As our son Jack is approaching his first birthday on November 16th, my wife and I are doing our best to help him transition into eating solid foods. After all, he has eight teeth now so he might as well be using them.
The thing is, he doesn’t really have an appetite for much more than bananas and wheat bread. Granted, he did take a bite of a styrofoam cup last weekend… and I assume he swallowed it.
It’s weird having to train your kid: “Cheese, good. Styrofoam, bad.”
But that’s where we’re at. In the midst of this, we’re still unpacking from our move back into our townhouse in Nashville. On a recent fateful Thursday, my wife brought us home some leftover boxed lunches from where she works at Vanderbilt University.
While we normally don’t have chips in the house, there was a small bag of plain Baked Lay’s potato chips in each of our free lunches. So maybe for the sake of curiosity; or maybe more in an attempt to entertain ourselves, we gave him a Baked Lay’s potato chip to try out. And this is what happened:
There are so many hilarious things about this 39 second video clip and they are all very subtle. It’s the kind of clip you really need to watch at least three times before you start understanding why it’s so funny and entertaining.
First off, he’s sitting on a box like an old man; or as my sister phrased it, “like a bumpkin.” He very carefully takes each bite of the chip, then looks over to my wife for approval every time.
Thirteen seconds in, he makes a face that says, “Kinda sour, but not too shabby.”
My favorite part about it is when he looks over at my wife the third time, 23 seconds into the clip, like he’s about to say something but then instantly decides against it.
It’s as if he stopped eating to convey, “Hey, I really like this thing.” But then he was afraid if he did, we would take the chip away from him because it’s not as healthy as the vegetables and fruit we normally give him to eat.
Oh, and the crumb on his lip! Classic.
I do want to take this moment to invite you to the official Facebook fan page for The Dadabase, which doubles as my son’s official fan page on Facebook. By joining, you’ll see exclusive pictures and videos of Jack before I ever write about them here on Parents.com; if they even do make it to The Dadabase.
So in other words, you’ll get exclusive content about my son Jack; plus, you’ll be notified immediately every time I publish a new post on The Dadabase because you’ll see the link on your news feed.
After all the plotlines my wife and I have lived through in accordance to our move from Nashville to my hometown in Alabama, and now back to Nashville again, it’s only natural for us to wonder: Why?
Q) Why did we spend seven months and [x amount] of dollars to live here in my hometown, only to have to go back to where we came from?
A) It took moving away from Nashville to cause us to become positively changed people so that we could go back to Nashville as the necessarily improved versions of ourselves. But we didn’t know any of this when we left Nashville.
I can confidently say that living in the small town of Fort Payne, Alabama has caused us to fully adopt the millionaire mindset (living as frugally as possible.) Because we became Dave Ramsey followers shortly after we got married and have since been living on a budget, we thought we were doing pretty well when it came to financially planning our lives.
But we had much more to learn. And I know for a fact I would have never learned to be this much of a penny-pincher if it weren’t for my unemployment and my wife’s inability to get a job, despite having a Master’s degree.
The move to Alabama has been the most humiliating process I have endured in my life: Note that when I used the word “humiliating” just now, I meant it in the sense of being humbled and disciplined, not embarrassed or shamed. (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.”)
Looking back, I can see how our former budget allotted my wife and I too much “blow money” (Dave Ramsey’s term for extra cash for personal enjoyment), too much “gift money” (money spent on gifts for birthday and Christmas gifts for our friends and family), and too much “food money” (money spent on eating out at restaurants and going out for coffee on the weekend). Not only that, but now we have learned to ask the question, “What will cause us to earn/save the most money?” when making any decision, big or small.
The version of me from a year ago just didn’t care about money. I only cared about happiness. And that was an epic flaw in my thinking. Now I realize that without conservative financial planning, I will not have sanity. And without sanity, I can not be happy anyway.
The truth is this: Without moving to my hometown and being psychologically broken down, I would have never been a responsible enough decision maker when it came to finances. Moving to Fort Payne was the only cure for my disease.
It’s more than just refusing to use a credit card or to buy name brand products. It’s a matter of taking my finances nearly as seriously as I take my love for my wife and son, health, and my religious beliefs. So now as we rebuild our lives again, we will be able to be better stewards of our income. Our money will be better saved, better spent, and better given away.
Photos courtesy of Moments in Time Photography in Fort Payne, Alabama:
Yes, you did read that right. No, this isn’t a rerun from March. This coming Saturday on July 16th as Jack turns eight months old, we return to Music City for keeps.
Imagine you’re me. You were raised in the Eighties and were taught that money isn’t everything but that being happy is. You were constantly told that if you really believe, you can achieve your dreams. So at age 29, you decide to choose happiness over money and move your wife and 3 week old son back to your hometown to be close to family. You willingly choose less money and less busyness with the purest intentions.
Enter four months of unemployment, then living from savings despite eventually getting a job. Then after eight months since moving, you come to the realization that it is not a choice to move your family back to Nashville, but simply the only option.
It’s ironic how it took me four months to find a job and how my wife was sent countless rejection letters for all the places she applied, never landing a job that would keep us from dipping into savings every month; yet in a matter of just a few days and few emails, both my wife and I have jobs lined up in Nashville where we will begin Monday, July 18th.
Our former employers are taking us back. It’s that simple. Granted, this means we have to put Jack in daycare. We will barely see him on weekdays because by the time I drive him home from daycare, he will only be awake for an hour before it’s his bedtime.
So, how do I feel about this? Bittersweet.
We came here truly believing that we would be spending the rest of our lives here; thinking it would be the last time we would have to unpack our things. And when it seemed our expectations were being threatened, we only tried that much harder to make this work. But our resistance was futile.
As I have mentioned before, a married man can never stop thinking about his need to provide for his family. So imagine what kind of psychological toil this constant wondering has taken on my own sanity. For the fact we will be able to pay our bills without dipping into what’s left of our savings; well, that’s more relieving than I can say. But yes, we will have to move away from my family and they won’t see Jack as much as they used to.
He and his cousin were going to be attending the same school and be in the same grade. Not now, though. It’s only a 2 and a half hour drive, but still, things will be somewhat different.
By this point, I am nearly emotionless when it comes having to repack our lives again. Because again, it’s not a choice to be made; it’s the only option.
So I am accepting my fate. I was not meant to live in my hometown with my family. Instead, I was meant to live and work in Nashville, one of my favorite cities in the world.
I am choosing to move forward and be positive about it. There have been a lot of things we’ve missed tremendously about Nashville: Our church, our friends, our quirky restaurants, proximity to Country music stars, and surprisingly more than you would think, shopping for groceries at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.
As much as I enjoyed growing up in my hometown and the great memories I always have, it has ultimately proven to be the wrong fit for the 2011 version of me, which includes my wife and son. And that’s not my hometown’s fault. It’s just that Nashville is simply where we belong.
My wife and I met there. My wife was baptized there. We got married there. Our son was born there. Heck, even this blog was born there.
One of our mutually favorite movies is Away We Go, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. As they prepare for the birth of their first child, they travel to several cities to figure out where their new home as a family is. It’s obviously very relatable for my wife and me.
After sticking it out this long, we were obviously more than willing to make this thing work in my hometown. But now it’s time to return to where our home, as a family, is.
Need another pop culture reference? This reminds me of the best TV show ever made (and that ever will be made), Lost. Those who crashed on the island were “chosen” by the island for a purpose. Even when six of them eventually found a way to leave and go back to their homes, they ultimately had to return because the island still needed them there.
For us, Nashville is the island. We just need to watch out for those darn polar bears.
I believe everyone has multiple personalities and different versions of themselves that they reveal based on their environment. But these multiplicities of ourselves ultimately are still built on top of one default personality. My default personality is amazingly similar to the character of Peter Klaven (portrayed by Paul Rudd) in my favorite movie ever, I Love You Man.
The movie focuses on Peter’s lack of ability to make and keep strong male friendships and the difficulty that means for him in trying to find groomsmen and most importantly, a best man, for his upcoming wedding.
Most of my guy friends are scattered across the country; instantly available via text message, but not for hanging out with on a regular basis. And I’m completely okay and comfortable with that. And interestingly enough, whether it was my female-orientated major in college (English), or every work environment I’ve been in since then, I’ve constantly been surrounded by women instead of men. And again, I’m completely okay and comfortable with that fact.
Even here on Parents.com, I’m the only male parent blogger. It is simply my life’s destiny to be a guy who relates to women almost as well as I relate to men. Need I remind you, it’s mainly women reading The Dadabase.
(Granted, my wife edits out anything too masculine or overly male-driven. Recently, she had me delete several paragraphs which went on way too long about the details of a Nintendo game.)
But now I have a son. A baby boy who will eventually grow into a big boy who will eventually grow into a teenage boy and eventually a man. This means that I will ultimately have a buddy.
I will always have a reason to get to do what I want to do with my free time, as long as Jack is with me. Because I will be spending quality time with him while I do what I enjoy anyway (or at least enjoyed in my youth).
Already, I’m mentally working on a list of things I will enjoy doing that also will serve as good male-bonding, quality time with my son over the next 2 to 20 years:
1) Watch the entire series of the following movies and TV series: Rocky, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Band of Brothers, and Lost.
2) Go hiking and exploring in the woods on the weekend.
3) Build awesome Lego sets.
4) Take our bikes for a long ride in a new neighborhood.
5) Have old school Nintendo game marathons.
6) Blow stuff up with fireworks.
7) If ever can ever afford it, take him on a trip to Thailand.
Of course, this is only the beginning of my list. But I really look forward to the underlying male friendship in my father-son relationship with him.
I am adamant on being Jack’s father, not his friend. However, just like how I mentioned in the beginning that we all have different personalities, I know that a father is not simply the paternal figure of his son’s life. Being a good dad means being someone to relate to and it involves a lot of mentoring. It requires good communication and quality time.
Being a father is like being a friend, but it’s so much more than that. Yet it’s paradoxically both more casual and more demanding of respect than simply being a friend. But even though I won’t refer to my son as my friend, I will gladly call him my buddy.
Man, now I’ve got the jingle to the 80’s toy, My Buddy, stuck in my head:
“Wherever I go, he goes… My buddy, my buddy, my buddy and me!”
All pictures taken courtesy of Dave Stanley at Little River Falls in Fort Payne, Alabama.
For a nostalgic guy like me, it can be very difficult to “live in the moment.” And that’s not a good thing when it comes to being present in body, mind, and spirit as a husband and father. Not to mention, it’s sort of impossible for me to stop thinking about how I will provide for my wife and son.
In 1996, while most other 15 year-olds were listening to cool alternative grunge bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Stone Temple Pilots, I additionally had something they didn’t have: a cassette tape of the first album by The O.C. Supertones.
You’re probably familiar with hearing someone say “I grew up really Jewish… bar mitzvah, the whole deal….” Even if it was simply Seth Rogen on Conan who said it, you understand the concept of “growing up really Jewish.”
Well, I “grew up really Christian.” I learned to play the guitar in Junior High because I led the music for my church’s youth group on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Every summer I went on a mission trip to a different state or country, doing repairs on widow’s homes during the day, then participating in drama and singing performances at city parks in the afternoons. (Yes, I had a trendy W.W. J. D? bracelet.)
And while DC Talk was the coolest Christian rock band back in the those days, I also was a huge grassroots promoter of The O.C. Supertones- the main Gospel ska band of the ’90′s.
Last week as I felt like listening to nothing but all of their albums back-to-back, a line from their song “Unknown” stood out to me. I have been listening to that song for 15 years but it finally made sense to me at a time when I needed to hear it most:
“Killing ourselves faster than fast; living in the future, living in the past.” I haven’t been able to shake the thought of how constantly I do just that: I participate in the self-destructive behavior of either A) dwelling on how I should have/could have/would have done things differently in my past, if I was able or B) dwelling on how much better life will be a decade from now when my problems will hopefully have worked themselves out.
I realize that with all the positive vibes I constantly send out in my daily writings here on The Dadabase, I may sometimes make my version of being a dad and husband seem easier than it actually is. And perhaps it seems that Jack never causes any stress for my wife or I. But despite my optimism and quirkiness, my life is as normal as they come. I encounter the same basic stresses as all other dads and husbands.
Admittedly, I question some of my past decisions and actions. And I seriously wonder about my future; financially.
Since moving from our secure jobs in Nashville before Jack arrived, we now live on a much smaller single income, with a kid. Yeah, the thought of money stresses me out big time. Living here in Alabama now, I can’t provide for them the same way I used to. Money sure isn’t everything, but Nashville’s good economy definitely eased things in my mind.
As I am wired to do, I ultimately feel responsible for providing for my family. So I question the version of myself who a few years ago led me to make the decisions to get me here today. And I often fantasize about a future time when I won’t feel the stress that I am feeling now.
Of course, my making a habit of mentally time traveling is not a good thing. Because if I keep going back far enough, I may fantasize about a time when I had no real responsibilities and no family of my own. And it is nothing but counter-productive and selfish to subconsciously covet the 21 year old college version of myself who made money by selling egg rolls and Hot Pockets from the mini-fridge in my college dorm.
The weight of my responsibilities is constantly on my mind. Will I be able to care for my family? Am I good enough for them? Should I have gotten something other than an English degree a decade ago in college, so I could be assured I’d make enough money to be the breadwinner at age 30?
This is an honest, vulnerable look into a guy’s brain. I’m never unaware of my need to provide. Never.
Other men have greater or less financial concerns and decisions to make. But still, as men, we are perpetually terrified of the realistic demon who reminds us that nothing we can do is ever enough.
It’s a matter of reminding myself that that even the ravens, who don’t even sow or reap, who don’t have storerooms or barns, are still fed. And I am much more valuable than a bird.