Daddy Diary – Not All Superheroes Wear Capes – Sometimes It’s Just Mismatched Pajamas & Crew Socks From Target

Nervously, I sat silently at the breakfast nook table awaiting an answer from my daughter. Ava was the Star Student of the Week, and the theme for this month was being a superhero. She was supplied with a poster with various blank sections that required fun, personal information about herself. There were sections that required a list of fun hobbies, an imaginary superpower, and the names of people in her super team (family members). There was also a section reserved for the identity of who was a superhero to her. I sat with her filling out each section. Finally, we arrived at the section that required the identity of her own superhero. And so, I asked the question and anxiously sat on the edge of my seat waiting for an answer. In popular culture, the role of the father is sometimes boiled down to an unaware nincompoop that faints at the first sign of a soiled diaper, is inept at preparing a decent meal, and is devoid of emotional intelligence that is essential for raising children.

Fortunately, young children are not well-versed in popular culture. They won’t succumb to the whims of societal pressure. So as I waited for Ava’s answer, I was hoping for some unbiased truth that wouldn’t sting too bad. Her choices were plentiful: Moana, Doc McStuffins, or any member of the PJ Masks super squad. Selfishly, I was hoping I would make the cut. To my relief, Ava revealed that my wife and I were her superheroes. As a parent, especially being a father, one only wishes that the job you perform as a parent is recognized on some level. To be loved, respected, and appreciated by your children is the greatest reward anyone can dare to hope. Through her lens, we were granted superhero status, and I felt joyous inside. So, I began to ponder what superpowers did I inherit after becoming a parent. I was able to readily identify five super-parent abilities. If you are a parent, you are probably familiar with the list below very well.

Super-parent Abilities

Intuition

  • I knew that my daughter wanted to be Moana for Halloween before she ever told me. So when I inquired about her preferred costume for Halloween, she confirmed that my assumption was indeed correct. Fully equipped and tailored with the Heart of Te Fiti pendant, Hei Hei the chicken, her magical oar, a Moana wig, and an authentic dress from Motunui (well, Target that is); she won the best overall costume for her age group. Parental “spidey senses” are quite useful when your entire world revolves around anticipating your kid’s wants and needs. And it is especially helpful when identifying potential danger around every corner. Case in point: Miles loves to be the “line leader” when entering school. However, he isn’t tall enough to be seen through the glass window by anyone on the opposite side of the door. On this particular day, he dashed to the door before me, and seconds later I spotted another gentleman about to open the door from the other side. Instinctively, I outstretched my arm (36/37 dress sleeve’s worth) to prevent the door from swinging open, thus “saving” Miles as noted by Ava on the poster above. Funny, without coaxing an answer from her, she was able to remember this incident from months ago.

The Power of Persuasion

  • When I first became a supervisor, one of my directors called me into her office to perform an exercise that I believe would provide insight regarding my character and thought process. She asked what would my superpower be if I was a superhero. Inspired by a series I was watching at the time – Jessica Jones season 1 – I believe I surprised her by referencing a little known villain by the name of Zebediah Killgrave. Killgrave’s mutant abilities included but were not limited to mind control and master manipulation. I admit this was a curious selection on my behalf, and my director’s facial response said as much. Why would I choose a villain with seemingly evil superpowers? Because, when utilized with principled and honest intent, the power of persuasion can be a valuable tool when interacting with a toddler. My communication skills are best described as thoughtfully measured, honest, reassuring, and transparent. In my profession, these traits are quite useful when speaking with colleagues, hospital staff, sales representatives, and vendors. Oh – and toddlers. Whether extracting splinters, administering breathing treatments for the first time with a scary mask, or persuading a child to trust you with a hairdryer as you quick-dry nail polish; establishing comfort and trust is essential as a parent.

