After last week when I blogged about some postural hints for parents from a physical therapist’s perspective (mine), I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback:
“Good tips, thanks!”
“Is that really you in the picture?”
“Got anything else to share with us?”
Well, you’re welcome, sorry that’s not me, and of course I can scrape up a few more pointers. Here goes.
When you’re lifting your child, remember to first get them close to your center of gravity as we discussed. Of equal importance, however, is making sure they are in your “safe zone.” Your safe zone is the area of your body between your chin and your belly button. So if your child is sitting or standing on the floor begging to get into your arms, be sure to kneel down so that your child can climb himself onto your body in the safe zone, instead of you reaching down and lifting your child up to your arms. In the same way, if your child is up on her loft bed and wants to get down for breakfast, do not try to grab her and lower her to you or the floor. A better plan is to ask her to climb down the ladder a few rungs until she is level with your safe zone, and then climb aboard. The likelihood of injury is greatly diminished with this technique, especially when it comes to some action that you might potentially do day after day after day, for years!
Here’s another one. I’ve been guilty of this, have you? I’m trying desperately to get my child to fall asleep in my arms on the sofa. He is fussy and cranky, and I admit that I am fussy and cranky too. All I want is to get this kid to sleep. I’m fantasizing about lying in my own cozy bed. But I’m stuck on the sofa and there’s no end in sight. But wait! He has found his sweet spot in my lap and has miraculously fallen asleep. I slow down my breathing and even reduce my heart rate so as not to wake him up again – I’m that desperate. I stay absolutely frozen in that position that he has chosen for me, but unfortunately it’s very uncomfortable for me. I’m developing a deep ache on one side of my neck, and one of my hands is falling asleep. I try to shut out the pain and discomfort. Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep myself right then and there, only to wake up hours later with more profound aches and pains.
This is not a smart move. Pain is your body’s alarm system. Ignoring the alarms can lead to more permanent changes and chronic pain. Make sure that you are comfortable before your child gets comfortable.
Keep yourself well conditioned. A rule of thumb of 30-60 minutes of exercise for 3-4 times per week is a good one. I personally try to incorporate walking, one of the world’s greatest exercises, into my conditioning regimen. Even though I run 10 miles or so about 4 or 5 times per week, and swim whenever I have the chance, or else ride the bike, I still try and squeeze some walking in. My husband recently gave me a Fitbit for Valentine’s Day, a device worn on your wrist that keeps track of your daily steps and syncs the data to your computer for your review. In order to maximize my step count, I’ve taken to walking around much more. I walk the stroller and baby to the store instead of drive. If I do drive, I try to park a block or two further away than I normally would park. I’ve noticed that my boys are even getting more used to the thought of waling everywhere. Just the other day I planned a visit for us to the in-law’s house on the other side of Los Angeles (26 miles away), and as we headed out the door my middle son asked “Are we walking or driving?” I think this is a good thing.
If you’re not a walker, at least try to sit less during the day. Sitting wreaks havoc on the spine, especially when done improperly. It’s not a coincidence that most of the occupations that involve lots of sitting (truck drivers, desk workers) also have a high rate of back dysfunction.
As you can see, there’s a lot of information to share. Hopefully I’ve made you at least more aware of some issues that affect you as a parent. Instilling this information in our children at a young age is one of the best things we can do to help them grow up to be healthy smart parents themselves. That is if we ever let them date.
By John Jericiau
At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.
This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)
The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.
For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.
Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.
Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.
When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.
Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.
Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.
Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.
Last night we celebrated our friend’s birthday and enjoyed an evening of fun, frivolity, and meeting new people. Fun and frivolity are always goods, but meeting new people is always a crapshoot. You just never know what you’re going to get.
Well last night we got lucky. We spent almost the entire night with two different lesbian couples. One couple was about 3-4 months away from being ready for the adoption journey. We reminisced about parenting classes, the paperwork, the birthmother letter, and the home study. That seems like ages ago, but I was happy to give my words of caution. Having experienced the loss of a child after 24 hours in my home, I might have a unique perspective on the whole adoption thing. While the end result of my adoption journey was a beautiful healthy baby that is now a really great 6 ½- year old, I still find that I get a pang of worry for those embarking on this endeavor. Hopefully through the stories of my ups and downs, the new parents of today can have a little easier go of it. In some ways little ole me might be a kind of trailblazer.
