Dad at 40

Fitness, Nutrition, Parenting, and Life

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

The Baby Whisperer

As a followup to my earlier post, I wanted to include a picture of what I am dubbing baby whispering.

babywhisperer

As you can see here, Luke is incredibly calm with his big brother. This is because Josh is an incredibly chill dude. He is so laid back. Unlike me, he can find contentment in just sitting there. Me, I have to be constantly moving. Constantly doing something. My brain races too much and I get restless if I am not solving a problem or creating something new. It is a curse for me because I miss out on the quiet waking moments.

Yet, Josh realizes that his laid back attitude is a curse for him when it comes to work and advancing in an organization. It is my hunger and drive that propels me forward and makes me rise above my counterparts. Yet, I lose something in the fire. Josh realizes that he needs more of that, but he does not feel that sense of urgency. When Josh was his brothers age, I feel like I was more like he is now – calm and chill. But as that damned scary concept of retirement looms, I find myself pushing harder and harder to ensure that I have the money and capacity to care for Josh and Luke. This is the challenge that we all face as parents in our 40s. At least, that is what I think. I am very lucky to have such a calm son and find myself saying this aloud:

“the teacher becomes the student, and the student becomes the teacher”.

Life man….what an amazing journey.

 

Emotional Sorcercy and your Kiddo

It has been over 15 years since I last dealt with a newborn/infant/toddler. There are things I remember and things that got buried. Only as the days go by do the things that got buried start to come back to me. This is one of those things. But, more importantly, I have some anecdotal data to back it up. Most academics dismiss anecdotal data by saying there is not enough of it and it proves nothing. I call BS. Anecdotal data is critically important to the person experiencing it. Trust me when I say, reading an article that says some experts are dismissing my experiences as not real is hogwash. So, do not fall for it. Your experiences are real. Most likely no one has bothered to take the time to find others and quantify it. But, your experiences are real!

So, emotional sorcery. What the heck is that? In my job, we work with technology. When we listen to people that ask dumbfounded questions about technology and do not understand our explanations no matter how simple we make them, we do this funny little thing – we wave our hands around like those Vegas magicians and state loudly “Sorcery” followed by the ever popular “Magic”. It is our way of finding the humor in humorless situations where people are failing to understand how to use technology. That which we do not understand is basically magical.

So, babies. Yes, I get long winded, but I still hope you are reading. Babies are like emotional sponges. They absorb emotion coming from the parent. Empath is a good word. According to Wikipedia:

Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others.

I have come to realize that babies are natural empaths. So, the real challenge for a baby is not being soothed. It is not being held. It is you! Let me explain by personality types…

  • Type A  –  competitive, over achiever, things done on time.

    I am a Type A kind of guy. I am competitive by nature. I strive to be good at all I do. I want things done on time and done right. I am a project manager. I see everything as mini projects to be handled. Whether it is cleaning the house, doing a chore, going to the gym, doing my work, etc. As I engage with my son now, I realize that despite my best intent, I have expectations. If I hold him this long, follow these motions, and do these things, then he will soothe and stop crying. So, I will start taking these actions. After a set period of time and with my actions failing, I can feel my intensity rising. Interestingly, I see a direct correlation between this and my son becoming more agitated. If anything, he cries even more. He becomes even more frustrated. I have noticed that about the only time I can regularly calm him is when I am sleeping. Even now, when I was awake and in bed, I was agitated because he was being crazy in his crib (which is in our bedroom). I left the room to come write this post and he calmed down. Not one peep. Coincidence? Maybe. You decide.

  • Type B  –  calm, relaxed, laid back, flexible, analytical.

    This is my son, Joshua. He is an extreme Type B kinda guy. Anymore Type B and you would have to check him for a pulse. He is an amazing kid and I love him, but he is an under achiever. However, he is amazing with animals and with kids. He has a calming effect on them. I have seen this repeatedly. Animals love him. So do small children. Naturally, with Luke, he helps as one would expect a big brother to do. What is truly amazing is that he can pick Luke up and sit him in his lap. Hours later, Luke will just be laying in his lap cooing and chilling. He is not agitated or upset. He just lays there, wide awake, kicking a little and taking in the world around him while Josh casually watches YouTube videos and occasionally talks to him. He has this amazing calming effect on Luke. Once again, coincidence? I am starting to think not.

  • Type C  –  detail oriented, not assertive, suppress wants, needs and desires.

    I have a Type C person in my life. It is an in-law. This does not mean that this person is bad or less successful. As a matter of fact, this person is frighteningly successful. Soon to be medical doctor. Very detailed oriented. Excellent student. All the bells and whistles. When interacting with Luke, he just generally chills. Not nearly as much as with Josh, but enough that he has a good time and will not get worked up. This Type C is not around enough to do more research, but so far, Type C seems to be good with kids too.

