Baby’s First Trip to the Emergency Room

We knew our daughter would get sick at some point, I just really hoped it would be much later. My wife caught a cold with a fever on Wednesday, and by Friday she was texting me at work, “Don’t be alarmed but Veda is sick now.” Our daughter had a temperature of 102° F. My wife called the nurse hotline provided to us by the NICU and they said at this age we didn’t need to be as concerned about her temperature but to keep a close eye on her respiration. Before three months of age any temp over 100.4° is of serious concern.

Our daughter is coming up on six months (three months adjusted for prematurity) and might have been eligible for a flu shot at her next appointment. She already receives the RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) vaccine. The Coronavirus is all over the news, but we seriously doubted that was the problem. I have heard the stories about new parents rushing their baby to the ER at the first sign of a cough and didn’t want to be that kind of parent. So we kept a close eye on her breathing and reluctantly gave her infant Tylenol to reduce her fever.

Friday night she slept on my chest, skin to skin, and my wife and I got up to feed her every few hours. We wanted to make sure she was staying well hydrated as her immune system battled it out with the illness. Fortunately, I was able to spend all day Saturday with her. My wife had a previously scheduled appointment she wanted to cancel, but I assured her we’d be okay. I looked forward to some father-daughter time and put Star Wars on the PlayStation and held her all morning.

Saturday evening I met up with my friends Bob and Tyler for coffee and we got to talking about my daughter being sick. When my daughter was born I found out Bob had also been born premature. That’s the way men console each other. I went through a difficult time, but you can’t even tell. So he mentioned he got pneumonia when he was a few months old too. “I got sick at that age but it was okay. I’m still alive, right?”

Unfortunately, in this new Dad’s mind, that meant “Holy shit! My daughter might have pneumonia!” I was also thinking about the days before our daughter’s birth where my wife’s condition continued to worsen and we thought it was just a normal part of being pregnant. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake.

I was worried that I might be overreacting as a new parent. I didn’t want to be the kind of parent that rushes to the ER every time my daughter coughs, but when I got home, our daughters temperature was still high and the Tylenol didn’t seem to help break the fever. She was starting to cough more and I was starting to worry more. “Babe, let’s call the nurse hotline again,” I said to my wife. The nurse helped us get a rough count of our daughters respirations per minute and said it seemed a little high. She recommended we take our daughter to the ER so at 10:30 pm Saturday night off we went.

At the ER they ran a test for RSV and Influenza, checked our daughters breathing and x-rayed her chest. Everything came back good except for influenza. Now everything that I have seen on the news makes it sound like you should panic when the elderly and infants get the flu, but the RN acted like it was no big deal. “We’ve seen a lot of kids for influenza right now. She’s going to be just fine.” The pediatrician prescribed Tamiflu, gave our daughter more Tylenol and discharged us. So at 1:30 am these very tired parents were back at home. This was the latest we stayed up since our daughter was born, I didn’t make it passed 11:20 pm on New Years Eve!

I’m glad that we did go to the ER as soon as we did, because if we had waited it out our daughter would have missed the window for any kind of treatment. And that is when complications can occur. Thankfully she is getting better now and I am reminded that as a parent I have to trust my instincts, and ignore my pride. The flu can progress into something more serious so it is best to err on the side of caution.

For more information on how you can protect your children from Influenza check out the following sites:

March of Dimes – Influenza and Your Baby

CDC – Protect Against Flu: Caregivers of Infants and Young Children

What Matters?

I recently rejoined Twitter to try and promote this blog and follow a few traders I like from Options Action. I recently shared that I left social media altogether and life has never been better for me. Less distraction, more progress toward my goals. But I bit the bullet and signed up, because that’s how this machine works.

Everyday we encounter the world outside of us and respond to what we sense (sound, sight, smell, taste, temperature, texture, etc.). We are struck with emotion every step of the way, sometimes intense, sometimes subtle. Emotions are involuntary, no matter how much you believe you are a rational person. Emotions are precognitive, like reflexes. If you are in sound health they work, if not you should see a doctor.

