Written By Chris Loprete
It’s true what they say. Once you become a father, you start to live your life all over again. My son is 2 ½ and I’m finally getting it through my thick skull that while I have said goodbye to many aspects of my younger self (i.e. sleeping in on weekends, peaceful mornings and quiet nights at home, 2 AM drunken breakfasts at all night diners), I have just begun to experience an entirely new quality of life. The life of a father, nurturer, protector, teacher and dare I say, hero. While it is absolutely one of the hardest roles I’ll ever take on, the perks of daddy-hood are irresistible. For instance: nobody has ever been so happy to see me when I come home from work. Every day without fail! Only a dog shows that kind of loyalty and they emit a loud bark rather than an adorable, “Hi daddy!” And I challenge your heart not to melt when your son or daughter lays their head on your shoulder as you gently rock them to sleep.
Something that I didn’t expect was the flood of forgotten or suppressed memories from my own childhood that would begin to resurface. I’ve always prided myself on having an incredible memory. I can rattle off dates, places, historical and personal events at a clip. And don’t even get me started on movie and TV dialogue. I tend to give the impression that all I did as a child was sit inside all day and memorize cartoons and sitcoms. That’s NOT tr…well okay that’s mostly true, but it also has to do with the fact that I have a memory like a steel trap. I thought the extent of my memory only reached back to my 4th or 5th year however. So I’ve been surprised recently because ever since the birth of my son, memories of my toddler years which had been tucked away for one reason or another have been popping up without even trying to recall them. The memories are so vivid it’s as if they happened yesterday. When his cries split the night at 3:00 AM, I no longer curse under my breath while stumbling into his room to calm him down. This is because I recently remembered a particularly terrifying recurring nightmare that I had as a baby. While I don’t remember the details of the dream, I do remember jolting awake while screaming at the top of my lungs and looking towards my bedroom door through the bars of my crib just waiting for it to open and my parents to come to my rescue. I also remember a particular bully from when I was 3. Who bullies a kid when he’s only 3?! Anyway I think I remember him because of his name: Keith Newton Shot. Isn’t that the greatest name ever? Sounds like an assassin. “The Prime Minister’s life was tragically taken by Keith Newton Shot” Then the local news would interview me and I’d say, ‘It doesn’t surprise me. He used to push me off of my Big Wheel when I was 3.” But the point of this memory is whenever I see someone pushing my 2 year old around I have to restrain myself from shaking the kid while yelling,” I WILL NOT LET YOU BE HIS KETH NEWTON SHOT!” But I digress. Another wonderful memory hit me recently and inspired this month’s blog.
Last weekend I spent a lovely weekend at the beach with my family. I’m a HUGE fan of the beach. I tend to pine for days gone by. It drives my wife crazy. The summers are a particularly nostalgic time for me. Growing up I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks every summer at the beach or “down the shore” as we say back East. 3 WEEKS! 2 weeks mid summer were spent at a rented house at the Outer Banks of North Carolina (the greatest destination…EVER! Don’t argue with me.) and 10 days at the end of August were spent at Ocean City, New Jersey. I looked forward to those weeks all year long. Every morning I would hit the beach with a ravenous appetite and stay there until sundown, alternating between boogey boarding in the waves and sitting in my beach chair listening to music or enjoying a good book. My family soon bestowed upon me the title of “Beach King”. Then at night the entire family would have a huge dinner and play games or head to the O.C. boardwalk and go on the amusement park rides, play mini-golf, eat Mack and Manco’s pizza (best pizza anywhere! Don’t argue with me.) And eat caramel popcorn or salt water taffy. It’s the kind of stuff that Bruce Springsteen songs are made of. They were the happiest days of my life. And not only did we kids enjoy those vacations, but the adults seemed to be having the time of their life too. Now that I’m a little wiser I realize that they were all completely drunk much of the time. We kids had no idea. We just thought that they were having a REALLY good time playing Charades with us.