  • Type D  –  negative outlook on life, fear of rejection, prone to depression.

    I have a Type D in my life. I will not mention who exactly, but suffice to say, it is clearly Type D. While dealing with Luke, he stays calm. See, Type D people remind of of that character Sadness from Inside Out. With him, this person is very mellow and because he has no concept of sadness yet, he just relaxes. Although, he will occasionally get frustrated, he can calm himself down because the Type D does not get easily agitated. So, this type also is not bad with a baby or an infant.

Within these personality types also exists levels of intensity. By that I mean, some people can turn it up and down as necessary. Some people can turn it off totally for a bit. Me, I am forever stuck in Type A full steam ahead. When your life saying is “live by the sword, die by the sword”, well, you get the idea.

So if you are a new dad or starting over again and have changed a great deal since your last run, take a moment to do a self-inventory and ask yourself, what kind of personality are you? What makes you tick? And then remember, your baby is an emotional radar dish picking up on your signals. They may not always have this ability, but for a good while, they will. They will sense and feel everything you project. Be mindful of that as your raise and interact with your child. As always…good luck.

Being a Dad at 40 Something

I am going to be 43 this year. As I have gone through life, I have looked at my aging as a ridiculous obstacle that existed in my head. I am young still, active, healthy, and full of energy. This age thing is nothing more than some fear instilled in us by society.

A funny thing happened though. In my mid-30s, I started feeling lethargic. I was not sure why. I gained weight and slowed down – no matter how hard I worked. That sense of youth and vigor was slipping away. There was no real reason it happened. It was not like I rolled over one morning and decided to stop feeling and being young. So, after a couple of years, the doctor finally did a blood test checking my hormone levels to discover that my testosterone was depressingly low. All of the regular remedies were tried until finally it was determined that I need to take synthetic testosterone. Yep, you heard that right – anabolic steroids. Before all the guys start high fiving and say “eureka!”, it was determined that I should take one of the weaker ones and in controlled weekly doses. Boy, it made a huge difference and I noticed it right away. Let me tell you, it is like the fountain of youth. Really…increased muscle mass, libido, energy, vigor, and so many wonderful effects when you inject it properly.

But, along the way I have noticed a few things and I want to share my experiences with everyone.

  1. Eyesight – I started noticing my eyesight getting a little wonky about two years ago. I love to read and enjoy reading a variety of things, but reading a book was becoming harder and harder. Went to the doctor for a vision test. My vision is still considered 20-20. How could this be? Well, the test measures some basic lines of letters read at a certain distance. That is pretty easy. However, up close was a different story. I needed corrective lenses, readers, but still, corrective lenses. Me being the problem solver I am asked the doctor what it would take to fix my eyes. LASIK? Some other procedure? I was ready to pay it. He looked at me and smiled and said these simple words – “son, you can’t fix age”.
  2. Gym time – This gets harder everyday. Waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning is not as easy as it once was. The body remembers the moves, but sometimes executing them is not as easy. Oh, I can still do all the moves, but I have to look at which lifts and techniques will complement an aging body as opposed to simply doing what I want. How do I know this? I have a scar on my shoulder from surgery telling me this. Don’t go thinking that I tried to lift too much or lifted carelessly. My shoulder simply decided that it had enough. I asked the doctor what was happening when he checked me – “well, you have a degeneration of the end of the bone. You are getting older. You’ll need a distal clavicle resection”. Then he suggested I give up regular bench press and other lifts that strained the shoulder in favor of lifts that were easier on my joints. I never recalled this conversation in my teens or college days, but it is not really a bad one to have. Just something I noticed with age.
  3. Fatigue – Here we go with the baby stuff. Being a dad at any age is exhausting. Being a dad at 40 something is just plain hard. Whether you have done this before or are starting over like me, it is just hard. At this age, many of my contemporaries are talking about being grandparents soon. Heck, some even are grandparents! But, I started over. The beauty of the grandparent thing is that when you tire of the screaming baby, you hand him over to mom and dad and you leave. Not so when you are dad. Fatigue sets in as you have to deal with everything all the time. Up three or four times a night (on a good night) and disrupting sleep cycles that your aging body needs more than ever. It leaves you feeling tired a lot of the time. And this is because my job is easy compared to my wife.
  4. Retirement – Yeah. I threw that in there. Retirement. When you hit 40, at least in my mind, you start to look at your exit plan from this working life. A word you never thought you would think about becomes a reality. Retirement. First, just a word of caution – think about it when you are 18. Start early so you can possibly retire early. Me, I started a wee bit later than I should have. I accept that choice, but it does not mean I do not think about it. Having a child has changed that idea for me. I can technically keep my son on my health plan until he is 26. I have a very good health plan. I can make sure he has no student loan debt. I can do a lot of things to give him a leg up. But, 26 is the magic number. I am 42. The math sucks, but you do what you have to for your children.

There are a few others, but I have to get ready for work. I will expand on this at some point. For now, these are the things I notice the most about being a dad at 40 something. It is a challenge. It is not easy. Make no mistake, the reward is great! But, it requires patience, sacrifice, careful planning, and a change in how you see the world and your place in it. It might be subtle for some while major for others, but if you enter into this adventure and change nothing about yourself or your thinking, then you are doing it wrong. Think about that. It is not an attack, but a simple statement of truth. Being a dad forever changes things and forever changes you.

Understanding your Wife’s Challenges

I have a unique situation. I am not quite sure how many men experience the same thing, but I am going to share my perspective. Before I go and do that, let me give you some background. As you may have read, I have an 18 year old son. When he was born, times were a lot tougher (I’ll share more about that in a later posting). I worked and so did his mom. We put him in with a caregiver that watched him for several months. Things were tight and life was not easy.

Fast forward 18 years and I have a very stable career and make a manageable living. My wife went back to work yesterday. I have the luxury of being able to work from home and stay with our son. Plus, his big brother helps out to make sure we are constantly watching him. Thus, I am the one picking up around the house. I do the dishes when needed. I sweep the floors. I do the laundry. Funny enough, as I was flipping through TV channels the other night, Mr. Mom was on the air and I thought to myself that I could finally relate.

As my wife and I discussed it, she looked at me and said she was lucky to have me. I am not saying I do not try to be a good guy, but that came out of left field. So, I asked her why. Well, according to the many parenting blogs and forums she reads, many women discuss their home situations when it comes to raising children and being a domestic engineer. Apparently, many men really lack the understanding of what it means to raise a child and take care of a home. They come home and have the expectation that dinner be cooked and the house be cleaned. Surely, this is not possible in this modern age? But, she swears it is.

So, I am going to say this as a guy who deals with this daily. Guys, if you are the husband with ridiculous expectations of your wife while she raises your children, then lay off her. I get that earning money is hard. Someone has to bring home a paycheck. But, raising a kid is hard too. Babies scream and cry. They find solace only in being held or carried. It is incredibly hard to accomplish anything when they are wanting to be held. If you put them down to sleep, you tip toe around to keep quiet. I swear, I want to stomp the UPS guys for ringing the doorbell and setting off the dogs. Cleaning!? Hardly. It is survival. Dinner? Bread and cold cuts.

This is not to say that there are not some extraordinary women out there who manage all of that. And, I would bet some men. But, the general rule is that parents dealing with a small baby have it pretty hard and we would all be better served if we were more understanding of the parent left at home to deal with our little ones. So, if you are that guy, take a day off and try it on for size. Let your wife just go for 8 or 9 hours and see how you handle it. Put the same expectations on yourself that you have of her.

As a bonafide Mr. Mom, I can tell you, it is a lot harder than it looks and I would gladly trade office duty for home duty any day of the week. In fact, it is my semi-monthly required time to go into the office. I can hardly wait!!

 

 

Sleep -Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend

Sleep is critical at any age. If you do a little research, you will see that the more you sleep, the better. Many professional athletes insist on sleeping at least 12 hours. Sleep is when our body repairs itself. So, I look back on my 20s and 30s and cringe when I think about all those days that I only slept 4 hours or less. Don’t get me started on my lack of sleep during my Navy days.

At 42 now, I cherish sleep and what it does for me. It is a valuable tool in my anti-aging arsenal and one of the things that keeps me sane and, I like to think, young. So, having a new baby really just wrecks the hell of out that. And listen, we men are pretty lucky because babies generally want their mothers. Although, you dads out there that for some reason are raising your babies on your own….my hats off to you and you know even better than I do how hard it is to function without sleep. But, I digress, we men are generally pretty lucky because we get more sleep than mom.

