I guess I should write something

April 27, 2014 1 comment

Things have really dried up here lately on account of this whole having-a-baby thing. I used to be as wordy and noisome as a teen on tumblr, writing nothing of consequence beyond random musings and whatever irreverence was on my mind. And here we are now, all that extra energy being swallowed up by the maintenance and training of a toddler. The blog is barren, bereft of content except for commenters who have recently undergone PRK surgery and found out they could no longer see, or other people searching for meaning in that fucking Heaven is For Real movie, the one about mentally challenged American country folk who still believe in Santa and angels. I see the search terms that lead here. You people sicken me.

That miniature extension of half my genome is doing just fine. She’s still alive, and that’s saying something. These kids, they really don’t have a clue, do they? You think you’ve got things boarded up and safe for someone of a limited capacity, and then she goes and plays with electric cords, or tries eating some of those little sticky pads that adhere to the bottom of chair legs to avoid scratching your cheap laminate floor. Or she sees the newly installed metal barrier at the top of the stairs and realizes how fun it would be to violently shake it until it starts to give. Or how she’s indelibly attracted to the gas fireplace, and tries to cuddle, yes, freaking cuddle with those little iron curtains. We had to keep the fireplace off this whole cold-ass depressing winter because we’re supposed to be responsible adults and not risk permanent disfigurement of a child drawn to flames. The sacrifices we make as parents.

She’s at a fun age right now. She walks and talks like a drunk stumbling out of a bar. Most of the time she’s a happy drunk, but sometimes she gets in one of those introspective and self-loathing moods into which toddlers often stumble, and then there’s nothing that will help her save a warm bottle of milk and a time out in the crib. I always tell myself I’m going to make use of the times she’s asleep, to finally replace those burnt out light bulbs or to make the office a little less of a death trap. But when she’s asleep, and if it’s one of those times I know she’s going to sleep well, I’m good for nothing. That feeling of taking a nap and waking up before she does, without prompting from either her or an alarm clock, that’s an almost orgasmic sensation that I now dream about, so rare has it become. Even typing it out is ecstasy. I can’t pass up such an opportunity.

We finally had a warmish day today, one that wasn’t filled with bleak gray skies or cold rain. I took her out on her longest walk yet, down the sidewalk past four houses. She held my hand the whole time and since she only comes up to my kneecap, I had to bend down like an old man for the half hour journey into the wild. My back hurt. She seemed delighted. During the first half she sucked her thumb as she strolled. On the way back, she loosened up and was gibbering and jabbering the whole way home. Occasionally she needed a break and plopped down on the sidewalk, but thankfully she didn’t try to eat the dried-up worms littering the concrete within arms’ reach.

There were a few months where we took her to daycare once a week. She loved that place. She’d tire herself out so much that she fell asleep right after getting home at 4:30. She would sleep through the whole night without a peep. Such days were almost as good as the naps I described earlier. I almost feel bad for taking her out of daycare, but Grandpa just retired and we’re trying to keep him busy.

My favorite part of daycare was when she graduated to the walkers’ room. Prior to that, she hung around a bunch of drooly crawlers who spent their days bumping into walls and staring blankly at toys while shitting themselves. The first day I brought her into the walker room, all the kids were sitting around the breakfast table, and they operated like a single organism. They all turned in unison to look at us entering and seemed a little off-put that somebody would be so careless as to disturb their communal mealtime. I handed my daughter to the caretaker and waved goodbye. When my little girl is in any kind of transitional moment, she doesn’t panic, but she seems to retreat within herself and only offers a blank stare. I waved goodbye. She stared through me. In her stead, the table full of prescient toddlers waved back and I heard a creepy smattering of, “Bye. Bye. Bye.” As I walked out the door I heard my daughter approach the hive and they all greeted her with a syncopated, “Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi.” She had assimilated. It was a scene straight out of Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke.

The days speed by. She passed the barrier of walking. Next will come an exponential growth in speech. She’s got a handful of words now. In a few months we’ll be having meaningful conversations. We talk plenty already, but we can’t understand each other. She does, however, pick up on cues to some extent. Often when I say something intended to be a joke, she’ll laugh at the right times. This makes me proud but it also raises suspicions. Does anybody actually think I’m funny or are their laughs merely the result of social prompting?

Watching the growth of a child lends insight into the human condition. You can see how behaviors develop as well as how you can play a role in molding those behaviors. That’s a heavy role. I love seeing connections being made and new things being discovered. I love that look of discovery. We’ve got her trained to exhale a slow and slackjawed “wow” when she’s impressed with something, whether it is in response to guessing the correct hand of mine that’s hiding a toy, or the finding of a toy under a blanket. She is amazed by each. I want to encourage that love of discovery and that inquisitive nature.

But for now, I must go. She is straddling a plastic castle that is anything but load-bearing, humming her own tune while her mouth is clamped down on a rubber butterfly. Wait, no, she ditched the butterfly and now she’s gnawing on a wooden cylinder. She just sneezed and I’m on snot cleanup duty. That, and I just heard a toot and a grunt. You can guess what that means.