Reflexes & Speed

    • I am blessed and thankful that neither of my children has experienced some kind of severe calamity in their early childhood. Nonetheless, that is not to say that I’ve been immune to close calls. As I mentioned before, especially with children, there is potential danger around every corner. And while it is always good to anticipate unforeseen peril; properly reacting to said peril is paramount. Now, one doesn’t need to be exposed to gamma rays or bitten by a radioactive spider to be endowed with uncanny strength, speed, or reflexes. Fear and adrenaline will work wonders. One such time involved a mental lapse on my behalf. One afternoon, I was taking Ava for a walk through the neighborhood. As I turned to close the garage door, I failed to engage the brake on the stroller. When I refocused my attention to the stroller, it had begun its descent down the driveway. Now, I may not possess superhuman speed like Quicksilver or Flash, but this big guy performed his best Usain Bolt impression and raced down the driveway to safely secure the runaway stroller. Calamity averted.

Hearing

  • As a parent, trust me, your ears will become perfectly synchronized with your child’s sound, both frequency and decibel level. You will also be able to detect the absence of sound. Sometimes it can be too, too quiet. How sharp will your hearing become? One night after putting the children down for bedtime, I retired to the family room to enjoy a few television shows. Faintly, over the volume of the television, I could hear my son crying out. With super-parent speed, I vaulted up the stairs to my son’s bedroom and discovered he was having a nightmare. I retrieved him from his bed, draped him over my shoulder, and soothed him back to sleep. Another circumstance found me pulling into my driveway after a day at work. As I exited my car to grab some groceries from my trunk, the sound of a distraught little girl caught my attention. Instantly, my brain began to decipher whether the child was mine and what direction the wails were being emitted from. Grocery bags and all, I ran to the backyard and found my little girl in distress over the presence of a bumblebee. We had to move dinner inside.

Invulnerability (not really)

  • After my wife and I closed on our house, we soon discovered a beehive inside a basement wall. My mother-in-law lived a few blocks away, so Stephanie was at her house tending to a newborn Ava. As I was at the house attempting to pinpoint where and how bees were filtering into our basement, I was summarily stung in the face. As I staggered to my mother-in-law’s house to put some ice on my cheek, I found Stephanie with an inconsolable child that she was unable to lay down for sleep. Swollen, burning cheek and all, I took possession of Ava, turned on Kenny G’s Greatest Hits, and cradled her to sleep on a nearby couch. No, my skin is not impenetrable, but I suppose it heals rapidly and is somewhat pain resistant – that bee sting hurt!

For more of my adventures, check out entries from my Daddy Diary for your reading enjoyment.

Daddy Diary – Beyond Dirty Diapers: 5 Things Every New Parent Will Loathe That They Were Never Warned About

Now, before I bear the entire brunt of the Internet parenting community, I wholeheartedly agree that becoming a parent can be a wondrous joy. Nevertheless, I would not be honest if I did not admit some aspects of being a parent that is quite a pain. Sure, you are bound to encounter that one parent that extols the sheer happiness and bliss of having children. And don’t get me wrong, in many situations, this is absolutely correct. However, as new parents will soon realize, there are some facets to parenthood that we unconditionally detest. Dislike. Hate. Loathe. Now, for the purpose of this post, I am going to exclude the usual suspects: changing diapers, lack of sleep, etc. Because, being a parent or not, who would love cleaning up feces 8 times per day on 4 hours of sleep? And Lord, for our first child, my wife wanted to use cloth diapers. That novelty was jettisoned out the window by the time our second child arrived. Soaking, scrubbing, and washing cloth diapers with OxiClean and a toothbrush did not lead to a happy disposition. I confess this particular pain point was self-inflicted insanity. However, parents-to-be, I am warning you. There are certain situations that you may not be able to avoid, and you may be caught with your guard down. I am here to provide a heads-up.

