Posts Tagged ‘ dad blog ’

The Bittersweet Move Back to Nashville: July 16th

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Seven months.

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.

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Parenting is the Most Controversial Thing I Do, Apparently

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Seven months.

I find it fascinating that as parents, we are often quick to point out the perceived flaws of other parents, as if it’s some game to “out” who the “bad parents” really  are in our society.

After 48 hours of being published, my post “Positively Communicating with My Seven Month Old Son” received over 1,300 “likes” on Facebook.  Interestingly, during that same short period of time, on Parents Magazine’s Facebook page my article received 167 comments; most of them vehemently criticizing me, while some passionately supported and defended me.

I’m learning just how polarizing my perspective on parenting can be.  When I published that post, I had no idea that it would ever become so popular, as well as, so infamous.  I just thought it was another post like any other day.  It didn’t stand out as particularly special to me.  Boy, was I wrong- because it hit a sweet spot for so many readers and struck a nerve with the rest.  People either completely loved it, or hated it as much as I despise the TV show 16 and Pregnant.

Some of the best entertainment I’ve had in a while was reading through all the comments on the Facebook wall for Parents Magazine.  While I felt so encouraged from those who supported me, the majority of the people who opposed my viewpoint said some really angry and/or hilarious stuff.  (One of my favorite comments involves a unicorn.)

A common occurrence from several readers was the feeling that my tone was snobbish.  This was implied because I stated I don’t like to see parents sarcastically joke about giving their kids away to strangers in public. (What about parents who can’t have children? How do they feel when they witness this same event?)

Sure, it regularly crosses my mind that having a child is tough; especially when he is not behaving as I would like. But I’m his dad and I’m suppose to be his number one supporter, not his number one critic.

Am I naïve and inexperienced when it comes to being a parent?  Of course I am. I’ve only been a dad for seven months.

I have to speculate that that has something to do with why Parents.com chose me as their official daddy blogger, instead of a seasoned veteran who actually knew what they were doing.  My lack of experience is one of the reasons The Dadabaseis interesting- because I am a newbie.  I am learning something new as a parent everyday.  I am wet behind the ears; that’s sort of my specialty here.

However, I was additionally perceived as a snob because some readers felt that I do not yet have the authority to write about communicating with my child because he is so young. But like I said in the article, I’m setting up the patterns now for how I will speak to him as he gets older.  After all, it’s a gradual process and this is my way of preparing for it.

Another reoccurring (and I believe, caricatured) perception of me from those who disagreed with my viewpoint  is that I am a hippie living in La La Land. That I am just so easygoing that my son is going to walk all over my wife and me as he gets older.  That I am so preoccupied with not speaking sarcastically to my son that I will completely neglect the need for discipline.

Ironically, just a couple of days ago I did Dadabase post about I how endorse and practice the “cry it out” method to get my son to sleep at night, prompting one reader to post this comment: “Actually, what you have done is not teach him to sleep well, but teach him that, no matter how hard he cries, how scared and alone he feels, or what his needs may be, you will not be there for him… Congratulations!”

The truth is, I actually worship the importance of creating structure for my son, setting realistic expectations for him, and when the time eventually comes, following through with discipline; not just threatening it.

It’s interesting to me that  I am paradoxically both a snob and a hippie. What a weird combo.

Side note: Thanks to the Facebook wall comments, I was made aware of the fact that there was a typo in the article.  I said “my wife and I” when I should have said “my wife and me.”  My college degree is in English, of all things.  So that’s one embarrassing faux pas.  I went back and fixed it.

To some,  I came across as a snob who thinks I am better than other parents and that my parenting style is superior to theirs.  Similarly, these same readers jumped at the chance to criticize me for disagreeing with their own parenting technique.  Is it safe to assume that these readers who so passionately disagree think that their parenting style is superior to mine?

As parents, we all do what works best for us and what we believe will be best for our children.  We all have controversial parenting styles compared to other parents out there.

But while it may appear that I am clueless or fanatical to be so darn positive, just know this: My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are planted firmly on solid ground.

Intentional symbolism.


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Good Conversations with Jack through Ongoing Bit Routines

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Seven months.

Chicco car seat for babies

How does a thirty year-old man carry on a conversation with his seven month-old son?  “So Jack, tell me about your day.  What did you have for lunch, son?”  Or I could say traditional fatherly phrases that make me think of TV sitcom dads from the 1960’s, like, “How’s my little man? Give your Pop a kiss on the cheek.”

Sorry, that’s just not my style.  Without realizing it, since Jack was a newborn, I have been creating bit routines with Jack to communicate with him.  I wasn’t aware of these ongoing conversations based on fictional characters I had made up until weeks after continuing to do them.

Here are a few examples:

“Are you Baby Sanchez?” This phrase is spoken in the same tone as the Boost Mobile’s “Is That the Talking Dog?” commercial.  The assumed plot line here is that Jack is being mistaken for a distant Mexican cousin.  Yesterday when I called my wife on my lunch break she suggested that I “do the Baby Sanchez” thing so check could hear it.  Sure enough, he smiled right away and laughed. Maybe he really is Baby Sanchez.

