Confessions of a Guilty, Guilty Dad

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

 

As the great Jerry Stiller once said (while portraying the unforgettably bombastic Frank Costanza on Seinfeld), “I feel the need to unburden myself.” I’ve been carrying around some heavy secrets. Some of them kind of shocking. But I’m willing to bet that, if you’re a parent, you’ll relate to more of these than you’d like to admit.

So, in no particular order, since it’s Lent and I’m Catholic and we’re encouraged to make confession during this time of year…

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned…

I pretend to be asleep in the middle of the night when my kids wake up crying. I think my wife is onto me, as she’s started to do the same. She learned from the best. I admire that.

When I deem it necessary, I let my younger son exact revenge on my older son. Trust me, he absolutely deserves it. And it teaches the older one a valuable lesson: Being a jerk = pain

When my son asks me a question I don’t know the answer to, I pretend I can’t hear him and walk away. An example is, “Daddy, why do you have nipples?” Why do I have nipples, Father?

I listen to the Frozen soundtrack when neither of my kids are in the car. I’ve also started pricing tinted windows.

I know all the words to at least six Fresh Beat Band songs….including Twists’ raps. Again, tinted windows.

I’ve been legitimately confused by instructions on my 4-year-old’s homework assignments.

I laughed at my kid after he walked directly into a wall and started crying. I mean, it was pretty hilarious.

I still don’t remember either of my sons’ shoe sizes. When I do, it changes two weeks later, anyway. I’ve stopped trying.

I genuinely enjoy Sesame Street more than 90% of primetime cable programming. Then again, “Sextuplets Take New York” isn’t exactly stiff competition.

I’ve smelled my son’s dirty diaper and then hid in the next room to avoid changing it.

I lied by more than two years to get my son into a theme park for free. I insisted he remain seated in the stroller sucking a pacifier to sell the lie to the cashier. I even said, “Act young.”

I’ve blamed my kids for being late to work, when it was actually my own fault. I mean, most of the time it’s their fault, so it’s not entirely a lie. Right?

When I’m putting my kids to bed, I stay in the room at least half an hour after they’re asleep, playing Words with Friends to avoid being responsible and putting laundry away.

I legitimately cannot defeat my 4-year-old in the Memory Game. He’s beaten me like 18 straight times, with me actually trying to win. It’s pretty embarrassing. I’m either getting old or I’m just a moron.

I peed on the toilet seat and blamed it on my 2-year-old’s failure to potty train himself.

I’ve accidentally answered a toy phone when a real one was ringing.

I skipped 13 pages in a 16-page book while reading a bedtime story just to see if I could get away with it. I could.

While playing basketball with my kids, I occasionally reject the living hell out of them ala Dikembe Mutombo. It’s my way of convincing myself I have so much as a shred of athletic ability left.

Nothing makes me laugh more genuinely than when my younger son mispronounces words. Most recently, he’s been talking about this “really big clock” he has in his room. Only he’s having noticeable trouble pronouncing the “L.”

I think that covers me until the next time. And if you see me in church next Sunday, this conversation never happened.

Amen.

 

Feel free to add your own confessions by adding a comment below, or by tweeting me with the hashtag #confessions so we can all be guilty together!

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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“Ramshackle Glam”: A Great Book, a Great Guide, a Great Gift–All in One

I met Jordan Reid on a TV shoot about moms, called MomTales. This is how we bonded:

Me: You know, when I’m not with my kids, I miss them terribly and I just want to be with them. Then as soon as I’m with them, I want them back in preschool.

Jordan [nodding]: There are only so many hours in the day you can spend playing Triceratops Versus T-Rex. At some point, you really just need a good trashy magazine and a margarita.

From there, we never stopped talking, except when the director told us to pay attention to the shoot.

This is a woman who runs a million miles and hours with a smile on her face, high heels (though she disputes that in her new book), and a wit about her that makes you instantly relax and laugh.

She has a 2-year-old boy, 2 dogs, a husband, and a full-time career as a style blogger on her site, Ramshackle Glam. Which means she also does TV appearances, goes to conferences, meets with advertisers, and somehow manages to post numerous times a day. With pictures. I’m lucky to get 2 posts out a week. Now she just came out with a book, also titled Ramshackle Glam. Where she gets the time to juggle all this is beyond me. Oh, and did I mention she’s pregnant with her second child?

