Vicarious Confidence

Is Kid Confidence Contagious?

 

I’m not worried about my boys uncovering the truth about Santa. In fact, I’ll be proud. All the clues are there; it only takes a tiny amount of logic to hash out the facts. I’m not worried about the day when my boys ask about sex, drugs, or even politics (no logic involved here). I’m not even worried about my boys spending waaaay too much time in the bathroom. What I worry about, at least currently, is when they discover that they’re not nearly as fast as they think they are.

My boys honestly believe they are the quickest, strongest beings on earth. My oldest is even faster than the boys that blaze past him on the soccer field. It’s my fault. It’s completely, one hundred percent my fault. I use the fake stopwatch as much as any parent… probably a little more.

“Go get the wipes in the other room, hurry… I’ll time you!”                                                   Kid bolts down the hall.                                                                                                                 Kid returns a few minutes later, frantically breathing.                                                     “Damn!!!… that was FAST, 13 seconds!! NEW RECORD”

It’s going to be a rough day when my oldest has to face reality and admit that there might be a person in the world capable of getting the wipes faster than he can. His world will be shattered. Maybe worse, MY world will be shattered because he’s going to first realize that that person is me, and I don’t want to have to get up and get the wipes every freaking time.

But more than that, there’s something uplifting about a kid’s self-confidence. I wish I owned half the self-assurance my son possesses. Most parents need a little shot of pride and arrogance each day, just to get us through the times our kids let us down. Because we feel like we let them down. In the race against the stronger, faster parents of the world, it’s easy to feel like other Moms and Dads are blazing past, leaving behind a trail of homemade yogurt, crafts, and judgement. So it’s nice to feel my self-worth bolster a little each time my boys flex their scrawny little arms and tell me how strong they are or brag about their drawing of a dog that looks more like a dying tree. I’m learning to feed off their positive energy like an emotional parasite.

It’s not a wonder parents sometimes find themselves getting washed in glory on YMCA sidelines. Maybe it’s not always a bad thing. Occasionally, we’re simply basking in the glory of our kid’s confidence, even if they’re getting rocked by a faster, stronger team.

I Don’t Hate Baby Shark… Yet?

A Pros and Cons List

Depending on your current perspective we can either blame or thank the Korean education startup, PinkFong, for the infectious parasite of a song called Baby Shark. We all know it, and by now we all have visceral reactions when we hear that Jaw’s like intro. After a few months, I still can’t pinpoint my exact feelings on the song. So I’m here to hash it out.

Pro – It can effectively distract my three year old when he’s walking up to the precipice of a meltdown. He’ll turn around, walk away from the edge, and start screaming the song.

Con – He’ll scream the song and ask for it again and again and again and again.

Pro – It’s cute as shit when my one year old makes the baby shark sign with his wittle fingers.

Con –  Me: “Alexa, Play cooking playlist”
Kids: “Alexa!!!! PLAY BABY SHARK”
Me: “DAMNIT Alexa… Don’t!!!!”
Alexa: “Baby Shark by Pinkfong from Spotify… Dum Dump”
Kids: “BAAABBBYYYY Shark….”

Pro – It’s not as bad as “Who Let the Dogs Out” (I convinced my 5 year old that my minivan is not capable of playing that song).

Con – My five year old is well aware that our minivan DOES play “Baby Shark”.

Pro – It will go away with time.

Con – It may NEVER go away.

Kids Make the Worst Survivalist

Can I still survive the Apocalypse?

I used to love post-apocalyptic stories. I, like all people should, have spent time debating the finer points of weapon choices in lieu of a zombie infestation. (I still choose aluminum bat) Lying in bed at night, I have dreamed of pitting myself against hordes of undead, or testing my mettle against the desolation of a worldwide catastrophe. Of course, This all ended, like so many other dreams, when I had kids.

When my wife gave birth to my first child, I quickly assumed night feeding duties in order to connect with my son on an emotional level that would bond us forever. (Honestly, my wife makes the milk and the money, so I do what I can) Together, my newborn and I began an odyssey. An odyssey of midnight Netflix that rivaled any insomniac or college kid. It was the weapon of choice in my own personal battle of survival. That little whimper from the crib, which quickly turns to a wail, would strike at my will to live. But hey, at least I can finish up Casino Royale for the third time.

 

Around two weeks A.C. (after child), I decided to catch up on “The Walking Dead”, which, at the time, had brought zombies back into the mainstream. The first few seasons were solid: the perfect amount of suspense, violence, moral and ethical questions of survival vs humanity. The primal need to survive captivated my imagination. Where would I go? Would my house stand up, or would I need to take over that two story down the street? Which friends would be helpful, and who could be left behind? What would I do in order to stay alive in the most desperate situations? About ten minutes into the first episode with my tiny new human in hand I realized what I would do… I would fucking die.

