I never hesitate to write and laugh about embarrassing details of my life and experiences as a father, but I dreaded writing this one. I knew I would have to in order to fill out this Bad Dad trilogy which was my stupid idea anyway so I could have just changed the rules and said,” Y’know what? This is the first trilogy to have two parts only.”, but then this incident would haunt me like a Tell Tale Heart so I’m just hoping confession is indeed good for the soul.
It happened on a day a couple of months after the police made their early morning visit to my home, I finished my breakfast and got ready to go to work. My wife was asleep upstairs (she was still pregnant with our 2nd). My two year old son was watching “Little Einsteins” on the downstairs television. Now this was usually the drill. I finish my morning activities and get ready to go to work. I pick my son up off the couch (he’s always been an early riser) and carry him upstairs, turn on the bedroom TV, and put him in our bed with his mother where he will watch quietly until his mom wakes up. I have no idea why I didn’t do that this time. Maybe he was really wrapped up in the episode or something. Maybe I didn’t feel like dealing with the two year old tantrum I was going to incur just from turning off the TV and moving him from one room to the other. Doesn’t matter now. Anyway I told him very rationally like you would speak to any 30 year old adult. “Braden, when this show is finished, go upstairs and climb into bed with mommy. Okay?” “Okay, daddy.” No problem, right? The onus is on him. So don’t blame me. I didn’t walk him to our front door, unlock it and run him out of our house. No, no, he did that on his own.
Sigh…yup. See my oldest child is really smart. Even when he was two. He’s also very strong willed. He wanted to go outside. So he did. He walked right up to the door (It was locked, Judgey Judgersons!)…unlocked it and walked out. Now luckily we lived in a condo complex at the time so it wasn’t right on a busy street…but he did cross the street IN the housing complex and walked right into an open door of a neighbor’s house. Luckily the neighbor was a kindly old woman who gave him a juice box and, not knowing the neglectful parents in charge of the poor child, called the police. The police had no idea who this kid was and were getting ready to take him down to the station when Braden pointed toward our unit and led the police to our front door (stinkin’ rat). The cops walked in our open door just as my wife was coming downstairs looking for her toddler son. Luckily they weren’t the same cops from the incident a few months ago. My wife was completely horrified of course and explained that she was at a severe disadvantage because A) she was in her first trimester and therefore overly fatigued and B) She was married to a complete idiot. Anyway Braden was fine, nobody was arrested, and we met our new neighbor who actually did some babysitting for us later on. This time we asked her and took our son over to her place ourselves. See? Everything worked out.
I was fully expecting the call from Child Protective Services that came a few weeks after this particular incident. My wife heard the message on our voice mail and completely freaked out, but I just sighed knowing that it was inevitable and hoping they would find my son a good home. In fact when they called back the first thing I said was “What took you so long?” Well it turns out it was completely coincidental. Somebody gave our phone number as a possible witness to a child abuse incident at a local park and Child Services was following up. It turned out be a mistake. We didn’t witness anything, we didn’t recognize the name of either party. We’re not even sure how they got our number. It was just a big misunderstanding. However my wife “pleaded” our case by saying “Are you sure nobody called to report us because let me tell you about our summer” She pretty much sang like a canary (Apparently since I have the most Italian blood in my family, I’m the only one who knows when to keep his mouth shut!). The Child Services woman laughed at my wife and said, “Relax ma’am. No one has reported you and the fact that you’re this concerned means you’re a very caring and good mother. Your husband on the other hand…”
Look I’m not trying to make light of this. It was a very scary situation and I have never forgiven myself. The Universe was sending me a warning not to be so lax in my parenting. I put a chain on the front door that was almost too high for me to reach (which is not all that high anyway) and I’ve kept a much closer eye on both of my kids at all times…oh right except for that one time…and that other time…but this is only a trilogy so you don’t get to read those stories. I wrote the last three articles because while I’m a super involved presence in my sons’ lives, I screw up a lot too. I was always an insecure kid, teenager, and adult so it stands to reason that sometimes I’m gonna be an insecure father too. It’s kind of why I started this blog in the first place. I just hope I’m hiding it enough from my boys. Anyway the police have never had to return (knock wood) so I guess I’ve gotten a little better. I still have to work on my stamina when playing “monster” though.