Categories: fatherhood

Six Month Reflections on Fatherhood

June 27, 2013 2 comments

It’s nearly been half a year since I’ve visited the ol’ blog here but I guess that’s one of the parts about being a new dad. There really isn’t a lot of time for much else.

Last we met, I was coming off a two week high of newborn-induced insanity and hallucinations. That was back when I still had waking dreams of baby-related activity. The last time the sleep-coddling happened, I was gently rocking my weeks-old daughter to sleep in an effort to calm her, holding her in my arms and swaying back and forth. I was doing this while on my side in the bed with the lights out, trying not to wake my wife. Several minutes of this went by before my wife woke up and asked me what I was doing, to which I promptly replied in a harsh whisper that I was rocking the baby to sleep. Duh. She then asked if I really had our girl in the bed and I thought, really? Do I have to prove it to you? When my wife said I was freaking her out I decided to flip on the night light and show her our beloved daughter in my arms. The light went on and I stared blankly at the pillow cradled in my arm. Then I stopped rocking. It was the pillow I was trying to soothe. My baby was sound asleep in her crib a few feet away.

But that was months ago. Since then, our baby girl has become amazingly adept at sleeping through the night, a skill which I never fathomed I would come to cherish so deeply. I sometimes fear that we’ve come to rely on it a little too much. We’ve been able to breath a sigh of relief once we put her down around 8:00 pm because she rarely wakes up during the night. I’ve been told by other parents that this is a trait sorely missed in many other babies, so we’re taking what we can get. If there ever is a baby #2, I have a feeling that the good and bad traits will somehow even out and I’ll be longing for those past nights of ease.

For the most part, I think our little girl has turned out to be relatively calm compared to some other babies I’ve been in contact with. She certainly has her moments – lately she has taken to freaking out inconsolably around the majority of my extended family – but for the most part, she’s easy to predict and soothe. And she’s so freaking happy most of the time that it just wipes all the cares of the day away.

Now that she’s a few months older, we’ve taken her out on a few mini-vacations just to prove to ourselves that we could. The first one involved a twelve hour journey to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where we tried to relax in our family’s cottage for a few days. It was ok and the major lesson we took back from that is the fact that our understanding of “vacation” has to undergo some drastic changes. We hoofed it back a day early because it seemed like the most relaxing vacation was to be at home, and we found it to hold some truth for the time being. And that’s a little painful. We love our travelling and have been itching to get out for a while, but for a few years I think our trips are probably better off short and close to home. That little tag-along is a lot of work.

Last weekend we went with some extended family up to Interlochen State Park and bummed around the Traverse City area. We camped in a tent and she did remarkably well. There was a little freak-out on Saturday after she had been up all day without a nap, but that’s only to be expected.

We’ve got an awesome daughter. I’m really digging this whole fatherhood thing. My life has many more peaks and valleys than it once did, and it seems like I barely get any time to myself, let alone time to write on a freaking blog, but goddamn is it awesome to have a little kid who lights up with smiles and laughs as soon as she sees your face.

Oh, and yea, I completed that Hobbes doll a few months back. Apparently I know how to crochet now, but it was worth it to build a toy for my baby-girl.

First time meeting Hobbes

First time meeting Hobbes



Categories: fatherhood

Two Weeks with a Newborn

January 21, 2013 Leave a comment

This endeavor of early parenthood is at once both sorely trying and utterly fulfilling. The mind runs through the full gamut of emotions in the blink of an eye, as this new life we have created, who was only moments earlier screaming questioningly to the gods about her very existence on this cold and dreary slab of rock, now slips off the breast into a sleepy revelry; one punctuated by small squeaks and twitches emanating from an otherwise unconscious and completely lifeless little rag-doll body. It is at this point, when the belly of my daughter is full and her meager appetite is satiated, that I find the whole of who I am to be complete in a way in which I have never experienced before. As I lift her delicate body and glimpse the slight scowl replacing the previously contented countenance and place that warm head against my chest, her arms hanging loosely at her side, when I feel her relax completely and melt into my skin, it is at this point that my whole world shifts and things that I once deemed important, or at the least worthwhile, drift away in the wind like the tiny motes of dust they are.

Time no longer has its characteristic continuity, the standard flow of cause and effect that I’ve grown accustomed to through long years of labored consciousness. A new baby is a mountain of potential wrapped in an untrained and flimsy body whose sole purpose in this early life is that of digestion and a means of alerting the caretakers to one of several potential discomforts. The baby knows nothing of time. She knows only that she is hungry and has but one way of communicating this fact to those ghastly large beings who supply her with food and torture her with frequent disrobing and diaper changes, who have the audacity to strip her naked and wipe her down with cold and damp cloths splashed with a slight floral fragrance that offers no apologies to this breach of her personal privacy.

