Do you raise a boy baby differently because he is a boy instead of a girl? Should you treat him any differently because of his gender? The obvious, implied, correct answer is “yes.”
As if this wasn’t already established, I’ll just go ahead and put this out there: I can be a bit funny about stuff sometimes. And I don’t mean “ha ha” funny. I mean “peculiar.” I’m just set in my quirky ways, leaving others to deal with the flashes of absurdity.
That being said, I’m realizing already how particular I am with how I raise Jack. I know he’s only 6 months old and it’s basically irrelevant now to even think about these things, but it’s important to me that he is seen as a boy, not simply a baby. For example, Jack doesn’t use a “passy”; he uses a pacifier. “Passy” sounds way to much like “prissy.”
And when he gets a little older, he won’t be drinking from a “sippy cup,” which to me sounds like “sissy cup.” Instead, he will be drinking from what I cleverly named his “bambino cup.” (“Bambino” is Italian for “little boy.”)
I don’t like words that sound like they should be referring to what a cute little girl would say. Yes, Jack is a baby, and he’s not yet a little boy- but he is a boy baby. It matters to me that he is treated appropriately masculine even in his first several months of life.
That being said, I should go ahead and point out some irony. With a new cousin on the way (my sister is pregnant with a little girl, due July 2nd), when we take Jack to my sister and her husband’s house, he gets to try out some of his cousin’s toys before she gets here. I have no problem whatsoever with Jack playing on an all pink play pad with a pink bird that plays a sort of girly song when he pulls it. Why not? Because it’s so obvious that he’s “messing around” with a girl’s toy. It’s funny and ironic and something to joke about.
I carry Jack around with necessary caution, but I’m not too delicate with him. He is an adventurous boy. Sometimes as he’s rolling around on the floor he slightly bumps the back of his head down on the carpet rug, loud enough to make a [thud!] sound. When he even notices that he’s “supposed” to be hurt, he gets over it in about two seconds. Especially when he checks our facial expressions to get confirmation that he really he is okay. Then it’s back to rolling around.
Jack will have manners when he gets older; he will say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.” He will be respectful and well-behaved to both adults and his peers. I will make sure of it. He will be a Southern gentleman. And even so, he will get into some (innocent) trouble.
He will break a window with a baseball. He will stay out too long playing out in the woods and worry me that he’s not home yet. He will step out to the line of danger but will be smart enough not to cross it.
There’s nothing wrong with letting a boy be a boy. And that’s coming from a former little boy who broke a window and stayed out past dinner time because I was having fun playing in the woods. But I also knew how to behave in public. So if there’s anything delicate about being a boy, it’s the crucial balance of being “rough and tumble” along with knowing when to say “please”and “thank you.”
Granted, it’s all about raising a well-balanced son. Being involved in music and art are just as important as being a boy scout and playing sports. Any of those activities he wants to do and he enjoys, I will encourage him- whether he’s artistic, athletic, or equally both. As for me, I was never an athlete (or a good one, at least) and it ultimately led me to have an interest in writing- which is why you are reading this today.
All this testosterone in the air is causing me to consider renaming my blog. I could just see it now…
Jack may have been born as a Mexican baby, but he has gradually morphed into a little Norwegian boy. The supreme irony is that when Jack was born, he almost looked too dark to be my son. Six months later, it’s the opposite situation.
If you grew up in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, then by default one of your favorite sitcoms was Full House. And whenever you think of Uncle Jesse, you think of his awesome video for “Forever” where he is wearing a black leather vest while in a bathtub surrounded by candles. Also featured in the music video were Jesse and Rebecca’s twin sons, Nicky and Alex.
For me, I was always distracted by the fact that a dark featured Greek guy and a normal complected woman with reddish brown hair would have sons that had blonde hair, blue eyes, and light skin. I already had enough trouble believing that Danny Tanner would have three daughters with blondish hair when he himself had black hair (Bob Saget is Jewish in real life) with their mother who was also Greek; she was Jesse’s sister. But light featured kids don’t come from dark featured parents, especially when there is a Mediterranean bloodline… I thought to myself for 20 years.
When Jack was born, and in the month or so to follow, he was a Mexican. His skin was darker than mine, his hair was jet black, and his general features just simply looked Hispanic, or at least Italian. That’s because my maternal grandmother, Delores “Lola” Mendez is a dark-featured Mexican from Buffalo, New York and my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo, was a dark featured Italian from Kenosha, Wisconsin.
In fact, when you climb both sides of the family tree (both my wife’s and mine) you continually find dark haired people with dark eyes. But there is the fact that my wife’s paternal grandfather was a Norwegian orphan adopted by an American family, who married an indentured servant from Ireland. In other words, despite the influx of “dark genes”, Jack evidently adopted the underdog “lighter” genes.
