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Rising Up
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It finally happened. Weeks of waiting; on edge with suspense; practically biting my nails (if I had any to bite); my unwavering gazes towards my daughter expectantly… she crawled.   And I missed it!   Twice!   Perhaps “unwavering” was a little inaccurate, although I did look away for only a moment each time.

I do, however, have eye-witnesses who can attest to each occurrence: 1) my wife and son, 2) my wife and mother.   With each occurrence my wife called for my attention only for me to turn and find my daughter on her belly.

We knew it was coming and had been waiting for some time.   Her flailing arms became more coordinated.   Random swats turned into purposeful grabs.   Rolling over was now intentional and she could sit-up for periods unassisted before falling over.   Then the sitting-up turned into targeted falling on her hands and knees for a shaky moment before collapsing to her tummy.

Then, a few weeks ago, my four-year-old son—eager to teach his baby sister—began demonstrating various ways of crawling and scooting on his hands and knees.   It was as if he threw down the gauntlet.   Our daughter, the sponge, watched awe-struck and soaked in his every movement.   The next two weeks were like watching an infant version of Rocky.   She seemingly dedicated herself to a strict exercise regime:

    Maia on couch

  • Pushups – rolling over was for newborns, this infant would push up her whole body for multiple reps, resting only briefly in-between.
  • Lunges – once her push-ups became like second nature, she would follow-up with pulling her knees under as if to crawl, rock to and fro, and then lunge her whole body forward, reaching for her target.
  • Army crawl – with her lunge and reaching mastered, she worked on technique, pulling and shuffling across the floor in an army crawl.

Leading into this past weekend, her routine consisted of all the above maneuvers.   We were on pins and needles each time she pushed up into a crawl position.   One little hand and knee would shift forward.   And as we’d anticipate the same movement from her other side, she’d collapse taking with her our hopes of a first official crawl.   That is, until Saturday; and then again Monday; when I missed it each time.   Ah, but patience has its virtues.   And the silver-lining to this story is that my accomplished daughter has now demonstrated her skill for daddy this morning.   Thank you Maia!

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Overnight Success
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This past week was encompassed with anticipation—excitement of spending a child-free evening with my wife, and a pinch of anxiety stirred in due to the growing restlessness of our teething daughter.  You see, my wife and I finally decided to schedule our daughter’s first overnight with my mother, her Mémère.  And although our daughter had been sleeping through the evenings, two new front-teeth had cropped up now causing her unrest.  This manifested itself as inconsolable evenings during bedtime, followed by several waking fits through the night.

The first step was keeping my parents in the loop on her behavioral patterns.  The second was ensuring their home was baby-proofed and that they had the necessary essentials (ex:  pack-and-play, baby-monitor, clothes, diapers, and food).  Once we reviewed with them our baby’s feeding schedule and nightly routines, the hardest part came next:  leaving our baby.  Luckily we were mentally prepared and simply kissed our distracted daughter as we said a happy good-bye and left.  The alternative, of course, would be breaking-down with sappy dramatics that would have caused our daughter to feel insecure.

The planned events for our date-night began with a finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  I’d be lying if I didn’t attribute some of our excitement for the evening towards us seeing the culmination of this franchise to its critically acclaimed ending.  We managed to catch some of the prequels replaying on ABC Family during the week leading up to its theatrical release.  And then we re-watched the Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Part 1 the evenings before our date.  With our daughter in safe hands, we were ready to enjoy the movie with each other’s company.

My favorite part of the film (and trust me, this isn’t a spoiler):  10-minutes of obnoxious and hostile dialogue from two self-absorbed women in attendance.  One was a juvenile who spouted colorful metaphors and then moved to another seat.  However unjustified, it was after being on the receiving end of hostile remarks for putting her feet upon a seat occupied by the parent of the other woman.  This other woman, being outwardly mature in appearance, then relentlessly pursued the juvenile physically and verbally; refusing to back down until she could convince the intimidated youth to resolve the conflict outside with a fight in the parking lot.  Luckily security intervened and escorted one group out (the juvenile and friend; voluntarily).  In my mind, it should have been the other woman and her parent.  I mean, seriously, who creates such a scene in a movie theatre over a ridiculous altercation like that.  I think we know who the real juvenile was that night.  And although I missed 10-minutes of dialogue, I was still unfazed in my enthusiasm; especially considering that I knew then it was going to be a free movie, as I would accept no less from the theatre’s management.

