Tuesday, February 25th, 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.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. 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 emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
I’m a worrier. I’ve always been one. In fifth grade, I lost my glasses on a class field trip (Camp Warwick, represent) and shook relentlessly on the bus ride home, imagining the wrath of my disappointed parents. As an adult, flying post-911, my heart pumped with unhinged anxiety as I reluctantly stepped aboard United Flight 246. Hell, I’m even worried about whether you’ll enjoy this blog or not. Having children did nothing to curb the fear. It’s merely amplified it to the point where I long for the days when I had just my own body and future to worry about.
If you’re the type of person who tends not to get nervous, the type who could scale a skyscraper without a belay, the following may come across as nutty and extreme. But if you’re as neurotic as I am, I think you’ll relate to more of this than you care to admit.
That said, here are my parental fears, condensed.
I worry that my kids will remember me as an angry, unhappy father when they’re adults. Whenever my father tells a funny story about my grandfather, it almost always involves him yelling at someone or something. And while I’ll always remember my grandfather as a kind, loving man, I would hope that me raising my voice isn’t what my sons will remember most.
I worry that I don’t talk to my kids enough. Like actually talk to them. It’s so very easy to let a day or several days go by without ever taking the time to do that.
I worry that my kids won’t remember my mother, who died when they were both under the age of 3. In fact, I know they won’t remember her. I’ve accepted that. It’s why establishing her presence through stories, pictures, and video is so important.
I worry that my kids will say “your” when they mean “you’re” and “you’re” when they mean “your.” That might sound absurd to you, but I think grammar/communication is more important than practically any other subject in school. Everything from writing presentations, business proposals, to emails and texts, the way we communicate leaves a lasting impression on others.
I worry that I’ll get a phone call from the police department and suddenly find myself as part of the latest school tragedy. It’s an ungodly trend that’s developing in our country, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it every time I drop my kids off in the morning.
I worry that I will never achieve the balance in my life where my career, family, and hobbies are all progressing at a vibrant, healthy rate. I constantly feel like when one is thriving, the other two are running to catch up.
I worry that my kids will grow up listening to music that contains no soul or substance. I want them to harbor eclectic collections that touch every genre. It would break my heart into pieces to hear that they “aren’t into live music” or they “only listen to DJs.” I want my kids to be colorful, fire-breathing souls, not the type of drones who never explore the art of music deeper than that of…Ke$ha.
I worry that I let my kids get away with too much. Then, I worry that I’m disciplining too harshly. Whatever I’m doing, I’m pretty sure it will ultimately backfire.
I worry that my sons will pick up terrible habits from kids in school. But then I realize they’re probably picking up even worse habits from me.
I worry about the day when the childish innocence of my boys is gone, replaced with the head-shaking cynicism that all too easily can overcome us, by way of the evening news, getting screwed over by a friend, or by general exposure to life’s evils.
More than anything else, I worry about these things because I so earnestly want to raise children who are giving, open-minded, and happy. I realize happy is a seriously broad term, but my biggest worry as their father is that I’m not doing enough to enable their happiness as kids, and subsequently as adults. And aside from their own personal happiness, I have a steadfast need to raise children who are respectful of others, no matter what creed, culture, race, etc. To see otherwise would be heartbreaking, frankly.
I realize this is fruitless. Trust me. I’ve been told time and time again that worrying solves nothing. And I know they’re right. Put simply, I always have been and always will be a worrier. It manifests itself when I truly care about something—a job interview, an argument with a friend, this very blog you’re reading. The list goes on. But I like to think that, as a parent, being a worrier also makes me the type of protector my children need. While it increases the likelihood I’ll develop an ulcer tenfold, it also makes me especially cognizant of potential mistakes I might be making. That, in turn, yields more success as a parent than it would yield if I was a carefree, laid back soul. I hope so, anyway.
I hope this served as relatable fodder for people as neurotic as I am.
Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to tweet me @JoeDeProspero. What worries YOU?
Image: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Monday, October 15th, 2012
…right before you get on a plane with your husband, you email your closest girlfriends, your aunt and your brother a document titled “Final Wishes” that spells out exactly how you want your children raised, what type of schooling they should have and what sort of life you want them to live should you perish.
Yes folks, it’s called rock bottom crazy and I hit it last week.
Phil and I were flying to a wedding in Sante Fe. This is the first time we left both kids behind. Something I regretted and vowed to never do again. (Though drinking until 1 a.m. at the wedding and then sleeping in was a treat so I may retract that sentence.)
Earlier in the week I had our will all updated, legal guardians set, etc. But then the what-ifs started to creep into my brain. In a last minute frenzy I typed up the document and sent it out. Thing is, I didn’t feel crazy. Still don’t really. It made me feel saner.
