Freeplay Friday is where all the random thoughts, strange happenings, and other nonsense that might not be entirely dad-oriented are going to end up. Back off me man, it’s been a long week.
So despite the fact that Episcopalians don’t have actual “days of obligation,” I feel strongly about going to the Ash Wednesday service every year. Ask why if you like, but I really don’t have an answer; I just feel compelled to go. So after work on Wednesday, I sped over to my old church in the Heights for an evening service.
To make a long story short, when it was my turn to be marked with ashes, the elderly lady reached down to draw the cross on my forehead just as I lifted my head up to meet her gaze. This in turn causes most of the ashes to knocked off of her hand and to cascade down all over my face. I could actually feel them patter across my nose and cheeks. This elicits an, “er, oh…” from the old lady, she pauses for a moment to consider what to do, and then quickly steps to my left, presumably to cover the next poor soul in ashes.
At this point I’m tempted to go to the restroom to wash it off (because I’m envisioning that I look like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins), but that seems a little perfidious. So instead I turn around and simply head back to my pew, where I try to wipe my nose and eyebrows off as best I can.
The rest of the service proceeds without incident, and afterward I head home. I did, however, have to make a pit stop at Babies-R-Us to add a crib to our registry. (I’ll tell you that story next week.) While there, I noticed that the employees were looking at me rather strangely. But I assumed that either they didn’t know what the cross on my head was for (Texas is Baptist country, after all), or that I’d just missed some of the ashes that had been spilled on me and I was still a bit of a mess.
Fast-forward to when I get home and go to the bathroom, where I can actually look into a well-lit mirror.
And there, on my forehead, clear as day, is a black swastika.
The woman didn’t just give me palm frond blackface, her shaky thumb drew a whole damn swastika on my forehead. Which means I didn’t look at all like Dick Van Dyke; I looked like ‘effing Charles Manson.
And I was walking around the cribs in Babies-R-Us looking like that…
“What lovely small cages you have here. I’ll take a dozen.”
I’ve been getting this question a lot lately. Along with the, “are you nervous yet?”
And between you and me, Internet? I’ve no idea how I’m supposed to answer. Because if I’m being totally honest here, the answer is no.
No, I’m not excited.
And I’m not excited because I have absolutely no idea what any of this means. I’ve no idea what to do with an infant. I’ve no idea what it means to be a father. I’ve no idea if I’m going to like it. I’ve no idea if I’ll be good at it. I’ve no idea what it’s going to do to my life. I’ve no idea how to approach any of this.
And if I don’t know how something is going to affect me, how can I truly be excited about it?
I’ve heard various versions of, “oh…the first time you hold your child, something just changes.” And I believe it. I have zero doubt that the guy I become the second my daughter is born will be very different than the guy who stood in that spot one second earlier. Thing is, I don’t know that guy yet. I don’t know what’s important to that guy yet. I know the various responsibilities that he already has, but I don’t know how having a child will reorganize those priorities. I merely know that it will.
Now, this being said, I certainly don’t dread having a child. Far, far, from it. I’m having a great time learning about all the bizarre accoutrements that are involved with babydom. Things like stroller turning radii, the internal machinations of a Diaper Genie, and the structural differences between a “swaddler” and a “cruiser.”
I’m probably more studious and quizzical about the whole thing because it simply isn’t as real to me as it is to Jen.
By this, I mean having a child is less of a “concept” for mothers-to-be, as they’re already physically connected to the baby. Millions of years of successful hormone production are churning through a pregnant woman’s body, readying her for motherhood. While the father is standing there with a not-so-bright look on his face, asking things like, “Are all crib mattresses uniform in length, or are there proprietary sizing schemes, per brand?” (You should’ve seen the glazed expression I received from the poor kid I asked that to in Babies-R-Us.)
And as I wrap this up, it occurs to me that perhaps people just ask this in an effort to be polite, or to simply have something to say. The problem there is, I don’t do that. And when I’m asked any question I typically like to think a bit before answering, so I can respond with assurance and honesty. I don’t fill the air with talk.
Actually I think I’ll write more about that particular facet of my life, and how it might pertain to being a dad, in a forthcoming post.
So we have these dogs…
The white one is Alex. Aka “Albino Dire Wolf,” aka “Lobo, Duke of the Fulshear Wilds,” aka “Goddammit Alex, Shut UP!”
