8 Reasons I Don’t Write

Tremors 3

Tremors 3: No Budget for Graphic Designers

I’m stuck and I need your help.

I have not been a very good dad blogger lately. I have put up a few posts in the past few months, but they were gratuitous and laborious. I seem to be having a motivation problem. I don’t make money from this blog, I don’t have a schedule I have to keep, and there are a finite number of hours in the week. Who says updating a blog is more important than watching Modern Family with my wife? Or another mock fantasy football draft? Or sleep?

Not always, but occasionally, I do.

For the last few months, I’ve been making excuses about why I haven’t been writing. Some are legitimate and some are bullshitimate. I’ll label each as such, but what I need from you are reasons to keep writing and/or techniques that may have worked for you in the past to get over the hump. Or, if you’re so inclined, the go-ahead to stop writing and spend my nights doing mock fantasy drafts and sleeping.

Why I don’t Write

  1. I just published a book and I’m burnt out from writing. This may have been true a couple months ago, but now my late-night crappy-movie-watching has become habit. When I first published Daddy Issues, I felt a huge sense of freedom from deadlines. Now, when I see a Tremors marathon on AMC, I don’t feel this sense of guilt that I should be doing something else instead. Which is unfortunate, because they apparently made four of those time-sucking pieces of crap.* This sense of freedom eventually turned into habit and now, that itch I used to get when I knew I had a manuscript to edit has been replaced by this itch to get my DVR below 80%. However, as it turns out, I can delete shows without watching them and it still creates that same sense of satisfaction in my puny little brain. Is it really possible I’m that easy to manipulate? Verdict: Bullshit
  2. I’d rather concentrate on being a good dad than writing about being one. Again, there is some truth to this. There has been a time or two when I needed to finish something, so I would sit Mabel down and let Steve and Blue babysit her while I tried desperately to pretend she wasn’t there so I could write about how great of a dad I am. That felt dirty, even if it was for a deadline. At least now when I do that, it’s for the betterment of my fantasy team. So yes, there’s a kernel of truth in there, but it was very rare for me to take time away from my daughter to write about her. That time came from other places. This is just the BS I can’t even convince myself of anymore. Verdict: Bullshit
  3. I need to concentrate more on sleeping. This one actually has some legs. I have always had insomnia issues and it’s gotten worse in the past few years. I used to write during these periods of time when I would be awake against my consent. I felt like it was more productive to write than to lie there awake. In fact, I’m doing it now. And while that is true, sleep is better than writing. And very rarely do I fall asleep writing. HOWEVER, I do, on occasion, fall asleep while lying down in a bed. So yes, though I’d rather be productive than lying there trying to sleep, I’d rather be sleeping than not. And I never know when lying down is going to turn into sleep. It’s another risk/reward thing. Sleeping > Writing > Lying down awake. And the book on insomnia that I read, which ironically, did not bore me to sleep, suggested I continue to lie there and eventually, my body will recognize that I sleep during the night. Like, later. Months or years down the line. And tonight, I just don’t have the kind of faith that will pay off. Verdict: Reason
  4. I feel the need to make all of my essays more meaningful. One unfortunate byproduct of workshopping a book comprised of 22 essays is that I now feel the need to perfect all of my writing. Mabel turned two back in June and I have this piece that I really want to write about that day, but I can’t because I want it to be awesome. And that will take time I don’t have. And I don’t want to write anything else before I write that one, because people need to know she turned two. Life was a lot easier when I didn’t have expectations of myself. Verdict: Reason, but not a good one
  5. It’s football season. Football season eats up a lot of my “free” time, especially now that they have Thursday games every week. And though it is not football season yet, it is looming. Along with The Big Bang Theory, Survivor, Manhattan Love Story, and all the other network shows lined up to assault the backlog of crappy movies and Dora the Explorer episodes on the DVR. So no, it’s not taking up a lot of my time just yet, which is actually why I feel motivated to figure out a way to make a writing habit now, before I’m in too deep to find the hole in the ice. Verdict: Reason FOR writing
  6. I am behind on my reading. The word “behind” would indicate that there was a schedule I am keeping, and there is not. Not even one I’ve given myself. Though I do feel like I should read more and actually have started a very passive reading program for myself. And there have been times when I got tired of watching TV somehow and stared at both my computer and a book and chosen the book. So there’s some truth in that, but I also feel like reading might just be a way for me to put off my writing. Like how I only ever cleaned my room when I knew I was supposed to be mowing the lawn. Damn my brain. Verdict: Though barely, still bullshit
  7. I’m concentrating on my stage performance. Complete bullshit. Verdict: Complete bullshit
  8. I don’t have any material. Please. Verdict: Even bullshittier

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are the main things I tell myself about why I haven’t written in so long. Science dictates that there are 168 hours in each week, so there’s never just one reason for not doing something. It’s a matter of finding an extra hour or two during those 168 to take away from somewhere else and put into writing. Somehow, I no longer have classes and though there should be a huge chunk of free time in my schedule, there is not. I would total up the time I spend on fantasy football mock drafts, but I’m afraid it would tell me something about myself I’d rather not know.

OK team, so what techniques do you use to try to get out of a rut and start writing again? You may also feel free to compliment me to trick me into writing more regularly again.

* – I really only feel like the last three movies were crap. The first is classic cinema on every level.

Daddy Takes to the Airwaves

Radio Dude

Radio Dude

I have been afforded the most excellent opportunity to be a guest on “blogtalkradio,” a made-up word comprised of three different types of extinct media. The radio program is called “A Kind Voice” and I will be the guest on their “Books” program Wednesday 8/13 from 7-8pm, talking about my Daddy Issues, which is still for sale on Paperback, eBook and Audio Book.

A radio program? What station will you be on? No, it’s not that kind of radio. It’s on the internet. Oh. Weird. Isn’t that what they call a podcast now? No it’s not. I asked. I think because you can’t download them. Oh. What if I’m busy fixing my toilet tomorrow from 7-8pm? Good question! You can still stream previously aired episodes of the program for a period of time I have not figured out yet, starting as early as later tonight. Maybe. Oh, that’s awesome. Good for you! I’m not sure I completely get it, but good for you! Yeah, I don’t know that I get it either, but I don’t really know how my toaster works, so it’s equally possible that it’s just me.

Anyway, I’m super excited to have this opportunity. A Kind Voice is a daily radio program dedicated to “sharing stories of people making our world a kinder, more connected place, one act at a time.” Through some karmic weave of good things I’ve done some time in my life, my name and phone number fell into the hands of the people that run this vessel. I went through a screening process and everything. This is a pretty real venture, and I’d be happy if any of you could check it out. The website navigation is a little complicated, so here are some links I think will help, for those who want to know if I really sound like James Earl Jones or if I was just making that up.

Thanks to everyone who plan on listening, or already listened, or tried to listen and got frustrated with all the buffering. And props for reading this far into the message. I figured you’d have trailed off by now. Take care and I’ll get back to some regularly scheduled Mabel updates in the near future.

Top 6 Ways Year Two Was So Much Better Than Year One

Top 6 Ways Year Two Was So Much Better Than Year One

A Girl and Her Croissant Meet the Flamingoes

A Girl and Her Croissant Meet the Flamingoes

Two years and Mabel is still alive! It was a little touch and go there for Year One, but if I’m being honest, she did a lot of the heavy lifting herself in Year Two. This is how being a dad is supposed to be. None of that panicky, Year One what-the-hell-did-you-just-put-in-your-mouth nonsense. Year Two has helped me regain my sanity and may motivate me to get through the already-peeking-from-behind-the-curtain Terribles. Here are the top 6 ways Year Two was better than Year One:

