WHO’S IN CHARGE?

 

With all the hype surrounding the release of Disney’s new version of The Lion King, I am reminded of when our second son was little. While he was a sweet kid with an engaging smile, he could get quite persnickety particularly on long drives. And by long drives I am talking about the seven minutes it takes to get from our house to Safeway.

 

Initially it was quite a concern as we tried to envision our life with this child sans car rides. Without the benefit of a live-in-babysitter we did not see how this was feasible. There were daily errands that could not be curtailed until both of us were home. Besides, this was our house and we were in charge. Just kidding, the kids were in charge. They knew it and we knew it!

 

SING ALONG!

 

There was one remedy, and really only one that we found to alleviate our fussy child and return the car to some semblance of calm. “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba. Sithi uhm ingonyama.” Sound familiar? Well that, according to theOfficial Lion King Website, is the opening Zulu chant from “Circle of Life.”

 

From that initial verse he could go from cantankerous to placid and smiling in the blink of a lion cub’s eye. It was quite a remarkable transformation; one we never lost our awe and appreciation for.

 

WHAT’S YOUR FUSSY CHILD CURE?

 

This Elton John-Tim Rice composition was not a universal cure by any means. None of our other sons found it the least bit soothing. For one of our other boys, a comforting video served as the proper salve to calm him after he had reached that point of no return. Sesame Street’s 25th Anniversary DVD typically did the trick.

 

The point is you need to try to find your child’s Lion King. What will calm your fussy child during those times when your words begin to sound like the adults on a Peanuts cartoon, “Wah wah, wah wah wah?” Perhaps a favorite chew toy, the puppy, the puppy’s chew toy! Whatever works because once the tantrum hits, your options become very limited and time is of the essence. And sometimes they can hit without warning. My wife called it “baby mood swings” and they are intense and unpredictable.

 

Warning: The following blog contains questionable content. Reader discretion is advised.

 

In the entire era of toddlerhood, perhaps nothing is more challenging and important than the topic I am about to undress, I mean address. It is of course, potty-training. To master it, you must summon up some very precise skills.

 

To be specific, the act of potty-training requires your most effective sales technique. If you are not a salesman and have an antipathy for that type of coercion, I have one piece of advice for you, get over it! The rewards and freedom that come with potty training your child is incalculable. Less mess, less odor, a lighter day bag, an average daily savings of 23 minutes, bodily fluids in their proper place, and one less piece of furniture with the changing table being relegated to the garage next to the bassinet, crib, bouncer and mobiles.

 

TODDLER ENSEMBLE

 

But odds are this will not be a smooth transition. Let’s face farts, I mean facts. Why would any toddler want to be potty-trained? A diaper is a wonderful addition to any child’s ensemble.  It allows them the freedom to be on their merry way without pissing, err missing a beat. Oh, sure it might be uncomfortable for a bit, but the onus (read it again, I said onus!), not to mention the urine, inevitably falls on the parent changing the child.

 

This is where your best marketing and branding begins. You must convey to your child all the joys of the porcelain throne. Wax poetic about the enthralling books you’ve read on the toilet, the mysteries of the universe you’ve solved while in bathroom-seclusion, and the fascinating toys that await if they achieve this noble goal (you do not want to be above bribery on this one!).

 

THE SCOOP

 

But, here’s the straight poop, damn, scoop. This preselling could take months, hopefully not years! In my experience some toddlers will adopt to this new regime quicker than others. The presence of an older sibling to set the example is definitely a benefit and children’s books are available on this tricky topic. But there is no magic process and guaranteed method for success. For my boys it was a series of trial and ERROR, where the results of the error can be quite embarrassing/messy/complicated/ruinous.

 

The personality of your child should help guide your approach. My one tip would be don’t force it. If they are not ready, you need to shelve it for a few weeks and try again later. That’s it for now, I need to run and change a diaper. Do as I say not as I do!

 

PARTY-TIME

 

You are at a work party without the kids, a glass of wine in one hand, peanuts in the other, all the while trying desperately to maintain a conversation with the guy in accounting when it hits you: I don’t know how to talk to adults anymore! I have nothing to say and I don’t even remember the structure of an adult conversation.

 

Sure, you talk to your wife, but those are brief snippets of one cohesive thought. “Today at work I (ten minute break to change a diaper) had a budget meeting (twenty-seven minute interruption to settle an argument, wipe faces, and load the dishwasher) where they reviewed my department (seventeen minute bath time interlude) and realized it wasn’t (bedtime story, prayer, kisses, chat about the existence of dragons, another kiss, more chatting, argument about said dragons, lights out) necessary. They gave me two weeks. How was your day?”

 

KID TALK

 

Fear hits you as you realize to have a meaningful conversation anymore the other participant must be under four feet tall, believe wholeheartedly in the existence of Spider-man and use the word “potty” in their daily vocabulary. Otherwise you have nothing to say to these people.

