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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Will my daughter know what a dial tone is? Will she know what it’s like to hear a busy signal? Will she know what it sounds like when a landline phone rings? Will she ever have to write down a message and will I ever have to explain to her how to answer the phone when she’s home alone in such a way that strangers won’t know her parents’ whereabouts?

Will my daughter know what a record is? Will she ever be scolded for running or jumping near the record player, thus making the record skip? Will she even know what a record skip is? Will she ever listen to the radio for hours, hoping to hear her favorite song a few more times? Will she know what it’s like to fast forward or rewind a cassette, just to hear that one song she really likes?

Will my daughter know what it’s like to wait until the summer to catch the television episodes that she missed? Will she watch her favorite movie over and over again, until the VHS tape wears out? Will she experience looking forward to Saturday mornings, because that’s when all of the cartoons come on? Will she know what it’s like to manipulate the television antenna in order to receive one of the seven available channels clearly?

Will my daughter learn how to sign her name? Will her third-grade teacher force her class to write in cursive, spending copious hours on the proper way to write a script Q or a script Z? Will she know what it’s like to write in longhand until her right hand starts to hurt? Will she ever have to rewrite a one- or two-page essay by hand because of one or two mistakes or misspellings? Will she ever use a manual pencil sharpener? Will she and her classmates have to share the one computer sitting in the back of the classroom? Will she ever use correction fluid?

Will my daughter ever look something up in a hardcover encyclopedia? Will she spend countless hours sifting through books in the library trying to find that one piece of information that’s vital to her class project? Will she know what a card catalog or what the Dewey Decimal System is? Will she keep returning to the library to look things up in one of the reference books they won’t allow her to take home?

Will my daughter hurt herself on a seesaw or a metal swing? Will she hang from the top of the monkey bars, knowing any false moves could lead to broken limbs? Will she skin her knees on the playground’s uneven concrete? Will she ever ride a bicycle or ride roller skates without a helmet? Will she ever play a pickup game organized by she and her peers and without adult supervision?

Will my daughter get four quarters from a relative and think she’s wealthy beyond belief? Will she know what penny candy is? Will she be able to go to the store on her own, without being driven by an adult? Will she and her friends be shooed away from the store’s pay phone because they’re making prank calls?

My daughter will learn the importance of a good, solid handshake and the importance of looking people in the eye. She will know the importance of speaking up and the importance of having her voice heard. She will be taught to say “please” and “thank you” and “no thank you” at the appropriate times. She will learn to respect her elders, teachers and coaches, even when she disagrees with them. She will be allowed to settle her playground and schoolyard disputes on her own whenever possible. She will know that education is important and that her schoolwork comes first. She will have the value of reading impressed upon her. She will be encouraged to be acutely aware of her surroundings and to try and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. She will learn the importance of sharing and of valuing her fellow man and woman. She will be taught not to always judge a book by its cover. She will be forced to push herself intellectually and spiritually. She will be educated about serious issues like sex and drugs at the appropriate times and without words being minced. She will have several adult role models who will push and encourage her.

In many ways, my daughter’s childhood will be much different from mine. But, my hope is that her childhood will mirror mine in the most important ways.

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The moment a child is born, his or her parents learn the importance of being careful and the importance of protection. A newborn can’t hold its head up, so you must pay close attention to that head the first few months. You’re not supposed to put an infant to sleep on its stomach, we’re told, or death is more likely. In New York State, when my daughter was born, my now-wife and I were required to watch a 20-minute video warning of the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome, a video so sad and so graphic that I’m amazed I still have the wherewithal to shake a carton of orange juice.

Before I became a father, I used to hear parents say they look at tragedies involving children differently once they had kids. After learning about the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, I understand what those parents meant. I was literally sick to my stomach as I found out the details and, when President Barack Obama spoke about the shooting that afternoon while trying to stay composed, a tear rolled down my right cheek. Friday’s shootings brought out a lot of emotions in me and in many others. More than anything, we wanted to know what we could do to better protect our children. Not surprisingly, many focused on gun control and whether the incident in Newtown would finally lead to meaningful changes in our gun laws that would restrict ownership of certain firearms. I tend to be in favor of more gun control than we have now, but Friday’s shootings helped remind me how helpless I feel sometimes as a parent, a feeling that wouldn’t go away even if every gun on this earth were destroyed. Despite my best efforts to protect my daughter, there’s still a chance she could be harmed.