People like her both inspire me and give me a much-needed dose of mom energy. But what I really like about Jordan (and her book) is that she keeps it real. She’s so relatable; she’s the kind of mom friend you picture having a glass of wine with and talking about how you may have accidentally-on-purpose thrown a remote at your husband last night because he forgot to tape The Bachelorette. Or how all your hair — no, but seriously: all of it — fell out six months after you gave birth. (Except for the hair on your legs; that’s holding on just fine, and you know that for a fact because you cannot for the life of you remember to shave it.) [This is a true excerpt from her book, fyi.]

I tore through it in just 3 nights. Then passed it on to a friend who is expecting her first child. It’s a super fun, entertaining read that also gets to the core of why motherhood can be so damn hard, heartbreaking, heartwrenching, and heartwarming at the same time.

Mother’s Day is around the corner. Know anyone expecting? Or a new mom? This is the gift to get them.

Here is my interview with Jordan about her book:

What inspired you to write a book?

I’ve wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember — since I was about four years old — but after I had my son in 2011 I realized that I had a lot to say about motherhood, and especially about the judgment that can so often color a new parent’s experience. Before I had my son, I would not have called myself a “maternal person” at all (and honestly, I still don’t know that I would; I mean, I adore my son, but I’m not one of those people who’s just awesome and natural and amazing around kids), and I was very, very nervous going into motherhood.

I was frightened that having a baby would take away some fundamental part of me, that I wouldn’t be able to recognize myself anymore once I was a Mom. But what I discovered is that having a baby changes a lot, but it doesn’t change everything. You can still do all those things — from wearing the clothing that makes you feel good to connecting with your partner to having a house that feels like a home instead of a Baby Zoo — all that you used to do “before”…but you just might have to be a little more creative, that’s all.

How would you sum up your book? Is it for expecting parents, new parents, old parents?

The advice in the book is tailored towards new moms, but really, the fashion, beauty, home decor, and entertaining tips are only a small part of the book. What Ramshackle Glam really is, is a memoir of motherhood, and I think that the stories about marital struggles, guilt over your parenting choices, and the challenges of making friends as a mom are things that every parent — young and old — can relate to.

What has been the hardest part of motherhood for you?  

For me, the hardest part of motherhood has been figuring out how to live in the moment, and to not worry too much about “how fast it goes.” I can’t tell you how much that stressed me out, hearing from everyone on the street, “Oh, it goes so quickly, they’ll be grown and gone before you know it!” But over time I’ve discovered that while of course you miss every stage when it passes…the stage that you’re in right this very moment is almost always the most fun and exciting of all.

What about pregnancy? Have the challenges changed from your first to second pregnancy? 

With pregnancy, I’d say the hardest thing for me the first time around was just wrapping my mind around what day-to-day life would look like a few months down the road…because I had no idea. I couldn’t fathom how I’d get my stroller up the stairs to my walk-up apartment, let alone how I’d actually, you know, raise a human being. And that’s part of why I wanted to write Ramshackle Glam, to let people who may feel similarly get a peek into what’s-to-come, and to know that yes, it’ll be hard…but it’ll also be okay. The best ever, actually.

With this pregnancy, the hardest thing has been the fact that there’s really no “chilling out and enjoying the experience.” There’s no downtime to rub oils on my skin or meditate on the life we’re bringing into the world or play classical music to my stomach or whatever it is that we did when we were expecting our son — I can’t even remember; it feels like a lifetime ago. So honestly, when this baby arrives it’s going to be a bit of a shock. Fortunately, we’re also a little more prepared this time around, so hopefully that will balance it out.

You are a woman who is all about how to funk up your style, your “glam”…how do you feel in this regard about having a daughter? 

You know, I actually wrote about this the other day because I had a few friends say to me something along the lines of, “you must be so excited to be having a girl!” And what they meant was that I must be excited about the girly stuff that comes with having a daughter…dresses and such. And of course I am excited about those things — I’ve certainly spent my share of time in Baby Gap over the past couple of months buying little cheetah-print outfits — but the truth is that while I certainly am looking forward to all the things that come along with having a daughter…what I’m most excited about doesn’t have anything to do with her gender at all.

