The Shredded Paper Incident

I turned my back for a few minutes and went downstairs. I returned to this. DinoBoy(3) tipped over a bin full of shredded paper and waded through it like a pile of leaves.
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Me: “Woah buddy. I see a huge mess on the floor. How’d this happen?”
DB: “I tipped it over and made a mess!”
Me: “I see that. Did you have fun doing it?”
DB: “I walked through it. It was fun!”
Me: “I bet. Seeing all the little pieces of paper flutter everywhere was pretty neat. But now there’s a huge mess to clean up.”
DB: “Yeah. It needs cleaned up.”
Me: “Do you know what these are?”
DB: “No. What are they?”
Me: “They’re little bits of shredded paper. So people can’t get information we don’t want them to have in our trash. That’s why they’re so tiny. So. How do you think we should clean this up?”
DB: thinking, thinking, thinking “Ummmm. I don’t know daddy.”
Me: “Okay. I have an idea. I will help you, but you need to clean this up. Okay?”
DB: “Okay. What’s your idea?”
Me: “Take this paper and watch me.” I took a piece of paper and folded it to show him how to use it as a shovel to scoop up large quantities at a time and dispose of it back into the bin. “Next time you see something that could make a mess like this, ask me first and we can come with an idea, okay?”
DB: “Okay. I’ll ask next time.”
Me: “Excellent. Thank you buddy.”

He didn’t exactly know what the paper was for or why it was cut up into little bits. He saw a bin full of something cool, something new. I saw an experiment, not a mess (although it was a mess). To him, it was a new experience. He wasn’t intentionally making a mess or trying to upset me. There needs to be no punishment of any kind.

It took about half an hour to clean it up moving at a toddlers pace. I could have done it much quicker with a vacuum cleaner and then talked to him about it. But that wouldn’t of taught accountability. I always include him in the process of cleaning up. It’s a lesson learned.

When Activism Becomes Extreme.

On observations…
 
Activism, no matter what form or shape or cause, is comprised of passion. An injustice is seen and vigorously fought for. As with any activism; there are extremists. Those who find themselves so overtaken with the injustice that emotions often drive the conversation, which frequently leads to heated arguments instead of civil discussions.
 
I fully understand these individuals. I was one; and still am sometimes and trying to change. These are the people who attack on a personal level because they find it very difficult to separate the person from the act. A good friend told me once: “Sometimes you have to punch someone in the face to get their attention.” It’s a beautiful saying and I fully agree. However, it can be done without making it personal.
 
As soon as you go on the offensive (or defensive) with attacking, an insurmountably wall erects itself and the conversation becomes dead before it begins. No one will learn, or even be interested in learning, at this point. Why would they? At this point you’re defending your pride, not your argument.
 
In many instances it’s best to just disengage and walk away. Save your sanity from those who have no desire in learning your side. Being rude and uncivil is what makes movements seem to be led by a bunch of unhinged loons that people take with a grain of salt. Unfortunately a bad reputation is a common byproduct of activism.
 
Before I became a father, I thought nothing of spanking, circumcision or allowing a child to cry in a vein attempt to train them. Now as a father, I have learned better and fight vehemently against them. I see the injustice in these. I voice these opinions. I will not stop voicing them. But just because I don’t allow myself to lash out at a naysayer by arguing or allow myself to walk away upon realizing their intent is not to truly understand but to simply argue and pot-stir; in no way am I condoning that injustice or accepting it’s continuance.

On my blog, I have many many people that don’t necessarily agree with everything; but do listen. They lie in the background, absorbing what is being said and reading the comments. They take some advice and leave some advice. What if one of these people are on the fence and see someone admit they spank or someone that circumcised their child or left them to cry or any else you don’t agree with. What if this person who admitted this was attacked and pounced on by ‘peaceful’ activists? What if this person watching then decided to deem the cause as batshit crazy? I will always defend my opinion. I will always discuss my position. But I will never attack or bash.

The more we are the crazy, the bashing, the unhinged offensive attacks; the less we allow the movement to move forward. The more we are willing to teach through understanding, modeling and with poise; the more we will be listened to as a sane voice. A voice worth listening to. We can be that voice without the extremism. Extremism is not a good thing.

‘You need to toughen them up.’

“The real world’s gonna walk all over them if you don’t toughen him up.”
 
