Back then, you were a 3 month-old fetus who I best understood through a black-and-white sonogram. You’ve come a long way, kid.
But so have I. I learned how to become a dad.
Like Elvis Costello in 1983, everyday I write the book. We figure this out together, in real time.
Along the way, there have been things I’ve said on The Dadabase, that looking back now, I wouldn’t say; nor are they still accurate depictions of how I see things.
There were times I was so zealous about representing myself as a confident dad with a consistent parenting plan, that it probably came across as bravado, not confidence.
And I do regret my former tone in regards to controversial topics like abortion, circumcision, the cry-it-out method, and even politics in general. I see now how I was only adding to the noise of two extremely polarized camps preaching to their own choirs.
That’s not me anymore. Everyday, I’m becoming more like Jack Johnson. And everyday, you’re becoming more like Jack the boy… not the baby.
For the past couple of years now, I have consistently published my own recaps of The Bachelor, drawing in tens of thousands of views on my personal blog site, NickShell.com.
It made me laugh that I could make 300 people a day stumble upon my site when they Googled “Is Ali Fedotowsky Jewish?” Not only blogging about the show, but watching it every Monday night with my wife, had become a fun tradition.
This week, the new Bachelor season premiered featuring Ben Flajnik, the Slovak-Italian-German-English (but not Jewish) winemaker from California.
But the magic just wasn’t there for me anymore. Unlike previous seasons, it felt like the main focus was just on how ridiculous (and pathetic) the contestants could appear to be. It was like the show had merged with its sleazy cousin, Bachelor Pad, and all those trashy reality dating shows on VH1.
I guess I’m becoming more morally convicted about contributing to the exploitation of other people; even if they don’t realize or don’t care that the world is laughing at them, not with them.
A switch has flipped in my head. Is it because The Bachelor has (just now?) finally jumped the shark?
Not actually. My sudden disgust in The Bachelor got me thinking deeper. I realized that the underlying issue here is that I’m starved for redeeming value, not only in entertainment, but in real life.
I started thinking about the TV shows my wife and I have plowed through this past year on Netlflix. (We don’t have cable. We watched this week’s Bachelor episode online.)
They included Big Love, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. In my opinion, all three are very well-written, well-directed, fresh, original, and premium quality entertainment. But just yesterday I realized something they all three have in common:
The protagonist cheats on his wife, she cheats on him, or they cheat on each other.
It made me start thinking about all the good songs we love to sing along to which are about someone getting cheated on. Yeah, good songs like “White Liar” by Miranda Lambert or “You Lie” by The Band Perry. In every genre of music, it’s common for enjoyable songs to be about infidelity.
I may sound like a Republican grandma from the Eighties, but I’m really tired of all this negativity in pop culture; especially when it comes to the way marriage is portrayed.
The truth is, I’m struggling right now to think of a good modern TV series that features a happily married couple who aren’t constantly (even though comically) cutting each other down. I miss Jason and Maggie Seaver from Growing Pains.
Here on The Dadabase, I have written several times about how dads are negatively portrayed on TV. But I failed to focus also on how negatively marriage is portrayed, as well. That’s just as big of a deal.
I miss the cheesy “musical moral moments” at the end of Miller-Boyett sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step, and Perfect Strangers where I was always fed a bite-size life lesson, teaching me to care more about others than myself.
Starting now, I am going to be deliberately seeking out entertainment (and real-life ventures) that have a high redeeming quality.
As part of her Christmas present to me, my wife agreed to watch the first season of Lost with me. She’s never seen it, but I’ve seen every episode.
Lost is the kind of thing I mean when I say “redeeming quality.” I love to see the moral struggles of the characters as they try to forgive others and themselves for the wrongs they have committed in their lives. I love that they ultimately become accountable for their actions.
I love to see a story actually go somewhere. I love to see people redeemed, not exploited.
For nearly a month now, Jack has been going to day care as my wife and I have returned to our jobs here in Nashville. I work only a block away from where he is all day, so I’m the one to chauffeur him an hour round trip five days a week.