I think back to my own childhood and Mom’s insistence that I know my address, in case I got lost and/or needed to deal with the police. I was part of the first generation of children to be comprehensively educated about the dangers of drugs and the dangers of adults who may look to inflict irreparable damage on us mentally and physically. Mom loves to tell the story of she and Dad intentionally hiding from me in a busy part of Lincoln Center in New York City when I was a toddler, whereupon I freaked out because I thought I’d lost my parents forever. After that incident, I never strayed too far from her or Dad again, Mom says, which was their goal. My parents weren’t much different from most other parents, working hard to prevent me from being victimized by those who don’t have my best interests at heart. Thanks to my parents, I had a happy and healthy childhood free of serious trauma. I was able to be a kid.

Isn’t that what we ultimately want for our children, the chance for them to be kids without facing the stress or the difficulties adults face? Some of my fondest days with my 2 ½-year-old daughter are when she’s amused by the simplest pleasures, like building “skyscrapers” with her Legos or role-playing with her stuffed animals. It cracks me up whenever she gets excited at the prospect of eating Chicken McNuggets, her favorite, jumping up and down and yelling “Chicken Nuggets!” to the amusement of other McDonald’s patrons. My face lights up when I see my daughter bouncing in her car seat because I’ve pulled up at her favorite playground and she can’t wait to be unbuckled so she can go down the slide and soar in the swing.

Those kids who were at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown during the shooting may still continue to enjoy many of their favorite activities, but a part of their innocence is gone, their childhood changed forever. They now know what it’s like when a fire drill isn’t just a fire drill. Many of them now know what real gunfire sounds like, and some of them will always associate that sound with death. Those kids will grow up knowing that kids in their school were killed for no reason whatsoever and that, if things had turned out differently, they could’ve been killed too. Heck, I grew up in the big and bad Bronx and I didn’t know of any kids who were shot and killed when I was their age. Those kids will have a new principal soon, and they’ll know it wasn’t because their old principal retired or left for another school. They won’t, like most kids, automatically assume their school is safe or assume that every adult who enters their school can be trusted. The parents of the kids who survived will hug their kids tighter and be more protective than usual, at least for a little while, and the kids won’t understand why. Other than taking their life, the worst thing you can do to children is take away their innocence.

My daughter usually doesn’t mind holding my hand but, sometimes, she wants to break free and run or walk on her own. Sometimes, I allow her to let go but, most of the time, I wind up scolding her, because she wants to run free in a parking lot or on a busy street. You never let go of Daddy’s hand when cars are around, I explain to her. I’m not sure she understands. I will hold her hand until she knows to look both ways when crossing the street, until she knows to always follow traffic signals, until she knows to always be on the lookout for cars in parking lots and on narrow streets without sidewalks. And, even then, that may not be enough.

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The Perfect Ponytail

The first time I tried to comb my daughter’s hair was a disaster. She was less than a year old and, while she had a lot of hair, it was still patchy and hadn’t completely filled in. My combing led to her hair becoming even poofier than it already was, exposing all of her patchy spots. I got better at combing my daughter’s hair as she got older, in part because her hair filled in and in part because I gained more experience. But, it was tough to master the ponytail; whenever I tried to make one, I would either get the hair tie tangled in her hair or leave too many loose hairs uncombed, making her hair look frizzy.

If I had a son, things would be easier. I understand boys. After all, I was a boy. I know how to comb a boy’s hair. I can take him to the barber shop, like my dad took me when I was a boy. Dealing with my daughter’s hair is just one of many things I never even gave a second thought before I fathered a girl.

Two things I did think about while my then-girlfriend, now-wife was expecting were pink and princesses. I have no problem with my daughter wearing pink, but I don’t want her to wear pink all the time or to have an inordinate amount of pink-colored items; just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean everything has to be pink, just like boys don’t have to be festooned in blue. I refuse to get her any pink sports apparel. As a sports fan, it’s hard to take women wearing pink jerseys and pink logoed stuff seriously; a woman can be a sports fan and still be feminine without resorting to donning pink.

