Monday, September 15, 2014

Firsts, Ever-Full Diaper Genies, and Coming Full Circle. Again.

As a parent there are a lot of Firsts. Actually, when you're a new parent, life is really all about your child’s Firsts and not much else. There are first words babbled, first steps wobbled and first teeth toothed. First trips on the big yellow bus to school only happen once, as does the first trip to the emergency room for stitches. (Which was really not my fault, despite what Nurse Ratched obviously thought when she checked us in.)*

There is another side of early parenthood as well though: the Mostly Unacknowledged World of Mind-Numbing Monotony. Which is world that includes all the drudgier bits of parental obligation that includes, but is not limited to, the seemingly infinite number of diapers changed. Or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made. Or runny noses wiped. Or loads of laundry washed. Or, or, or.

Jeez, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I’m having a mild PTSD-like reaction to this little flood of memories. Suddenly I can't stop think about our Magically-Ever-Full Diaper Genie. The Diaper Genie that I was always quite sure I emptied mere moments before. Or was it the Tuesday before? Either way, it was somehow always full. Ugh. There was just never any way to be sure. Sleep deprivation will do that to you.

But luckily enough, the magical Haze of Times Past smooths over most of these of indignities that parenthood requires of us. And before you know it the tots have grown like proverbial weeds and they’re ready for launch. Which brings me full circle to the Full Circle portion of the Dad’s Off the Couch blog. The boys are indeed mostly grown and the end-game is in sight. So, here we go.

* Fun fact! The ER at one of our local hospitals has a big spiral-bound notebook crammed with what looks like year’s worth of informal, handwritten notes on kids admitted with questionable looking injuries. This is a book that Nurse Ratched will pull out from waaaay under the counter and consult surreptitiously while glancing back at the possible offender and victim. So, if nothing seems to match up: its’ your lucky day! If there is a match, well, I suppose there may be Questions. I’m just thrilled that I never found out for sure.

PS- And first teeth! I knew I missed a big one!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams. As real as it's going to be.

Look, over the next week or two there will be hundreds of thousands of words written about Robin Williams. There will be remembrances of all kinds. There will be mindless segments on every TV show that has an intern willing to write some copy. There will be countless think-pieces published about him. Robin Williams will be on magazine covers that will subtly evoke a sad clown.

And, most of the pieces written about him will focus on the deep and all too common connection between creativity and an inner life out of balance. There will also be some hand wringing and rhetorical questions about drugs, whiskey, heart attacks and the friends Williams kept in the early days.

Which is all well and good, but there’s so much more to him than all that. Really. Go to the source: the man speaking about himself. No, not clips of him putting on a dog and pony show for civilians like Barbara Walters… instead listen to the man having a real conversation. A conversation with the prickly, brilliant, and sometimes maddening Marc Maron.

Maron is a skilled interviewer and he’s no civilian. The hour he spends with Robin Williams is raw, contradictory and heart-breaking. If you’re actually curious about what was going on in there, this episode of WTF is a good place to start.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Coming Full Circle, part II, in which a Stay-at-Home-Dad grows up with his kids

It was a busy Saturday in May. First there was a trip to the community center where the younger boy had SAT prep. There was some question about how he was going to get back afterwards, but as always the specter of a long walk home ensured that he would work it out somehow.

Once this was done though, the main event was on: a road trip to the North Country of New York and the bustling metropolis that is Potsdam. A trip to retrieve our older boy from college. Our boy who, while he still holds the title of First Born, now also holds the title of College Student. Yow.

And how did this happen? How is it possible that our boy is in college when it seems like only five minutes ago that he was dragging a wet diaper around the house while in pursuit of Scrunchy the Shih Tzu, a dog that was not only faster than the boy, but quite a bit more clever?  How is it possible that our boy is in college when both his mother and I feel no older or wiser than the day we got married?

Or, more to the point, how is it possible that his mother and I have been taken by surprise by events we saw speeding down the track as quickly and inevitably as trainload of tired metaphors about life? Well I’ll tell you. Because I’m coming full circle.

