The Gauntlet

Originally published as I Never Imagined Taking My Son to School the First Time Would Be So Brutal – Fatherly.com 10/15/18

My son and I stared down the long linoleum hallway at the horde of kids and parents rushing around in confusion. It was pandemonium: children crying, grownups stressing, and teachers’ assistants literally running around in circles, not sure why. My boy’s tiny palm sweated in my hand with a grip that was just a little too tight. A clock on the wall read 8:30 am, drop-off time. His eyes flashed back and forth to the teachers, the parents, and of course the door to his new classroom. It was his first day of school, or what we parents call, The Gauntlet.

“You okay, my man?” I said. He didn’t even look at me. “Did you see the courtyard? They got a ton of bikes!” It didn’t help.

Finally, he looked up at me with his soft eyes and a puckered lower lip. He said nothing, but I heard everything.What do you think you’re doing? You’re not leaving me here. What kind of a daddy are you? I grimaced and turned my head in shame. A few parents eyed me as they brushed by with their children clutching and screaming at their necks. What were they looking at? I was the only dad in a room filled with bawling mothers. Should I have been crying as well?

I hoisted him up and carried him down the chilly passageway. A little boy with a Paw Patrol t-shirt barreled past my leg with a sticky layer of snot and spit covering his face, making a desperate run for the front door. His mother screamed, knocking down a rack of dodge-balls in pursuit. The red rubber balls bounced and rolled as if they were chasing Indy and his golden idol. I plastered us against the wall to avoid a calamity. Better her than me, I thought, instantly disgusted with myself.

My son hugged me around the neck and said, “Daddy, I love you.”

He might as well have been choking me. I knew what he was thinking. Traitor! I trusted you!

I said what I could to distract him. “Your mom packed those awesome gluten-free rice sticks you like so much. Make sure you drink your milk so your mouth doesn’t fuse together.”

Ugh, pathetic.

“Are you staying with me today?” he said ignoring me.

I cursed his mother for being the working parent. Why must I be the one to suffer through this torture? She makes more, that’s why. “I can’t, but I’ll be right here waiting for you after school. I promise.”

A woman approached with a giant mound of curly red hair attached to her skull. It shifted slightly when she moved her head as if she used Velcro to hold it in place. “Is this Shane?” she asked.

My son stared at his new teacher, showing no emotion. Would he take to her or dart for the door? She held her hand out. He inspected it with caution, and then took it.

Sweet relief! Would it be that easy?

She led him to his new classroom. His back was turned for only a second before he whipped around to face me. There it was. The emotional cocktail that had brewed inside him suddenly forced its way out of every pore and orifice in his face. The cheeks were puffed and red, the eyes were wet and shaking, the mouth was wide open, but nothing came but a quiet hiss. The impending scream was so powerful it needed time to grow to its full potential like an over-inflated balloon on the verge of exploding. When it came, it came with a primal force unlike I had ever experienced. The pitch was almost too high for my human ears, but the fluctuation of tone pierced the air and found my tympanic membrane like a burrowing insect. My breath jumped in my chest and I froze.

Red reacted with the authority only a preschool teacher possessed. “GET OUT OF HERE NOW!” she shouted. She pointed to the front door and  hurried him away.

I hesitated. My son’s cries faltered for a moment. He knew what I was about to do. “I’m sorry!” I sobbed. “We’ll get Chick-Fil-A for lunch!”

Then, I ran. With no regard for anyone’s safety, I plowed through the frantic crowd towards my own selfish freedom. Elbowing my way through the masses, I escaped to the bright early morning sun blanketing the parking lot. It was quiet, except for a few whimpering parents and the cranking of minivan engines. I looked back at the school. My son was right. What kind of a daddy was I? He was alone amongst strangers, screaming and crying. The guilt was overwhelming. How could I have let this happen? I tried so hard to be a good parent: read all the books, took the classes, and even followed the blogs. Yet, there I was.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. It was a text from Red. Already? I imagined the worst. Sorry, Mr. Dennis. You’re going to have to come get Shane. He’s become a disturbance to the other children. We’re operating a school here, not an insane asylum. Smiley-face emoji.

I couldn’t bear to open the message, but there was no way I could wait another second. Hoping I was wrong, I swiped across the phone with my thumb.

Almost immediately, my breathing relaxed and my blood pressure returned to normal. The screen lit up with a picture of Shane sporting a huge grin, Legos piled high in front of him, holding up a car he had just constructed.

My anxiety ebbed as I made my way to the car. I was proud of us. We had run the Gauntlet and emerged stronger than before. I put the key in the Aerostar and started her up, cranked the Wiggles album in the CD player, and smiled all the way home.

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BEARDS, FLIP-FLOPS AND BURP CLOTHS: Stay-at-Home Dads in the Big Easy

FatherSon

(Originally published on Big Easy Magazine – 9/1/18)

There was a commercial on the other day that caught my eye, which is surprising considering I never listen to commercials. They tend to induce a mild state of hypnosis while I wipe the drool off my chin. This one was different, though. It was about a stay-at-home dad and a strange little cylinder with a lifeless robotic voice that lit up every so often to remind him of some random menial task. Creepy, right? Probably records his conversations and sends them to the Russians. The point is, I noticed it because I myself am a stay-at-home dad and we don’t usually get a lot of publicity, social media presence or even actual social presence. Even though it’s not the most common lifestyle for New Orleans’ fathers, this is a great town for a progressive approach to parenting . . .

Continued on Big Easy Magazine

Super Dad?