  1. Napping: Once Mabel consolidated her naps down to one a day, I had more than two hours to do stuff with her. During Year One, by the time I had gotten her up, changed her diaper, fed her, and got her in the car, I had 45 minutes before I had to get her back to sleep again. There were many times I would go to the park or the Arboretum for seven minutes, only to turn right around and go back home. And it takes me usually at least an hour to get to sleep myself, so I couldn’t even reap the benefits of all these naps. Now, we can go to the zoo or the pool and not have to worry about pediatrician-mandated blocks of sleep. And daddy also gets to sleep a bit.
  2. Walking: OK, this opened up a whole new world of stuff to do. Like everything, as compared to nothing. We can literally go anywhere now. Sure, she’s now often not where I left her, but it’s worth the trade-off.
  3. Talking: Crap! Mabel is crying. What should I do? Feed her? Lay her down? Give her a blanket? Take away a blanket? Where’s Mr. Puffkin? Do you need a passy? Are your shoes on the right feet? Did all your fingers make it out of your sleeve this time? That was Year One. NOW, her cries often come with solutions. What’s wrong honey?  “Cheese.” Cheese is apparently the solution to most of her problems. Communication is the solution to most of mine.
  4. Food: Speaking of cheese, Mabel eats food now. No more mixing ounces of water with powder, worrying about whether it’s been sitting out for an hour yet, pumping breast milk at work (mostly Jenn’s job) and worrying about if we have enough and how to store it. Now, Mabel eats food. Like a person. We go to restaurants and order her the food. And she eats it. Like a person. So much freakin easier.
  5. Sleep: Mabel has always been a good sleeper, but now she does it in her own room for 10 hours straight without parental assistance. Which means I can sleep through the night on those rare occasions when my body decides to allow me that luxury. At least I can’t blame her anymore. Damn you, American Ninja Warrior-induced insomnia.
  6. Baby-proofing: This may not be the norm, because most toddlers are much more of a danger to themselves than infants. But Mabel’s brains seem to trump her mobility. There’s still a chance Mabel would like to find out what happens if you stick one of these shiny metal forks into this socket seemingly designed for them, but those are easy enough to cover up. But because she can get up and down the stairs on her own, we don’t need to worry about disallowing her from doing it. We just need to move everything poisonous, sharp, or heavy above the Mabel line. Sure, there may be a day when she falls off the kitchen table or figures out how to move the bar chairs to the counter, thus moving the Mabel line up another three feet, but those are issues for Year Three daddy to worry about.

Basically, in almost every way, Year Two of parenting has been SO MUCH easier.  Mabel is just now starting to throw her temper tantrums, but that’s a story for another day. And because we expect them, we can pretty much ignore them, which is a nice change of pace from the abject panic we went through any time she cried in Year One.

Higher and Higher

Higher and Higher

A Friend in Need

The Facebook Dad Bloggers

The Facebook Dad Bloggers

Last month, there was a reading for all the graduates of the Creative Writing program at the University of Baltimore. I had about 15 friends and family members there to support me as I read from my book, a memoir about being an at-home dad. Among those supporters was the at-home dad that started and then introduced me to a network of almost 800 other blogging dads around the world, Oren Miller. We had met for a beer one night last summer, when I had questions about how to get my twitter feed to populate into the Dad Bloggers twitter column, along with about 7 other technical questions. On this night, he was there with his wife, Beth, and I was able to introduce my wife to the man who had been so integral in the growing success of my humble little blog, having supported it by including me in his weekly dad blogger roundup and highlighting a video of mine in one of his posts. And now it’s time for me to support him.

Oren was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer the following week. As he says on his blog post entitled Cancer, “People in my condition have about a year to live on average, and treatment is now limited to making the next year more bearable. There are other options that may be discussed later, including experimental treatments, and I’m staying optimistic, but frankly, I think I know where I stand.”

Since I found out, I’ve been wondering what I could do to help. I want to show my support, but I also don’t want this to be about me and my need to show my support. I want Oren and his family to know that I will do what I can to support him in his time of need, but I also don’t want to be a burden on them by constantly asking to come over and hang out and maybe share one of his special brownies. I was able to go to his house once a couple weeks ago and his daughter Madeline was an excellent hostess to my daughter Mabel, wearing a Minnie Mouse tutu (which prompted Oren to admit that he had lost control over her wardrobe) and giving Mabel a tour of all the little pink castles and other pink playthings in their play room, while Liam kept running down to give us the Brazil/Croatia score. I was happy to show my support on this day, but again, I didn’t want this to be about my need to show support. Just before I left, Oren casually mentioned that the cancer had spread to his brain.

A day later, Brent Almond of Designer Daddy sent a message to the Dad Blogger community about a fundraiser to help send Oren and his family on one last vacation. I believe the original goal was $5,000. I don’t remember exactly, because that goal was shattered in a matter of hours. Less than two weeks later, the donations have exceeded $27,000. The outpouring of support has been phenomenal, which has made me proud to be a part of this community.

