Category Archives: Parenting

Hodgepodge and Miscellany

It’s been a while since I wrote anything really substantive in this space. That’s not an apology so much as an observation. Things have been busy. I’ve been busy. I probably could have made myself blog more than I have, but if I’m forcing myself to do something I don’t like…well what’s the point in that. If I’m going to do things I don’t like, I’m at least going to get paid for doing them.

But there are a few things I thought some of you might like to know. First, Thing 1 and Thing 2 are out of our house once again and working toward a more permanent placement with some relatives. They packed up everything last week and headed out of state. The odds are decent that I won’t see them again, at least not for a very long time. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t cry when they left. But I would also be lying if I told you that I wasn’t at least a little glad that they’re gone. Between their school schedule, and trying to spend time my wife and our baby, things were stretched a little thin for us. I’m looking forward to having a little more free time to write.

Speaking of writing, I’m working on a new story which I think is going to be titled, The Death and Life of the Human Electrode, which is about a homeless superhero. And I’ve got one out for beta reads right now called In the Shadow of Doubt which is about faith and giant spiders and a tribe of squirrels that lives in a world-tree.

In other news, the parenting adventure continues. Baby AJ is now mobile. Which means you’ve got to keep an eye on him, because if you don’t the next think you know you’re hearing the thump of the trash can in the kitchen and when you get there he’ll be eating used coffee grounds right out of the filter. Really.

Also, he likes dog food for some reason. I’ve tried to convince my wife that this is a possible way to save money over all that expensive formula and baby food she keeps buying, but so far she’s not going for it.

Here is a video of him wearing pants on his head:

 

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Gallery

What to Expect when You’re Unexpecting

This gallery contains 3 photos.

So its been more than a month since I became a father. People always say things like, “A month! Can you believe it’s been that long?” To which I reply, “Yes, I can. My internal clock isn’t screwed up like … Continue reading

The Birth

You’re sitting there fumbling with the ties on the face mask they’ve given you, trying to work out how they’re supposed to fit over your ears, your fingers fumbling blind at the back of your head trying to tie a decent knot.

With the mask finally tied awkwardly on you feel the damp heat of your own breath press back against your face. Your mind sparks with anticipation and uncertainty, and you squeeze your eyes shut and take deep breaths trying to clear the worst of the anxiety. It helps; a little.

A nurse comes and says, “You can come in now.” And so you do.

The operating room feels small and utilitarian, almost industrial in a way. This is a place where form gives way to function; this is a place where work gets done.

Everything’s done up in stainless steel: stainless steel cabinet against the walls, stainless steel bowls and utensils, everything dully gleaming, slightly menacing.

Menacing too are the men in blue, the doctors and the nurses and the anesthesiologist, and yes, even you, all of you looking like the world’s worst Smurf cosplayers. And you’re all gathered around the woman in the center of the room, her arms splayed out straight from the bed as if she is being crucified.

A curtain hangs down from the ceiling to the woman’s chest, cutting off her view of her stomach. Most of the other dime-store smurfs are down there on the other side of the curtain, Papa Smurf gently but firmly directing his medical minions, as they start to cut into the woman you love.

You sit close to her head and look into her eyes. You say something then, it doesn’t matter what, just making conversation to help keep her mind off what’s happening beyond the curtain.

The action on the other side of the curtain intensifies, and you peek over the thin blue sheet at the site beyond, the lower half of the woman you love splayed open and bloody. Or maybe that’s just your impression of it. It’s hard to see with so many hands in the way.

You hear the doctor tell someone to push, and the woman starts to cry. You squeeze her hand as tightly as you dare and tell her how well she’s doing. And then there is something new on the other side of the curtain.

At first your eyes refuse to believe what they are seeing. This…thing, does not look like a baby. It’s dark blue, almost to the point of being purple, and for a moment some wildly inappropriate cluster of  neurons fires off the thought, “He obviously put way more thought into his Smurf costume than we did.” But that is quickly surpassed by the bigger thought of how still the thing is. You had imagined him kicking and squirming and screaming, but in that first moment he simply lays there like a lump of dead flesh. Your heart skips a beat. Is something wrong? Has there been some terrible cosmic mistake? You see fear in the woman’s eyes too, and know she must be thinking the same thing.

But then there is a cough, a delicate sound at first, but definite and real. And then the cough is quickly replaced with screams, and you fight back the tears you can feel welling up inside of you.

The doctor holds him up over the curtain, still blue and smattered with blood, and you dutifully snap a picture, as if you needed proof that all of this was real. And maybe that’s close to the truth. Because it doesn’t feel real. This can’t be happening all at once. Sure, you’ve known this day was coming. You’ve seen the sonograms and felt the kicks from inside your wife’s belly, but this? This living, breathing, squalling…person? This is real. This is something from nothing. This is a soul in the world that wasn’t there a moment before.

