Category Archives: Daddy’s Log
The war journal of a first-time father. If you’re reading this, you are the resistance!
I heard an old song today. It went like this:
I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.
I can tell you what love is. Love is walking to your car from the mall with a stroller and asking your two year old if she has to use the bathroom only to hear crickets chirping, and then, as you’re strapping her into the carseat, you feel a slight moisture on her pants, which then prompts you to ask again only to get a complete 180 of an answer in the form of a scream of “Potty Time, Let’s Go!!!” that forces you to think quickly on your feet, by which you psych the child out by laughing and making her think that your full speed sprint through the parking lot and back into Macy’s is some form of game, one that includes knocking an old woman out of the way at the first counter that you see and asking the clerk “Where is your bathroom” as your child joins in the fun and starts passing gas audibly loud while yelling “Potty!” which lends authenticity to your plea for assistance and garners the sympathy and forgiveness of the elderly woman whom you nearly knocked to the ground as you scurry along to the bathroom which the clerk failed mention was a women’s restroom which would help your two year old if she wasn’t two, but unfortunately she is, so you have to make a quick decision of whether or not to try and find the men’s room or violate several ethical norms by yelling “Man coming in with two year old who has to pee and can’t hold it!” which you wouldn’t expect to be met with such a calm response as, “Well, there’s two women in here,” and even after you say, “Well I’ll keep my eyes closed” they don’t run out screaming, instead choosing to just continue about their business and so you plop your kid down on the first toilet you see not really noticing until after you leave that the women’s room had a lounge chair in it where the urinals would normally be in a men’s room, which is odd, but whatever, and you leave out of the bathroom after your child finishes dispensing what seemed like a gallon’s worth of fluid and you go home and think to yourself, “She’ll never remember this” and then you hear a song saying, “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me” and then you remember what you just did and you say, “I guess that’s what love is.”
Day 4 of The Battle at Daycare
I’m wounded and slowly bleeding out. Though the medic says it’s just a bad cold, it sure as hell feels like dying to me. I was warned about going into that place unprepared. Why didn’t I listen? Was it pride or just sheer stupidity? I’ll never know. If this is to be my last entry, then please, Dear Reader, tell my daughter that I love her and tell Scarlett that I do give a damn.
I’ve long suspected that daycares are where the government tests its new diseases. Playdough could very well just be anthrax mixed with water. I don’t know. I do know that the one where my daughter goes is like a holding pen for Resident Evil or Dawn of the Dead. As far as I can surmise, I was bitten on Monday. Little Timmy or whatever his name used to be before the change came up to me that morning. I didn’t think anything of it. So caught up in the emotion of my daughter’s first day, I let my guard down.
Rule Number One: Don’t Get Personal
Timmy came up to me and he looked at me with those big watery globes and said, “Hi!” When in Rome… I spoke back. “Hi, child I don’t know.” He continued, “Hi!” Timmy is a man of few words. That went on for about a minute and as I turned to walk away, I heard him cough. He must have bitten me sometime during our initial exchange. I didn’t feel it. The best poisons go unnoticed. I was a dead man before I walked out of that place.
Tuesday I felt a little sick. Yesterday I felt like hell. Today, I realize that yesterday was a walk through heaven on my way to today’s hell. Symptoms? Everything except my left knee, third toe on my right foot and the vein that runs down the inside of my left arm near my thumb hurts. I’ve been trying to squint because the force of my eyelids blinking sends a shock wave through my head.
There’s so much more to say, but the vertebra directly next to bottommost rib is starting to hurt worse than the others. I slept 12 hours last night then woke up for two this morning, before sleeping another three. I’ve been up for an hour and feel like I need another eight hour nap. I’m down somewhere in Ward 3. Send Gatorade!
So yesterday was D-Day. We stormed the beach at daycare. The events of the day fall into two categories: What I expected and What Happened.
Scene One: Drop-off
What I Expected
Walk in to find all of the kids singing a song or something. My daughter would be nervous at first, probably clinging to me for protection. We would stay there for about an hour to ease her into the daycare process. She would scream and holler as we tried to leave. I’d muster up the will to leave her there.
Walked in to find the kids eating breakfast. All of them looked like hobbits next to my human growth hormone-sponsored daughter. She went straight to playing with the toys and ignored the presence of all of the children. She cried only when I tried to get her to eat. The teacher suggested we just let her play. I took off my coat in preparation for the long haul. Three minutes later, I picked it back up to leave at the teacher’s subtle suggestion. Attempts to tell my daughter goodbye were met with indifference as she played with the toys and other “not-hungry” children.