Anyway ever since I became a father, my dream has always been to someday recreate those memories with my kids. Last weekend was my first taste of it. My in-laws own a lovely condo at the beach about an hour from our house. They have been generous enough to share it with us for which, believe me, I am eternally grateful. Last year my son was 1 year old and to him the beach was a brand new and wonderful world. He was terrified of the ocean though. You would be too if the only body of water you’d seen was a bathtub and a pool. This was water that actually crashed down and moved towards you! This year however he grew a little bolder. He would take my hand and actually lead me into the ocean and say, “I need up” which meant he wanted me to pick him up and carry him out to sea. While I was slowly wading out to just in front of the breakers feeling my son clinging to me in excitement with a touch of nervousness, I was blindsided by another memory. I remembered that I wasn’t born the “Beach King”. I had to earn it. When I was my son’s age, I HATED the beach. I used to stand at the top of the dunes and scream my lungs out because I wanted nothing to do with this hot and oddly textured ground and the roaring water beyond it. Then one day my father picked me up and carried me into the ocean gently telling me that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me and that frolicking in the waves could actually be quite fun. I remember how incredibly safe I felt in his arms and the complete trust I put in him. I survived my first foray into the Atlantic and an obsession was born. I saw that same trust in my son’s face along with that same look of cautious excitement as he truly experienced the ocean for the first time in his life. It was amazing. It felt like somebody hit rewind on my life but this time in a weird “Freaky Friday” experiment, the son had now become the father. I’ve begun to relive my life through my son. It made me realize that it was time to let go of the summers of my past and prepare myself for the summers ahead. We’ve conquered his fear of the waves. Can drunken Charades be that far away?
This all being said, is it too much to ask for the little guy to learn how to swim so I can relax in my beach chair and read a good book?!
Wait, wait wait. Let me explain. Yes, I am guilty as charged. I saw the chickiest of chick flicks by myself….on purpose. But before you cancel my “guy” club membership and make me hand over my remote control, allow me to explain. First of all this is still a daddy’s blog so I’m writing primarily to the guys not the girls. I’m sure the girls think its sweet and have no problem with this confession at all. Okay fine. Thank you ladies, but with all due respect don’t help me. You’re not my target audience. Secondly this is not my clever way of coming out of the closet and revealing my true self to my family in McGreevey-esque fashion. While certainly far from an alpha male, I still consider myself a guy’s guy…but not a guy’s guy if you know what I mean. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I admit that I was a fan of the Sex and the City HBO series. Call it a (very) guilty pleasure. My wife became a fan within the first couple of seasons and kept trying to get me to watch with her, but I refused wholly on principle. However by the third season I finally acquiesced. And what started as reluctance became a genuine enjoyment of the show. Decent acting, good story lines and character development, and some downright funny dialogue. And while I didn’t immediately bring up Carrie and Aidan’s breakup at the water cooler the next day, I was definitely drawn into the arcs of the characters. In fact I would go so far to say that it strengthened my relationship with my wife. No, no, really. NO, I AM NOT MAKING EXCUSES! My wife and I would watch and when a certain conflict or drama would erupt in one of the girls’ and their many men’s lives, I would turn to my wife and say, “Here’s why she’s wrong” or “Okay. Yes. That guy’s a jerk”, or “uhhh….I’m kinda on his side. Is that okay?” The show would kick off some pretty decent marital dialogue between us and sometimes I was even right! If given a chance, the show is a good study of relationships not only from the woman’s perspective but from the man’s as well. For the record I still like The Sopranos better.
So when the trailers for the long awaited Sex and the City movie started to appear I thought, “It’s not a movie I’m dying to see but my wife is constantly chastising me for not taking her to see ‘her’ kind of movies (i.e. chick flicks) so here is the perfect opportunity.” Then my wife saw it without me. Was I devastated? No. In fact I was almost relieved. Now I would be spared the inevitable ribbing from the boys at work that I would have had to take like a man. A Sex and the City-loving man. But I was a little disappointed. I just assumed that my wife would want to see it with only me. I mean it was our “thing”. The plan was to take her to the movie, share eye rolls with the other guys who were dragged there by their girlfriends or wives, and then secretly enjoy myself. But she saw it with some friends and came home bursting to discuss it with me. Just like old times. I told her she would have to wait a few months until I Netflixed it because there was NO WAY I was going to see it in the theatres now. Sorry, hon. You should have thought of that before you went to see it with a bunch of bimbos you just met.
