Never Parent Hungover

Last Saturday was a BIG day for the Palma family. For the first time ever, my wife and I would attempt to raise 2 kids completely and utterly hungover.

Would both of us survive? Would either of us? What about the children? How would they fare? How would they behave? Would I kill one of them? Just kidding. Or am I? I am. Mostly.

Anyway, here now, in riveting timeline form, is why you should never parent hungover.

8:00 AM

Where am I? What happened? There was the wedding and, oh God, the open bar. Yup, that’ll do it. Take the excitement of our first night without kids in over a year, add a festive environment, and sprinkle in an open bar and that is why I’m waking up in this hotel room without a short-term memory. We gotta go. We need to be home by 9:00 to relieve Grandma of her sitter duties.

8:30 AM

We leave the hotel and head for the car. St. Paul is buzzing. Joggers jog. Walkers walk. Groups of people on their way to breakfast marvel over the beautiful fall weather. Meanwhile, I, short of breath, lean against a light pole and snag a loogie through a sewer grate. Nice.

9:00 AM

We arrive home. Grandma is outside with the kids. This is a shameful moment. I feel dirty and stink like a bar, and that’s where I belong, hunched over a bar stool, blabbering on about how to survive a bear attack, not at home in front of Grandma and the kids and the watchful eyes of God. I need to shower.

9:30 AM

The house is a mess. How do parents find time to both raise kids and clean up after them? Hire a cleaner, I suppose. But then again, how do parents both raise kids and afford literally anything else?

10:00 AM

We eat breakfast and…oh no. The 3 year old is speaking Perma-Whine, a pesky form of communication where instead of talking like a normal human, she issues demands through her nose in elongated syllables.

This is always my least favorite feature of the 3 year old, but today I fear her Perma-Whining may kill me. This could last for minutes or hours or, who knows, maybe this is the day she adopts Perma-Whine as her everyday dialect.

I shut my eyes and think back to a few weeks before our second daughter was born. I worried I’d never love this second kid as much as the first. I lol at this thought and marvel at just how quickly and dominantly the baby has become my favorite child.

10:30 AM

The 3 year old demands to listen to Baby Shark, which literally is the last piece of media on earth I want to hear right now.

I hesitate.

“BABY SHAAAARRRRRRKK,” she whines.

I quickly weigh what’s more annoying, Baby Shark or her incessant whining. Easy choice.

“Hey, Siri, play Baby Shark.”

11:00 AM

I turn on the TV and fire up Daniel Tiger. This should give me at least 20 minutes to lie down.

11:05 AM

My wife sets the baby on the floor and joins me on the couch. A few weeks ago, the baby found her voice. Since then, she has become a nonstop noise machine. Usually I find her coos and squawks sweet and comforting. But today they sound like something out of The Walking Dead.

I say, “Shhhh, quiet please,” forgetting that she is only a baby and doesn’t obey commands. She continues her ruckus. I close my eyes and fall further into misery.

The 3 year old walks over. “WAKE UP DADDY!” I tell her the same thing I told the baby, “Shhhh, quiet please,” forgetting that the 3 year old doesn’t listen to a goddamn thing I say.

11:10 AM

The dog trots over starved for attention. He tries to squeeze between the couch and ottoman but can’t. He settles to sit at the end of the couch and lick my foot, clearly intrigued by whatever has grown between my toes after being shoved in a dress sock for 14 hours.

The gang’s all here. Peering through a window, you would see a man physically surrounded by loved ones. Internally, however, I am blanketed in a personal hell. I need to be alone. I need to shut my eyes. Oh God, I need to vomit.

11:55 AM

Well, I did it. I will spare you the gory details but just know that I spent 45 minutes trying to vomit before actually vomiting.

12:00 PM

Having barfed away my headache, I am finally comfortable enough to sleep. I feel like the worst is over. My body is ready. I just need to calm my mind but every time I close my eyes, Baby Shark Rings through my head.

12:05 PM

The bedroom door opens. It’s my wife. She pushes the 3 year old in and shuts the door again. Dammit! That is a solid move by Mom. I both respect and hate her for it.

I’m in trouble. The girl is unable to deal with anything even slightly out of the ordinary. To her, the novelty of napping in our bed is the equivalent of me trying to fall asleep on the moon.

12:15 PM

I finally get the girl to lie down. She asks to sing a lullaby. I ignore her. She starts singing Baby Shark, and for a moment I wonder…Is this how I die?

12:30 PM

I need to sleep. I shut my eyes, leaving the girl to either fall asleep on her own or go play unattended in the medicine cabinet.

2:00 PM

I wake up dripping in sweat. I grab my water cup and chug all 30 ounces. I check on the girl. She is asleep next to me. God does exist. I go back to sleep.

3:00 PM

I wake up and the girl’s face is an inch from mine peering right into my eyes.

Gahhh! The hell is wrong with you?

3:05 PM

We head downstairs. I’m starving. There is no food in the house. I eat $19 worth of teething crackers while standing over the sink.

4:00 PM

I am craving grease. After that nap, I feel good enough to go out to eat. Of course, I’d rather be hungover for a month than spend even 5 minutes in a restaurant with 2 children. We’ll have to settle for takeout. Oh well, just 18 more years and the kids will be out of the house. Then we’ll really start living.

