I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t want people to know my age. I think it’s because I’m such a chronological person- I love to keep up with dates. It’s important for me to remember where I was and what I was doing at each stage in my life. For the first months of Jack’s life, I was 29. But at 8:37 tonight, I will officially turn 30 years old.
Amidst all the other major age milestones like 16,18, 40, 50, and 60, I vote 30 as the most monumental. Being thirty means not being seen as a kid anymore- it’s a true milestone of adulthood. It means I have now lived through three decades and have made enough mistakes to learn from them and live wiser accordingly. Being 30 means having graduated through a decade of “notknowingness” (my 20′s) and being propelled into a life of definite direction.
I don’t know that I would call this a bittersweet moment. Sure, I’m a deeply nostalgic person so I always miss the past, but I say despite all the blessings so far, it only gets better from here. I couldn’t have known that 30 would come during such a transitional time in my life. Aside from the big move and welcoming my first child into this world, it’s now that my writing career is officially beginning.
Since August 2005, I have been “blogging for free.” (Though actually, during my 4 months of unemployment I was hired to write a few stories in a publication format, like this storyI wrote about a local businessman.) But this morning, on my 30th birthday, I will be mailing back two contracts to Parents.com up in New York City for two different stories they assigned me to write. They gave me the titles, now I write the entire bodies. And how did they find me? ”Dad from day one.”
I thank God for this opportunity. And at this point, I still haven’t gone public with what all is going on with my secret “dad from day one” spin-off. But it is why, in case you haven’t noticed, I bought the web domain names “nickshell.com” and “dadfromdayone.com”. It’s part of an important effort to establish my name as an author, as my name will soon be part of a well-trafficked byline. (The reason I originally bought “scenicroutesnapshots.com” is because at the time, in December 2009, “nickshell.com” was already taken- but it recently and conveniently just came available again.)
A few weeks ago on my Facebook wall I asked my friends for their help with naming my upcoming “dad from day one” spin-off. The winner was Diana Jung Taub, who sent her idea to me privately. Though the time isn’t prudent now for me to reveal the name of my spin-off, the time is prudent for you to meet her, on national television. A week from tonight, on April 27th, Diana will be a contestant on the legendary game show, Wheel of Fortune. So go ahead and check to make sure what channel and what time it comes on in your area.
Coincidentally, her son was born just a few weeks before my son Jack William. Diana’s son’s name is Jake William, and like the genetic miracle which my Jack has encountered, her son also has blonde hair and blue eyes, despite the fact that both parents have dark brown hair.
What can happen in just a year’s time? Here’s a bit of a candid, behind the scenes look at both the history and the future of “dad from day one”.
It was April 13th, 2010 that I not only officially announced to the world that my wife and I were expecting a baby, but also the day I published the very first post (“She’s Having a Baby”) for my brand new series, “dad from day one”. A year ago, I wasn’t even aware of the term for what I was doing, which now I know is “daddy blogging”. Perceiving that there was a shortage of pregnancy and baby advice from a dad’s perspective out there on the Internet at that time, I decided to be the first to dad in history to publish at least one weekly post for my daddy blog, beginning with the knowledge of the pregnancy. After a few months, once I had established my presence in the daddy blogging world, my wife sent an email to the editor of two major magazines for expecting parents, recommending them to read my blog. One of these magazines expressed interest; the other, we never heard anything back from.
The interested magazine company was American Baby, who decided to feature “dad from day one” in their November 2010 issue, which hit magazine stands in October. A few weeks later, my son Jack was born. Two weeks after that, I worked my last day for my employer of five years in Nashville so that I could move my wife and newborn to my hometown in Alabama so we can raise our son near family. For the next four months, we lived off of savings and eventually had to give ourselves a deadline of three weeks for me to find a job, or we would be forced to move back to Nashville where my employer agreed to take me back- despite all the money, effort, energy, and planning it took to move from Nashville.