Cut to last week. I was in Phoenix, my wife’s hometown. Phoenix in June means you better have some inside activities planned. I was bored. My son was napping, my wife was working and I had the choice of either going to a movie or hanging out with my mother in law. I ran for the car without checking showtimes or directions to the nearest Cineplex. (Just kidding, Mom. Love you) When I got to the theatre, my choices were slim. I had already seen the current blockbusters. My only choices were Sex and the City, Kung Fu Panda and Speed Racer. The theatre stubbornly refused to pay me to see Speed Racer. Since Kung Fu Panda was a Dreamworks animated film, seeing that movie would have put my status as a Disney company boy in serious jeopardy especially since WALL-E was about to open (playing NOW at a theatre near you!) That left me no choice. I sighed, looked around me like some kind of KGB spy and whispered “one for Sex and the City” to the unbelievably old woman at the ticket counter (this detail adds nothing to the story but I was truly amazed at how old this woman was). I got my ticket, left my male genitalia at the door and walked inside. Luckily the previews had started so the lights were down and I could find my seat incognito. I glanced around at my fellow viewers. The theatre was pretty empty being a Thursday matinee. A few old ladies and some fortysomething mothers. I was the only guy. I didn’t even see any gay guys. Then again I was in Phoenix so that’s no big shock. About halfway through the movie a fat old guy walked in and sat down. I was thrilled. He stayed for about three minutes, realized his mistake and walked out grunting. A single tear blazed a trail down my face.
The movie itself? It was fine. That’s all I can say. I didn’t hate it. I’ll give it a B. It was definitely targeted for women. I could have done without all of the fashion montages over the “girl power” dance music and I wanted to claw my eyes out during the slow motion naked guy shower scene, but the acting and the plot was pretty good. While it wasn’t as funny as I would have liked there were some good puns (“Mexi-coma”, “Poughkeepsie-d in her pants”). However I found that I can only take that show in half hour spurts. This was over two hours. Too much for any guy, I don’t care how in touch with your feminine side you are. But my biggest problem had nothing to do with the movie. I missed my Sex and the City buddy. I found myself relating to and agreeing with the guys in the movie once again. This time however I had no one to turn to and whisper, “He’s right y’know” In fact I related to one of the story lines a little too well and when it was resolved and the happy couple walked into the sunset, the only hand I could hold was my own. So the Sex and the City movie definitely required a team effort. No one should have to go through it alone. Just like running a stay at home business and raising a family at the same time. It’s definitely a team effort. But that’s a topic for a future blog. And looking back at this whole experience I couldn’t help but wonder: would it really have been THAT bad to see Kung Fu Panda?
By the way when I knew the movie was about to end I slinked out of the theatre, bought a 6 pack of Corona and raced home to watch game 4 of the NBA Finals just to flush the “chick” out of my system.
Who speaks for the Dad? Seriously. Think about it. Chris Rock has a great routine about this subject. It goes something like this. Kids are always being told “Tell your mama how good this dinner is.” “Tell your mama how pretty she looks.” You better tell your mama you’re sorry”, “Tell your mama.” Tell your mama” TELL YOUR MAMA” When does daddy get a shout out? Wouldn’t it be nice to hear, ”Hey, daddy! Thanks for knocking out this rent!”, “Hey daddy! It sure is easy to read with all this light!” What does daddy get? All he gets is the big piece of chicken at dinnertime. Now obviously it’s a lot funnier when Chris Rock performs it, but that routine is dead on. From conception through pregnancy, from the birth of our kids through…uh…well…the death of us, we fathers must learn to cope with the biggest change of our lives pretty much on our own. Not to say that the mothers don’t have a lot to deal with as well (if not more) but there are blogs, support groups and books aplenty to help the mommies get through it. But except for an 80’s movie starring Michael Keaton and a few Bill Cosby routines, the plight of the father is often overlooked. A comedian buddy of mine just wrote a handbook for the new father. If and when it gets published I’m sure you’ll see it advertised on this site. After reading just the book proposal I was amazed at the similarities with my experiences of the last two years and nine months. I found myself wondering if my friend had somehow extracted my memories with some weird science fiction machine and was just writing my story. In fact the title of the book, “My Life Is Over” were the exact words I said to my boss the day before my son was born. Anyway I realized that if my friend had these thoughts, and I had these thoughts, there were A LOT of guys out there who had these thoughts. And it was time to speak up for them. And what better place to speak for them then a website…created by two stay at home moms?? SEE WHAT I MEAN? THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!