Varying degrees of crying alert us to the amount of discomfort she may be feeling at any point in the day or night. We try to make sense of it, to commit it to a schedule or to understand its nature, but as the days and nights progress and bleed into each other, the only thing that comes close to describing this feeling of permanent and ragged wakefulness is the idea that life in its current incarnation exists and is maintained in something akin to a series of disjointed blinks of the eye. Those brief times when we are able to lay down in bed only to be awoken just prior to the onset of the much sought after state of REM sleep, when we suddenly find ourselves already hovering around the house with baby in hand, or fully coming to consciousness in the middle of a nearly completed diaper change, these are merely moments of fractured visions, of slightly diluted clarity, both after one blink and before the next, when time once again becomes unhinged and shifts and the experience of reality is shoved forward violently into the next moment of drowsy, eye-smacking delirium. This is parenthood in its early stages.


The alarm goes off again and I am jolted awake. No, that is no alarm. That’s a baby. That’s my baby. Her cries signify the onslaught of changing time once again, followed by the hand-off to mom for a light snack and a snooze.


I’m still awake? But it’s night-time and both mom and baby have long since drifted off after the most recent feeding. The transition between the alertness brought on by a baby’s cry and the attempt at one more dollop of slumber does not seem to be in the cards for now. This, I presume, I hope, will change as exhaustion becomes unbearable and I find myself jolted awake in some other facet of the day or night without any recollection as to how I arrived.


Some weeks ago, I happened upon a crochet pattern for a stuffed Hobbes tiger, the toy version of Calvin’s sidekick when viewed by adults. I make the audacious assumption that my daughter will absolutely love a stuffed Hobbes tiger and cherish it forever, though in reality, I understand that I may only be fulfilling a long dormant desire from my own childhood. Maybe I’m making it for myself. In the times between sleepings and feedings when I am unable to sleep yet confined to the house, I set out to learn how to crochet.


I hug my daughter close to my chest and pat her back to elicit a burp. Her second breakfast appears to have been quite substantial and she has taken on the air of one drunk on breast-milk. Her tiny body melts against my chest and I repudiate the notion of sleep so I can take advantage of the multitude of recently awakened feelings overwhelming my core being. We lay for hours in the reclining chair with her on my chest as a few streaks of tears dry against my cheek.


It’s diaper changing time once again and I am only milliseconds too slow. In the time between the wiping of the bottom and the application of the new diaper, I hear a faint and brief whooshing sound and, as my reflexes have been dulled by the lack of anything reminiscent of sleep, the sudden stream of fecal matter takes me by surprise. It sprays in a jet at least eighteen inches in length, nearly as long as the beloved baby girl from which it emanated. This changing time takes a little longer than usual as I sanitize several baby garments and the changing table/dresser combination. But eighteen inches? I’m not even mad. In fact, I’m impressed.


The dog is a tightly wound spring of potential energy, ready to burst at the seams in a frenzy of canine enthusiasm. She hasn’t been walked or let outside to frolic in days. I take her with me for a run on a warm winter morning. Afterward it becomes obvious that the run did nothing to degrade her exuberance. When we get back, she runs in tight, concentric circles in the backyard, reminding me of her continual need for release and lack thereof.


The sun is out and my daughter is awake and fully alert. Her eyes are wide and inquisitive, dark blue sapphires full of a searching curiosity, haunting orbs that I find overwhelmingly captivating and immersive. I lose myself in those wandering eyes, drowning in the life and potential they exhibit. Nora Jones sings a ballad on the radio and I take my daughter in my arms and dance slowly around the living room. I can’t remember a time in my life when the onset of my own tears so completely took away my ability to speak or to form even a single cogent syllable, whereby at any attempt of uttering just a single word, my body convulsed uncontrollably and unintelligibly. I now know such a thing is possible.


I find myself walking towards my wife as she nurses in the early hours of the morning carrying, in one hand, a glass of water and in another, a mini-sledgehammer. I give her the water as we both stare perplexedly at the hammer.


What better way to pass the unsleeping hours of the dark and early morning but to remove a door in the basement and use some power tools in the garage to install a cat flap so that the litterbox is removed to one of our underutilized storage rooms? At least now I know what the mini-sledgehammer was for.


I take a few minutes to swing by the library to find a book on beginner crochet techniques. The librarian tells me that I have a fifteen cent balance on my account from an overdue book. Only later, when I see the receipt left in between the pages of the crochet book, do I realize what had been overdue. It turns out to be Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The librarian didn’t even blink at this odd juxtaposition of crochet and National Socialism. What can I say? My interests are varied and know no bounds.


I’m out on the road again, running alongside several miles of dreary and cold farmland tainted with the sweet odor of recently thawed manure and less recently deceased roadkill, listening to the soothing voice of David Rakoff read through partially-autobiographical and whimsical essays in his book, Half Empty. If this blog entry seems overly drawn out or perhaps a bit dramatic, it is only because I am leaning on David as a crutch and cannot help but hear his voice as I type the words. Whether I have captured his wispy and meandering style is yet to be seen, but as I am barren of sleep and ultimately incapable of finding sleep when offered, I am only able to translate these feelings to the written word by imagining them in his voice.