Daycare/School Tuition

  • My 5-year-old daughter can explain how a bat uses echolocation for flight navigation. My 3-year-old son knows his vowels and understands what doleful means. My daughter and son both can name all of the continents. There are science projects. There are spelling tests. Therefore, I cannot complain too much about my children’s schooling. Nevertheless, the cost of quality education can be financially debilitating for many parents. It is not unusual for one parent to take a temporary hiatus from work, stay home with the little ones, and forego the need for daycare or early education programs entirely. Seriously, the cost of daycare might as well be a second mortgage and car note. And if a school is closed for any reason, you may find yourself scrambling for child coverage, or you may have to forego work for the day. So you may miss a day’s pay and still have to pay for that day of schooling – double whammy! Trust, investing in your children’s future by providing quality education is one of the biggest responsibilities that a parent will undertake. Nonetheless, be forewarned, it is going to hurt.

Parental Title

    • Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Hey Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Hey Daddy. Hey Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Hey Daddy. When your child is an infant, you eagerly await to hear those magic words that indicate a verbal form of parental recognition. Hearing mommy or daddy for the first time is a milestone that every parent anxiously anticipates. However, when your child starts to seriously form thoughts and sentences, brace yourself for a torrent of inquisitive inquiries and miscellaneous proclamations – all prefaced with mommy or daddy. Let me tell you, forget waterboarding as an enhanced interrogation technique, play a voice recording of a kid repeating daddy or mommy on a continuous loop, and watch your subject snitch out the entire organization and identify intended targets. You can add sleep deprivation for good measure. We hate that too remember.

Car Seats

  • Trust me, the installation will never be as easy as the instructions or video will illustrate. Simply put, properly installing a car seat will be a pain in your back. Squeezing into a backseat to engage in a life and death struggle to safely install a car seat is no fun. Ask any parent, once that car seat is properly installed, you never want to remove it again. EVER. However, you will not be so lucky. One night, my wife came home late with one of the kids and I was greeted with the task of cleaning up vomit from the car seat. So late into the night, I had to remove the entire car seat, remove the upholstery, wash it, dry it, put the upholstery back on, and then reinstall that bad boy. Keep that instruction manual close – you are going to need it.

Be a Referee

  • My children can have the same color bowl with the exact amount of popcorn in each, and they will still find a way to bicker over who gets what bowl. If you have more than one child, prepare for the incessant arguing and bickering over the most meaningless subjects. Lord have mercy.

Daylight Saving Time

  • Every autumn, you perhaps eagerly anticipate the time when you get to enjoy an extra hour of sleep. If your state observes Daylight Saving Time, you know what I am referring to. But guess what? If you have a little one, your child’s body has no idea the time has shifted back an hour, or the time has shifted forward in the spring for that matter. So if your child’s wake up time is 7 a.m., be prepared to be stirred from your slumber at 6 a.m. And conversely, if you’ve jumped forward an hour, prepare to drag your kid out of their bed from a dead sleep. The solution for “falling back”: adjust your child’s bedtime 15 minutes later each progressive week (up to an hour) leading up to Daylight Saving. The reverse should be done in the spring and adjust bedtime 15 minutes earlier. I was lucky with my second child, as Daylight Saving does not appear (3+ years and counting) to have affected his sleep schedule.

The Standard #51

To be sure, the thoughtful gentleman understands that every moment of significance carries meaning. Moments matter. This is especially true for the gentleman that has embarked upon the journey of fatherhood. Understandably, the journey is an arduous one, replete with important occasions that beg the focused attention and participation of a father. This is non-negotiable. Hopefully, this active role fosters an intimate relationship between father and child grounded in an appreciation and love exclusive to both involved parties. For example, approximately three years ago, my daughter was experiencing respiratory distress that prompted an expeditious visit to the emergency room. My wife needed to be home with our newborn son since, ironically, a hospital isn’t the best spot for a newborn outside of the initial birth. So I stayed with my daughter through a series of evaluations and treatments until she was discharged.

During the entirety of the event, I provided a calming and reassuring presence for her, as you can expect the circumstances would be quite frightening to a two-year-old. Now, some may think it odd, but I took pictures and videos during our stay in the hospital. I wanted to capture this moment in time; this moment that further strengthened our bond as father and daughter.  To her, I was her protector – a source of depended comfort and safety. To me, she was my ward – simply my little baby girl. I had to be there for her. And every now and again – three years later – I still look at pictures and videos from those days we shared together. And upon viewing them, the emotions from that day come flooding back – in a positive way. Despite the circumstances, I cherish that time we shared together.

