Last night I was up until the early hours of the morning trapped in an anticipation fueled cycle of checking the weather app on my phone and stepping out onto the back porch to monitor the various forms of winter precipitation as they fell from the sky.
Is snow a body of water? Social media loves pictures of feet next to bodies of water.
My days are numbered
Even now in my thirties I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of a snow day. I guess it should be prefaced that I am a born and raised Georgian and in Georgia, snow is magic. When I was a kid, snow in Atlanta was like the universe just giving you an extra day.
A free day. A magic 24 hour period inserted between, “Oh crap, I haven’t even started that book report yet” and “Please turn in your book reports.” It meant your parents stayed home from work and played outside with you, it meant supplementing your not so winter wardrobe with bread bags on your feet and 3 pairs of socks because you had to wear tennis shoes in the snow, it meant hot chocolate and wet gloves hanging by the fire. Snow days in Georgia are made of happy even when your mom makes you wear a pair of tube socks for gloves with sandwich baggies on top because why would you need to own ski gloves down south? Snow days meant rummaging through the basement looking for anything that could be turned into a sled and playing until your hands were numb, your cheeks were red and you collapsed into the house one big freezing, soaking, pile of exhausted joy at the end of the day.
We’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin
Remember that time that our kids went to school? I think it was called 2013 and it was neat. I admit I went a bit overboard on the whole waxing poetic about the wonder of snow up there because the truth is, when a snow day overstays its welcome, the harsh reality sets in. This is the part when you see what you are really made of, when the loving family dynamic gets put to the ultimate test. Cabin Fever.
I admit using a pic from The Shining is a bit too obvious but some things are obvious because they are right.
It starts out innocent enough; a board game, an extra snack, a glass of wine or beer a bit earlier in the day than usual, a sarcastic remark to your spouse, a snap at your kid for making a mess. We don’t catch any of the warning signs because we don’t know how long we will be here. Somewhere along the way the sanity rope feels like it is starting to fray a bit and the local weather man showing the snow in his area becomes some bizarre backdrop back drop to your family’s de-evolution.
In what feels like an instant you are turning a blind eye to your kid eating a bowl of “skittles cereal” and you are dreaming about that Amazon droid helicopter thing delivering a case of booze to your frozen snowy doorstep. You become a bit numb to what your kids are up to as long as they keep it down and don’t get blood on anything as you settle into your own little wi-fi fueled haze. Cycling through social media, weather apps, and random google searches, you are suddenly curious if the U.S. just invented slopestyle to pad our Olympic stats. Eventually you start to wonder how long you have been sitting there. When did I take a shower last? Why are my children’s collective worldly possessions all in the living room? Did I just eat this entire can of Pringles? How long have I been wearing these pajama pants? Is it still snowing? No school again? What day is it? What year is it? Netflix is the only one in this house that truly understands me. How many lunches have we had today? Is there anything left my kids haven’t fought about?
Sound familiar? You start organizing games like the nap game and the prize is whichever kid falls asleep first doesn’t get a spanking. You gather the family around the table to work on a 1000 piece argument. You start wondering if you should send the internet a Valentine’s day card. You try to make the best of it by thinking of all of the great family memories the snow storm has provided but get interrupted because now that your kids have not played with every single toy that they have, they have resorted to taking breaks from fighting and crying to climb on stuff and jump off of furniture and you are pretty sure you need to find an ACE bandage so you can tie them up with it and MAKE IT STOP.
RIP Snowman, gunned down by the glorious thaw.
Being cooped up for days on end can push us right to that edge but somehow we hold on. Sibling rivalry wears itself out and sleep gives us the short respite we so desperately need. The thaw is coming and we just have to hang on and one day we will look back and only see the happy. When you are in the moment though, cabin fever is completely weak.
Parenting is a pretty amazing adventure. I have been a dad for almost 6 years now and somewhere along the trail of Cheerios, runny noses, and snuggle sandwiches I think I have managed to learn a few things. I have a friend that is preparing to become a father. He asked me, the other day, if I had any advice. This is what I told him:
A sleeping baby that is starting to wake up is like an eclipse. Whatever you do, do not look directly at it.
At some point you will be taking a shirt off your toddler and it will get stuck around their head because you forgot to unbutton the back. For a split second you will consider yanking it the rest of the way. You won’t because you aren’t a monster but you will question your value as a human being for…
I wrote this when my youngest turned one. Today she turns three and my heart swells with love for her. She is like if you gave a firecracker pigtails and all you wanted to do was hug it. Happy birthday little one.