Something of a routine has been developing for a few days, or for a short while we imagined so. We’ve heard the term cluster-feeding before and our daughter has decided that now is the time to introduce us to its cruel reality. A cluster feeding is defined as a series of nearly sequential nursing times initiated by a baby’s cry at that precise moment when the parents’ consciousness slips from wakefulness to slumber, thereby ensuring that the parents’ promise of sleep is never fully realized but only ever seen as an attainable goal one short feeding away. The beginning of a cluster feeding doesn’t necessarily have to happen during the night so long as it robs the parents of a cluster of naps.


And so on. These past two weeks of sleep deprivation have been heavenly. I was able to take a few weeks off of work so that I could spend the time with my burgeoning family and frankly, it’s not enough time. In the latter part of the pregnancy, some people were making it seem like two weeks would be overkill, that I would become overly bored and frustrated and would be wishing I was back at the office so that I could be out of earshot of a screaming baby and once again productive, at least in a business sense. My experience hasn’t played out like that. If anything, I wish I could spend more time here with my daughter. But alas, duty calls and in a few days, I will head back to the office, back to building websites that sell shoes, and building more things so that they can sell even more shoes, then fixing problems because shoes aren’t selling as quickly as shoes are expected to be sold, then trying to think of new and innovative ways to write software to sell even more shoes. So it goes. But now, in addition to coming home to my amazing wife, I have an equally amazing little girl to come home to who will make it all worthwhile.

PS – The crochet is coming along nicely. I now have two Hobbes’ legs. She is going to love the completed project, but until then, she has offered to model a few of these feline appendages.

RAWRRR!!! I'm a tiger!

RAWRRR!!! I’m a tiger!

I Fathered a Pooping Burrito

January 14, 2013 1 comment

We now have three nights under our belt at home with our newborn, and I think we’re becoming a little more comfortable with this whole prospect of parenthood. I’m no longer reeling in disbelief that the hospital staff trusted us enough to send us home unsupervised with a brand new human, and I’ve become hopelessly attached to this little sleeping bundle of digestive functions and rudimentary fine-motor skills.

She has become much more adept at the act of feeding, and while we had a thirty-six hour period of no bowel movements which was slightly worrying in itself, she has since become a pooping machine, and we’re pretty stoked to see that all of her digestive tract features are coming online and functioning properly. My skills at changing diapers have drastically increased since the first few clumsy changes where I took so long that the nurse was probably wondering if I had suffered severe head trauma in the recent past. We’re working our way through the disposable diapers given to us by the hospital but we’re going to try the whole cloth diaper thing here soon enough. My mother-in-law was kind enough to gift us with a diaper delivery service where someone picks up dirty cloth diapers and drops off clean ones on our doorstep weekly. Now that must be a shitty job (poop joke quota filled).

The first two nights, I stayed up for a few hours with the sleeping baby on my chest because, well, because it was amazing. Now that we’re getting to know her schedule and mood swings a little better, we’ve been able to hone in on feeding and sleeping times, and while we’re still woken abruptly at all hours of the night by a hungry baby, we know what to do to shut her up. Feed her.

And swaddle her. She likes being wrapped up like a little burrito. What would give most people claustrophobia gives babies a feeling of security. I learned this fun fact months before the birth, so I became adept at making burritos by swaddling the cat.

He hates me.

He hates me.

We’ve graciously had family and friends providing us with the occasional dinner who, in return, receive some cuddle time with our little girl. It’s a win-win situation, and it sure helps to have a few minutes where someone else can keep an eye on our little poop factory.

So, yea, things are going great so far. She seems to be generally content, only crying when she’s beyond hungry or when she has severely shat herself. She sleeps a lot, though she often falls asleep during feeding time, which is trying on my wife at times. But overall, she’s a happy little human. We’re learning a lot, more and more by the hour. I read a lot on parenthood during the last nine months, but much of it never really stuck because I had nothing to apply it to. Now that I’ve got her in my arms for hours at a time every day, it all seems to be falling into place.

I’ve got to go now. I just heard a juicy shart. Here’s hoping again that my diaper changing skills are not only fast but air-tight.

Categories: fatherhood

Well, That Was Awkward. She Almost Latched Onto My Nipple.

January 11, 2013 2 comments

Parenthood, here I am! We’re now home from the hospital with our brand new daughter. There were a few bumps along the way, but we made it through the delivery with a healthy and happy daughter and mom! The staff at Holland Hospital are simply amazing.

So far, our little daughter has been pretty laid back, only crying when being changed or swaddled or otherwise poked and prodded by the nurses and doctors violating her personal space. Once we got home, of course, she got to be a little more vocal as that desire to feed really kicked in. Cluster feeding has been the name of the game tonight, and Jen and I have just been taking turns, handing her back and forth and enjoying every minute of it.

So here I am at 3am with my little girl snoozing and twitching on my bare chest, squeaking and yawning every so often, and I gotta say, it’s one of the best feelings on the world. This whole skin to skin thing is supposed to be great for increased bonding and it’s working for me. Let’s just hope it’s tricking her into liking me too. Oxytocin is a hell of a drug.