“Hello son-n-n-n-n-n-n-n… You are my son-n-n-n-n-n…” In this bit, I pretend to be a wise, old, bearded man sitting at the top of mountain.  Assuming Jack journeyed quite a ways to reach me, I get right to the point and announce to him that I am his father.  It’s similar to the concept behind Darth Vader’s “Luke, I am your father.”  But the voice I use is similar to Splinter in the original 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.  When I say the catch phrase, I get right in Jack’s face and press my lips on his cheek, in an effort to gain some sort of response.  Usually, all I get is, “Errrghhmmrrr…”

“…For babies.  Babies like (name relevant conversation topic) too, ya know…” This one comes into play the most when I come home from work and hold Jack while my wife prepares dinner.  If she says, “We’re almost out of Ricotta cheese.” Then I reply, evidently speaking from the perspective of Jack, “Ricotta cheese for babies.  Babies like Ricotta cheese too, ya know.” This helps me empathize with my son’s feelings and perspective on life.

“Ya wanna give ya Daddy-Waddy a kissy-wissy on da wippy-wippy-wippies?” This translates into English as “Do you want to give your Daddy a kiss on the lips?”  I pucker up my lips as big as I can and start zooming in towards his face, until I ultimately slightly turn away and kiss him on the cheek instead.  I love annoying my son in the name of entertainment.

It’s my norm to accidentally create these goofy characters for Jack and then reuse them on a daily basis.  As Jack learns to actually communicate back to me with legitimate words, he can start getting to know the real me.  Until then, I’m about as real as Roger Rabbit.

Baby Herman

Unnecessary Bonus:

The picture of Jack at the top of this post made me think of the album cover for The New Radicals’ only album, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too.  They were that one hit wonder band that did the 1999 song, “You Get What You Give.”  Some of the song’s most memorable lyrics were at the closing:

“Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson. You’re all fakes, run to your mansions…”

You Get What You Give

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Is It Wrong to Let Your Baby Cry It Out?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Seven months.

That’s the exact phrase I recently Googled; “Is it wrong to let your baby cry it out?” The results were nearly equally mixed; from stay-at-home moms to doctors.

What my wife and I had been doing was not working for our son so I decided to step up and be proactive.  Yes, I am one of those parents who unashamedly uses the controversial “cry it out” method when it comes to getting my son to go to sleep.

Granted, there are many versions of the method; some more harsh than others.  Today, I would like to share with you my version of it.

When my now seven month old son began crawling over a month ago, his former sleep schedule became abruptly derailed.  He began putting up a fight when it was time for him to go to sleep every night.

My son Jack became so preoccupied with his newly acquired mobility that his body just couldn’t stop moving, despite the fact he was exhausted and desperately needed rest.  He would even crawl in his sleep!

It didn’t take long for me to see the connection between his mobility obsession and his inability to fall asleep with the comfort of my wife’s usual routine with him.  The new normal was that it would take my wife 90 minutes or more to get him to sleep.

Needless to say, she was worn out and frustrated by the time it was over.  And I was frustrated to see her so frustrated.  Not to mention, by the time she got him to sleep, it was nearly time for the two of us to go to bed.

I respect the concept of quality time in our marriage.  And it just didn’t seem kosher that A) it should be that much trouble to get our son to bed and B) that our quality time together should be interfered with so greatly by something as seemingly natural as a baby falling asleep.

After barely skimming a chapter of a book on “crying it out” and a few websites, I decided to apply what I had learned.  The first night, it took my 43 minutes to get my son to sleep.  The second night, 27 minutes; the third; 17 minutes.  And now, a week later, I can often get him to sleep within 10 to 12 minutes.  (Tonight, it took me less than 5 minutes!)

Not only has the method caused my wife and me to be better relaxed and rested, but it also does the same for our son.  He wakes up less during the night now.

He goes to sleep a little earlier and wakes up a little later.  That’s not to say I’m excited by the fact that I have less quality time withhim during the day; but I do recognize that he was being deprived of quality sleep time before I started applying the method.

I recognize the common concern that the baby will become psychologically damaged by the process.  I disagree; not the way I do it, at least.  In fact, I proclaim that for the babies in the world who need the “cry it out” method, they actually become psychologically nurtured.

My son’s developing emotions have not yet successfully connected to rational thinking.  Half of his body is telling him, “Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!”  The other half is saying, “I’m tired! I need sleep!  I’m so sleepy it’s all I can think about!”

That’s where I come in.  I help my son make those connections in his brain.  And I do it with the structure and strength he craves.  I view it as an early form of discipline.  Not discipline in the form of punishment or discomfort, but in the form of guidance and assurance.

Here’s a brief look at the Nick Shell version of the “cry it out” method:

1)     As it gets close to his established bed time (6:30 PM), I take him to his bedroom and shut the door, letting him play for a few final minutes on the floor with his toys.