I come downstairs and see my 5 year old practicing his piano. He’s practicing a song he wrote called “Riding the Waves”. It’s a little derivative of “Breathe Me” by Sia but he’s added some nice changes. If he can add a strong bridge, he’ll have a hit on his hands. And yes I know I sound casual, but I am constantly amazed that my five year old son made up a song one day and consistently plays it the same way every time. Then I turn and see my 2 year old who has just discovered singing. He is belting out “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King. He’s not just singing it however. He’s crooning. He’s bending the notes in a way that would impress Michael Buble. The emotion on his face makes me utterly convinced how eager he is to begin his reign over the Serengeti. This real life scene transports me into the following fantasy which is laid out instantaneously in my head…
My boys continue to develop their vocal and instrumental skills as they grow older. Braden, the older brother, becomes not only prodigious on the piano, but the drums and bass as well. He also becomes a brilliant songwriter. Henry, the younger, develops his singing voice and good looks while learning a little rhythm guitar.
At 13 and 10 respectively they cut a fun little video of an original tune and post it on YouTube. It quickly explodes into a viral sensation garnering millions of hits and the Bieber-esque journey begins.
The boys are signed by Hollywood Records and the band name officially becomes LoPrete. The P is capitalized so that it can have a more aerodynamic look on CD covers. Much like the VH in Van Halen
They make their national television debut on “Teens of 2018!” the new Disney Channel show. Their first CD “Meet LoPrete” goes multi-platinum and the ensuing world tour is the largest grossing tour of the year.
They begin work on a Disney XD sitcom called “Brothers in Rock!” which quickly climbs to the top of the ratings. Critics call the Lopretes “charming….likeable….naturally talented.” Variety writes” The eldest, Braden, exudes a Lennon-esque bad boy confidence and rugged handsomeness while Henry fills the McCartney dreamy eyed gentle soul role”
Braden and Henry Loprete are named one of Barbara Walters Most Fascinating People of the Year. Miss Walters, who has ignored calls for her retirement and instead chooses to increase the soft filter effect on her camera, interviews the boys as well as their parents. Ally, their mother, is a celebrity in her own right as her 10 year old business and radio show has reaped national recognition as well as a multi book deal and reality show on the Lifetime network. Chris, their father, has recently recovered from a mild heart attack and looks aged and …well…just tired. He’s proud of the boys though and while he does take a small percentage of their profits to cover expenses and invest in a college fund, most of their money goes to them. He’s charming and funny, but at times borders on stealing the spotlight from the boys. Almost as if he’s making it about him. It’s not quite Michael Lohan but it’s still kind of embarrassing. Luckily the editor of the piece puts a stop to any grandstanding that takes place.
LoPrete enjoys continued success for 5 more years and two more albums. When LoPretemania begins to wane the boys decide to jump off the fame train and continue a normal adolescence. Luckily their father has not only been fiscally responsible enough to set enough money aside for college, but has made a number of smart investments that has made enough for the whole family to retire to the beaches of Hawaii where the father will host the morning show “Aloha Waikiki!” and-
I am hurled back to reality by an ear piercing scream and a cacophony of piano notes as my two year old has begun to bang away on the keys. My five year old begins to bang away as well…on my two year old. My wife tries to break them up all the while yelling at me, “DO YOU THINK YOU COULD WAKE UP LONG ENOUGH TO HELP ME WITH THESE DAMN KIDS?!” I move to intervene with a hint of a smile breaking out on my face. This will make a great story for the Barbara interview.
It’s a moment we all have to go through. A moment that is profoundly sad. The moment that you realize you’ve had your last kid. My oldest started kindergarten this week. My youngest started pre-school. My babies are growing up. I cleaned out the garage last week and found a storage bin filled with bibs, tiny shoes and onesies. They had all been worn by my first born and been passed down to his baby brother three years later. I got a lump in my throat knowing as I put them away, they would not be worn by another child of mine. My wife and I have two beautiful children. We will not be having another…and I am soooo, so cool with that.
I’m done. I’m ready to move on. Don’t get me wrong. I really loved the baby stage and there are many things I miss and will always miss about it. I hate that I can no longer carry my 5 year old because he’s getting too big. I hate that his cute baby cries have turned into a not so cute whining sound. I hate that my two year old is starting to climb out of his crib on his own and will soon need a bigger bed. But, man, I love the fact that I’m about 6 months away from never having to change another diaper. And that everybody’s baby teeth have already painfully popped though their gums. And that when I go to sleep at night I’m not going to be woken up every two hours until dawn. Yes, I grew very melancholy when I packed away the baby clothes, but I would have grown melancholy no matter how many kids I had. There always has to be a last kid. Might as well be now.
