Archive for the ‘ Joe DeProspero ’ Category

The Five Things Having Siblings Teaches Us

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

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 writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

We don’t know what we don’t know. It sounds like a nonsense expression, but it actually does mean something. Sometimes in life, despite our best efforts, we have to accept that there are things we simply do not know, and therefore, cannot make decisions based on information we don’t have. But this doesn’t only apply to us, of course. There are times when other people behave a certain way because they don’t have the knowledge or experience that you do. It’s incredibly frustrating, but also inevitable. And quite often, this clash will occur when two people have different upbringings. I can think of no other upbringing difference more significant than having siblings vs. being an only child.

My parents did a great job raising my sister and I. But one thing I always felt my father understood more thoroughly was the brother-sister dynamic. Mom was an only child, and there were times when battles between me and my sister baffled her. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized—she’s viewing her parenthood through the lens of an only child, not through the lens of a parent who’s been there, done that with every imaginable sibling scuffle.

With that in mind, here are some things that people with siblings can understand with deeper meaning than those without…

  • You are not the center of the universe

There’s a natural tendency for only children to grow up with a sense of being infallible. They never had to share a bedroom, yield to their brother’s movie preference, etc. But once you have a sibling, you learn very quickly that the world does not revolve around you and your desires. It teaches a crucial lesson in that regard and prepares them for a life where, unless you’re Kim Kardashian, the world clearly will not revolve around you.

  • Sharing is not only virtuous, it’s mandatory

My older son is five, and he’s had a brother for three years. Even as recent as last night, their ability to share was tested. Each of them had a toy that belonged to the other. There was some whining at first, but eventually, they both realized that if they expected to keep the other one’s toy, they had to share their own. It’s a give and a take. While not always pretty, my kids understand that sharing their toys with others is simply something that has to happen. That knowledge should serve them well as adults.

  • Sometimes in life, people will try to drown you under an alligator raft

When I was about eight, my older sister, Nicole, pushed me underwater in our above-ground pool and held me under using an inflatable alligator raft. We were frequently at odds, especially when either of us had the ability to splash water in the other’s face. So, battles were the norm. Now, I don’t think she was actually trying to kill me (I mean, I’m pretty sure), but at the same time, I literally felt like I was fighting for my life. Metaphorically speaking, this has happened plenty of times as an adult. I tell myself that the raft helped me prepare.

  • There’s something special about a shared history

Don’t you absolutely love sitting around a table with old friends, reminiscing about old times with monstrous grins on your faces? Well, a sibling is the oldest friend you have. And you’ve been through everything together. Baths, bedtimes, graduations, you name it. And there’s no one else on this earth that understands and appreciates your history as deeply as they do. Because, quite simply, it’s their history too.

  • You don’t have to fight alone

Although disconcerting to see your children rip each other’s heads off on a daily basis, you can rest assured that they’ll be on the same side of the battlefield as adults. You may be as different as two people can be, but the ties that bind you override anything that separates you. I realize this isn’t the case 100% of the time, but more often than not, your siblings will be on your side during the most harrowing of life’s struggles.

* Honorable Mention: Eat what you want before someone else does

That’ll do it for me this week. In closing, I’d like to send the sincerest gratitude to Jill Cordes. Jill will be ending this blog at the end of the month. Last July, I was given the tremendous opportunity (by her) to guest blog for Parents, having my work visible to thousands of readers. And while the plan is for my future posts to appear under the “Parent’s Perspective” banner, I will greatly miss working alongside Jill and want to recognize the hospitality and support that she most certainly didn’t have to give me, but did. Jill’s one of the good ones and opened doors for me that were previously closed. Cheers, partner. Looking forward to reading your farewell piece.

Feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below or tweeting me.

What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order
What You Need to Know About Birth Order

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Add a Comment

“Renewing” My Parenting Vows for Father’s Day

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

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 writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

 

When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle re-married. I was about 11, and the event mystified me. Did they forget they were already married, I wondered to myself. During the very brief ceremony, my uncle’s voice noticeably cracked, his face quivering. He started to lose it as the words, “all the days of my life” escaped him. As a 34-year-old married man, I now understand the weight and importance of those words. You’re giving yourself, body and soul, to another human being. And it’s overwhelming…and even pretty scary.

I mean, it’s a monstrous commitment (to those who take the vows seriously). While I’m not a big fan of pomp and pageantry and “ceremonies,” I find it necessary at certain points in life to “make it official.” Getting married is most definitely one of those times. Another is having a child. But when you become pregnant or become a parent, no one makes you stand in front of everyone you know to state your intentions and pledge your devotion, do they? Not usually. Considering parenthood is irreversible in a way that marriage is not, I would think that officially committing to this new lifestyle would make a lot of sense. So with my first five years of parenting in the books, and with Father’s Day imminent, I wanted to take a stab at writing my very own “parenting vows” as a means of reminding myself of the unsaid (and unwritten) contract I signed in 2009, when my life was forever changed.