When I was single, I was always wary of women who called themselves princesses and/or were into princess imagery; in my experience, women obsessed with being a princess were usually high maintenance. My daughter doesn’t need to think of herself as a princess in order to have high standards for herself and for how others treat her. Also, I refused to get her anything that said “Daddy’s Little Princess”, “Daddy’s Little Girl” or any variation thereof. While it’s important to me that I’m a good role model for my daughter, I don’t want her growing up and thinking that I am the only man who will ever make her happy or that she will always be a little girl. Perhaps I’m paranoid about the princess and little girl stuff, but I don’t want my daughter’s self image and self worth to be defined by unrealistic and idealistic expectations. I’m raising my daughter to be a young lady, not a little girl.

As she gets older, my daughter is starting to scream more, and not just when she’s upset. She screams when she’s excited or happy. Once, my daughter let loose with one of her high-pitched screams right by my ear; I thought my eardrum was going to burst. It’s hard to tell my daughter’s excited/happy scream from her frightened/life is being threatened scream. Boys only seem to scream when they’re in trouble, but girls apparently scream all the time; I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.

There are certain things regarding my daughter that I leave to my wife; I stay away from picking out headbands, bows or barrettes, for example. But, I don’t want to leave everything to my wife just because she and our child are the same gender. I’ve never been a big fan of shopping – for myself, or for others – but, for some reason, I’ve enjoyed shopping for my daughter. I often buy my daughter clothes and I like choosing outfits for her to wear.  I never paid attention to children’s clothes, let alone girls’ clothes, before I became a father. However, shopping for my daughter is fun. Before fatherhood, I never thought I would use the words “shopping” and “fun” in the same sentence.

A few weeks ago, I combed my daughter’s hair and she didn’t cry, like she usually does. Instead, my daughter held a corner of her white blanket up to her nose as I sprayed apple-scented detangler onto her curls and carefully ran the black comb through her brown hair. After removing all of the tangles, I transferred the black hair tie from the four fingers on my left hand and into my right palm. I grabbed at the loose strands of her hair, combing them into my cupped left hand. I expanded the hair tie by using all five fingers and put it over the hair I was holding in left hand, studiously twisting and wrapping the tie around the sliver of hair twice. I moved my hands out of the way to inspect my handiwork. I’d finally put my daughter’s hair into a decent-looking ponytail! It wasn’t as good as the ponytails my wife makes, but it was pretty darn close.

I might be cut out to raise a daughter after all.

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“Ma, please don’t call me Dobie.”

I was 16 years old when I uttered those words. I’d spent that summer working at New York City’s Central Park and the not-for-profit organization that employed me and dozens of other teenagers had a lunch in our honor at Tavern on the Green, the posh restaurant on the park’s edge. We were allowed to invite our parents to the event, so of course I invited Mom. But, I didn’t want her to embarrass me in front of my peers by calling me anything other than Robert.

Mom never called me Robert. Ever. I was a newborn when I got the nickname Dobie, thanks to a television show that went off the air nearly 16 years before I was born. Apparently,The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis had a profound impact on Dad. Legend has it that I did something as an infant that mildly annoyed him, leading Dad to utter “Dobie my son, Dobie my son”; that phrase was often repeated by the father of the show’s title character after one of Dobie Gillis’s many misadventures. After that, my parents, who had been looking for a nickname to give me – in part because my father, Robert Jr., was better known as “Rocky” and my grandfather, Robert Sr., answered to “Big Bob” – immediately seized on Dobie. It didn’t take long for Dobie to catch on with the rest of my family. The only holdouts were my maternal grandparents, who weren’t huge proponents of nicknames; they never called me anything other than Robert. Dad took his love for Dobie Gillis even further when he named our cat Zelda, the name of one of Dobie’s best friends on the show.

I was about four or five years old when I began to understand that my given name was Robert and that Dobie was my nickname. I thought having a nickname was really cool; no one else has a nickname, I thought. My bubble burst one day in first grade when my teacher, Mrs. Hines, asked the class how many of us had nicknames and more than half the kids in the room raised their hand. I was crestfallen. However, none of my classmates knew my nickname; I was always known as Robert in school and by anyone who wasn’t family or a friend of the family.

As I grew into an image-conscious preteen, I became hyper aware of when and where Dobie was used. My friends would call me at home and wonder what Mom was shouting to get me to come to the phone, but I played dumb. A few of my friends knew my nickname, but only the handful I knew I could trust not to use it against me; any fodder for schoolyard insults had to be kept close to the vest. I also realized I liked being called Rob, but I never grew fond of Bob or Bobby; Mom didn’t like Rob; I didn’t name you that, she would tell me.