Scene Two: Midday Check-In
What I Expected
A call around noon to the daycare would reveal my daughter’s immediate sadness at the realization that mommy and daddy were gone. Guilt would creep in because I didn’t say goodbye. The teacher would tell us things she planned to do to keep her calm throughout the day. I might possibly be able to hear my daughter crying inconsolably in the background.
“She’s asleep. We went out to play and she came back and said that she wanted to take a nap. It was about 30 minutes earlier than we usually put them down, but since it’s her first day, we let her take a nap.”
Scene Three: Pick Up
What I Expected
I was going to pick her up early. Surely, being left in new surroundings for seven hours has taken its toll. She’s sitting in a corner somewhere wondering if we’ve abandoned her. She hasn’t played much all day. The teachers will tell me things to do tomorrow to make it easier on her. They’ll tell me that she cried a few times, but if I’m lucky they will say that they were able to distract her most of the time. She’ll run into my arms the minute that she sees me come through the door. She won’t let go. My heart will break at the thought of her having to go through all of it again tomorrow.
I walk in and see her, but her back is to me. I speak to the teacher, but my daughter doesn’t immediately recognize my voice. I call out to her and brace myself for the impact of her 37 lb, 3 foot 2 inch frame running full speed into me. I wait for it. She looks at me… and turns back around to resume playing with a toy grasshopper. The teacher frowns at me and tells me that it’s okay. Her pity hurts.
I ask how things went. Did she cry a lot? “She didn’t cry at all, actually.” Did she have a hard time adjusting to you taking her to the bathroom? “Not at all. She told me when she had to go and she went by herself.” That’s…good. “Yeah, she seemed to have a lot of fun here and was running around pretty much all day, except for that nap earlier.”
It is in this moment that I look down to see my daughter standing beside me with a giant magnifying glass and peering through it at my hand a la Sherlock Holmes as if she’s examining me. “Time to go sweetheart.” She runs away. “We’ll be back tomorrow.” She puts up a fight. The teacher (you know, the woman she just met today) says, “You’ll be back tomorrow. Don’t worry.” My daughter just calms down like her word is bond.
As we’re leaving, my daughter (the one who hardly ever talks to strangers…or family members…or even me) says, “Okay, bye guys. See you later. Goodbye!” and waves! She looks at me and says, “Okay, let’s go.”
In my head, I hear Stewie Griffin…”Who the hell do you think you are?”
I used to think that stay at home parents sat around watching television and eating Cap’n Crunch all day. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand how demanding children can be. Hell, I was the family babysitter from about age seven to fourteen. I guess I failed to realize that at seven I didn’t really care about my cousin’s cognitive development. Back then I did sit around watching television and eating the snacks in his diaper bag. My interpretation of the role changed instantly when my wife walked out the door that first day after maternity leave.
I once heard somewhere that the reality of prison doesn’t sink in until you get in your cell and they close the door for the first time. It was the same for me. She left and (all teary-eyed) told me a hundred times to call her throughout the day to let her know how things were going. The door closed and I remember looking over at the six week old sprawled out on the couch and thought to myself, “What in the hell am I doing here?” I had my first meltdown two days later. Ten hours is a long stretch with a newborn, especially when you’re anatomically incompatible. My wife could just pop her on a boob to keep her quiet. I gave her a pacifier and she “Rick Wild Thing Vaughned” it right back at my head.
I got the hang of it after a while and even learned to find humor in it. I started this blog originally as “Daddy’s Log–The War Journal of a First Time Father” and chronicled my exploits on Facebook to the amusement of my friends. Being home allowed me to not only witness every milestone, but to have a direct involvement in them. There was no daycare worker to tell me, “Hey, she took her first steps today. Guess what? She said a word today.” It’s amazing how something so small can more than compensate for the lost wages, career growth and social interaction that I would’ve gotten from going to work each day. Don’t get me wrong, I missed those things desperately, but she made it all worth it.
A while ago I wrote a post about how hard it is to watch her face as we walk by a school playground. Her eyes light up not just because of the sight of the playground, but because of the other children. She craves the social interaction. She needs to be around her own kind. I have a hard time accepting that there are some things that I just can’t give her. I think that’s the theme of parenting. There will come a time…Actually, there will be hundreds of times when your kids will need something you can’t give them.
