Beers, Bibs and Diapers: Declarations of Necessity

Needs: of necessity

Wants: to have a strong desire for

This fundamental difference is covered during a unit of learning that I do with my students in second grade. As we start to discuss the topic, most of the boys think that they “need” the newest Call of Duty game on the market (yes…you read that right, I did say second grade). And most of the girls feel that they “need” to only have one friend at a time (I have yet to figure this out). So at least I know that this isn’t something that children just instinctually catch on to, and Madden missed the boat. However, hearing him repeatedly state that he “needs his orange shirt” or “needs a cookie” has made me feel I need to expedite his understanding of this concept. I am strongly considering having the little guy sit in on a few of these lessons come the fall. But then again, I don’t need him learning any other “life lessons” from the little seven-year olds. Here are some of the declarations of necessity that Madden has made recently.

“I need a bib!”

Listen, buddy. I see the spaghetti spilling from your cheeks. I know you’re wearing a crisp, white polo t-shirt that mom just bought yesterday. But something tells me you aren’t really too worried about it. You’ve got two fistfuls of noodles oozing from between your fingers, so your desire for cleanliness cannot be that overwhelming. Here’s what I need. I need you to lose the bib…get better at operating that fork…and make sure you hit your mouth.

“I need my sunglasses!”

Listen, buddy. I’m the first to tell you that you look like a stud in your sunglasses and I know we’re about to hit up a hopping toddler book club today at the library. You’re practicing excellent sun-safety here and I don’t want to squelch that, but we unfortunately left your sunglasses back at the house. So I am going to need you to look out the opposite window for the five-minute car ride and suck it up.

“I need a shower!”

Listen, buddy. You took a bath last night. All you’ve done between then and now is read a handful of books and sleep in a crib. You have bed head, but what toddler doesn’t each morning when they walk out of the house. You’re skin is pristine and you’ve got the next 11 hours to cover it in dirt, sweat and tears. We’ve already penciled you in for your 6:30 tub appointment this evening. Dad is going to need this 8 minutes of alone time to muster up the strength and energy to withstand the firestorm you’ll throw his way today.

“I need a fork!”

Listen, buddy. Look at your plate. There is fork right there skewering a piece of kielbasa. You say you need another one for your risotto? I didn’t know we were sitting down to a four course meal with a fork for each entrĂ©e. Not to mention, you’ll abandon all utensils in about five minutes anyways. What mom and dad need to do is give some of these appliances a rest. The next round of dirty dishes is sitting in the sink and the clean ones in the dishwasher have been ready to come out for the last 24 hours; and don’t even get me started on the washer and dryer.

“I need a new diaper!”

Oh…really…bub. You’re diaper is actually dry, you’ve been ready to wear underwear for a month now, but you seem to be on a bi-weekly schedule of being potty trained and this is an off week for you. You didn’t pee, you didn’t poop, and each of these diapers are apparently filled with ultra-absorbent gold flakes at the price they run at. So what I need is for you to get in those big boy undies and I need you to drop your next deuce into that strange-looking toilet that is shaped like a frog over there.

The perception of what a two-year old needs is comical. The perception of what a father needs might be even funnier. What we need to have and what we want to have seem to always get muddled, even as we gain an understanding of the reality of our situation. I always try to rephrase my son’s request using the word want if it is applicable. So in that spirit; I need a beer.

The Art of Nap-time

Every parent dreads that day when nap diminishes to the point where it is gone forever. I listen to the parents of three year old’s tell of “quiet time” in the child’s bedroom, or that have quit cold turkey and have absolutely no nap at all. It strikes fear into the deepest core of my being. I can’t give up that lone moment of peace, freedom, solitude to just get something done for myself. And I find myself currently in a unique situation. At two-years, four-months old I am watching Madden’s need for a nap slowly wane. I know soon enough he’ll be that three year old refusing to take a siesta. Fortunately, he is such a routine oriented little dude that he continues to go with the flow everyday around 1:00. We will see when he gets wise to us and realizes we’ve preyed on his rigid, by the book personality. On the other end of the spectrum, infant/alien Quinn just sleeps here, there, anywhere all day long. He’ll slowly transition into that blissful stage consisting of 2-3 naps a day, each one lasting about two hours. Unfortunately, for us this will most likely occur just as Madden has pushed us over the threshold of no nap hell. But here is where preserving that beautiful period of time that we call “the nap” turns into art.

