August 16

Generation Dad

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I really enjoy the saying “Dads don’t babysit”. I mean, I wasn’t too thrilled when my wife stopped paying me to watch the kids after hearing it but, nonetheless, it is great to see dads using their voice for more than just yelling, “listen to your mother” over the television. Being an active, involved dad is “trending” if you will. The millennial generation (which I didn’t vote to be called and would like to have changed) have taken to and embraced social media as an outlet to express their love and devotion to the family unit.

We aren’t the Millennial Generation. We are Generation Dad, putting all our computer skills and social media platforms to good use.

That isn’t to say that our predecessors weren’t active awesome dads. They did their parts without the glitz of Instagram filters or luxury of blogging. Even in this technology driven world we see older dads able to show publicly through the internet just how awesome they think being a dad is. And I know, before I go forward, that they see me (24) as a millennial know-it-all snob, to which I say, “Calm down, Gramps. #chillout.”

Growing up on Myspace and Xanga (I can’t be the only one.) made sharing the story of the journey second nature. Young, dumb, and not properly educated on the dangers of online predators, we (well, me) grew up online. So it is only right that the journey of fatherhood be so well documented with pictures, statuses and glorious hashtags. (#Dadlife!)

I don’t think that the previous generation was a generation of bad fathers. Quite the contrary, they raised Generation Dad (most, not mine. I am what you call an outlier). I think their private thoughts and feelings weren’t so publicly accessible. They didn’t go around writing their feelings and sharing them with strangers, probably because dial-up was really slow, from what I remember.

We live in a golden age of technology, one that has its cons just as much as it has its pros. The cons are well documented. Go to any major media outlet’s Facebook page and check out the comment section. Trolls roam freely, spewing impersonal insensitive remarks. Keyboard Warriors sling crap from continents away without any hint of empathy. It can be ugly, it can be racist, it can be disconnected. (Which is funny, we are constantly plugged into everything but each other.)

While the Almighty Internet has its pitfalls, it is where the renaissance of fatherhood is occurring. We post updates on our children’s bowel movements just as fervently as we used to post party pictures in our pre-dad days. That glimpse into our privacy has sculpted the perception of Generation Dad. We are strong, sensitive and caring. We are there. The moments of cuddling on the couch or reading a book or playing catch! All captured and cropped into the world. You can see a still, forever capturing the glint of pride in a dad’s eyes as they do what they love best. Be with their child.

I think that because these moments are no longer in a dusty photo album in the attic it is why this shift is occurring. The photos are now public domain. There are thousands, if not millions, (insert Dr. Evil “I want ONE MILLION father photos!) of dads posting on social media about how much fun they had with their kid. Posting pictures of their little pride and joy.

It isn’t unnoticed. Some of the most popular pages are “Dad pages”. Why? Because it is a side that wasn’t seen before. Generation Dad has pulled the curtain on intimacy between father and child and the verdict is out. We are loved, celebrated and becoming the norm.

As if being a good dad wasn’t already the norm. Dads don’t babysit, we were just trying to score a little side scratch for extra activities with the kid. Dads have always been parenting.

We just let the world in to #dadlife. Us. The Millennial Generation. Generation Dad. (You’re welcome, Gramps)

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August 11

Marshmallows and Memories

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I grabbed my son to raise him up and help him roast his first marshmallow. He was soaking wet from playing in cooler water. His clothes were caked in mud after he spent a good twenty minutes stomping and splashing in a puddle of rain water. His mohawk had cheese in it from when he decided to run his cheeseburger through his hair. Why he did that? No idea, kid moves to the beat of his own drum. I guided his stick and marshmallow towards the flame, with his hands firmly grasped under mine. My hands completely covered both his little hands, protecting them from heat, as I tried to keep his marshmallow from taking a dive into the coals. 

My hands felt the lick of the flame. It didn’t matter. In this moment, the sweat beading down my face was of determination to make sure my son got the perfectly roasted first marshmallow. There would be plenty of time for marshmallows to be swallowed in the flames. This one though, it was his first. My son’s first roasted marshmallow wasn’t going to be anything short of perfect.

In that moment, I was doing what I do best in this world. I was being a dad.

Somewhere along the way to this moment, someone cupped my hands purposely and carefully guided my  marshmallow towards an open flame. I was taught how to roast a marshmallow. How to blow the flame from one side of the marshmallow around it, creating the perfect crispy outside balanced with an absolutely gooey inside. And now, I get to teach my son how to do that.

It goes beyond the seemingly simple act of roasting a marshmallow. Getting to share experiences with my children have become hands down the best parts of parenting to me. In those moments, the feeling of joy attached to doing something I love are magnified by the fact that now I get to share these things with my children. I mean, come on, how awesome is that? These moments are cherished and renewed. Little rites of passage for both my sons and myself.

All parents secretly (or openly) hope their kids enjoy the same things growing up. The same things that we parents grew up loving and holding dear to our hearts. We have these moments that just fill us with joy because we get to teach our children something we long forgot the magic of over the years. The once special feeling returns to something as simple as a marshmallow over an open flame. There is wonder in it again. A long forgotten feeling of pure happiness has now been compounded on. As our children’s faces light up with wonder and joy, something inside us has gained a new dimension.

That new dimension, of getting to share something with our child, is so profound it affects us. We find ourselves enjoying things we haven’t enjoyed since childhood, bragging to coworkers about how we had a blast making S’mores over the weekend. A sense of pride fills our chest as we brag on about how quickly our kids got it down. How it only took so many tries before they were doing it on their own.