Concerns about my nickname lasted into my teenage years, culminating in my directive to Mom not to call me Dobie in front of my peers at Tavern on the Green. Mom, being the wonderful and understanding mother that she is, obliged. The entire afternoon, Mom called me Robert. And, as I ate chicken with a knife and a fork for the first time, I realized how strange it was to hear Mom call me something other than Dobie; it was as if a different person who happened to sound just like Mom was calling my name. And, that’s when I realized it was fruitless to try and push Dobie aside.

Ever since, I’ve embraced Dobie. Most of my friends – especially the ones who’ve met Mom – know that’s my family nickname. I stopped worrying about the potential insults and barbs caused by my nickname, although it’s made clear to all that only a select few can call me something other than Robert or Rob. I enjoy telling the story of how I got my nickname; I’ve even watched parts of Dobie Gillis episodes on YouTube.

Nowadays, a handful of relatives and family friends call me Robert, rather than Dobie, reasoning that a grown man shouldn’t be called by his childhood nickname. However, neither Mom nor Dad calls me anything other than Dobie. And I would never ask them to.

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I learned how to drive from my father. When I was six years old, Dad got married and moved from Queens to Maryland, outside of Washington DC, where his new wife lived with her two children. I lived with Mom in the Bronx, so Dad purchased a 1985 Renault Alliance to make the eight-hour, round-trip drive. I was an only child who got to spend plenty of time with Mom and, when I’d go to Maryland, I had to share Dad with his wife, my step-siblings and, later, my half-sister, so those drives along the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 95 were the only times I had Dad all to myself. He called me his co-pilot and, in between stories about his career in the music business and about my grandfather, who died before I was old enough to remember him, he would explain the basics of driving to me. But, I learned more about how to drive just by watching Dad. He was never the fastest guy on the road, and was always within 10-15 miles per hour of the speed limit; not once did he get pulled over by the police in all of the hours we spent in the car together. Dad was always in control behind the wheel; rarely was he flustered or surprised by what he saw. Sometimes, Dad would get upset about what another driver was doing, but he rarely cursed or raised his voice, usually resorting to sarcastic retorts that became funnier to me as I got older.

As the years passed, Dad moved to New Jersey, got divorced, moved to Manhattan, moved to Brooklyn, and remarried. But, our time together in the car was constant. Dad was very analytical about driving, especially driving in New York City. I knew to be quiet when the traffic report came on the AM news station, always on the eights – Dad would plan his route based on that report – lest I be shushed. He would plan his days around New York City’s nefarious alternate-side parking regulations, ensuring that he always got a coveted parallel-parking spot within a block of his residence. Dad would brag about his parallel-parking skills and his peripheral vision, claiming he developed the latter during his years as a high school and junior college point guard. He started talking about me learning to drive someday, but I didn’t share his eagerness. Dad mentioned taking me out to the eastern end of Long Island, where my grandmother lived, and letting me drive on rarely traveled roads and in empty lots, but that plan never came to fruition; it probably would’ve happened had I pressed the issue.

When I turned 18, I decided I wanted to learn how to drive. New York City, with its endless public transportation options and hazardous driving conditions, doesn’t allow residents to get their learner’s permit until they’re 18 – 16-year-olds are allowed to get their permit everywhere else in New York State and everywhere else in the United States. I figured I’d learn how to drive over the summer, after my senior year of high school ended in mid June and before I enrolled at Syracuse University in late August. In Syracuse, New York, where the public transit options aren’t as plentiful, having my license would be beneficial, I reasoned.

I signed up for lessons with a driving school that was run by Hector, an elderly Latino man, and his wife. I told him I wanted to take my road test before I enrolled at Syracuse. He told me I was better off waiting until the fall, but I was steadfast and he promised to accommodate me. Hector was impressed that I knew a lot of the driving basics, but I felt uneasy. My lessons went okay and I didn’t make any critical errors, but I never felt comfortable. I figured I’d get more acclimated the more I drove, but I didn’t make any effort to drive outside of those lessons. Mom, who’d gotten her driver’s license in her 30s, had purchased her first car a few years prior, but I was reluctant to ask her to let me drive.

I was expecting to take my road test in late August but, after a few weeks of lessons, Hector told me he’d gotten me a road test appointment in mid July. Everything seemed rushed, but I figured I’d be able to pass a road test; how hard could it be?

