Category: Family

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 Family Holidays Life Tragic Events

A Modern-Day Love Story

Recently, I sadly lost my grandmother.  Of course losing someone you love is difficult and tragic but the strongest emotions I felt were not of sadness and loss but rather of appreciation and gratitude.  In fact, it was rather a time to to celebrate her life and the family she created with my grandfather.  She was an amazing woman and, well, her story is a modern-day love story to be shouted from the rooftops near and far as we all could learn a thing or two.

I was asked to write and share a eulogy at her funeral.  The priest later asked for a copy so that he could share it with newly engaged couples as to him, it represented the epitome of how to love and the importance of being a ‘family.’

So for what it’s worth, I wanted to share it with you as well and hope that it reminds you, in some tangible way, to always remember that family is everything – including that crazy aunt of yours.

Whenever we lose someone who has had such a significant impact on our lives, we of course, grieve and mourn that irreplaceable loss.  But when I think of Nana, I can’t help but realize just how amazing this story is – the story of her life.

She was born in Nova Scotia but grew up in Everett.  Eventually she settled here in Melrose where she has lived since 1951.  She met my grandfather shortly after high school and they have been together ever since – for more than 71 years.

I don’t know what it takes to make a relationship like that work so incredibly well and for so many years, but I do know that the love they shared was real, it was tangible, it was infectious, and it was the epitome of the modern day love story.

Nana loved to swim at the Y, bowl, and spend time with her two best friends – her sisters Clara and Anita.  I never had the chance to bowl with her but I heard she was a force with which to be reckoned.  In particular, she loved to go on long walks exploring the nooks and crannies of Boston with her sister Clara.

She loved her friends and her family but most of all, she cherished her one true love, my grandfather.

They raised 11 amazing children: Pam, Paul, Charlie, Peter, Tommy, Pat, Chris, Maryellen, Peggy, Jimmy, and Johnny.  Some of them left us far too soon, boldly reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of living for today.

I often think about what that must have been like growing up with that many siblings and who got the shower first, or who shared a room with whom.  I myself have 3 young children at home and can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have lived in a house with 11 of the short people.  But somehow, I’ve been told, Nana was able to keep the peace – relatively speaking I’m sure.

I have vivid memories of the house up on the hill with the 862 steps from the street.  At least, as a kid, it seemed like that many.  And I always seemed to be the one that had to run down to the car to get something!  But I didn’t care.  It was in that house on the hill on East Wyoming where all the holidays took place and where many of our precious collective memories were born.

All the kids were there.  All the cousins were there.  Beevo was there.  Grampa was there.  And Nana was there concocting those delectable aromas from the kitchen – the gravy, the meatballs, the desserts.  I can almost smell them now.

When the kids were older and moved out on their own, Nana & Grampa moved to a smaller house on Orris Street.  And then some of the kids moved back in but that’s a story for another time.  They made it their new home, their new castle, and again, the de-facto meeting place for all holidays and family events.

Nana and Grampa would often sit together, always together, perched up on the back porch, a king with his queen, and proudly watch the relentless stream of kids below running through the yard, rolling in the grass, splashing in the pool, and occasionally stepping on a flower much to the chagrin of my grandfather.  But Nana always just smiled and basked in the joy of what she held so close to her heart: her family.

She would greet us with that smile and wrap her arm around our chests with that quiet but assertive demeanor that made you feel safe and always feel welcome.

And she offered us food because that’s what grandmothers do.

Nana dedicated her life to her family.  All of us.  Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, anniversary, and Thanksgiving we gathered because family was everything to her.  She understood that, and taught us the same.  It’s now up to us to keep that spirit alive.

This is her love story and she has shown us how to live exceptionally:

To have fallen in love with the love of your life and have lived that dream together for over 71 years.

To have 11 amazing children who stood by your side and never forgot the importance of being a family.

To have been blessed with 21 grandchildren and to have loved them the exceptional way you did.

To leave behind a legacy of 17 great-grandchildren who will no doubt treasure the stories and lessons of your life as they begin their own.

And most importantly, to amass the most impressive collection of those short Hilltop martini glasses this side of Melrose.

We are the lucky ones; the ones with which you shared your friendship, compassion, acceptance, and love.  And we are forever grateful for having you in our lives.

Of course, we will miss you.

But today, we celebrate all that is you.

Well done, Nana.

Well done.

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 Family Parenting Relationships Top Posts

Don’t forget ‘your everything’

It was 8 years ago that we threw a spectacular party under a big white tent by a lake in southwest Connecticut with 150 of our closest friends and family. Afterwards we were whisked off to NYC in that stretch limo, spent the night at the W Hotel penthouse where Eric Clapton frequently stayed (or so we were told). The next morning, we had breakfast on a private 700 square foot rooftop patio before heading off to JFK for the beginning of a storybook honeymoon in Italy.

It was a time of pure self-indulgence and fun. We enjoyed frequent socializing with friends, city living, travel, and copious free time. There were long walks together, lazy sunny weekends lying on the grass in the Public Garden, and quiet rainy Sundays curled up on the couch together reading the newspapers.

That was our life 8 years ago.

Last week, our 4-year-old son woke me up at 4am because he had a dream about a scary ghost. I assured him that there were no such ghosts, tucked him back into bed and gave him a kiss on his forehead. He then lovingly wiped a booger on my arm because he didn’t have a tissue.

When my alarm went off the next morning to get ready for work, I sleepily walked into the bathroom only to find one of our daughters sitting on the potty with her head resting against the sidewall, eyes closed, and drooling.

And of course there is our 100 lb. lap dog that continuously entertains with his less than stellar manners and bodily sounds as he snuggles into our bed each night. By all accounts, he’s our first-born and contributes heartily to the chaotic cacophony of our home.

Our life together has certainly gone from one extreme to the other and gives merit to the phrase, “having kids changes everything.” And while most will agree that being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world (I agree!), it also changes your lifestyle, your wallet, your views of the world, your goals in life, and it changes your relationship with your significant other.

In the beginning, it’s all about nighttime feedings and diaper changes, sleepless nights, and an overnight transition from life being about you and your wife to being about the baby (or babies!). You’re both trying to figure out a routine that works so you can get some sleep and function at work. Sometimes that means you pass each other in the night and don’t see each other (awake) for a day or more.

As the kids get older, there are birthday parties to attend, soccer practices and games, dance classes, playgroups, swimming lessons, and the ill-fated “bath time”, all the while trying to work full-time and advance our careers that we so love and in which we find professional purpose and meaning.

We are perpetually tired.

There’s less time, money, sleep, and unfortunately, there’s often less “us.”

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Photo courtesy of Michelle Hayhurst at Giggle Art Photography – http://giggleartphotography.com/

It’s easy to lose sight of where it all began and the person with whom you chose to take this path in life amidst the chaos and randomness of the world. And while the focus is certainly the kids, you don’t want to find one day that you’ve neglected each other for so long, that you no longer remember or recognize all the reasons you fell in love in the first place.

We all struggle everyday to find a few moments of “us” – a subtle flirt, a hand on a knee when trying to make believe we aren’t completely exhausted on the couch at night after the kids go to bed, or merely holding hands as we walk to the park with the kids.

It’s those moments, however few, that are the oh-so-important reminders to us both that “I’m here and I love you.”

So while lazy Sundays reading the newspaper might be replaced with trips to Monkey Joe’s, the local park, the ball field, or a dance recital (or all four!), just remember that beautiful girl you fell in love with; remember the one that fell in love with you. Remember the one with which you share this often trying but wonderful life while raising some of the most amazing, smart, funny, and sensitive kids.

Over the years, I’ve come to find that the following subtle reminders go a long way. Print this and put it in your wallet. And put another copy in her jeans pocket.

1. Get a babysitter and use them. The kids will be fine. Seriously. Life can’t be just about the kids. Celebrate “us.”
2. Leave her notes in random places.
3. Flirt. Nobody is too tired to flirt.
4. Talk. Take the kids places where they will be entertained so you can spend a few moments together. Not about the list of things you need to do but rather about life and each other.
5. Laugh.
6. Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll lose your mind.
7. Enjoy your kids now as they grow up faster than you will want them to.
8. Touch. When we lose that physical connection, we lose more than you think.
9. We all make mistakes. Support each other.
10. You are not alone in how you feel. We’ve all been there (or will) and you will get through it.

She was once that pretty girl you met at a party. She was once that girl you couldn’t stop thinking about. She was once your girlfriend. Then your wife. Then the mother of your kids. She was (and is) your everything.

Don’t forget.

93 Days Dads Family Life Parenting Tubalub

The Credentialed Dad

When my wife and I first got pregnant, we were never so excited about anything in our lives. From that initial holy bejeeezus moment when we first found out, parenthood has been nothing short of a thunderous freight train racing down the tracks of life just barely clinging to a semi-controlled rail of chaos. Getting off the train wasn’t an option, so we just held on as tightly as we could. But soon thereafter, we began to realize that we were embarking on just possibly the most challenging, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and precious journey of our lives.

Everyone’s introduction to parenthood is unique and I am certainly no different. When I first wrote about my story, 93 Days, it was because I needed an outlet for the overwhelming feelings I was experiencing. But the impetus for Tubalub, was because I very quickly, even before the birth of my twin girls, began to realize that I was being treated differently by just about everyone.

I was secondary as an expectant father.

I was often ignored, passed-over, and even ridiculed at times for attempting to contribute as a parent. But the most striking observation was that none of this was done maliciously. People just didn’t realize they were doing it. At first my wife and I would merely laugh, but as it became more and more prevalent, it became increasingly bothersome and less something that I could easily ignore.

Most fathers want to be a part of their kids’ lives; we want to help them thrive and mold them into happy, smart, kind, tolerant and curious people. We want to make sure they are healthy and to teach them about good nutrition and exercise.

We want to help them make good choices for themselves.

We don’t want the server at the restaurant to ask “Mom, refills for the kiddos?” Or the doctor’s office to ask for Mom when they call with the test results. Or for a perfect stranger to observe you attempting to grocery shop with three kids in tow and say “I don’t know how your wife does it.” Or for XYZ brand to stereotype fathers as lazy, stupid, and uninterested in our kids’ lives.

I am a father. But more importantly, I am a Dad – and there is a difference.

I change diapers, do 3 a.m. feedings, help with homework, change sheets, do laundry, discipline my kids even though it’s easier to let it go, always look for ‘teachable moments’, enthusiastically play tea party and soccer, take them fishing, hug them when they are scared or nervous, put a Band-Aid on that scraped knee, tell my kids I love them, sing them songs, do dance parties, build pillow forts, and chase them around the house pretending to be ‘on a bear hunt’. And sometimes they just sit with me under my arm on the couch and watch a Sox game in silence.

I am not perfect, but I am present.

I am accountable.

I am also a consumer.

I have a voice, an opinion, and an insatiable love for my family. As do you.

So go and be a fully credentialed Dad. Because you’re qualified and you deserve that respect.

And because someone thinks you’re pretty cool too.

Thumbnail image for wcooldad.jpgVal Durney

Have you been passed over or ignored as a Dad? Does the stereotype of “lazy fathers” bug you? Tell us about it in the comments.