The Issues are Here!

Daddy Issues Front Cover

Daddy Issues Front Cover

I have a lot to do today so I’ll be brief. But the paperback is here, the eBook is live, and the Audio Book will be live in another 10-14 days. The Book Release Party/Book Fair is tonight (Fri 5.9.14) at the UB Theater. For more information on events or to find out how to buy the book, check out the Daddy Issues page. If you want to know more about the book, I’ve already phrased it as best as I could think of on the back cover. Thanks for reading!

The day I inseminated my wife is the last day I ever had control of anything. Since then, I traded in my low-paying university job for a no-paying volunteer position as an at-home dad to a C.E.O. whose communication style consists of screaming directly in my face until I figure out what it is she wants, which often times does not exist. I have no lunch hour, no vacation days, and my bank account consists of a dilapidated envelope with a steadily disappearing $27 in it. I used to rinse out my glass between Chardonnay and Shiraz, now I eat scrambled eggs off the floor. There are days when I can’t recall the last time I showered, shaved, or changed my underwear. Moms have been so gracious to tell me how great it is that I am staying home with my daughter, but sorry, I can’t join their mom groups. How silly of me to ask. And if you see me at the playground struggling to unfold my baby from the inside of one of those surprisingly complicated slings and want to know where her mother is, she’s at work. And so am I. This is my job.

The Sword’s Other Edge

Frustrated Dad

Frustrated Dad

I do not feel like I handled a situation very well today. Mabel and I have been going to a local community center for some unstructured playtime for a couple months. There are anywhere between a dozen and zero other kids there. It’s basically a gymnasium with little kid cars and balls and other such fun toys. Mabel runs around for an hour and a half with one toy or another and I leave with an exhausted, happy toddler who naps for several hours. It’s awesome.

On occasion, Ms. Nancy from the local library will come for story time. That happened to be today. Mabel loves Ms. Nancy’s story time at the library. However, today was the first time she was introduced to story time in the gym. While all the rest of the kids sat nicely and watched Ms. Nancy, Mabel refused to get out of her little car and wouldn’t come anywhere near the group.

Honestly, Ms. Nancy has said before and will say again, that is isn’t disruptive to her at all when toddlers are “toddling.” It’s what they do. And I don’t think the other parents were disrupted either. Mabel was on the other side of the gym. And to be honest, even I wasn’t even really bothered by it. But I am starting to wonder if this is because a lack of discipline. So I picked today to make a stand. I told her that if she didn’t sit down with the rest of the kids, at least for a sliver of a second, that we were leaving. Well, this didn’t work. Surprise. She was the only child, out of about a dozen, that would not sit down even for a little bit. Is this my fault? Should I be disciplining her more? Should we have more structure in our home routine? Or is this just Mabel? I know it’s not all two-year-olds because there were several kids there her age who listen to their parents.

I got our coats and bag, uncertain about if I was really going to leave or not, and Mabel surprisingly made the decision for me by bolting out the door and running to the car. So we left in the middle of story time. I’m sure the rest of the kids played in the more typical unstructured atmosphere about 5-10 minutes after we left, but we were already gone. I didn’t give Mabel the usual Elmo crackers in the car because I wanted her to know that Daddy was upset at her. My thinking is that I need her to feel empathy when she upsets Daddy and that empathy is the whole key to discipline. Or something like that.

Anyway, I still feel terrible about how I handled the situation, sneaking out without saying goodbye, which is very atypical of me, even though Mabel ran out of her own volition. I’ve been worried all morning that I gave the wrong impression of us to the other parents there. Should I have just let her go, potentially being labeled as the undisciplined child or should I have made a scene by making her leave? Am I overparenting? When should I really start to discipline her for things like this? It’s not like she was being malicious to anyone. She is one of the more popular kids at story time likely because she’s so much fun. I suppose this is the other side of being fun.

As is typical, as soon as I was feeling confident with this parenting gig, another hurdle leaps into my path. And this is one I don’t think is going away anytime soon. For those still reading, what the heck should I be doing? Should I let her run amok so long as it doesn’t interfere with story time? Or should I be giving her ultimatums and handing out punishments, like not giving her the Elmo crackers or not going to the playground? Will she even understand that yet? Can somebody with an older, ornery child please tell me what to do?

Sick Daze

Out Sick :(

Out Sick 🙁

My wife took off work yesterday, which doubled my work load. She never takes sick days because she works for a fiscally responsible company who doesn’t give them out like they’re Krispy Kreme donuts. In other words, not the government. It sucks for her, and by extension, us, but I get it. All this is to say my wife was very sick.

She got the illness from Mabel who got it from the playground. Or the library. Or the handlebar on the shopping cart at Giant. Or anywhere in the greater DC-area. This has happened before and thankfully, I’m usually exempt from the illness. Which is great, because I don’t get sick days. My sick day would involve asking my wife to give up one of those aforementioned precious days off to stay home with a sick child so that I could dope myself up with medicine and intermittently sleep and watch recorded playoff hockey upstairs, as opposed to doing that downstairs with my daughter, which is a normal day. It’s a tough sell is what I’m saying.

Unfortunately, I was not exempt from whatever virus or bacteria invaded our house this time. Even the cats are sick. Mabel seems to have gotten the best end of the deal. Or maybe she just doesn’t know enough to be miserable when she’s sick. Maybe it’s a learned behavior to shake your fist at the world and blame the Metro and facial hair and Monsanto for your incompetent white blood cells. For whatever reason, Jenn and I wanted nothing more but to stay in and chicken soup the day away while our precious little Typhoid Mary wanted to do toddler-related things. Like go down a slide or play bloop with pine cones off the bridge.

While home, I did my duty as a husband of a woman who allowed me to quit my job to raise our daughter, and catered to her as much as I could. What this consisted of was asking her over and over if she needed anything. Most of the time, she did not. She preferred to be left alone. I felt helpless. It was, in fact, much like Mabel’s birth.

Throughout the day, I just kept getting sicker, despite drinking orange juice. And I realized something. I have no idea how to get myself better when I’m sick. Actually, I knew that. But what I now considered was that I had somebody else counting on me to get her unsick. Two people, actually, but one who really hasn’t had a chance to learn any of this stuff yet, and so, is relying on me for my knowledge and insight to get her better. And orange juice and chicken soup will only get you so far.

How have I survived this long? I have lasted 39 years somehow without the ability to figure out how to get unsick. And it only recently occurred to me that these are things I’ll need to teach Mabel. Things I thought were just naturally ingrained in my parents as a kid, because it came to them so naturally. Like nursing a sick child to health, doing taxes and how to look at a girl in the mall (you have to stare down the guy first until he looks away). But apparently, they had to learn them somewhere too. They don’t just come with the baby.

So I guess what I’m saying is I need somebody to tell me how to fix myself before Mabel is old enough to realize I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve tried Sudafed and that took the crappy feeling from my nose, multiplied it by five and spread it throughout my body. Nyquil strangely kept me awake the couple times I’ve tried it. Or maybe the illness kept me awake and the Nyquil just didn’t work. Alka Seltzer has been the most consistent, but it only really clears the nose for a few hours. Which is better than nothing.

So, lovely people of the internet, what kind of medicine or techniques work to nurse both yourself and your toddler back to health? Note: I have humidifiers in all bedrooms and sleep on 3-5 pillows. Also, I mentioned the chicken soup and orange juice. And my wife does my taxes, so we’re good there.

Daddy Issues: I Need Help!

So I’m writing a book. A collection of essays on being an at-home dad, some of which have been featured here and the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project and some other sites and print publications. But now I need your help. And I need it fast because this thing goes to print Monday. Sorry for the short notice, but inDesign and the Oxford comma has fried my brain.

Anyway, I need your advice on two things: the section headings the cover design. If I choose to use your section headings, I will give you a FREE copy of the book, possibly signed by Mabel, but I can’t promise anything in that regard. She may just throw some pineapples in it. The two sections are during pregnancy and after pregnancy. But those are boring titles. I need something short and preferably witty – possibly a play on words as I’m a sucker for them. Sentiment is also welcome in place of humor (or with humor). Really, everything is still on the table. Here are some possibilities so far:

Anxiously Awaiting – Anxiously Awaking
Guess What? – Now What?
The Longest 40 Weeks – Now and Forever
2 Minutes and 40 Weeks – From Now On
T Minus 9 Months – Blast Off!

John Sears, my old college roomie, drew up this awesome little guy and I want to make sure I do him justice with the cover design. My three favorite choices are below, one very minimalist, one with my daughter drawing on it, and one that combines the other idea I had for a design with the fun little guy. What do you all think?