How exactly? Yes, it can be a cruel and rough world. But if I show my child the good in people. The potential in people. That a person is more than just a negative moment. Show him all of the positive in the world. The good deeds done by strangers.
 
If I can counter his negative with understanding and positive guidance. That mistakes do not define a person. That people are indeed flawed. To meet this hostility and harshness with patience. That a positive interaction could potentially change someone’s entire course of life. 
 
If I can teach my child to be strong. To be be well spoken. Explain that failure will happen. That rejection is a part of life; but just a small part of it. Teach him that he can pick himself up and start again. That a bad encounter isn’t a personal reflection of him. If I can make him see the value in himself. His self-worth. His self-esteem. The negativity won’t permeate his outlook. His demeanor.
 
If I can do all of these things without the threat of punishment. The threat of being hit. Without that little voice of fear in the back of mind, whispering to him reminders that those whose love him and protect him are capable of hurting him. If I can do this. Then the answer is no. No the world will not walk all over him. No he won’t need to endure a childhood of being ‘toughed up’ for this ‘real world’ you speak of.
 
If anything; he will enter this world. Bringing with him true empathy that is lacking in it. True understanding. He will supply it with optimism. Fill it with hope. He could, quite possibly, make changes in this ‘toughened’ landscape; that very well may ripple through it. Softening it’s image. Making it more endurable so future generations won’t need this ‘toughening up’ you’re so fond of. Instead of continuing this cycle of toughening, how about we try this different approach. One that doesn’t assume the worst in people. 

The evolution of the relationship with my son.

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DinoBoy and myself enjoying popcorn and goofing with the camera. This is the picture that choked me up.

The other night I cried.

It was a personal moment.  The rest of my family was peacefully sleeping. I was browsing through hundreds of old pictures; searching for that perfect one for a profile picture for an upcoming interview. There were endless pictures of just my son and I. Some were selfies where we were goofing around making silly faces. Others were of just him, enjoying life; unhindered with no agenda. They were all taken while my wife was at work and we were on mini-adventures; whether at home or while out.

These were moments just the two of us shared; a still frame from a life still being lived. I pause at one picture. It is slightly blurry and not well shot. It’s fuzzy, much like my memory of the moment in time it captures. This photo is both flawed and perfect. It represents more than just the image it contains. It holds the power to conjure memories. Those of my son and I dancing in the living room, gazing upon the moon in wonderment, sneaking in a bowl of popcorn after my wife went to bed, our hikes through nature during the brisk fall in the Midwest. Moments when we could just stop and have a cuddle on the couch while indulging in cartoon.

It was then that it dawned on me. This chapter that I am recalling is complete. Written and concluded. That these free, unbridled moments when it was just two of us are now over. The world we used to enjoy as a duo has quickly evolved into a trio. Those quiet, intimate moments no longer exists with the same frequency. My attention is now divided between two children who need me equally, but in different capacities.

In that moment, the realization of how much I truly missed the closeness, that special bond and the undivided attention I had with my son became too much. The emotions flooding me culminated into a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. Only tears alleviated them. It felt as if I was mourning the loss of a relationship. A relationship that is evolving so fast I failed to see it. A child growing so quickly I did not want to admit it.

The relationship with my son has not been lost. It is not  fizzling. Rather it has matured. He understands. He is quickly becoming more independent. It was that independence that I mistook as a lack of connection. Our bond is still strong; still intact. The neediness is gone. The clinginess is fading. In its place is a new being. One that is needy. One that is clingy. One that needs that constant touch, love and holding. He sees this. He understands. He is not mourning this evolving relationship. He is embracing it. At times we both fumble in the moment, but he knows.

After the emotions run their course and I feel better for having them; I now know. I understand.  It is now time for me to embrace it.

Go ahead. Be weird.

Go ahead. Be weird.

Go ahead and be that parent that goes down the little slides at the park. The one that chases their child through the equipment. That weaves through the swings and rolls in the grass. Join them in their play. Let fellow parents think you’re weird.

Go ahead and stick your tongue out at the dinner table. Make silly faces at each other while you wait for your food. Pull your ears and puff out your cheeks. Clear the salt and pepper shakers, the ketchup and vinegar bottles; and play table football with a balled up straw wrapper. Let other diners think you’re weird.

Go ahead let them run naked. Let them climb up the slide and go down the steps in the buff. Let them play in the sand box and get sandy in their hair. Let them run through the sprinkler. Let them experience true freedom. Let the neighbors think you’re weird.

Go ahead and skip through the store singing a tune, bobbing your heads in unison. Let your kid lead the way in melody and follow suit. Sing out of key. Turn a solo into a duet, or a harmony. Let shoppers think you’re weird

Go ahead and show your kids how to live. How to have fun. Show them adulthood isn’t just work with little or no play. Go ahead and be a kid again. Go ahead. Be weird.

When 3 become 4. The birth of my daughter.

Right after the move to the bedroom before TheBoy was awake. (Image by J.L. Baker Photography)

Right after the move to the bedroom before TheBoy was awake.
(Image by J.L. Baker Photography)

It’s 2 am and I get a nudge on the shoulder. “These are real, honey. I need your help,” she says. I rouse from my sleep and sit up stretching. My son snuggled in next to me asleep, completely unaware that his mom is going into labor with his soon-to-be sibling. I stumble groggily into the dark living room where my wife is kneeling on the floor, using the couch to aid her through her current contraction.

I light candles we had placed around the room earlier in the day waiting for this very moment. I check on her and place pressure on her lower back as she breathes through another strong contraction. “Call B [one of our midwives],” she says afterwards. I call and assure her it’s for real this time (we had false alarms earlier in the day). I made a few more calls to various people and went back to tending my laboring wife.  “She’ll be here in 15 minutes,” I assure her.

We spent those 15 minutes swaying; her leaning on me with her arms on my shoulders while I put pressure on her back and hips; aided only by the light of the candles. It was quiet and peaceful. The only sounds being heard were her breathing and my encouragement. “You’re going to rock this birth, honey. Your body knows what to do and you know how to listen to it,” I say. “I am. I’m going to birth this baby. Right here and right now.” “Damn straight you are. We’re having this baby.” We kiss and continue our dance.

B arrived and checked baby’s heartbeat and observed my wife for the next 2 contraction before sending out an S.O.S. to the 2 other midwives working with us that this is indeed happening. In between contractions B checked my wife’s dilation to make sure we were on track. “6-7 centimeters” she says.  I began filling up the birthing pool in our son’s playroom with hot water.

I reenter the living room and we spend the next half an hour or so doing our candlelit dance as the 2 remaining midwives and our doula-in-training/friend show up to complete our excellent supporting cast. They stayed quiet and removed while B caught up the other 2 on things. They allowed my wife to progress with relative ease and minimal interference. I could tell my wife was moving along by the length and strength of each contraction.

“Is it okay if I check you again to see how you’re progressing? You seem to moving along fast,” asks B after a lengthy contraction. I gently unclasp my wife’s hands from my shoulder as she lies on the couch to be checked. “Okay. So you’ve progressed to 9 centimeters in just 30 minutes. That’s great! And baby is right there.” I help her up and my wife states that she wants to enter the warm pool that’s only 1/3 full for relief.  I help her change and she steps into the pool. “Oh that feels nice! That’s so much better!” she exclaims as she settles to leaning on one side with me holding one hand while our friend/doula holds the other.

N [other midwife] comes in saying she has a pot of boiling water to help warm the water (the pool has been cooling while the water tank heats up for another round of water). “I can’t carry it in, it’s too heavy.” I let go of my wife’s hand to bring the pot of water in. “I don’t think we’ll have time for another tank to fill this up. She’s moving quickly.” says K [the 3rd midwife].  “I have to push! I need to push!” Her hand squeezes mine as she silently pushes. “Baby’s crowning,” announces B, who’s been keeping tabs on what we can’t see below the water. “Since the water is so low you have to either stay in this position the rest of the way because once you come out of the water you can’t go back in.”

My wife waited. A moment of rest between contractions where nothing happened.  A silent room with everyone waiting. “This is good. This will help with your stretching so you don’t tear,” says B. K put on a glove and reached her hand in the water. “I have support on her perineum for her next contraction,” she says. More silence. My wife breathes deeply, clutching my hand while I rub her back. “Oh! I have to push some more!” And she silently does. “There’s the head!” announces B. One more push and B gently pulls my wife back and I reach in the murky water to fetch my child.

I pull our baby out of the water and place her on her mother’s chest. She has a fair amount of vernix on her little body and N quickly covers her with a towel. “Best. Labor. Ever!” my wife exults with a deep breath of relief. We look at each other and I say “You did it honey. You had your natural homebirth,” followed by kiss.  “I did it! I had my homebirth!” She breathes more breaths of relief and accomplishment. “Can we see what it is? I don’t know what it is yet!” my wife says after realizing we didn’t even find out the gender yet. We peek. “Oh! It’s a girl! We have a girl! Everyone meet N.G.!”

It took my wife only 1 and a half hours of active labor to birth our baby girl. The moments after were spent in postpartum care, checking baby stats: a very healthy 8lbs 8oz, 21.5 inches; and some skin-to-skin for me and N.G.  while my wife showered off. During this time our son woke up, sat up in bed where my wife, newborn daughter and myself sat next to him, looked around with a grin and said “Mommy has a baby.” Crawling over to where we were he gazed at her while we told him he is now a big brother to his baby sister. A role he relishes.

The midwives and our doula/friend hung out for a while after, charting and cleaning everything up while the four of us snuggled as a new family in the bedroom.  This experience could not have been any better. A stark contrast to the birth of TheBoy: hospital, bright and sterile, over 12 hours of laboring,  impersonal and being checked in on what seemed like (but not literally) every hour for 3 days until we were discharged. At home she was able to labor how she chose to in an intimate environment with a group of close, caring and supportive women. When everyone left it was just my wife, TheBoy, our new daughter and myself left to enjoy the euphoric high in the peaceful quiet of our bedroom in our home.

Peaceful Papa picked for an award?

wpid-wpid-screenshot_2015-04-23-22-06-45-1“It’s a major award!” I know, right? My humble little blog being nominated for an award? Seems crazy but reality is far crazier! I’d like to thank Unschooling Momma and Poppy for the nomination and seeing value in the small bit I put out there. I actually (up until now, I’m slowly expanding) only follow 3 actual blogs. I now, it’s sad. But without further ado are my two nominations:

Dadosaurus Rex
Mama Cravings
Papa Green Bean

Rules/Instructions

Put the award logo on your blog.
Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Here are the questions asked of me and my answers:

1. What is the one thing you would like for your child/children to take from their childhood?

Hmm. I would like for him to know that he was respected. That his parents put his human rights above the public consensus of how children are generally viewed as: property. That he was allowed to be who he wanted to be with minimal interference. I would want him to continue that when he has children. The cycle of disrespect ended with him.

2. If there was a play list for your life what would be the number one song?

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I have favorites that I prefer, but I don’t think they necessarily would apply to the soundtrack of my life. This soundtrack is an every evolving playlist and I’d have to say, in this moment, it would be “Jump Rope” by Blue October. The metaphor couldn’t be more appropriate for my place in life right now.

3. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging to give a much needed male voice in the mommy dominated gentle parent community. To show that dads care deeply about issues surrounding AP / Gentle parenting. That dads are just as competent. That we are capable of being emotional available and nurturing to our children. And, I do enjoy writing from time to time so why not mix the two together?

4. If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be?

See #3.

5. What is your favorite movie?

You’re killing me with these pop-culture questions, lol. Another BIG hobby pre-children were movies. I can give you a favorite genre: Horror and thrillers. Okay, two genres. But then I’d lying because I’d put independent films right there with them. Sigh. I’m going to fall back on my go-to answer once upon a time that’s a coin toss between Pulp Fiction and Rain Man. I know, after all this talk of Indi I go mainstream.

6. Name one thing that makes you smile.

My son indulging blissfully in his current endeavor; whether he’s laughing uncontrollably or being quiet and focused. It’s amazing how your happiness evolves but remains bountiful. He provides a level of love and happiness previously unknown to me.

7. What has been your biggest challenge as a parent?

My greatest challenge so far (and inevitably will continue to be) is keeping my cool; patience. I was raised in a house with little patience and a ton of yelling. That was our go to form of communication and it never helped or solved a damn thing. So when raising my son I often find myself wanting to revert to my default programming by asserting myself through my voice. It’s tough, but I keep trudging through and eventually my default will be compassion and sympathy.

I would like to ask the same questions to my nominees as I enjoyed writing answers for them and am curious to see others’ answers.!