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What Kid’s Crap Is The Worst To Pick Up?

I have been a dad for 3 years, 3 months and 9 days and in that time, I have become a master picker-upper of kid’s crap. If it’s for ages 3 and under, you best believe I have picked it up and carefully put it away, only to repeat this exercise 20 goddamn minutes later.

And it’s this never-ending churn of cleaning, picking up, maintaining, and reassembling that has inspired me to explore one of fatherhood’s most compelling questions: of all my kid’s crap, which is the crappiest to pick up?

10. Thomas and Friends Train Table

Trains

No toy requires more time and energy than this train table. I have spent more man hours tending to Thomas and Friends than I have raising actual children: a bridge collapsed, Thomas is stuck in a tunnel, Percy’s battery is dead, my nephew came over and disassembled each of the 150 pieces and tossed them in the subway, etc.

The only reason the train table isn’t higher on this list is because, relative to the other crap, it’s not a bad gig if you can get it. Within me still exists a tiny sliver of my 5 year old self who takes great pride in helping Thomas haul essential freight from Alpine Mountain to the townspeople down below. When things are running smoothly at the station, I am oddly satisfied. I have created this train town. I have given it life. I am a GOD.

9. Sippy Cups

Sippy Cups

We begin each day with two sippy cups: one for juice and one for water. On a perfect day, the girl will maintain both cups throughout. But, of course, there are no perfect days in parenthood so instead what happens is at 7:00AM sharp, the girl sticks her water cup under the couch, where it will remain for a week. Then the dog licks the juice cup and she demands a new one.

Then she leaves a cup upstairs after nap and I can’t retrieve it because the baby is crying and the grilled cheese will burn. Then for lunch she demands milk in her Big Girl cup. Then she immediately spills that milk all over the grilled cheese. Then I sprint downstairs, tie a noose, and hang myself from the rafters. And then by bedtime, there are enough half-filled sippy cups in this house to hydrate an entire preschool.

8. Play-Doh

Play-Doh

The problem with Play-Doh is you can play with it once before it crumbles like a stale cookie. After that, you’re doomed to hundreds of tiny Doh shards falling from the mother blob and onto the floor. From there, they will dry and turn to rock or be carried by your sock directly into your carpet where they will remain for all eternity.

7. Art Supplies

Remember in elementary when you’d open your crayon box for the first time? The crayons were all uniformly sized and pointed and organized by hue. Remember that smell? It was the start to a new year. You had new supplies. New clothes. New shoes! There was so much promise.

There is no promise, however, in the girl’s art box pictured above. It is no more than a hospice center for crayon nubs, uncapped markers, and palettes of water colors that are now just 10 shades of brown.

In fact, Craft Time usually lasts all of 7 minutes and ends up going just like this:

Minutes 1-3: The girl, frustrated with all the dried up markers and unsharpened colored pencils, whines for my help.

Minutes 3-6: I, frustrated with my involvement in what was supposed to be an independent activity, toss all the non-working supplies in the trash.

Minute 7: With both of us fed up, I turn on Daniel Tiger and park the girl on the couch so I can get some shit done.

6. Play Kitchen

Play Kitchen

Last Thursday, I was picking up after a tea party and as I returned the fake food to the pantry and fridge and stacked the dishes upside down in the drying rack, it dawned on me — I just spent 90 minutes doing this exact same shit in my own kitchen.

Now, the purpose of the play kitchen is to promote pretend play and stimulate the imagination. But let me tell you, that magic is lost on a grown-ass man who has just spent 8 hours sitting in a cubicle and another 2 slaving away in his own, actually functional kitchen.

5. Alphabet Mat

Alphabet Mat

The alphabet mat is a staple of kid’s crap. Not only is it educational but it provides the, uh, essential shock absorption necessary for any play area.

I’ll admit the first time it was assembled, it was nice. The pieces fit tightly together. It was colorful and smelled fresh of whatever noxious injectants they’re using over in the Chinese labor camps.

But then this thing started falling apart. The squares started to bend and the letters fell out. Then the little pieces inside the O and the D and the P and the B popped out and before I knew it, the play room was covered in little P-holes and B-holes. Finally, the mat has found it’s rightful place, sitting unassembled in a corner of the basement.

4. Bubbles

Bubbles

I have fond childhood memories of bubbles, so it pains me to feature them on this list. But alas, these fancy modern day bubbles are nothing like bubbles from the 90s. That bubble blower you see above? It blows 5 bubbles per second, an entirely unnecessary rate of fire. It is the AR-15 of bubble machines.

And of course the girl can’t just pop or run through the bubbles, she needs to sit directly in the line of fire and absorb the onslaught point blank. Within seconds, every inch of hair, clothing, and skin is saturated in bubble concentrate.

I am then left with no choice but to bust out the hose and spray her down like a dusty Toyota. I see no other solution.

3. Bottles

Bottles

We use Dr. Brown bottles because they prevent gas and reflux. But in order to accomplish this, each bottle consists of exactly 600 tiny pieces, all of which must be soaked, washed and dried after every use.

