Kryptonite In Your Shorts

In my vast experience as a blogger I have come to learn that the key to a succesful blog is letting your guard down, being vulnerable, and giving people a view from the inside of your soul.  In the spirit of full disclosure, the words I am about to type may come as a shock to those of you that know me. So crawl under your computer desk, assume the position, and brace yourself for this honesty bomb:

I have not always been the world-class athlete that I am today.

(insert laugh track here)

There was a time when the finely tuned athletic machine that stands before you today would get winded because it was windy.  Hell, I’d get winded eating Wendy’s.  And the only “runs” I had ever associated myself with typically came as a side-effect of consuming Wendy’s.

My wife, however, is an avid runner.  Shortly after our first year of marriage, in what I can only imagine was an attempt to passive-aggresively murder her new groom (It’s understandable.  I would probably try to kill me too if I had to live with me on a daily basis.), she asked me if I wanted to train for and run a half-marathon with her.  I was fool enough to say yes.

You have to understand that before this time I had never run much more than a mile in my life.  In fact, when I was 16, we were required to run a mile for gym class.  I’m pretty sure I still hold my high school’s record for the slowest time ever posted with a 20+ minute mile.  Though to be honest, I did spend a good portion of that time jumping off a rope swing into a creek in the woods behind the football stadium with a fellow classmate (and no, that is not some kind of obscure sexual metaphor a la Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl.  I really was just jumping in a creek.).  Needless to say, running 13.1 miles was an experience I had never really prepared myself for.

My wife and I began our training about three months before the actual race.  I like that I wrote “our” training as if it were some kind of benefit to her.  Though I was so out of shape that at times she’d have to carry me on her back like Yoda, so she was getting her own sort of work out too.  About a month into the training I had gotten to the point where I could go about three miles before having to bust out the defibrillator.  I was also, dare I say, beginning to enjoy running.

Then I injured my right knee whilst playing with a frisbee.

A frisbee.

After my freak frisbee injury, I was only able to run for about a mile before my knee would just give out.  Instead of consulting a physician or a specialist, I did what any card-carrying, lazy sack of manure would do.  I did nothing.  I quit training,  I ate Krispy Kremes, and  I forgot all about my one month love affair with running.  That was until about two months later when my wife (you know, the one still plotting my demise) reminded me that “she” had a half-marathon to run that weekend.  When I reminded her that “we” had a race that weekend, she tried to give me some practical nonsense about how I had barely compiled 13 miles of running in my lifetime and how this was not a good idea (which was her way of tricking my pride into running the damn race… her murder by exercise plan was clicking like clockwork!).  I told her Superman does not need training and at 5 am the next morning this guy was off to the races:

Note to reader: Author is an idiot.

Here’s a free lesson to anyone whom would choose to go run 13.1 miles in front of thousands of cheering onlookers without ever training for it.  If you want to take it easy, maybe jog the first two or three miles, and walk the rest (which, of course, was my plan), do not dress up as THE MAN of STEEL!!!  Shortly after the three-mile mark, already tasting the salty pain of my certain doom, I sent my wife on her way and began to walk the last 10 miles.  Red-faced, dripping with sweat, and glossy-eyed I limped along the side of the course as to not get in the way of the real runners.  That’s when I heard a voice from the crowd of race day well-wishers that will forever haunt my dreams.  A rather large, Johnny Cash-voiced woman looked right at me and bellowed, “Hey Superman!  What’s the matter?!  Ya’ got Kryptonite in your shorts?!?!”

The weight of public humiliation is greater than any swelling knees or oxygen deprived lungs.  With the laughter of the crowd now ringing in my ears, I started to run again.  Three miles later, twice as bad-off as I was before, I was ready to find the nearest coffin and/or give up.  Then another voice called out.  A small boy in the crowd yelled, “You can do it Superman!”  Ugh, kiddie-guilt? Thanks a lot Tiny Tim.  I kept on running and wouldn’t you know it, every time I tried to quit, someone would yell at Super-me to keep going.  I crossed the finish line at just under 2 and 1/2 hours and I basically ran* the whole damn thing!

