Posts Tagged ‘ parenthood ’

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

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“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

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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

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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

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My Disney Experience: Surviving the Magic

Friday, May 23rd, 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.

My five-year-old, Antonio as Jake of the Neverland Pirates. You’ll be seeing those eyebrows again later.

My Disney Experience.  That’s the name of the app which allows you to keep your plans organized for your eagerly anticipated (and pricey) trip to the magical Promised Land known as Disney World. Now, the word “experience” is thrown around in the digital space quite a bit. But aside from Jimi Hendrix, can any entity truly leverage the term accurately? Is it really an experience? Well, I’m here to tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, yes. But for more than simply sharing personal space with a fictional, jolly giant mouse.

For starters, Disney is the strongest brand on planet earth. At least for my money (and they certainly have a lot of it after my vacation last week). You simply can’t go to any other location on earth and see the type of brand loyalty shown by people who just spent upwards of $100 a pop just to walk through the door. Hats, t-shirts, socks, ponchos. If you can put it on your body, Disney has its name on it. I remain in awe of their marketing prowess.

But aside from the aforementioned genius of their branding strategy, Disney also provides something invaluably educational to those of us with children. Put simply, a Disney vacation is parent boot camp.

If you’re anything like me, you’re used to the utter chaos that your children unapologetically hurl at you on a daily basis. But at least for me, I’m not used to dealing with that chaos without some sort of break in the action, be it my job or letting them watch Frozen for the 176th time. While on vacation, it’s like you’re running a marathon. Or, if it’s a Disney vacation, it’s like running a marathon while wearing a Darth Vader helmet with Mickey ears and eating a Donald Duck ice pop. Quite literally, actually.

The good news is that, at Disney, there is an overall acceptance of any sized stroller and all possible erratic behavior your children might exhibit. We’re all in this together, it seems. And we’re just trying to survive. Both of my sons ran dead smack into a stranger’s legs at some point and I had plenty of kids run into mine. We all responded the same way to the apologetic parent of the running child. “It’s fine. I get it.”

My Disney Experience was as rewarding as it was draining. And I certainly learned a thing or two along the way. So, in case you’re thinking about taking the plunge and emptying your bank account into a Magic Kingdom cash register, here are some things to think about.

  • Have an agenda

I’m a “go with the flow” kind of guy when I go anywhere for leisure. But when bringing your kids to the Mecca of mirth, that mentality doesn’t jive. If you’re the spontaneous type, this will scorn your soul to hear, but making reservations at the restaurants you want to hit months in advance of your trip will save you headaches (and waiting time) later. My wife is terrific at keeping us in order with things like this. So, to summarize, bring my wife with you on your vacation. But I strictly forbid any sort of “magical time” happening if you do. Got me?

  • Use FastPass+

Waiting on a long, seemingly endless line is hard enough when you don’t have hungry, whiny children either asking you to hold them or refusing to, you know, stay in line. But either by using the My Disney Experience app or by accessing your account on the site, you should be able to select the date, time, and attraction you’re interested in and sign up for a FastPass+ (which is actually free!). FastPass+ is exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to pass, faster. It easily shaved 20 minutes off the wait times of at least five attractions, which ultimately allowed us to see more things. You simply show up to the ride at the time of your reservation (you’ll be given a block of time, if available), flash your Disney Magic Band (which they send you when you book the trip), and you’re directed to a much, much shorter line. While some of the passes were set up weeks in advance, we were able to secure a couple the night before our visit to that particular park. So, all you need to be is the tiniest bit proactive for this to be a viable option for you.

  • Bring a stroller

This might seem like a no-brainer if you have children under the age of four, but consider it even for five or six-year-olds. My older son is five and I don’t doubt that we were able to see as much as we did because of the breaks the stroller gave his legs. Surely, it can be a major pain to cart on and off a shuttle bus, but ultimately, it’s worth the struggle.

  • Keep track of your things…all of them

As if keeping a watchful eye on your children wasn’t challenging enough in a theme park, you’ll also likely have the aforementioned stroller, diaper bag, camera bag, and every imaginable souvenir that you’ve convinced yourself your child deserves. It’s very easy to shove an item into the nearest available compartment with a zipper, only to be searching for it frantically later. I’m certainly guilty of that. So, try to compartmentalize your items, and keep them together. And when you do board that bus to leave, for the love of God remember that you’ve stored things under your stroller BEFORE your collapse it. Learned that the hard way.

  • Be sneaky

We were in Magic Kingdom practically till its closing one night. The “Celebrate the Magic” projection show on the Disney castle (which I strongly recommend) had taken place, and the rest was simply fireworks. The vast majority of the people in the park had eyes focused on the lit sky. Us? We took that opportunity to meet Mickey himself. And we waited a grand total of three minutes.

  • Don’t over-spend

Sounds counter-intuitive since you pretty much did this when you bought a park ticket, but that doesn’t mean you have to crawl even deeper into a financial hole by purchasing anything and everything with a Disney character imprinted on it. While it won’t be easy to say “no” as often as you’ll have to, walking the Disney parks is good practice in doing exactly that. Once you’ve reached the point where you start to wonder if you’re spoiling your kids, that’s likely a good time to lock up your credit card and punch out.

  • For God’s sake, don’t put a child on your shoulders during a live show

This bullet pretty much speaks for itself, but all it takes is one person who thinks they’re being a helpful parent to ruin it for everyone else behind them. If you’re 5’9” and put a child on your shoulders, you’re effectively 6’6” now. If you’re 6’6” already without the child, then duck. It’s only fair.

Antonio out of his Jake costume, but not out of his new eyebrows.

To Disney’s credit, they pack a serious punch of entertainment and convenience for the money. We checked our suitcases at the airport on the way there and didn’t see them again until they were in our hotel room, and it was similar on the way back. Also, at every single restaurant we ate at on Disney property, the chef personally came out to speak with us about our son’s food allergy. Between that, the live shows, the fireworks, the character breakfasts, etc, it makes the pain of depleting your bank account hurt a bit less. Although, I must say, the fact that all employees are referred to as “cast members” and the bell hop at the Animal Kingdom villas kept saying “welcome home” when I walked past him was a bit unsettling and Twilight Zone-like.

Despite the inherit madness involved with a theme park excursion, if you do it right, there are moments when your children are beaming with joy, their fists clenched tight with euphoria, where you know you’ve just created a memory that will last a lifetime. For your children and for you.

Not even the eyebrows could ruin this one.

Thanks for reading, and tell me all about your Disney experience in the comment section below, or by tweeting me with the hashtag #mydisneyexperience. And of course, have a magical day.

 

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