After my cousin was killed earlier this year, I figured that having your bases covered was prudent. My aunt and brother agreed. My two girlfriends told me to go back to my shrink (who happens to be a hypnotherapist). I am heeding their advice, but more for my general need for a tune-up.
Needless to say, we got back safe and sound. My heart was aching for my babies and I said I wouldn’t leave them again. Then a work gig came up and 48 hours later I found myself flying to New York. Ack. But it was a quick 1-day shoot and I was back. My plane didn’t crash. And Phil didn’t go, so at least one of us would be around, god forbid.
My next trip is in a month. To Vegas. With one of my best–and most fun–friends. (Yes Dena, I’m talking about YOU!). Phil will stay home, so I’m covered. But after that, I swear, I’ll never leave my kids again… or on second thought, just seek the professional help I clearly need.
Anyone else want to tell me their version of crazy to make me feel better?
Airplane picture courtesy of Shutterstock
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Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Today I am partially unplugging for the week. My goal? To become more mindful and present. Here’s why:
My friend Teresa came over yesterday. She is pregnant and a vegetarian. I was ordering pizza. I needed a crucial answer. I texted her: can u pick the meat off or do I get veggie pizza? What kind of veggies?
She didn’t text back. I got a little indignant. I went ahead and ordered (one plain, one pepperoni). When she arrived I asked if she had seen my text. She said something that I’ve been floating through my increasingly scattered brain for a few days.
“I try and only check my phone every 2 hours. Especially when I’m with my son. It makes me feel like I’m not a good mom when I start responding and not focusing on him. I find that the more I check my phone, the more depressed I am at the end of the day because my mood is constantly shifting based on what comes in.”
What she said = gold in my book. And my brain. I kid you not: last week I had a headache for 3 days. I could tell it was from tension. Nothing made it go away. I honestly think it’s because I’m so scattered with a lack of schedule (read: Frustrated. Need to Vent) and feel pulled in a million directions that no amount of aspirin or Motrin will help. What will help is changing my behavior. Drastically.
Granted I wrote last week about the beauty of social media. How I’m now a believer in it. But, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put limits on all this stuff.
On any given day, here is how my crazy goes:
Fia and I are playing. I check my phone. She frolics, I text or email someone back. Then I run into the kitchen. Open freezer. Remember someone else I was going to email about something. Write them. Freezer is still open. I pull out chicken to thaw. Fia shouts, “Mama, what are you doing?” I open a cabinet. ”I’m coming baby.” I pull out a glass and fill it with water. I check the phone. Oops–respond to an email. Cabinet still open. I almost walk into it (two years ago I did and broke my nose. No sh-t). Glance out window. She isn’t maimed. I shoot a quick text to another friend. Reply to the email. Fia asks for me again. I walk outside with my phone. Oops. Forgot water. Back inside. And on and on.
No wonder I don’t feel “present.” No wonder I have self doubt about my mom abilities. Or frankly any of my abilities. It’s a CONSTANT yo-yo of emotions. Even as creatures of adaptation, our brains aren’t made for that.
My mom in her crass wisdom used the quote, “If you have one foot in tomorrow and one foot in yesterday, then you’re pissing on today.” I’m going to say that when I have one foot on my computer and one foot on my kids, I’m pissing on the present. I can’t straddle the worlds anymore. It’s a lose-lose situation, and one that apparently has consequences. A recent article in the New York Times says there is a thing called Facebook Depression. And that constant texting and emailing can cause mental illness. These include OCD behavior (me) and narcissism (probably me).
As my friend Teresa said, “Bottom line: this sh-t isn’t good for us.”
I find in moments when I am down on my knees, sans blackberry, playing with Fia, helping her poop, whatever, there is never stillness. Instead of absorbing everything about her and our moments (yes, even if it’s in a disgusting public bathroom), my mind spins. Crazy sentences begin. I literally have conversations with people, thinking about what I will text or email them–which then turns into an entirely different conversation that can range from my purpose in life to my next grocery trip. I am so tired of hearing myself.
TIME. TO. STOP. THE. F–KING. CHATTER.
Here’s what I’m doing: I am going to overhaul my life and really examine how I can schedule my week in a more seamless and sane fashion. Following Teresa’s lead, I will allot myself time to check my phone and time to put it away. I will schedule chunks of time for my kids without the phone even in reach. I think this will reduce my mom guilt too. I’m going for quality over quantity.
Like I said, I’m giving this a week. Anyone else want to join me in this venture? I’ll report back on June 25th. If you want to do this too, post comments on this blog and I can share them in the follow-up post. And not to worry; I’ll read your comments during my allotted “work time.”
Lastly, if anyone has any suggestions on how to manage time and technology better, please share!
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Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips