Category: Dads

93 Days Dads Daughters Family Life NICU Prematurity

10 Years Ago, Yesterday

Yesterday, 10 years ago, was the worst day of my life.

It was also Ava & Zoe’s 10th birthday which, granted, implores a more thorough explanation before the Facebook mamas schedule an event after “coffee Tuesdays” to have me lynched.

What exactly happened 10 years ago is something that I will endure forever, but that being said, even 10 years later, I continue to live with the consequences of that day.

I had a hard time yesterday; I tried to write about it, I tried to post online about it, and I tried to dig deep and find my patience for the special day.

I fell short of my self-imposed demand of pseudo-perfection.

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Life is hard. Parenting is harder. And when you mix in the challenges that some kids live with each day (of all kinds and extents), it not only affects them, but it can, and often does paralyze the entire family.

At least temporarily.  We find comfort in that “tomorrow is always another day” when we can try again.

The innate problem with that resolve, reluctantly, is that we don’t have an infinite bucket of tomorrows. We can’t just repeatedly chalk it up as a bad day. We have to find strategies and alternatives to help our kids be successful in the things that move all of us – the passions that make us who we are and give us purpose in life. Otherwise, what’s the point?

In particular, Zoe had a rough day yesterday. Her extreme frustration with the mundane and ordinary is hard to comprehend. As a “normally” adjusted adult, it baffles me and in return, my own frustration elevates and nothing constructive comes from our collective meltdown. That doesn’t mean either of our feelings are any less valid, but it does present a problem and requires a gargantuan level of patience for which I do not typically have reserves.

Some believe it’s often best to remove emotion from these situations and approach it more objectively. That often works in business and other aspects of my life but, on a personal level, it goes against the very fabric of my existence. I wear my heart on my shoulder; I make no excuses for it and am grateful for being able to access that part of my soul as I know it’s so very hard for many people.

Emotion, for me, is the *food of life*. It makes us human and to take that away defeats the purpose of connecting to one another, to our world, and most importantly, to ourselves on a higher, more intimate level.

I guess the point is that we cannot mask our emotions or feelings, however absurd others may think they are. Rather, we should own them, understand where they come from, and find ways to embrace and channel that passion into something purposeful and meaningful instead of letting them escalate, unbridled until they become the cog in our lives that keeps us from becoming, *awesome*.

We all need to find ways to to celebrate who we are  even if we don’t know who that is just yet.

For the past 10 years, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve been trying to play the fit the square peg in a round hole game. I’m learning, albeit excruciatingly slowly, that I need to play a different game altogether.

The game I learned as a kid is not the same game they play. Together, we need to learn, and accept, a lot of things about each other:

  • that the rules are different
  • that there are no rules
  • that they don’t always know the “why”
  • that their feelings don’t have to make sense to me
  • that their feelings don’t have to make sense to them
  • that they want to be happy but sometimes don’t know how
  • that I am the center of their world and that is a gift, not a right
  • that they are never going to be who I thought they should be, or think, or feel
  • that they are their own imperfect versions of themselves
  • that they don’t have to do things my way
  • that they have choices
  • that they are smart, funny, beautiful
  • that ***what they have to say is important***
  • that I have time for them
  • that I will protect them
  • that I am *trying* to help
  • that I need to be more patient
  • that my primary job is to be their Dad and not their friend
  • that I’m not trying to make their lives more difficult but rather make it easier
  • that I don’t understand sometimes
  • that we don’t have to always agree
  • that you don’t always have to understand your feelings
  • that it’s ok to be frustrated
  • that it’s ok to be sad and not really know why
  • that it’s ok to want to be alone sometimes
  • that it’s ok to ask for help
  • that you don’t have to be good at everything
  • that you don’t need to learn how to ride a bike
  • that you are entitled to your own space – physically and emotionally
  • that what you feel is valid, good, and important
  • that Daddy makes mistakes too
  • that you can do anything you want in life
  • and that I’m imperfect and that’s ok too.

Yesterday, 10 years ago, was one of *the best days of my life. In an instant, you gave my life more purpose and meaning than I could have ever imagined. And each and every day since, you have pushed me to think and learn *differently*, love more, and become a better Dad and a better person.