Lately, I’ve been trying to take full ownership of all bottle washing. I figure since my wife carried the child for 9 months, then gave birth, and now nurses the child, I can take care of the bottles. It’s tough, but fair is fair.

2. Puzzles

Puzzles

The worst part about picking up puzzles is that you have to do the puzzle, making it the only job on this list where you’re required to complete an actual activity. And some puzzles are hard, man. I don’t have the patience to be challenged by child’s play.

The other problem, of course, is that pieces are scattered throughout this house: under the couch, in a random toy bin, or sucked into the black hole that exists somewhere on this property and devours ¼ of all the kid’s crap. When we move, the family that replaces us will find one missing piece to each of our 78 puzzles. To that family: you can keep them.

1. Ball Castle, Ball Pit, or Other Ball Containing Structure

Ball Castle

As a general rule, the more pieces a toy has, the more of your life you spend picking it up. So, a toy with 100 pieces is inherently worse than a toy with 10. But when a toy is comprised of 100 balls, things descend into chaos.

Balls have rolled everywhere: on every level of the house, under every piece of furniture. The dog has brought balls outside. They’re his balls now.

Even the staircases usually contain a ball or two, which is not only annoying but downright hazardous. What if the dog trips? What if I trip? What if I’m carrying the baby or, God forbid, a beer? Domestic ball pits should be outlawed.

Bonus: Literal Crap (not pictured)

Poop! All new parents should expect plenty of poop. But the biggest surprise isn’t the quantity, which again is substantial, it’s the variety.

You experience poop you never knew existed! For the first few days, a newborn poops meconium, which is a mixture of amniotic fluid and other stuff and is unlike anything else here on earth. Then, if your baby is breastfed, you’ll enjoy a few months of Dijon mustard blowouts. When the baby transitions to table food, they’ll start pooping like a normal human. At first, it’s alarming to find real life human poop inside a diaper, but you get used to it.

And then you start potty training, where you’ll be treated to a collection of skids, sharts, smears, crumbs, and the surprise log on your Play-Doh ridden carpet.

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6 Surprising Lessons From Daddy Daughter Music Class

6 Lessons From Music Class

Is Sharing This Household Chore The Secret To A Happy Marriage?

What are the most important qualities in a partner? Honesty? Common interests? What about someone to share the chores with?

A study from the Pew Research Group revealed that “sharing household chores” now ranks 3rd in a list of 9 items commonly associated with a happy marriage — ahead of adequate income, common interests, and shared religious beliefs.

This shift in marital satisfaction comes as gender roles continue to evolve. As more women enter the workplace and more fathers increase their hours of childcare, sharing household chores is more important for today’s couples than ever before — and couples that share the load are rewarded with happier marriages, greater partner satisfaction, and a better sex life.

But there’s more to a blissful marriage than picking up the vacuum once a week. As relationships tend to be, it’s complicated. Here are 3 things you need to know.

Fair Is Only Fair If She Says So

When it comes to housework, it’s perceived equality that matters. If the partners believe the split is fair, then there is no resentment and the two can go on with their happy, sexy marriage.

But since women still do on average 3.4 times more housework than men, it’s really the wife’s perception that counts. This, of course, is an interesting nuance because regardless of the actual split — 60/40, 50/50, 70/30 — if Mrs. Smith feels it’s unfair, then it is.

This also means that ‘fair’ can change. Say the Smiths have been running happily at a 60/40 split. Until one day Mrs. Smith heads over to the Thompsons and notices Husband of the Year hopeful Mr. Thompson is shouldering 50% of the housework. Suddenly, Mrs. Smith is no longer content with her 60% workload.

So in other words, when it comes to ‘fair’, the wife is always right — proof that while marriage is ever-evolving, some things never change.

More Bad News For Men: Dad Chores Don’t Count

Like any loving couple, my wife and I occasionally argue over the division of housework. And like any loving husband, I inevitably lose this argument, despite presenting a logical and factual case.

Whenever we’re discussing workloads or whenever she gives me the ol’ I Can’t Do Everything Around Here, my go-to argument is that my chores don’t count.

It doesn’t matter that I freeze my ass off at 5AM clearing 2 feet of snow from the driveway. Or that I’m out there in grueling heat and humidity pushing the lawn mower around the yard like some schmuck. It doesn’t matter that whenever some appliance breaks or a drain gets clogged or the sump pump shits out I’m the one who has to helplessly troubleshoot it before giving up and calling my dad. Like doesn’t any of that count? Dear reader, it does not. Why?

Because mowing the grass isn’t shitty enough to qualify as housework. When I mow, I’m away from the kids. I take off my shirt and unleash the Dad Bod and bang out to my high school hip hop playlist.

Scrubbing the grease from a frying pan, on the other hand, puts you up close and personal with filth. It’s gritty. You gotta get right up in there, clench your teeth, and scrub. You’re hunched over the sink, usually to the sound of tantruming children

The benefits of a shared workload apply only to the grimy, thankless chores that have traditionally been done by women, like laundry, cleaning bathrooms, and surprisingly most important…dishes.

Sharing Dishes: The Secret To Marital Bliss?

