Earning My Stripes

Yesterday, my wife went to the gym for some much needed (and deserved) time to herself. Before she left, she prepared some food for our son’s breakfast so all I really had to do was feed him and clean him up afterwards.* Once he was finished, I took him out of his high chair and put him down with his toys. I knew there were some things that needed to be done that morning – laundry, cleaning, etc. -and I was able to do some of it with my son (for instance, Eitan is great at sitting on my lap while I separate laundry).

Feeling rather proud of myself for having been able to accomplish a number of things in my wife’s absence, I decided to try my hand at one very specific child-related task. This task is critically important for helping a young child remain healthy, for sanitary and safety reasons, and for keeping the child’s parents safe, as well. This task can also be quite difficult, as it requires preparation, patience, dexterity and precision. And so it was, that on this particular morning, I decided to take on the challenge of…

Cutting my son’s nails.

I had everything set up perfectly. Even though I had never actually cut his nails before, I’ve watched my wife do it a few times. I knew how to position Eitan on my lap. I knew how to hold the nail clippers. I had a place to dispose of the clippings. I even knew which television channel had the most hypnotizing cartoons so Eitan wouldn’t move as much. And when I cut the first nail, I held the clippers too close (of course) and sheared off a flap of skin along with the nail.

Now, before you recoil in horror, let me say very clearly: Eitan was fine. He cried for maybe three seconds and then focused back on the television show. In fact, because he finished crying so quickly and because it took a second or two for the wound to start bleeding, I had a brief moment of hope that I had actually done it right. But he was totally fine.

I was mostly fine too. I did my best to ignore the immediate thoughts of self-doubt (read: “You’re a terrible father!”) and took action. I did not panic, but I did get up very quickly to get a paper towel to stop the bleeding.** In fact, the hardest part of this whole process, believe it or not, was keeping the paper towel on Eitan’s thumb while also keeping it out of his mouth. I put Neosporin on a small Band-Aid and managed to get it onto his tiny little thumb (and then set to work keeping that out of his mouth). And apart from the slight discoloration on the finger, you can hardly tell anything happened.

Look, I know this happens to every parent at one point or another.*** The important thing for me was that I gave it a shot. In retrospect perhaps I should have at least waited until my wife got home to try my hand at cutting Eitan’s nails, especially since I’d never done it before. For now, I suppose I’ll stick to the things I know how to do already, because I’m sure there will be plenty of other opportunities to traumatize my child without my rushing to do them all now.

 

*Lest you get the wrong idea, I prepared some of the food too.

**Speaking of which, is it normal for babies’ blood to take a long time to clot up? He was like the Energizer Bunny of blood flow. It just kept going!

***This happens to every parent at one point or another, right?

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The Four Lessons: An Introduction

A few weeks after my son was born, I was sitting with him in my living room watching television and decided it was time to begin his education.

There’s been all kinds of research about how reading to your kids even while they’re still in the womb benefits their intellectual development.* You’re supposed to read to them, sing to them, play music for them and basically do anything that would annoy you if you were trying to sleep as a way to stimulate their tiny little neurons and synapses. By encouraging brain development, you’re preparing your baby for more conventional learning later on. All that being said, the education I had in mind had nothing to do with any of this.

It was time to teach him about Chicago sports.

I was born in Chicago. When I was a kid, since there was no Internet, the only ways to consume sports were through television and the newspaper. As a result, in spite of my parents’ attempts to raise a Philadelphia fan (see: pictures of me wearing Phillies hats as a little kid or my family watching the 76ers in the playoffs after my brit milah**), I went with the primary media exposure and started following Chicago teams. I was born on the north side of town, which means I went to baseball games at Wrigley Field and became a Cubs fan (the fact that Andre “The Hawk” Dawson hit home runs the three times I saw the Cubs in person certainly didn’t hurt, either). I was also born in the early 80s, which means that by the time I was able to understand basketball, Michael Jordan was beginning his run of dominance through the NBA; thus, a Bulls fan was born. And when the only football team you can consistently watch on Sundays is the Bears, that’s where your allegiance goes.***

Today’s world is different, though. You can watch just about any game you want through cable sports packages and Internet subscriptions. The rise of national sports networks, like ESPN, TNT (during basketball season) and NBC Sports (hello hockey playoffs!) makes it easier to watch out of market teams more often, especially if the teams are competitive. Also, Chicago television station WGN is broadcast nationwide and they air significant amounts of Cubs games throughout the season. Even without watching any of the games, the Internet allows you to follow just about any team from anywhere.

I’ll write other posts about the individual lessons, including my lecture to a sleeping baby about the heartache associated with being a Cubs fan. This was just an introduction to the sports portion of this blog. I should also note that I figured I should write something about sports, especially since we got news that Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears (and you can bet I’ll bring him up when I write about the Bears later).