I vow, first and foremost, to act as a guardian for my children. This includes protection from: strangers, injury, bad influences, dangerous surroundings, and terrible, meritless television shows. However, I’m aware that, no matter how hard I try, at least one of my children will develop an affinity for atrociously embarrassing programming comparable to “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” And yes, they’ll even get hurt. Many times. And when they do, I will be there to heal them, explain how to potentially avoid pain in the future, or both.

I understand and accept that my social life will never, ever be the same as it was before I had kids. Every double date, happy hour, or even phone call with a friend will be booked largely around the whereabouts of my offspring. But it will typically make the socialization I do have that much sweeter.

I must accept that my children will make decisions I do not agree with. When they do, I will need to decide whether to step in or stay out of it, and even consider the possibility that I, myself, could be wrong. This will only get harder as they get older.

No matter how utterly exhausted I am when I get home from work, I promise to do any and all of the following, should my children request it:

Impromptu pony rides around the living room on all fours

Talk into a toy phone like it’s real

Read anywhere between eight and fifteen books at bedtime (doing ALL the voices)

Allow my back to be used as a trampoline

Allow my groin to be used as a catcher’s mitt

Tolerate a bedtime process that takes upwards of 90 minutes and involves at least three wardrobe changes

Play hide and seek, despite the absurdity of my son telling me where he plans to hide

Ignore all personal needs, including hunger, thirst, body pain

*This list will triple with each subsequent child

Parenthood will be (and is) the most unnerving, frustrating, depressing, maddening, exhilarating and joyous experience available to us on this earth. I know that there will be days when I’m broken down and listless, where the demands of my family and career push me to the brink of sanity, where I’ll feel like running away. But it is my solemn vow and my unyielding commitment to be irreplaceably active in the lives of my children. I will never relent in my goal to give them the happiest childhood imaginable, and I will welcome the peace of their heads on my shoulder as well as the hell of their adolescent (or toddler) attitude problems.

This is my vow. A vow I never intend to break.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow dads out there making life that much better for your kids, especially to my own dad, who has not only been a terrific guardian, but who as an adult, I can call a friend.

Add a comment below to join the conversation or tweet me for more.

 

Episode 2 of my web series, Parental Guidance:

 

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Add a Comment

Five Ways to Avoid Losing Yourself in Parenthood

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

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 writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

I could easily fill one of those office flip charts with a laundry list of the challenges of becoming a parent. In fact, I’d likely take up both sides of the paper. Potty training, bedtime routines, schooling, discipline, the list goes on and on and on. It would be nearly impossible to pick one specific challenge that trumps the rest, because frankly, they all seem equally laborious. But for me, there is one hurdle to clear that supersedes them all.

The biggest challenge of being a parent, as I see it, is not forgetting who you were before you became one.

Put another way, this means don’t let the enormous lifestyle change of raising a child alter the very essence of who you are. Easier said than done, I know, but I do believe there are ways. And this is not to say we must remain mirror images of ourselves. Some element of change is inevitable. But for me, there is nothing sadder than seeing a person change who they are at their core because parenthood rendered them unrecognizable.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to stay true to yourself, despite the chaos that parenting brings upon you.

  • Never, ever give up on your goals and dreams

I long to one day become a successful author and screenwriter. Having children to raise has given me plenty of excuses to toss those dreams in the garbage. But, ultimately, I’m passionate about those dreams (otherwise, they wouldn’t be dreams). And I’m not completely happy if I’m not at least pursuing them. Therefore, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them moving forward. No matter how exhausted I am.

  • Drop the crazy, save the fun

It’s natural to tone down your social life (even dramatically) once you’re a parent. But what bugs me is when I see a complete transformation from party animal to complete social wallflower. While the responsibilities of parenthood often prohibit that fourth or fifth drink at the bar, it doesn’t mean you’ve become a nun, either. Watch a racy movie, play (consensual) strip poker, go to a punk rock show. You’re a parent, you’re not dead.

  • Remember your friends (and family)

Communication. Communication. Communication. It’s oh so essential to just about every facet of your life—and with a smart phone, it’s more convenient than ever. But particularly with maintaining friendships. While it’s certainly more challenging to find time to hang with your friends (especially when you both have kids), at the very least, call them once in a while, drop a text and say, “How the hell are ya?” You’d be surprised how quickly a friendship can disintegrate when those little things stop happening. If making to-do lists helps you, put “Call Amanda” on there. And, ya know, actually call her.