Babies are loud, needy, and can’t fight zombies. They’re dead weight. My one year old is currently banging on my keyboard right now. How is that helpful? My three and five year olds sounds like alien cats fighting outside my bedroom window. Not too convenient when hiding from looters. Suddenly, the thought of surviving any sort of disaster, let alone one that’s zombie related, was no longer filled with the thrill of a challenge, but the dread of impending failure and death. I no longer lay awake at night mentally mapping my exit from the city. Actually, I never lay awake at night anymore period; kids are exhausting. I definitely don’t daydream about what store is likely to have the best survival gear if everyone mysteriously disappeared overnight. (Definitely Academy for Sports and Outdoors) I guess I have more important things to think about; like which grocery store has the best race-car carts.

So when my friend recently asked me what to expect when his baby was born, I looked him in the eye, put my hand on his shoulder and told him cancel any plans for building a survival shelter. He might as well build an extra closet for all the fucking toys you’re about to collect. And forget about enjoying “The Walking Dead”. However, he’s going to appreciate “Taken” on an entirely new level!

The “Tilt and Pour” An Essay on Fatherhood and Vomit

 

My youngest son threw up in my face today. I’m used to spit up. I live in spit up. My first child spent the first six months of life spewing milk every which way: up, down, sideways, and sometimes, defying physics, in all directions at once. Our house was perpetually littered with soaked burp clothes, and our shoulders were permanently stained with dry, half-digested breast milk. In my dreams, I would find myself standing knee deep in baby vomit, helpless as it slowly crept up and overtook my head.

Back in reality, I soon discovered that cleaning the floor was easier than keeping up with the laundry, so in desperation, I developed a tried and true method. At the first sign of an eruption, usually a seemingly innocent burp, I would tilt his mouth and thrust him out over the hardwood floor, as if I was pouring a 40oz for my fallen homies. Then I would calmly put him down, clean up the mess, and move on about my day. I call it the “Tilt and Pour.” For some reason, my wife found this practice to be insensitive, at least at first. Like all parents, you learn to survive and some “insensitive” practices become commonplace. She eventually came around and would laugh at the “Tilt and Pour,” and even admit to its effectiveness. But, sadly, never utilized it herself.

Fast forward three years, and number two decides to take after his big brother. I asked my mother if I was the same way, but she couldn’t remember. I guess she’s mentally blocked that time of her life. So once again, our house is festooned with damp burp cloths and shirts with wet shoulders. And once again, I have resorted to the “Tilt and Pour” method.

A few weeks ago, I had to be reminded that most people find baby spit up a bit gross. My sister and her boyfriend were kind enough to visit the zoo with my kids and me. The boys had a great time, as kids often do looking at exotic animals and running into the backs of adult’s knees, while parents smile and apologize to each other with understanding looks. My sister’s boyfriend is great with children. He’s patient, and goes out of his way to explain important details about life to my three year old son, which is something I greatly appreciate. He even sat in the back of the car by the baby, cooing and trying to make him laugh.

It wasn’t long before I heard a familiar noise, something like a mix between a cough and a mountain spring running over rocks. Nothing new. Like any experienced father, I calmly asked my sisters boyfriend to wipe it up before the milk soaked in too deeply. He responded with something like a squeal of amazement and disgust. He couldn’t believe it; why was I so calm? Even weirder still, why was the baby so calm? We often forget as parents how strange our lives appear to those without kids. We forget that spit up is, in fact, a little disgusting.

I guess that’s why my experience this morning paints a nice little snapshot of the early stages of parenthood. In the midst of somewhat organized chaos, I sat feeding the little one before frantically loading everyone up, rushing them off to daycare, and begrudgingly heading to work, always a little late. Keep in mind, Usually my senses are keen during a feeding, always ready to “Tilt and Poor.” Yet for some reason, this morning I was a bit off. I think I was distracted by his infectious smiles as I kissed all over his chubby cheeks. When the small, innocuous burp came, I hesitated. Out it came, like an angry geyser flowing silently out of an innocent smiling mouth. Some of it ended up on the floor, some on my arm. The rest desperately clung to my beard like a climber hanging on a cliff. It was the kind of image you would see in a hyperbolic scene about young parents who are in over their heads. The audience feels bad for them, but laughs at the same time because there’s enough truth to make it relatable.

I feel like most real-life parents would react in the same manner I did: calmly place the baby in his pack-n-play, laugh hysterically, and clean up the mess. That’s what parents are supposed to do. We get shit on and puked on, both literally and metaphorically, and just keep plugging through the day. We adapt to a new way of life. We learn to “Tilt and Pour.” Otherwise, the throw up will literally, and metaphorically, drown us where we stand.