With the movie behind us, and twenty bucks back in our pocket, we continued our date to the next event—sushi.  The twenty went towards supplementing our dinner with drinks and desert.  We made it home late, enjoyed our quality alone time without children, and then crashed without the worry of awaking to a crying baby.  Instead, we woke to relaxing silence at 7 am, which is a marked improvement to the 5 or 6 am feeding times our daughter sometimes commands.  And although it was refreshing, it was also a little empty—missing our beautiful daughter’s wide grin and emphatic morning babbles.  We had a much-needed night alone, our batteries were recharged, and now we were ready to be back together as a family.  Our daughter’s overnight was a success!

Now this success isn’t measured purely on the ability for my wife and I to enjoy our time alone without children.   Or due to our realization that we miss our child and look forward to her coming home.  True success is measured in how well our daughter fared at my parents.  And it isn’t achieved without careful planning.  We checked-in a couple times between events, and were comfortable with our preparation and that of my parents.  We were relaxed because we knew she was safe, and we knew her success would be on how safe and comfortable she felt.  We were eager the next morning to hear how it went.  And to our relief, she was a perfect angel and went to bed with ease.  There was no late-night restlessness.  She slept through the night and woke happy with cheerful lallations.

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Fathers Are Caregivers Too
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For those of you who know me, or have spoken to me when my son was younger and would be sick, you may recall my frustrations from interactions with my son’s mother during those times. It had been a struggle for me to spend time with him and provide him care during his times of need (although that’s not so much the case now).  At first I thought it was perhaps from my own selfishness of wanting to be there for my son, or the confidence that I could care for him just as well as his mother, which drove that frustration.  I’m sure each parent has been there when his or her child may be sick.  You know your child is not feeling well, you can hear the pain in their voice, and you want to do whatever you can to make it better.  It’s more difficult when they’re very young, because they’re unable to communicate the source of the pain, so all you’re able to derive is the discomfort they are in.  I mean, sure, there are easy tells (such as a fever); but you’re not always lucky enough to have an easily identifiable symptom to help isolate a probable source of their pain.  As they get older, and they can speak well enough to communicate a tummy ache or headache, it’s still not always clear to what extent they have an issue. Is he going to vomit, or is he just constipated?  Did he bonk his head or is he having some sort of symptomatic migraine?

My son is almost four now.  And these days (sometimes to my amusement) I get more descriptive answers from him when he’s communicating pain:  My tummy is full, I ate too much.  My tummy hurts, I have to go poopies.  My noggin hurts, the dresser bonked it. But it was the earlier period (between two and three) where one could not rely on his communication skills to diagnose pain, which was a point of contention between his mother and I.  Whenever my days for custody would arrive and Iain was sick, the immediate stance of his mother was that since he was sick, I was more than welcome to come visit him that evening, but that he was staying home with her that night.  Not an option, not a possibility for discussion, just:  these are the terms.  Now I didn’t always question whether or not he was sick, but I definitely questioned her ability to determine if it was to an extent that he shouldn’t spend time with me at my home.  I mean, I’m his Father.  I’m just as capable of taking care of him too.  I can check his temperature, read him stories, and keep him hydrated.  And who’s to say that it isn’t some mild 24-hour bug, or something less severe (like constipation).  I’m capable of administering medicine, or feeding him roughage.  What’s worse was during that year it seemed as though he was always sick.  Whether it be from a lack of a normal shot schedule, his exposure to other kids during the church day-care on Sundays, or something his mother brought home from her internship at the hospital… every time I was scheduled to have Iain, I’d get a call at the 11th hour that he’s not coming over, but I can come see him if I like. Um, hello, we have a custody schedule. I’m not so insensitive or selfish that I would expect him to always be with me when he was sick.  One would have to be heartless to take a doubled over kid with a fever, who had vomited earlier, out of the comfort of his current home just to stay a night or two with his dad.

Sure, when he was an infant, and even in the early toddler stages, I conceded to his mother’s demands that he stays home when sick so that she could provide him the necessary care.  But as he got older, and I was more capable and confident, I found myself always upset and questioning this arrangement.  First off, who really wants to spend time in their former wife’s home, even if it is to see your sick son?  Factor in the constant scrutiny you feel you’re under, because they’re obviously watching everything you’re doing and judging you… or at least it seems that way.  And I had the added benefit that my former wife moved in with her parents.  So I felt the additional weight of two more sets of eyes watching me.  Then there is the inconvenience that I was obviously coming straight from work (yes I’m making this part about me), would typically have dinner with my son at my own home, but now I had to rush to someone else’s house.  There were many times that I would come in and everyone there would have just eaten, yet another missed opportunity with my son.  Plus it’s not like they offered me anything (perhaps that was expecting too much), but you can kind of see my point (I did finally get offered some left-overs once; maybe twice).  Then there was the obstacle of wanting to do things for my son, which I typically would do at my home when I had him, that his mother or grandparents felt obliged to address in their home (ex:  setting the bath schedule, changing diapers, putting on a T.V. show, etc.).  I mean, this was supposed to be my time, and essentially I was subjected to endure a form of torture because his mommy wanted to care for a sick child, who (might I add) many times appeared completely normal while I was there (I’m not going to go into the excuses I received of how he was feeling/acting earlier in the day which warranted her decision, because I’m sure they could probably be substantiated, but that’s not the point here).