It’s so hard because in the beginning you were more than enough. You were an abundance of resources for them and that exchange of resources (be it wealth, patience, time, experience, knowledge, whatever) flowed freely and easily. Then one day that exchange is difficult because you honestly don’t have the thing that they need in that moment and (gasp) you have to send them out into the world to go get it. The same world that you sheltered and protected them from in the infant days–The one with all the germs, pedophiles, kidnappers and just all around bad people–is the same one you now have to direct them to and that is a scary feeling.
So what’s all of this about? I knew that the day would come when she’d go to school. I was banking on August or September of this year. Unfortunately, circumstances have changed and it’s a combination of things that have now forced me to move that date up to “soon.” She has to go to daycare and that decision pains me even though I know it’s the right one. There are parents reading this right now who are probably thinking, “Been there done that.” I acknowledge that I’m late to the party on this one, but just let me have my moment.
For the last two and a half years I’ve had a routine and enjoyed the company of just one person from 8AM to 6PM each day. I was planning a big “going away party” this spring and summer. We were gonna go on picnics and bike rides and just run ourselves ragged. I guess I wanted to cram as many “just the two of us” moments as I could. Instead, I have a week and it’s the dead of winter. With everything else that’s been going on, I was kinda looking forward to that. Where’s the truth-in-advertising for this whole “grown up” thing? It was supposed to be just a bunch of money and freedom. I want a refund.
It is currently 4:15 in the morning. My daughter and I are sitting on the couch watching our third episode of Sesame Street on Netflix.This is me giving up. She woke up at 9 this morning, which I’ll admit is late for a kid. Considering that she didn’t fall asleep until 1:30 in the morning last night, it makes sense. My goal was to get her back on track today. No nap and run her ragged…that was the plan.
We walked around downtown, we went to the playground and I even let her run wild in the apartment more than usual. She started looking sleepy around 7, but I kept her up. I could’ve let her sleep around 8, but I’ve fallen for that before. If she sleeps at eight then it’ll be a nap and she’ll wake up around ten.
By 9:45 she basically put herself to sleep. Victory!!! and then DEFEAT. At exactly 2:11, I woke up to find her staring at me from the side of the bed. I tried everything in my power to get her back to sleep, but it was no use. After 25 minutes, I gave up. We started looking at Sesame Street…and here we are.
She’ll probably fall back to sleep around 6 or 7. Hell, she may stay up all day. I don’t know. I just keep thinking back to that night in the hospital after she was born. They offered to take her to the nursery and we said no. The lady said, “This might be the last time you get a good night’s sleep for a long time.” I wish she had been more specific and said just how long “a long time” really is.
My daughter got hungry around 4:30, which is too close to dinner to give her a snack. After our encounter, I decided to jot down my interpretation of the voice that must play inside her head. Here it is, transcribed for your convenience:
I want a cracker.
Go ask Daddy for a cracker.
If Daddy says no, ask again.
If he says no twice, try one more time.
If he says no a third time, wait one minute and ask again.
If he says no the last time, walk to the kitchen and look to see if the crackers are still on the counter.
Come back into the living room and ask for a banana.
When Daddy goes to get the banana, which just happens to be next to the crackers, ask for a cracker.
Refuse the banana at all costs!
If whining does not work, command exactly one tear to fall from right eye.
Whine with conviction.
If whining with conviction does not work, go sit in living room.
Ignore impulse to ask for cracker.
Wait two minutes then sit on Daddy’s lap.
Stand up, grab Daddy’s hand and lead him into the kitchen.
Ignore his statement, “I’ll follow you, but you’re not getting a cracker.”
Push him toward the stove, turn to refrigerator and open refrigerator door.
Say “chicken” and point to raw chicken on bottom shelf.
Wait for Daddy to think that I am really hungry.
Wait for Daddy to gauge his laziness.
Sit on couch and enjoy five crackers and a cup of water as Daddy returns to watching television.
In no particular order
1. You catch yourself unconsciously singing cartoon theme songs when you’re alone.
2. The absence of a car seat is the thing that tips you off that you’re walking up to the wrong car.
3. You’ve become accustomed to not eating food while it’s still hot.
5. You know at least one board book by heart.
6. Glory be to Elmo.
7. You either spell things a lot or use synonyms because someone is listening.
8. Silence makes you suspicious.
9. You’re critical of every labor and delivery scene in movies, especially the squeaky clean 6 month olds they pass off as newborns.