Now, I don’t assert that a father and child need to experience an extreme event to form a healthy, caring connection. However, I am asserting that a father should never shy away from moments with his kid(s), no matter how large or small. And he should embrace opportunity fully and make the most of it. Sure, a gentleman probably won’t engage in every waking event, but an honest effort is definitely demanded. There possibly can be a myriad of chances at a gentleman’s disposal: attending a recital, helping with homework, attending children’s school events, etc. Do not be mistaken, inaction is actually a conscious action. Gentlemen, as fathers, ensure the present-day with your kids isn’t a missed opportunity that becomes a distant past that you regret in the future. Make the most of your moments now!

Daddy Diary – How Fatherhood Challenged My Masculinity While Restoring My Manhood

Regarding the everyday activities of life, more specifically fatherhood, I am rather matter of fact with my observations and narratives. I am always open and honest about fatherhood with respect to its profound impact over the last 5 years. My role and responsibilities are painfully simple: do what is right and do what is necessary. Sometimes, I am able to experience success, and other times, unfortunately, I fail. Nevertheless, I am frank about my fatherly adventures when queried. During one of these conversations, a work colleague remarked that I was a “different” type of man. At least different from the men from her generation. You understand, as a woman of a certain age, men from her generation did not carry out the parental duties that I routinely performed. Or at least that is what I was told. I always wanted to be a father actively involved in the growth and development of his children, so duties as a devoted dad didn’t seem all too odd.

Now, those parental duties include, but are not limited to: ironing school clothes, laying the kids down for sleep, packing school lunches, taking the kids to school, etc. These are not the occasional chores I discover myself immersed in, rather, these responsibilities are integral components of my daily life – normal life. Sure, balancing work and parental responsibilities is an exhaustive exercise that strains a gentleman’s resolve both mentally and physically. Nevertheless, one does what is right and what is necessary. That is what I had convinced myself to believe. Now, in some respects, I never devoted too much time & thought to gender roles of old within the family unit. That being the man is the provider and protector. Meanwhile, the woman takes care of home and the children. Nonetheless, I am not wholly immune to the societal conditioning that subconsciously molds one’s psyche and behavior regarding the subject matter in a negative.

As my coworker observed, I did not behave like the typical man. I cleaned. I cooked. I changed diapers. I ironed onesies. I gave baths. Truthfully, our society definitely has an opinion – offered by both men and women – about how a man should conduct himself as a man. And generally, those opinions lean heavily on the view that the male should – by the sweat upon his brow – toil the Earth as a sole provider. For women, a man is a man if he lives to a standard of XYZ. For men, a man is the man if he lives to the standard of XYX. We are reduced to a little more than a workhorse; with judgement rendered upon performance in the boardroom & bedroom. And whether implicitly or explicitly, people’s personal views are always on display. I remember my wife and I attended a sleep training class for Ava when she was a newborn. The instructor advocated that we lay our daughter down to sleep by at least 7:30 p.m. Given my late work schedule, I would not arrive home to around that time. That left me virtually no time to spend with my newborn daughter. I asked if it was feasible to extend bedtime later into the evening so I could spend more time with Ava. The instructor’s response: I did not work the weekend, so I could make up time with Ava Saturday & Sunday. In that moment, I felt totally dismissed, as if my time with my daughter was not valuable. Was I that inconsequential? Side-note: I didn’t follow the instructors guidelines. I sleep trained both my children and they are doing just fine.