Embrace who you are, own your emotions, and never, ever forget, that you are, and always will be the center of my world.

Happy Birthday.

A Moment In Time Coming of Age Dads Parenting Sons

Winter Stars

10298900_10152461131596349_2506598118229131661_nWhen I got home last night, the kids were already in bed. It was about 8:30pm and Val told me that she thought Connor was still awake so I headed upstairs to check and hopefully be able to say good night.

I walked into his darkened room quietly so as to not wake him if he were in fact asleep.

“Hi Daddy.”

“Hi Buddy. Why are you still awake?”

“Sometimes when you aren’t home I have a hard time falling asleep.”

“Well I’m here now so it’s time to hit the sack my little friend.”

He protested mildly with “But it’s so hot in here.”

It was pretty warm outside so his room was a sweatbox. He’s the type of kid who’s always hot even if it’s 62 degrees in his room.

“Why don’t we open the windows for a few minutes and look at the stars?” I offered.

He jumped out of bed and knelt on the floor next to me. We opened the window and rested our crossed arms on the windowsill with our heads poking out into the night sky.

It was very quiet.

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“Look at all those stars Daddy. How many are there?

“A lot. But see that one there? The really bright one? Notice how it doesn’t twinkle? That’s because it’s a planet!! “

“Wow! Really? So I just saw a planet?”

“Yup, you did.”

There was a long pause as we both stared up at the stars from the window of his second story bedroom window. He eventually rested his head against my shoulder.

“Look at that star Daddy!! It’s blinking blue!”

“That’s an airplane Connor.”

He laughed heartily.

“I wish I had a flashlight right now so I could shine it up to the sky. A flashlight that had wings and could fly up to the stars! That would be so cool.”

“That would be cool. When I was a kid, I always had a flashlight next to my bed just like you do, although it didn’t have wings. But when you wake up in the morning you’ll be 6 years old! Maybe you’ll get a new flashlight as a present.

“Grandpa Bob is getting me a wheel barrow.”

“Oh, ok.”

We sat in silence for several minutes staring at the winter sky and Connor’s head resting against my shoulder now with his arm entwined with mine.

“I love you Daddy.”

“I love you too buddy. Happy almost birthday.”

Giggle

“Tickle Fight!!” he exclaimed.

“Tomorrow buddy. Tomorrow when you’re 6.”

“Is tomorrow a Dude Day?” He asked excitedly.

“No, tomorrow is a school day but it’s also your birthday!!”

“Ok, good night Daddy.”

“Good night Connor. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Dads Parenting Relationships Top Posts Twins

46 things I wish I knew as an expectant father

When I first became a dad, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing or what I was in for. In fact, there are some who would argue I’m not in a better place now after 7 1/2 years either but that’s another story altogether and for another time.

Having your first child (or children in my case) is as overwhelming as it is exciting. There is no rule or instruction book that comes with each baby. And while most of parenting comes from trial and error and is customized to each wonderfully unique baby, there are some things that I wish I had known back then that would have spared me some anxiety and growing pains.

So I offer to you 46 morsels of expectant dad advice that hopefully will keep you just a little bit more sane than you may have been without it.

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  1. Get a Peepee Teepee. Once you become an expert, you can just toss a wipe over it to block any unexpected geysers.
  2. Do NOT register for a bottle warmer. They are completely useless. Use a bowl of hot water from the tap and drop the bottle in it for a few minutes.
  3. You probably don’t need a portable changing pad. You’ll get so good and fast at changing a diaper it falls under the 10 second rule.
  4. I’ve said it before but two words: Amazon Prime – diapers and wipes automatically delivered to your door.
  5. The Good Night Light: if you ever want to sleep past sunrise, invest in Mr. Sunshine and Mr. Moon.
  6. Feed twins at the same time. If one is sleeping and the other wakes up to eat, wake the other one up even if you have to open the window in the middle of a polar vortex. Multi-tasking is your friend.
  7. Accept that fact that changing a #2 diaper will never be perfect – there are just far too many belly folds and hiding places.
  8. Stick to a schedule no matter what. It just might save your life and your marriage.
  9. If you’re traveling, only book direct flights even if it costs you your second child. There is no room for error here.
  10. Alternate feedings with your wife or significant other. At least that will usually give you each a 4 hour block of continuous sleep if you’re lucky.
  11. Always book early morning doctor visits so you don’t end up sitting in the diseased waiting room for hours with little Johnny.
  12. Wipe warmers are a complete waste of money. And all they do is dry out the wipes so you end up with a brittle dry napkin. Plus, a cold wipe just might jolt them enough to keep them awake for that feeding!
  13. Accept the fact now that you will be overly exposed to all kinds of bodily fluids from little people. And you won’t even care.
  14. Vomit will not phase you.
  15. Never burp a baby without a burp cloth on your shoulder especially when dressed for work.
  16. Skip the Diaper Genie. Simply wrap and tie the dirty diaper in a plastic bag from the grocery store and drop it in the kitchen trash barrel. Yes, for the sake of sanity, you must forgo being ‘green’ for that short time in your diaper-changing life.
  17. Sleep is a luxury you cannot afford right now.
  18. Learn to sleep when they sleep no matter what time it is. Seriously, even if you can close your eyes for 20 minutes on the couch, do it.
  19. Don’t switch them to a bed until they ask to do so or until they are unsafe in a crib (we used a crib tent until little Houdini escaped.)
  20. Don’t keep a newborn in your room for too long. Move them into their own room before they get comfortable in yours.
  21. Don’t let them sleep overnight in your bed. Trust me on this. For SO many reasons. Just don’t do it even though you think it will help you get more sleep – it won’t. It won’t help with your marriage either.
  22. Baby proof your house BEFORE the baby comes home. And then invite friends/family over with small kids and see if they can hack into your cabinets or break the gate open at the top of your stairs. Hopefully not!
  23. DON’T FORGET TO ADD THE BABY TO YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE IMMEDIATELY! In fact, do it the day they are born to be safe! Just call your insurance company and have the baby added. Think of it as your first duty as a dad! This can save you a huge headache down the road.
  24. If your can afford it, bank their cord blood.
  25. Put your gym membership on hold for a couple of months if it’s allowed. You won’t be going for a while.
  26. Start asking your friends, family, and neighbors about a babysitter… it will take months, if not at least a year, before you find someone you trust enough to take care of your little angel.
  27. Be sensitive to your wife’s moods and feelings. Her body just went through the apocalypse so if she seems a little testy or emotional, cut her some slack.
  28. Take paternity leave!! Preferably right away so you too can bond with the baby as well as your wife (or S.O.)! Take the time to work together to figure out a routine that works for your newly expanded family. Some of those late night, sleep-deprived conversations that you’ll have together are priceless.
  29. Learn to swaddle a baby.
  30. Learn to make high-pitched sounds and funny faces. You won’t even care who’s watching if it makes your baby smile.
  31. Always keep a backup pacifier in your pocket.
  32. Post pictures and updates on your Facebook page or blog so people won’t keep asking “How are you doing? Do you have any pictures?” over and over again. They mean well but it can be overwhelming after a while when you’re working on 3 hours sleep and have vomit on your shoulder.
  33. Get them into the water (bathtub, sink, pool). It will help them immensely in so many ways. Skip the beach for a while. Between the sand, the blazing sun, and the waves, you might want to wait until they are a little older before hitting Crane Beach.
  34. Get a baby swing. It may have saved my life.
  35. Get a jumperoo thingy.
  36. Those crib mobiles actually worked for us. Wind ‘em up and the awe commences.
  37. Let the dog be part of the new family. Bring home some used baby blankets from the hospital before you bring your baby home if you can. Let the dog smell them and get used to the smells. When the baby comes home, introduce the two in a safe way. A face lick won’t hurt and they usually love it! Remember, the dog needs some time to adjust too with all the attention now being redirected to the new smelly and loud blob in the corner.
  38. Make room in the freezer for all the breast milk that is about to be pumped. A LOT of room.
  39. Clearly label the breast milk. You’ll make that mistake once.
  40. With that laptop on your belly late at night posting pictures of your new angel, open up a 529 account before it becomes one of those things you keep meaning to do but never actually do.
  41. Hunker down for a while at home especially in winter. You don’t want to expose your new baby to harmful germs if you can help it. It’s only temporary and you really just want to give them some time to get in a groove before subjecting them to the perpetual cold that they will get soon enough.
  42. Remember your wife. Remind her that she’s beautiful and you love her. She may not feel it right now and you saying it will make her feel better even though she’ll deny it.
  43. Don’t just take pictures, take video too. And write. Looking back, it’s one of the things I most cherish about that time.
  44. Both you and your wife are tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, and have no idea what you are doing yet. Be patient with each other. Learn together. Nobody has all the answers and every kid is different.
  45. Growing pains are real so when the little guy wakes up saying his legs hurt in the middle of the night (6 times), don’t discount his pain.
  46. Above all, remember… this is just a phase.

Hang on tightly. It’s the scariest, but most beautiful, ride you’ll ever take.

What tips do you have for the new Dad (or Mom!)?

Kip can be reached at kipdurney@gmail.com or on Twitter @kipdurney

A Moment In Time Coming of Age Dads Daughters Parenting Top Posts

Open letter to my daughters

A&Z,

I have sat down for the past several months trying to write this letter to you both but have not been able to find the words. I wrote Open Letter to My Son with relative ease so I have been perplexed as to why I have had such a hard time writing to you.

Until today.

You both are the miracles that almost never came true; your births embody the best and worst moment of my life. I was forever changed that day, in both good ways and bad, but I’m realizing now that my consternation in writing to you is that I’m afraid of coming up short because you deserve nothing but the best.

By the time you read this, you’ll be old enough and experienced enough to know that I’m not perfect. What I hope you glean from all of this is the understanding that while the doctors and nurses may have saved your lives, you two are the shooting stars that saved my life.

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But that is a story for another day.

As you two grow older, wiser, and ever more beautiful, I have come to the realization that you were put in my life to show me another way and to teach me what’s important in life. Sons and daughters are different in so many ways. I, for the most part, understand your brother. I guess it’s a guy thing. You on the other hand, often perplex me and teach me ways to look at even the mundane in another light.

You surprise me everyday.

I find it hard to think about you growing up and one day, moving on to live your own lives in college or elsewhere and beyond. I want so much to protect you, hold you, and keep you close. But of course I know the day will come when that room upstairs will empty out and you’ll be off to find yourself – to explore, learn, love, and experience.

Before you leave, I offer you the following suggestions for living a purposeful, fulfilling, and adventurous life as well as some things that I want you to know about me:

1. First and foremost, you will always be daddy’s little girl. I will always see you as that shooting star, cradled in my arms. Just accept it.
2. I maintain an irrational but tangible fear of not being able to always keep you safe. And because that’s my job, it keeps me up at night even now when you’re only 7. So when you get older, remember that dear old dad is worried about you so call him and let him know you’re ok.
3. My only wish for you is for you to be happy. If you have that, everything else falls into place.
4. We make our own destinies; don’t wait for it to happen because it won’t and you’ll look back wondering where you went wrong. Take risks, explore, learn, and call your father when you get home.
5. You are beautiful inside and out. Don’t let the media, people, or yourself make you feel differently.
6. When you were 6, I started to take you both out on dinner dates alone. I’ve never felt such pride and happiness during those dinners. I hope that when you’re 36, we’re still making time for each other.
7. Never let anyone treat you as anything less than the smart, beautiful, and funny girls you are. Love and be loved but don’t accept anything less.
8. Zoe – I always loved playing soccer with you on the front lawn and the day you innocently explained to me what the middle finger meant. Good stuff.
9. Ava – I melted the day you said to me, “Daddy – I wrote this story about a puppy just like you write stories on your computer.”
10. Remember to always speak up, speak your mind, but be respectful of other opinions. Be heard.
11. You matter. When you’re feeling down or defeated, call me. I’ll always be there for you even if it’s just for a cup of coffee and a shoulder to lean on.
12. Never settle.
13. Trust, but verify. In love and life.
14. Like I told your brother, I’m sorry for the days that I yelled at you for something I’m sure wasn’t important. I can honestly say, I tried my best to be a good parent but sometimes I fell short and that’s not your fault.
15. I’m probably never going to like your boyfriends. You should just accept that because I’m having a hard time just talking about it now.
16. If you get in trouble, I will be the first one at your side to help you, make sure you’re safe, and then ground you for a month.
17. Of course, get a puppy.
18. At some point in your life, live alone. Bask in the time spent with ‘you.’ But know that you can always come home for any reason. Keep the key.
19. Read. And continue to write your stories.
20. When you look back at your baby pictures, just remember that I did my best with those hair thingys. And if you are not home by curfew with that new boyfriend, I’ll show him the pictures!
21. Learn to ski, snowboard, or go hiking. Being on top of a mountain on a sunny crisp day will be some of the most magical moments of your life.
22. Always come home for the holidays.
23. You can always curl up with Dad on the couch no matter how old you are.

When you were born, they told us that you might very well not make it through the night. But you did. Embrace the gift you have been given and live YOUR life. Choose to be happy and always remember that we love you, unconditionally.

PS: Don’t forget: Dinner at 8 with Dad on Thursday night. See you then.

Dads Parenting

Some days are better than others

One of the great things about life with kids is that we are always being challenged to be better parents and spouses. We are far from perfect and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. And that’s ok.

The key to maintaining some semblance of sanity is to remember, and accept, that some days are better than others and that tomorrow is a new day.

Today was one of those days.

I’m sure most of us start the day off with a positive outlook and hope that everything and everyone (our kids!) do what they are supposed to do. And while often times that does happen for the most part, it’s evident that some days fall short.

We’ve all had those days when things just don’t go as planned:

    • the dog jumps on the bed far too early and lands his 105lb body on an entirely ill-fated and painful spot on your torso
    • the kids won’t get out of bed for school and you have to drag their legs out from beneath the covers
    • the shower is cold
    • the bar of soap that was left for you is the size of aTic Tac and you have to hobble from the shower to the closet in search of a replacement
    • and because the shower was cold, the mirror wasn’t fogged up and you got a glimpse of that gut that you have been trying to rid yourself of at CrossFit and immediately feel the need to name it

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  • while getting dressed for work, you put your shoes on before your pants – no judging
  • the kids’ whining about being tired starts before their feet hit the floor
  • they can’t seem to get their pants, shirt, or socks on (or off) their bodies – they just sit there dazed and confused
  • they fight over the same shirt, the same pair of pants, the same hair brush and even who didn’t flush the toilet (don’t get me started on the girls hair)
  • they scream, fight, hit each other, and generally do everything in their power to keep you in therapy
  • they don’t want cereal, they don’t want waffles, they don’t want oatmeal, they don’t want THAT cup or THIS spoon – unless their brother or sister has it of course
  • they act deaf when you tell them to do something
  • they don’t exactly brush their teeth but rather suck on a toothbrush and smear the blue gel on everything in the bathroom except their teeth
  • they pee on the seat
  • they fight over the bathroom even though there are three
  • they forget their glasses so you have to drive back to school to drop them off
  • But worst of all… the coffee maker is broken

It’s important to keep a sense of humor and although I certainly have exaggerated my experience, it is true that some days are better than others.Parenting is hard and while I’ve always said it’s by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had, it’s also the most frustrating, difficult, and heart wrenching.

I certainly don’t always handle every situation the best way and I often feel badly about that. But I know in my heart, that I try each day to do the best I can to love and support my vertically challenged little friends in every way I can.

Most days, I do a pretty good job.

But it’s on those bad days that I have to remind myself that it’s ok to not be perfect. You aren’t always going to handle every situation in the best way. And you can’t beat yourself up over it.

Instead, when I handle a situation badly, I try to talk to my kids about it.

Granted, sometimes their attention spans are limited and they may not even remember the situation, but often a simple explanation of what happened, why Daddy was frustrated, what we both could have done differently, and a simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way. It teaches honesty and compassion. It teaches them, and reminds us, to own up to our mistakes and that’s it’s ok to do so.

It’s easy to let kids do what they want. It’s easy to justify our ill-conceived actions by thinking or saying “I’m the adult here – end of story.”

That’s the easy way out.

Parenting is hard. We make mistakes. But it’s also the single most important gift you could ever give your children. Without it, all you’ll end up with is a kid like that little punk Jimmy down the street.