Dad Post: Whining

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Finn has caught wind of what parents dread. It starts with “I wanna” and quickly escalates to “listen to me” (something I say) to shouting, whining, and recently just crying. I can deal with the whining: “no” “no” and “no” seem to get my point across pretty well, as well as diversion tactics or hunting for the real root of the problem (ie: he’s hungry). The crying though?

I shut down.

My empathy and attempts at making him happy, or more accurately forget about his issue, drops. There must be something about it, the fake tears, the howling, making a scene, is all part of something I don’t want a part of. This then employes my favorite defense against whining: walking away. Won’t come in the gate to our building? Fine, I’ll walk in and close the door behind me. Crying about having to eat pancakes instead of waffles? Heat into the kitchen. Can’t get a truck out of timeout? Start reading in the living room. You get the idea. Public places are harder, more so now because god forbid you leave your child crying the chip aisle while you wait patiently around the endcap. Tears are kryptonite to my wife during the day time (night time is a different story) and she [sometimes] finds herself getting dragged in. I must be differently wired – a gate shuts, I’m closed, come again. Real tears, sure, I’ll get in line to kiss a booboo or two. The over-characterized “waaaaaaahhhhhhh?” I just can’t deal.

He may have picked up some of this in school, but with their hands full there, I know for a fact they don’t put up with it either. It’s all a test, he’s a shark looking for weakness. I’ll admit, sometimes he finds flesh.

Dad Post: Yelling At Kids

I’ve got to put this out there right off the bat: I’m a yeller. I come from a family of yellers. Getting a couple of us in a room for ten minutes will be proof positive enough for anyone’s definition of yelling. It’s what we do. Lis doesn’t. Lis’ family doesn’t. Her being around my family for a while can be jarring, it’s taxing for me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who wasn’t brought up in the cacophony. Now we have Finn – let me clarify, Finn as a toddler.

As anyone with a toddler can attest, it’s hard NOT to yell at them. From throwing a seemingly random fit, sudden aversions to food previously loved, to bullheadedness for the sake of being stubborn – it’s a raging ocean of emotions. Then they hug you and say they love you and it’s all better, but it’s in that between space where you’ve got to get your point across – which becomes a rope bridge across a chasm of bubbling frustration.

For me, it’s a real struggle not to flip the shout-switch and go right into it. I’m bigger, I’m louder, and you are going to listen to me. Even if my child was a primate, in reflective clam I know that approach doesn’t work. I’m trying, desperately, to keep even tones to repeat myself and make my point clear. It’s not always easy and I fail at doing so. It comes back at me, quickly too, when I drop the shield. Sometimes I parry – breathe, repeat myself and we motion though it. Other times, the verbal gloves come off – I raise my voice, he raises his, and the train barrels down the track and away we go. Granted, I know yelling doesn’t change anything, and stokes his passionate toddler reluctance, but sometimes, sometimes I’ve got to let it out. Usually it ends up with me storming off or walking away or him in time out, but sorrys are parsed and the bulls put their horns away.

I’ve got to get better at holding back, it isn’t fair to him to have a guardian, companion, caretaker, fire a shout-fest across his ever confusing world. He’s at an age where he’s putting the pieces together and we’ve got the help him find the right placement to his puzzle. I don’t want him to think dads yell when you are bad, or don’t listen; I’d rather be a compassionate understanding, stoic example. I’m the adult, I’m the example.

Thankfully, each day comes as a way for me to handle it better than yesterday, each bedtime becomes a time of quiet self-reflection – allowing me to evaluate myself. Try harder tomorrow, he’ll forgive you.

Dad Post: This side of failure

I had all intentions of writing a post on beer tonight. I pulled out the original house beer (wild) did from when I was still living in limbo at my mom’s house after we moved back from Maine and version two which has sat for about a year and a half. I took notes, ratings the nine. I did all of this to try to take my mind off my Dr. Jekyll of child and as I sat thinking about what I could say my mind was clouded, a dark storm thunder head, by my wryly son.