Allow me to offer another example. My schedule starts late, so I am on a.m. duty with the kids. As in this case, sometimes differing parental schedules produce varying duties. One particular morning I stopped in our cafeteria for breakfast; the cashier observed I was not rushing through the cafe as I can only assume is my normal routine. I noted that I may look to be in a rush constantly, but that is because my typical morning routine almost demands it. Casually, I told her about a typical morning: making sure the kids use the toilet or in the case of Miles – clean up his soiled pull-up, get them showered & dressed, get breakfast on the table, pack their lunch, and drop them off at school. And somewhere in the mix, I get myself together with a shower and clean clothes because arriving at cubicle smelling funky is not an option. I then drive as fast as I can – without getting a ticket – to work. Puzzled, she asked if I was a single father. I assured her I was not a single father – just an involved one.

These were not isolated incidents, and over time, it started to become tiresome. More often than not, I discovered myself an outlier to the prototypical male. I did not fit the standard definition of the “alpha male”. I looked around me, and some of my peers were not putting in the work as a father that I was performing on a daily basis. I would take notice of men and their antiquated worldviews regarding gender roles. Conversely, I would hear women and their relationship horror stories regarding my contemporaries behaving badly. It didn’t seem fair. And I wish I could assert that it did not bother me, but it frustrated me beyond words. I never let it affect how I fathered my children; my duties as a father was non-negotiable. Nevertheless, I began to struggle with my confidence and self-esteem. As a man, I felt weak. I felt like a sucker. I had stopped working out. I had stopped writing. I had stopped mentoring. I cannot categorically claim that I was depressed, but I wasn’t the best me I could offer outside of being a father. What was the best me? First, allow me to offer some personal history for perspective.

For much of my early schooling and better part of college, I did not have an identity. I was a soft-spoken, overweight, slew-footed gentleman that walked with a gait similar to a penguin. I began to form an identity when I joined an organization in college – The Society of African-American Men. Making men out of boys was one of our battle cries. These men became my brothers from another mother. I learned a great deal through our shared organizational kinship. In the end, I didn’t earn my degree, but I departed Michigan Technological University with a wealth of knowledge for life. I had began to formulate an image, an identity. A non-athlete, I found solace in the gym with heavy weights that satiated the more primal side of soft-spoken Glen. I found a voice through this blog, as I found total strangers actually interested in my musings. I became active in the community to the under-served and marginalized, more specifically young black men. I had discovered my purpose.

Fatherhood changed everything and I was ill-equipped to cope. I was sleep-deprived and stressed from work; becoming a father was draining my virility as a man. I would look at the children’s outfits I sorted and ironed, thinking to myself – why? I would wonder if other fathers were out there changing cloth diapers, shoveling Michigan snow, and still putting in a 40+ hour week. I felt less-than and inadequate with no outlet to express what was going on inside me. Because, as years of programing had subconsciously taught me, showing emotion and vulnerability wasn’t something a man did. Any day of the week I could feel angry, despondent, or defeated. I was struggling emotionally and mentally within my own solitude, but I pressed forward.

I don’t have any vices to retreat to; I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. So most times I was just devoid of emotion. People would say happy Friday and become so elated about the impending weekend. Inside, I burned with irritation and disdain. There weren’t any days off in my world. And when Sunday arrived, I was angry about the forthcoming Monday. Sure, my kids brought me joy, but a majority of my days were consumed with work in some form or another. I never spoke about my feelings and I never let people see me break down. Some colleagues on my team nicknamed me Eeyore. They decorated my cubicle with stuffed animals and balloons with happy faces to try and make me smile. It didn’t work.

“But they don’t know about your stress filled day, baby on the way, mad bills to pay”, rapped the late Biggie Smalls. Everyday Struggle has always been one of my favorite Biggie songs; albeit my life did not mirror his early drug dealer escapades, I could relate to the pain of the everyday grind and hustle. I remember when Stephanie told me she was pregnant with our second child Miles. While I was surely excited inside, my face told a different story. Immediately, my mind began to calculate the cost of another child on my salary. As a man, it was ultimately my responsibility to ensure we were fine. I’ve always been a hard worker, and I had steadily moved up within my company. Nevertheless, with a second child, I had to make a big move.