2)     When he shows signs of being ready to go to sleep (rubbing his eyes, being unable to sit well), I wrap him up in his blanket and begin gently rocking him.  I make sure that he is physically comfortable as I hold him; not holding him too tightly.

3)     When he begins doing his “protest cries” (crying at the top of his lungs), I give him a hug by holding him more firmly- but only in that moment of him belting out his cry; so ultimately during the two seconds he lets out a cry, I hold him more tightly, but obviously not squeezing him or hurting him.

4)     As his eyes close, I continue rocking him in my arms, waiting for him to officially fall asleep and start snoring.

5)     I wait a few more minutes to make sure he has entered a sleep deep enough to endure my lying him down in his bed.

6)     Then I hold him over his bed for another minute, but ceasing to rock him.  This prepares him for the landing.

7)     I slowly yet steadily lower him to his bed and remove my hands from his head and legs, lying him down. I wait another minute to make sure he is going to stay asleep, then I quietly leave the room.

8)     If it any point from Step 3 to Step 7 he refuses to stop crying for more than one minute, I carefully set him down in his bed and leave the room.  The first time I leave him, I’m only gone for one minute.  The next time, three; then five, then ten.  But never more than ten minutes pass before I return to try again.  Each time I return, I restart at Step 3 by re-wrapping him in the blanket and gently rocking him.

The most crucial element with this method is that you, the parent, are consistent.  Do it every night.  Never give up during the middle of it.

When necessary, I remind myself that I am the one who controls my son, not the other way around.  I don’t give him the ability to frustrate me with his illogical behavior; instead, I frustrate him with my logical behavior.  He doesn’t get me worked up emotionally; instead, I redirect his emotions.

I realize that may sound intense to some, but I believe my son needs structure now more than he ever has needed it in his life.  I believe if I let him have his way and take 90 minutes or more to fall asleep on his own, I would be sending a message to him that he is able to make the rules.  I believe for him, that could actually be psychologically misleading and damaging.  I love my son, therefore I use this version of the “cry it out” method.

In closing, I write this with the assumption that at least 70% of readers passionately disagree with me on this issue.  By no means am I trying to convert anyone to this seemingly unloving yet effective method.  I simply want to share what works for me (a normal guy; not an expert) and tell the other side of the story- to answer the question by saying, “No, it’s not wrong to let your baby cry it out.”

I welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree.  Just remember, I don’t approve comments that insult the character or intelligence of other commenters or of myself: Make it constructive, not destructive.  Make it legitimate; not sarcastic and condescending.

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The Relevance of Country Music, As a Dad

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Seven months.

For this past Father’s Day, I received a card from my wife, a card from my son (whose handwriting looks suspiciously similar to my wife’s), and Brad Paisley’s new CD, This is Country Music. It was just perfect.

How could I, the guy whose passion is to positively re-brand fatherhood, not be a fan of a genre of music that respects the idea of family and faith?

Despite living my whole life in the South, I don’t have a Southern accent.  Nor do I drive a pick-up truck, wear Wrangler jeans, or know how to rope a calf.  But I ama proud fan of Country music.  Not only did I meet my wife in 2006 because of it (we met while waiting in line for a taping of the CMT show Crossroads in Nashville), but I grew up in the same small town as the legendary band, Alabama.

While I can’t personally relate to the songs about tractors, cheatin’, and honky tonk badonkadonks, I can relate to the way Country music is brave enough to be simple and honest.

In other forms of music, like Rock, it’s not quite as acceptable or natural or cool to talk about your wife and kids.  Or to mention that you love Jesus, without it being ironic somehow.  In other words, Country music, more than any other genre, holds the strongest value for family and faith.

I am very sensitive to sexism; especially in music, because music is so influential on our culture, whether we are willing to accept it or not.  And this goes for not only Rap music where it is common to openly degrade women to the standard of sex objects in bikinis at pool parties and refer to them as words that are not in my vocabulary, but also in Pop music where it is normal for man-bashing to be common.

Honestly, I don’t care what kind of music it is, if it negatively stereotypes either women or men, it bothers me.  I don’t take it lightly.  Both women and men deserve respect and honor, not to be damned into a stereotype of bimbos and idiots.

But with Country Music, it’s not something I really have to think about.  Because for every “you’re a no good liar” type of Country song that exists, there are a dozen “I love my wife and kids” songs to overpower it.  That’s not the case in other genres.

Granted, I don’t just listen to Country.  I love Jazz,  90’s Alternative, and anything in the likeness of Guster and Pete Yorn.

But when I hear a song like “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington, or “Love Without End, Amen,” by George Strait, there’s a connection there that just can’t be matched by even the coolest, trendiest Rock star.

“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,

A secret that my daddy said was just between us,

You see, daddies don’t just love their children every now and then,

It’s a love without end, Amen.”

Love Without End, Amen by George Strait

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