Many times, people are reluctant to help someone in need when others are present. In fact, the call to action is disproportionate to the number of people present. This is called the “bystander effect.” I am happy to see so many people supporting the Miller family and unlike so many causes I’ve justified my way out of in the past, I’m happy to have had whatever it is I needed to have to be a part of Oren’s support network, however little my part may be. In addition to all the support Oren has gotten from his friends and family, Give Forward (the fundraising site) has agreed to contribute $25 for every blog post written on behalf of Oren, which is really excellent of them.

Oren’s prognosis is grim, and he still shakes his fist at the Gods for the unfairness of it all, but he is trying to accept it, and on the occasion when I put myself in his place for long enough to feel the pain that comes with not being able to see my beautiful daughter grow up, I am at least a little happier to know that Oren may be able to feel this support through the pain, and that he can use this fundraiser to give Madeline and Liam a few awesome memories of the great man who gave them everything he could for a tragically short period of time on this earth.

If you want to help this family, even with a donation of $1, I’d consider it a personal favor. This is a guy who believed in me. A guy who supported me by showing up to my book release party. A guy who met me on a weeknight in Baltimore to answer a stupid questions about twitter, which I don’t even use anymore. Because he wanted to help. And now I want to help him. You may contribute here. I also recommend you read his piece on finding out he has cancer. But don’t do it in front of anyone you don’t want to see you cry. Also, go give your kids and your parents and your spouses a big hug. It helps. Thank you.

Dads For Oren

Dads For Oren

Between Father’s Days

Me and Dad, April 2005

Me and Dad, April 2005

For the first 30 years of my life, I celebrated Father’s Day by paying tribute to my father, though not necessarily always well. I celebrated Father’s Day during my college years by taking off work for the weekend, driving up from Baltimore, and playing tennis with Good Joe. But my dad was at least present on my mind. For the next seven years, I honored his memory by creating a routine of watching Big Fish, rereading a story I wrote about him, and writing about him on a blog no one read for what I called “Father’s Week.” Last year, I became a father.

I look forward very much to the days when Mabel is old enough to want to do something special for her daddy. But sadly, I’m not sure a 0-year-old really understands the concept of celebrating something more today than you did yesterday. She doesn’t even really understand the concept of object permanence yet, and likely just assumes that Jenn disappears into the train station for 10 hours a day. If there comes a time when she wants to make daddy some dry, misshapen pancakes hours before I’d rather be awake, I will happily indulge her. But until then, I’m between Father’s Days.

The hat doesn't make me look good. I make me look good.

The hat doesn’t make me look good. I make me look good.

As an at-home dad who spends on average 163 of 168 hours per week with my daughter, the concept of going out with her doesn’t appeal to me any more than it does any other day. That’s not special. That’s my job (which, by the way, is the greatest job there could ever be in the world, and I’m so very grateful to my wife for allowing me this opportunity). So I went to a movie last year. By myself. That was different. That was special. Though it was the crappy new Superman, so maybe hiding in the basement while streaming Arrested Development might have been a day better spent. But still, that’s what I wanted to do.

This year, I’m going golfing for the first time since D-Day almost two years ago (if I can dig my clubs out from a mound of outgrown jumpers, strollers, and 30-gallon containers of poop-stained onesies), because I have the opportunity and it’s what I want to do. Which is great. But it doesn’t feel like Father’s Day. It feels counterintuitive to celebrate being a dad by leaving my child for longer than I’ve been apart from her in her lifetime. But I suppose that’s what I’m relegated to in the position that I’m in for another few years. And I look forward to the days when Mabel hops on a train, comes back from college for the weekend, and plays tennis with her high school friend.

Why Won’t You Slide?

Mabel the Slider

Mabel the Slider

There are two types of toddlers in America today – the swingers and the sliders (and the rockers – but they’re weirdos and we won’t talk about them). When you go to the playground, there are climbing apparatuses of varying sizes and comfort levels, which invariably culminate in a slide or two of some sort – and then there are swings, with just swings. These items, by nature of their function, must be separated by space, making you choose a side: are you a swinger or a slider?

Sure, you can visit both, or walk around the wooden perimeter like a balance beam, or even jolt yourself back and forth on one of those clumsy metal rocking frogs, but there is usually one function that dominates your thoughts, much like being a democrat or republican.

Mabel is a slider. Which is great for me. Sliders require much less interaction. They usually climb up the stairs or the rock wall themselves, dance around the little poles, turn the steering wheel attached to nothing, threaten to jump out of the one uncovered hole that the big kids jump out of, and then eventually find their way to a slide and slide down to the bottom, just to run over and do it all again.

