we do as adults, if your kid is around, then time with them is the most important thing. We all have busy lives, and most of us don’t get to spend all that much of those busy lives with our children. It’s usually a few hours a day at best, and we owe them our attention during that time we spend together. I know what you are doing is important, and it needs to get done. However, is it really so important that it must be done that moment and not later when the kid is sleeping, or another time that hanging out with them isn’t an option? Occasionally the answer will be that it is an immediate need, but I would bet that generally it is not. Just try to remember that when they want you to put your phone down and hang out with them.

Since this has become a longer post than anticipated, I will do the second half of the list in the next post later this week…

Teach Your Children Well: Don’t Let Our Biases Become Their Burdens

After seeing the awfulness going on in Indiana and the horrible video from the SAE frat (Google it if you haven’t seen it and want to, I won’t link that ugliness from here), I am sparked to write a bit about the lessons we teach our children. These two issues are product of the older generations refusal to change, and those messages of intolerance being passed down. Don’t get me wrong, this does not absolve either group of guilt. After a certain age, we are responsible for our own actions, and we run out of excuses. That being said, we owe it to our children to provide examples and views of acceptance so they can have an easier time landing on the right side of these issues.

Children by nature are accepting of others, and you can see it when young kids play. They don’t care about gender, race, religion or anything else. My daughter will go up to basically any other kid remotely her age and declare “Hi! Would you like to play with me!?!” Their main qualification for friends is that you are willing to run around in a circle and make elephant noises. If you have a few crayons to share, even better.

Furthermore, kids are smart. Probably smarter than we give them credit for, and they are complete sponges when it comes to learning. As parents, we have to be very careful about the messages we are having them absorb. Our beliefs, for better or worse, go a long way to shaping their minds and actions for years to come.

This really isn’t directed at the horrible racist and bigoted parents who are intentionally preaching hate. Unfortunately, they will do everything in their power to turn their kids into horrible hate machines as well, and all we can do in that situation is hope that the kids turn out smart enough to realize the ignorant nonsense of their parents. The more we preach kindness and acceptance, the more of those kids we can help realize they do not have to walk that same path.

This is directed at the rest of us, and I am absolutely including myself in this group. The rest of us are not filled with hate. Most reasonable people in this day and age are pretty open minded and laid back when it comes to other cultures, races, sexualities, etc. Our social circles are mixed of all different backgrounds, and we want people to have equal opportunities at life. Different geographical and cultural areas may have a varying level of acceptance in different areas, but the point remains the same.

However, just because we don’t outwardly hate people, doesn’t mean we don’t perpetuate stereotypes. This can include ideas of what girls should do versus what boys should do, or generalizations about how certain races act. Our children absorb those biases, no matter how harmless or minor we think they might be. In some ways it’s worse from otherwise “reasonable” parents, because kids trust our beliefs to be reasonable, even as they get older. We want to teach our kids to look at both sides of any situation, and the more biased we are as parents, the more chance we have to bend their views.

I have biases and generalizations that I am not proud of, and in the great scheme of things they are pretty minor. Still, I do occasionally catch myself having thoughts about people that I get upset at myself for having. They aren’t hateful thoughts, but they are just simply wrong. The thoughts don’t reflect their shortcomings, they reflect mine.

My favorite example is years ago I was waiting in line at a midnight release for some movie or CD, I can’t remember which, and the guy in front of me was a young black man about my age who was dressed in urban fashion. We were talking for a while since the line wasn’t moving, and I asked him what he was in line for. He told me he was in line for the new season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This shocked me, and when I realized why, I felt like a jerk. Of course he could like Buffy, and the only reason I was shocked is because of his appearance. My generalization wasn’t malicious, and it didn’t have any ill intent, but the point is that it was still very wrong.

So although I have some foolish generalizations like I described above, one thing I am extremely aware of is voicing any of those ideas around my daughter. She deserves to see the world and the beautiful people of all kinds in it without any of the clouded and stupid biases of her father. The world perpetrates enough of this nonsense (I’m looking at you Hollywood), and as parents we should be helping our kids build up a wall against that nonsense. We certainly shouldn’t be feeding into it.

We are never going to be completely unbiased. We are not perfect. Perfect is a totally absurd goal, but “better” is not. We can all be better, and if each generation is better at teaching the next generation than the one before it we will begin to see less of the hate filled videos or legislation that wouldn’t feel out of place in the southern states of the 1950’s. Every kid is born with the capacity to accept people or reject them for a multitude of reasons, our job as parents is to help make sure those reasons are a lot more important than the color of their skin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

So in short, teach your kids to accept others, and enjoy people for who they are. Let’s not let our biases become their burdens.