Just when I’m up on my high horse, I meet the second lesbian couple and realize that I am speaking with true pioneers who took risks in the past that those of us in the current can hardly fathom.
Jane and Mary (not their real names) have been in love for 38 years. Jane had a son from her first marriage to a physically and emotionally abusive husband. The ex-husband is out of the picture, and the son didn’t turn out so well due to the collateral damage of divorce. In fact, although they live in the county next to his, they have no contact with him.
They brought a daughter into this world with the help of a gay friend with premium sperm, a turkey baster of some sort, and a cooperating uterus. Since it was illegal at the time and the place they were living (i.e. the United States of America), they had to suffer through a clandestine pregnancy and birth before presenting their daughter to the world.
They were finally able to consummate their relationship last year with a fabulous wedding attended by 800 of their closest friends. They are supremely proud of their daughter, who is successful in her business and out & proud in her own gay life with her own loving wife who is now pregnant with their first child, a baby girl.
Most of the night was spent learning about the great pains they had to go through in the workplace, in their daughter’s school, and even their own back yard. They remain completely amazed how things have turned around in this country, and how much easier it is to live as an out gay person. Alen and I had to confess that we often forget that we are actually a gay couple, not because sex after children has dwindled to a trickle, but because we perceive so much support from those around us, namely family, friends, and neighbors. We realized after we left the party that we owe our perception (and in most case reality) to all the Janes and Marys of the world who came before us and made today easier for us to survive. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Originally sitting down to write a blog on nature versus nurture, my auto-correct took over and changed nurture to neuter. I decided that this change was appropriate.
We have three sons now, and one might assume that there might possibly be a smidgeon of similarity between at least two of them. After all, two of them spent nearly nine months in the same womb, were exposed to the same foods and the same hormone levels in utero (which some say makes a difference in the outcome of the child), and even had their cord cut by the same two guys (Daddy and Papa, that is.) It’s even possible that they both share the same paternal genetic material, since Daddy and Papa randomly donated the Y chromosome and let nature decide the rest. If you’re asking yourself why we would randomize it, we considered the feelings of our adopted son in our decision. We did not want him to think that the genetic link was so important that we would manipulate the conceptions so that each father would for sure be biologically related to one offspring each. Where would that leave our adopted son? Since there was no chance that our adopted son has a genetic connection to us, we wanted to show him that the parental connection is what matters to us the most, not the genetic one. Granted, it is interesting to see yourself in your son or daughter, whether through physical features or personality characteristics, but personally we could care less about the biological link. Anyway, even to this day, half the people we meet swear that the three boys are mini-Daddy, and the other half have no doubt whatsoever that they see Papa staring back at them when they look in our sons’ eyes. This is despite the fact that our adopted son is African-American, and our other two sons have light or blonde hair, while both fathers have dark hair and are obviously white.
Daddy and Papa often talk about the fact that we see our sons differently than others. For example, we are often taken aback when someone mentions that our oldest son is black. Really? We do everything we can to honor his heritage, we take pride in the fact that we have black friends, and we think he is an incredibly beautiful boy, but the black is often lost on us. We just see our son. And as funny as it might sound, and this might be a function of being at the birth of all three of them, but I actually feel like I personally gave birth to them. Of course I did not feel the physical pain, and I don’t want to minimize the role of the bio mom or our surrogate/friend, but the emotions I felt in the hospital were so great that I felt like I myself willed them through the birth canal.
The fact that we see our sons as homogenous parts of one big happy family, all nurtured in the same way by the same two guys, makes their differences all the more shocking. I won’t name names, because I don’t want one or both of them (although one of them is much more likely) to have a meltdown if or when they finally read this blog later on in their life. But how can one of our sons eat everything you offer him, while the other still to this day refuses a slice of bread? How can one son make friends the minute he walks into a crowd, while the other son treats everyone with trepidation and suspicion? Why will one 6-year old laugh at the top of his lungs when Daddy drops on the floor his just-made model Lego Dinosaur, while the other 6-year old collapses to the floor in the middle of a restaurant when his plain pasta (no sauce, no butter) arrives from the kitchen with a single microscopic drop of marinara sauce on it? Why will one son try (and mostly excel) at every physical activity presented to him, while the other will complain of a side stitch, roll his eyes constantly, and basically state that “humans were not meant to be treated this inhumanely. “
Honestly, I have to give that particular son more credit. He has a heart of gold, and is one of the most caring individuals I know. I love him immensely. And as he heads closer and closer to pre-puberty, he has shown signs of changing and maturing. When he is talking to adults, he finally is looking directly at their chest. He now likes yellow in addition to pink and purple. He recently licked a tangerine slice. Are we fathers doing anything at all differently to bring on this change? Not really. We’re nurturers remember, not manipulators. They are our sons, for better or worse. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. And love love love them.