My wife, Ally, thought of this great concept last year. A website to help stay at home moms. She and her business partner, Kelli, came up with the name “Our Milk Money” I told them to call it “Our Milf Money”, but they thought that might attract the wrong target audience. Can’t say I blame her. Anyway they soon realized (and rightly so) that for every self employed mom out there, there’s a self employed dad also trying to eke out a living while trying to raise a family at the same time. In fact in my opinion the self employed father needs this kind of website the most because we as men tend to put the pressure on ourselves of being the sole provider and breadwinner of the family. This goes back to the beginnings of civilization (stupid, lousy hunter-gatherer cavemen.) I guess it all depends on the family situation. For instance while I am the breadwinner of my family, I am just the opposite of self employed. You can’t get more corporate than me. I work for The Walt Disney Company, one of the biggest corporate machines in the world. In fact I have to go back and examine that last sentence to make sure I’m not being slanderous and thereby subject to a possible lawsuit. OH YES THEY WOULD! However even though I am the “breadwinner”, the bread I’m winning is wet and moldy because I am below middle management at the House of the Mouse which means I probably make less money than you. I know I don’t know you, but trust me on this one. So hi everybody. I’m Chris. Ally and Kelli have asked me to start up this little daddy corner to make sure that the voice of the dad can be heard. Because it’s important that everybody involved with Our Milk Money whether merchant, shopper, or curious visitor knows that this is not just a website for moms. It’s a website for all self employed parents. And everybody should be represented. Well I’m here to represent you, daddies. REPRESENT! Word! Fo-shizzle! Okay I promise never to do that again. I’m just trying to tell you that you’re not alone. I’ll share my stories, hopes, fears, dreams, triumphs and disappointments of being a father. I already have plenty of each category and my son isn’t even two years old yet. Maybe together, we can see this thing called fatherhood through. I’ll leave you with two quotes. The first quote is on a T-shirt that my own father gave me a week before the birth of my son, “Fatherhood: the toughest job you’ll ever love” and the second quote is the answer my boss gave me when I told him my life was over. “Oh no. It’s just beginning.” Turns out, they were both right. Talk to you soon.
Author’s note: The following blog entry is about fertility treatments. Because of the family nature of this website, please understand that reading between the lines is required.
Before we go any farther, I want to say that it wasn’t my fault. I want to make that very clear from the beginning. My boys could swim. They were Olympic swimmers. They could medal at Beijing, okay? I proved that fact the day I had to go through the humiliating process of walking into a crowded (of course) waiting room of a medical clinic and hand over for analysis a brown paper bag containing a cup of “me”. I guess I voluntarily put myself in this situation. Rather than perform the necessary procedure “on site” in a brightly lit sterile room with a stool and a magazine, I chose to take care of things in the privacy of my own home. Let’s be honest, guys. It’s all about home field advantage, y’know? Nobody performs as well in another ballpark (so to speak). Anyway I was taking a chance with this particular method because time was somewhat of the essence. I think the little guys have about 45 minutes to survive on their own in the big bad world. Luckily the clinic was only about a 5 minute drive from my house. Of course the real challenge was not falling asleep immediately after the deed was done which goes completely against the “man” code. But I did it, capped it, bagged it, drove it, and handed it over to a humorless nurse. I know she was humorless because I was trying to crack jokes to ease my obvious discomfort and I was getting nothing in return. Not even a smirk. Even my wife placates me with a sarcastic “ha ha” on occasion. The nurse took one bored look at the bag, looked at me and asked in a voice that in my opinion was a little louder than necessary, “Do you have your paperwork?” Sadly I answered her question with a question of my own, “What paperwork?” I wasted precious moments arguing that I had no idea I was supposed to bring any paperwork with me and when I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere with Nurse Ratchet, rushed out the door. So while my boys were crowded into a plastic cup dying a slow death while looking for an egg they would never find, I sped back home, picked up the necessary paperwork and rushed back to the clinic in the nick of time. I rushed in heroically and handed my paperwork to the nurse giving the waiting clinic patients quite a show. Anyway even with the little swimmers on their last legs (or tails as it were) I was still deemed “very fertile” when the lab results came back. So, there. Okay, moving on. My wife and I began trying to conceive a child about 2 ½ years into our marriage. We went from “hoping for a happy accident” to “casually trying” to “Honey, it’s 7:23 PM exactly. Get upstairs right now, put 2 pillows under my lower back, and get yourself into a 56 degree angle….NO, you fool! You’re clearly at a 68 degree angle. MY GOD! Do you even want a baby??!!” After a year had passed with no results, we decided it was time to cheat. Not on each other, but rather on the procreation process. We met with a very nice fertility doctor who was also obviously very good at her job judging from her “wall of fame”. This was an entire wall of her office devoted to photographs of