My wife and I have a blonde haired, blue eyed son with porcelain skin. He’s sort of the “white sheep” in the family. And now that he’s officially six months old, the age at which a baby’s eye color remains permanent (based on what I’ve read), we now know it’s official. Granted, I realize there’s a good chance that the older Jack gets, the darker his hair will get. He may not always be blonde, but he will always have lighter skin than his parents who have a subtle olive complexion (skin with yellow and green undertones). And people will always ask us, “Where’d that boy of yours get those pretty, deep blue eyes?”
Knowing me, I’ll probably reference Nicky and Alex from Full House every time I answer that question.
1) The Four Generations of Shell in December 2010; my grandfather Shell is sitting in the middle, holding my son Jack, in between my dad and me.
2) The Four Generations of Metallo/Mendez in January 2011; my grandmother Metallo is sitting in the middle, in between my mom and me.
3) In May 2011, Jack is holding a sign that reads, “I am 6 months old today.”
*To get a better idea of just how different Jack used to look, look on the right side of the screen and click on the archives. Start at November 2010, the month he was born.
In the Season One finaleof dad from day one, I promised an interesting plot twist. So here in this premier of Season Two, I’m letting everyone know my own meaning of the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama”.
As I explained in due date, a common trait of ‘80’s sitcoms was that a family was introduced to an outsider who suddenly moved in their home, therefore creating a new sense of “normal”. An exception was Just the Ten of Us, where the Lubbock family moved from the state of New York (the setting of Growing Pains, which it was a spin-off from) to California. Dad from day one will be combining both of those plot devices: the newcomer and the new setting. Next Saturday morning, December 4th (on the 4th day of Hanukkah- for any Jewish readers out there) we will pack up our PT Cruiser and Element for the 2 ½ trip (not counting baby delays) from Nashville, TN to the small mountain/valley town of Fort Payne, AL (pop. 14,000 not including illegal immigrants) where I was raised.
Something that makes this really interesting is when I am asked: “So do you have a job lined up?” Nope. That’s part of the reason we are so briskly making the Hometown Migration- so I can search full time for a new job during the whole month of December while living off leftover paychecks and savings. Despite having nearly five years of career experience involving sales, doing trade shows, hiring, and training, I am not naïve to think that a new job will magically appear the week we move to Alabama.
However, I have this belief that as a follower of Jesus Christ, God knows I will make a lot of noise and commotion honoring Him before and after He answers my prayer. And since I believe that glorifying God in all things is the ultimate meaning of life, I am confident that at the right time, God will provide for me so that I can provide for my family. As Jesus put it, when a child asks his father for bread or fish to eat, his father doesn’t give him a stone or a serpent instead. I love that example.
In Fort Payne, we will be living less than three miles from not only my parents but also my sister and her husband. We know that this quiet town will not only be the right place for Baby Jack to grow up, but also the most practical place for my wife and I to care for him- to be able to watch him grow up slowly, as compared to seeing him only a couple of hours a day in a big city life. There is no mall in Fort Payne; only a Super Wal-Mart. There are oddly no Italian restaurants, which will be difficult for Baby Jack, my wife, and myself who all happen to be a quarter Italian and need marinara sauce and garlic bread in order to function properly. And sadly, for my wife, there is no Starbucks: I think the nearest one is about an hour away.
A lifestyle without malls, Italian restaurants, and Starbucks is precisely what the three of us need. Because despite leaving all those so-called conveniences behind, we will be able to slow down the pace of life to the speed it needs to be. My wife and I are extremely happy about the move. In a sitcom it’s pretty normal for each new season to bring about new characters on the show. New characters, new city, new plotlines, here we come.
Don’t ask me how, but all week my wife and I have had the theme song to the ‘80’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere stuck in our heads. In the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, we downloaded the song as our ringtones for when we call each other. That has caused me to revisit some of my most favorite theme songs from these sitcoms that served as the backdrop of my childhood. A very interesting trait that many of these TV shows had in common with each other (and accordingly, the lyrics to their theme songs) is that premise was that an outsider moved into the household, therefore throwing normalcy out of whack. Which totally relates to what’s going through my head right now about our upcoming new addition, a baby boy. (In order to qualify, the sitcom had to actually start in the 1980′s; Diff’rent Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and The Facts of Life don’t qualify since since they premiered in the ’70′s.)
For example, here’s a sitcom that had it all, yet could have only existed in the 1980’s: An all-American family, laugh tracks, and an Alien puppet. Of course, I’m referring to Alf. While the song had no words (instead it sounded like what would happen if you pressed the “demo” button on a $200 Casio keyboard in 1988), the thought of a little creature running around the floor chasing cats loosely translates having a baby boy. For Family Matters, the intended outsider was Estelle Winslow who moved in with her son Carl’s family, though unexpectedly the true outsider instead became Steve Urkle (intended only as a guest star) instead a few episodes into the first season.
