Two Months of Fatherhood

My friends asked me a couple weeks ago if I was enjoying my time as a father. I hesitated for a moment because a firm “YES!” would have been a complete lie. I couldn’t blurt out a resounding applaud for my son because, at the time, Teddy was going through his 6-week growth spurt; apparently, babies have several growth spurts within the first year. He went from an angelic newborn with predictable sleeping habits to a grumpy-old-man who wants to escape the nursing home. There was nothing we could do to soothe him, and his fussiness tested my patience to the point that I fantasized about sleeping in the garage. The growth spurt lasted a couple of weeks, and we are starting to see some rays of hope. Teddy is now 2 months old and weighs a whopping 11 pounds. We took him in for his first round of vaccinations; he cried a little bit but we promised him  ice cream afterward – Christina and I really enjoyed the ice cream.

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If my friends asked me today if I enjoyed my time as a father, I would leap up and give them a hug. I know there will be more growth spurts and hard times, but Teddy’s personality is starting to blossom – a big deal to all fathers. Newborn babies stress me out, and you can’t really do much with them because they are asleep 90 percent of the time – either sleeping, eating, or crying. Two-month-old Teddy, on the other hand, enjoys kicking his legs, smiling, and getting his double chin squeezed. It’s not much, but for a father who has no maternal bone in his body, it is a big step towards one day throwing a baseball or talking about Plato. I find it interesting the difference between men and women during the baby phase. Christina is always on the verge of tears thinking of Teddy becoming a man. I, on the other hand, am excited about those formidable years of Teddy’s maturity.

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Of course, we both are going to enjoy the journey, but it is definitely apparent which part of that journey best fits our personality. Christina is an amazing Mom, and she could probably nurture a rabid dog to sleep. My forte is being a coach and motivator – attributes which don’t kick in until much later. This points to a key philosophical concept. Children need both masculinity and feminity while growing up – the Ying and Yang of parenthood. There is a lot of arguments over sex and gender in today’s world, but I don’t believe anyone can argue that it doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a village of people because men and women bring unique gifts to the table of life. There is a big problem today of men leaving their families; a father or male role-model is essential. Consider the following stats…

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)
  • 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
  • 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows f for all God’s Children]

To find out more information about fatherless households go to the National Fatherhood Initiative

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Some of these stats are from the 20th century but the findings today show the same detrimental pattern. We need good men to help raise the next generation of children – and I hope to be enlisted in that pursuit. So the next time my friends ask me how I am enjoying my fatherhood…I will try not to hesitate too long :).

 

A Most Unlikely Emperor

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Today is my third wedding anniversary. Three years ago I read vows to a woman while crying like a little baby. Our relationship since the wedding has continued to mature – our laughs and conversations keep getting better and better. Probably the best part of being married is that I can feel loved even when I am laying on the couch in my underwear while simultaneously eating pork rinds and singing along to Toto’s “Africa.” Without Christina, I would not be able to regularly read and write; it would be nearly impossible to complete classics while getting texts and updates from Tinder or eHarmony. Instead of swiping right or left on an app all I have to do is swipe right or left while cleaning the floor – this causes an immediate summons to the bedroom.

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Thank you, Christina, for helping me to be a better man and helping me get through the tough books which my former self would never have opened. One of those tough books was my most recent classic I, Claudius by Robert Graves. There are some books that are hard but interesting and others that are hard and boring – the latter is I, Claudius. Before reading it, I had the feeling one gets right before running the mile for the Presidential Fitness Test – an increase in heart rate, anxiety, dread, and the overarching desire to play dead on the ground. However, like the mile run, upon completing this story about the Roman Emperor Claudius, I felt a euphoric high that only comes from adversity.

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I, Claudius is technically fiction but written with historical accuracy as the autobiography of Tiberius Claudius. Claudius was a family member of the Roman court and the book details his life from his birth in 10 B.C. to his ascension as Emperor in 41 A.D. What is cool about the autobiography is that Claudius details the lives of fascinating Emperors like Agustus, Tiberius, and the evil Caligula. Claudius was born with a limp and a severe stammer which forced him into isolation from his more “Romanesque” brothers and sisters; at the time physical strength, aesthetic beauty, and elegant speech were desirable attributes in the royal court. Claudius became a bookworm and spent his time writing obscure histories. Most people thought he was stupid and treated him like a second-class citizen.