10. If none of the above applies to you, there’s a 75% chance that you’re probably paying child support.
Being a parent is a full time job. You hear that all the time. What you don’t hear is that as an employee of one of the crappiest companies in existence (Don’t get me started on salary and working conditions) you never really know how you’re doing. It’s not like the corporate world where you get monthly reviews. You get your performance review at random unexpected moments…like finding out your daughter is the headliner at a strip club (Make that money, Diamond! Don’t let it make you!).
If you’re a shitty parent then you don’t really care, but if you’re a decent one then you probably are giving it your all and looking for telltale signs. I had the (pleasure?) of watching a little kid lick the side of the trashcan at the bus stop while his mom explained to another concerned onlooker that she was wasn’t a germaphobe. Compared to her, I’d say that gives me an Exceeds Expectations on my quarterly review.
For self-esteem purposes, I’d venture to say that I’m actually an Outstanding parent. If this were a sport, I would’ve been a first round draft pick. Other parents would put posters of me up on their walls. Maybe I’d even have endorsement deals: “The Ordale J Allen ‘ass-whipping’ belt is the only belt to have five different removable grips and a quick release latch for on the go disciplining.”
Anyway, for every pro athlete, there’s always someone better. Even Jordan had someone he looked up to. So who’s your favorite parent’s favorite parent? A good friend of mine who will only allow me to refer to her as D.B. is my inspiration. If I was a first round draft pick, she walked on right after high school. You already know how my daughter is: Sleeps two hours a night, beats me in my sleep and has me wrapped around her finger.
Watching D.B. with my daughter is like watching Bobby Flay come into my kitchen and turn a pack of Ramen Noodles and a hot dog into a Fettucini Bolognese. We stayed with her this past weekend and not only did my daughter embrace her, she acted like we were foster parents bringing her back. Little stuff like, “Go sit back down at the table and eat” was met with compliance. No whining, no crying, no pulling out a blade and threatening to stab D.B. She just did it.
The real kicker was when we decided to try something new…let her babysit. We started putting on our coats and heading for the door. “Goodbye, we’ll see you later!” She looked up for all of a second and went back to playing. We came back and found out that she went to bed at 7:30PM…and slept for 13 hours! What!? The last time my daughter went to sleep before 8:00 was in the hospital the day she was born. Even then she woke up a few hours later.
I tip my hat, bow, curtsy, and kneel before Zod. If this little crappy company that we all work for has any kind of a CEO award then she deserves it. I should’ve known, though. Her kids will be studied by science one day. I once watched her then-six and seven year olds suggest that they play rock, paper, scissors in order to decide which Wii game to play. After winning, the seven year old immediately volunteered to play for only ten minutes so that the six year old could get a chance. No ninja kicking, no battle royale. Just compromise.
So to sum things up, I’m doing better than the lady who lets her kid lick the trash can, but I’m below the woman whose kids entertain themselves in the evening by having spelling bees with each other. You know what…I’m just gonna call it even.
I feel like a horrible parent. I didn’t get much sleep last night and my daughter woke up earlier than usual. My head hurts and I feel sick, which seems to be my default setting in the winter. Somehow the shame of my parenting is the only thing keeping me from laughing now. I’m laying on the couch where I’m drifting in and out of sleep, and I awake to see my daughter dancing in front of the television in a pair of shorts, a tank top, one of those winter hats with the flaps that come down over your ears with the ball on top, some sunglasses and a toy microphone. Into the microphone, she’s shouting out letters and numbers. Apparently SuperWhy had long since stopped playing on the DVR and the screen went back to CNBC. She’s shouting out stock ticker prices.
It’s actually kinda funny, not just because she looks like Homeless American Idol, but because she actually has stock in Apple. I started her portfolio when she was born. So, her few shares of Apple are apparently down to 531.97. Maybe she was waking me up because she wanted me to dump it. Relax, I bought it at $250. You’re doing better than most.
I’m learning today that the hardest thing about parenting is discipline. I don’t mean disciplining them. I mean, disciplining yourself. She’s addicted to Ritz Crackers. She’ll eat a whole roll if you let her. So today she tried to con me into some. I said no, so she asked for a banana, knowing that the open roll of Ritz Crackers was sitting right next to the bunch of bananas. When I gave her the banana instead, she fell out. Then she wouldn’t eat it. So I made her go stand in the corner.