After waiting in a long line of cars for about an hour, my turn came. A middle-aged black woman with curly hair, long nails and a clipboard replaced Hector in the passenger’s seat. She instructed me to drive to the next intersection.

“You’re too far away from the parked cars,” she said.

What is she talking about? I thought. If I drive any closer to the cars by the curb I’ll hit them. She asked me to perform a driving maneuver – I’ve since forgotten what that maneuver was – but I didn’t perform that maneuver to her satisfaction and it led to an argument between me and the woman whose job it was to determine whether or not I was a good enough driver to get a New York State driver’s license. Right after the brief tussle, it was over.

“Make a u-turn and go back to where we started, if you can do that,” she said, her voice dripping with exasperation and sarcasm.

Hector was waiting. He knew I was done too quickly to have passed. Off I went to college, without a driver’s license.

I didn’t even attempt to drive again until the summer after my junior year at Syracuse. I signed up for lessons at a different driving school and, as soon as I sat in the car for my first lesson, I immediately felt at ease. I was ready. Mom has never been crazy about driving, so it didn’t take much prodding for me to get her to hand the keys to her 1995 Toyota Corolla over to me. Mom let me drive everywhere that summer, and I loved it; when we went away for a family reunion, she even let me drive the rental car. Mom helped me become a better driver, but I found myself channeling Dad, especially when I found myself making sarcastic comments about the poor driving habits of others on the road. Because of all the practice I was getting, my hour-long driving lessons were a breeze.

Instead of trying to squeeze my road test in at the end of the summer, I scheduled one for a Friday in the fall, making arrangements to travel from Syracuse to the Bronx for that weekend. I wasn’t nervous as I watched the line of cars inch forward and, when it was my turn, I was at ease. It was cloudy that day, but the bald, goateed man administering my test wore sunglasses. I handled my right turn, left turn and broken u-turn with ease. When I was asked to park, I did so expertly, even though I knew I was a couple of feet away from the curb, since I was always told hitting the curb leads to automatic failure (I didn’t know if that was true, but I wasn’t about to find out the hard way). When I was done, I barely listened to what the test administrator had to say, because I knew I passed.

While I was in college, Dad had a stroke which, among other things, weakened his right side and affected his vaunted peripheral vision. Dad and his wife got rid of their car, but took Dad a few years to come to grips with the fact he would no longer be able to drive. Several months after I got my license, Dad rented a car so we could drive to Virginia to see my sister. The 14-hour round-trip drive brought back memories of the many drives Dad and I took to Maryland, except Dad was now the co-pilot. Near the end of our drive back to New York City, Dad said something I’ll never forget.

“You drive like me.”

I smiled. I knew exactly what he meant, even though I don’t brag about my peripheral vision. However, I am an excellent parallel parker.

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I vividly remember my 10th birthday, on June 7th, 1989. Mom got me a New York Mets jacket, one of those shiny, satin-like jackets that were popular back then. I proudly wore the jacket with my Mets hat on what was a rainy Wednesday. My mom got me a birthday cake, complete with a “1” and a “0” candle. I was thrilled that my age had finally reached double digits. Mom spoke in awe to her friends about being a mother for a decade.

It’s the last time I can remember being excited about my birthday.

For the first 10 years of my life, every June 7th, I felt different than I did any other day of the year. I was always very antsy in the days leading up to my birthday and felt a letdown after my day passed. I usually had to go to school on my birthday, so I got to spend an entire day being feted by classmates and teachers, followed by cake and gifts from my parents once I got home.

I know birthdays are more exciting for children than they are for adults but, nowadays, my birthday might as well be another day. Mind you, I’ve never been one of those people who laments that I’m closer to old age and death with each passing year. I don’t mind getting older and am proud of the fact that I’ve lived 33 years and I’m looking forward to being on this earth for as long as possible. I cherish every year that goes by and I try not to take growing older for granted. But, I’m not into much of the birthday fanfare. I’m not big on receiving presents and I don’t even want as much as a cake. The last birthday I remember having a cake for was my 21st; Mom got me an ice-cream cake and I was annoyed that she even bothered. I don’t even remember much about my 21st birthday, and it’s not because I got ridiculously drunk to celebrate the fact I could finally get ridiculously drunk legally. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I drank much at all for my 21st; I believe I went to dinner with a woman I was seeing at the time. At least that’s what I think I did. My 18th birthday is even less memorable – I have no recollection of it at all; I couldn’t tell you what I did or what gifts I got. I think it fell on a Saturday. The last time I had a party on my birthday, I was six – the party was held in my kindergarten class – but the lack of a party is my choice. People have offered to throw me birthday parties in the past, but I’m content with a quiet evening at home or with drinking craft beers in moderation at a no-frills bar.