The past couple of weeks, he’s been pushing my buttons worse than ever and I’ve put pressure on him to “improve” (ie, no iPad at the table, less sass, etc). That is until Friday when the boat was pushed from the harbor to the murky churning seas of toddler anger. The long and short of it is he’s very much like me – short-tempered, bull-headed, and unwavering will – put two of us in a room and toys will get tossed, tears will be shed, and voices will reach at the very edges of vocal rage. Thursday, he’s sick, needs attention snuggles me all day, doesn’t want me out of arm’s reach. Friday I go to work and we’ve already clocked one time out for hitting. Not ten minutes after I walk through the door he’s in it again. As we move through the weekend it becomes a battle zone where my wife – who had never been at the receiving end of Finn’s rage – found herself at the brink as well. Sunday was spent at Gary’s for a short visit with our return home devolving into a new timeout format (understandably difficult), a couple of hours working to cool heads, and Finn playing in his room by himself for the rest of the evening.

I say all of this not to complain to but to show. Before this weekend I felt we were doing everything right. Finn is (was?) a dream son: fantastically behaved, sweet, and while an instigator – he knew other’s limits (as well as his own). But now, sitting in bed writing this – I feel like I’ve lost. Our relationship crumbled, I feel like I’ve not only failed as a dad, but Finn, myself and it all.

I can only hope this is a spell due to being sick, or turning three in a month, or I’m not sure – to be honest, but I’ve got to hope. I can only hope that he’ll wake up not being a terror. Not pushing my face while putting on jammies or crying about which car seat he’s in or scratching my arms when he’s not listening – I don’t know where it all came in. It’s like a flood and we’re drowning. I soldiered on through the hour of failed 4-min timeouts and felt he was finally getting it, thought that it was sinking in the more we told him he had to play in his room, ate up all his dinner, unaided, and bathtime was a breeze (which is unusual) but when he accidentally poked my face when I put on his jammies and he kept doing it while laughing and then stopping to only pick up a toy to then bang it into my glasses I couldn’t take it anymore. Rudolph went flying.

He went to sleep in a blink, so maybe there will be light. More days ahead and a calmer head must prevail.

Beer next time, cheers.

An Open Letter To Other Parents – No Toys At The Park

Let’s get the simple idea out-of-the-way: Stop bringing the God damn toys to the playground.

With that done let me go into detail on the ‘why.’ See, we have children, lovely little people who are learning all the time, and sure it would be nice for all kids to know how to share when they were born. Truth being, my kid (at the time of writing) is not even two yet and does comprehend why he cannot edge his way into your kid’s space until your nervous five year old hands over the tractor in his sticky hands. This doesn’t teach him anything, sure my son will repeat “please” in his cutest voice knowing you – the parent (or nanny) – will hand it over. Then comes the grip. He’s young still, I know – and some concepts he grasps better than others, and sharing is not his power suit. Your kid wants to bring a toy? I understand more than you know – I’ve had to pry an ambulance from my son’s shocking capable grip – because: I don’t want to bring toys to the park. Because there might be younger kids there that haven’t learned to ask or share or *gasp* bullies who snatch up wind-up trucks for fun.

Just leave the toys at home and let the kids run around, find sticks, play on the swings on their own. Please.

(one caveat: if you child can handle the patience it takes, a ball is okay.)

Why I’m A Bad Father

You start at zero, basically. For those old enough to either have children or really appreciate what it’s like to have them you understand. No one really knows what the hell they are doing, and if they say they do – they are lying. I’ve felt like running down a too-steep hill – that clomping almost-falling barely catching yourself kind of way – for the first year. Just when you feel like you have a remote semblance of understanding, a new milestone is reached and the proverbial wrench comes wading in.
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Thing is, I’m not a terribly spectacular dad. We don’t do flash cards, or spend an hour here or there hammering lessons on what color a horse is versus a zebra. I don’t push him to speak to me, and usually find myself mumbling whatever nonsense back to him. We speak in fart noises and “mab mab mab”s. Fun cut with the danger of bodily harm is routine.

But I do care for my son. I watch what he eats. I make sure he’s as safe as possible while still being adventitious. We go on walks, and allow him to find his own fun at the park. We learn how to pick up after ourselves, and how to treat animals. I like to have fun and play, but also drive a hard-line when it comes to doing things he shouldn’t (stay out of the GD cat water). So while I’m not force feeding him lessons on the growth patterns of butterflies, or hung up on his inability to speak, we find and work out other ways to progress. He’s walking and running and playing on his own, puts things away when he’s done, likes to read (so much as he can), in a class with kids twice his age, and loves to watch out the windows.

And look, I’m an okay person. Not super great, but I don’t want him to think my slouching mediocrity is a life goal. Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I’d rather instill some kind appetite for success. It’s never interested me, and I’ve been horribly lucky on not becoming a slug – but I’m more of a remora. Gliding along not causing too much a stir and living off the hard work of others. Those who I attach myself to don’t mind me, so I skirt along. Maybe that is why I feel like I’m so hard on him, or why I want him to so independent. Because when you couple that I feel like I’ve not done anything to stake my claim and my daily fear of passing on my flooded pessimism, ADHD, mild depression – it’s hard not worry. I want him to be better.