Do you know how hard it is not to laugh at a child dressed up in a pink winter hat, with a yellow tank top, peach pants and holding a microphone? Especially when the kid starts fake crying into the microphone. When I came out of the bathroom she was standing in the corner hugging herself saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay. Hug!” Then she started kissing her own arm. Who are you talking to?
She looked back up at me and I did my best not to laugh. “I said stand there and be quiet!” Then I had to turn around real quick so that she couldn’t see me laughing.
I’m a horrible parent.
Friday we babysat for the first time as parents. It was an eye opening experience. Watching kids is nothing new to me. Even before it was my official job description, I was the family babysitter…at five. But this was the first time that I had a child of my own to compare and contrast.
Friday’s specimen: Wonderbaby. That’s the little girl that I wrote about before who’s four or five months younger than my daughter, but has clearly been here before. I finally got the chance to put the two of them in a room with a paper clip, stick of gum and 9 volt battery and just stand back and watch to see who would build the bigger nuclear weapon.
Right off the bat, things weren’t looking good for Team Allen. The parents showed up, dropped off the kid and rather than catching the holy ghost and screaming at the prospect of being left (like my child would do), she just said “Bye Mommy. Bye Daddy.” I don’t trust a kid that doesn’t fear me. I hid all the sharp objects right away.
Time came to eat and on the menu: Pizza. My daughter doesn’t like pizza, but the two parents gave it to us for free, so it is imperative that my child learn to appreciate free stuff. We asked Wonderbaby, “Are you hungry? Would you like some pizza.” She looked up all doe-eyed, “Yes.” We asked my child. “Do you want some pizza?” She didn’t take her eyes away from the TV: “Crackers!”
Me: “We don’t have crackers, but we have pizza.”
Me: “No sausage either. We have pizza.”
Her: “Okay (ten syllables of jibberish) chicken.”
Me: “We have piz-za. That’s it. Just piz-za.”
Her: (disappointed stare)
So Wonderbaby ate her entire slice of pizza from the point to the crust. Mine only ate the cheese. We asked Wonderbaby if she wanted some more and (right hand to God) she said, “Yes. I want one more piece.” I wanted to go to like NY and get her a real slice just because she was proper and specific. We asked mine if she wanted more and she hastily replied, “Cracker?”
Dinner was over (evident by my daughter just getting up and walking away). Wonderbaby remained at the table. “Um, you can get up if you like.” She said, “I want to wash my hands.” Don’t get me wrong, we were gonna do that, but I’m used to having to bait mine into the bathroom. “Hey look…something shiny! GOTCHA!” Afterwards she went and stood directly in front of the television. “Wonderbaby, don’t stand so close. Have a seat on the couch.” She turned around, went to the couch and sat there for the rest of the evening until her parents came back. Meanwhile, mine was somewhere in the corner building a pipe bomb.
I was very intrigued by that little girl. I really wanted to take her sock off and see if there was a battery compartment inside her foot. You have to build a child like that. They aren’t just born that way. As pleasant an experience as it was, I think that I would lose my mind if my daughter was like that. You ever seen those movies where the super soldiers retire and they’re forced to live amongst regular people? They usually go crazy.
My daughter keeps me sharp. I’m always on guard. Yesterday, she came to me in the kitchen saying “Daisy! Daisy!” Then she grabbed my hand and led me to the couch. She got down on the floor and started looking under the couch saying “Daisy!” So, I assumed that her Daisy Duck doll was under the couch and out of her reach. I got on the floor and started reaching for it. About three seconds later my spine crushed in towards the floor and made contact with the inside of my navel. She-Hulk Hogan decided that it was the perfect moment to stand up on the couch and jump off the top rope onto my back. If I had feeling in my hands, I would’ve beat the hell out of her. I never found Daisy and I wonder if she was even looking for her in the first place.
I got sloppy, and moments like that show what my daughter does for my survival skills. I slipped, but I won’t do it again. She’s assertive, manipulative, calculating and sometimes just plain loud. She reminds me of a younger me. I realize that genetics are stronger than I thought. I probably couldn’t make her have Wonderbaby’s personality if I tried. Her parents seem like quiet, unassuming people. I highly doubt that either of them ever spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. They probably never even got a cafeteria worker fired by going on the news and saying that the food was spoiled. If she’s anything like me, my daughter is gonna need a good civil defense attorney. We’ll keep Wonderbaby’s number on file.