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(Originally published on New Orleans Moms Blog – 7/24/18)

“Hey, Super Dad!” A construction worker clapped and hollered in my direction as if The Lion King was wrapping up at the Saenger. For a moment, I was confused. Me? Super Dad? I guess if I saw a man carting around a toddler in a stroller with an infant in a Baby Bjorn and a fifty-pound dog on a leash I might be impressed as well. I smiled and thought hell yeah, I’m a rockstar and kept going . . .

Continued on New Orleans Moms Blog

Parking On The Sidewalk – A fun and creative way to give back to your community!

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I was out for a walk with my kids when I came upon this car parked across the sidewalk. The driver made sure to pull right up to a trailer in front of him, leaving only inches to spare. I thought Well, this is a challenge! No boring walk for us today. We have a puzzle to solve!

The problem was how to navigate this labyrinth of intrigue with my son in a stroller and my daughter in a Baby Bjorn? And don’t forget about my dog on a leash who added another exciting level of complexity to the task! Fearing nothing, my children and I were exhilarated to tackle it as a family and come out the other side stronger than ever before!

Walking is a great way to get your daily exercise, especially if you’re at home with the kids. We all know how hard it can be to get to the gym. But sometimes, it’s just not enough. That’s when a helpful citizen employing the sidewalk block can really make a difference. In Mid-City, there’s an enormous outpouring of support for this initiative. Why park on the street when you can roll right up to the house and offer your neighbors a true test of physical and intellectual ability?

Here’s some benefits that you might not have considered:

  1. STRENGTH TRAINING: What an opportunity to test those muscles! Try lifting the stroller, baby included, as high as you can to clear the hood of the car. Make sure you have enough room to squeeze your legs past that bumper! This is magic for the upper body. And we can’t forget about those all important quads. The dog will give you a boost by pulling in the opposite direction and providing that leg work essential to a balanced fitness regimen!
  2. PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS: Get the kids involved! Studies have shown that sidewalk blocking can promote cognitive development in youngsters. Turn the event into a game. For example, try testing your little ones to see if they can figure out the best way around the obstacle. How much room is there under the car? Will the baby fit? Is there some way to hoist the dog over the roof? Get creative! There’s a million different ways to get them thinking.
  3. SPEED AND ENDURANCE: Not only does the sidewalk block test your muscle coordination it can also help with cardiovascular health. This is the perfect excuse to get that heart rate up! How fast can you run around the back of the car before another car comes screaming down the street? It’s not just about speed, timing is also important. Wait for an opening, then GO FOR IT!

These are just a few examples of ways you can make a difference in your community by challenging your neighbors to challenge themselves. We all need a little push to excel and blocking the sidewalk with your car gives us that chance whether we want it or not. Don’t hesitate to show people you truly care about their well-being and are willing to go that extra mile! You’ll feel better about yourself and what’s more important than that?

Now get out there and have some fun!

P.S. I hate you

Toys “R” Us Closed and Moved Their Inventory to My House

Toys

This is a photograph of the kid’s playroom. Not exactly, but pretty close. Toys have been buried so long they’re considered collector’s items. I’m going to dig until I find something worth throwing on eBay. Maybe a rare Beanie Baby or limited edition Transformer. The point is my kids will never know. They’re too young to get attached to anything and a new toy conjures about thirty seconds of manic elation before getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle that is our spare room.

I can’t blame my children. When I was a kid I wanted nothing but everything (He-Man, every friggin’ one of ’em). Later in life I realized how much crap I cart around. For example, the six liquor boxes full of CD’s stored in my parent’s basement for over a decade. Do I need a giant library of CD’s? I don’t even own a CD player. All the music I could ever want is online anyway. If something has no utility (either practical or emotional),  why am I hoarding it?

The older I get, the more I contemplate a minimalist lifestyle. Not so much abandoning everything I don’t need, but trimming down the things I don’t use. Watching shows like Tiny House Hunters puts me into a mild euphoric trance. I imagine it’s quite liberating having only two burners and baking in a toaster oven. Or using a composting toilet. I don’t even know what that does, but it sounds efficient.

Besides a purge here and there, I won’t fight the accumulation of my kid’s things. Let them have fun while they’re young. They’ll have plenty of time to be uptight about stuff when they’re out of the house. I figure it will be a few years before they start demanding the latest Mary Makeup Face or RoboTron Battle Destroyer 2000. Until then, I’ll continue my clandestine drops at the local Goodwill.

By the way, I hit pay dirt around three feet. A classic Planet of the Apes figure. Gotta be worth at least twenty bucks.

Stay strong.

Adam

Where to now?

One thing’s for sure, staying at home with a three year old and a nine month old is by far the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. The Bar Exam doesn’t even come close. With kids, life is a series of routines. Eat, nap, play. Eat, nap, play. On and on. At the same time, the family is in a constant state of flux. The children grow and change rapidly while I and my wife, who are basically who we are, watch in confusion.

Soon, the boy will be out of the house for a few hours everyday in the fall. A new school beckons. In addition, the folks have relocated to New Orleans and agreed to help out with the little one. That leaves me something I haven’t had in quite a while: time.

So where to now? Should I barrel ahead and try to finish my book? Should I bag that idea and look for the office job? What about freelancing? I’ll scratch one thing off the list: the corporate world. I may not know where my career is headed, but I know where it isn’t.

For now, I’m going to get back to writing. Thanks for reading.

Adam

Out of the Office

stayathomedadSo, this is the first day of my new life at home. I am no longer working full time in an office. I’ve switched to part-time working from home. I am now part writer, part stay-at-home dad, and part working stiff. Hope my son goes easy on me! The toughest part will be arranging my day so I can still get as much writing done as possible. Have a long road ahead of me with all these projects! Wish me luck.