Maybe I’m a ‘Bad Father.’ I always go to sleep wondering how I can do better. I’m bad at it sure, but as with everything – it takes time to get good. If you’re a dad reading this, know that you are bad too, everyone is – just learn from your mistakes and lament on your pitfalls. Make things right, be honest.

Maybe by the time he’s tucking me into bed I will master it.

2012 – A Year in Review

I almost inexplicably hate review shows about the ‘previous year,’ although I do love year-review for albums. That’s really it. Music is kind of the only thing deserving of getting reviewed in reflection on an annual basis. Maybe top internet searches just to give perspective. But this isn’t like those, I’m not rating my year, I’m simply laying it out like a newly washed rug and taking a step back to see how it fits in the room.

Finn’s Birth

This may not have been the start of the year, but it’s hard to bookend a year without talking about the 28# baby in the room. He was born in February, pulled from the clutches of Lis’s interior on the 15th. We spent three days building up, then Lis got sliced open, I saw a tiny human being yanked through a hole in my wife’s stomach and got to tell the sex of said tiny human. I cut the cord too. I listened to the placenta being ram-fisted with a gut push like the world’s worst fart.  I held him before Lis’s arms were released from the crucifix-like spread of the operating table. Everyone says it’s a super happy moment, and part of it was, but I wasn’t sure if I was only suppressing my fear of now having this responsibly and feigning overjoy or if I was actually elated. Sleep deprivation, emotional roller-coasters, over caffeinated, fear, happiness,  shock, joy, horror – all played their part in making me feel the most disconnected from myself than I had ever felt in my life.

People say that was the easy part – thus far, it’s been the hardest.

Adding Another

It may sound strange – but, emotionally, Finn didn’t feel like a part of our lives until about two or three weeks after getting home from the hospital. Having family visiting was fantastic, but after plowing through the most stressful, beautiful, horrible, wonderful thing in your life the last thing you want is to ask your mother if she wants some more tea. I am glad Lis was off as long as she was. Sharing the load of diapers, bottles, and emotional weight made the transition to my solo tour that much easier.

I still snap awake from work or reading to the mysterious cries from the next room – oh right, I’m a dad.

Weddings Suck

Let me be clear, I like going to them. It’s like prom but the older people tell much dirtier jokes and the alcohol consumption is much more explicit. Lis and I held our reception more than half a year after getting wed. We had it at SPG. Our thought was great food, very small group, and little hassle. Oh whoa, how those aspirations of the uneducated in such a space are placed in the mire; of rude in-laws, of pushing family, of a tired baby, of unforeseen havoc in the most obnoxious sense. All I wanted was to eat some lobster rolls, show off my baby, shake some hands, and relax. Last time we will ever attempt something like that.

Short Trips

The fancy food show in DC. A few days in Chicago. A weekend here or there in Boston. A drive up the coast. A hike up a local Mountain. A visit to crashing ocean waves. A visit with family. A holiday. Funerals in Chicagoland. This year was like a roll of film from a long vacation. Snapshots of finally really enjoying a new state and enjoying our baby. We traveled a lot, we were on the move a lot, crossing half the nation via car, flying, being inundated with family and just getting round.

Brewing Along

2012 was sort of getting to a place where I could be comfortable with brewing. It will slowly tilt from obsessive hobby to zealous unstoppable venture in no time flat. Resolutions aren’t quite my bag but I made an exception – I’m going to take this much more seriously. I can keep it fun, but let’s try to get something more out of it. Many homebrewers are complacent, this one is ready to go. Spreadsheet updated, recipes slotted, gobs of malt ordered, yeast lined up. From finding my way to building a ‘house brew,’ this will be a touchstone year for my beer.

Breathing in

This past year, I could have been truly living life. Maybe that is the underlying theme to my year  – breathing it all in, from ocean air to hop aromas to ripe diapers.

Happy New Year.

