It seems that I have an impressive superpower-slash-medical-condition that allows me to produce several kidney stones and then pass them over a period of three years. Yes, I am awesome. The fourth of said stones is brewing in my kidney.
I occasionally hear about insecure men comparing their kidney stone experience to labor pain, and thus implicitly suggesting that men have their own version of birth-giving. We do not. I will not be harboring this rock for nine months, nor pushing it out as a doctor offers encouraging words. My recovery process will be brief, and the rock and I will not need much bonding time. I will, however, want to show the jagged stone to all of my friends. After all, the first three were well received and I would hate for this little pebble to be jealous. You will soon learn about this treatment, little baby. We will be showing you off every chance we get.
All of my kidney stones will wish they were babies.
Dear Little Baby,
After we bring you home from the hospital, we will choose how to present you to the world. Many of our peers have chosen forms of social media. These are online platforms that allow a grown man to show the inside of his wife’s uterus to all of his friends without feeling awkward. Future dads get to say, “Hey high school friends, come and check out what I put in that uterus! Trust me, it’s going to be a baby.” This way, it becomes much easier to display pictures of the actual baby after it’s born, no matter what it looks like.
“Remember when I showed you that picture of a skeleton wearing a Luchador mask? Well don’t worry. My baby has a face now, so it’s cuter.”
This “show-off the baby” stage is actually quite daunting. It does not help that The Lion King has given me terribly unrealistic expectations. First of all, that primate holds the baby with so much confidence. I can’t hold a baby without fearing that his arm might fall off like he’s a faulty super hero figurine. Secondly, the crowd’s excitement is terribly misleading. Whenever I watch that opening scene, I tend to imagine that some of the animals aren't so enamored with the royals. It would make sense. There have to be some griping, pissed off antelope sitting by the lake somewhere. They can’t all be dancing in unison. Somewhere, far from the circle of life, there are some bitter antelope. They likely knew Mufasa in high school and thought he was a punk bully with a nice mane and a rich dad.
"Boooooo! Booooo! I hope the monkey drops that kitten, you tyrant! Boooooo!"
These thoughts have left me with some apprehension. Should I show you off? Will people cheer? Those hypothetical antelope haunt my dreams. I can imagine other dad bloggers flipping through pages of Facebook baby images, and rating them Cute OR Not. I fear for your ranking.
Still, I cannot imagine that anyone would have a hostile reaction to you. People love me. People love your mom. I never ate anyone’s family and shrugged it off as “the circle of life.” When I post pictures of you on Facebook, or hold you above my head in a crowded grocery store, everyone will cheer. They should, because you are going to be mind-blowingly cool.
Greetings, Little Guy.
I hope you never find yourself convinced that enjoying sports is the "manly" thing to do. Many guys don't care about sports. Sports exist, and both men and women can like them or hate them. End of story. If you decide that you loathe sports, I will fully support you.
Cool. Now that I got that disclaimer out of the way, I need to inform you that over the next four Halloweens, I plan on dressing you as a baseball, a football, a hockey puck and a basketball. If you are a slender baby, I will change those costumes to a wooden bat, a first-down marker, a hockey stick, and Phil Jackson. I love sports.
Good news (for me): You may eventually share my passion for sports.
Bad news (for you): You may also share my utter lack of athleticism.
I am a terrible athlete. I tried fixing this for years, but all my efforts were fruitless. Milk didn't do this body any good. Being allergic to several nutritious substances has not helped. Exercise was only effective when I managed to not hurt myself. Then, the guy at the GNC store got irate when I asked him for quality Human Growth Hormone at the mall. I initially tried to be discreet and asked for "the good stuff you keep in the back," but the guy was bothered by my inability to wink. I kept scrunching up my face, and I closed both eyes every time without fail. That was the day I learned that my poor coordination would keep me from cheating effectively. Damn you, failed motor skills.
Don't get me wrong, little baby. I've had my fair share of athletic triumphs. When I was 10, I won a small trophy at a regional karate tournament. During my fight, a stubby man-child punched me in the throat. I laid gasping on the floor for a few moments, uncontrollably heaving as the judges stared at my rising and falling rib cage. I was probably trying to find my parents' faces in the crowd, so I could mouth the phrase "goodbye" as I took that final gasp. Then the judges decided to disqualify my opponent for inappropriate conduct. Victory was mine! They let me gather my thoughts and mouthpiece, before watching me get vanquished by a small child in the next round. Third place trophies are awesome.