A recent study revealed that for women, sharing dishes is more important than any other chore. Women stuck with the full load are less satisfied in almost all areas of their relationship than those who split dishes with their partner. Not only was sharing dishes the biggest source of satisfaction in the relationship, but not sharing was the biggest source of discontent. Why is sharing dishes so important?

You do a lot of them. Many chores are weekly. A few are daily. But dishes might be the only chore you do multiple times per day.

They often follow other tasks, like cooking. You’ve cooked, you’ve eaten, you’ve been in the kitchen for 2 hours, now it’s time for dishes.

They are gross. You’re handling your family’s half-eaten food.

And thankless. A clean house looks nice and can even get compliments. But no one says oh wow that’s a clean dish.

But they do promote teamwork. We’ve been pretty hard on dishes so far, so let’s say something nice about them. When done together, dishes can promote teamwork, which can make partners feel more connected.

Sharing dishes sparks other components of a happy marriage. We discussed earlier that sharing household chores ranked 3rd in a list of 9 items important to a happy marriage. The 2 items that ranked higher? 1) Faithfulness and 2) A good sex life.

Now, since sharing dishes is shown to increase intimacy — both in frequency and quality — and one of the leading causes of infidelity is unmet sexual needs, then not only is sharing dishes important as an integral part of #3 sharing household chores, but it also supercharges the 2 items that rank higher.

So there you have it. You want an intimate and faithful relationship? Grab a dish towel.

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My Kids Turned Our Dog Into A Desperate Robot

For 5 years, my dog and I had a relationship that would make Scooby and Shaggy jealous. We’d go for morning walks, play fetch after work, and lounge on the couch all evening. We were buds. I even referred to us as “The Buds,” a duo so exclusive not even my wife could become a member, try as she might.

But then the kids came, and the demands of fathering human children quickly began to cannibalize quality time with The Buds.

As a result, Mo went from receiving 100% of the attention to, like, still 50%. But he’s handled this change with all the grace and elegance of a drunken frat boy.

I try to be sensitive to his situation, but my God…my God…sometimes his bids for attention are so desperate and so repetitive that I swear he has turned into an affection seeking robot. And because of this, I end up saying the same things to him over and over. Here now are 13 of those things.

SHHHHHHHH! Shut up. It’s 5AM. You’re so loud. Do you have to shake like that every time you get out of bed? This is the only waking hour I get alone. If you wake one of the children, I’m going to kill myself and make you watch me die.

Move! Get out of the way! Why are you always loitering in the primary intersections of the house? Can’t you tell everyone has to walk around you? Or is this your master plan?

Go potty. If you go to the door, it better be an emergency. I don’t have time to let you out just so you can stand on the stoop and sniff the air. Now, go on!

DON’T EAT THAT! [screaming out the patio door] Don’t eat that, it’s goose shit!

No lick! You just ate goose shit. Please stop licking the baby.

Easy! Why are you so physical? Stop boxing out the children.

Drop it! You have a hundred toys in this house. Why must you take the toddler’s Mickey Mouse slippers? She is screaming like a slasher movie victim, and I cannot handle it. Now, drop it!

No bark! What is your deal? Why must you lose your mind any time the neighbor dog is out/the UPS guy drives by/I ever-so-gently place a cup of coffee on the table at 5 in the morning?

We’ll go soon. Walk soon, bud. But for now…

Go lie down. You lingering in my peripheral at all hours of the day is driving me crazy.

What do you want? You’ve had food, water, 2 walks, 5 bones, and so many treats that you now have diarrhea. Why are you still whisper crying by the treat door?

You’re doing this on purpose. Oh, your ball is stuck under the couch again…for the 5th time in 5 minutes…and you require my assistance? Hmmmm, how queer.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry the toddler pulled your ears. I’m sorry the baby requires around the clock attention. I’m sorry things aren’t the way they used to be. I’m sorry, all right?

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6 Surprising Lessons From Daddy Daughter Music Class

My daughter just finished Music Together in the Valley, a music and dance class for kids and their parents.

With a newborn at home, my wife and I figured the weekly session would give the girl a much needed break from the chaos.

Of course, with baby occupying all of my wife’s time, the class and all of its (gulp) singing, dancing, and role-playing fell directly on my shoulders. Here now are 6 lessons from daddy daughter music class.

They Skimped On The Good Stuff

I have this habit of setting expectations based on no information and then becoming borderline offended when reality is nothing like those expectations. This is a solid Dad Move and exactly what happened with this music class.

To start, I figured that for $200 we’d have access to some sweet instruments: bongos, snare drums, waist high xylophones with the big furry mallets, etc. I literally envisioned laying down a dirty beat on the snare while the girl giggled with delight.

The best thing about being a dad is that kids are easily impressed. Anytime I complete some basic, everyday task like standing on a chair to retrieve the bourbon from the liquor cabinet, the girl looks at me like I am Superman — WOW! DADDY HIGH UP!!! — and since I lead an otherwise very unimpressive life, showing off to a toddler has become critical to my overall self-esteem.

But there was to be no showboating in music class, because the only “instruments” provided were maracas and rhythm sticks. Not even a toddler is impressed with that crap. If the music industry wants to hook kids on music, they should bust out the good stuff.