She was just a smidge bigger than a bag of sugar the first time I held her. I took her in my arms peered out the hospital window and showed her the sun rising above the Georgia pines. It was her very first sunrise on her very first day. The 364 days since then have been full of other firsts. Not just for her, but for her parents and her sister as well. We have grown as a family and gelled as a team. In many ways she is still the boss of this household with all of her “I need to eat and can’t feed myself” and “Change my diaper!” demands that refuse to neatly reside on the outsides of our sleep schedule. I told someone once that the predominant feeling when I became a dad was more. After becoming a father you…
My kids can go from adorable and well-behaved to faking an injury in the speed of being told no. Injuries have always been spotlight grabbers and kids are smart. We go through band aids like paper towels because let’s be honest, band aids are just princess stickers that come with sympathy and attention. Could there be anything better to have for a toddler. So yeah, I recognize that when I hear, “I NEED A BAND AID” it rarely is warranted and often the location of said boo-boo can mysteriously relocate in the time it takes to get the wrapper off of the sticker band-aid. That’s because keeping tabs on the locale of imaginary injuries can be a tough job.
There is a real benefit to those little bumps and bruises though, both real and imaginary ones. It gives me a chance to kiss something and make it better. Even though my lips have no magical healing abilities, as long as I am dad and they are little, kisses get to be better than medicine because they make everything feel better. There is definitely some magic in that. When we grow up tears usually have so much stress fueling them that kisses and hugs seem to lose their luster. I try to remember how lucky I am to be able to provide the kind of comfort that a parent gives their child and though some level of that will always remain, this is the time that it is really special. For example, go find an adult that is crying and start to tickle them and see what happens. One of the greatest things about being a parent is being able to make everything better in their eyes even on days that you can’t seem to get anything right in yours. Seeing a tiny little smile begin to blossom out of a face puddle of tears is totally sweet.
There Will Be Tears
I don’t want crust on my sandwich!
Speaking of face puddles, toddlers are crazy good at crying. In their defense, if I was just beginning to learn and understand that I was a part of a whole big world instead of the whole big world being a part of me I may get a bit verklempt as well. I’m not suggesting that our little one isn’t still the boss of us in a lot of ways but she is starting to figure out that the whole baby thing where the world and everyone in it revolved around her was only temporary. That is probably a tough pill to swallow and for the most part she is handling that kind of life changing realization rather gracefully but every now and then the reality slaps her cold in the face and she isn’t in the mood to deal with it.
She doesn’t know how to do a ton of stuff yet but for as far back as she can remember tears got results. Granted back then she was crying because she needed a clean diaper and now the tears may be because butterflies won’t talk to her or her mean parents won’t let her mix Skittles with Cheerios and milk for breakfast. When she was a baby the only reasons her cries weren’t tended to immediately was If they went unheard. Well, Captain Lung Capacity has no struggle with upping the volume and if that doesn’t work, then the real exasperation begins to set in. I’ve even had her suddenly stop mid sob to look up at me and say, “DADDY, I’M CRYING!” Like anyone in our house or on our street didn’t hear her. There should be a game show where parents of toddlers have to guess if the cries of a 2-year-old are the result of an appendage stuck in a piece of running farm machinery or if they got an orange Popsicle when they wanted a red one.
Toddler-hood is the gateway into a brave new world and I need to remind myself that it isn’t all roses and sunshine for them either. I should also keep in mind that If I am going to call them a jerk under my breath I had better make sure it is way under my breath because the lady at the grocery store doesn’t understand but is happy to offer her parenting critique. Like apparently suggesting that your kid can use the tears streaming down her face to wash down the two more bites of carrots (that basically make up 79% of her entire lunch) you are begging her to eat is not good form.
I am lucky that these times are less and less frequent and love them no matter what causes the crying but when it is because they aren’t allowed to paint the TV, it is totally weak.
I bet the best parts of writing a book are finishing it and deciding on the title. The problem with finishing it is that it takes a bunch of work. Deciding on a title doesn’t take near the time commitment or talent that writing a whole book takes. I don’t know if I will ever actually write a book but these are some of my title ideas of I ever get off the schnide and make it happen.
Waiting in the Car While My Wife Runs Into the Store and Other Ways Parenthood has Increased My Carbon Footprint
72 Band-aids and Plenty of Apple Juice, A Parent Survival Kit
Parenting With Fruit Snacks (Little Bags of Shut the Hell Up)
Honey, the Kids are Finally Asleep, We can Finally Break Out the Good Snacks
Toddlers with Sharpies and Other Reasons I Should Have Become a Hostage Negotiator
Told My Kid to Shut Their Cry Hole and Other Reasons I May Not Get That Parent of the Year Trophy
Not Letting Them Put Princess High Heels on the Dog and 2,346 Other Ways I Ruin My Kid’s Lives
37th Time Is A Charm: Tips On Putting Your Toddler To Bed and Other Parenting Pearls of Wisdom
Cutting The Dog’s Hair is Never an Accident, Our Children Are Liars
I love my kids and I love being a dad; choosing to laugh instead of cry at some of the ways parenthood challenges you has been a good decision for me. If any real life writers out there need a poorly thought out title that is likely a run-on sentence hit me up.