In high school, I was an accomplished pole vaulter. They let me use a special pole because of my extraordinary ability to weigh half as much as most teenagers. It was purple, and I gave it the name Excalibur. Before every meet, I would strut around the runway like a confused animal, holding Excalibur and staring blankly at opponents. I also spent some time practicing my form, which seems extremely unlikely when one sees this picture.
The track coach even gave me the Sportsmanship Award plaque. It's the award they give to that guy who makes everyone laugh while being terrible at all athletic activities.
I continued to showcase my athletic prowess in grad school, where I joined a talented intramural softball squad. They needed me. I talked a lot of trash, used the term "wheelhouse" as much as possible, and I brought an extra glove so they would let me play. It was a good time. I particularly enjoyed it when we got to play against real athletes. One guy chose to play with his shirt off, likely because his torso was built in a lab somewhere and he wanted to show us the achievements of modern science. This dude took sports seriously, so I doubt he was all that happy when I came running around first wearing a pink helmet while yelling "he put it in my wheelhouse!"
This is not necessarily your future, little dude. You may be a hell of an athlete. But you might want to work on your charm, just in case.
Greetings, Tiny Little Monster.
Several years ago, I embarked on a road trip across the U.S. with my friend Jimmy. Having no qualms with couches or hard floors, we searched for free lodging. One evening, a friend helped me arrange an overnight stop at a "home" located an hour outside of a major US city. This was a mistake.
The house was nestled at the edge of a sprawling ranch, with barrack-like buildings surrounding the home. We knocked, and the door was promptly answered by a man in his mid-fifties, introducing himself as Larry. I remember nothing of what Larry said after the introduction, as I was distracted by
a) the large number of pretty women standing on his stairway
b) the babies that were all playing together on the living room floor
Please note that none of those women were more attractive than your ridiculously attractive mom, and only two of those babies were cuter than you. Larry explained that he lived in the home with his family and a boat load of college-age honeys. He worded this differently, as ministers often do. There were men at the compound, of course, but they lived in the barracks located 80 yards from the house. We were welcome to stay for the night.
We went searching for the menfolk, and brought our luggage to the assigned sleeping quarters. There, we met the first male not named Larry. He called us "brothers" and smiled often. I asked our newfound sibling to share a little about the group. He spoke for a while, but this is an adequate paraphrase:
"I came out here for the cause, you know? We're just here for the cause, bro. We want to change legislation, so we're just here to do it. We follow Larry. A small circle of leaders will make group decisions based on Larry's visions."
He may as well have said “Bat balls crazy monkey hat binoculars,” because I could not remember a thing he said, apart from that last terrifying phrase:
“…based on Larry’s visions.”
Little Baby, here's a secret. People who belong to a cult have no idea they belong to a cult. This group was terrifying, no matter what political or religious beliefs you may hold. Jimmy and I never agree on anything, but we concurred that this place scared the happiness out of us. The idea that one man was guiding an organized, severely isolated clan of young law-changers should not make anyone thrilled. It becomes scarier when you realize that the group was governed based on that one man's dreams.
Remember that time you met up with a half-naked church friend and decided to cook dinner for a cat because it looked really hungry? That was a dream. I once had a dream that I met the Olsen twins, and they were super nice. Dreams are like that.
According to our new Bro, Larry would gather his most trusted young people together and devise a plan based on the previous night's visions. Unfortunately, Larry's visions were not nearly as exciting as mine. If I were to establish a commune based solely on my dreams, it would be gloriously accurate. I would create an adult school and decree that everyone attends school naked. Random celebrities will join you throughout the day, and they will be accompanied by long lost neighbors whose names you can't remember. We shall require that people always fall and run in slow-motion, and that one person is being chased at all times. Then we will start our own version of NASCAR where everyone uses wheel-barrels pulled by a legion of lemurs. Because God says so.
Later that night, Jimmy and I slept on a sweet pair of bunk beds. I woke up at 2am and found an odd looking white fellow looking at me, about 6 inches from my face. He looked as shocked as I was. "You're not Gary."
Nope. Not Gary. I wanted to ask why he and his friends were surrounding my bed. I also wanted to ask why the bookshelves contained titles like "Finding God's Will In Your Dreams." And I really wanted to ask why they needed 80 acres of rural land to change legislation. But I didn't want to die, so I left.
Dear Little Child,
I have been in two man pageants.