My birthday apathy has grown over the last decade, which I’ve spent covering baseball. There is always a game on my birthday; this year was the first in which my birthday fell on an off-day. But, usually, I’m calling or covering a game somewhere. My 24th birthday was spent in Chillicothe, Ohio, where an evening calling a minor league baseball game was followed by a long wait for a much needed, late-night meal at an understaffed Steak ‘n Shake, the only restaurant in Chillicothe that was open at that late hour. Part of my 26th birthday involved me trying to convince the players on the team I was covering that I had no desire to sing karaoke in the first-floor bar of the Ramada Inn we were staying at in Altoona, Pennsylvania. They didn’t believe me and submitted a country song in my name anyway; fortunately, I’d left the bar by the time my name was called. Birthday #28 featured me calling a 14-inning, five-hour game in Trenton, New Jersey, followed by a four-hour bus ride overnight to Norwich, Connecticut, where we had a game the following evening. My 30th birthday came less than three months after I moved to Kansas City and, after covering a day game that Sunday, I spent the evening alone in my apartment, watching movies on my laptop.

My apathy reached new levels for my 31st birthday. I was in Binghamton, New York, where my girlfriend was preparing to deliver our daughter, who was scheduled to enter the world at any moment. Mom came to visit and handed me a card. At first, I wondered why Mom was giving me a card until I remembered that it was my birthday; I’d been so preoccupied with my child’s impending arrival, I’d forgotten what day it was. As it turned out, my daughter was in no hurry to emerge; labor was induced two days later and she was born June 10th. If she’d been born 18 minutes later, her birthday would’ve been June 11th; apparently my daughter was as nonplussed with her birthday as her dad is with his own.

Yesterday, my daughter turned two. My girlfriend baked her a cake with chocolate frosting and wrote our daughter’s name on it. My daughter was still finishing her spaghetti when I slipped quietly into the kitchen and lit the two candles my girlfriend had placed on the cake. I excitedly instructed my girlfriend to turn off the lights and to follow my lead. We started singing “Happy Birthday” as I carried the gray, metal pan holding the cake toward the dining room table. My daughter still doesn’t quite understand what it means to have a birthday, but she understood enough to smile. I tried to show her how to blow out the candles; I wound up blowing them out, of course, but she spent the next two minutes blowing on the cake. I carved a small slice from the lower left corner for my daughter, which she devoured quickly before asking for “more cake” and I was happy to oblige. I tried to explain to my daughter that she’s now two years old, holding up two fingers; she would repeat “two” but stared at her fingers quizzically. After finishing her second slice of cake and getting chocolate frosting all over her face, my daughter spent the rest of the evening quietly singing “Happy birthday to you” to herself.

It was the most delightful birthday I’ve ever experienced.

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The whimper was sporadic and unmistakable. It was soft, and coming from my daughter’s room next door, but enough to wake me out of a deep, restful sleep. I could tell from the whimper’s sound that she likely changed positions in her crib, lost the warm cover of her blankets and was cold; putting the blankets back on top of her would stop the whimpering. Now, instead of a restful sleep, I felt paralyzed, my legs and arms stiff as a board under the brown comforter. My girlfriend, resting next to me, wasn’t budging either, so I knew I was going to have to be the one to stop the whimpering. Once I bent my right knee and placed my foot on the carpet, all of my other joints and muscles sprang to life, and I slid out of bed, slid into a pair of sweatpants and sauntered into my daughter’s room. She was huddled in a corner of her crib, still asleep, but whimpering nonetheless. Of course, she was lying atop both blankets, but I long ago mastered the art of pulling the blankets out from underneath my daughter without alarming her. I gently placed both blankets on top of her, softly closed her room door and shuffled back to the master bedroom, sliding the sweatpants off and sliding back under the covers. The apartment was silent. My girlfriend hadn’t moved an inch. I was wide awake.