Then you sit there, totally floored at the thought that this may very well be a cycle. That someday your child’s hands will carefully cup their child’s hands as they guide them towards roasting their first marshmallow. That is when the tears start welling up in your eyes. It is that corny sometimes. It is also honest and true. A magic and wonder in an activity is imparted and passed on from generation to generation.

How cool is that? Parenting is amazing. It is filled to the brim with these wonderful little moments that reawaken the youthful spark inside. Joyful occasions that are equal parts simple and awe inspiring. We don’t just create a roasted marshmallow. We forge an everlasting moment. One that is frozen in time, only to reawaken when the time is right. When our child becomes a parent. It is so much more than a S’more. It is the loving bond between parent and child. And you know what? It doesn’t get better than that.

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August 8

The Baby We Didn’t Want

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My wife and I are young. I was barely 21 when I found out I was going to be a father to twins. We never planned to have twins. How do you even plan multiples? When the Ultrasound Tech found a second heartbeat it almost made my own heart stop. I was 21 and my wife was 23.

Two kids having two kids. 

Flash forward a few years and we have a third son.

We never planned a third either. A lapse in birth control coupled with unprotected sex left my wife eating hot dogs in the kitchen by the fistful, snarling at anyone who tried to get her to just put the bun down. Her hot dog cravings, in addition to morning trips to puke porcelain city led us to get the little white sticks that tell you if your life is about to get flip turned upside down.

There it was. Pink as day. She was pregnant again. It wasn’t planned, again. We weren’t ready…AGAIN.

We didn’t rejoice over the fact that our family was going to be growing. Quite the opposite, we were mortified. There was no room for more babies in our house! We love our twins, but the simple possibility of another set? We had gotten this far not knowing what we were doing. Every night we thanked God simply because they both were happy, healthy and breathing still by the end of the day.

There we were though, with a little positive pregnancy test and our world crashing around us. So we talked and weighed out possibilities. We didn’t want any additions to our family. It went beyond that. We couldn’t have any additions to our family.

Sitting there, going over how everything just wouldn’t work,

“I’ll get an abortion”  My wife said,  unconvincingly.

The thought took our brains for a second.

Looking at our twins we knew it wasn’t an option.  The boys have brought us so many memories and helped us grow as people. If we got an abortion our life would be full of the “what if’s”. It wasn’t a decision we could make without feeling forever different. Our family was not in a place for any additions, but abortion? My wife and I are pro-choice, make no mistake, it just didn’t feel like a choice we personally could come back from.

Another problem with choosing abortion was the fact that there are so many people out there who, no matter how much they try or want, just can’t procreate. And we knew people who had fertility problems personally. My wife’s first pregnancy produced not one, but two bundles of joy. We were blessed with gifts that some yearn for only never to receive. The thought of terminating a pregnancy because it wasn’t the right time just didn’t seem fair to people never even afforded such an option.

Adoption wasn’t ever an option. It was another thing we knew wouldn’t feel right. After nine months of pregnancy, we would be too attached to give up our own blood. It would be selfish to promise our baby to a loving family when we knew there was no way at the end of pregnancy for us to let go. If my wife was having the baby, it was our baby.

My family is lucky enough to have the option to even think of something like abortion. Three handsome young boys fill my house with laughter or screaming. The worries we had leading us to even think about abortion have worked themselves out. It certainly hasn’t been the easiest. Having an infant and two toddlers is not easy by any measure of the word. We make it work though. We were lucky to just have a single this time around. It really makes you realize that sometimes the joys of life are unplanned.

So, we had Ezra.

The baby we didn’t want. The baby we are so lucky to have.

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August 4

The Gift That’s Never Leaving

Somewhere along the journey that is parenting I gained an abundance of this. I didn’t ask, it just kept piling up. Someone somewhere slipped it in a bag. Or attached it to a present. Some even openly gave it to me. Without asking. It just appeared. At one point I thought it was the product of witchcraft. How else could this continue multiplying in my house?

Of course I am talking about the book Goodnight Moon.

I have no idea how I got so many damn copies of this book! In the little over two years of parenthood I swear I have gotten a good fifteen copies of this book. A virtually indestructible chunk of mystery that everyone gives you once you become a parent. It is literally the fruitcake of the parenting world.

And I mean indestructible. One copy of Goodnight Moon was used to replace an old bone for our dog. It is still in pretty pristine condition. I think the dog gave up on it after a year of chewing.

My kids managed to tear one apart. After drowning it, slamming it against the ground, biting it, Hell I think one stole a lighter and lit it on fire. Stopping just short of shooting it and dumping it in the Niva River. The next day, Rasputin Goodnight Moon had multiplied into two copies that were waiting for me outside my bedroom door.

I am surprised there hasn’t been a horror story based loosely on Goodnight Moon. Or has there been?

 Is the fabled Necronomicon really just the first ever copy of Goodnight Moon

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Look, I am not knocking the book. It is sort of cute. The first dozen or so times I read it to my kids in the hospital, where I received my first two copies, were fond memories. Even when my third was in the hospital, I disdainfully picked up the book and read it to him.

The book holds a special place in my heart. In the back. Next to memories I try daily to repress.

But I can’t repress Goodnight Moon because it keeps reappearing and multiplying in my house.

Even when I hide it in the furthest corner of a box and place that box in the darkest corner of the closet.

It continues to appear. Shiny and scary. Demanding to be read. Refusing to leave. Goodnight Moon is like that friend that has overstayed their welcome and has no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

I feel like maybe the author of Goodnight Moon (clearly Cthulhu) has ensured this book will never leave my life.

It is The Gift That’s Never Leaving.

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