Swingers run over to the boring swing set – which only has swings on it – and turn to you and say “up?” because you have to pick them up, fold their legs into the little bucket holes, and stand there and push them until they get bored and say “out,” when you need to unfold their legs, pick them up, and put them back down, so they can run over to the next bucket and do it all again. They need everything done for them. Like little democrats.

Mabel the Swinger

Mabel the Swinger

Recently, Mabel has stopped sliding. For the last two months, she has become a swinger. The fact that she likes the big girl swings is a small consolation, but I still can’t send the occasional text message or even sit the freak down for a minute. This has been going on for about two months and there is no single event to point to and say “Oh! She probably doesn’t like sliding because of the time she got her hair caught and dangled 7 feet off the ground for 10 minutes.” Nothing like that. Our friend thought it might be because the slide at the local playground tends to shock its victims at the end. She has a point. After all, it is the same philosophy we use to keep dogs in imaginary fences. If I was administered a shock every time I ate a banana, I doubt I would eat too many bananas anymore. But this shock is so minor, I doubt it would keep even the wussiest of Chihuahuas in the yard. So I still have no idea what caused the sudden change.

When I was in high school, I used to have a Tastykake Coffee Cake every night. Literally, EVERY NIGHT. 23 seconds in the microwave with a half glass of milk. I loved those things. The ones with the rabbit turd-looking pellets of sugary awesomeness on top. They kept me centered. Then one day, completely out of the blue, I just couldn’t eat them anymore. I had reached my quota. The thought of a coffee cake sickened me. It’s 20 years later and I haven’t had one since. I fear this is what Mabel is going through. Maybe she just slid her quota for her lifetime. Which is sad. She’s still got a lot of sliding time left. Thankfully she’s still a climber, but I find myself over by the swings a lot more nowadays. Oh well. At least she’s not a rocker.

I’m not necessarily ready to call in any specialists, but have any of you parents out there experienced this? Is this a phase or might it be deeper than that? Or should I just suck it up and push her on the swings?

Top Ten Mabel Behaviors – Part 1 (10 & 9)

Mabel and her techno infatuatia.

Mabel and her techno infatuatia.

My daughter is the most photogenic person on the planet, nay – the solar system. Also, she has some of the cutest behaviors in the solar system, nay – the galaxy. However, she has a condition I call techno infatuatia. Basically, whenever there is a camera present, she will stop whatever cute thing she is doing and try to grab the camera to see how she can mess with the white balance or some nonsense I’ll never figure out how to reverse. Even if it is on top of the refrigerator. She gets as close as she can and reaches out her little 15-inch arms (Ed note: He has no idea how long her arms are) as far as they will go and grunt and whine. This is not one of her cute behaviors.

Because of this, we are sadly unable to capture most of her fun antics on video. I have started putting a camera stand in the kitchen to get her acclimated to it, Jane Goodall-style, which is a reference I am starting to wear into the ground. It seems to be working, but only if I start the recording before she gets into the room, forcing me to sort through lots of boring and neglectful parenting to get to anything worthwhile. And then, I have no editing equipment, so it will just sit in the digital etherworld until probably forever, because there’s always something on TV.

All this is to say that I’ve decided to start writing down some of my favorite Mabel tricks to preserve them somewhere before I forget them all. I held a three-month-old baby the other day when a fellow parent had to run out to catch her older son and I had completely forgotten they come out that size. I don’t want to accidentally forget all about Mabel standing up on top of her stool and sticking out both of her arms, exclaiming “ta-da” to anyone or no one. So here are my at-least-for-now-and-that-I-can-remember Top Ten Mabel Behaviors, circa 5/15/14.

Mike Conover, getting a lesson in clapping from Mabel

Mike Conover, getting a lesson in clapping from Mabel

10. The Clap: Mabel has gotten an obsession for clapping, probably a result of Ms. Nancy’s storytime at the library. So much so, that she teaches others how to clap. She will grab the hands of really anyone, as evident by her teaching my good friend Mike Conover how to clap a mere three hours after she met him, and say “cyaaaaap… cyaaaaap” as she slowly moves their hands together. And then, she’ll suddenly speed up, saying “cyap cap cap cap cap.” She’s also recently started looking at other people in the room and will chastise you for not cyapping. She was playing a came of cyap the other night with my wife and looked up at me and said “Daddy cyap?!” in such a disappointed tone, I felt as if I had done something wrong.