Alex is, well, Alex is special.
Remember the animated movie “Bolt?” The one with the little white dog with the “Super Bark?” Yeah, there’s a reason why they chose an Eski for that film. Alex’s bark is one of the most piercing things this world has ever suffered. It’s so loud that it actually blinds you for a split second as all of your senses recoil. So loud there’s a ringing aftershock after each bark. Ethel Merman singing the Cranberries “Zombie” into a bullhorn would be a dulcet tympanic shiatsu by comparison. It effing hurts.
Now this would be fine under normal circumstances. After all, you do want a dog with a loud, alerting bark.
The problem is, Alex barks all the time.
Kids playing on the street? BARKBARKBARK!
Trash guys? BARKBARKBARK!
Commercial with a doorbell in it? BARKBARKBARK!
Someone actually rang the doorbell? DESTROY!
He also has a thing about anyone touching Jen. Touching is forbidden. Doubly so for me. My wife and I have been together for 7 years, and Alex has never stopped attempting to punch me in the balls every time I move within arm’s length of her. And yes, he’s aiming. You see, over time, hitting that particular area has proven to elicit the strongest response in ceasing the unwanted behavior, i.e. me touching Jen. And so now he really does, “sic balls.” (Pavlov’s got nothing on me.)
So add these two lovely personality flaws together, and then multiply.
How do you have a baby in the house with a dog like that?
It’ll be nappus interruptus every time Alex feels he needs to repel the marauding horde of invaders (read as: children playing in the street), from the sanctified borders of our home. Which means Daphne will get woken up about every 30 minutes or so.
And what will happen when Jen reaches down to pick our child up? Will he recognize that little thing as another human and attempt a
Falcon Canine Punch?
These are things I worry about. And we’re not going to know one way or another until we get Daphne home and see how he responds.
And then there’s Jib.
Jib is gentle. Jib is even-tempered. Jib is obedient. Jib is an incredibly sweet and loving dog. I’m certain that Jib is going to love Daphne, and be extraordinarily protective of her.
The thing is, Jib also loves toys. And, all your toy are belong to Jib.
Again, this would be fine by itself. Alas, Jib has a penchant for tearing open these toys and swallowing all the stuffing/plastic bits that lie inside them. To him, they’re like little fuzzy Gobstoppers. And these delicious plastic parts subsequently get caught in Jib’s intestines, thus necessitating thousands of dollars worth of invasive doggy surgery at GCVS.
And so I’m going to have to screen all of Daphne’s toys for contraband squeaky bits, in an effort to keep Jib from tearing them apart and happily destroying his own innards.
Jib, like most dogs, also very much likes his routines. They help him make sense of, and derive comfort from, an otherwise confusing human world. Breakfast is served the same way each day. Followed by the morning walk. Followed by dad leaving for work. But all is okay because dad says, “okayIloveyoubegood!” over and over, and that means he will be back. These things make Jib a happy dog.
But! Woe betide a messed with bedtime.
Jib sleeps in the bed with us. Or, more to the point, we sleep in Jib’s bed with him. He languorously stretches out in the center of our expensive memory foam mattress, and Jen and I fight to keep about 18″ of space on either side of him. And, if I happen to wake up, or roll over, or talk in my sleep, all are met with quick and strong kicks to my side. These send a very clear message.
“No. Stop. Jib is sleeping.”
And since Daphne will be with us at night (in her bassinet) for a while, and given that infants are notoriously poor sleepers, I’ve no doubt Jib is going to get testy about his lack of beauty sleep. Which means I’m going to get kicked. A lot.
Now please don’t misconstrue this. I absolutely adore our dogs, and I’d do just about anything to ensure sure they’re healthy and happy. Which means that we’re all going to find a way to make this thing work. There’s just going to be a learning curve…for everyone involved.
I was listening to my iPhone playlist as I drove to work today, head bobbing beneath a Reverend Horton Heat beanie that I’d purchased at a show over 20 years ago, and I began to wonder at what point it’s safe to move your baby from soft lullabies to solid music.