I can tell you for a fact that as my wife is reading this blog, she’s either welling up with tears or getting really angry. See she wants to leave open the possibility of a third kid (hopefully a daughter). In her head she knows that the family dynamic is perfect now, it’s not financially feasible to add another mouth at this point, and that we both have very busy lives and can’t handle the commitment it would take to care for another infant. But in her heart she is always hoping I’ll change my mind. I knew I was going to stop at two as soon as she sent me a picture of the pregnancy test confirming that another bundle of joy was on the way. By the way she sent that pic to me on my phone just before a callback for a major national commercial. No wonder I didn’t book the job. Plus I saw that commercial ad infinitum for about two years afterward. Never really forgave her for that one. Anyway I knew we were done during the her second pregnancy. We already had a three year old boy so obviously we were hoping for a baby girl to get that nice perfect sitcom family. When we were told we were having another boy, we shrugged and said “Oh well. Saves us money on clothes and toys and anxiety during the hormonal, “mother hating” teenage insanity years” Plus not having a daughter saved me the time and money spent on researching chastity belts and convents. At the time though, my wife didn’t want to close the door on a third child. I told her, “No, of course not, dear.” Meanwhile I had closed, locked, barred, and thrown a heavy bookcase against the door. A few years after the birth of our 2nd little boy, she began to realize that our family unit was perfect. She said, “By not having a daughter, I shall stay the most beautiful woman in the house.” That’s not an exaggeration by the way. She really said that. In fact she said it while standing in front of a magic mirror and holding a poison apple. But now the queen is beginning to change her tune a little and hinting that she may want a princess after all. Now I reminded her that in 7th grade health class they told us we don’t really have a say over if we get a princess or a 3rd prince, but she said it didn’t matter. She would be okay with another little boy. I then went on to remind her that raising two boys has so far nearly killed and divorced us (in that order) and it does in fact NOT get easier with a third. In fact a friend of mine said it best. She said raising another child is like adding a full point on the earthquake Richter Scale. Each point up the scale means the earthquake is exponentially worse. Going from 1 to 2 kids is like going from a Richter Scale 5 to a 6. Minimal destruction. Going from a 2nd to a 3rd (and another boy at that), well you’re talking a 6 to a 7. Now you’re looking at pretty extensive damage and injuries. Plus you should never let your kids outnumber you. Right now my wife and I can play a man to man defense. If we have another one, we’ll have to go to the zone and any basketball coach will tell you that’s a much tougher coverage. So I hate to tell my wife (and her mother), but I have now added another padlock, a couple of couches and an angry Doberman to that closed door.
I love my two boys. They’re my best friends. My 5 year old is watching sports with me and starting to understand satire and sarcasm. I’m starting to have conversations with my 2 year old. I am eager to continue on to the next phases of raising my wonderful family. I want to look forward and not start over. So barring any “accidents”, I’ve had my last kid. Oops. Shouldn’t have written that last sentence. I’ll bet my wife is putting the kids to bed, opening a bottle of wine and slipping into something more comfortable right now.
Chris Loprete, aka the father of Our Milk Money, began writing his experiences as a new father upon the launch of Our Milk Money, calling his work, appropriately, The Daddys Den. Chris is no stranger to comedy composition. He wrote and performed his one-man show You’re from Philly, Charlie Brown, having successful runs at Circle X Theatre, The Lonny Chapman Repertory Theatre and The Comedy Central Workspace in Hollywood, California as well the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Chris has performed all over the country in theatrical productions, television and film. He is an alumni of The Circle X Theatre Company and The Groundlings Sunday Company. Currently, he is a writer/producer for the Comedy and Reality Promo Team at ABC Television. Chris lives in Stevenson Ranch, California with his wife Ally, founder of OurMilkMoney.com and his two beautiful sons, Braden and Henry.
I’ve noticed one new thing about myself that I’m attributing to being a father. I make a lot more noise when I stand up. Okay, wait. Two things. I cry at the drop of a freakin’ hat now! Growing up I was always a sentimental guy (to a fault), but short of excruciating pain or a death in the family it would take a lot to actually start the water works. Three big exceptions: the movies Terms of Endearment and Glory and for some reason the Happy Days episode when Fonzie goes blind. Buckets.