The Girl Is Already Too Cool For Me

The class was recommended for ages 0-5, so I was surprised when, at 2.5 years old, the girl was one of the oldest ones there.

Now, here’s the problem with that. The other kids, either unable to walk or still in the grips of stranger danger, stayed close to their parents.

But the girl, demonstrating her newfound independence as an almost-3-year-old, ran to the middle of the circle to jam out alone, in an uncoordinated whirlwind of white girl rhythm she inherited from her mother.

So while the other parents danced with their kids, I was exposed, in a big circle, having to dance and sing and role play all alone like some horse’s ass. I will have nightmares about this for years to come.

I Have No Rhythm

It’s brutal. There was a point during the final session when we were doing the Macarena and I just stopped moving. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the moves, like any child of the 90s this horrible dance is burned into my muscle memory for time eternal, it’s that my brain just shut it down. Like it went into damage control and said to my body, “All right that’s enough, bud. I’m done letting you embarrass the both of us.”

(Thank you, brain).

The Girl Is Gonna Have To Get Some Rhythm

The girl cannot follow in my uncoordinated footsteps. At some point, she’s gonna have to learn to dance, because rhythm is a necessary life skill.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it should be taught in high school — now that I have a few years of real world experience, I LOVE blaming all my shortcomings on the school system (another solid Dad Move).

But seriously I took 2 years of chemistry, and for what? Nothing. But at every wedding I attend I have to blackout just so I can drown my conscious enough to let me out on the dance floor. We should demolish all high school lab tables and use the space for mandatory dance and rhythm class. Who do I talk to about this?

45 Minutes is Too Long For Children’s Activities

And not just for kids and their non-existent attention spans, but for the parents. It’s exhausting. Even at home, I can endure about 30 minutes of playing house before I need a break to go sit on the couch and check Twitter. Children’s activities should be capped at 30 minutes.

Weeknight Activities Make For A Long Day

Here is a snapshot of my Tuesday with music class: I wake up, rush to work, rush home, eat dinner so fast it doesn’t even register, rush to music class, shake some miracas, rush home again, and after I shower and get the girl to sleep, I have 10 minutes to cry uncontrollably into my pillow before bed.

And this is with only one activity per week. How much of fatherhood is bussing kids to and from activities? Am I destined for a life of choir lessons, dance recitals, and girl’s sports? Is this my future?

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What Nobody Tells You About Fatherhood: 7 Confessions From A New Family Man

Last week my wife gave birth to our second daughter, cementing my status as an official family man. I have the SUV and the house in the suburbs. Now I can just sit back and watch as my goals and ambitions wither away while I grow old, fat, and eternally grouchy. Exciting!

Anyway, this being our second child, I feel like a savvy veteran and am taking a more hands off approach to parenting. So, instead of helping my wife with the kids, I’ve jotted down some deep and philosophical thoughts on birth, fatherhood, and life in general. Here now are 7 confessions from a brand new family man.

The Female Body Is Amazing

My wife went into labor the night of the Minneapolis Miracle, which means a mere 3 hours before her contractions started I was in my buddy’s basement, drunk and shirtless, witnessing the greatest moment in Minnesota sports history and embracing other drunk and shirtless men as we jumped up and down together and screamed OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!

Anyway, at some point during the festivities I ate something that would later give me crippling food poisoning.

My wife woke me up at midnight and was like, “I think I’m having contractions.” And she was!

And then I was like, “I think I’m gonna barf.” And I did! Many times in fact.

Anytime I changed position I’d have to run to the bathroom to dry heave, so from 1AM to 6AM, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, my laboring wife rubbed my back while I moaned in agony.

I finally pulled myself together around 6:30, and we drove to the hospital. When we got there she was 8cm dilated and less than 2 hours later, a 7 pound baby was born.

It was impressive. I could not have done it. I even said to her, “I’m proud of you.” And she was like, “That’s a weird thing to say.” But it’s true. The female body is a machine.

It’s Always Nice When The Umbilical Cord Falls Off

I was very involved in my wife’s first delivery, more so than I ever imagined or desired to be.

So this time I was relieved, especially with the food poisoning, that the doctors let me play a more passive role. I didn’t have to hold a leg or stare into the arena and update my wife on her progress. The only thing I really had to do was cut the umbilical cord, and that was almost too much.

For those who don’t know, the umbilical cord is the literal lifeline that connects the baby to the placenta and ultimately to the mother. It consists of a vein, arteries and a protective substance known as Wharton’s jelly.

It’s tradition for the birth partner to cut the thing and when you do, it feels very much alive. It even squirted a little bit.

Then they leave like 2 inches of the cord attached to the baby and it stays there for a week or two while it dies and shrivels like a worm in the sun.

To me, the crusty cord serves as a nagging reminder of the labor/delivery process and it’s just nice when it finally falls off and you can put that horror show behind you and ceremoniously flush that fucker down the toilet.

[Related reading: Childbirth: The Survival Guide For First Time Fathers]

Go Visit Your Friends’ Babies

And bring dinner, and probably some alcohol. When our first girl was a newborn I’d often wonder, how are we going to do this all again, except with a toddler?

And honestly you don’t. There are things you just don’t have time for anymore: housework, working out, maintaining the minimum amount of alone time required to keep your sanity, etc.