The skin to skin times don’t come without their fair share of risks, though. I was chastising the dog after she stealthily snuck in and licked my daughter’s head and she took my moment of distraction as an opportunity to lunge at my nipple with a wide open mouth. I caught her just in time but, yeesh, that was a bit awkward.

We’re just getting our little family rolling here now, and our dog is quite fascinated by this new and tiny human. She’s very curious and a bit too licky for my tastes, but so far she is taking it all in stride. Even in my girl’s screaming fits, our dog is just more curious than anything. I thought she might get scared or stressed by a baby’s cries, but she seems to be genuinely interested and concerned about her new little sister. Our dog rocks.

So I guess I’ll end this post with what started out with the intention of being a cute family picture of our cat and dog watching over our little girl, but what turned into a rather creepy and portentous picture that I’m calling, “Fresh Meat”.


Any Day Now

December 31, 2012 2 comments

It’s the end of 2012, we’ve survived yet another apocalypse, and my baby daughter is a few days away from being born. Our due date is now only six days away, today is the 31st of December, and my wife hasn’t had any contractions yet, so I can probably kiss any chance of a 2012 tax-break baby bye bye. Oh well, we’re really just hoping she pops out healthy.

Since we don’t have a baby yet and my wife is off working this fine New Years’ Eve afternoon, I figured this would be a good day to grab a beer down at New Holland Brewing and run through my mental catalog of pre-baby preparedness while I still have the mental capacity of a childless adult. The crisp sense of sanity I feel now will soon fizzle out to a staticky stream of semi-consciousness as I try to raise another human being for the next eighteen years without screwing her life up beyond recognition.

So without further ado, here is what has been on my mind.

Pregnancy is a treacherous business. There are tons of unknowns and so many potential complications that it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend we’ve been doing this successfully for billions of years, since those first bacteria happened upon the notion that sharing RNA or DNA during reproduction gave their lines enough of a beneficial edge that they and their descendants kept the system going, humping each other into submission until they reproduced and evolved into my wife and I. I take a bit of pride in the fact that we’re now adding to that long, unbroken chain of movable matter. And I take pride in the fact that, unlike the majority of our predecessors, the sex was consensual and my wife’s and baby’s odds of surviving delivery are astronomically higher than at any point in our long history. Yay for science.

But it’s still a risky business. Since Jen’s introduction into nursedom, she has worked with babies. Her first four or so years were in the Neonatal ICU where she was well acquainted with a wide variety of ways that pregnancy and childbirth can go wrong, and often horribly wrong. With that background, we’ve been constantly expecting some sort of disaster with her own pregnancy, but at every turn, the doctors have been assuring us that the pregnancy is humming along just fine. One of the doctors called our pregnancy boring, but in the most polite way you can call the most momentous time of a couple’s life boring. His statement indicated that there was nothing atypical of our pregnancy, that things were progressing along smashingly and with no need for concern. It’s almost hard to believe it would be so smooth given my wife’s background as a nurse saving the lives of a countless number of premature or otherwise disturbed babies.

We’ve made it past the most risky developmental points so far, but the big day is just around the corner. It could be tonight. It could be next week, or longer. We’re about as prepared as I think we could be, but I’m sure that when it happens, I’ll feel entirely ill prepared for the task at hand. I think that’s because during the actual delivery, I’ll be reduced to the cheer leading section. That, in itself, terrifies me. I don’t think I’m a control freak, though some family and coworkers may tend to disagree – and if they do disagree, they’re wrong – but my ultimate uselessness during the delivery scares the shit out of me.

I have to be ok with surrendering not only the life of my offspring but the life of my wife to a small team of people whose job it is to pull babies out of women all day long. I don’t know about you, but I often get bored and distracted at work and don’t give it my all, especially when I’ve got to do something repetitive, and as much as I get stressed out by my job, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that a few people won’t be able to buy shoes online for a short amount of time. For someone working in the hospital, you’ve got freaking lives on your hand, day in and day out. You can’t get away with browsing Reddit while you’re supposed to be checking vitals or yanking a live baby out of somebody’s crotch. I know what it’s like to have a distracted day at work, and it scares me that the nurses and doctors are real people too who might not be all there on our delivery day. And then I remember that, this is my wife’s typical workday; she has the lives of real people in her hands on a daily basis and she has a level of focus I’ll never realize. These people know what they’re doing and the fact that they’re doing it routinely is a big plus. It will be better if I am relegated to the corner and given the tasks of cheer leading and feeding ice to my ailing wife because, in the end, I’m just a guy who programs computers and who used to get punched and kicked in the face for fun. The other folks in the room are there to do what I can’t, and I’ll have to let go and trust them to do their job.