She may be into dresses or she may be into board shorts or she may be into things I can’t even imagine, and all of that is just part of what makes having a child so exciting. I know that who I’m raising is not a “little girl,” but a person, and our experience as parent and child will be as individual as she is. The style stuff is fun, of course, but when it comes down to it the most important thing I can do — the only thing I can do, really — is to support my daughter and be there for her whoever she may be and wherever she may go.

How the hell do you have time to do your life? You seem like superwoman. Tell me your secret. 

Ha! Thank you. Does “constant, massive anxiety that propels you into action” count as a secret? That, and the fact that I keep obsessively detailed lists of every single thing in my life in my iPhone — that helps.

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Don’t Try This at Home (with Your Kids)

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

 

Don’t kid yourself (pardon the pun). Every single one of us has tried like an arrogant fool to accomplish these tasks while simultaneously overseeing one or more of our children. What makes us think we’re capable of it? Pure, unadulterated ego.

Parental multitasking is a dangerous, yet tempting endeavor. But I’m here to tell you it’s not worth it. And I can tell you this because every single one of these acts has gone disastrously wrong for me, all because I was silly enough to think I could accomplish every day, normal goals with my children present.

Here are just a few I would avoid…

 

  • Cooking dinner

Your kids are playing innocently in the living room. Your eyes wander to the adjacent kitchen where ingredients (and potential failure) await. You’re the only adult in the house until 6:00 p.m., so it’s on you to produce a meal. Do you heat up leftovers? Do you order takeout? No. You’ve got this. Totally manageable. Then, as you’re mincing the garlic and peeling potatoes, your children decide that Buzz Lightyear and Woody ain’t got nothin’ on garlic. They want to make an arts and crafts project out of tonight’s dinner. This sounds adorable to people who haven’t actually experienced it.

Shown here: a fictional scenario

  • Joining a conference call

This falls into the category of “mistakes you only make once.” I had the balls to attempt this a few months ago. I had forgotten about a planned conference call, was working from home, and my wife (who had been watching my two sons) had stepped out. That left me with two options: to graciously bow out of the call and offer to follow up with the meeting leader later in the day, or to be an idiot. Needless to say, I chose idiot. Within 30 seconds of “Joe DeProspero [child screaming]….is now joining,” I found myself sheepishly apologizing for being the guy I always resented in the past, both kids doing their best to destroy any chance of me accomplishing this lofty goal. As it turns out, kids give zero f***s about debriefs.

  • Telling a story

Here’s a fun game. Walk up to a 4-year-old and see how many words you can get out before you’re interrupted. The first person to finish two straight sentences wins! If nothing else, kids ensure that anything you share with others is kept brief, succinct. It’s kind of like being trapped inside Twitter, with no chance of a Retweet.

  • Ironing your clothes

It sounds like a no-brainer, I know. Plugging in any appliance with your children around sounds dangerous, especially one that can cause third-degree burns. But most of us have done it anyway. “It’s totally fine and safe. I’m holding the iron and they can’t reach it!” you’ll claim. Then, your toddler daughter spills a glass of cranberry juice on the carpet. You instinctively run to sop up the mess. Your older child wanders over and starts ironing his butt. Need I say more?

Yup. Totally safe.

  • Taking a road trip

I truly feel that the litmus test for determining if you’re patient enough to be a parent is taking a car ride of longer than two hours with multiple children who didn’t sleep well the night before. It’s hard enough to get kids to remain stationary for more than five minutes at the dinner table. But strapping them into a seat for several hours with no escape is like shooting a water gun at a beehive. Translation: It’s just asking to get stung. In the face. And you totally deserve it.

  • Being logical

Your son spills milk. Like, a full glass of milk. All over the dinner table. It rapidly maneuvers around salad plates and silverware to completely soak every last square inch of available tablecloth. Grimacing, you scamper to sop it up as best you can with as many napkins as you can gather. Instead of expressing remorse, your son complains that he no longer has milk to drink. Silly naïve you tries to reason with him, explaining how illogical he’s being considering he was the clumsy fool who’d caused the very problem he’s crying about. You actually try talking to him like he’s an adult who can be reasoned with. Unfortunately, the fact that you’re not a Pixar character renders your little moral lesson entirely meaningless.

We have a problem. My glass, it’s empty.

I’m sure there are more, but this is a start. Feel free to contribute to the list by adding a comment below, or by tweeting me using the hashtag #foolishacts. Always dig hearing from you!

Check out the debut edition of my video blog, Parental Guidance.

* Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Would You Sail the Seas With Babies? The Kaufman Family Did

Before I had kids, I was obsessed with travel.

When I was pregnant with Fia, I continually said that I wasn’t going to change my traveling lifestyle a bit. I said I would strap the baby on my back and just “go.” In some ways, I did. But it wasn’t as simple as taking her and a backpack. I took a steamer trunk of baby supplies wherever I went. I was cautious. I remember strolling her through O’Hare at 8 weeks thinking, I am doing this! I am still my old self. But what wasn’t my old self was the fact that I was exhausted and crying. A lot. Still I forged on. We took 21 flights that first year. All domestic, all safe and within a doctor’s reach.

I also declared when I was pregnant with Fia that we would indeed, go to the World Cup in South Africa, like we had always planned. We had tickets and we had gone to the games in Germany 4 years earlier. And the Euro Cup 2 years after that. Why wouldn’t I travel with a 6-month old, barely vaccinated, on an 18-hour flight, halfway across the planet? I would simply strap her on…

It didn’t happen. And I didn’t miss the fact we didn’t go. It was just too much.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. But it’s hard and not without risks. Plenty of people do it, plenty don’t. I sit here torn, internally debating the front-page story today: The Kaufman family who took their 1- and 3-year-olds on a sailing trip around the world, only to have it go awry 3 weeks in.

Their 1-year old girl, who had salmonella a few weeks earlier, came down with a fever and a rash that wouldn’t go away. Then the steering on their sailboat stopped working. From reading the stories and their own blog, it appears she got sick, but they didn’t give up the trip. It was only after the ship stopped functioning that they radioed for help and got rescued. I don’t know how much time lapsed between the two incidents. I hope it all happened nearly at once, or I will begin to judge their judgment.

They had a dream. They wanted to sail around the world. They had doubts, too. Here’s an excerpt from Charlotte Kaufman’s blog on Day 8–March 26:

The girls have no one to talk to but each other, and me and Eric. There is no true place to have alone time. We can’t go for a run, or take the girls for a stroll to get their wiggles out. We are all tired. We rotate watches. The wind dies completely at night and the resultant swell makes it very difficult for Lyra to sleep. She won’t sleep wedged in a lee cloth, or in the baby chair we brought her. She ends up rolling all over the place, waking up frequently, and burrowing into my side to try to find a place where her body won’t move. This keeps me up, or wakes me up, and the whole thing is exhausting….

…There is a lot to be said for reaching a goal. Not everyone gets to realize their dreams in life, so I really am trying to focus on the amazing things. Like the fact that I’m doing something that very little people have ever done, or ever will do.

I guess as a parent, this is where I begin to wonder what the point of their “goal” is. The children are too young to really remember this, or frankly enjoy it.

A couple years before I had Fia, my 64-year old Aunt Nancy and I went to Tanzania, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Two days before we flew home Nancy got sick. Not emergency-room caliber sick, but stomach pains so severe she could barely eat or drink. I was worried, but since she was an adult and could talk to me about her exact illness, I felt reassured she would be okay. And she was. Back home the doctors said the strenuous climb had caused the lactic acid to build up in her stomach. They gave her medicine and she recovered.

There are obvious risks when you travel no matter your age.

I think when you become a parent though, you have to decide what the reasons behind your goals are. If they are purely selfish and just for you, then I think you need to reevaluate why you’re doing something. If you really think they are going to enrich your entire family–including tots–well, then, maybe it’s worth it. I can only say that from where I sit, it’s not a decision I would have made. But I’m not them.

Phil and I often impose the “risk-benefit” analysis on one another. Example: is it worth speeding to get your kid picked up from preschool in time? What is the risk versus the benefit? It’s pretty simple. But still, I can’t say I haven’t gone faster than I should, even with Em in the car with me, to get Fia on time.

I think this comment on Charlotte’s blog summed it up best for me:

As an older cruiser my advice is to not be afraid to turn back if it gets too hard. There is no shame (and a lot of pleasure) in coastal cruising in the Carribean, Mexico or South America while the kids are young. You can sail until you are 70+ so why not do the Pacific on a comfy vessel with a washing machine, hot water and separate shower, down the track. Look after your marriage and your kids…

As I sit at my breakfast table, with a nice cup of coffee, I feel the comforts of my life. The sun is streaming in, I hear the birds and I hear Emmett laughing to himself as he pages through a book. I have everything I need.  Our days are very content. And mellow. It’s a space I have had to learn to enjoy since I had kids. I have found happiness in the tedious and mundane.

