I’m aware that if my son goes to therapy at any point in his life, this story will come up. Well, not the story itself, but the fact that I am sharing this publicly. I can live with that.
Everyday when we pick Bean and Bug up from daycare, we have a routine. It starts in Bug’s classroom.
Quick hug – yay!
Gather art projects to take home
Grab bag of carrots from the mini-fridge
Bug goes potty
Go to Bean’s class and start from Step 1.
Step 4 is the most critical, because if something goes wrong, Daddy has to clean the car seat. And Daddy does not like cleaning the car seat.
Over the past, say, two months, as Bug has put the finishing touches on potty training, Step 4 becomes more contextual. When was the last time he went potty? Does he think he can wait until we get home?
So that brings us to today.
Here’s the transcript.
Bug: DADDY!!!! [See Step 1]
Me: Hi! How was your day?
Bug: Good! I have pictures! [Points to cubby; See Step 2]
Me: They are amazing! I’ll hold them. Go get your carrots!
Bug: [Goes to get carrots; See Step 3]
Me: OK, let’s go potty.
Bug: I don’t have to go potty…
Me: Can you try?
Bug: No…I don’t have to go potty!
Me: Can you please try?
Teacher: He just went potty 15 minutes ago.
Me: OK. Can you make it until we get home?
Me: Alright. Let’s go get Hava! [See Step 5]
[30 seconds later, we are down the hall in Hava’s classroom]
Beanie: Daddy!!! [See Step 1]
Bug: I have to go potty!
Me: Are you kidding me? OK, Beanie, hurry up – we have to go back to Bug’s room.
Bug: I HAVE TO GO POTTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: Let’s go! Everyone! Let’s go!
[5 seconds later, we are back in Bug’s classroom]
Bug: DADDY! I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS RIGHT NOW!
Me: [to myself] F—! S—! F—! S—!
Bug: I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS! IT’S COMING!!!
Me: Sit on the potty!
Bug: NO! I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS!
Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! GET ON THE POTTY NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bug: NO! I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS RIGHT NOW!
[I pull his pants down. There is no poop. I repeat. No. Poop.]
Moral of the story: Don’t believe three-year-olds who claim to be pooping their pants. Unless they are pooping their pants. Then you believe them.
Songs My Older Kids Now Know From Me Driving Them To School For A Month:
“Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms
“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
Songs I Now Know From Driving Them To School For a Month:
“Cake By The Ocean” by DNCE
That’s gotta mean something filthy, right?
Justin Bieber’s entire album
Seasons of House of Cards Watched: One
The Price is Right Conclusion: Drew Carey is better than I expected, but no Bob Barker
Daytime Talk Shows: Ugh…
Favorite Middle-of-the-Night TV Shows:
12-minute episodes for the win
Nothing But Trailers
60 minutes of movie previews…a 3am treat!
Trips to Home Depot: Three
New Sink Faucets Purchased: Three
New Sink Faucets Installed: Zero
Flowers Planted in Front Yard: 27
Solar Panels: Thinking About Them
All the time. Hours and hours each day. Perfection.
I got to stay home for full four weeks with my wife, my newborn, my two older babies, and my dog. What else could a guy ask for?
I’m sad to leave my wife home “alone.” It’s been great to spend so much time together – not just in the middle of the night for diaper changes. We’ve had sushi date nights (with Squish). We’ve gone to fun lunches (with Squish). We’ve even worked on a lot of these blog posts together (with Squish). It’s been phenomenal.
In addition to my wife and baby, I had so much fun with Beanie and Bug. Instead of rushing from home to school to home, we got to take our time and enjoy the journey. Sleep in a bit. Take the long road. Snag some muffins for breakfast. Skip school for family fun every now and then. Without the stress of being on time in the morning or going to bed at night, we had FUN together.
On the other hand, going back to work is exciting. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my team and clients. I’ve missed the daily action of my career and feel motivated to jump back in.
To sum it all up: Four weeks went by. My family size increased. I barely slept. And I’ve never been happier.