Sadly, the last couple of nights have been really hard on me. My son has been really, really, really fussy. There is nothing like laying your head on a pillow to fall into a deep slumber because you are tired as hell only to be gently and sweetly woken from your much needed slumber by the piercing wails of a baby. So, I found myself online last night looking for sleep solutions for my son. All this brings me to my actual review:

Instant Baby Sleep – you will find this product online. I guess it is not so much a review as a word of caution. All the online reviews for this thing are marketing tools. Each one. So, I like to think – SCAM. But, when you read them, it clearly says not scam. Which, screams to me SCAM. There is a shaky video or two on YouTube, which says to me SCAM…since it is only a minute or two long. At $29.97, I would not recommend you spend the money on something with no guarantee. More importantly, it offers no refunds. The company is headquartered in South Africa. Hey, South Africa is a great country I am sure, but why don’t I just light a $10 and $20 dollar bill on fire and call it good. You have been warned!

8 Minute Sleep – so, this one I actually tried. Here is the beauty of this, it is actually free online. These cats are cool enough to post it on YouTube, all ten hours of it! Try before you buy. Now, that is a company I can have a little faith in. You may be asking why spend the $5 to $8 bucks on it if it is free online. Well, I was lucky enough to be connected to wi-fi at home and able to stream via my YouTube app. The purchase is if you want to buy the audio file separately. This allows you to put it on your phone.

Since I used the audio file, I will say this, my son was crying inconsolably (yes, that sounds dramatic, but it is true). I fired up YouTube and used their Baby Sleep Miracle – Pink Noise option. It sounds like static and I really wish I had not just watched Poltergeist a couple of days back, but after about 3 minutes my son just stopped crying. It got to the point where the wife sat up worried that something happened to him. He was in a deep sleep. We left it on for the entire night. About 4 hours later he woke up because he was hungry and needed a diaper change. But, 4 hours of sleep!!!

Now, can I say with any certainty that it will work every time. Nope. Will it keep a baby that is in pain or suffering from colic asleep? Not sure. But did it work for us last night for a while. Hell yes! So, that is enough for me. 8 minute sleep earns my $8 and my gratitude.

I stress this to you all, I am not some corporate shill trying to take your hard earned money. Real dad here writing a real review of something that worked for me. Besides, it is free on YouTube, so you do not even need to buy it.

Good luck out there…I hope that you all have great success with getting sleep.

 

 

A Second Chance

1997

My son was born in 1997. He is a great kid. However, looking back on my life, I wonder if I was a great dad. You see, I never had a father. I grew up with a single, working mother who served in a dual role. I watched from a distance as friends and classmates had fathers, but I never knew what that was. So, naturally, I was worried that I had no idea how to be a father. I’d like to say there is no book that teaches you to be a father, but I would be lying, as there are no doubt hundreds, if not thousands, of such books. I learned that having a book to read does not equal having the skill or natural inclination to do the job well.

Thus began a journey to learn to do something I had only seen from a distance. A journey to fill a void I felt for a long time. And yes, I think we all have that friend that will roll their eyes at a sentence like that….as I can just see him rolling his eyes right now. Regardless of eye rolling, it is how I felt then.

2015

December 9th was a defining moment for me. We have many moments, but only a handful of moments we would categorize as defining. As I stood by the bed watching the doctor masterfully deliver my child, I realized that this was my second chance. As the doctor placed my son on his mother’s belly, I could not help but get momentarily choked up, as a wave of emotion overtook me at seeing this little human. I cannot describe it. It is something you have to feel for yourself. To those expectant fathers, it is something to look forward to. I am more concerned about those men and women that do not feel that wave of emotion. I know they exist and I can only hope that it does not change the experience of the child in some way.

A second chance. I had my second chance to correct the mistakes I made with my first son. I know I sure as hell made some. There are some regrets I have carried for years and while I cannot undo what transpired, I surely can do better this time around. I have to. Otherwise I learned nothing from my greatest teacher….my first son.

 

What You Can Expect

So, this is my first blog. I have occasionally posted things online, but this is my first personal blog. For years, I fancied myself a writer, but in all honesty, I could never put pen to paper and write. But this medium, this is what I enjoy. The real unfiltered life I lead from day to day.

You will not find any sugarcoating on this page. I will keep it as real as I can. I am far from perfect, but the one thing that I am not is fake. I see a lot of fake stuff online. People claiming to have these perfect lives or dispensing advice because they know better. Because they did everything right.

Not me. I offer insights based on things I did wrong. Trainwreck. This term is often used to describe someone’s life when it all goes wrong. Well, I am not a trainwreck. However, I can honestly say I could be described as a series of fender benders. As I look back, I can see where I should have gone left instead of right. Or zagged this way instead of that way. It all seems so clear, but hindsight is 20-20.

This blog will be about the journey I’ve had and the journey I am taking again. I hope that people will relate to my story and experiences, be entertained or mildly amused by my writing, and appreciate the reviews and suggestions I make.

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