There was a time when it seemed like everyone that I knew was dying. Probably 15 to 20 years ago, I would panic and cringe every time I heard my home phone ring. I would know well or at least recognize at least one guy every time I looked at the obituaries. The face of AIDS was nearly always the same: the smiling handsome face of a thirty or forty something who leaves behind his mother and his father, his sisters and his brothers, with no mention of wife or kids, let alone partner or lover or significant other. In lieu of flowers, donations could be made to anything BUT an AIDS organization. Writers of these cryptic obituaries had no clue that they were making the cause of death so damn obvious.
To this day I still glance through the obituaries whenever I happen to read the printed version of a local newspaper, searching for a friend or foe. Thankfully, those sightings are few and far between, and I am so very grateful for that. Someone as young as I was back then should never have had to endure over and over again the sadness and the pain of the death of a friend. It has left me with wounds that have only slowly healed over time.
Flash forward to present time, 2014, and now I’m a 52-year old man with three young kids and a husband who is (thankfully) 10 ½ years younger than I am. We have four ageing parents between us, all of who are rushing toward their 80th birthdays, and all of who have their own list of ailments and disabilities. The inevitability of the situation is horrifying, to say the least. It seems like only yesterday when we each suffered through the death of our respective grandparents, and not a day (or two) goes by when I don’t at least think of them, if not long for them. I’m in no hurry to go through that loss again, especially with my parents.
It’s a morbid thought, but death has started to rear its ugly head all around me. I’m stuck in a battlefield now that I’m over 50, and some grenades are landing and exploding in the distance, some are close to me, and without a doubt someday one will land directly on top of me. The distant ones are just constant reminders of the danger. Like when you get the Breaking News email about this actress dying or that singer dying. It announces their age and the cause of death, and you immediately figure out the difference in years between the deceased (them) and the living (you). Unfortunately, that difference in years is getting smaller and smaller.
In the distance are also family members (mostly parents, uncles, etc.) of peers. At my age it seems like many friends are either traveling to a funeral or returning from one. I try to be supportive, partly because I know that I’m going to need their support when the grenade hits closer to home, and partly because I’m afraid and sorry.
Other reminders of the doom are just the near-death experiences as well as the signs of the fragility of health. At this precise moment between the two of us, one of us has a parent in the hospital. One has a cousin in the hospital whose water broke too early in her pregnancy. One of us has a brother with newly diagnosed cancer. One of us has sleep apnea (not really life-threatening but it makes me snore really loud.) The point is that it’s a constant barrage of bad health news that only seems to be intensifying, and I don’t like it. I want it all to stop, but it can’t.
Inescapably, my mind turns finally to my young children. I’d take the grenade for any one of them. In fact, I’d hold it in my mouth if it meant keeping them out of harm’s way. I remember the serious fever my firstborn son had in the first month of his tiny life, and how I begged, I prayed, I wished that no matter what, I would leave this earth before he would. Do not make me suffer through the loss of my children or my husband. I’m sure they’ll all be just fine once I kick the bucket, but if any of them go first, I can’t imagine that I’d ever be the same person.
My sons have started asking me how old I will be when they are my age, because they want to go swimming together and be able to race me across the pool. I matter-of-factly and with a straight face give them the answer (98), but I add that beating me in a race will be the least of their worries. But for now, my sons, just enjoy learning to read and learning to swim. Leave the worrying to Daddy.
It looks like my partying days are over. This weekend my neighbors, who also have a son in my oldest son’s first grade class, celebrated a 40th birthday. We’ve gotten close to them since we carpool to the school with them, they are both runners, and they are just fun awesome people.
We quickly accepted the invite to the surprise party, which was planned as more of an event than a party. A stretch limo would pick us up at our house at 7pm. Five pairs of strangers (to us) would meet at our house just before 7, and I would get some help stocking the limo with the neighbor’s booze that I had stashed in my refrigerator for safe keeping the night before. Beer, vodka, champagne – you name it. I laughed to myself as I thought about the three margaritas I have consumed in the last year, and how I am such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, and my husband only slightly less of a lightweight.