babies that she had helped create almost like a modern day Dr. Frankenstein. When my wife saw the wall she burst into tears dreaming of the day when our baby’s smiling face would be thumb tacked alongside the others. The first thing we had to do was to get checked out individually for any fertilization abnormalities. I have already recounted my vindicating albeit humiliating tale. My wife was found to be fertile as well, but in need of a little help to make things stick. A “baby boost” if you will. She started with Clomid pills and when that yielded no purchase, she began administering shots to herself. Actually, not quite to herself. She was scared to death of needles and was well aware of my infamous lack of hand eye coordination so she drove all the way down to the Dr.’s office each morning to have the professionals stick her. Now here’s the thing. Both of these methods significantly increased the hormones coursing through her body. And all of these hormones made for a very…uh…let’s say…intense personality. Lucky me. I was always told that “crazy wife” doesn’t appear until the first trimester of a pregnancy, but then again my wife has always been an overachiever. Our last resort before kicking everything up a notch to in vitro fertilization was the insemination process. My wife provides the target, I provide the ammo, and the doctor provides the gun. This is basically a procreation process that I liken to the ally oop maneuver in basketball. One guy throws the ball up to the net from outside of the paint, the other guy athletically leaps into the air and stuffs it home. In this case I’m the guy who throws the ball up. Five times my wife and I drove the ball down the court…literally. What a circus this was. I basically had to go through the same humiliating process I had endured the year before when I was tested. It was ridiculous! Leave it to science to take all of the fun out of an activity that I had been enjoying quite regularly since my mid teens. On an August morning in 2005, we awoke to commence this freak show for the 5th and final time. It was the last insemination our insurance would cover so we had to make this one count. My wife prepared breakfast and readied for work while I “got started”. A friend of mine was visiting from out of town and staying in our guest bedroom. I assured her that she may want to stay in there for a little while longer on that particular morning. Otherwise she would be privy to a morning shock from which she would never recover. So once again I did it, capped it, bagged it, and drove it. There were two significant differences from my previous adventure. This time I had farther to drive and my wife was in the passenger seat holding the evidence. To keep the sample as warm as possible, she held the paper bag between her breasts because she heard that this is the warmest place on the female body. It was kind of sweet in a way. It was kind of like her first motherly act. We panicked every time we saw brake lights in front of us. For some insane reason we were surprised that we were sitting in traffic at morning rush hour on a Southern California freeway. I rolled down my window and yelled, ”Come on! Lady with a baby! Seriously!” The few times traffic did let up, I exceeded the speed limit and secretly hoped a cop would pull us over. I was dying to explain the reason for our haste. I was even planning on asking for an escort the last few miles. We finally arrived at our destination and rushed inside. The next step was to “wash the sample” They put the cup in a big metal machine and prepared it for its final and crucial leg of the journey. I remember thinking, “I certainly hope my cup is the only one in there right now. For instance if a sweet Asian couple is also here hoping for their first child, and a mix up occurs we could have the makings of a real life wacky sitcom on our hands.” The nurse assured me that there were definite checks and balances and that there was nothing to worry about. The doctor stuffed the ally oop home with gusto…and an instrument resembling a turkey baster. Upon examining my wife’s uterus, the doctor also revealed that not only was the net open (to further the basketball analogy), but there were 7 others like it on the court. Basically the shots my wife had painfully endured for three months were working in spades. It was very possible my “very fertile” swimmers might find up to 8 targets. Instead of you, me and baby makes three, we were suddenly looking at a possible you, me and 8 babies makes bankruptcy. We could have been
one of those couples that end up on the cover of Newsweek. To make a long story short (oh it’s far too late for that), that August day proved to be the winning basket. Of the 8 follicles, only one was fertilized and successfully implanted. Now after two years with the lucky winner, it makes perfect sense. He’s a very tough kid. And yet I still carry a sadness with me sometimes. I find myself thinking the ridiculous thought that he’s not really mine. I mean I cheated. I just got the assist. Nobody remembers the guy who threw the ball up. Only the guy who finished the slam dunk. We men don’t like any help whether it’s directions to the interstate or conceiving a child. It’s all such male ego and prideful bullsh*t. And just when I’m thinking these ridiculous thoughts my son will turn to me and flash that smile that looks so eerily like mine. And I’ll sigh with relief and realize how wrong I am. I didn’t cheat. In fact I worked harder than most people to bring him into our world. That makes him special. That makes him a miracle. And that makes him all mine.And the doctor? Well as a reward for her beautiful slam dunk, she’s got a big old smiling picture of our miracle on her wall.
By Chris Loprete
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