And then I literally did not walk for four days straight.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  That is, I know what else you’re thinking other than this guy is a dump.  You are thinking, what in the wide-wide-world of sports does this have to do with being a stay-at-home dad?  Well, here it is.  That feeling when I was being heckled about my Kryptonite shorts, the breathless feeling of being in so over your head, so unfit to be in that situation, and yet so motivated to keep on going, is a feeling that I repeatedly feel as a father.

There are times when the 2-year-old is bouncing off the walls he just painted with crayons, while the 5 month old is turning into some baby version of the Incredibly Hungry Hulk, demanding his third bottle of breast milk in a two-hour span as he goes into berserker mode.  In these moments of doubt and panic, I can see something in their  bright-blue, beautiful, beady little eyes, as they are looking into mine, that says, “What’s the matter Superdad?  Ya’ got Kryptonite in your burp cloth?”

welcome to thunderdome daddy!

I didn’t train my whole life to be a dad and, in terms of full disclosure, I never wanted to be a “stay-at-home” version.  There are weak moments, glassy-eyed and out-of-breath-moments, when I just want to walk.  Moments when I think about quitting.  I always look at my wife like she’s the natural.  The natural runner.  The natural mother.  I think to myself how much better she would be at this than I.  In reality, she is not a natural.  She just works so damn hard that she makes it look like it’s easy.

In the years since the “Superman” race, my wife has actually trained me up properly and I can now say that I do truly enjoy running.  Much in that same way, it is her work ethic that helps my training as a parent.  Parenting, like running, takes thought and sweat and most importantly, dedication.  It’s more than just showing up and running around like an idiot in a superman t-shirt (words which will likely be written on my tombstone… here lies that idiot who ran around wearing a superman t-shirt).

I never wanted to be a stay-at-home dad.  I never wanted to be a runner.  Running has become a challenge that I now love.  I think the same could be said for my new job.

* “Ran” might be a bit of a generous term, but you know… ran like how a zombie runs.


I Don’t Know What In The Hell I’m Doing (and neither do you)

  “What is your parenting philosophy?”

  This loaded question was posed to me by a lady whom I had just delivered a Jazzy power chair. I had finished up her initial demonstration and per usual with the job, this sweet old bag (her term, not mine) was more interested in chatting with me about life than she was in breaking down the finer points of 3 amp, off-board battery chargers.

  She had been a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years and, after a short stint as a middle school English teacher, had recently jumped back in to this realm as a “stay-at-home-grand-mom.”  She could also see before her a young, enthusiastic father whose world was beaming with the prospects of a second child on the way.  So as she warmly smiled at me after unleashing her best Barbara Walters-esque parental query, I tried to give her a look as which to convey, ‘lady, you might not like what I’m getting ready to say’.

  “I don’t know what in the hell I’m doing… and neither do you.”

  That is my actual “parenting philosophy.”  And it’s a hell of thing to tell somebody who’s life work has been rasing her children (and now her children’s children).  Fortunately for my sake she got where I was coming from and nearly laughed herself right out of her shiny new, jet-blue Jazzy chair.

  There is an oft used cliché that gets floated out into the world of parenting that says children do not come with an instruction manual.  I beg to differ.  So does the cash cow otherwise known as the new parenting section at your local Barnes and Nobles.  When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we submerged ourselves in the deep end of the new baby information pool (yes, that pool is shaped like a cute and friendly whale).  We trained ourselves by the codes of What To Expect When Your Expecting.  We meditated to the words and wisdom of Dr. Sears.  We were going to be black belted ninja warriors of parenthood.

  Also, as Justine’s baby belly began to inflate, so too did the opinions of many well-meaning “walking experts.”  It was as if her fetal girth was some kind of weird tractor beam that would draw in the parenting thoughts and persuasions of any passer-by who dared glance its way.  Friends, family, next-door neighbors, the cashier at Food Lion, a postal worker in an elevator, etc.  All, and the like, would randomly shower us with advice on all things babies.  And we were suckers for it!   We would soak up every bit of Starbucks-barista-infused baby knowledge like we were made of Bounty.  Soon it began to become overwhelming.