Our neighbor was indeed surprised as we picked her and her husband up at what she thought was just going to be early dinner at a beachfront hotel. Most of us had already begun the celebration with champagne. Surely I can handle a glass of champagne. Immediately I felt the sensation of alcohol coursing through my veins, and almost immediately I saw my husband with a crooked smile across his face. I sensed trouble brewing.
The thirty-minute ride to downtown was half screaming and half getting to know each other, with the requisite disco music blasting in the background. The other partygoers ended up being really really nice people. Almost all the couples had children right around the ages of our three sons, and a number of iPhones were whipped out throughout the night with pictures and videos to share.
The night was somewhat of an A-list club crawl, as the limousine dropped us off and picked us back up from three different hip clubs. The first was Perch, an “elevated resting place” on the 15th floor of a downtown skyscraper. It’s website calls it “a French inspired rooftop bistro that offers unobstructed views of Downtown Los Angeles that makes it feel as though you are floating at the skyline.” Checking IDs at the door, I could swear that I saw the bouncer chuckling to himself as he saw the year of my birth. I put some swagger in my walk as I moved through the door, and everyone headed directly for the bar. Since this place was pretty much a bar on a roof, I chose to gaze at the views as Alen got me something I might like (it was sweet, so I did).
Next we hit Ebanos Crossing, a “revelry of sexiness and culture” where, according to the website, “within our walls you will enjoy an award winning artisanal cocktail program coupled with delectable, vibrant cuisine, where the cultures of the journey are reflected all around you.” It was loud, it was dark, it was crowded, and worst of all it was closed. Yes, closed, but somehow someone in the party had connections and we were let in to a Black Eyed Peas party. Many drinks were ordered, and I knew by this time that I needed to cut myself off at two drinks, and I needed to gently cut my husband off as well. I just needed to find my husband, who at some point simply disappeared from our group of tables. I hit the restroom, and then searched far and wide for him, Will I. Am, or Fergie. I finally found Alen dancing a nondescript dance in the middle of the dance floor with two of Will I. Am’s most voluptuous groupies. I returned to our tables to give him time to work off the alcohol and minimize the hangover that I was sure was going to crush him the next day.
We made a quick swing through The Standard, a boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown LA with a rooftop pool and plenty of eye candy. In my younger days I would sunbathe poolside with friends. Now I was just praying for something to eat, but it was not meant to be, as the limo clock was ticking and we had to be home by 1am.
We arrived in front of my house fifteen minutes early, so we sat in front of my house blasting the music in the limo and having our last celebratory shots. I was imagining my head on my pillow just a few feet away from the limo, where I was being forced to fill and refill my glass. Luckily nobody was noticing me as I dumped my drinks out over and over again, raising my empty glass in the air and singing happy birthday just one more time.
It’s fun to meet new people, especially other parents who have great stories about their family and are very supportive of mine. It’s fun to take a limo around Los Angeles, to places you’d never pick on your own to go. I don’t need the alcohol to have a good time, but I do need better hearing to converse with loud music and more energy to make it past 1am. Oh, and a handful of Advil for my husband.
This week is my middle son’s 6th birthday. For the next four months I will have two 6-year olds in the house until my oldest turns 7 in May, which means the time of year has arrived when I will be explaining to strangers why I have two 6-year olds but they are not twins. I actually start by telling the stranger that they are indeed twins, even though my oldest is African-American and my middle son is the blonde surfer type. Perplexed looks follow.
I have just started to notice a distinct change in my soon-to-be 6-year old boy. He is starting to control his emotions, thankfully. Oh, he still has his occasional meltdowns, but even with those he is able to bring himself out of it faster. He is starting to try new foods, although in his life he has yet to try a slice of bread.
He is in love with Lego, which may not raise an eyebrow in your home but in ours is definitely noteworthy. Let’s just say that Dylan’s taste of toys has evolved. It started with matchbox cars, trucks and soccer until he turned about 2 years old. Then for these last 4 years it’s been anything pink and purple that is girlish in nature. It’s been dressing up like a princess at home, with tiara and high heels and tutu. It wasn’t every day, but it could have been. We supported him with as much of the accouterments as possible, searching Ross and Marshall’s sales rack for dresses and oversized shirts, yet cringing when he’d suggest wearing the outfit outside of the house. He has outright refused gifts that are too boyish, and will not partake in roughhousing with other boys in his class. He has a full collection of My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and every Disney Princess. He was very attached to his baby Tweet-Tweet (he chose that name), a life-sized baby that he can dress up and keep in the bassinette we put next to his bed for her. He also loves his Smurfs collection, which is a bit puzzling, but then again blue IS the warmest color.