  • Keep a hobby, not a habit

Do you play piano, coach intramural soccer, write a fantasy baseball blog? Whatever it is, make time for it. You’ll find yourself with a whole boatload of regret if you don’t. More often than not, there are people in your life who will support you in making it happen.

  • Be selfish once in a while

Put another way, don’t forget about your own needs. It means putting on Nick Jr. so you can read the newspaper or scheduling that girls night or guys night you’ve been meaning to plan. Naturally, this is a game of balance with your significant other (assuming you have one), but if no attention is paid to the needs of the individuals raising those children, they are going to have very, very unhappy, resentful parents. That’s not the recipe for a happy household, as far as I’m concerned.

 

We all know someone who had kids and disappeared from our lives. We all know someone who became a parent and lost their passions. Don’t be that person. And if you feel like you’re starting to become that person, take a minute to write a to-do list specifically about enhancing your personal life. And set deadlines for each item. Ultimately, those things will be just as vital to your overall success in life as paying your bills and buying diapers.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below or tweeting me.

And, feel free to check out the latest edition of my web series, Parental Guidance.

 

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Add a Comment

That Terrifying Time I Locked My Son in the Car

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

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 writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

When you live in a fast-paced culture, one where we’re reserving DVDs before we can even watch them and waiting more than five seconds for a website to load on our smartphones is unacceptable, we’re constantly thinking of the next move before we’ve completed the current. In parenting, this tends to happen more frequently. Sometimes, out of necessity. But other times, because our overactive minds are wired in such a manner, we get ahead of ourselves in an unfavorable, even dangerous way.

A few weeks ago, I had taken both my sons to my older boy’s soccer practice while my wife prepared for a family party. As you may have read in my last article, I tend to be on high alert (read: neurotic as hell) when I’m in charge of both my kids by myself. So, while Antonio (older son) plays soccer, I watch Nate (younger son) like a hawk as he frolics all over the surrounding area. Up hills, down hills, into thorn bushes. There’s no terrain this kid will shy away from. And I’m two steps behind him, with two central goals: to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, and the most paramount concern, to make sure he doesn’t get lost or taken.

Nearly an hour later, we’re dodging mud puddles (or at least I am), on our way back to the car, thoughts of the upcoming party, how wet Nate’s diaper is, how hungry they both are, starting to form a long line in my brain. I dutifully strapped Nate into his seat, instinctively tossing my car keys onto the driver’s seat, which I tend to do when rushing. With Antonio kicking rocks outside the car, waiting for me to strap him in next, I closed Nate’s door. Instantly, a sense of worry came over me. Something felt off. And then, I heard Antonio from the other side of the car, attempting to pull the door handle.

“I can’t open the door, daddy,” he said, grunting.

Somehow, I’d locked Nate inside the car.

My keys were laying on the front seat.

It was 82 degrees out.

The first thing I did (besides the internal freak-out), was look for a rock that could break the window. That was my first instinct. Studies have shown that the inside of a car can become quite literally like an oven over the course of mere minutes under a hot sun. Aside from that, Nate suffers from acid reflux. He could choke on the snack he had in his hand and I’d be on the outside desperately trying to get in. The errands and parental duties that had filled my brain minutes earlier were now replaced with panic and fear.

You might think that having another child involved would make matters worse. But luckily, Antonio acted mature beyond his years. Upon learning of the location of the keys and that a long stick could be snaked through the small crack in the driver’s side window, he quickly went to work to find one that would do the job. He also joined me in soothing Nate through the window, assuring him everything would be fine. This was quite a leap for a kid who’d wiped a booger on his younger brother a mere five minutes earlier.

While the search for the perfect stick was on, I had another thought: does anyone in shouting-distance know how to break into a car? There were a handful of parents still left, so I called out to the first person I saw.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you know how to pick a lock?”

I’m sure she thought I was the shadiest dude on earth. But that didn’t stop her from trying to help.

“No, but my husband does!” she shouted. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like the only shady dude in the conversation.

The husband turned out to be anything but shady—just an ordinary dad who knew precisely the fears I was feeling. Together, we took turns trying to hook my key ring with a crooked stick, each time coming up empty. I considered calling the police. But I felt it would be quicker to handle it myself, or at least to have a helpful stranger handle it. As it turns out, he wasn’t skilled at picking a lock. But he was pretty good with a crooked stick.

Ultimately, it was the helpful stranger, Craig, who hooked the key ring and diffused the situation. When I got to Nate, he was sweating, but otherwise unbothered, after about 15 minutes in the hot car. Thankfully, the only one of us aware enough of the danger to be stressed out was me.