Now I realize that my taste in music might be construed as rather…cacophonous. And, as such, I don’t want to frighten my poor girl. Read as: No JSBX in the nursery. (Man, I can already feel my wife narrowing her eyes at me for that one…)
Not to mention I don’t want to inadvertently burrow corruptive lyrics into her still forming little mind. You know, seditious things like, “Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da.” Or, “His name was ‘Rico.’ He wore a diamond.” Or “Life is demanding, without understanding.”
There’s also the consideration that she might grow up to shun artists like Sleater-Kinney and Rilo Kiley simply because, “ugh, that’s dad’s music.”
My God. She could even rebel against such paternal pressure and start listening to things like pop radio. Or… [*dry heave*] country.
So I ask you, where is the line between encouraging a broad spectrum within your child’s musical palate, and simply pushing them to like your stuff? I mean, when I was 8-years-old I listened to Phil Collins “No Jacket Required” and Peter Gabriel’s “So” on a Walkman while riding my bike around the neighborhood. In retrospect, both of these are fantastic albums. Yet they weren’t my choices, they were what my father was listening to at the time. So that’s all I knew. It wasn’t until about 6th or 7th grade where I started to develop my own musical preferences, much to his chagrin. Bruce Hornsby and Paul Simon were replaced by Beastie Boys and the Dead Milkmen.
Will I have the 2026 equivalent of LL Cool J to look forward to when my daughter turns 11? And a better question is, will I mind?
Hmm… Guess I’ll windmill strum that bridge when I get to it.
Until then, I’ll just sing her things like the lullaby version of “Enjoy the Silence” and hope it sticks.
So I’ve started the process of cleaning out what will become Daphne’s nursery on Sunday, and step one was removing the serious amount of stuff that’s been accumulating in there over the past 3 years.
10 large boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards, a stereo, a small box of DVDs and a trash bag filled with old t-shirts that my wife wouldn’t allow me to throw away* all made their exodus. (*Apparently “t-shirt quilts” are a thing?)
Mrs. Bumble, however, is a teacher. And as such there were mountains of manila folders with old grading assignments, hundreds of soft-cover treatises on proper grammar, boxes of various school supplies/desk ornaments, and dozens of giant (and very heavy), hardback textbooks cataloging countless ways to cajole children into reading.
But whining about lifting heavy objects is not the purpose of this post; it’s just a husband quota thing that had to be filled. I’m done now.
So, now that all the detritus has been moved into the game room for sorting/filing/deleting, what I’m left with is a relatively empty space.
As such I’ve been reading a bit about nursery colors, and their effects on infants. Which means that I have both a degree in aesthetics and too much time on my hands.
It seems red can cause fiery emotional outbursts, but orange is friendly and cozy.
Yellow agitates babies, but green is soothing and calming.
Blue causes melancholy, but purple promotes
Grey causes introspection, black is authoritative, brown evokes poop (that one’s definitely out), white is secretive, etc. etc.
This information is currently effecting what I assume is that most common of cognitive dissonance in first time parents-to-be.
“This seems completely ridiculous. But…I don’t know…maybe it isn’t?”
Anyway, I’m still not sure of the color palette of the walls, but I have already purchased prints. They were done by a young lady named Liz Nugent, and were intended as Magic card sleeves for Star City Games.
Yes, they’re adorable. And the manager over at Star City Games seemed to agree with me, as he’s now planning to put them up in his own kid’s nursery.
Now, given the colors used in these prints, I think some variant on a buttery-yellow is where I’m going with the walls. And hopefully Señor Rokkit Pengvin will help keep all baby agitation down to a minimum.
Today I thought we might talk about the sacrifices you make for your kids.
As such, I’d like to introduce you to the first of what I’m sure will be many in my life:
Last week, after hearing for the umpteenth time about all the costs involved in babying, I came to the realization that I hadn’t quite made room in our monthly budget for diapers, dentists and daycare. (And, to be entirely honest, we were already running pretty close to break even.) So I began to look for places where we could scale back some luxury spending. And the first one came like a clarion call…
Ever since I was old enough to understand that I could have things of my own, I’ve wanted a boat. A small spot on the water that’s mine. Nothing ostentatious. Nothing gaudy. Certainly nothing you could ski behind. Just a simple boat with sails and a place for me to sleep.
