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Wednesday, April 30th, 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 work in an office building. A densely populated one, at that. Therefore, when I’m walking in late, it’s painfully obvious to at least 40 people. But the reason it’s happening certainly isn’t obvious. I assume most people just attribute it to laziness, lack of motivation, or an overall disregard for corporate policy. I only wish it were that simple.
While I take full responsibility for this, I find it necessary to explain the history. It all started the night before, actually.
With earnest intentions to get my sons to bed early (or at least at their regular time), I started the bath 15 minutes early while my wife, Sonia dutifully sat with them to finish dinner. I was ahead of the game, or so I thought. Have you ever been on a conference call where you’re convinced the meeting leader is purposely extending the call (aka stalling) so it reaches the scheduled end time exactly, no matter how useless the extra information is? Well, my kids do the same thing with bedtime. And whether we like it or not, we’re going to hear about last quarter’s financials. Translated: My sons decided to extend dinner just for the sake of extending it, refusing to eat a morsel until it was cutting into bath time. I came down and tried to help, ultimately causing the running bathwater to almost overflow like that scene in Fatal Attraction. So much for being ahead of the game.
Needless to say, the kids wound up getting to bed even later than usual (because, of course), meaning they’d most definitely wake up late the following morning. But them waking up late means us getting to school late, which means me getting to work late. So, this morning I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. It was earlier than I’d expected. And I should’ve started the process of waking them at exactly that moment. But I didn’t. Instead, I waited. I mean, the house was so silent that I could hear it settling. How could I mess with that kind of serenity? So I lay in bed and listened to the sounds of the birds outside, cars whipping around the corner, etc. Considering that the three days preceding it I had awoken to my five-year-old poking me in the throat, I embraced that rare, precious moment like it was a gregarious puppy dog.
I soaked in every millisecond of stillness and waited until the last possible second to wake the boys up, knowing I would essentially be peeing into a beehive. And, to be clear, they took that serenity and gruesomely murdered it. They flopped around like dying fish; they shouted angry words into their pillows. My one son even called me a cactus (I’ve figured out that’s his word for a**hole—clever boy). To be honest, I don’t really blame him. I mean, I’d call the person waking me up an a**hole too.
Getting my children from their beds to the breakfast table when they’re exhausted is not unlike getting my wife from the shoe store to the exit when she’s shopping. There’s some magnetic surge that renders the voyage near impossible. I then find myself going into what’s referred to in football as “hurry up offense.” The clock is ticking, time is slipping away, and with every daunting second, I am even more certain that losing is in my future. So, I tuck both boys under my arms like footballs and head to the table, while they’re crying. I’m pretty sure Peyton Manning has never faced this type of pocket pressure. And in case it wasn’t obvious, two weeping, exhausted kids don’t really feel like eating. Another thing they definitely don’t feel like doing is taking off their pajamas. I mean, you’d think their school clothes were made of fire.
The time was rapidly approaching for us to be out the door, so I took their breakfasts and dumped them into easily transportable Zip-Lock bags. Their tears had subsided and dried to their faces at this point, but they’ll be damned if they’re going to be happy about being awake and actually eat. I was still the “cactus.”
We were finally in the car. This is momentous. However, I left the bags of cereal on the aforementioned breakfast table. So I bolt back inside. It only took 30 seconds to do that, but those 30 seconds will matter very, very soon.
Because of the time I lost forgetting the cereal, I end up pulling off my street directly behind a yellow school bus. But not just any yellow school bus. The bus that has 18 stops to make…and they’re all on the one-lane street that takes me from my house to my kids’ school. So, there’s that.
I finally arrive at school and, because some jerk decided to walk their kid inside and leave their car in the loading/unloading area, the rest of us mere mortals have to helplessly wait in a line behind them. Naturally, when the driver finally emerges, it’s one of the parents who never RSVPed to my son’s birthday party.