Let that sink in for a moment. Take a swig from that milk bottle, count to three, and continue reading when you think you're ready. Breathe in. Breathe out. Good.
When I was in high school, I participated in a Mr. GQ contest. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase what I considered to be a perfectly adequate sense of humor. Several popular kids had been involved in Mr. GQ the previous year, and I was eager to gain some notoriety with a clever, surprisingly comic performance. I planned on utilizing my strengths: comedic timing, knowing what irony means, and a winning gap toothed smile.
This is the story of my high school man pageant. We were asked to develop a five minute long talent showcase, in which we did our best to impress a judging panel that consisted of community leaders. I had described my talent presentation as an "Interpretive Dance" for the event program, but I had no idea that one of the judges was a professional dancer. Your father, as you know, is not a good dancer. I have a few basic moves, a love for Michael Jackson, and the ability to kick fairly high. I had developed a dance routine to Michael Jackson's BAD, and had attained a sweet costume ensemble, complete with a multi-zippered jacket, a disgusting old wig, a fully brimmed hat, and one glorious sequin glove. When I say "I developed a dance routine," I mean that I had watched the music video several times and had practiced a series of pelvic thrusts that best mimicked the King of Pop. I also had prepared to stop and pose at strategic moments in the song. I planned to place my gloved hand on my chin and drop to one knee, staring seductively at the audience, each time Michael Jackson said "Who's bad?!"
On the night of the pageant, I was thinking that my efforts would bring resounding success. I should have been thinking holy hell I can't dance and my best move is an offensive display of pelvic gyration. I definitely should not have invited my church youth group leaders. They had driven from a different city to see the event, and later confessed "We are really glad that we didn't bring our little girls." If you are reading this now, youth group leaders, I apologize for what happened that night.
My performances in the Formal Wear and Club Representation categories went fairly well. I was representing my school's Cross Country team, and decided to dress as a bearded Forrest Gump. I ran out on the catwalk and mumbled some clever joke through my beard, before quickly sprinting backstage and changing into my formal wear. I dressed in a simple black suit that I had borrowed from the costume closet in the Theater Arts Department. The night was going according to plan.
Once the talent portion had commenced, I knew that the odds were heavily stacked against me. One guy played guitar extremely well. Another dude broke pieces of wood with his bare hands. I started to doubt that the audience would understand my ironic, nuanced interpretation of this pop classic. It was too late for doubt. The lights were dimmed, the crowd was hushed, and sh*t was about to get crazy.
It started well enough. I moved my hips to "dun-dun-d-dun-dun" and the performance was being well received. I quickly flipped my hat off my head, and threw it into the audience with style. I may have hit a guy. The music pounded on, and I used a bouncy walk-step as I moved from one end of the stage to the other, waving at the crowd and my parents. People were enjoying this. I attempted a moonwalk, and the crowd roared. I threw some kicks. Huge applause. I started thrusting my pelvis. I couldn't hear the music, because the cheers were so loud. That's when I realized that I was 25 seconds into a five minute song, and I was out of material. I had never performed the entire song when I was at home. I likely figured that I would just get caught up in the moment and improvise.
Unfortunately, I did. I proceeded to shake my pelvis at everything. I may have even pointed at people as I did this. I am certain that my hand gestures were wildly inappropriate. I imagined every Michael Jackson music video I had ever seen, and just thrusted to the beat. This was not interpretive dance. It was disgusting.
At some point, the cheers started to die down. If I were to guess, I may have heard people yelling "do something else!" or "mom why won't he stop?" I was at the end of the catwalk, immediately in front of the judges. I had thrown some ill-advised kicks and made prolonged eye contact with a judge. The people were becoming restless, and I knew that I needed to get the crowd involved again. I ran back up the catwalk to the center of the stage and started doing my poses again.
Just as things were getting bleak, I got this brilliant idea to take off my jacket and throw it into the crowd. They had loved when I did it with the hat. While continuing to thrust, I grabbed at the zippered edges and proceeded to slip off the jacket. Unfortunately, one of the zippers had caught onto the old wig, and my head whipped back as I tore off the jacket. My eyes rolled back like I was an evil Disney witch. The wig came off with the coat, and the crowd roared. I attempted to discern whether they were laughing with me or at me, but concluded only that the show was interesting again. Years later, I was given the opportunity to watch this performance on video. I watched this moment in particular, as 15 year old me just stood there, wearing only a white T-shirt and form fitting pants. He stared out at everyone and looked terrified. His costume was off, the song was almost over, and he had nothing left. Suddenly, 15 year old me looked resolved. He was calm and collected. He paused, made some unnecessary gesture with his right hand, and proceeded to pelvic thrust for the final 45 seconds of the song. It was really gross.
I hope you never do something like this. I hope that you have some class. Given that you are my scrawny little baby, however, I am confident that you will share my affinity for unintentionally offending large crowds of people while embarrassing yourself. This is all going to happen again, little baby. Just know that I plan on recording every second of your brilliant sequel. You're going to make me really popular on You Tube.
By the time you are a mere 6 months old, you will have the ability to perform some cool tricks. Lie down. Cry. Stare at things. As the years go on, you will pick up some new tricks. One day, you might use your powers to impress people at bars. Your mom will discourage this. I will stand by her and nod.
Some folks can make roses out of napkins. Others can tie things with their tongues. My friend Theresa can trump them all.
"I can tell what STD someone has, just by smelling the person."
This life-changing comment was made on a Thursday. All I could say was, "No, that's impossible. I.... I don't understand." My friend Brian, on the other hand, quickly responded, "BEST. BAR-TRICK. EVER."
Theresa continued speaking as though the world hadn't changed. "Chlamydia is the worst. Or maybe it's..."
I was no longer listening to Theresa at this point. I was imagining her standing blindfolded at the bar, as we bring over 5 or 6 twentysomethings with questionable decision-making skills. She could walk down the line and tell us what disease each person had.
Some people think that I shouldn't share this with a baby. Hogwash. Think of this as inspiration, little baby. Let's hope that your tricks are just as entertaining, though possibly more appropriate for a "Thanksgiving Day Family Talent Show." Good luck, little man.
Regardless of your political affiliation, little baby, it is safe for you to assume that the job of US President is a tad stressful. Every President looks like Walter Matthau after a four year term. Without fail. Hair becomes gray, skin starts to sag, and these guys always look like someone punched them in the face.
This White House photo by Pete Souza, recently published by TIME, reminds me that kids in costumes make everything better. If I were Commander in Chief, I would demand that mini super heroes greet me every time I board Air Force One, give a speech, or kiss a baby. In fact, all babies should be costumed. No kisses for non-super-hero babies.
Greetings, Minor Leaguer.
I love baseball almost as much as I love you and your mom. Almost. You two still win, but it is much closer than I would like to admit. If I were to present these truths on a pie chart, and the pie chart happened to be made of real pie, you would be equally pleased with eating any of the three slices. It's that close.
When your mother and I first started dating, she had little understanding of my obsession. In fact, I never truly understood how strongly I felt about baseball until both entities were present, together, in the same place.
The first time I attended a baseball game with your mother, I intended on impressing her. This seemed easy enough, given the circumstances. She was seated fourteen rows behind the dugout. She was watching the game alongside a ridiculously good looking baseball expert. I bought her ice cream in a mini-helmet.
During the fifth inning, we could hear folks rustling behind us as a beach ball was being tossed back and forth. Adults smacked the ball from section to section as children giggled and chased. I looked at your mother and encouraged her to participate in the longtime stadium tradition. “You should hit it. It’s your first game. You have to hit it.”
Your mother was not tempted, and politely declined.
“But what if it comes to you? Just hit it.”
To this day, I have no idea why I was pleading with her. I hate the beach ball tradition, and I think that we should arrest the toolbag that first brought one into a baseball stadium. Still, I wanted your mother to hit the ball.
“Come on, here it is!! You have to do it. Hit it! Hit it!”
I am still not sure if she got caught up in the moment, or simply realized that this meant a lot to me. She flashed a broad smile, stood up, and swung at the ball.
I knew immediately that the ball was going to land on the field. She hit it REALLY hard. I also knew that it was tradition for the crowd to “boo” a person that hit a beach ball onto the field. I instinctively stood up, pointed at your mother, and booed. I booed until the next batter came up to the plate.
That is the story of how you almost never existed. Baseball is awesome, and I like it way too much.
Stories and Letters
This Dad Blog was originally written as a collection of letters to my child, chronicling my awesomeness and warning of the chaos to come. Now that children reside in my home, it also includes essays on successes, failures, and lessons learned... and humiliating pictures... as well as rants, jokes, short stories and random videos. Read stuff!
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