 

It is a shocking dose of reality as you look around the party and see that no one else seems to be having a problem discussing various adult topics. You spot your wife on the other side of the room happily carrying on a conversation with Dennis in marketing. Dennis! How come they can have a normal conversation? What is normal anyway? I should talk to the boys about normal tomorrow.

 

When you try to interject yourself into a conversation, your contributions appear to fall on deaf ears:

 

  • Movies – “I just saw Benji VI: The Last Canine on Prime. Not much of a plot, but the special effects were impressive.”
  • Politics – “My son is running for Kindergarten Rep. He would have run for Vice President if it wasn’t for that Nicholson kid.”
  • Sports – “We ranked third in the Little League Double A standings and just missed the playoffs because of those darn Riverbats!”

 

DOUBLE TROUBLE

 

There are a lot of advantages to having a second child. For example, when you leave the hospital with the second child  Volkswagen arranges to have a minivan in the parking lot waiting for you. At restaurants, you can now request a table for four rather than dealing with that awkward table for three. And no parent needs to feel left out when going for a walk because each child can hold one parent’s hand.

 

Unfortunately, this too is only a theory as both kids invariably want to hold their mother’s hand. And you’re left with the diaper bag…and the stroller…and the lunch box…and the toys…and the books…and the stuffed animals…

 

HOUSEQUAKE!

 

The immediacy with which the dynamic in the house changes is staggering. One minute the only child is being doted on by both parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and the next minute everyone is cooing at the new baby. Naturally the older child is left feeling very frustrated and confused. It is not surprising to hear the older child inquire, “When’s baby going home?”

 

It takes a very sensitive person, and you become grateful for their presence, who can size up the situation and give some much-needed attention to the newly appointed older sibling. It does not require much, just acknowledgment, a little positive feedback, an understanding ear, a supportive hug, perhaps a new bike and then attention can return to the baby.

 

This jealousy is a very natural emotion and will probably pass within the next thirty to forty years. Who can really blame them, though? Their initial time on this earth has consisted of constant doting and very little sharing, maybe the occasional co-operative with a cousin or fellow toddler at the park, but that is about it. Now they are expected to be content with joint custody of their toys, books and, most importantly, their parents’ time and affection.

 

Since this is the oldest child’s first exposure to the act of sharing it comes grudgingly and its progress is felt in small increments. It will also be hard on you to witness because, although it is not rejection, the oldest child will perceive it as such and act in kind.

 

It is painful to observe your oldest child playing alone while the adults “ohhh” and “ahhh” over the baby. Your child may bear it with noble stoicism, but you know inside it must be painful for them, and in turn for you.

 

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE LOWDOWN

 

Other advantages to having two children:

  • It is divisible by two when you go on the rides at Disneyland.
  • One parent for every child!
  • Two kids requiring attention, two parents.
  • More bathtub fun.
  • Two kids, two laps, no waiting!

Although it is not all upside:

  • Two kids, one bathroom, lots of waiting.
  • Twice as much crying.
  • Two kids/one tablet.
  • Twice as many diapers.
  • Double trouble!
  • Limited TV time, unlimited choices, two opinions.
  • Double the restaurant bill.
  • More than double the groceries!
  • More bathtub splashing!
  • Double the mess.

 

ARE YOU READY?

 

Maybe, just maybe, you are not ready for a commitment to Dadlands. If it is not too late, you need to seriously evaluate your priorities before you enroll in parenthood because, trust me, it is a lifelong endeavor. So, here are six reasons why you might not be ready for fatherhood…

 

  1. If golf is your link to the good life and you can’t imagine Saturday’s without your 7:30am tee time, then have a good round.
  2. If tennis makes your heart strings, and nothing interferes with your Sunday afternoon best out of three sets, maybe you should wait a little bit.
  3. If pets are your walk-in life, then live happily ever after with Fido.
  4. If your three-on-three basketball league is net to nothing, then by all means don’t let the team down.
  5. If work courses through your veins and climbing the proverbial corporate ladder is all you think about, then you’d better watch that last step.
  6. If your hobbies, be it stamp collecting or Fortnite, consume your every waking minute and spare dollar, best of luck to you.

 

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING FOR?

 

Why work forty plus hours a week and then spend half the weekend doing a personal activity you enjoy? If marriage is about compromise, then Dadlands is about sacrifice. Sacrifice the golf, tennis, basketball league, poker night and mud wrestling. All those events will still be very prevalent after your kids are a little older and involved in activities of their own.

 

It is time to put your hobbies and sports on hold for your sake. That’s right, your sake! If you are not around much on the weekends or at night that will be your child’s reality. They will not expect it or even know your participation is lacking. But the things you will miss out on cannot be replaced by a hole in one, a forty-point game, an ace, or an inside straight.

 

So, don’t make this big almighty sacrifice and tell everyone you are doing it for the baby. Trust me, the intangible rewards you receive in Dadlands will far outweigh any other activity you could be participating in at the time. Besides, do you really want to attend your child’s high school graduation and have them introduce you as “Mom’s friend”?