I stood on the docks in Wickford, RI and came up with adventures involving the dinghies that were made fast to the pier. I worked on other people’s catamarans and schooners all over the east coast, dreaming of the day I’d be the captain of my own. I towed 12-footers behind my Mitsubishi Eclipse up to Bear Lake, Utah to teach university sailing classes in the summers. And I’ve sat at restaurant tables in Kemah with my wife, jealously watching Js and Beneteaus drift by, on their way out for an afternoon sail.
Last April, after 35 years, this dream finally came true. I sold off a number of Magic: the Gathering cards to Star City Games, bought a 1978 30′ Hunter, and sailed her to my very own slip in Seabrook. We took her out only a few times (summers in Texas aren’t conducive to these things), but the knowledge that I had a boat of my own, there for me anytime I wanted to take her out, made me happy.
But that was before there was a Daphne to think about. And last week I added the annual cost of slip fees + insurance + maintenance + registration + gas for the trips down and back. The total wasn’t a small one, and it became clear that I couldn’t afford to keep my boat.
I’d finally gotten the thing I’ve always wanted, and I was going to have to watch her sail away without me.
This was a very bad day.
But, as in all things, there’s silver lining to be found here.
I did fulfill a lifelong dream and get that one thing that I’ve always wanted. I hope that all of you can know what that feels like, even if it’s just for a little while. And there’s nothing stopping me from getting another boat someday. Someday…
And, of course, I’ve a daughter on the way. One who will be (hopefully) healthy and strong and brilliant and generally a wonderful little human being to be around. And maybe I won’t dwell on the things that I gave up for her, because they’ll pale in comparison to how amazing she is. I hope that’s what will happen.
But I know that, on some clear spring days, the eidolons of my past will whisper to me on the wind. And, for just a moment, it will break my heart.
First, I’d like to apologize for the random visuals happening around here at the moment. I’m still working out the design and it’s likely to look mildly offensive on some days, and be a complete aesthetic assault on others. Sorry about that. I’ll settle on a layout soon enough.
So, let’s talk a little bit about what I’m “planning” here. (I’ve put that in quotes because I’m horrible at the “P” word.)
I’m going to write. A lot. About being a man. About being a husband. About the days leading up to being a father. About the day I actually become a father. And about all the ridiculous things that will undoubtedly befall our little family once little Daphne arrives on her chosen “D-Day.”
Some of these will be generic parenting observations. Some will be quite personal insights into my life and that of my family. Some of them will be surly from sleep deprivation. Some will be so saccharine that you’ll need to read them with a WaterPik handy. Most will carry sardonic undercurrents because, well, I’m a sardonic riptide.
There will also be reviews of various baby products, foods, videos, contraptions, et. al that we’ve used. What you might not know about me is that I offer unsolicited and unbiased (sometimes scathing), opinions on just about anything, to anyone. I’ve no doubt discussing these will follow in that vein.
I can also guarantee that something I find to be a waste of perfectly good plastic is your child’s favorite thing on Earth and you’ll wonder how one man could possibly be so wrong. That’s awesome. I totally want to know what you think. It’s
possible quite likely that I’m simply not using the item properly, and I am open to your suggestions.
But that brings me to my next point.
I’m told that parenting is a very personal thing. My attitudes are likely to be very different from yours. And that’s okay. I’ve also been told, time and again, that “there is no one right way to do this.” So I’m sharing that advice with you now.
There is no one right way to do this.
So please adhere to Wheaton’s Law, and we’ll all play nicely together along the way. Savvy?
The first post. Always a trepidatious thing. There are many questions.
Do you launch directly into your subject matter, Binkies blazing? This would be the professional take, although not lacking in hubris. “This blog is going to take the world by storm” you think, “why bother with little things like introductions.”
Or, in lieu of such arrogance, do you harp on the magical beginning of a thing? Allude to all the chuckles-in-potentia of your newly birthed blog, and thank the folk who’ve stumbled upon your meandering prose. Be sure to ask them to come back soon!
Much like what’s happening in my life currently, I don’t have the answers. So I’m going with a bit of both.
If you hadn’t surmised from the clever URL, this is my “dad blog.” There are many like it, but this one is mine. My daughter is due in less than 10 weeks, and I don’t know how to properly understand and/or deal with a thing unless I write about it. (It’s a weakness. And it’s not my only one.)
So welcome friends. Welcome family. Welcome complete and utter stranger.
To Bumble Dad.