It’s a desperate time. I can’t even go cry in the shower about it without the 2 year old pressing her face against the glass and squealing, “Dada’s pee-pee!”

It’s so nice to have other adults come and grace us with their normalcy, and a meal I don’t have to cook/pay for/clean up.

[Related reading: How To Visit Your Buddy’s Newborn Baby]

What Are We Gonna Do With All These Toys?

Our house is filled with kid’s shit. There are baby swings and play kitchens and trikes and dolls and then the dolls have their own dolly baby swings and play kitchens and trikes and dolls. It’s insane.

I get anxiety whenever I strategize how I will eventually rid all this shit from my possession. I could drop it off at Goodwill, I suppose. But some of this shit is brand new. I want cash.

What is my best bet here? Please don’t say a garage sale. It’s a garage sale, isn’t it? Dammit! My nightmare is a Saturday spent haggling with some deranged garage-saling grandma over a $4 Peppa Pig scooter. Screw it. I’m not doing that. It’s all going to Goodwill. I’ll take the 25 cent tax deduction.

Why Does Everyone Assume Kids Are Named AFTER Someone?

For the rest of my life, whenever I’m told a name of a baby, here’s what I’m going to say:

“That’s a very nice name.”

If I’m feeling chatty and wanting to make further conversation, I will expand my response to:

“That’s a very nice name. How did you come up with it?”

What I’m not going to do is run that name through my memory bank and then verbally hypothesize that its origins are from a piece of pop culture.

Initially, my wife and I decided to name the girl Lennon. Until one day I had this terrible revelation that if we named this kid Lennon, we’d spend the rest of our lives listening to everyone and her mother ask, DURRRRRR DID YA NAME ‘ER AFTER JOHN LENNON?

So we scrapped the name and went with Veda, a more traditional girl’s name, and I swear to God, at least 30 people have said, “Did you get the name from the movie My Girl?”

NO! Have you seen My Girl? That movie is sad as hell. Poor Thomas J. was murdered by bees! FUCKIN MURDERED BY BEES!! Okay? We didn’t name our daughter after some character in a morbid 90s family film. She just happens to have the same name.

We like the name Veda. We like the way it sounds when we say it with our mouths and hear it with our ears. That’s it. If you need more detail, we like the 2 symmetrical syllables and how it plays with the name of our oldest daughter, Mila. Yes, I’ve seen That 70s Show. No! we didn’t name her after Mila Kunis! What is wrong with you people?

[Related reading: How To Pick The Perfect Baby Name]

I Miss Sleeping

I used to be a power sleeper. You could land a jet plane on my nightstand and I wouldn’t so much as twitch. But everyone else in this house? Terrible sleepers. And their bad habits have broken down my 9 hours of marathon sleep like some awful itinerary. Take last night for example…

9:30PM: I fall asleep.

10:00PM: The baby is up. Now, so am I.

10:20PM: I lie awake while the baby audibly suckles at the teet.

10:25PM: Baby audibly shits herself. It sounds like someone squeezed the last of the ketchup from a Heinz bottle.

12:00AM: The dog comes to bed. He immediately gets hot and starts panting.

1:00AM: The 2 year old is up. She claims she has an itchy butt, one of many bold-faced lies she has at the ready to get me to lie down with her.

2:30AM: I wake up in the 2 year old’s bed and return to my own. I hate when this happens.

4:00AM: The baby is up again.

5:00AM: My alarm goes off, and I head downstairs to work on this blog.

5:05AM: Far too tired to write, I instead fall asleep on the couch.

7:00AM: The 2 year old is up, and I am late for work.

They Grow Up Fast

I know this is the biggest cliche ever, but kids really do grow up fast. It’s shocking the rate at which the 2 year old went from newborn to toddler, and it’s just been such a treat to see her mature into this tiny, little person who refuses to listen to a goddamn word I say.

In all seriousness though, with our first girl, I spent a lot of time wishing for that next big milestone — for her to walk, or talk, or develop fine motor skills so I could teach her to ride a Power Wheel — when I should have focused on what was right in front of me. Luckily, this time around, I know how fast it goes. And I’m not going to make that mistake again.

[Related reading: What Nobody Tells You About Fatherhood: 12 Confessions From A Brand New Dad]

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Car Seats: Everything New Parents Need To Know

I just bought our third car seat, and if I’ve learned anything about buying car seats it’s that buying carseats is daunting and miserable.

Not only do you have to find the right seat among hundreds of options — infant seats, forward facers, rear facers, forward and rear facers, all-in-ones, 3-in-1s, and boosters — but then you have to custom install the thing based on your child’s size and your vehicle’s’ specifications. It’s too much.

In fact, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly. Another study found that 95% of new parents made installation mistakes with their first car seats.

I’d like to think I could install a car seat correctly, but man those are bad odds. And even if I’m one of the lucky 5% who aces the first install, there’s a 75% chance I’ll mess up the second…and the third….which brings up another issue: How many car seats do I have to buy?

I assume car seats follow some natural progression that mirrors the growth of your child, but what happens when you have multiple kids and multiple vehicles? Does your life just become a terrible word problem?