*I don’t have any of that research readily available, partially because I’m writing this post on the subway without Internet access and partially because I don’t care enough to go find it. Just trust me – the research has been done.

**Hebrew word for the ceremony of an 8-day-old baby boy getting circumcised.

***I left the Blackhawks out on purpose. Although they were a competitive playoff team in the early 90s behind stars like Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour, I didn’t really start following hockey until I was in middle school.

Yup, I’m 30.

Time is a very weird thing.

There are moments when I feel like I’ve been doing something for twenty minutes or so and it turns out I’ve been there for a few hours (Trudy will vehemently disagree, but our son’s birth was sort of like this for me). And then there are other points when it seems like the second hand literally could not be moving any slower if it wanted to (“The flight is how long???”). Time flies or it drags on, but the point is that it’s always moving.

Yes, today is my birthday. Yes, I’m now 30. But no, I don’t really feel that weird about it.

Yes, people who are 30 are adults. Real adults, with families and jobs and retirement accounts. Adults talk about how they don’t like today’s music, how kids don’t respect their elders and how their joints are sore.  Adults read the actual news instead of flipping straight to the comics or the sports sections. Adults talk about how things were so much better in their day.

You know what?  I do most of those things too.  I don’t like most of today’s music.  I did a little running last weekend (read: sprinted down 34th street from Herald Square to Penn Station to catch a train) and my legs are still kind of sore.  I have a wife, a son, a job and a retirement account.  I think the cartoons that kids watch today don’t hold a candle to the ones that were on when I was younger.  Yes, I still read the comics and the sports section first, but I generally at least skim the real news afterwards.  The truth is, I’m pretty much an adult myself, so I might as well accept it.

Plus, being an adult isn’t that bad.  I get more out of movies now.  I enjoy my vacations more.  I can appreciate what it means to just sit and watch a sports game (I don’t have the time to do it, but I can appreciate it).  I can understand and treasure the importance of my relationships with my wife and my family.  I can watch my son grow from folds of skin and a mop of hair to pushing his toys around the living room and clapping out of self-satisfaction when he’s moved all the obstacles out of his way (speaking of time moving too quickly…).  I can do things now that I couldn’t before and I know enough now not to do things I was doing before.  Being an adult is just the next step that I’ve reached and it certainly won’t be the last.

And it could be worse – at least I’m not 40.

Welcome!

I don’t talk a lot.

I’m sure there are people who would disagree with that statement. For example, some of my clients don’t talk much either, which means I end up having to say a lot more to get the information I’m after. But that’s not to say I’m necessarily a quiet person. Anyone who has ever watched a Chicago sports game with me will tell you that I am particularly skilled in yelling at the television or making obnoxious comments about officiating (one of my father’s favorite baseball moments involves one particular remark I made at an Orioles game we attended with my brothers). 

But in general, I don’t tend to talk very much.

Part of the reason is that I’ve always felt more comfortable listening than talking. I enjoy gathering information. I enjoy listening to other people’s opinions. Most of all, I enjoy hearing about other people’s lives (which is good, considering I became a social worker). People are interesting. Why do people love eavesdropping so much? Why do people sit in malls or parks and just watched the people around them? Why do people play that game at restaurants where you look around at the other diners and make up background stories for them? (Incidentally, if you haven’t done these things, you should try them sometime.) Why do media outlets make millions of dollars following celebrities, regardless of their levels of fame? Why does a magazine with the name “People” have over 45 million readers? Because people are interesting.

Now, the real question you’re asking is, if I don’t talk much, why am I starting a blog?

This brings us to the purpose of this blog and the types of entries you can expect to read. First of all, I’m a sports fan. I was born in Chicago so I bleed Cubbie blue, Bear Down, run with the Bulls and commit to the Indian (and the White Sox are fine in a pinch). There will be a healthy dose of sports entries, both Chicago-related and otherwise. When my wife, Trudy, first suggested I start a blog, it was because of a conversation we had related to sports.* I’m also a somewhat-recent father. My son, Eitan, will be having his first birthday in June, which is unbelievable since I could swear we just came home from the hospital last week. I’m sure my son will make quite a few appearances, in addition to entries about my journey learning about what it means to raise a child. There will also be various miscellaneous entries about things I come across in life, somewhat like Seinfeld, except without the whiny voice and bright white sneakers. Finally, especially since it was her idea, Trudy will be involved in this project, as well. I’m going to leave it up to her to decide what she wants to write about and how often, although I will say that she suggested she may write about cooking and baking to at least some degree.

 
I think that’s pretty much it. I’m hoping to put up new entries at least two or three times per week, but we’ll see how things go. Feel free to leave comments or suggestions for topics below.
 
Thanks for reading!

*Actually, it was right after NBA center Jason Collins announced that he was gay, so it was technically more about equality and our society’s attitude towards homosexuality than it was about sports (and this whole thing will almost definitely come up in a later entry). But it was still about sports.