But there is still a part deep down that can’t wait to travel again. To stay in a yurt in Mongolia and hike through Bhutan. I want to show my kids the world, but it will be when they are a little older–when they can understand it, and take it in. I also want it when they can voice their pain or discomfort. Fia is getting close to this time. She started asking me about going camping last night. But then she came down with a rash and a pain in her leg. She said her rash “stung” but she couldn’t explain if the leg pain was sharp and shooting or just dull. I put cream on the rash and it went away. I suspect it was from the 90-degree heat wave we are having. And the leg pain was probably exhaustion because she hadn’t slept well the night before. Still, it’s a huge relief to have her doctor on speed dial and a short drive away.

I tiptoe in their rooms every night before I go to bed. I touch the hair on her forehead and put my hand on Emmett’s heart. Then I go to sleep feeling safe. My children are secure, and therefore so am I. Adventure will come later. And it will be amazing. But right now, this is all I need.

 Death Valley with family, Dec 2012
Preparing to sleep on rooftop, Dogon Country, Mali, West Africa
 
 On Top of The World, Tanzania, Mt Kilamanjaro

In mountains of Belize (also with Aunt Nancy)

In Timbuktu, Mali (before the coup d’etat)

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An Open Letter to New York Met Daniel Murphy

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

To give the necessary back-story for those who need it, New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy was recently criticized by former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason and radio host Mike Francesa for spending (what they considered) an excessive amount of time with his wife after the birth of their child.

Dear Mr. Murphy,

First of all, I’m about as far from your “world” as is possible. Frankly, I’m no athlete. I’m practically never traveling, I work a 9-5, and the closest I get to sports is running a fantasy football league. But at our core, we’re likely not very different. We’re both men in the early stages of starting a family, and we’re both often torn between the demands of our career and those of our home. And unfortunately, no matter how strong our resolve is, there will be some jerk who thinks he/she knows better.

Your decision to be by your wife’s side for the birth of your son and (gasp) the day after should have served as a powerful reminder to those in your community about the paramount importance of the family. But some tried to tear you down. The comments made by both Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa were as short-sighted as they were childish. Sadly, in a male-dominated line of work, there is an undercurrent of “Suck it up and just play ball!” As you’re aware, life isn’t that simple when you’re a family man.

I had a situation arise in my own job recently where I had a decision to make: Stay in the office and disappoint my children or go home and potentially disappoint my co-workers. I chose to disappoint my co-workers, and here’s why. For one, my involvement at work that particular day would not have cured cancer. While causing a minor inconvenience for my boss, the work got done and the people who needed to be happy were happy. And also, I asked myself two questions. At the end of my life, would I regret the decision to be present for my son’s Halloween parade? Or would I regret the decision to miss it? This was as “no-brainer” as it gets. That was all the confirmation I needed that I was doing the right thing. The fact that your decision to potentially disappoint your co-workers had public ramifications makes your decision that much bolder.

When I read the headline about those who criticized you, I couldn’t help but empathize. You took two days of paternity leave. Surely, there will be and are people who say, “You chose the life of a professional athlete. Part of the lifestyle is sacrificing time with your family.” But my opinion? You’re already spending enough time away from your baby. Being there for the milestones (when possible) is key. When your son is 21 and looks back at his baby pictures with you in them, I can guarantee you the satisfaction he derives from that will be worth far more than any petty, uninformed opinion of a sports analyst. “Hiring a nurse,” as Mr. Francesa so callously suggested, assumes you have no heart. I’d say it’s abundantly clear that you do.

Congratulations on not only becoming a father, but for proving you’re a man. Considering Mets history, you should be commended for only choosing to miss two games.

Respectfully,

Joe DeProspero

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m aware that Boomer Esiason issued an apology to Murphy after he was essentially given no choice but to make one after public ridicule. That’s all fine and good. Doesn’t change the fact that his and Francesa’s original comments reflect an unsettling position toward a new father who was clearly making the decision that any decent human being (and husband) should make.

Cheap plug for Parents.com Executive Editor Michael Kress, who wrote a poignant article on this very topic, moments before taking his own paternity leave. Check it out here.

*Mets photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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