Those “Baby on Board” suction cup signs on cars always crack me up. I’m only pretty sure that a careless driver isn’t going to have the gumption to read one of those signs, then stop and think, “Oh! That car has a baby inside. Man, I need to slow down and focus.” Or maybe there’s some secret society of people playing bumper cars with their cars out on the highway and they only break for vehicles with the “Baby on Board” signs.
Needless to say, there is no little plastic yellow sign stuck on a window of my Honda Element, but I do indeed drive a vehicle containing precious cargo. With my baby on board, I feel like his bodyguard. The Pope has the Popemobile; Jack has his Toaster on Wheels, his Big Green Lunch Box, his Wind-Up Toy Car- your choice.
I know there are cities with crazier drivers in America, but for those 60 minutes a day I drive him around in Nashville, I have to assume that every other person is a maniac who is drinking their fifth 5-Hour Energy drink and Tweeting on their phone while I drive alongside them. I have to assume that at any given moment, a startled deer will jump out in front of the car. I have to assume that Wile E. Coyote poured a bucket of Acme grease on the road in front of me in attempt to catch the Roadrunner.
In the meantime, Jack is asleep half the time as I jam out to any given Weezer album. As for the time he’s awake, I assume he’s like me: in deep thoughts about A) the unfortunate impossibilities of time travel, B) whether or not God likes the music of Dave Matthews Band; if so, what is His favorite song, and C) who would win in a fight- A.C. Slater from Saved By the Bell or Uncle Jesse from Full House?
For now, Jack’s vocabulary doesn’t extend past “dada,” “mehm-mehm-mehm-mehm,” and “ba-ba-ba-ba.”. But eventually, he and I will be able to have some normal conversations during the morning and afternoon car rides. I can ask him what he learned in pre-school that day.
Until then, we’re both just sort of in our shared solitude, looking in opposite directions. Every so often though, I turn around real quick to make sure he hasn’t somehow escaped his car seat and wandered off. Then I see those happy little feet and know that my baby is still on board.
Look how cool Honda Elements are! The back seats can fold up and into the side of the car or all the way back (as seen in the picture of this one).
I think the best way to begin is to share a few things that I would rather do than take an eight month old little boy on a plane from Nashville to Sacramento:
1) Be forced to watch a 24 hour marathon of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, sending out a Tweet every 15 minutes praising the show, though I despise it more than the awful movie Something Borrowed; which is the worst movie I’ve ever seen- and that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen When in Rome.
2) Shave “racing stripes” into my hair until they grow out and when people ask me why I have resorted to a hairstyle trend that was briefly popular in 1988, I could only respond by saying “Cut… it… out!”, along with doing the accomanying hand motions, made famous by the character Joey Gladstone on Full House.
3) Walk barefoot on broken glass like Bruce Willis did in the first Die Hard movie.
When taking an infant on a plane, you must provide proof that your child is less than two years old. I know this now because we did not. (Dave Stanley, if you are reading this, I’m going to need you to email Jack’s birth certificate to me so we can leave Sacramento on Sunday…). The lady was nice and let us board the plane anyway. Thank God.
I’ve never seen my son pee so much, in a reasonable amount of time since his diaper was last changed, that I look down and see a puddle at my feet while standing in line to buy a snack before boarding the plane. And I didn’t even care that I didn’t have time to wash my moistened hand before boarding the plane.
A guy who looked just like “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons brought his Shih Tzu dog on the plane, hogging up the front row of seats; when my wife and I tried to sit in the remaining two seats next to him, he responded sarcastically with, “Uh, sure, I guess it wouldn’t be a bad idea for both a dog and a baby to sit in the same row.” It wasn’t worth it; we ended up settling for having to sit in the middle of the plane; my wife was in front of me and I was in the row behind.
The flight involved Jack sleeping as long as either my wife or I held him while standing up in the aisle. My arms are still sore from that.
Of course, Jack won’t remember any of this along with how much he didn’t enjoy the flight. But at least he can read about it in a few years.
Ah man, there for a minute I actually forgot… We still have do this whole thing again when we fly back to Nashville. Shazbot!