Assuming all goes well, we’ll have a new daughter to tend to. We had another ultrasound a few weeks ago and I made them check again. Sure enough, we saw her downstairs again and she’s definitely a she. That’s cool. I was hoping for a daughter all along. Perhaps it’s the fact that I only had brothers growing up. Whatever it was, I thought having a little girl to care for would be awesome.

When my brother had a daughter several years ago, in one of my more unenlightened moments, I repeated to him a saying which I heard back in the days when I used to work on the old pickle farm: that, when you have a boy, you only have one dick to worry about, but when you have a girl, you have to worry about every dick in town. Yea, not one of my proudest moments, but back then, I was still on the edge of leaving Christianity, so you must excuse my momentary lapse into backwards and dick-waving, patriarchal thinking. It’s the community in which I was raised. Women were a second class citizen and our duty as penis-bearers was to make sure they were protected and lived a life of chastity. We were smug assholes who made them less fortunate so that we could assume the role of their care givers. It was like the Taliban except that we didn’t make the women wear full body trash bags, and beards were optional, though goatees were required.

I believe I’ve come a long way since then, and for the past year or so, I’ve been keenly attuned to the fact that we still live in a very male-dominated world which still pushes for an off-balance and puritanical society in which women are still expected to fill a different role that is lower than, and separate from that of men. And the pressure starts from a young age.

I’m finding that everything in this young girl world is plastered with Victoria’s Secret pink and laden with images of soulless Disney princesses. And this, the princess motif, is one I’m especially maddened by. We’ve already received several articles of clothing and bibs from baby showers with some variation on the theme, “Daddy’s little princess.” I take them in stride with a grateful smile, but in reality, I’m thinking, fuck that shit, and later on I secretly shrink those clothes beyond wearability in the dryer. I will not raise her as a princess nor ever think of her in that way. That’s the worst thing I could do for her. I’m not interested in raising a child whose worth is determined in any way by her outward appearance or by her adherence to some socially approved and marketed feminine behavior, nor will I encourage her to find other people to treat her as a delicate flower who needs things done for her. I will do everything I can to dissuade her from thinking that she needs to find a partner who treats her like a princess, because while those story-book romances may start off charming, they retain little of value when age sets in and plastic-surgery-princesses don’t quite meet the demands of their princely partners. I’m hoping we can give her a more grounded view of reality and of responsibility, a view of life in which she finds everything interesting and is on a constant quest to learn and experience more and to not be satisfied living a life that others want for her. A smiling princess in a solitary castle awaiting a knight, she will not be.

But of course, I’m sure she’ll play with little princess toys here and there, especially as she grows older and her friends are engulfed in the stagnant princess world. It may take her a few years to understand why dad thinks so lowly of that that worthless shell of a woman, that festering bitch, Cinderella, but I’m hoping the underlying concept will come across loud and clear: that I will love her for her and plan to raise her by encouraging who she is, not what others want her to be.

It’s an intimidating and overwhelming thing to ponder, this prospect of raising another human being. I’m going to be stumped at many a corner and looking to those with more experience more often than I realize right now. I’ve only had a few experiences where I’ve needed to discipline another living thing. One of them is ongoing and involves the constant discipline of my dog, but I hesitate to bring that sort of training to the table. We’ve got a dog with such a strong guilt complex that you would almost believe she were a Christian herself. All it takes to discipline her is a stern and disapproving look. Maybe that will help in my raising of a human puppy, but I doubt she’ll be able to subsist off of dog biscuits and pats on the head, as much as such things amuse me.

The only major extended experience I’ve had with children comes from the summer of 1997 when I graduated high school and decided my calling was to be a camp counselor at the Come-to-Jesus summer camp in mid-Michigan, Spring Hill, which serves a hefty dose of guilt-ridden fundamentalist Christianity to go along with an otherwise fun and carefree week at summer camp. I was a counselor for a summer whose main job was, first and foremost, to let kids know how super fun and exciting it was to be a slave of a lesser god, and other than that, just to get them through the day without losing one to a .22 round at the shooting range or from being trampled underneath one of the normally docile campground horses. I lost no kids to an untimely bodily death besides the mind-death of a conversion to fundamentalist Christianity, but as for the day to day business of mentoring a group of snot-nosed little punks? Holy shit was that job hard. I was a naive kid out of high school trying to act as a group of kids’ mother, father, pastor, coach, baby-sitter, teacher, big-brother, and wet-sleeping-bag changer. I didn’t know shit and had a bit of a mental breakdown a few weeks in. I managed to tough out the whole summer, but that experience firmly planted in my mind the fact that I’d probably be better suited towards a life that didn’t involve dealing with kids. At camp, they run rampant with no respect for authority or their counselor’s sanity. I’d be an idiot to believe that sort of mentality was left solely to the realm of summer camp. I realize that, as an upcoming parent, I’ve got a few cute years of cleaning piss and shit, then a few years being enamored at the rate of which they learn things, then a few short years where they still think I’m the bees’ knees, before they hit that adolescent realm where everything sucks and parents suck the hardest of all. Assuming we all make it through those crap-lousy years without strangling each other, maybe I’ll be able to count them as friends in their adult years, once they stop asking for my car and my money.