In Mr. Belvedere, a British butler moves in with an American family living in Philadelphia: “Sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared… There’s a change in the status quo. Preparing for our new arrival. We might just live the good life yet…”
Another prime example is from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, which happens to have my favorite TV show theme song ever. In Perfect Strangers, city slicker Larry Appleton is thrown for a curve when his distant cousin Balki moves from his mysterious Mediterranean village to live with Larry in Chicago: “Sometimes the world looks perfect- nothing to rearrange. Sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change…”
In Full House, it was Joey and Uncle Jesse who mixed things up by moving in with the Tanner family: “What ever happened to predictability?”
There was CBS’s version of Diff’rent Strokes: Webster. As a kid, I actually liked Webster more than Arnold: “Til there was you…”
The next two sitcoms both premiered in 1984 and featured an Italian-American who moved into the household as a “manny”. Who’s the Boss? contains my 2nd favorite theme song ever and often caused me to believe that Tony Danza was my uncle: “You might awaken to a brand new life around the bend…”
Even though I never watched it, I know it was a big deal to a lot of people- Charles in Charge: “New boy in the neighborhood…”
You’re welcome… for being led into a world of nostalgia. It’s pretty much a fact that you’ll be struggling to get one of those songs out of your head for the rest of the day. So being such a sentimental guy as I am, I’ve been thinking about the current events that are going on right now. That way I can tell Jack what was going on around the time he was born:
Interestingly, on November 5th, the movie Due Date hit theatres. Daylight Savings was two days later; meaning that when it’s that time again to set back the clocks every year, it will almost be time for Jack’s birthday. Conan O’Brien’s new show premiered this week (November 8th) and sure enough on last night’s episode during the monologue Conan pointed out that it was exactly nine months ago that his gig at The Tonight Show ended; so if because two people felt sad for Conan losing his job they decided to “get frisky” to be happy again, their child would be born this week. Good call.
It will also be pretty neat that I will be able to show Jack the November 2010 issue of American Baby, in which in his birth was anticipated. He is not making his debut unannounced; that’s for sure. Today, November 11th, is not only Jack’s due date but it’s also my dad’s birthday, whose name is also Jack. So even though he won’t have the same exact birthday as my dad, their birthdays will always be close.
Of all the pregnancy advice I’ve been given, the one thing no one warned me about is this: For first time moms, it’s normal and expected to not delivery until a full week after the due date. So if you or your wife are approaching your due date, don’t do like I did and get all psyched, thinking the water is going to break at any moment. Because then everyone is constantly asking for and expecting baby news, but sure enough, the baby is unaware of his due date. He’s coming out when he’s good and ready.
I have to remind myself that my baby is not a Hot Pocket, with an exact predetermined time of two minutes in the microwave. In fact, that would be pretty weird if he truly was born right near the due date. We went to the doctor today. Thank God, Baby Jack has still got a strong heartbeat and is in a good position. He’s turned the correct way and everything. But as far as when he gets here, I’m sure it will be the moment that I (and everyone else) least expects it. He’s a sneaky little guy.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
I blame it on my Italian heritage, which trickled down to me throughout my life thanks to my grandfather Metallo; of course, since I grew up in the South, he was simply “Paw Paw”. I’ve inherited an instinct to incorporate just a little bit of peculiar character in purchased items. It’s a careful balance of finding items that are slightly flashy and clashing, yet still classy, but not trashy. (Bet you can’t say that phrase five times real fast…)
In this American generation, the idea of a man caring much about his shoes is often considered to be related to gay or metrosexual culture. But I don’t subscribe to that mentality. In fact, I believe an important part of being a man is how he dresses; and as everyone should know, his shoes are the most important part of the wardrobe, since they ultimately set the tone for his clothing.
My mindset is more of an old-school class American idea; yet it is still a staple concept of any movie or TV show portraying Italian culture. From The Godfather movies to The Sopranos, the way an Italian man dresses is well planned out. Never an accident. Italians are not slobs.
Paw Paw Metallo
Being that my wife and I both are one quarter Italian, our son Jack will also be one quarter Italian as well. That means he will not get by with the typical American guy’s shoe collection: a pair of black dress shoes, a brown pair of boots, a pair of running shoes, and a pair of flip flops. No, not my son.
Jack will be like me. I own no less than 15 pairs of shoes, some of which are at least 10 years old, yet you would never know it because I take such good care of them. And while Jack won’t be born for another three months, he already has two pairs of essential “flashy, clashing, and classy yet not trashy” shoes awaiting him.
Last week as my wife and I were registering at Target, we found some shoes on clearance that not only meet the criteria, but also are essentially identical to shoes I already own. A pair of Kelly green sneakers (6-9 months, in time for Summer) and a pair of white leather loafers (12-18 months, just in time for Christmas). Like father, like son.
*Jack is still the size of a papaya; no major change in fruit size this week.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: