I always give choices.

I always give choices.

But won’t that allow them to walk all over you? – No. It won’t. Quite the opposite. A child that’s happy with their choice is more cooperative to do the task they chose. If I say “Hey buddy, would like to help me vacuum or help mom pick up your blocks?” I’ll get a happy little boy helping clean the house.

They’ll just get what they want all the time! – Well, what exactly is wrong with that? I get what I want most of the time. So does my wife and most people I know. Unless it’s work, I indulge in my wants and interests. Childhood shouldn’t be a sacrifice of choice and wants over an irrational parental fear. Besides, isn’t life spent pursuing our interests?

What should it matter if they want the red cup? Or if you picked out a green shirt but they want the striped one. Big deal. We turn it into an issue that really isn’t there. Let them have their red cup and striped shirt. It won’t spoil them. It won’t entitle them. Give them the choice before you pick it out, before you pour the water.

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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.

Lamenting the Past. Embracing the Present.

I was driving down a pedestrian inhabited street, looking at all the various people as I pass them. My mind drifting to imagine their life; their current state of being. While observing all the smiling, carefree faces as they walk, jog and congregate at will I was suddenly struck with a sense of limitation. Everything now took planning and preparation. The inability to be spontaneous was subconsciously being mourned.

I lay in bed; listening to the 3-day music festival taking place just a block from my house. Its heavy bass and screaming vocals infiltrating my quiet bedroom as my family slept. I found myself envying all the people participating in its controlled chaos. A favorite past time of my wife and I: going to many concerts and festivals throughout the summer on a moment’s notice. The possibility of never experiencing the rush of singing side-by-side with powerful artists was subconsciously being mourned.

I was sitting on the couch watching recorded shows while my children took their nap. Commercials for vacation destinations were being splashed in my face during every intermission; almost to the point of taunting. Places that were once annual retreats as well as places I have yet to experience. My mind filled with possibilities of what could have been. Places that were not meant to be were subconsciously being mourned.

TheBoy and I enjoying the zoo; transfixed on something.

TheBoy and I transfixed on something while while riding the shuttle at the zoo.

It’s okay, healthy even; to be mournful of past lives now simmering in purgatory.  After all, they define who we are and how we have ended up where we are. But that’s exactly what they are: past lives. The lives I see on the streets while driving, the ones I imagine at concerts while lying in bed or those I see enjoying destinations I may never visit are no longer mine. They are no longer a priority.

I forwent those lives for my current one. A rebirth of who I am, who I choose to be.  When I come home and a little boy comes running for a hug; when I spend my evening reading books to an audience of two; when that little boy is snuggled up to me while his baby sister sleeps on my chest as we watch an evening movie.  I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am in my place of bliss. I’m at a oneness with who I am and the path I chose. There are no regrets or grudges with the lives of my past; just peaceful content.

Losing yourself in parenthood is not a bad thing. Your children need it; they deserve it; if only for the first few years of their life until they become a little more self-sufficient. Our past lives, interests and hobbies will always be there; either waiting to be revisited or simply serving as a reminder of our journey. It’s important to not let it consume who we currently are.

I chose you.

20140824_101344-EFFECTSThere were dishes collecting in the sink. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A different you. A disconnected you. A you reaching out for attention. I chose you. Together we went to the zoo. I held you while you fed a giraffe. I ran next to you while you tried to race a cheetah. I flew with you while you soared next to the bald eagles. I laughed with you as we made a mountain of mulch in the play area. I discussed animals with you while we enjoyed lunch; and napped with you after our day in the sun. I chose you.

There were 3 hampers and a pile of clothes that needed folding. I saw them. We created them. I also saw you. A you vying for your mom and dad. Parents whose time is now split with a new family member. I saw you in a confused moment with an unfamiliar feeling. I chose you. Together we went to the park. I walked next to you along the creek shore, throwing small rocks into its waters. I held your hand as we crossed the chilly flowing water to the hollow tree. Through the trails we ran, laughing as I tried to catch you. I chose you.

There was a living room in disarray. I saw it. We created it. I also saw you. A you in need of assistance. An F4 tornado version of you that needed wrangling in.  A you without a compass. I chose you. I invited you on my lap to do your favorite activity: reading books. Together we read the same words as you learn how to read. I enunciated while you mimicked the sounds. Together we read 5 books; all of which you can recite by heart. I chose you.

There are things that can wait, and things that simply cannot. In the days since your sibling’s birth your behavior slightly changed. It’s a lot to process in a small amount of time for someone of your limited capabilities. You were not jealous of this new arrival, in fact quite the opposite; you embraced her. You felt you were losing your home base. Your security. I could see that. Your behavior was telling me when your words could not.  I chose connection over control. I chose love over fear. I chose you.

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.!

Skipping Stones.

Down by the creek bed he crouched, grabbing stones without discrimination. He watched as they splashed with a kersplunk when they entered the water. Ripples spread to the tiny shore and he giggled at his accomplishment. Another rock was sought.

It was a very sunny Sunday morning and still slightly cool, requiring a light jacket. The air was clear and we were all alone in our adventure, basking in the moment.

There was an area of calm water that had a shore riddled with fragmented shale begging to be skipped. I was a bit more selective with my choices, picking only those with characteristics optimal for their skipping ability. Too square, too thick, too thin. Ah! This one. It fits perfect between my finger and thumb, perfect weight distribution, just the right circumference. It was beautiful.

This will be the stone I show him his first skip with. I placed the stone in my palm; eager to show him it’s capabilities. I stood and turned towards my son. He was still indulging in his circular pattern: find stone, throw it in water, listen to splash and repeat.

I watched. His blissful moment. There was no concern for the type of stone he selected. No worries on how it entered the water, just as long as it does. His concerns lie in what it can do, not with what it could do. It can splash crazily in the water. He couldn’t care if it has the potential to skip wonderfully to the adjacent shore. It was beyond his realm of current interests and abilities.

I joined him; with my perfect stone; and tossed it high into the air. It spun and twirled until it hit flatly against the water with a quiet plop. My son giggled, commented on its tiny splash and went for his next stone. There will be many future opportunities for that perfect skip. For now this moment is complete with a slash and kersplunk, it was his agenda.