It’s rumored that some of my not-so-distant Italian ancestors had ties to the 1940′s Chicago mob scene.
Based on the mannerisms that my son Jack does, I could very easily see that to be true.
Thinking back on comments people tell me when they meet Jack in person or even just when they see his pictures, they people say he looks (and acts) either very serious or extremely happy. But not not much in-between; not much of an emotional transition.
It’s basically how Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci act in every movie I’ve seen them in: They never smile… until they do. And by that point, once they’ve reached their giddy stage… watch out!
Because by that point, the insanity has set in.
Yeah, that’s Jack.
He’s sort of a little mobster.
Besides “mine,” his favorite word right now is “UP!”
Jack has a deep, raspy voice. And when he says the word “up” he says it slowly and with that extra syllable at the end, like a native Italian speaker.
So I’ve got this mini-man now telling me “UHP-PEH!” (Like a baby boss!)
I have to admit, it’s almost intimidating.
We can be playing with his toys on the carpet in the living room and all of the sudden, he says to me: “UP!”
That means he’s ready to go outside or play in a different room or if nothing else, I have to hurry and find a new way to entertain him.
The thing is, I sort of have to do what he says. If he’s tired of an activity, even if it’s eating, and he says, “All done!” then I have to act on it.
It’s not like the kid is going to patiently wait for me to finish what I was doing first.
The more I think about it, I really am a henchman for a mobster; who happens to be only 21 months old.
I serve him. I feed him. I dress him. I drive him. I tuck him into bed. I do his shopping for him.
Even though I make him say please first, he’s still ultimately telling me what to do. (Like a baby boss!)
And I do it.
My son is the Todfather. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Today I help out a fellow dad whose wife has revoked his ability to help with their kid and the housework… or has she?
“Nick, what advice do you have for me on this? Since our infant child arrived several months ago, my wife complains (or mutters under her breath) on a daily basis that I’m not helpful enough with the baby or the housework, then complains when I do try to help.
She tells me it’s just easier to do it herself. I can’t win! Help me dude!”
Let me guess. Like me, you’ve always been a pretty laid-back guy. You’re friendly. You tend not to let things bother you, for the most part.
I say, that’s a great way to be; except for all the times that being aggressive and proactive come in to play. As a dad and husband, that actually ends up being a lot of the time.
Your wife is ultimately upset, not because she would rather do things herself, but because she’s having to take on the majority of the household duties, including caring for your child.
She needs you to take charge, even if you have to figure it out as you go along.
I get it. You don’t know as much about where the mixing bowl and the pasta strainer belong; nor do you know exactly how to fold the kitchen towels the right way.
You’re a man, so it’s frustrating that you don’t naturally know as much about the world of Home Ec; much less what to do with a crying infant who at this point can not tell you exactly what he or she wants or needs.
I understand how you feel when you say your wife wants you to read her mind. There’s a Colbie Collait song called “Realize” that sums it up for me:
“I can’t spell it out for you. No, it’s never gonna be that simple.”
The #1 item on that nonexistent list of hers is for you to figure out for yourself all the other items on that list.
But isn’t that reading her mind?
Technically, but let me translate this scenario into guy language: Imagine if every time before you and your wife had sex, she said, “The reason I’m doing this is because I know it’s one of the things you want me to do as your wife.”
[Insert screeching brakes sound effect here.]
Regarding your help with the housework and baby, she wants you to show the initiative of making that list yourself, then taking care of those tasks as needed, and not ever referring to this list to begin with. She doesn’t want you to be passive, not instead, proactive.
She wants you to want to figure out what needs to be done; which is the very thing that frustrates you.
It’s like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer is the Moviephone guy and says to George, “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you selected?”
It may involve some trial and error, but figure out what stuff you can take care while she’s caring for the baby and everything else. Observe what specifically is that “everything else” and add it to the list.
Pretty soon, you’ll have “the list” memorized and make a daily habit of checking off those items naturally by habit.
Washed dishes and emptied dishwasher? Check.
Folded laundry? Check.
Rock the baby to sleep for afternoon nap? Check.
Observed that your wife has stopped complaining about you not helping out enough because you care enough to figure out how to lighten her burden? Check.