I looked back on Dec. 31, 1999, celebrating New Year’s with friends, really unsure if “oops, party’s over…out of time” was going to happen.
To be honest, I also debated the slotting of 80’s music superstar deaths: Prince. Michael Jackson. Whitney Houston. [Prince’s was the most shocking. Whitney’s was the saddest. Michael’s was the most tragic.]
Several radio stations started playing tributes to the Purple One all afternoon. Thankfully, I had to be in the car, so I got to flip around the channels and hear his greatest hits and heartfelt tributes from fans and DJs.
Prince was iconic. But not really an artist we frequently played around the kids. Or so we thought.
After picking my daughter up from school and strapping her into her car seat, I turned the radio on so she could at least hear some of Prince’s songs. I wasn’t going to talk about death. The car ride home is nowhere near long enough to broach that topic and this was not the situation to discuss it.
“Kiss,” probably my second-favorite Prince song (behind “When Doves Cry”) began playing.
“I know that song!” my four-year-old screamed out. “It’s from the penguin movie!”
Of course she knew that song. I had completely forgotten that “Kiss” was featured in the opening medley in Happy Feet. We watched that movie at least a dozen times.
Check out the scene here:
My daughter being familiar with this song is another reminder that music is immortal.
Prince created such an amazing song that it made a little girl ridiculously happy to hear on the radio 30 years later.
The song is bigger than the artist, which is what makes the artist so special.
Hi, you may remember me. My wife and I brought our 3-week-old son with us to vote this morning. We met you there, after we cast our ballots, at the table where you pick up the “I Voted/Yo Vote!” sticker.
You saw the newborn sleeping in the red infant carrier and were blown away by “the youngest voter in the district.” You wished us best of luck in parenting him and hoped only the best for him and the world he would grow up in.
It was a lovely interaction. We started walking out the door.
“Oh, what’s his name?” you asked curiously.
Squish. [Squish is not his real name, remember]
“Oh No! Do you know what you have done to him? He will have a rough life with a name like that.”
In the moment, The Best Mom and I smiled politely, mumbled something to end the conversation, and left to go about our day.
But I think you deserve a more thoughtful response.
What the hell is wrong with you? In what world do you think it is appropriate to not only openly question the name parents gave their child, but then attempt to guilt the parents by predicting the challenges the kid will face? Neither of those is alright.
We know we gave our kids unique names. Before each of our children were born, we discussed their names for MONTHS. There is not a conversation you could have about their names that we didn’t have before the kids were born. They are unique for a reason. We have nothing against more common names, but went down a different path.
It’s our decision. There are precious few things people get to do that make a lasting impact beyond their life. Naming your children is one of them. And we did not take that responsibility lightly. We are certain the parents of Beyonce, Cher, Madonna, Kanye, Denzel, and even Suri, carefully considered the names of their children.
“Squish” is a Biblical name. We didn’t make this name up. And even if we did, it would still be OK.
Each child’s name has deep meaning to us. We named all of our children after beloved deceased relatives. Those relatives had specific characteristics that we wanted our children to embody. Every time we see our children, we are reminded about Harriet, Robert, and Bernard. Three unique, wonderful people that we named our children after.
If you judge, judge silently, like a normal person. I don’t care if you go home and call your friend and say, “Friend, you’ll never guess what crazy name these people I just met named their kid!” Sure, you may qualify as a horrible person for doing so, but at least you wouldn’t be poo-pooing us to our face. In the presence of our child.
Don’t worry about our kids. Our kids, and their awesome, meaningful names, will be just fine. We are raising them to be strong, confident people. They love their names. And as our children learn more about the relatives they were named after, they will love their names even more. And, hey, when they turn 18, they can petition the court to change their names to Sally or Bob. Or SallyBob. Whatever.
So what did we do to our kid?
We gave him a name with purpose. A name with meaning. A name that will stand out. A name that he will define to the world…the world he will hopefully make a better place.
You hear your kid’s door open at 3:45am and, no matter what is about to happen, you know it won’t be good. At all.
Beanie ran into our room, where we were thankfully up after a 3am feeding for Baby Squish. She choked on her words about needing to go to the potty, which could only mean one thing: mass amounts of vomit.
I jumped out of bed, shooed her into our bathroom, lifted the lid with my left hand and held her hair back with my right, and let a mess of meatballs and cherry popsicle empty into the toilet.
In that moment, I had a flashback to another night: the worst night of my parenting life.
Several months ago, The Best Mom went out of town for a bridal shower, leaving me home alone with Beanie and Bug.
We had a tremendous Saturday. We slept late and snuggled through a morning of their favorite cartoons. We ventured over to the local farmer’s market, where they nibbled yummy apples. The main event of the day was a friend’s birthday party at a gymnasium, where they had a tremendous time running and flipping.
After the party, we came home and I made them a light dinner of meatballs and broccoli, to balance the pizza and cake they had earlier. They both went to bed easily and I was able to watch a basketball or hockey game or something.
Around 11:30, I went outside to let the dog out.
Still standing on the lawn, waiting for the dog to finish, I heard a low rumble on the monitor.
Over time, you learn the tones in the your kids’ voices. This was a code red emergency tone, a sharp combination of fear…and fear.
The dog and I ran inside and up the stairs as fast as a blur.
We found Beanie standing in the middle of our hallway bathroom in the midst of 360-degrees of vomit. In every direction. On the floor. On the walls. On her. On the shower curtain. On the cabinets. Literally everywhere in the bathroom. Even behind closed doors. It was the most aggressive amount of throw-up I’d ever seen.
And my four-year-old daughter was standing at the epicenter, shivering with illness and fright.
How do you even begin to deal with this?
I devised a two-step plan, and I’m surprised I was able to get that far.
Step One: Remove Beanie. Step Two: Clean.
With my marching orders in front of me, I grabbed a pair of old sandals and tossed them in between me and her, so I could snag her out of the room.
I stripped her clothes off and put them in the laundry immediately. Then I cleaned her off with a wet towel and set her up on the floor of my bedroom and put a show on, so I could begin the real work.
Using a combination of every single cleaning product in my house, I set out to clear the chunkage and disinfect the bathroom. I Mr. Cleaned. I Swiffered. I mopped. I Lysoled. I spent nearly an hour in that bathroom.
And then the monitor rumbled again. It was nearly 1am.
It was my son.
I ran into his room. Still in his crib at the time, he had covered it with the same vile stinky vomit that I had just spent an hour cleaning in the bathroom.
Two sick kids.
I set Bug up next to Beanie in our bedroom so I could tend to his room.
As I was pulling the sheets off his bed, I heard ANOTHER rumble. This time coming from my room.
Beanie was running to the toilet, with Round 2.
I went to help her only to hear another rumble from the room.
Bug was on to Round 2 himself. With no toilet for him, I dragged him into the shower, to he could be sick, tears streaming down his face as he wailed in confusion.
Then I ran back to Beanie, who was throwing up again.
Then Bug threw up again.
I called my wife, disrupting the celebration, but I needed some emotional support.
“This is something I’ll laugh about one day, right?” I asked her.
Eventually, around 2am, I got them both out of the bathroom and onto a waterproof picnic blanket on the floor of the bedroom. I brought along a stash of small hand towels to catch anything else that may come up.
Once they were settled, I finished cleaning the hallway bathroom and processed two loads of laundry. Towels. Pajamas. Sheets. It was not a pretty sight.
With the laundry rolling and the kids calm, I turned on a movie, thinking the worst was over, hoping we could all get some sleep.
Good thing I brought those towels, because I used just about every one of them, as Bug was sick for hours, coughing up who-knows-what-he-had-left into them.
Finally. Finally. Finally, we all fell asleep on the floor around 4am.
By 7am, I had somehow moved myself to the bed and was woken up by two kids bouncing on me.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Let’s go to IHOP! We want pancakes**!”
The sun was up. Morning had dawned. I survived the worst night of my parenting life. So far.