  One night toward the end of the pregnancy, Justine and I got into a heated debate over the type of sheets to put in the baby’s crib.  Regular cotton?  Organic cotton?  Egyptian cotton? What to do… WHAT TO DO?!!  So-and-so says this, but the book says that, and that damned barista said babies sleep best on a bear-skin rug!  Some may not know this, but every single choice you make about baby #1 can literally shatter the Earth.  It was in that moment that I had come to the realization that neither I or anyone else knows all the answers to being a parent.  Specifically, in terms of me being a parent.

  Parenting seems to be less simple math, and more unique, complex, and situational problem solving.  This doesn’t mean that I devalue the experiences and thoughts of other parents.  In fact, the way I look at it is that you take all of that outside knowledge and funnel it through your own intuitive filter.  Through that scope we then make choices, work hard, pay attention, and remember that life as a mom or dad is a fluid process.

  A little less than a month after this conversation, my theories on being a dad were about to get put to the test.  After the company folded, Justine and I had some hard choices to make.  We chose that I would be the one who would have “stay-at-home” in my job description and she would bring home the organic bacon.  This would be my opportunity to not only go back to school and finish my bachelor’s degree (via night classes), but to be the one at home during the early developement of our kids.

  I know what you’re thinking.  The same guy who just refered to his wife’s pregnant stomach as an inflated, weird tractor beam is responsible for the rasing and well-being of two bright-eyed, innocent cherub children?  Don’t look at me… I’m not the one who wears the pant suit in this family.

Double-Tapped Into Daddy Issues

I have “daddy issues.” 

Not the kind of daddy issues that might lead me down an ill-fated career path as a pole-dancer, mind you.  I just dance on poles to stay in shape.  No, I’ve got a whole different set of daddy issues.  My issues are covered in bouillabaisse of nine-day-old Cheerios and washable marker and spit-up…and California Baby Products.  They’re called Stay-at-home-daddy issues.

These new kinds of daddy issues have arisen from an all-too-common back story.  A back story that, in this new economic Dagobah we’re living in, has become sadly cliché.  It was a Friday morning in early February of this year.  I sauntered in to the main office area of the small DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company that I worked for.   The same way I had sauntered in every weekday for the past five and a half plus years.  I am a big fan of sauntering.  As I began to break the seal on another fresh batch of witty banter and general Woodrow morning goodness with my co-workers, I got the vibe from our receptionist that something was up.  She soon relayed to us that our company owner wanted to have a “meeting” with all of us first thing that morning.  We weren’t really a “morning meeting” kind of operation, so needless to say I was on edge.

Now I had been with the company long enough to notice that we were struggling.  I had thought that, if things didn’t start to turn around, there was a chance we may not make it past another year.   With that being said, I can honestly say I thought we’d make it past 5:30 that evening!  My boss, however, informed us otherwise.  The company was folding effective immediately.

A good friend of mine and I have a classification system set up to describe getting kicked in the nards.  There is your standard, level one, swift-kick in the nuts.  The next step up is what we have for years called the “double-tap.”  This is where the gonad assailant goes in for the kick with a loose foot, causing an initial strike with the heart of the foot, followed by an immediate, reactionary second strike from the toe region.  For those of us who’ve had the misfortune of being double-tapped, you know the greater pain is not in the Spauldings themselves (which is substantial), but rather the shooting pain that runs up from your pelvis to your stomach.  It was that exact feeling that was coursing through my body as the gravity of losing my job began to set in.

WARNING: You've Been Double-Tapped

I began to think about my wife Justine.  She was five-months pregnant with our second child.  Fortunately she had a good job, and our insurance went through her, but how would she handle the news?  What about our plans?  The idea was once the second child was born we would pull our two-year old son, Emerson, out of daycare and she would stay home with the kids.  Money would be tight, but considering the cost of daycare for two kids and her true desire to be home with our little ones, we would make it work.  Now we were going to have to call a timeout, scrap the playbook, and draw-up a new play in the dirt where my job once stood. 

Little did I know, in those excruciating moments, I was about to voyage into the murky abyss that is the realm of the stay-at-home-dad…