I hope everyone has had a good summer and I appreciate folks still stopping by to read even when it has been ages since I have written anything. I have done a few cool things though this summer and wanted to share one of them. Watch all the way to the end to see the big pay off, definitely sweet.
Hey guys, come closer. I have a little something to tell you that could very well change your world. Are you in a relationship with someone special and have a birthday or anniversary coming up? Are you dreading that moment when you know you need to come up with a heart-felt message to put inside of the card and not just underline a few words and write “I love you” at the end? Could she tell last time based on the penmanship that you wrote your words of love and adoration while you were sitting at a red light?
Well don’t worry about that any longer because I have an idea that is going to melt hearts and make you look like Captain Romance.
The next time you are looking for a card and you find one that you like, keep looking until you find another one that you like. Find something with a really sweet romantic message. Now take those cards to the counter and buy both of them. Open the card that you have decided to give your sweetheart and write the message from the other card into the card you are giving her. BOOM! CASANOVA.
Give her the card and wait for tears of happiness.
My wife and I recently celebrated 12 years of marriage. I know to some that is a long time and to others we are still relatively new at this. Here is the thing though, I think 12 calendar years is probably equivalent to at least 20-25 IKEA years. What I mean is that this 12 year accomplishment deserves your applause because during that time we probably made at least 20 trips to IKEA. IKEA is like the Swedish Wal-Mart where healthy loving relationships go to die.
Tools? We don’t need no stinking tools!
I guess one of the good things about IKEA is that the golf pencil and little paper tape measure are free, especially since the marriage counseling is going to be so expensive. I mean, if they would let you take a plate of those delicious horse meat meatballs into the showroom I would go there by myself on a Saturday just to watch couples melt down in public. I am pretty sure that any husband can agree that the 4 words that can strike fear into even the bravest of souls when spoken in an IKEA are “what do you think?’ WHAT DO I THINK?? EJECT, EJECT, SAVE YOURSELVES I’M DEAD ALREADY. What I think is that after 20 seconds in that place we are all drunk on sleek design and functionality and that intoxication will soon wear off when we realize no number of multi-tool organizational shelving units will make the inside of our house look like the showroom there. Of course that isn’t what I said. What I said was, I think it is great, I think everything in here is great. I think if we get this dining room desk /storage unit with hidden drawers and special built-in lights that take light bulbs that cannot be purchased anywhere else on the planet it will probably solve most of our problems. Que meltdown.
At IKEA this is like finding Super Mario’s secret warp zone to world 8-1.
Those Swedes think of everything though, because it is hard to look all pissed when you are storming off pushing a cart with 4 swivel wheels and you have to Tokyo drift around the corner to avoid knocking over a display of 4000 glass tea light holders. The also know that any little argument can easily fade away when you turn the corner and both marvel at the 200 square foot living space. Suddenly you want to trade your big house in the suburbs for a broom closet because how cool is all of this stuff?
I need to be honest though, while it is possible that IKEA can present some unique relationship challenges, they do have some cool stuff; no Viking helmets but cool stuff none the less. We have some of their cool stuff in our house and most of the time the joy of new furniture is enough to quell the in store disputes and bring everyone back to a happy place before the put together meltdown occurs.
I think we all know about the put together meltdown. I am a pretty handy guy I fix stuff and know my way around a tool box but that really doesn’t matter when it comes to Swedish engineering. There is no piece of IKEA furniture in our house that wasn’t halfway assembled then taken apart and reassembled because I had something upside down or backwards or inside out. You would think that the only problem with that would be the increased amount of time to complete the build and the addition of a few 4 letter words to your kid’s vocabulary but the real problem is this:
Once she learned the new curse words it was time to let her take over.
Furniture from IKEA is not designed to be taken apart and put back together. With the re-screwing or allen wrenching or whatever you call it of each bolt with that multi-tool the structural integrity is compromised. So basically after a 6 pack of beer, 2 cut knuckles, a kid wondering what that word meant and a bucket of tears (mine not there’s) you wind up with a bedside table that is capable of holding an alarm clock and a pencil and anything heavier than that causes the legs to wobble.