I endured this hell because I love my son, and felt it was for his benefit.  But, if we’re going to be honest with one another, having Daddy come over to play with his son and then put him to sleep essentially was unnecessary and a selfish act on his mother’s part.  If he’s well enough to play with Daddy, then why can’t he travel 20-30 minutes to be with his Dad as he was supposed to be; who is capable of giving him a similar level of loving care; and where that child is still comfortable and at home; at his Father’s home.  It seems we’ve forgotten a simple fact:  a child of divorce parents has two homes… because when mommy isn’t around and our little one has a boo-boo, whom does he ask to kiss it:  Daddy.  And when he’s with his Father and he suddenly doesn’t feel good, who is going to take care of him:  Daddy.  It is the inevitable role that any single parent must play when they have sole custody of their child for some percentage of time.  Perhaps it isn’t engrained in all males, or an inherent trait.  But whether it need be learned or not, a parent must provide for their child.  Fathers are caregivers too!

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What is right, and who is wrong?
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As a young boy, I grew up as part of a large Greek family, my father being one of six siblings.  Like most people, I imprinted from my surroundings.  I noticed that all the members of my extended family married around the age of eighteen.  Each appeared genuinely happy and, to me, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do:  make it to high school, meet a young lady, fall in love, and start your life together.

The story of how my parents met didn’t help either.  They knew each other since elementary school—my father would shoot spit balls into my mother’s hair.  He pined for her in ninth-grade, though she was uninterested and took retribution by causing him to fail French (story for another time).   Junior year of high school, she’s walking home with a friend who happens to like my father, when he pulls up in his car, offering a ride.  Naturally the friend wants to accept and convinces my mom to do so as well.  Funny enough, my dad goes out of his way to drop the friend off first so he can ask my mom out… and the rest, as they say, is history.

In high school, I never considered myself a “looker”, and by no means was I popular.  Being a bit of a loner, I focused on academics and did some sports in the latter years.  There was no high school sweetheart, although I pined after my fair share of ladies.  No girlfriends, no prom dates… in fact, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I brought my first girlfriend around family, to which my grandmother exclaimed, “Thank God, we thought you were gay.” 

I guess you could say I was a late bloomer, or at least I felt like one.  When I looked at my relatives and heard everyone’s “story”, I just didn’t fit the mold… but I wanted to, and felt like I should.  The only solace I took was in my Uncle Dave.  More of an older brother than an Uncle (we’re seven years apart), he didn’t marry until his thirties.  But, then again, he was something of a ladies’ man; so it wasn’t from a lack of prospects.

The Blink 182 song “What’s My Age Again?” came out as I was turning twenty-three and it became my theme.  As I struck out on love in the work-place (high school for your twenties), I kept repeating to myself its lyrics:  nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three.  So it was probably natural, being relatively new to intimacy with women, that I found it rewarding to sleep with those few who actually were interested in me, even though I lacked much interest in them as a person.  But the trap I laid for myself was not to be that guy—the one-night-stand.  So many relationships would drag along as I deceived myself that there was some sort of emotional attachment when, in fact, it was purely physical.

Like most men, I loved the sex.  But, more importantly, I loved the intimacy; and the way it made me feel.  Somehow I felt that, by being with someone, I was that much closer to being married, and therefore closer to being like the rest of my family.  Then along came my first wife (never thought I’d hear myself say those words).

I always knew I wanted to be married.  And I felt like I missed the mark considerably when eighteen came, then went, and I wasn’t… not even close.  I know many women think about their age, when they’ll be married, and having kids (Sex in the City has to be accurate, right?).  I mean sure, their biological clock is ticking, there is an expiration date on their eggs, and they only have so many.  But here I am, a man, and I’m worried about similar things.  I wanted to be married, I wanted kids, and I didn’t want to be too old to enjoy their grand-kids.  And, for the record, let me say that I always thought I’d marry once, and would never be divorced; I believed in commitment.  But let’s face it, my track record with women leading up to this point has sucked.  I was a nice, well-meaning guy who (at the time; and probably still to a degree) was also a bit naïve.

My first wife (referred to from here on out as “the ex”) started working at my job.  The girl there who I was actually pining after, being uninterested, finally left work (or was she fired?), so my friends and coworkers thought it would be cute to try and set me up with “the ex”.  I was told the new-hire liked me (so juvenile).  When she was pointed out, I truthfully didn’t mind much of what I saw, but there was no “moment”… you know, where time slows, music plays, and everything else melts away letting you know that she’s the one (I mentioned I was naïve, right?).  What can I say, I was a hopeless romantic, had my fair share of crushes, and so I thought I knew what love was.  So how did we end up together you ask?  Essentially, I’m a glutton for punishment; that, and I later realized my perspective on love was kind of adolescent, and I convinced myself that being happy was being in love.

Over a period of a year or so she continually made her intentions known while I tried not to be rude and inevitably led her on… as she said (years later), “I look back at our courtship and I see where I forced myself into your life.”  To be honest though, I too had my fair share of blame.  Knowing my own past, I let things get physical and, although I tried to break it off a couple times, I never completely severed ties (men are horn-dogs).   After a couple years, I felt I owed it to both of us to give the relationship serious consideration.  And there was a point that I was happy, and felt that I could continue to be happy, seeing a future together.  Let me clarify, you can be in love and therefore be happy; but being happy does not necessarily mean you are in love.  I know that now, but not then since I didn’t have any personal experience I could base it off of.

To make a long story short (and not steal any thunder from my other writings), we were married for four years, had a son during the last year, and she must have realized what I’ve now learned, because she took our six-month-old son and left me.  We divorced almost a year later.

But what is right, and who is wrong in that kind of situation?  I mean, I was blind to the fact that there were issues in our relationship.  I missed the signs.  I guess I should’ve known when she wanted to take Dr. Phil surveys to inspect our relationship.  I figured he was a “quack” who couldn’t make it as a proper therapist and used his connections to get a daytime show—another Jerry Springer.  Now he’s a household name.  It took her getting verbally abusive and antagonistic, trying to provoke me physically, and then finally the “D” word (Divorce) before I realized we had problems.  We practically separated around our third year of marriage and were seeing a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.  The writing should’ve been on the wall, and yet we stayed together and decided to bring a child into the mix.  I felt the issue with our relationship was in our dynamic.  She came from a previous marriage that ended due to her man’s multiple indiscretions, so she naturally had trust issues and became insecure.  When I couldn’t comprehend her concerns, it was as though she needed to become independent and therefore leave or force me to.  I, being inexperienced with marriage, felt I couldn’t live up to her extreme expectations of me and would shutdown when she exploded.  When we were apart, I would be confident and in control, and she would come to trust me again.  In this way we lulled ourselves into a false sense of security, thinking the relationship was salvageable.

Now I believe it is always the best approach to stay the course and work at being together as a family unit; but not just because you hope it’ll benefit the children.  It must also take into consideration the parents and their interaction.  A healthy relationship is a healthy environment for the children.  In my opinion, an unhealthy relationship can many times do more damage to our children in the long run.  And sometimes it requires work to make a relationship healthy again.  Could we have tried more to make it work and stay together?  Possibly.  Would we have been happy, and would it have been a healthy environment?  I think not.  We teach our children by example, which includes our relationships.  That also means in the way that a relationship is dissolved.   There is a “right way” and a “wrong way” for a relationship to end.  I’ll go even further by saying that my circumstance would probably lend more towards a “right way”.  We went through mediation and sought the expertise of a Licensed Psychologist who specialized in divorces with children.  We tried not to involve our own lawyers; but I believe, although costly, we both could have benefited more from their involvement towards the end.  In contrast, I believe that deliberately destructing one’s relationship by being physically abusive, emotionally abusive, viciously attacking one another through lawyers, cheating on one’s spouse, or worse; are prime examples of the “wrong way” to end a relationship.  There were definitely minor “wrong way” elements in the dissolution of my previous marriage.  And some tend to still occur through interactions I have with “the ex”.  But those are stories for another time.

So I have since remarried and have been with my current wife for almost three years.  We have a beautiful three-month-old baby girl.  I am truly in love, and therefore very happy.  I do have joint custody of my son, Iain, from my previous marriage to “the ex”.   And when we finally did separate, I tried to reconcile and do whatever it took, but by that time it had become too late; which was for the better in the end.  Although, I must say, I didn’t think so at the time.  She had already determined to be apart, and knew that to be the best course of action for our son.   It has been a difficult situation, but I honestly think it has been for the best and therefore the healthiest approach for Iain.

So what is right, and who is wrong?  Well I’m right in the end, for doing everything I could to try and save my marriage.  And, then again, so is she for knowing we would never really be happy.  So who is wrong?

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SIDS….
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SIDS….

 

I have read and am concerned with SIDS, especially since I have just had a newborn.  Any recommendations of preventative measures against this issue, called SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)???