All this has given my husband worry lines. He is 100% sure that Dylan is gay. I on the other hand am 100% sure that he is not. Either way, of course, we love our son. It’s just that life is a little (or a lot) tougher being gay (first hand experience here!). Some of the world hates you and your family – even wants you dead – without ever having met you. You have to struggle just to be treated equally in your own country. We want to give our son every advantage in life, but being gay is not always an advantage. I’m sure that however things turn out, he will be a confident, happy individual that is able to protect himself (luckily he is the biggest kindergartener in his school.)
But as I’ve said his tastes are evolving. He hasn’t touched Tweet-Tweet in months. He no longer dresses up, but he still likes it if his clothes or shoes have a decent percentage of pink on them. He is focusing on his Lego skills, although for right now it must be from the Lego Friends collection (generally for girls.) He absolutely knows that all of this pinkness is frowned upon by many of his male schoolmates, and my husband insists that his “evolving” is actually him suppressing his real desires and tendencies in order to conform with his normal male counterparts now that he is in big boy school.
I’m excited to see how it all turns out. Dylan is a beautiful, caring boy with a heart of gold, but I know he wishes it were pink. And that’s okay with me. Happy Birthday, my son!
Do you do anything else besides stay at home with the kids? That question was posed to me recently, and my quick reply “Oh, if you only knew” didn’t do justice to the facts. I am Dad to three boys and proud of it. I just wonder if the world (especially the people of the world who are not stay-at-home-parents) has any idea what goes on in my life on a daily basis. I play so many different roles in a single day that it would be difficult for me to devise a job description. I think that’s why it was so much easier in the pre-children days, when I arrived at work at 8 am, worked my eight hours as a physical therapist, and left at 4 pm. Then from 4 pm all the way until 8am the next morning, for a grand total of 16 hours, I did not even have to think about my job. That sounds almost ludicrous now that I’m 6 ½ years into my present 24/7 stint as stay-at-home Dad. And to focus on one job for the entire 8 hour workday sounds so cush compared to the many hats I have to wear in a typical day. Here are some that come to mind.
Chauffer – Commuting to school, and transporting the boys to their many activities & play dates, all while fielding questions, breaking up fights, feeding snacks, and avoiding oncoming traffic, all without the pleasure of screaming and cursing at the awful Los Angeles drivers.
Cook – It’s important to keep an ongoing dialogue going in your head about what the next meal is going to consist of, unless you want your kids to eat pizza or pasta again. Preparing the food takes some thought too, like how each child likes his nuggets or how chocolaty he likes his milk.
Dishwasher – I have the benefit of the actual appliance, but it’s pure drudgery to wake up each morning to a full dishwasher that needs to be emptied, with a keen eye on the dishes and utensils that don’t make the cut and need to be washed by hand because the oatmeal had hardened and became one with the bowl.
Launderer – Thankfully we live in modern times and passing laundry from the hamper to the washing machine and then the dryer is not the worst thing. But I’m begging the innovators of tomorrow to come up with a third machine to fold the laundry.
Housekeeper – Who knew that floors get dirty so quickly? Do my boys purposely fill their pockets and hems with sand in order to dump them onto my sofa and their beds? Walls need wiping down where hands lean for support, and with young boys with bad aims, the toilet and everything within a 12 inch radius of it needs a good cleaning. Plus the seat. Plus the lid. Plus the trash can next to the toilet.
Shopper – I keep a running list on my iPhone of food needs, but without fail I’m always low on milk. Forget getting a dog, kids, we’re getting a cow as our next pet. There’s also household supplies, school supplies, clothes, plus presents for each and every birthday party.
Event Planner – Going places, whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, requires forethought and planning, and that’s on me too. I need to secure plane tickets, accommodations, do the packing, and then the dreaded unpacking upon returning. Local activities involve scanning the newspapers, checking the internet (Red Tricycle), or relying on the network of friendly parents for suggestions.