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Rome was a brutal place, and his family members were routinely killed by rival factions to climb the political ladder. When Claudius was middle aged, his nephew Caligula took over the throne. Caligula was a monster who slept with his sisters, killed his father, and smothered the former Emporer Tiberius. Caligula would end up killing most of his rivals and any family member envious of the throne. The only one who survived Caligula’s insanity was Claudius. Claudius played dumb and used his wit whenever threatened. In the end, Caligula was assassinated, and by accident, Claudius was chosen to be the Emperor. It’s actually a great story because Claudius more than any of his siblings deserves the throne because of his humility, intelligence, and levelheadedness; ironically, these attributes not only make for a great Emperor but also a great marriage. Here’s to many more years with you Christina – thanks for helping me always get to the finish line.

“I am supposed to be an utter fool and the more I read the more of a fool they think me.”
-Robert Graves ,  I, Cladius

Two Types of Men

Being a man in today’s world is really hard. There are two types of men out there: the doer or the payer. The “doer” is the type of guy who gets his hands dirty and gets the job done on his own terms. The “payer” is the type of guy who pays others to get the job done so he can pursue other activities. I fall into the category of the payer. I would much rather pay a person to put up a fence for my squirrel-like chihuahua than spend the whole day cursing at wooden posts. The problem with my “man” status is that I am a cheap frick. Being a cheap payer is the worse combination because I don’t want to change the oil myself but at the same time I can’t stand the guy asking me if I want an upgrade to synthetic for $89.99. This always gets me in trouble. Just today, I spent 2 hours snow blowing my driveway. A true payer would have someone plow it while he sat in a chair reading Esquire. Me on the other hand, spends the whole time dreaming of sitting down to a good magazine while I begin to pummel the side of the house with a bunch of pine needles that I never got around to raking. A doer would have cleaned all the pine needles off the house, laid a bunch of salt, and put orange markers near the grass to ensure snow removal accuracy; instead, I cursed those pine needles, left the job 80% finished and spent the next hour arguing about planting grass in the spring with my wife.

As a cheap payer I struggle with a constant envy towards the doer type. I say to myself, “Wouldn’t be nice if I enjoyed tinkering on a car?” or “Wouldn’t it feel good to shoot an animal dead?” Instead of enjoying the raw aspects of masculinity I spend my time looking for tire rotation coupons and informing my Dad about the health benefits of dark chocolate. Being a cheap payer is like being in masculine purgatory. I go into projects like a moaning preteen – in the end, the project never turns out sufficient and I can’t boast of any success to my wife. Here is a familiar play:

-Christina: “Jon, can you fix the paint chip on my car?”

-Me: “Um…I am actually writing a blog post so I don’t think so…”

-Christina: “Do it or I will get it professionally done.”

-Me: “Alright…” Three weeks later “I fixed your paint chip!”

-Christina: “Great how did you do it?”

-Me: “I bought some car-spray paint from Auto Zone. Do you like how it looks?”

-Christina: “I’m going to reread my Wedding Vows to see if there are any loopholes!”

So what is a cheap payer to do in a masculine world where you either wear Carhartt jackets and ride 4-Wheelers or wear fancy sweaters and drive golf carts? Honestly, I don’t think I will ever get rid of my cheapness and I don’t think I will ever enjoy working with my hands. My solution is to overcompensate my manliness in two ways: communication  and accepting help from others. I think men are lacking in these two areas and they fit right into my hobbies of reading and conversing. Many times the doers can fix material things but fall flat on their faces when it comes to emotions, conversations outside of sports, and asking for directions. I need to play to my strengths and be the guy who knows the right thing to say at the right time. The guy who knows what he is talking about but also knows how not to be a “know-it-all.” In respects to asking for help, I am going to use more YouTube tutorials, my Dad, and random strangers if I am in a quandary. Instead of feeling like a hopeless terd when trying to figure out a project, I can use the advice of others to empower myself and become motivated. Of course, the ultimate goal is to be a man who knows when its worth it to pay and not worth it to pay – a doer with the right priorities and the humility to seek out a friend. For now, the pine needles will stay and I will look online for DIY tree sap removal.