You watch as the nurse towels off the excess blood, and the skin begins to lose its bluish hue. And as your son opens his tiny puckered lips and screams again at the terror of a bright and unfamiliar world, you realize you’ll never hear a more wonderful sound.

Of Fatherhood and Futility

I don’t know how to start this.

Well, there. At least that’s something written. Maybe the rest will get knocked loose now.

The problem I’m having is that sometimes I have so much to say I don’t know how to make my ideas into words. Oh for the days when the words dance in my mind for hours on end begging me to tweak them here, prune them back there. But sometimes my thoughts are too big and complicated and messy to fit together properly in words.

But maybe lets start with this: I’m going to be a dad and I’m mostly okay with that.

A few weeks back I made a post about how I was freaking out, scared out of my mind that I was going to somehow do something wrong, screw up my kid’s life, but now I feel like the freak-out phase is finally coming to a close. I’m not sure “confidence” would be the right word to describe my feelings about fatherhood. Probably “resignation” hits it on the head a little better. I’m realizing that whether I’m ready or not this is something that’s going to happen, so I’m resolved to be as ready as I can be and praying that God will take up the slack.

That is of course assuming this kid ever gets here. These last few weeks have been really rough on my wife, and by extension they’ve been rough on me because there’s nothing I can do to help her. Part of the problem is that for the longest time we weren’t sure when the baby was coming. Of course my wife has an official due date, but because of her diabetes the doctor has been planning on taking the baby early, and due to the high risk nature of her pregnancy for that last couple months we’ve been on tenterhooks thinking, “What if its this week? Or the next?” Which after while turns into, “Is this kid ever going to come?”

I have this vision of my wife in bed two years from now, her belly horribly distended, unable to move from her bed, and the doctors telling us, “We’re going to give it just one more week and see what happens.” There’s a story in there somewhere.

But now we’re locked in for a date early next week, so most of that anxiety has gone, and left me with the mental energy to worry about other Things. Thing One and Thing Two to be precise.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that me and my wife were foster parents for nearly a year, and we had the great privilege to open our home to two wonderful kids who for the sake of anonymity (and let’s be honest here, also because it’s kinda cute) I have referred to as Thing One and Thing Two.

I haven’t written about them in a while, partly because I didn’t know what to write. See, a couple months back Things One and Two went back to live with their mom. Now you’d think that having two kids that have been in your life for the better part of a year would be an emotionally troubling experience, but the truth is that for a while I didn’t feel much of anything.  In a way I was happy for them. I saw how much they loved their mom, and what’s more I saw how much that she loved them. Truth be told I’ve never seen a woman more laser-focused on anything before in my life.

She got herself a job within a few weeks of being back on the streets (no easy feat in this economy) and worked really hard to find a place they could all live together. To tell you the truth, she almost put me to shame with her passion and focus. And I thought to myself, “If she can be so driven and work so hard for her kids what more could I hope for? Sure she’s made mistakes, but now that she’s got a chance to start over again she’s gonna make the most of it.”

Only from what I can tell, that isn’t what has happened. Once the kids were back with her things started to fall apart. First it was little stuff, stuff you could write off to her scattered brain or quirky personality. But then the problems escalated. She lost her job. She’s become more and more difficult to contact. And whenever Thing One’s friends from Boy Scouts go to visit they bring back reports of strange goings-on at the house.

And part of me just wants to scream, “What are you DOING? I know you love these kids. You had a choice and you chose to bend over backwards to prove you could be the right kind of mother and now you’re letting it all fall to pieces. Don’t you understand these kids need stability? Can’t you see that the road your on is eventually going to land you back in jail and them back in foster care again?”

And the thing is, I love these kids too. I wasn’t a perfect foster parent, but I did what I could to give them some semblance of stability. But I’m afraid it wasn’t enough. Nothing I tried to do for them is going to survive in the maelstrom of their mother’s collapse. Instead they’re going to be left to build a life on a foundation of shifting sand, led by the example of a mother who can’t maintain any semblance of consistency, tossed from home to home like unwanted baubles. And how are they supposed to grow up into proper young men with a life like that? HOW?

I’d better stop writing before I start crying. I just had to get some of that off my chest. I don’t know if it matters that I’ve written it down here, that I’ve sent it out into the world, this bundle of my thoughts, flickering and weak like the flame of a candle. But that’s what I do. I write. I share. And every day I face the fear that nothing I do will ever have made any difference at all.