Teacher – Whether it’s quizzing the kids, helping them with their homework, or reading to them in the library or bedtime, everything becomes a teachable moment.
Disciplinarian – Boys will be boys, but they do get out of hand and need to be disciplined. Currently, the threat of taking away something that they fancy seems to be doing the trick. Previously, yelling seemed to be the discipline du jour, but that just did not feel right to Daddy, so he put that in his back pocket for extreme situations. Believe me, that pocket gets open a lot.
Doctor – I hurt here. I itch there. I can’t poop. My bones hurt. My teeth hurt. I swallowed a tooth. I’m not hungry. I’m so hungry. I’m so tired. I can’t sleep. I’m sad. I’m nervous.
Fashion Designer – You want your child looking presentable. I try to make sure things match, midriffs are not exposed, and that there are no holes in their clothes. Beyond that I don’t particularly worry about impressing anyone with my child’s attire. They’ll be plenty of time for that in high school.
Accountant – Paying the bills, the gardener, and the taxman is a full time job in itself, but I’m left to try to fit it all in my free time.
Husband – Oh yeah, I am someone’s partner. Someone who requires attention, sex, and most of the other things on this list. Thankfully mine helps me with some of the other things on this list too, so it kind of evens out.
Coach – Being an athlete myself, I’m inclined to get involved in their physical fitness and athletic endeavors such as karate, swimming, running, gymnastics and basketball. They need instruction (above and beyond what their team coach gives) but most of all they need encouragement.
And there’s more. Entertainer, mediator, handyman, IT guy, fact finder, and magician … the list goes on and on. I’m proud to be wearing all these hats, but I’m most proud just being called Dad.
What a strange twist of fate that I am so ill as we head into a new year! It’s only my third cold of 2013, or my first one of 2014, depending on which year you want to give credit to. What a pity that most of my resolutions revolve around the very thing that is suffering: my health. What a bummer that I wasn’t able to start clean on January 1st!
Yes, it’s only a head cold, or maybe a mild case of influenza, and that’s good. This is despite the fact that I marched our three sons and myself to the flu clinic for an annual vaccine right when it hit October, but so be it. They say my symptoms would be much worse now, but who knows. Our five and six year olds get the flu mist (the spray in the nose), so it’s no big deal. They happen to be enjoying nearly perfect health as we speak (except some growing pains in the legs and some bothersome loose teeth in the mouth –upwards of 8 teeth in my five year old!) However, our 13-month old baby and I are deep in the depression of the illness, with sleepless nights and constantly running noses the norm, despite the fact that we both barely tolerated the injectable type of vaccine (old guys over 50 and babies and cannot get the flu mist.) With both of us sick and me the stay-at-home dad, I think we are playing a never-ending game of ping pong, with the ball being a slimy gooey colorful mess that we sneeze back and forth to each other as I hold and comfort him.
I can’t keep anything down and that’s also good, because one resolution involves reducing my weight by 16 pounds (I’m 166 now.) I still have in my mind that 150 pounds is my perfect race weight for running and triathlons, even though it’s been a few years (or eight) since I’ve enjoyed that weight, and it’s been a few years since I’ve done a real triathlon (can’t remember exactly, but I’m guessing 10 years.) Come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s even reasonable or honest to call myself a triathlete anymore (good friends will say at this point: “Well, you do have a trio of boys.”) Readers of this blog will remember that last year’s list of resolutions also included a weight reduction (of 16 pounds) to 150 pounds, but I really feel like I can get there if I really want it. And more than ever, what with our third and final son out of his boot camp (i.e. over twelve months of age), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that I need to get my physical fitness (and six-pack) back to what I once enjoyed.
So it’s been just under a week without Diet Coke, without peanut butter chocolate ice cream, and without popcorn, and I feel resolute in my resolutions. Although I have the appetite suppression of my illness in my favor, I think I can do it this year. And it’s not just for me. It’s for my husband, who deserves to sleep every night with that hot body he met ten years ago. And it’s for my trio of boys, my triathletes, who need and I think want their Daddy’s company for as long as they possibly can have it.
P.S. Yes, I have other resolutions but if I don’t have my health what good are they?
P.S.S. My husband and I enjoy at least 50 movies per year, and during each of those movies we enjoy(ed) one or two large Diet Cokes and a large refillable popcorn. It turns out that one can indeed overeat popcorn.