Child A must use an infant seat until he turns 1, a rear facing seat until 2, a forward facing seat until 4, and a booster seat until 8. Child B must follow the same pattern but is 20 months younger than child A.

If both children ride in the sedan on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the SUV on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, how many car seats can Children A and B’s father afford before he has to find a second job?

In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the most important piece of child equipment you’ll ever buy. Now, let’s get to it.

Simple Tips for a Safer Seat

You might be wondering what’s the safest car seat on the market. Well, technically, any new car seat you buy is safe. Before a seat can be sold, it must pass the U.S. government’s crash and fire safety standards. This prevents shoddy products from ever reaching the market.

And although companies like Consumer Reports and Baby Gear Lab complete their own independent safety tests, the results are inconsistent at best, as winners and losers often flip flop based on the criteria of the test.

So, what can you do to make sure your car seat is safe? Well, a few things:

Buy brand new. The government is continually increasing safety requirements and safety technology is continually improving. The best way to make sure your seat has all the newest safety features — 5-point harness, 2 piece chest clip, etc.— is to buy a brand new seat.

Know the law. Laws regarding how long kids must remain in carseats and boosters differ by state. For a map outlining a state-by-state breakdown, click here.

Watch an installation video. Installation is easier when you can watch someone else do it. The NHTSA provides instructional videos for car seat installation on its website. These videos cover many things that aren’t necessarily obvious in your owner’s manual like where to position the harness straps and chest clips. Watch the videos here.

Have the car seat inspected after installation. Places like local police departments and fire stations will inspect your car seat for free. To find the nearest car seat inspection station, just type your zip code into this handy widget on the NHTSA’s website.

Read reviews. The safest seat is the seat that’s installed correctly. By reading reviews and paying attention to factors like ease of use and installation, you can find a seat you can safely install.

Buy the right seat. Before my daughter was born, I thought a car seat was a car seat. I was wrong. There are infant car seats and booster seats. There are convertible seats and 3-in-1s and all-in-ones, and at some point in her life, your child will need most or all of them. Here’s a rundown.

Types of Car Seats

This grid outlines the seats your child will need as he grows. All size limits are approximate and will vary by individual make and model.

Car Seats

Note: Recently, car seat companies have started manufacturing all-in-one models designed to grow with the child from infancy until they no longer need a booster. Many reviews and safety tests have determined that, by trying to do too much, they don’t do any one thing particularly well. As a result, all-in-one models are excluded here.

How to Buy Car Seats For Your Growing Family

This infographic from the NHTSA outlines car seat recommendations based on the age of your child.

Car Seat Timeline

Now, here is a more specific plan. By no means is it the only plan. But based on the research required for this post, here is my answer to the great car seat riddle. Again, ages listed here are approximate. When your child transitions seats will depend on his size and the specifications of the seat.

Phase 1: Your newborn

Although most convertible seats technically can contain a newborn, most researchers agree that infants are safest in an infant seat.

Also, I can’t imagine life without the baby carrier. Like how do you get the newborn to and from the car? With your bare hands? Because that seems dangerous. I do not trust myself to safely deliver the newborn to his car seat. I need that carrier. Anyway…

The Decision: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 and an additional base

The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 (click images to see on Amazon) is the number one seller on Amazon and also goes on sale frequently. We bought the seat, which includes a base, and then an extra base for our second vehicle. With our car seat needs covered, we could then worry about other things for the first year of parenthood.

Phase 2: Your 1 Year Old

A new study from Consumer Reports recommends that children transition from an infant seat no later than their first birthday, and sooner if they reach the size limit. However, a lot of research shows 1-2 year olds are safer riding rear-facing than forward-facing — in some cases 5 times safer — because a rear-facing seat offers the best protection for a small child’s head, neck, and spine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cites that children under 2 are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing. So to be in line with the AAP’s official recommendation that all kids ride rear-facing until at least 2, you’ll need a convertible seat, one that rides rear-facing from 1-2 (or longer) and forward-facing thereafter.

What about my second vehicle? Of course, since convertible seats don’t come with a detachable base, you’ll have to figure something out for your second vehicle. You could, theoretically, switch the seat between vehicles. But as a new parent, who is permanently running 20 minutes late, I don’t have time for that.

So, maybe a better bet is to get a budget seat. Remember, all car seats have passed government testing. A lot of times, what you pay for is comfort and extra features. And although this seat might not be as posh as the one in your primary vehicle, it’ll offer a safe ride a few times per week.

The Decision: Graco Contender 65 & Evenflow Tribute LX

I promise I don’t work for Graco. But after assembling and using hundreds of baby products from different companies, Graco is just simpler. And you can’t put a price on simplicity, especially when you’re a new parent.

The Evenflo Tribute LX has performed incredibly well in safety and ease-of-use testing, and at half the price of its competitors, makes a great seat for your second vehicle or for grandparents.

Phase 3: Your 2 Year Old and (maybe) New Baby

With two convertible seats and an infant seat with an extra base, you’ll be covered until your youngest child turns 1. Then it’s time to think about booster seats.

Remember a booster seat uses your vehicle’s seat belts, as opposed to the 5-point harness. The harness offers the best protection for small children because it prevents them from wiggling around and also distributes the force of impact over a larger area of the body, should a crash occur.