I call it art, because like art, it is unique in many ways. This one child-free point in your day is your muse and you need to “create” an environment in which your child can stay asleep for AS. LONG. AS. POSSIBLE. Each household presents it’s own exclusive challenges that will be getting in the way of reaching this goal. Some questions that may help one determine their own challenges are: How many levels are in your home? Do you have pets? Does your child have siblings? Do you have any particularly loud chores to get done? Do you have an incredibly loud/high-pitched/annoying voice? Do you live within a mile of a nuclear power plant or airport runway? etc., etc., etc. Consider this your canvas. You have this slate in front of you and it is up to you to realize the full potential of it.

Just as an artist has inks, paints, chalks and oils, you then have your mediums as a parent. These are the maneuvers and lengths that you will go, to be sure that this house remains as silent as you can get it. I know that I have crafted a pretty involved and detailed plan to fend off sound from entering my house between 1:00-3:00 each day. I vow here and now to disown any animal, friend or family member that disturbs the silence.

I will say that most of my craft revolves around those mistakes dogs I keep referencing. At approximately 12:45 each day, every shade of the first floor is drawn. This is to prevent any possible visual contact Norman and Gert will have with squirrels. This is a crucial aspect, as their incessant shrill barking is sure to wake up not just Madden, but the children that live in the houses behind us as well.

I then walk Madden through our normal nap/bedtime routine. By now, he is out of his morning terror-mode and we are sailing on calm seas of love and happiness. Putting him down for the nap is never the problem. My second artistic “brushstroke” is the art of shutting the door. For some reason, I’ve always felt like the click of the door latching is going to send him into some panicked fight to escape his crib. I twist the door knob completely, slowly inch the door to a resting position against the jam, and then release the knob at a three degree turn per second until it is latched. All of this takes place with a near zero decibel level of sound. I’ve already left the dad-proof gate at the top of the stairs ajar, so I will not need to mess with that. I then float on a pillow of air down the stairs so quietly that Madden probably still thinks I’m right outside of his door each day.

I like to refer to my last technique as the “call-ahead”. If you plan to come to my house midday, you better expect to hear from me prior to your arrival. I use this call to inform you of something that is of the utmost importance. My son is sleeping. You best not wake him up with your visit. This is especially important in my circumstances, because I will gauge how close you are to my house. If you are within two miles, I most likely will take the dogs out and leave them there until you have pulled into my driveway. If you cause a disturbance in his slumber, you will be hanging out with a cranky two-year old and two incredibly annoying rat terriers while I drink a beer out in the Adirondack chair out front. You’ve been warned.

And like every artist, you have those pieces/days that you feel like you’ve produced a worthless piece of junk. There are those days when the boy just won’t nap.

And you might be saying, but if he is sleeping, just think of all the hours you’ll miss out on getting to enjoy your beautiful baby boy. I get it, I want to cherish every moment I have with him. I really do. But if you are saying this, then you clearly have not ever experienced Madden from 4:00 until bed; on those days he didn’t nap.

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“I want to do it all by myself!”

…said no father ever. But it’s the quote of choice of my two year old son Madden at the moment. In some situations when he states this, all that comes out is a nervous laugh as I picture just how that is going to play out. I’m all for fostering independence, but if it’s cleaning dog crap off the back tire of his power wheel that he wants to do by himself, I know where ‘all by himself‘ is headed. Straight to a bath kicking and screaming, poop smeared and convulsing, and that is just my reaction.

My wife and I are fortunate enough to have just had a healthy baby boy #2, Quinn. I’m sure eventually he will want to do it all by himself as well, but for the moment he does absolutely nothing himself except poop and sleep. As I delved back into the throes of Similac hell, and was prompted by my wife, I decided to venture into the world of blogging. It seems very trite and cliche to be a parent using this forum to write, but I figured it could serve as a place to document, vent and share my opinions on the mind bending journey that is parenting. I figured I could do it all by myself and maybe use it as a therapeutic tool when I feel like I’m the worst father on earth. I plan on sharing daily experiences, both the highest of points of parenting and the lowest and my opinions and thoughts on life in general. Humor will be interjected where necessary, and I’ll most likely be sipping on something as I’m typing, so it is sure to remain mildly entertaining.