Certainly, the ending of this story could’ve been much grimmer. Turn on the news and you’ll hear all about those cases. But I’m sharing this as a reminder to be your child’s parent in that moment, not ten minutes after that moment. Looking back, the most likely explanation for how I locked Nate in the car with the keys was that I accidentally hit the lock button on the remote, then closed the door, effectively locking them inside the car together. Today, when I put Nate in his seat, I always make sure my door is open before I close his.

The last thing I would consider myself is preachy. But this experience (as minor as some people might view it) was an eye-opener for me. It reminded me that, while your thoughts are focused on the future, you could be endangering the present. And it reminded me (even though this didn’t happen nor do I have plans to ever do it) to never leave your children in the car unattended, not even for 30 seconds to run into a coffee shop for a latte. Especially with summer upon us, being mindful and diligent about car safety is tremendously important. Sometimes, getting a little scare serves as a needed reminder of the things that fall off our radar due to an overactive mind.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation by tweeting me or adding a comment below. And, of course, be safe out there.

To read more about car safety in extreme temperatures, check out this recent Parents article.

How To Install A Car Seat
How To Install A Car Seat
How To Install A Car Seat

* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Add a Comment

Confession: I Think I’m a Helicopter Dad

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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 writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

I am a hardcore Breaking Bad aficionado. As in, I still haven’t gotten into a new show since its finale because it’s ruined me from almost all forms of entertainment. But aside from the dramatic enjoyment I derived from it, I also took away a quote or two. One of them that struck me was uttered by morally conflicted character, Jesse Pinkman. Having gone through rehab (and committing various crimes along the way), Jesse says, as if achieving epiphany, “It’s all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am. I’m the bad guy.” As a parent, I think it’s important to recognize what type of caregiver we genuinely are as well. Just without all the meth cooking. Sometimes, very often in fact, I find myself playing the part of “bad guy.”

I’m a neurotic, helicopter parent (most of the time). I can’t help it; it’s who I am. And I simply cannot deny the very fabric of my being. But there are times when I’ll sort of view myself from the lens of an outsider. And, I have to say, sometimes I look like a complete a**hole.

This past Memorial Day weekend, my wife had gone food shopping, so I took both our sons out in the backyard to play with their new sprinkler under the glorious sun-filled sky. What I realized very astutely is that the farther my wife is from me when I’m monitoring my children, the more neurotic I become. When my wife’s present, we each seem to take a job, one of us playing the role of “cool parent” while the other runs around picking up crumbs and doling out discipline. When it’s just me and the boys, I become the helicopter parent I always assumed I wouldn’t be.

As my five-year-old, Antonio, gleefully picked up said sprinkler and pointed it directly at me and my younger (and drier) son, my eyes widened. Is there anything here that ice water would negatively impact? Yes! Nate’s Woody doll (since he wouldn’t dry before bedtime), Nate himself (who was in a bad mood) and paper instructions on how to use the sprinkler. And also, me! So, being the neurotic person I am, I instantly turned the hose off and shouted a bunch of incoherent jibberish.

“It’s only water,” I heard a voice whisper inside my head. “What actual damage would it cause, if any? And why the hell are you freaking out about instructions on how to use a f***ing sprinkler?” Whoever’s in my head can get pretty foul-mouthed and chatty, I tell ya. But that didn’t stop me from pulling the plug on the impromptu shower. And then again 30 seconds later when my son turned the hose on once more, against my will. I had to follow through. I simply had to. Antonio needed to understand that listening to me wasn’t just one option, it was the only option. And also, I don’t like getting wet unless it’s on my terms. But mostly, because I made a decision and felt it imperative to stick to it if I expected my kid to listen to me in the future. That’s what I’ve found hardest as a parent- to stick to a decision no matter how silly it feels like it is while you’re making it.

As extreme an example as this is, it’s part of a much larger picture of me as a dad (and many of us, I’d assume). While I certainly goof around with my sons when time permits, I’m a guardian, first and foremost. That means that I’m not only responsible for protecting my children from the dangers of the outside world, but I’m also responsible for guarding the outside world against my children! That starts with getting them to adhere to boundaries. Sometimes I go overboard, I admit. But in the end, I feel that a vigilant mindset will minimize the chance of disaster and maximize the potential of my children to ultimately become safe, mindful adults.

Plenty of you will view me as uptight, excessive, overprotective even. And you may be right. But I find solace in that the qualities that make me go overboard come from the same place that makes me a strong guardian for my kids.

Any of you out there like me? The complete opposite of me? Either way, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

And if you have three minutes to watch me impersonating my sons, while wearing a ladies tee, click below for the latest edition of my web series, Parental Guidance!

 

And, if you enjoyed the video, watch the outtakes!

 

 

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

 

Add a Comment