With three kids now, I’m certain there will be worse nights ahead. But whatever comes, I know I’ll be just fine…as long as I take things one step at a time. And don’t forget the waterproof picnic blanket.
**No, I did not take them out to breakfast. They ate toast and plain pasta for the next 24 hours.
I clearly believe more time with your expanding family is better, but understand the realities dads face in the United States. Not all of us are afforded the opportunity to take as much time off as we would like. And I won’t even begin to discuss parental leave in the United States vs. the rest of the world today.
Whether you take a little bit of time or a lot of time, there is one constant truth: paternity leave is effing hard!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s happy and wonderful and incredible, too. But it’s hard.
Let me count the ways:
Sleep. As in, the thing you used to get, but don’t get any more. Even the BEST sleeping babies max out at 3-4 hour stretches of shut-eye.
Stains. You have them on all your clothing. And on your bed. You aren’t sure what caused the stain, who it came out of, or how long it’s been there.
Changing an explosive diaper at 4am…your idea of a good time? Not mine.
The crying. Soon, you will learn the difference between your baby’s cries. There are different types of crying for hunger and tired and those blow-out diapers.
Hosting. Everyone you know wants to visit the baby. This is a blessing! I’m in no way complaining about that. But I will say that preparing for a bris (Jewish circumcision ceremony) in our home eight days after having a baby, was akin to competing on American Ninja Warrior for a week straight. Remember, Momma Bear is devoted to the baby. Basically everything else is on you.
Other Kids. Keeping our two older kids on somewhat of a normal schedule (eating, sleeping, daycare, bathing) when you haven’t slept, are covered in stains, etc., is a massive challenge. And if they have a school presentation or project? Heaven help you…
Hunter and Gatherer. You, Big Poppa (and other non-birthing parent), are the one responsible for just about everything outside of the newborn. With our daughter, I spent most of my paternity leave running between the grocery store, Home Depot, and Target. Thankfully, advances in online shopping and delivery have reduced SOME of the back-and-forth, but not all of it. Keep in mind that Momma Bear and Baby Bear just went through perhaps the most physically traumatic natural event of all time. You have to take care of them.
House Work. One of the benefits of being home all day for a period of time is the ability to cross house projects off your master to-do list. This is a perfect time to do these things, as it will definitely make Momma Bear happier when you go back to work, but there is definitely guilt. Every moment you spend away from the baby is not fun. Even if you are doing things to benefit your family.
Paternity leave is not a vacation. It’s work. A LOT of work. It should be work. You had a damn baby!
And you are the right man to handle the challenges. Just make sure you get enough baby snuggles.
People fester in anger and shy away from authentic connections. It almost feels like human nature.
But as parents, we get to set the tone for how our kids interact with the world.
We ask them probing questions to understand what happened to them at school, how they are feeling, and what they are dreaming about. In order for us to guide them, nurture them, care for them, we need to have real talk with our kids.
“How was your day?” just doesn’t cut it. You have to ask them specific questions to get specific answers.
“What was the funniest thing that happened today?” “Who was your silliest friend today?” “If you could be anything when you grow up, what would it be?”
These engaging questions get kids, even young ones, to think analytically about their experiences, tell stories, and then build their future. These are conversation starters that are vital to understanding your kids.
Perhaps the biggest things that go unsaid are related to love.
The Best Mom and I decided that our kids would always know that we love them unconditionally. And, in our family, it would be frequently and explicitly stated.
Every single day, we ask them the same question, and they respond in turn:
“How much do Mommy and Daddy love you?”
“All the love!”
As vast an amount as they can imagine, we love them that much.
When we are proud of them, we love them all the love. When we are angry or frustrated with them, we love them all the love. At their highest high and lowest low, we love them all the love.
Everyday, we hug them, kiss them, LOVE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM. And take nothing for granted. We may THINK they know and understand how much we care for them, but we don’t really know.
Our goal is to create an environment of love and support in our family. A safe zone where they can grow and explore, knowing we will always have their back.
There will never be a day that goes by where our kids have any doubt how we feel about them. And they are part of it, just by answering one simple question.