Daddy Reflection – Dec

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Being around my son all day it’s easy to lose sight of what he actually is. He’s a little person. A living, thinking, feeling person just waiting to grow up. What is hard to ignore is the idea that everything I do, the “don’t touch that”s, the shoveling of yogurt into his mouth (he loves it), the times he plays alone, and the times we spend together all add up into this thing. This child, then a teenager and by then it’s well past over

Finn could be a senator some day, or just some guy you pass in the amusement park scooping invisible trash into his dustpan, but he’s growing up. I lose sight sometimes that he’s learning, he’s watching, making sense of his world. I’ve got to be that guiding hand,  we’ve got to be that.

Maybe this is the crushing responsibility everyone warns you about.

 

Busy days

When you list what I do in a usual day it’s almost never a full sentence. Took a walk. Saw an eagle. Hell, even a day like today – where Finn and I barely had downtime, it’s crunched down into a five second explanation. After driving Lis to work, we had a snack then a nap, went to tumble class, filled the CO2 tank, Finn ate lunch and I drank fancy beer and we both ate Japanese for Lunch.

It’s strange when you start to mark your days in snips, sectioning them out in pieces that are tiny hurdles easily making them passable, your days are dumped – like opening doors of a spillway, seconds flood out of existence. When minutes become a ticker, when it’s just a quarter of an hour till the next bottle, when it’s nearly time for bath, life goes by. It’s not a flash of happenings, thing happen at regular pace – it’s the world at large going by and you are stuck on your knees holding your child’s hand as he reaches for the fleck of cardboard scraped off the cat scratcher.

I can’t put the blame on my son. I’m getting older each day, and somehow hours in a day are just never enough anymore. We stop and enjoy the view on our walks often, nearly every single day.

I’ve spent time watching sunsets with Finn, sitting with him as we stare across the rolling hills of western Maine to the far mountains that blot the horizon. Just about everyday I fall in love with this place again. But there isn’t enough time anymore. I don’t hold a powerful job either, or sip coffee while in a suit, or rush around a café (anymore). Sure, I notice the sun being hurled across the sky, but there is no slowing it down.

Life is busy, and even at my age I’m finding myself chasing the clock.

Be Proud

I’ve spent most of the last six months telling myself in bite-sized lies about how I’ve chunkd up my day; how I don’t have time to write here, how I can’t slate time to do work or why I’m not playing with my son on the floor during his time awake. Why should he feel it’s normal for an adult to sit hunch-backed watching cat videos. I’ve been distracted, feeling sort of lost in a sea of new things and strange timelines that I don’t have control over. Something I kept asking is if Finn, my son, would be proud of me each day of the things I’ve done – as menial as writing a blog about a new dairy-free chocolate sauce can be.

Sure, I said. He’d be proud of the “hard work” done by my half-assed parenting from the chair leering from other side of the room as he bangs into things and I pretend to tell myself I’m doing work while I surf Reddit.

I’m going nowhere doing this crap. He’s going to end up going to school and I’ll be stuck behind doing an ‘okay’ job for my overly nice boss stationed in Chicago. Enough is enough, it’s no longer time to shift papers and touch on things or only write when I get the incline to do so. This is my god damn life line, something I keep saying that I’ve always wanted to do and I’m stuck back in the masses shrugging all the way wondering “what now.”

I’m tired of “just enough.”

Nearly 4 Months

Sometimes the weekends feel like the work week I’ve been missing out on. Family can  be a bit of a weight and Lis has a knack for always squeezing in one more adventure each and every single weekend. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

We go great places, do things that I really love to do (like drink really good beer). Maybe long weekends are just that: long. Between the strong armed grandmother, a tad over-doing it on Saturday, our bumbling slating of time – I need some downtime. Luckily, Finn has stopped shouting for nearly no reason and has gone back to his normal happy-go-lucky self again. He is chewing up more of my time everyday, sleeping a lot less, but I’m still getting ‘enough’ done for SPG to make me feel like I’m getting enough done.

I’m pushing 200lbs and I’m like a 16-year-old girl looking at pictures of myself and only seeing a belly. I need to get outside more, I cannot wait to get a carrier for the bike, thinking of one of those rear hauler types – that way I can carry diapers, snacks, and more if need be. I’m getting gray patches of hair too, age is a wonderful thing.

Beer will be brewed when the 4lbs of hops I ordered arrives, four types I have zero previous knowledge of but all fit into the same flavor profile I love. Maybe some SMaSH (single malt and single hop) beers are in order to hone in on these flavor profiles. I plan on doing an over-due overhaul of this site as well as some more beer posts – maybe reviews or something. I need to write more and beer seems like my thing right now – I’ll tuck them away so this doesn’t become yet another ‘review’ site; which I’d like to avoid in general.