We left it in God’s hands as I left my readers in suspense from March 16th until March 24th, as I too was in suspense regarding the future of where my family would live. It was no coincidence or bout of good luck; but instead, a miracle: God provided a marketing and sales job at one of the world’s largest playground equipment companies in the world. Plus, the day after that, I was offered the job (which I obviously took and now enjoy so much), I received an email confirmation from a major publishing company that I had been selected for a regular part-time writing job that will take “dad from day one” to the next level, like a “spin-off”. In a few weeks, I will be ready to go into details about it…
But I will say this: As of yesterday, Parents.com (the website for Parents magazine) assigned me my first huge “non-blog” writing assignment, completely separate from my “big surprise”. I will be writing a Father’s Day article for them and I am extremely excited about it! Soon after, I was approached by a writer who is doing a Mother’s Day article for Parents.com who will be using some of my input for her writing. Can I just say this? I love Parents.com! And my wife and I were already subscribing to their magazine before they discovered me. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The irony of writing this one year anniversary of consistent weekly daddy blogging is that it’s in this post that I must announce that starting today, “dad from day one” is changing to a monthly format, and later into a quarterly format in January 2012. With all the writing I will be doing (as part of my “big surprise”), I have to re-prioritize my few free hours each week. That means less new posts here in general on Scenic Route Snapshots, but the new parenting material I will be writing will be seen by more than the thousand people a day who read my site here. I’m movin’ on up, and you, my dear readers are going with me!
So what can happen in a year? All of the above. The good, the bad, the suspenseful. And thank God for it all.
Thank you, my faithful readers- even if you just recently tuned in. You’re all a part of this. Especially those of you who know me personally and help me out with “dad from day one” topics when I ask you on facebook. You encourage me. And despite already being a positive kind of a guy by nature, encouragement is still a good thing.
A couple of months ago, I briefly mentioned that Jack will be getting a new cousin- my sister and her husband are having their first child. They recently found out it’s a girl! My sister’s due date is July 2nd, which means that her daughter and Jack will be in the same school grade. Here’s the most recent picture of her:
*While this entry is actually the 5th chapter of my series entitled “God-Nudged Leap of Faith”, it is just as relevant to “dad from day one” as well. Therefore, I consider it a cross-over episode.
A few weeks from now, on April 4th, it will be four months since my wife and I took our God-nudged leap of faith. We carefully planned and prayed over our decision to leave our secured careers behind in Nashville to live in a small blue collar town in Alabama where my family lives. Having our first child, a son named Jack who was born on November 16, 2010, was a big part of the motivation to move. It made sense to slow down our pace of life, not only for ourselves, but for him. We wanted Jack to be surrounded by his grandparents, aunt, and uncle.
My wife and I both were born in 1981. As children of the 1980′s, we were always told that you can do anything if you really believed in your dreams. Maybe that’s why we were brave enough to take this leap of faith. Maybe that’s what got us into this situation: Having almost depleted our savings and unable to land the right jobs back in my small hometown, we are now at a breaking point.
But in this moment, I don’t feel brave. Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness. The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job. It’s not a matter of the choice that we may have to move back to Nashville- it’s simply the only option if at least one of us doesn’t get a job within the next 2 and a half weeks. We need to make the most responsible decision at this point.
That 2 and a half week deadline is both how long our savings will last us as well as how long it should take to know if the most recent job I applied for will be mine or go to someone else. I can’t say that there were truly no job opportunities for me here. The first week we were here, I interviewed and was offered a job that was similar to my one in Nashville for the past five years- however, I found out during the interview that it meant working every Saturday and three nights a week. So I turned them down. Looking back, it’s easier to say I should have jumped at the chance. But at the time, I felt that it defeated the purpose of moving here if I couldn’t spend Saturday’s and many evenings with my family.
And the day I published the last chapter of this series, I interviewed and was offered a job as an account representative. It seemed like the perfect fit at first, but soon I realized I was the wrong guy for the job- like an accountant trying to do a computer administrator’s job or a forklift operator trying to work in a cubicle on the phone. I was very appreciative, and maybe too honest to not waste their time, but after a week and a half, I had to face the inevitable and re-entered the gloomy world of “much qualified but unemployed”.
My heart was set on raising my son in the same small town I loved while growing up. But it’s starting to seem like I’m playing Red Rover and I just can’t break through the other side. And while all of my family’s lives and futures will change if end up moving back to Nashville, I think of how Baby Jack’s life will be the most effected. Nashville is a wonderful city; after all, it’s where my wife and I met and got married. But his grandparents (my parents) had set their hearts on seeing him nearly every day (the house we live now in is barely a half a mile from them). And Jack won’t get to grow up with his cousin (my sister is due with her first child in July, who will be in the same school grade as him) as closely.
We chose love over money. We chose faith over security. I would love to believe that this story ends the way I intended. But unless God provides a miracle, because that’s the only saving option, then we have to count our losses (emotional, physical, and financial) and abandon our simple dream.
In Nashville, Jack will have to be raised by babysitters while my wife and I work. As compared to living in Alabama, my sister was going to babysit him since she is going on maternity leave for awhile. That’s hard for me to grasp. It makes me think of a divorce in that Jack will only see his family (other than my wife and I, of course) on most weekends. That’s not what I had my heart set on.
My intentions were good. My heart was right. My faith was real. My God can still intervene.
One of the main reasons I decided to write this God-nudged leap of faith series was to show how God would provide for my family. He has always provided for me before. I just can’t imagine this story ending with this all being for just character building experience. Not that God’s faithfulness and providence depends on my story. So to be fair, no matter how this story ends, I will continue writing it- even if we have to pack our lives back up and return to Nashville (where I could go back to my gracious former employer).
I realize that our willingness to move back to Nashville away from family could simply be like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Maybe it’s simply a test of our faith. But I also fully realize that despite all it took to get here, we may be required to actually make the sacrifice. For the next two and a half weeks, I will be looking for that ram caught in the bushes, like Abraham was given. I’m counting on a miraculous whirlwind to catch me and carry me either to safety on the ground, or back up to where I leaped from in the first place.
Like Bruce Springsteen said in the first track of my favorite album of his, The Rising: “In God’s hands our fate is complete… I’m countin’ on a miracle to come through.”
While it is a bummer that the classic American father has become a bit of myth these days in popular culture, I can serve as a representative in “dad from day one” as one myself.
I would like to begin with the discernment of a female comedian named Sarah Haskins; I highly recommend watching this humorous 3 minute video clip regarding the following quote of hers:
“Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. And what happens if the husband tried to plant his feet and not get bullied in real life? Divorced, money split, wife takes the kids, forever in debt.”
It’s strange how I never gave it too much thought before: How so many commercials and sitcoms really do revolve around a funny yet overweight and slightly incompetent man who happened to score a thin and hot wife who overlooks his bumbling and pathetic behavior. From Kevin James to to Homer Simpson. (Of course, I fully realize the annoying irony of the fact that it is mainly men who are writing those commercials and sitcoms.)
Yes, they makes us laugh. But in some subconscious ways, these stereotypes of men also take power (and more obviously, respect) away from men, in general. Does anyone really care whether or not men are portrayed positively in sitcoms and commercials? Or are we just content to just ignore the occasional facebook status hype that “all men are jerks”, or best, the subliminal message that men are jokes?
As a man with solid moral principles and a backbone, I know the truth: Good men still exist. We’re embarrassed by the worst examples of men; the ones who make the most noise and the most messes. The truth is, being a good man is everything to me. I live for being a good husband and a good father. It’s crucial that I earn respect from those who know me.
Fortunately, my obsession of being respected as a father and husband isn’t simply my own personal quirk. I was so relieved and encouraged when I read the book For Women Only. Here’s an insightful quote from female author Shaunti Feldhahn, explaining a major difference in the wiring of men and women:
“Notice that one of the main biblical passages on marriage- in Ephesians 5- never tells the wife to love her husband, and it never tells the husband to respect his wife (presumably because we each already tend to give what we want to receive). Instead, over and over, it urges the husband to love his wife and urges the wife to respect her husband and his leadership. Women often tend to want to control things, which, unfortunately, men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which, if we’re honest with ourselves, it sometimes is).”
Shortly after getting married, I read both that book and its counterpart, For Men Only. Thank God for those books! Marriage makes so much more sense after learning the unspoken things that men and women assume the other already knows on a daily basis. But if I had to pin it down to one major thing I learned from reading them, it was that men want to be respected by their wives and that women want to feel loved by their husbands. And more importantly, these books clearly explain to a man how to successfully express his love to his wife and they explain to a woman how to successfully express respect to her husband.
By going against so many of the negative stereotypes about men, I can truly show my wife and son that I love them. I can’t express the value of the reward of feeling like a respected husband and father. So I think if a man proves himself to be respected by people, then people should respect him enough to tell him they noticed his “goodness”, in some way. There’s not a whole lot of that happening these days.
So I do. I take the time to tell good men that they are good. Even coming from me, another guy, I know it means something. Because subconsciously, though we men would never admit it, we appreciate being noticed for being the good men of this world.
I embark on a mission each new day to be the best good man I can be. And I know that the little things are the big things: Helping take care of my 3 month old son in every way I can, not leaving all or most of it on my wife, is a daily staple for me in my effort to be a good man. I don’t want my wife to be able to joke with her friends about my shortcomings or shortcuts as a dad and husband. Instead, I live to give her every reason not to ever be tempted to do that, even for an innocent laugh. And despite my constant strive and desire to be funny, when it comes to being a good father and husband, I want to be taken seriously. It’s not a joking matter.
Admittedly, my skills regarding home repairs and car maintenance are lacking- big time. But I know that being able to fix a car or a garbage disposal doesn’t ultimately prove my manhood. Being an active, supportive, responsible father and husband does. Man was created in God’s image. Not Charlie Sheen’s. Not Archie Bunker’s. Not Peter Griffin’s.
Recruiting the help of my facebook friends, I tried to come up with an example of a popular American father on TV, who is recent (in new episodes since 2004) and not a widow, a martyr, a robot, or an alien. Turns out, there was no real, obvious winner. So instead of naming who the modern day Ward Cleaver is in the title of this entry, all I could do was just generically say “the modern day Ward Cleaver”. And while it is sad that the classic American father has become a bit of myth in popular culture, I can do my part outside of my home life:
By writing “dad from day one”. I can continue making a positive presence in the gorilla marketed world of “baby blogging”. So it may not be as big as TV, but I still count this blog as contributing to the entertainment industry. Not that I am THE classic American father, but that I am simply a clearly communicating representative of us all. It may be nearly impossible to think of a respectable TV dad these days, but I know so many in real life- and that’s what actually matters.
If the respectable American father won’t show up on TV, he can more importantly show up in the real world.
Just to show you an example of the way it has become normal to stop taking men seriously, check out my challenge below.
Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings. *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.
Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:
Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.
Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified. I will define “current” as “since 2004″, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.
Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show. No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.
He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either. So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work. Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death. He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.
And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way. He has to be a solid, consistent character.
He is not perfect; he does make mistakes. Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.
The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.
Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”
Impress me, friends. Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.
You are looking at a picture of our “guest towels”. If you are one of the 7 (maybe less?) males to actually be reading this, you will be just as confused as I once was to learn that despite their name, guest towels, these are not actually towels intended for guests to use. Granted, we do have extra towels for when guests do actually stay at our home- but those are in our “guest bathroom” on the other end of the house. As a guy, who is unable to see any logic in having guest towels in the bathroom attached to our bedroom that are actually only there to look nice and for decoration, not actually for guests to use, I found comfort in watching many male stand up comics who made a routine out of the same topic.
I am becoming more and more aware of how little control I actually have over my own life; much less my own house. Because another common topic that married male stand up comics talk about is the fact that they don’t know where anything in their own house belongs: like the mixing bowl, the stapler, and of course, the real guest towels that are actually intended for guests for use. And now it makes so much more sense why it is so common for the man of the house to spend time in his “man cave”, whether it is his garage, his shop, or even the yard. Why? Because while in his solitude, he has a sense of control over something on the land he owns or rents.
Jack's first taste of a pineapple.
I’m at a point in my life where I am constantly reminded of what little I actually do control right now. With tomorrow reaching the 2 month mark of unemployment, the dignity of providing for my family has been surrendered. And without that, I also feel like I can’t control my time (because I feel guilty if I’m not constantly doing something constructive to find a job). Starting on Christmas Day and ending yesterday (Groundhog Day), after my wife and son went to sleep each night, I would spend an hour or so revisiting my video game past. I took take the time to go through all 3 Super Mario Bros. games on regular Nintendo, Super Mario World for Super NES, and New Super Mario Bros. for WII, and beat them without using any Game Genies or Warp Zones (which again may only interest the 7 or less men reading this). And while there is something seemingly pathetic about a jobless, 29 year-old guy cheering out loud because he beat Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time in his life; for me, it was a major sense of accomplishment.
I controled those old-school, 8-bit Nintendo games. And in some slightly true sense, I had control over my time as well.
I think it’s easy to overlook the importance of control in life. Why is it that if you drive into certain “bad neighborhoods” that the residents stand in the road or take their sweet time crossing the street, knowing that you need to get by? It’s gives them a sense of control. Why are there rapists in the world? Well, the easy answer is “the depravity of man” or “lust” or “an unfulfilled sex drive”. But to me it’s pretty obvious that their hideous crime is also largely fueled by a lack of control in their own lives. For more times than I can remember, it seems any time I watch a story on NBC Dateline about a rapist, he was emotionally, physically, or sexually abused growing up. Some people will do anything for the sense of control in their own life.
So what can I do right now? What can I actually control in my life at this moment? I can help with the basic needs of my son. I can control whether or not he gets fed, held, played with, and nurtured. And perhaps the best part, I can make him do funny, weird stunts to be featured on YouTube. Because hey, what else am I going to do until I get a real job?