9. Content-Eating Shoulder Roll:  Mabel has a soundtrack running through her head at all times. She spins and jumps and gallops for no reason at all without any music playing in the outside world. All of this is completely adorable, especially in the Post Office or the aisle of Shoppers. A friend of mine who has been dulled by 20-something years of social expectations had mentioned that she didn’t want to dance because she was afraid someone would see her or something like that. Mabel has no such hang up and I’m not going to be the one to tell her she should. You could easily understand why being strapped down in a high chair might not be the most favorite position for someone compelled to dance. But Mabel won’t let that stop her. When she’s happy, usually when eating but sometimes just sitting on the couch, she will bob her head from side to side for no reason at all. Sometimes this is accompanied by a light hum, which is especially cute while she’s eating. And when she catches you looking at her, she’ll cock her head and shoot you back a casual smile as if to say “What the people need is a way to make ‘em smile. It ain’t so hard to do if you know how.”

The Issues are Here!

Daddy Issues Front Cover

Daddy Issues Front Cover

I have a lot to do today so I’ll be brief. But the paperback is here, the eBook is live, and the Audio Book will be live in another 10-14 days. The Book Release Party/Book Fair is tonight (Fri 5.9.14) at the UB Theater. For more information on events or to find out how to buy the book, check out the Daddy Issues page. If you want to know more about the book, I’ve already phrased it as best as I could think of on the back cover. Thanks for reading!

The day I inseminated my wife is the last day I ever had control of anything. Since then, I traded in my low-paying university job for a no-paying volunteer position as an at-home dad to a C.E.O. whose communication style consists of screaming directly in my face until I figure out what it is she wants, which often times does not exist. I have no lunch hour, no vacation days, and my bank account consists of a dilapidated envelope with a steadily disappearing $27 in it. I used to rinse out my glass between Chardonnay and Shiraz, now I eat scrambled eggs off the floor. There are days when I can’t recall the last time I showered, shaved, or changed my underwear. Moms have been so gracious to tell me how great it is that I am staying home with my daughter, but sorry, I can’t join their mom groups. How silly of me to ask. And if you see me at the playground struggling to unfold my baby from the inside of one of those surprisingly complicated slings and want to know where her mother is, she’s at work. And so am I. This is my job.

The Sword’s Other Edge

Frustrated Dad

Frustrated Dad

I do not feel like I handled a situation very well today. Mabel and I have been going to a local community center for some unstructured playtime for a couple months. There are anywhere between a dozen and zero other kids there. It’s basically a gymnasium with little kid cars and balls and other such fun toys. Mabel runs around for an hour and a half with one toy or another and I leave with an exhausted, happy toddler who naps for several hours. It’s awesome.

On occasion, Ms. Nancy from the local library will come for story time. That happened to be today. Mabel loves Ms. Nancy’s story time at the library. However, today was the first time she was introduced to story time in the gym. While all the rest of the kids sat nicely and watched Ms. Nancy, Mabel refused to get out of her little car and wouldn’t come anywhere near the group.

Honestly, Ms. Nancy has said before and will say again, that is isn’t disruptive to her at all when toddlers are “toddling.” It’s what they do. And I don’t think the other parents were disrupted either. Mabel was on the other side of the gym. And to be honest, even I wasn’t even really bothered by it. But I am starting to wonder if this is because a lack of discipline. So I picked today to make a stand. I told her that if she didn’t sit down with the rest of the kids, at least for a sliver of a second, that we were leaving. Well, this didn’t work. Surprise. She was the only child, out of about a dozen, that would not sit down even for a little bit. Is this my fault? Should I be disciplining her more? Should we have more structure in our home routine? Or is this just Mabel? I know it’s not all two-year-olds because there were several kids there her age who listen to their parents.

I got our coats and bag, uncertain about if I was really going to leave or not, and Mabel surprisingly made the decision for me by bolting out the door and running to the car. So we left in the middle of story time. I’m sure the rest of the kids played in the more typical unstructured atmosphere about 5-10 minutes after we left, but we were already gone. I didn’t give Mabel the usual Elmo crackers in the car because I wanted her to know that Daddy was upset at her. My thinking is that I need her to feel empathy when she upsets Daddy and that empathy is the whole key to discipline. Or something like that.