Would you like to ask me for “dadvice” to be featured here on The Dadabase?
Just shoot me an email to nickshell1983@hotmail with the word “dadvice” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. Even if I decide not to use your question as part of my Dadvice franchise, I’ll still at least privately answer you; whether you’re a mom or dad.
Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be about communication in marriage. It could be about organic foods and health remedies, methods on getting your baby to sleep, a re-occurring dream about your kid; just whatever kind of weird parenthood related thing you are wondering about and want this dad’s quirky opinion on.
It’s Sunday night and I’m exhausted. My wife is upstairs with our son right now giving him a bath and then she’ll put him to bed for the night.
Finally, I have a good 25 minutes to think about whatever I want to, including “nothing,” without hearing him crying, without trying to keep him from making a mess, or without attempting to invent yet another new way to entertain him.
In other words, I’m spent.
Physically, mentally, and psychologically, I’m done for the weekend. I hate to admit I look forward to going to the office in the morning, but I do.
Because there’s no way to verify my productivity as a dad.
I would love it at the end of the day to receive a “Daddy Report Card.” A while back, I explained that I am the kind of person who thrives on constructive criticism. I’m obsessed with being the best possible version of myself I can be.
Without knowing how to improve and without someone being brave enough to tell me; and without some confirmation of what I’m actually doing right, I tend to get disillusioned, frustrated, and even angry.
Welcome to fatherhood… I know, right?
It doesn’t change the fact that I have good reason to feel this way right now.
At my sales job, the numbers at the end of the month give me a confirmation either way whether or not my dedication paid off.
Here writing for Parents.com, I can know at any moment how well (or unwell) a particular article of mine is doing with readers by viewing something called StatCounter.
Like today, I am pleased to see all my hard work writing about chicken nuggets paid off; people evidently want to know how those things are made. Certain posts like this one take less than 25 minutes and I’m done; just vulnerable streaming of consciousness. But the one about mechanically separated chicken took about 4 days and several people editing it for me to get it just right.
If only a stressful day in Dadland was like that:
“Today, you scored a 99. The only thing to improve on based on today’s role as a dad was that you let him eat a Cheerio off the floor.”
See, that would be cool. I don’t know- blame it on my culture or my generation. I sort of like instant gratification.
Parenthood isn’t that way. Can you really ever know when you’re successful at it? Maybe when they grow up?
As a “daddy blogger” who sketches out writing topics on a nearly hourly basis, I am constantly trying to predict which topics are not only interesting enough to me, but also the ones that will resonate with the people I don’t even know.
Since my daddy blog, dad from day one, was picked up by Parents.com in May 2011 and rebooted as The Dadabase, I have been keeping a close eye on which posts became the most popular.
Ultimately, I am always “taking requests” based on what topics people tend to enjoy reading about.
Specifically, I know now that any time I mention a TV show title or the word “vegetarian” or I do some kind of countdown or list, more people are likely to read. But what else attracts readers here? Let’s find out right now, together.
#1 The Half Abortion: Only Keeping One Twin- No matter how passionate your stance on abortion, there’s definitely something unnerving about finding out you are a twin, but that your sibling was selectively aborted while you were chosen to survive.
#3 Positively Communicating to My Seven Month Old Son- I realized my ability to truly polarize an audience when I suggested it’s uncool to jokingly offer to give your kids away to strangers. There is a 100% chance you’ll either totally love or hate this one- no in between.
#6 The Positive Re-branding of Fatherhood- Sure, the sitcoms of the Nineties will always hold a special place in my heart; especially thanks to their enchanting theme songs. However, there was a major downside to them- the way most of them portrayed fathers.
#7 6 Things This Dad Got Wrong During Pregnancy- Despite the fact that’s it’s sort of my job to act like I know what I’m talking about as a writer, I’m often wrong. In fact, here’s looking back at 6 particular times I missed it.
#10 Little Boys Live in Their Own Little World- To be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure why this one made it to the Top 10; unless it’s because people get to see me back in 1991, wearing neon green suspenders? Probably not.
Tune in a year from now when I review the Top 10 of 2012. No, wait- actually, come back before that, like tomorrow.