Daddy Issues Cover Design Plain

Daddy Issues Cover Design Plain

Daddy Issues Cover Design  with Crayon

Daddy Issues Cover Design with Crayon


Daddy Issues Cover Design  with Running Text

Daddy Issues Cover Design with Running Text

So there they are. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the first two and just made the third one about two hours ago. Your input, as potential consumers and friends and random internet passers-by is very valuable. But I’m not paying for it. Unless you give me those damn section headings. Thanks for playing everybody. I promise once this thing is turned in next week, I’ll start telling you all about Mabel again. Which is really why you’re here.

March Sadness

Mabel, Baller.

Mabel, Baller.

Last year, Mabel set the world on fire and became the envy of her peers when she came in 4th of 21 people in our March Madness pool. I had developed an unnecessarily and painstakingly complicated method for determining her selection, with consideration for team rankings, in which her bracket was determined by which numbered block she put in her mouth first. In the case of some quadrants, I would place certain lower-numbered blocks closer to her to mimic the odds that certain teams would make it to the next round.  In the end, she picked Louisville to win it all, favoring the letter “L” from her wooden letter puzzle in the Final Four.

I was hoping with another year’s worth of knowledge – and thus, more than twice what she had last year – that she would improve. Sadly, I fear she may have taken a giant step backward.

Instead of making the method super-complicated to understand, I just made it super-tedious for Mabel. I printed out the logos of all 68 teams and had her go round-by-round, coloring on cats, letters and little orange men until 67 teams were gone. And I took video of all this just like last year, should my critics accuse me of fraud. And things looked good to start. She picked all First Four games correct – which didn’t even count – and had no team ranked worse than a 5-seed in the Final Four.

OK, Daddy. I'm done my bracket. Can I please go to bed now?

OK, Daddy. I’m done my bracket. Can I please go to bed now?

And then the games happened. Her champion went out three games into the tournament. I think the Cincinnati bearcat claw looked too much like a Blue Clue for her to pass up. And her other team in the championship game lost to Mercer the next day, but just like everyone else, it was worth it to see Duke get embarrassed. Because she currently sits in the 2.3 percentile and last out of 27 people in our pool this year, I don’t feel the need to post all those videos as proof of the validity of Mabel’s selections, but I will post this one picture to prove just how sadistic her father is.

I think we may need to reevaluate the selection criteria for next year’s bracket. Maybe team logos isn’t the way to go.

Toddler Friend Finder

Toddler Friend Finder Wagon

Toddler Friend Finder Wagon

One of my greatest successes as a person has been my ability to makes friends, as 1,779 people on Facebook will attest to. I am outgoing, friendly, and lack any intimidating tattoos or facial hair. I had therefore assumed I’d have a list of fellow at-home parents to call for a play date, arranged by interest, child’s age, and how inferior they make me feel as a parent. Turns out, not so much.

I knew when I decided to be an at-home parent that I was joining a work force that is over 96% women. And though that sounds awesome in one kind of way, it’s more like being the only guy at an Ani DiFranco concert. There are plenty of mom groups in the DC area who do not allow dads, and I understand that. Guys can be creepy and it’s better to not have to worry about them as a group. But by now, I honestly thought I’d have met a nice mom, gotten in her good graces, and infiltrated their private little group like Jane Goodall. Of course in this case, I am the scientist and the at-home moms in the DC area are the gorillas. It’s also possible I lack the charm necessary to pull this off.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that I would have to basically ask out a married woman. And though I’m married and have a child now, I still have a crippling fear of both rejection and women. And how would I even go about doing that? What does that next step even look like?

“Yeah, she’s really getting the hang of this walking thing… 14 months, and your son? Well, he’s not doing so bad either… Say, since we both have kids about the same age, how about I come over to your place and we get some Legos and wine and see what happens?”

I finally decided to go for it one particular day with a lady at the playground. I overheard her talking to her friend about her blog. Hey! I have a blog too! So I approached her and asked her what her blog was. I know I can use all the traffic to my blog I can get. Her demeanor shifted. Her eyebrows furrowed. She looked at her friend. I felt like I was asking for a list of her ex-boyfriends. Shit, I thought I was helping. She reluctantly told me and I mentioned I had one too, if only to make it seem less like the question was just for the sake of stalking. She did not ask about it. I chose not to pursue any further contact. This was three months ago and she hasn’t been back to that playground again. She instead started going to a similar nearby playground according to her blog. Which I am apparently now using to stalk her, affirming their reasoning to not allow men into their at-home mom groups. Maybe these women are on to something.