*          *          *

I don’t know if everyone goes through phases of sleep, but I certainly did. As a youngster, I took a bath at 8:30 pm and went to bed at 9. Sometimes, if Mom was talking on the phone, I would stay in the bathtub for as long as possible, until every inch of my skin was wrinkled; then I would go to bed at 9:15, 9:30 or – gasp – 9:45! That bedtime gradually moved to 10 pm by the time I was in middle school.

Once I got to high school, Mom stopped mandating a specific bedtime and, once I realized this, I took advantage. If the New York Mets were playing on the West Coast, I’d stay up and watch or listen to the game until the sixth or seventh inning. Channel 11 showed repeats of The Odd Couple at midnight and I tried to watch every one; sometimes, I’d stay up long enough to watch The Honeymooners reruns Channel 11 aired at 12:30 am. I started having trouble staying awake at school and I’d be exhausted by the time I got home, leading to a lengthy early-evening nap – from which I usually awoke with drool all over my face and on whatever textbook I happened to pass out on – which led to me not being able to go to bed at a decent hour and staying up late, restarting the cycle.

In 10th grade, I discovered power naps; I’d set the timer on my digital Timex Triathalon watch for 20 minutes, ensuring that my after-school naps wouldn’t take too much away from my evening sack time. I also realized I couldn’t stay up all night and expect to be productive the next day; I needed seven or eight hours of sleep. So, I began going to bed at 11:30, after watching the sportscasts on the local 11 o’clock newscasts on Channel 2, Channel 4 and Channel 7 (I knew exactly what time each sportscast aired every night and, since we didn’t have cable, it was the only way I could see highlights from my favorite teams’ games). Not surprisingly, my daily productivity and energy level increased.

By the time I got to adulthood, I was able to get seven or eight hours of sleep nearly every night. Working in baseball meant I had many late nights, but many late mornings as well; I rarely awoke before 9 am unless I had to; sometimes, I’d be up by 9, but would lay in bed for another 30-45 minutes, fiddling on my laptop or on my phone. And, if I got tired during the day, I was usually able to take a quick nap; I no longer needed a timer, as my body had been conditioned to wake up from a nap after 20 or 30 minutes elapsed.

Then, I became a parent.

I was in the delivery room when my daughter was born but, for a variety of reasons, we didn’t live in the same home until she was about one and a half months old. As a result, I missed most of the stretch in which my daughter woke up every couple of hours in the middle of the night; she started sleeping through the night shortly after she was two months old. Nevertheless, being a parent completely changed how I sleep. For one, it wasn’t easy to get my daughter to sleep through the night and, even after she started doing so, she didn’t always go to sleep right away, sometimes crying for nearly an hour. My girlfriend and I were both new parents, but we understood we needed to stay strong and that, save for occasional trips into her bedroom to try and soothe our daughter, we needed to go through this in order to ensure our daughter went to bed with ease as she got older.

Even once my daughter started sleeping through the night, I found myself not sleeping as well. When you have an infant, even the slightest sounds can disrupt a restful sleep. Was that my daughter that I just heard? Is she okay? Should I go check on her? And, on the infrequent occasions in which she would wake up in the middle of the night, I had difficulty getting back to sleep even after my daughter was consoled by me or my girlfriend because there was the worry that she was still unhappy and would start crying once again. Being a father changed my sleeping habits but, more than anything, it changed my wake-up habits. No longer could I sleep until 9 am after a late evening; even if my girlfriend is the one who’d get our daughter out of her crib and get her ready for the day, it’s still difficult for me to sleep in.

My daughter’s almost 20 months old now and sleeps fairly soundly at night. She usually goes to bed at 8 pm and, when my daughter does wake up, it’s usually easy to fix whatever disrupted her; she’s either hot, cold or congested. And, once the problem is solved, she usually goes back to sleep quickly. My daughter’s generally awake by 8 am, meaning I have to be awake then as well. My years of power nap experience has come in handy – I get reenergized when I doze off while she’s napping or while she’s watching television. Sometimes, my daughter helps me push through tiredness; I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking Daddy is always too tired to interact with her, so I try to never be too exhausted to at least talk to my daughter.

I’ve grown to accept my days of sleeping in are over, at least for the foreseeable future. While I do miss sleeping in, I love being a dad. And, changing my sleeping habits because of my daughter seems to be as good of a reason as any; I certainly wouldn’t change those habits for anything or anyone else.

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