Now it takes very little to get me verklempt. I’m not talking about sobbing or rending of garments or anything. But the least little tug at the heartstrings will get me welling up. Movies, TV shows, even commercials. The wireless provider ad (I’m not protecting anybody’s name. I seriously forget who the ad was for) where the guy is on a business trip and miserable and is sitting at the airport and then his daughter appears next to him smiles and says “Hi Daddy” and he starts asking her how her day was and you find out he’s on his cell phone talking to her with a big smile on his face? I was a mess.
THERE! See? Even now I just felt my tear ducts start to work. Or there’s a scene in the brilliant mini-series Band of Brothers when the American Army liberates a Belgian town from the Nazis. A GI approaches a young Belgian boy and gives him a chocolate bar. The boy’s father says “He’s never had chocolate before.” The boy takes a bite, looks at the soldier and smiles. Forget it. I was done. Even family sitcoms like The Middle or Modern Family will have a sweet moment each week that will get me going.
So add one more thing to the long lists of Things They Don’t Tell You about being a Dad. You are destined to turn into one big wuss. I guess it’s a good thing though. Looking at the examples above, one common denominator is that any situation eliciting an emotional response from me always involves children. So it’s no wonder these reactions have started since I became a father. It just tells me that I’m so in love with my kids and being a Dad that any sentimental situation on TV, film or even books involving children succeeds in triggering such a stirring of emotion in me for my kids that I…excuse me I have something in my eye.
by Chris Loprete
In one of his brilliant albums that I endlessly listened to growing up, Mel Brooks said “We mock the things we are to be.” My father and I always loved that line, but he obviously understood it more than I did at the time. Now I get it. Mel was talking about kids. And parents who used to be kids. And their kids… and their kids. It’s an endless cycle. “We mock the things we are to be”. It’s inevitable no matter how we try to stave it off or deny it. There should be a drinking game. Every time a kid says” I’ll never be like my parents” everyone has to drink. And then everyone has to take another drink when the parents says, ”Uh…yeah you will so just accept it.” At first, young parents look at it as a bad thing. Hell, even older parents cringe at the thought of it. Don’t believe me? Try telling your wife ‘You’re beginning to sound just like your mother.’ Just make sure you have a pillow and blankets when she makes you sleep in the car.
Here’s just one example. My father and I are very close, but he tended to be a little tough on me when it came to little league sports whether it was baseball or soccer. I have many rough memories of him sitting in the bleachers screaming instructions to me or chastising me for swinging at a ball in the dirt or kicking at a soccer ball that’s still about 10 feet away (to be fair, the poor man got saddled with a son with the hand/eye coordination of a T-Rex) . It’s the main reason why I now sit on the safe confines of my couch watching sports as opposed to playing them. I’m not talking out of school here. My father admits that he got a little intense. Actually he doesn’t remember being THAT bad, but it’s always tougher on the small ears hearing it rather than the big mouth yelling it (love you, Dad). He also lets me know that he has the same memories of his father growing up. I promised myself “I will never subject my boy to that torture. Some people are born athletes. I am not one of them and I will go easy on my boy in case he is not one either.” So maybe you can explain to me why it is that every Saturday
morning for the last two months I have been running up and down the sidelines of a soccer field at my neighborhood park yelling, “BRADEN,CHARGE THE BALL! GET IN THERE! DON’T BE AFRAID OF IT! FOCUS! BE SOCCER READY!” It’s almost like I black out or have an out of body experience. One part of me knows it’s wrong. The other part of me doesn’t care because DARN IT! THE BOY’S GOT TO EXCEL AS AN ATHLETE! I mean GEEZ! He’s ALREADY 4 ½ YEARS OLD! Down in Naples, Florida my father is laughing his ass off. And so is Mel Brooks. Chris is an actor/writer living in Los Angeles. He’s performed in movies, TV and on stage with the Groundlings Improvisation troupe, and the award winning Circle X Theatre Company. He recently performed his self penned critically acclaimed one man show “You’re From Philly, Charlie Brown” in several cities across the US. Chris currently works as an Associate Writer/Producer for ABC On-Air Promos for Reality and Comedy. He lives north of Los Angeles, in Santa Clarita, with his wife and two children.