A rushed minute later and we’re finally indoors. Out of oxygen from the 20 yards I just had to run, I give the boys a breathy goodbye and a kiss on the cheek. Then, as I’m walking away from them, I have this momentary epiphany where I become aware that I spend far too much of my time with my children simply getting them from point A to point B. I peer back and watch them disappear into their respective classrooms, as I wonder if I’m “present” enough in their lives. It is during this impromptu soul-searching event when the clock on the wall comes into view. I need to be at work in 20 minutes…and I’m 35 minutes away.
The rest of the story is likely a familiar one for those of you who have ever crept into work a little later than you’d care to admit. Most of us don’t try to be late. In fact, it’s entirely possible the co-worker you see sneaking in at 9:15 was detained because they simply overslept, or they had to change a flat tire. But in all likelihood, they are late because they had multiple mouths to feed that morning. And one of those mouths refused to eat and secretly called him an a**hole.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation by tweeting me or adding a comment below!
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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bedtime, bedtime routine, fatal attraction, football, lateness, morning routine, oversleeping, parenthood, parenting, peyton manning, shutterstock, work | Categories:
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
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.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Every parent has an opinion on this. And it’s happened to all of us at least a dozen times. It’s 2:00 a.m. Your four-year-old daughter comes scampering into your bedroom unannounced. You can’t see or hear her, as she’s standing silently in the dark. Afraid it may be a ghost, you hold your breath and peer into the darkness. You finally see her, of course, when she’s within arm’s length, frighteningly staring at you with a blank expression, like that girl in The Ring. At this point, a ghost would’ve scared you less. So what do you do?
There are two camps, and they are quite distinct. You either welcome your terrifying child into the bed, a spot religiously left vacant for her where your sex life used to lay, or you send her packing, refusing to bend to your children and their ongoing, selfish quest to invade your pillow space.
Even if you don’t have kids, you likely know a parent who is one these two extreme types. Let’s break them down.
The first one, let’s call her “Clingy Parent,” sleeps next to her 6-year-old son every night. The boy, let’s call him “Tommy” sleeps between her and her husband. Every. Single. Night. Any half-hearted attempts to break the cycle have been quickly thwarted by Tommy, with little to no resistance by his over-accommodating parents. From what I understand, relations between mom and dad…they’re not so good.
The second type, which I’ll call “Stiff Arm Parent,” has never once let either of her children into the bed in which she and her husband (or boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, hey, I’m not judging here) sleep. I mean, maybe once or twice when they were babies and were teething and miserable, but certainly not once since they became toddlers, and full-fledged kids. They say no, and by God, they mean no.
Personally, I take issue with both of these approaches. Now, I don’t judge either parent, because I’m a big believer that there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is certainly more than one way to raise a happy child. But both methods are extremes, whereas I believe the healthy approach to anything usually lies somewhere in the middle.
When dealing with this issue, there are two clear, distinct goals, and to ignore either would be irresponsible.
- To ensure your child is given age-appropriate guidelines for when it is acceptable to come running to their parent’s bed and when it is not
- To ensure you’re getting enough sleep to deal with their nonsense and have enough space to sufficiently relax after a long day of dealing with their lovable, yet occasionally absurd behavior
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a believer in nurturing our children, giving them a neck to wrap their arms around when their alarm clock casts a menacing shadow on their dresser. However, I’m also a believer in setting boundaries so compassion doesn’t transform into a bad habit that becomes increasingly difficult to break.
Put simply, there’s a reason that “Tommy” in the “Clingy Parent” scenario is an only child. His poor parents are never alone to conceive another! If we allow our children access to our beds every night and never allow them to be nocturnally independent, they’ll take even longer to “let go of our legs,” so to speak, ultimately making it much harder for us to break them from the habit later on.
And the “Stiff Arm Parent” approach is a bit too cold for my liking. I see it as ultimately more beneficial to the child’s well being when compared to “Clingy Parent,” but seriously, how do you muster the will power to follow through on a child development plan at 3:00 in the morning? This, frankly, is where I crumble. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, operating at 35% mental capacity and my son crawls into my bed and starts snoring, guess who’s letting him stay there for the night? You got it. In fact, most of the time I’m not even aware he’s there until the next morning, when it’s far too late to put my foot down.