Therefore, your child should only be moved to a booster when he meets the following requirements:

  • At least 4 years old
  • At least 40 pounds
  • Mature enough to stay seated

Since my daughter won’t meet the booster requirements by the time her younger sibling turns 1, we bought a 3-in-1 Harness Booster to bridge the gap. She can sit forward facing using the 5-point harness until she’s ready for a booster and then use the booster until she graduates to sitting like a normal person in the back seat. Since most states mandate that kids ride in a booster until at least 7 years old, we’ll likely have to buy a couple backless boosters (~$25) in a few years. But I’ll worry about that another day.

The Decision: Graco Nautilus 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster

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What It’s Like To Watch Your Kid Fail: 3 Lessons For New Parents

My daughter just failed Backfloat Baby 1, a swim class for one-year-olds where doing the Hokey Pokey is 90% of the curriculum.

In fact, at no point during the 12 weekly lessons did I consider there were actual passing requirements. They were never discussed. There wasn’t a final test. And since the girl was the most experienced and comfortable swimmer in the class, I assumed she would doggy paddle right into Backfloat Baby 2.

We didn’t even realize she had failed until we had left the pool, as demonstrated here in my wife’s premature celebratory Snap.

Swim

As parents, this was new territory, marking the first time anyone had ever suggested our perfect little sweetheart was in any way not perfect. But for something as trivial as a baby swim class, I was surprisingly pissed off over it.

What do we do? Do we go back and demand an explanation? Is that crazy? Will that make us ‘those’ parents? Maybe I should call the program director. Or maybe I should wait until nightfall and toss a burning bag of shit on the steps of the main entrance.

We decided to call and were told that the girl failed because “she didn’t show enough independence on her backfloat.”

Now, this can mean one of two things, either A) the girl swims fine, and this gibberish about independence and backfloats is just a sham to squeeze us for an additional enrollment fee. Or B) the girl really DOES need to show more independence on her backfloat and, as a proud father, I refuse to accept that this is true. Because it’s not. The girl swims like a goddamn mermaid.

We were also told that in some cases, they will permit a child to enroll in Backfloat Baby 2 without first passing Backfloat Baby 1. All we’d have to do is come in for an assessment, pass the assessment, and get sign-off from a swim manager, which is a hilarious overestimation of what I’m willing to endure just to hemorrhage another $300 to this stupid swim school.

Anyway, it’s been a week and I’m basically over the girl flunking. For now, she can learn to swim in the community pool, and we’ll throw the $200 we save into her college fund.

But what terrifies me is entering the phase of fatherhood where I can’t protect the girl from disappointment and failures brought about by the outside world. Because this is just the beginning.

Today it’s some swim class she neither knows she failed nor participated in. But what happens when she gets cut from the softball team? Or when she doesn’t get invited to little Susie’s 6th Birthday Bash? What happens when her little heart is broken and there is nothing I can do to piece it back together?

It’s not something you think about when your kid is in diapers, and it’s not something I thought about, until now. Here are 3 lessons I learned from watching my kid fail.

1. Don’t Let it Turn You Into a Monster

It sucks watching your kid fail. This is expected and obvious, but it doesn’t make it any easier. But I think the hardest part is not taking it personally.

I’m a reasonable guy, and the instructor seemed like a nice enough gal. But I found myself immediately wishing hateful shit upon her, as if she were some cold-hearted swim fascist whose sole purpose was to make life miserable for the Palma family.

When someone criticizes your child, it’s only natural to want to throw that someone into a poisonous snake pit (that is a natural instinct shared by all of us, right?). But you can’t be going all Momma Grizzly anytime anyone points out an imperfection. You gotta keep your head and be calm, but at the same time…

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Up for Your Kid

I played hockey growing up, and youth hockey in Minnesota is about as political as a GOP convention. This entire state is filled with batshit parents willing to kiss the ass of every hockey coach in a 50 mile radius if it means more ice time for little Jeffrey.

And as kids, we knew it too. Kids are smart. We were well aware of all the hobnobbing and brown nosing, and I remember thinking I’m never gonna be like that.

But now that I’m a parent, I sorta, kinda get it. Not the ass-kissing so much, but the acting like a crazy person for the sake of your child.

You know your kid like no one else. You see the work they put in and know how bad they want something — not that the girl put any work in for her swim class, but hypothetically speaking — others just see another snot-nosed kid. You should stand up for your child. Because if you won’t, why should anyone else?

3. Preach Effort Over Outcome

Not to get all philosophical, but what is failure? Like, at what point have you officially failed? Steve Jobs released dozens of unsuccessful products and was even fired from his own company. But were those failures? Or just steps to success?

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Failure is scary. It prevents great people from doing great things. But studies show that failure is an ingredient of success. A lot of times, what we consider failure is a necessary part of the process.

So teach your kids not to fear failure. Preach effort over outcome, and remember you only fail when you quit. So if you want something, don’t ever quit.

Unless that something is an unfair and overpriced swim school. Then you should definitely quit and find a cheaper option.

 

Related Reading

What Nobody Tells You About Fatherhood: 12 Confessions From A Brand New Dad

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