But that’s way off in the future. For now, I’ve only got the delivery of our little bundle of joy to worry about. The rest, I’m sure, will come with time. I no longer to pray to any gods, but if there are any labor and delivery staff reading this right now, know that at the end of a successful delivery, there will be a nice Costco cake in your future. I have yet to find a frosting that beats the creamy crack cocaine that Costco spreads on their cakes. If you’re able to yank that baby out of my wife safe and sound, there’s a big cake waiting for you at the other end, and if the prospect of a delicious cake isn’t motivating enough to bring our child out safe and sound, then your presence in the delivery room will only frighten me.

Come to think of it, I’m going to be cheer leading by my wife’s side the entire time we’re in the hospital. I won’t have time to pick up delicious cake and I’ll probably have to relegate that task to another extended family member. And so it begins. We’re about to enter a realm of inter-family dependence like we’ve never known. My wife and I have been happily cruising along these past few years with not a care in the world except for our dog and our still-unnamed cat. Once we have a successful humanoid spawn, I’m sure we’ll be relying on family like we haven’t since they changed our shitty diapers.

That in itself is going to take some getting used to. I value my independence, yet I know that during these first few years, we’ll be entirely dependent upon others. We live in an area where we’re no more than a half hour away from our parents and siblings, with the exception being my favorite brother who lives down in Pittsburgh. My other brother lives on the other side of Grand Rapids, but he’s only so-so. The real deal is down in Pittsburgh. We’re set on the parent/grandparent front, and they all seem to be pretty excited at the prospect of a little granddaughter to spoil. We’ll probably be dumping her little butt on them as much as we possibly can, and if you’re a family member reading this, know that there’s a Costco cake in it for you too if you play your cards right.

If you’ve read this blog before, or even if you’ve read a few paragraphs prior to this one, you know I’ve got a beef with pretty much all forms of religion. As such, I used to be concerned about how to handle the topic of religious indoctrination when it comes to my extended family’s wish to save my already-sinful child. I’m not too concerned about it any more. We’ve got a wide variety of beliefs in our local community of family. That is, it’s a wide variety of Protestant beliefs. It’s awesome, we’ve got mega-hipster-church goers, fundamentalist anti-gay members, a dozen different views on baptism hullabaloo, a whole slew of monotone Lutherans varying from quite liberal to down and dirty, chant-till-you-drop bell-ringers, and we’ve even got a guy dedicated to re-translating the New Testament by himself because no one has gotten it quite right before him. Outside our family, I’ve heard the neighbor kids arguing about the nature of their god and threatening the kid across the street with eternal damnation and hell-fire. And then there’s a couple atheists in my family like yours truly. Like I said, I used to worry about religious indoctrination because I have no doubt that many family members will want to save my damned kids from the fires of hell. Now I’m thinking they’re only going to shoot themselves in the foot. When you’ve got that many variations on a lousy theme, the kid’s going to quickly realize it’s all a bunch of made-up claptrap anyway. She’ll get little pressure from me except that I want her to talk to people about what they believe to hear it from their own lips.

The way I see it, I want to confuse the hell out of the girl. I want her to ask all sorts of people all sorts of questions. Confusion leads to pondering, which leads to a deeper understanding and much deeper experience than she would have gotten going to a fucking church and buying into the don’t-question-anything mantra they sell.

There will probably be a number of times where I’ve got a tendency to be a bit uptight about things, as much as I try to act like a cool parent. It’s our first child, so that much is inevitable. If we have a second, which is kind of the plan – two is a good number – we’ll probably be much more relaxed with that kid. So, if you’re that kid and you’re reading through you dad’s old blog posts, just know that you got off light compared to your older sister. It’s not that we intended to raise you differently, it’s just how things go. Take, for example, a few of the tables seated around me. One of them is a pair of couples with one infant in a child’s seat, and another table has a toddler that keeps wandering off around the bar. A waiter was setting down a few cocktails at the table near me with the infant seated at the table, the kid reached over and jostled the martini glass enough to spill a few drops and the parents more or less flipped out. And then, there’s the other family whose kid is just wandering around the bar looking at walls and tables while the parents keep an eye out for the child, only interfering with the exploration once the child has wandered into the next room and out of eyesight. I totally want to be a parent like the latter. If a kid reaches across the table and bumps a glass enough that some booze spills onto the little tyke’s arm, so what? It’s no reason to flip out and berate the waiter. It’s your fucking kid. Loosen up. Let them explore and make a few mistakes.

So if all goes well, our lovely daughter will be graduating from high school in eighteen years. If you’re keeping count, that would put her in the Class of 2031, give or take a year. And since we’ve had good luck with apocalypses so far these last few years, I’ll mention another that falls around the time of my daughters’ junior and senior year. The asteroid Apophis was, until recently, thought to have a good chance of hitting the earth in 2029. It is now better understood and poses less of a threat, but there is a very minor chance that it will pass through a certain point in space that will send it on a path to impact earth in 2036. It’s good to know we still have a number of ways for the world to end. By that time, my job as a parent will be mostly over and I can go retire in the Florida Keys to wait for the world to end. Here’s hoping we make it through a few more ends of the world. I’d kind of like to see what this parenting thing is all about.