Ultimately, I’ve opted for positive reinforcement. My older son will go between 10 and 14 days without a nighttime visit, then suddenly starts popping in three or four days in a row. My wife (who, if it needs to be said, is the real brains behind this whole parenting thing) has implemented a rewards system. It just started this week. We put a magnetized “reward calendar” up in his room, and for every night he stays in his bed until morning, he gets to put a magnet of his choosing on the corresponding day. The kicker? He gets a surprise each time he’s successful. Not like a bike or anything, but something as simple as getting to pick out his dessert after dinner that night. It’s a little way to motivate him and to get him excited about doing something he wouldn’t normally be excited to do. Some people call it bribery. But those people would understand if they were parents.
So, while I firmly believe that our children’s needs override our own, I don’t think we’re being fair to ourselves (or potentially our significant other) by ignoring our needs completely either. It’s a delicate balance of instilling confidence and comfort in our kids while also maintaining a healthy “bedroom lifestyle” for ourselves as adults. In truth, splitting the atom was probably less complicated.
So, what tactic do you employ when approached mid-sleep by your child (if any at all)? Send me your feedback and thoughts by adding a comment below!
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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attachment parenting, bedtime, bribery, CIO, co sleeping, cry it out, Ferber, parenting, positive reinforcement, sex life, sleep training, The Ring, toddler bed | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Newborn Care
Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
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.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is currently working on releasing a parenting humor book. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I apologize for the lateness of this letter, but I don’t have as much free time as you do.
We’ve been friends for many years. You’ve known me as a careless teen and a carefree adolescent. It is due to the long, rich history which we both share that I offer you the respect of an explanation of who I am today, because I feel that my lack of presence in your life could be misinterpreted as apathy. On the contrary, I value our friendship a great deal. After all, you were technically there before my wife and children were. So, with that said, here’s how I feel about our floundering relationship, along with some practical ideas to keep it afloat.
First and foremost, don’t forget that I exist, please. I understand that my schedule has filled up faster than the men’s room at halftime of the Super Bowl since I’ve become a dad. But being a father in no way diminishes my ability or desire to be invited to bars for the liberal consumption of alcohol. In fact, it increases it. Exponentially. So, while I certainly don’t expect an invite every weekend, don’t just assume that I’m too busy or exhausted. I’ve been known to make time for people who I consider important, Jack Daniels being one of them.
I promise when we do spend time together that I won’t monopolize the conversation with talk of what you will likely perceive as my son’s minor accomplishments (his first words, his first bike, his painfully awkward school picture). But if you don’t show any interest in my chosen lifestyle of taming tantrums and mastering Fresh Beat Band lyrics, don’t expect me to be interested in hearing every excruciating detail of your weekend that included a Jersey Shore marathon, an unfettered poolside read, and a nap. I do my best not to allow the fact that I’ve procreated dominant any conversation. In fact, I’m flattered when you tell me, “I still find it hard to believe that you’re a father.” However, when you overemphasize the word “you’re,” it’s kind of insulting.
On the flip-side of that, please don’t be offended if I can’t go to your party that starts at 8:00 at night. My kids are normally in bed by 8:30. Would you be excited to go to a party that started right before you were planning to be in pajamas? I didn’t think so. Regardless, you leave me two choices. Well, three actually.
1). Going to your party and dragging my kids along, which I don’t think either of us want, especially when there are drunken dancers and ghastly house music involved.
2). Going to your party and leaving my wife to watch over the kids (which actually would be great, so I get out of the bedtime routine for a night. But the downside is I wouldn’t be able to drink and I’d be hanging out with other people who would be. If I have to say it, being sober around drunk people is my version of hell.)
3). Hiring a babysitter. I was going to hire a babysitter once. Then I watched the news. Now I trust no one.
Don’t get mad at me for being late. And please know that I will
occasionally lie about what time I plan to actually arrive at the destination where I’m meeting you. Because I have control issues, I prefer to put my kids to sleep before leaving. And when they’ll actually fall asleep is truly anyone’s guess. And naturally, at least one of my children will pick the night I made plans to develop croup, bronchitis, and an immunity to nighttime medicine. So why do I lie then? Because I know I certainly would never commit to plans with anyone who told me, “I’ll be there between 9:00 and 11:30.” I want to see you. This is why I lie to you. Think of me as the cable guy.
And please don’t tell me you need a vacation. Ever. Once you become a parent, you realize that the only ones who should be taking vacations are people who have to deal with erratic, irrational offspring day in and day out. You don’t “need” a vacation. Simply urinating without an audience would qualify as one for me.
So, in summary, I’m willing to meet in the middle. As long as you do your best to understand that I am at the mercy of the children I’m raising for the next couple of decades. In fact, let’s drink to that. I’ll meet you at the Tap House at 9:00.
Do you have friends who you feel alienated from? Has your social life take a dive since becoming a parent? I want to hear about it! Leave all comments by clicking on the comments section below!
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Monday, March 4th, 2013
I’ve decided my favorite game to play with Fia is “sleep.” This is when she tells me to lie down, close my eyes, and, well, sleep. Yes, a fascinating game. She proceeds to put blankets and stuffed animals all over me. As long as Emmett is truly sleeping in his crib, I can get away with this game. Even, dare I say, doze off a bit?
But her other favorite game is recreating the scene of the crime–Hers.
Every night when we put her to bed and begin to walk out, before we ever reach the door, she stands up in protest. She’s like the white version of Hush Puppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. I know what to say before I even turn around.
“Fia, lie back down.”
“No!” she says and stomps her foot on the mattress.
“Fia, I said lie down.” (This time I’m always a little more stern.)
She stomps the same foot again. On the third try I say,
“Fia, lie down or else I’m shutting the door all the way!” (Something that, when done on occasion, makes her wail as if she were losing a limb.)
Boom. Hit the dirt. She is down in a flash.
So is it weird that when we play she loves to imitate this whole scene in reverse? As in, I am Fia, she is Mama. (Follow that?)
She does it all over the house. Or at the beach. Or in the yard. We’ll be hanging out and suddenly she’ll shout, “Mama, lie down!!!” It’s my instant alert that it’s Game-On time. I stomp my foot. “Lie down!” she yells at me (far louder and intense than we ever do, by the way). And so it begins…
By the time we reach the end of the first go around, in which I hit the ground/grass/sand with a fury, lest the invisible door be closed, she is howling with laughter. “Again mama! Let’s do it again! I’m going to be you again!” she shouts with glee (as if there were any other choice).
It’s especially funny when she does it right before bedtime. We’ll be settling in her bed to read and up she goes.
“Let’s play the stomp foot game.”
Seven minutes later when I really put her down the stomping begins in earnest. She doesn’t seem to “get” the irony that we just went through this. It’s hard to keep a straight face.
I wrote awhile back at how I observed her putting dolls in time out and wondered if that was normal. Maybe this is just the second level of that type of exploration. I mean you play tea party, so why not play punishment-party? (Punishment being the threat of closing her door.)
The best part of the real going-to-bed routine is that after the protesting, when I’m standing with my hand on the doorknob, indicating that I have the power to shut it, she lies down and says, ”But mama, just one more kiss and hug.” Even though I’ve given her 17 already, I always get pulled back in. Sometimes for a triple encore on top of a triple encore. Phil shakes his head when I finally emerge a half hour later. He knows I can’t resist her. I shrug my shoulders and say, “Yep. Love fest party.” Then I pour my wine and settle into my 21 minutes of relaxing before I go to bed myself. With no protest.
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bedtime, crib, getting toddler to sleep, mattress, playing sleep game, playtime, sleep training, time out game | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read