A position in a department I had been eyeing opened up. I prepped for the interview for about a month. I performed well in the interview and was considered an excellent candidate, but I came up short. I received my rejection notification via e-mail (I can’t make this up) on my birthday while I was on vacation. I sat on my couch and cried. I felt absolutely hopeless. Like a scene from Soul Food, Stephanie tried to give support, but I felt like a failure nonetheless. I simply did not know what was going to happen next. A few days later, I was back on the grind. Miles Jackson Palmer was on the way, and tears don’t move bill collectors. By His grace, I secured a management position months later. My supervisor had convinced me to apply even though I had severe reservations about my chances.

Still, in the present day, my work-life balance was challenging to say the least. Sure, I was able to secure some stability on the financial front, but emotionally and mentally I was struggling. And with two children, the stress roared down like an avalanche. I was trying to fulfill my duties as a professional at work while also going above and beyond as a father. I was cracking. I had long stopped attending church. Truthfully and selfishly, I tried to use the weekends to recharge – I didn’t want to go anywhere! However, at the behest of my wife, I attended a men’s group that met 1 Saturday per month as an exercise of fellowship and ministering to one another. During a group conversation – I cannot be ashamed to admit – I broke down into tears. I shared my testimony with the group. My feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, fear, and frustration. And then an older gentleman told me something that flipped my thinking on its head: Never let someone make you feel ashamed for being a father to your children.

Damn. It was that simple, but the surrounding noise in my life made me susceptible to self-destructive thinking. I was trying to live up to a misguided image that society conditioned me to be, and not what my children needed me to be. I was depreciating my self-worth because I was conditioned to think responsibilities aligned with the matriarch secondary to those of the patriarch. That is foolishness, as both are equally important to promote a strong, healthy household. The church elder told me I was uniquely equipped with both paternal and maternal instincts. And I should not feel less than a man because of it. Those words, as straightforward as they were, struck deep inside my core. That day began to change everything for me.

Recently, Ava had a minor accident when she fell off her scooter. My daughter tends to be emotional and has a flair for the dramatic – that’s just her personality. A couple of family members attempted to console her, but the tears were flowing with no stoppage in sight. So, I intervened, scooped all 3+ feet of her lanky frame into my arms, whispered into her ear to relax and promised I’d sit next to her at bedtime while we listened to Kenny G. One minute later, no more tears, and all was good. Do not be mistaken, children are very observant. So, I have to believe all those nights I spent training her to sleep through the night as a baby (even keeping a log), administering her daily breathing treatments, getting her washed and clothed in the morning for school before dashing her off to school, and everything else that arrives with fatherhood – it created that father/daughter bond that is magical. And I never stopped being her protector; I still honor requests to sleep on the floor beside Ava’s bed until a thunderstorm passes. Or pop up at 2:32 a.m. to sooth Miles because he is having a bad dream. Never let someone make you feel ashamed for being a father to your children. And never let yourself feel ashamed for being a father to your children. The other day, Ava wrapped her arms around me and said, “I love you Daddy.” The sound of her voice was so genuine, innocent and pure – I wanted to cry.

Back in the recesses of my mind, the concept of being masculine; fatherhood has torn down all that nonsense and reinforced what being a man should be. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel vulnerable and express emotion. It is okay to cry. Far too often, men hold on to hurt, fear, and anger until it erupts in a negative fashion. We’re human and these feelings are natural. There isn’t any shame in that. If you are in the struggle, seek out other men that share, have shared, or have knowledge regarding your struggle – sharing your testimony can be seriously therapeutic. I also meditate to alleviate stress. Sometimes, I just disconnect from the world, sit in the dark, and listen to raindrops playing on my Google Mini. A work in progress, I am reintroducing the constructive activities that I love to do – writing this story is one of them. A man doesn’t necessarily possess the attributes of a father, but a father undoubtedly needs to be a man. Because whether a man is changing a diaper, helping with homework, or reading a bedtime story; a man does so without hesitation to facilitate the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual strength required for his children to succeed in a world when he is no longer here. And there is no shame in that.

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