They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I think that this can be applied to relationships for sure. Arguing in IKEA can be pretty weak but getting home and lounging on your new futon/file cabinet/spice rack is totally sweet.
What do you mean I can’t go to my sister’s school performance dressed like this?
I have often joked that if Hollywood made a movie about my life, the actor that would play me would be whoever is best at walking around the house turning off lights and forgetting to put a new trash bag in the can. It’s funny how paying an electric bill can turn you into your own father. I used to always wonder what the big deal was during the summer when he would yell at us to SHUT THE DOOR! Now any time a door is open for more than 4 seconds it just looks like a $10 bill waving goodbye. So I get it dad. It took me a while but I totally get it.
I also get that sometimes you need to let your kid help with a home repair project even if all you let them do is hold the flashlight and sigh when the space in the cabinet under the sink goes dim right as you get a grip on the part of the disposal you were working on just to see your kid shining the flashlight into their mouth to see if it will come out of their ears and nose. Sometimes being a dad means you have to take your daughter into a public bathroom and answer questions about the urinal or suck it up and smile while you fork over $18 for a bag of popcorn at the circus. Other times being a dad means you have to tell them no when they want to put lip stick on the dog or bring the fish with us to the grocery store, “can’t we just put them in a bag like when we brought them home from the pet store?”
For me, being a dad of daughters means that sometimes I have to ease out of my comfort zone and play “bad cop” even when they act like not letting them push the button on something just ruined their entire life. It also means helping find missing shoes and honing my negotiation skills trying to talk my little one into putting down the magic marker. It can be about explaining why you can’t just put down a Popsicle on the table because climbing onto the kitchen counter requires both hands and it can be about threatening to turn the car around and drive home when you are 4 hours into a drive to Disney World and back seat sibling rivalry has reached an apex.
Being a dad can be about cleaning up messes and saying no and checking prices of diapers on Amazon instead of perusing watercraft on boattrader.com. Fatherhood can include all kinds of stuff that I could deem “weak” but guess what? Those kind of problems are like hardly having enough room on your bedroom floor to set up the GI Joe Aircraft carrier. They pale in comparison and are blown away by the awesomeness of fatherhood. The sweet always outweighs the weak. The good guys always win.
Being a dad means you get to freak your wife out with stuff like this.
You see, being a dad means getting to carry 40 lbs of unadulterated happiness on your shoulders while you feel her ice cream cone drip on your head. It means seeing the magic that only lives inside of a Christmas morning smile. It means getting to be a hero, prince charming, and the guy that can make everything good again.
I’ve been a dad for 7 years and although I didn’t know it when I was a kid hoping to be a baseball player or an archaeologist (I spelled that on the first try by the way), this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being a dad means seeing tears dry when you kiss a boo-boo and standing alone in the street yelling “you’re doing it! you’re doing it all by yourself! keep peddling!” It means putting up a tent in the living room or making a pallet of blankets and watching an ordinary Friday turn into the greatest day ever.
I remember when I was a kid that no matter how bad I messed something up or how hard a task seemed, when dad came to help I knew it was going to work out. Now I get to be that guy. The one that in two little pairs of blue eyes, can do no wrong. I know it may only be in the opinions of my kids but I’ve got to tell you, it feels pretty awesome to be awesome. It can be a lot of work and the return on investment may not always translate on a spreadsheet but when the fruit of your labor is rewarded with smiles and cheers and “I love you daddy’s” there isn’t much this planet has to give that is any better.
I don’t do it right all of the time and agree that being a parent can be the hardest thing in the world sometimes but if I had any advice to share with other dad’s out there it would be to not rush past the pay off. Realize that what you do not only matters but it shapes those little people who call you daddy and has a pretty huge impact on the kind of people that they will become. Don’t let fatherhood feel like nothing but a job. Enjoy the pay-off of your labor. Smile with them, laugh with them, put a flashlight into your own mouth and see if it will shine out of your ears and nose. Recognize in the moment that this is what it is about and don’t rush onto the next. Take the time to make a snuggle sandwich and feel how they have the amazing ability to be the ones that make everything all right with you the same way you do for them. Those moments can heal you just like your kisses on scraped knees. Remember them, enjoy them, there is nothing sweeter.
Sure, go ahead and be the bad guy when you need to but remember, you’re not really going to turn the car around and drive all the way home so let those times be the ones you dwell in the least and then remember to slow down and enjoy the part where someone laughs at all of your jokes and somehow even an average guy like you is capable of magic.
Happy Father’s Day.
What can I say, I’m a pretty lucky guy. Doesn’t get much sweeter than this.