Happy Holidays Family and Friends,
You’re probably as shocked as we are that yet another year has come to an end and we welcome 2014. I had always looked ahead to this particular year as a marker … 20 years ago (1994) I bought this Santa Monica house that we live in to this day, and we continue to try to transform it into the chic modern house we know it can be. The other date is 30 years ago (1984), when I took that now infamous solo bicycle ride from New York to San Diego, which literally changed my life and brought me to the happy place I’m in today with my incredible family of one husband and three sons. I’m a full-fledged stay at home Dad now, and have never been more content, more tired, more in love, or more fat. And other than one 10K running race to raise money for the school (in which the baby and I won the stroller division), I can’t list much in the achievement column except for adding twelve months of activities, experiences, knowledge, and love to our three sons’ lives. For that I am grateful and proud.
Speaking of proud, Alen has continued to wow the family with his career achievements. His knowledge of end-of-life care and palliative medicine has received accolades from around the nation, and I am not exaggerating. His continued work with HIV patients has inspired other physicians to follow suit. Our family-owned wellness clinic continues to grow exponentially, thanks to Alen’s medical direction. And if he was not busy enough, Alen was accepted into the Kelley Business of Medicine MBA Program at prestigious Indiana University. He just received straight A’s in his first semester (the dude is smart.) The boys and I miss him when he travels monthly for a three-day stint (the rest is online), but the homecoming is always sweet. He manages to work on everything and yet still has plenty of time for his family. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our oldest son Devin is now a certified 6-½ year old teenager in first grade. How did he become so cool with his school chums, so agile on his feet, and so comfortable in his skin? Devin loves reading his chapter books and writing some too. He loves being quizzed in Math and challenged with puzzles. He continues to take Spanish Immersion after school twice per week, plays on the basketball team and takes swim lessons at the Y, a little gymnastics, and rounds it all off with a weekly Crossfit workout class with his brother and other classmates. Devin is kind, caring, with a great big heart. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our middle son Dylan wavers between wanting to be more independent like his older brother and wanting to be cradled like his younger one, so we give him both, which seems to suit him just fine. Flourishing in his kindergarten class (where I am the room parent this year), Dylan loves math and art, and is just beginning to read signs as we drive around town. He has enjoyed after school Spanish class, gemology, Top Chef class, Lego, and Pop Star classes. He likes his weekly gymnastics class and has tolerated his jazz dance class, although he has expressed interest in giving tap-dancing a try. Like his brother, he also works out at Crossfit weekly and at the pool twice per week. He still has yet to eat a slice of bread in his life, but he has managed to add at least a couple of new foods to his extremely limited diet. It hasn’t affected his growth, however. As he has since he was one year old, he ranks in the 128th percentile for height and weight. He towers over everyone in his class, and wears bigger clothes than my 10-year old nephew Jackson. He aspires to be a veterinarian some day, which I can envision because he is nurturing and sensitive. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our baby Dustin, now 13 months, has transformed into a toddler right in front of our eyes. With over half of his baby teeth present, he is enjoying, and willing to try, many different foods, although fat-free milk is still his favorite. All signs point to another big boy: at his doctor’s appointment his weight and height ranked at the 95th percentile. He is doing everything except walking, but we are not rushing him into anything. He loves his weekly music class at the park across the street from our house (both Devin & Dylan went to this same class.), and will start a gym & swim class at the YMCA in January. At the moment he cannot get enough of Alen (can’t blame him for that), but he is such a happy-go-lucky boy who waves and yells Hi! to everyone he sees. He loves his older brothers, and they are already showing him “the ropes” and lots and lots of love, and Dustin does likewise. For that I am grateful and proud.
This summer we tried bungee jumping for the first time. Alen loved it, I’m still nauseous from it, and the boys were traumatized by watching it. We also continued our tradition of vacationing right after school let out for the summer. Last year was Costa Rica and this year was Puerto Rico. All three boys seem to really love the tradition, so we will keep it up each year, making memories to last a lifetime. Speaking of traditions, California finally came to its senses and allowed all of our friends to marry, just as we did in 2008. Seventeen states in the US now have legal same-sex marriage, and we hope by our next letter that even more states will realize that our family deserves the right to express our love and commitment just like anybody else. We are all about love and commitment. For that I am grateful and proud.
Love and wishes for a great New Year,
John, Alen, Devin, Dylan, & Dustin