Anyway, I still feel terrible about how I handled the situation, sneaking out without saying goodbye, which is very atypical of me, even though Mabel ran out of her own volition. I’ve been worried all morning that I gave the wrong impression of us to the other parents there. Should I have just let her go, potentially being labeled as the undisciplined child or should I have made a scene by making her leave? Am I overparenting? When should I really start to discipline her for things like this? It’s not like she was being malicious to anyone. She is one of the more popular kids at story time likely because she’s so much fun. I suppose this is the other side of being fun.

As is typical, as soon as I was feeling confident with this parenting gig, another hurdle leaps into my path. And this is one I don’t think is going away anytime soon. For those still reading, what the heck should I be doing? Should I let her run amok so long as it doesn’t interfere with story time? Or should I be giving her ultimatums and handing out punishments, like not giving her the Elmo crackers or not going to the playground? Will she even understand that yet? Can somebody with an older, ornery child please tell me what to do?

Sick Daze

Out Sick :(

Out Sick :(

My wife took off work yesterday, which doubled my work load. She never takes sick days because she works for a fiscally responsible company who doesn’t give them out like they’re Krispy Kreme donuts. In other words, not the government. It sucks for her, and by extension, us, but I get it. All this is to say my wife was very sick.

She got the illness from Mabel who got it from the playground. Or the library. Or the handlebar on the shopping cart at Giant. Or anywhere in the greater DC-area. This has happened before and thankfully, I’m usually exempt from the illness. Which is great, because I don’t get sick days. My sick day would involve asking my wife to give up one of those aforementioned precious days off to stay home with a sick child so that I could dope myself up with medicine and intermittently sleep and watch recorded playoff hockey upstairs, as opposed to doing that downstairs with my daughter, which is a normal day. It’s a tough sell is what I’m saying.

Unfortunately, I was not exempt from whatever virus or bacteria invaded our house this time. Even the cats are sick. Mabel seems to have gotten the best end of the deal. Or maybe she just doesn’t know enough to be miserable when she’s sick. Maybe it’s a learned behavior to shake your fist at the world and blame the Metro and facial hair and Monsanto for your incompetent white blood cells. For whatever reason, Jenn and I wanted nothing more but to stay in and chicken soup the day away while our precious little Typhoid Mary wanted to do toddler-related things. Like go down a slide or play bloop with pine cones off the bridge.

While home, I did my duty as a husband of a woman who allowed me to quit my job to raise our daughter, and catered to her as much as I could. What this consisted of was asking her over and over if she needed anything. Most of the time, she did not. She preferred to be left alone. I felt helpless. It was, in fact, much like Mabel’s birth.

Throughout the day, I just kept getting sicker, despite drinking orange juice. And I realized something. I have no idea how to get myself better when I’m sick. Actually, I knew that. But what I now considered was that I had somebody else counting on me to get her unsick. Two people, actually, but one who really hasn’t had a chance to learn any of this stuff yet, and so, is relying on me for my knowledge and insight to get her better. And orange juice and chicken soup will only get you so far.

How have I survived this long? I have lasted 39 years somehow without the ability to figure out how to get unsick. And it only recently occurred to me that these are things I’ll need to teach Mabel. Things I thought were just naturally ingrained in my parents as a kid, because it came to them so naturally. Like nursing a sick child to health, doing taxes and how to look at a girl in the mall (you have to stare down the guy first until he looks away). But apparently, they had to learn them somewhere too. They don’t just come with the baby.

So I guess what I’m saying is I need somebody to tell me how to fix myself before Mabel is old enough to realize I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve tried Sudafed and that took the crappy feeling from my nose, multiplied it by five and spread it throughout my body. Nyquil strangely kept me awake the couple times I’ve tried it. Or maybe the illness kept me awake and the Nyquil just didn’t work. Alka Seltzer has been the most consistent, but it only really clears the nose for a few hours. Which is better than nothing.

So, lovely people of the internet, what kind of medicine or techniques work to nurse both yourself and your toddler back to health? Note: I have humidifiers in all bedrooms and sleep on 3-5 pillows. Also, I mentioned the chicken soup and orange juice. And my wife does my taxes, so we’re good there.