Categories: fatherhood, pondering

PRK – 5 Years Later

November 20, 2012 71 comments

Today marks the fifth anniversary of having the outer layers of my eyes melted away, then zapped by lasers, only to heal again over the next three months into near perfect vision. Five years ago, I had PRK surgery and blogged about my experience.

It’s funny how you forget about all the little things you had to worry about before the surgery. The daily rituals of inserting and removing and cleaning contacts, the additional pain and effort involved when having a foreign object in your eye next to your contact, the way you couldn’t read the alarm clock at night without squinting or moving extra close, the way you were screwed if you lost a contact while skiing or after getting punched in the face at the boxing gym; I haven’t had to think about those things in years.

I haven’t been to the eye doctor since those last routine checkups in the months following the PRK surgery. At the time, my left eye was 20/20 and my right eye was slightly worse. This still holds true today, though if I really think about it and compare, it does seem like the right eye is worse now than it was back then. I haven’t done a vision test and I don’t plan on it; it just feels a little fuzzy and sometimes, only rarely, does it creep into my consciousness.

I have never had any problems with dry eyes. The halos slowly diminished over the months after the surgery. While I don’t think those halos are completely gone, they are very minimal and non-intrusive. I can look up at the stars at night without being bothered by, or even thinking about halos. That was one of the things that scared me most in the first year after my surgery – in the months following the operation, the night sky was a smudgy mess and the individual pinpricks of light were now splattered across my field of view, as if I was looking through a smudgy and wet windshield. No amount of blinking would make the stars clearer, but over time, the halos and smudginess diminished to the point of forgetfulness, and I could once again appreciate the night sky without being burdened by the thought that it might be forever skewed.

When I opted for PRK instead of LASIK, it was because I was in kickboxing and MMA and I dreaded the idea of getting the corneal flap left by LASIK torn off during a bout. It’s funny though – during my healing time, I happened to read a book called The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and realized that I was probably lucky not to have suffered any long term mental problems from getting routinely pummeled in the head during training and fights, and I should probably quit while I was ahead. That book discussed extreme cases of a variety of brain problems – not necessarily impact related – but it made me a lot more conscious about my own gray matter, and I realized I should probably try to save what I have left. Thus, I closed the chapter on my fighting life. Now I’m just a lover.

I’m very happy that I had the surgery. While I think my right eye may have degraded in visual acuity somewhat, it isn’t something that’s noticeable until I focus on it. And even then, perhaps it hasn’t even changed. I love being able to wake up with full sight, to see underwater, and to not be encumbered by glasses or contacts. I know the experience hasn’t been great for everyone, as evidenced by the large numbers of comments on this blog. It worked for me.

If I were to ever recommend PRK, I’d make sure to highlight a few things:

  1. Do your research. Learn about the procedure, the risks and complications, and the healing process. There are plenty of blogs like mine which describe the experience of different people. I was a patient for whom everything turned out just right. There are also a number of horror stories. Know your risks.
  2. Go to a few clinics and compare the doctors. Review them online. Make sure you trust them with one of your most important senses.
  3. Be persistent with your doctor. Have them explain the healing time and possible complications in detail. If they wave off complications or try to bully you into doing the procedure even though you’re not a perfect candidate, run.
  4. Be prepared for at least a month of barely being able to read text directly in front of your face, and for at least a three month time of very bad vision
  5. Try not to despair. It’s a long healing process and you’ll likely spend the first week of it incapacitated and blind, and in a good amount of pain. The next few months can be agonizing, but if all goes well, you’ll hopefully be in love with your new eyesight and in retrospect, you’ll realize it was all worth it.

In reading a lot of the comments posted here, it seems like there are a good number of fast-food style surgeons who care more about the number of people herded through the zappy laser machine than they care about them as individuals with a life to maintain. Perhaps it’s just a sample bias, in that those are the types of people more likely to complain. Regardless, be on the lookout for any McSurgeons who try to casually dismiss the healing process or the dangers inherent in so delicate a procedure.

I can’t stress that enough. If the surgeon downplays the healing time or the risks, or if they don’t dissuade you from the surgery after telling you you’re not an ideal candidate, avoid it at all costs. There are a lot of people out there for whom this procedure will work fine, but there are a number of people who can be permanently devastated by either a botched surgery, a botched recovery time, or because they were a more “risky” candidate. If you have consistently dry eyes or thin corneas, you don’t make a good candidate and it’s just something you’re going to have to accept, because the alternative of having screwed up eyesight permanently is much more depressing than having to put in contacts or wear glasses everyday.

In all, do your research and know the risks.

I’ve been extremely happy with my results, and I wish the same to anyone looking to improve their quality of life in this aspect. Good luck on your journey, and thanks for stopping by.

Categories: eyes