So what about the other 4%? Those that have the same genetic defect? Well, there is only one dad group in the DC area that I’ve found and most of their meet-ups are either for older kids who don’t need naps in the middle of the day or require a trek down to Arlington, VA. Arlington is only 14 miles from New Carrollton as the crow flies, which is a scant three and a half hour commute on the Virginia Beltway. So unless I make Mabel miserable by messing with her nap time – which seems counterintuitive to having a play date for her – it doesn’t look like this group is the answer either. I guess what I’m looking for is another at-home parent of either gender to come to my house during the hours I tell them to, preferably with their child and maybe a six-pack of Yuengling. Maybe I’ll draft an email.

A friend recently asked why I felt the need to have play dates for Mabel in the first place. I suppose this is a fair question, though one with what I think is an obvious answer. Though yes, the companionship of my daughter is enough to make my world aglow with a constant stream of undeniable love, wouldn’t it be better if there was another person there – perhaps one who could form complete sentences – who could also bring his or her constant stream of love into our already glowing world? I say yes.

Also of note, is that these potential play dates, though organized around and because of our children, are not necessarily primarily about them. Mabel’s opinion about who we have a play date with largely does not matter yet. I used to think it would, but play dates are set up by parents who get along with each other. At 16 months old, Mabel hasn’t had enough interactions with other children for her to have an educated opinion about who she likes. And if she did, she couldn’t really express it anyway. I don’t even know if she’s done eating, doesn’t like her food, or just enjoys the sound asparagus makes when it hits the floor. I doubt I’m going to really understand if she’s trying to tell me that this other child doesn’t have compatible values. At this age, we’re all just trying desperately to get our children to not hit each other in the face. Who the other child is matters very little.

And so, because of the structural design of the at-home parenting community combined with my inability to figure out a way to successfully ask a married woman on a date, Mabel and I are doomed to a life of being the friendly-from-afar regulars at the community playground. If only there was a website where parents could go to find local toddlers seeking play dates. That’s what the internet should be for.

Girls Chillin in a Wagon

Girls Chillin in a Wagon

Why I Don’t Write: Writer’s Blockage

blockadeI now have a much deeper understanding of the term “writer’s block.” Or at least a different one. Yeah, it’s probably just different. I used to think writer’s block was when a person couldn’t think of anything to write. The ideas were blocked by something, much like a 40-year old man trying to get an autograph from Taylor Swift. And maybe that’s still what it really means. But I think I’m suffering from writer’s blockage, a younger, oft-confused cousin of writer’s block.

Writer’s blockage is when there is something clogging the pipes of productivity. It can be many things: tearing out the mold in the basement, learning the chord progression to Allentown, Netflix original series. My current blockage is this mammoth of a 75-page manuscript I’m supposed to get published in May. I’m supposed to have this thing written/proofread/edited/rewritten/reproofread/turned inside-out/glued together/designed/formatted by the first week of February. How far I’ve gotten is irrelevant. The fact that it exists is clogging up the pipes so nothing else can get through. It is possible that I could move this huge clog to let a few other things squeeze by, but that’s a messy and counterintuitive undertaking. I’d probably be better served to chop it up into parts to get them through the drain a little bit at a time. But some days it’s just easier to watch reruns of Monk. And this is why I haven’t updated this website in way too long. Nothing can get through.

Or writer’s blockade, if you’d rather, where streets are blocked for miles and hours and no traffic can get in until the stupid parade finishes its procession down Creative Way, onto Edited Boulevard and finally collects in the parking lot of Manuscripts R Us (for better or worse), where the floats can finally be disassembled and people can get on their way to the Blog Post Office again. Or something like that. Ideas aren’t the problem. I can see them across the street, eager to get on with their drives and frustrated with the traffic. Sometimes they turn around and I don’t see them for a bit and they try another street with similar futile results. But mostly, they’re just sitting there waiting for the parade to end, so that the engine doesn’t lock up. And once in a while, a small moped, not unlike this one, will break through the blockade and crash the party. And when that happens, I’ll be sure to post. But for the next few months, the parade I’ve spent four years preparing for takes precedence.

That and the NFL playoffs.