Full circle means a lot of things. For the younger boy it means car trips to SAT prep instead of playdates. For the older boy it means trips to college instead of SAT prep. It means watching the boys climb into a tuxedo for prom instead of for ring-bearing duties at a wedding. It means talking about  why Stravinsky was a badass KGB-baiting composer instead of why the Under the Sea song is the best song ever.

Mostly though, coming full circle means that not only are both the boys living the lives of near-independence, but that those lives mirror what my own life used to be like. Thier lives are full of girls and parties and road trips and all the things that make being an adult great.

So, going forward I’m obviously going to have to start preparing to be a different kind of father. The kind of father who’s not constantly surprised to find that my boys are nearly grown. The kind of stay-at-home-dad who’s coming full circle.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coming Full Circle, part I, in which I mull over the birth of a Stay at Home Dad Blog

It was, say, the summer of 2003 when I got wind of a little thing called Blogger. Billed as a free, simple platform for publishing anything and everything, it almost seemed too good to be true. My fingers started twitching. It would be my own little slice of the interwebs. There were even “blog rings” that would let me follow the few other people writing about similar topics. So without even a second thought, I signed up, hit send and just like that I was a “blogger.”

But I should probably back up for a moment.

At the risk of revealing that I’m an old guy, I am proud to note that I was an early refugee from the static tyranny of yellow legal pads and ballpoint pens the moment I got my hands on WordStar. It was the early 80s and it was magical. It was on a machine that displayed whatever you typed on a screen. You could go back and fix mistakes. No more clickity-clack of steel keys, no more smell of 3in1 oil, no more inked ribbons that reliably went dry each and every time you had a final paper due. With a computer I was a WiteOut-stained-wretch no more.

And it’s been an electronic free-for-all ever since: papers for school, letters to editors, opinion pieces for any paper that would have me and bits of ephemera for myself. Bits of ephemera that were, parenthetically speaking, really little more than poor imitations of S. J. Perelman. (The real irony is, of course, that it’s a stylistic thing that I can’t seem to avoid. Just consider this piece as a whole. Although there is eventually a point, it’s all discursive prose that noodles here and there and is chockablock with so many extra words that I can hear my copy of Strunk and White weeping softly. And see? I’m doing it right now.)

Anyway, mention of discursive prose brings us back to the summer of 2003 and Blogger. Until then I had been sending off pieces about this Local Issue and that Personal Observation to our local Gannett rag, the Journal News. (Pieces I sent on paper, in stamped envelopes via the fine folks at the USPS. I know, right?! ) The Gannett editor at the time seemed happy enough to publish much of what I sent, but now I had the ability to focus and publish my own column of sorts; and so Dad’s On The Couch was born.

Dad’s On the Couch? Yeah, I was younger, my kids were wee and I realized that this was the perfect outlet for sharing my experiences as a dad who was home raising his kids…

Anyway, tomorrow in Part Two, I connect virtually with some other dads via Web Rings and I discover that there was an official name for me: I was a Stay at Home Dad, with capitals.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The epic college odyssey, part I. Gaaa.

It would be hard to argue, I think, that one of life’s greatest pleasures is serendipity. The serendipitous discovery of, well,  pretty much anything. Food, music, people, authors, even words; it really doesn’t matter. Well that’s not true, I’ll try any kind of food. And lots of it. I’m just easy that way. I’m much pickier about my authors.

In any case, a bit of serendipity dropped on me today when I came across the word Decidophobia. I suppose you could make the case that as a word it’s a little bit obvious or literal minded, but I still think it’s perfectly descriptive in a lean, efficient way.  Mostly because I have the perfect use for it: Decidophobia – “a condition that may afflict parents with a teen looking at colleges.”

 Yes, we’re in the midst of the labyrinthine and baffling rite of passage that is looking at and sorting schools.

And I’ll be damned if these parental rites of passage aren’t getting harder each time.  The early ones are easy: Hand-wringing over whether or not he’s walking and talking on “schedule.” Potty training. Dealing with the first school bully. First trip to the ER for stitches. Braces. Learning to drive and watching the first broken heart.

Piffle, I say. All those rites of passage were mere child’s play (ha ha!) when compared to staring at a list generated by Naviance that includes 15 colleges. Which is a list that started with 160. Sure, we’ve already been in consultation with an awesome counselor and teacher which is why we’re pretty sure which schools have strong programs… but that was the easy part. We’re told that admissions departments DO care if your kid has requested information, visited with a rep and taken a tour, so how do we schedule visits to schools that are more distant than Kate Gosselin’s 1000-yard stare?

And then we need to schedule SAT prep, sitting for the SAT, and trips for NYSSMA since we’re looking at music programs. Which also means there will be an audition process for each school which is a whole separate thing.  Breathe slowly.

And none of this has even addressed what is, unfortunately, perhaps the biggest issue. Yeah, you know the one. Tuition + room + board = Gaaaaaaaaa.

As we continue to make progress though, my Lovely Bride remains the voice of reason on our team and keeps reminding me that we’ll figure it out one step at a time. Of course I think that a crippling case of decidophobia is still a real threat to be guarded against, but I’ll keep you posted. Gaaaa.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ticker tape, the Giants and dad's shoulders.

The  sky was grey, it was crowded, and the weather was colder than  Kate Gosselin’s smile. And yet none of that mattered because Underdog was floating past me, up in the sky, larger than life. Perhaps most surprising though, he was also in Living Color, complete with bright red standard-issue superhero tights and a blue cape. Who knew? Mostly this was remarkable to me because  I had only seen him on our black and white Zenith TV, which also meant that it was not just Underdog, but Mr. Rogers, Big Bird and Easy Reader who were rendered in a surprisingly small number of grey, grainy hues.

That being said, it was exactly the sort of day that a six year old never forgets because it was not just my first Thanksgiving Day parade, but an adventure in the city with my dad.

My father is an interesting guy for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most important to me is that he’s a guy who straddled a transitional period in our culture when notions of what success, family and fatherhood meant were shifting. He was in some ways entirely traditional: each morning he left before everyone else was  up to catch a train to the city where he worked at a mysterious job in a mysterious skyscraper. He then came home around dinnertime and read a paper while listening to the news. (He did, however, wisely avoid the pipe and martini thing which thankfully remains in the dustbin of dad-history. There are some clich├ęs that no one can pull off, short of an Adolphe Menjou or Claude Raines.)

Traditional as he may have been, though, my dad made a conscious decision to (mostly) not work late, not bring work home and to not work on the weekends. He had made a calculation about what was important to him and then made it his business to be present in our lives even though it must have cost him professionally. Sure, we could probably have lived in a bigger house and had cooler cars, but I was luckier than that.

And so that’s why I’m assuming that even more memories are being made today at the Giant’s victory ticker tape parade. The streets are lined with families dressed in blue and there are little kids on shoulders watching bigger than life figures make their way down the canyon of heroes. But here’s the thing, even if you didn’t make it to New York today there are still plenty of opportunities to get outside with the kids and see the weird and wonderful things that only happen in a parade.

An obvious one is the St. Patrick’s to-do in either Pearl River or New York, but there are more parades than you would suppose. Try the Columbus Day parade, or the weird and creative Halloween parade in Nyack. And in case you didn’t know, there’s an annual Volunteer Firefighters parade to be watched.

Or, have you ever had the urge to see a 30 foot Dora the Explorer? Of course you haven’t, but your kids want to, so make sure to hit the easy-to-navigate Thanksgiving Day Parade in Stamford. It’s actually extra cool because it features a whole herd of full sized balloons.  And of course there’s the far more hilarious and entertaining Halloween parade in the Village, but, well, you know. Take the teens.

So anyway,  even though Eli Manning probably won’t be at any of those wearing red tights and blue cape, your kids won’t care. Just make sure they get a turn on your shoulders. Do it.