Feelings are different, and typically confused with emotion. Feelings are just your opinion of the emotions you are experiencing. You can call them thoughts if you do not like to consider yourself a ‘feely’ kind of person. How you feel about your emotions determines how you will act upon them. For those that insist upon arguing you are not driven by emotion, let us just say it this way-Your opinion about your emotions determines how you will react to them. Opinions are not facts.

We live in a world with more stimuli than ever before, with each stimulus encountered comes an emotional response. Those emotions tell us what is going on in the world around us. You cannot make decisions without emotion (read Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio for more information.)

Social media and our smart phones act like a sixth sense, alerting us to something happening outside of us. The emotional responses come and go so quickly we don’t even have time to ‘feel’ them until we have already reacted. A tweet about a new venture by someone I follow was attacked by other twits about an unrelated subject and as an expression of schadenfreude. I, of course, wanted to jump in and defend them. But do they need me to defend them? Does it matter anyway?

I put down the phone and went to check on my daughter, still soundly sleeping. As I stood there at her crib feeling a great sense of love and compassion (and a little bit of fear as I leaned in closer to see if I could hear her breathing!) I was reminded of what really matters in life.

Cracks in the Sidewalk

As a father we have an idealized expectation to be a good caretaker of our family. We may fancy ourselves a teacher and a leader to our children. How many times have you heard that with age comes wisdom? And have you ever questioned it?

As I have grown older I can assure you I did not reflect upon each birthday and say to myself, “I feel wiser now!” In fact, I wondered why I continued to make the same mistakes again and again, if I reflected at all. Wisdom comes from making mistakes and learning from them. Some people grow old and die before they ever realize it. They are same as a man who lived his whole life without ever making a mistake.

If you want to be a leader that means you have to make the first mistake. You have to walk ahead and trip on the cracks in the sidewalk. You have to learn how to avoid those cracks and then you can teach others to do the same. But you cannot make anyone learn, you have to let them learn. We like to think that we are the smartest animal on the planet, but humans default to trial and error which most intelligent creatures on this earth are capable of doing.

Our advantage is that we do not always have to make those mistakes ourselves in order to learn from them. We can also learn from other people’s mistakes. In college, I would rarely ask a professor for help because I thought I was smarter if I could figure everything out on my own. I missed the opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Experience defined as the mistakes made by others and how they learned overcome those mistakes.

My father rarely talked to me about the mistakes he made as a young man. I certainly felt I could point out all the mistakes he made as a father while I was growing up. But if I am honest with myself, like with my professors in college, I never asked him for help. I believed I could figure it out on my own.

As you walk down the sidewalk of life with your children, point out the cracks in the sidewalk and humbly admit when you tripped on one. Simply dictating that a crack must be avoided is the equivalent of posting a street sign saying, “Sidewalk Cracked Ahead.” The sign doesn’t teach anything, it only expects a reaction of avoidance.

I can only teach my daughter from my own experience and the experience others have shared with me. ‘Because I said so!’ never worked on me and if my daughter is as recalcitrant as her father, she’ll ask why a lot. Hiding behind my pride would be a great disservice.

What’s your experience?

Resolutions for 2020

Most often we think of resolutions as declaration to stop doing some bad habit and after few months of trying to stop that habit we go right back to doing what we have been doing for many years. It’s not long before we just resolve to not make New Year Resolutions and that ends up being the only one we keep. I’m going to assume you haven’t totally given up on making resolutions if you still reading this paragraph and I’m going to show you how I make resolutions and keep them.

Take a quick look at the definition of ‘resolution’ and see that maybe making a new year resolution isn’t quite the way we have always understood it. The first definition fits our common understanding best. A firm decision to do or not to do something. In others words, set a goal. Setting a goal is just a decision. Goals are typically something we set out to do, not something we set out to stop doing. Setting goals means living life with intention.

The second definition defines a quality of being. I want to be a person who sets goals and achieves these goals. I want to live my life with intention and determination. Doing so helps me find my purpose in life. Many of us think of purpose as some specific destiny given to us like curing cancer, ending world hunger, being the hot dog eating champion of the world or whatever grand thing we can think of. If you are reading this blog I can already think of one of the greatest purposes in life that we share – being a father.

And third definition from this quick Google search relates to what we really desire. I have discovered a problem and I want to solve it. We started with a decision to do something and then we followed through with action to resolve the problem. Men by their very nature are problem solvers. Problem solving is so great a desire that we try to solve problems even when there is nothing to solve! Ask your partner if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I make resolutions almost daily. I’m somewhere in that second definition trying to make resoluteness a quality of my being. It’s like the old GPS devices that used to try to get us back on track when we missed a turn – recalculating… recalculating… I get off track sometimes and I need that GPS device to let me know. Here are two ways you can make that GPS device a part of your resolutions:

  1. Write down your goals on a piece of paper and put that piece of paper in your wallet. Revisit it from time to time and assess what you have done to achieve that goal. Or just rediscover it when you’re trying to find that receipt you need but misplaced. Add that goal to the calendar on your phone and set it to remind you about your goal every couple of weeks or months.
  2. Tell your friends, make a declaration on social media and to your best friends so that you can be held accountable. This works mostly because you want to look good to other people, but it also works because you might find other people who have already set the same goals and achieved them. Ask them for pointers. How did they do it?

Check out the Hidden Brain podcast on making and breaking habits:

One last thought about resolutions. Ditch the idea that you either succeed or fail. If you set out to lose 40 pounds and only lose 20 you still lost 20! If you set out to save $10K this year and you only save $5K you still saved more than ZERO!! Whatever your goal is, getting closer to it is better than getting further from it. Success only happens when you never give up.

Make a big goal and then set little goals to get you there. Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. If he revolutionizes space travel in the process but doesn’t colonize Mars do you think he will be seen as a failure? If we start off thinking we can’t achieve our goals, even knowing that we can’t achieve our goals, then we won’t even try.

Really try to do something amazing this year. If you are honest in your efforts there is a good chance you will be better off for it. Your success may not be what you expected when started, but I bet you’ll be better off than when you started.

What we need are two lists. On the left side: This is what matters to me. On the right side: This is how I spend my time. In the middle, one resolution: to make the right side align with the left.

-Ellen Goodman

Countdown to the New Year! …And New Decade!

The countdown to the New Year is begun! As we usher in 2020, this is a good time to reflect on the last ten years. How is life different today? What did I do with the last ten years? Am I where I want to be and if not, what could I have done differently? Just as I try to reflect on the day I have just finished, I think this is good opportunity to reflect on the past year, and the past decade.

Benjamin Franklin

This could be a very depressing exercise. Thinking about the failures and successes of the last ten years, I tend to get hung up on the failures. In 2010 I did not give a single thought to the idea of 2020. I definitely never thought I was capable of being a father. And I’m not convinced 2010 me thought I would live to see it! Thankfully, I did survive despite many mistakes along the way and it is those mistakes that I have learned from. Learning to learn from my mistakes gave me the opportunity to make corrections and reevaluate my direction. So maybe 2010 me was a complete tool, but I can look back at the last year and feel content knowing I did my best.

Let me share some of those mistakes from the past ten years and how I intend to improve over the next ten:

Be a good custodian of my financial health

At the beginning of 2010 the future never looked so bright. I saved a ton of money in my high yield ING Orange Savings account while I was in the Army and I had built up a decent portfolio investing through Sharebuilder. Both accounts were bought out by Capital One, who coincidentally also owned my high interest car loan on a 2004 Nissan Sentra that I would sometimes fall behind on. I did pay off that car loan six months early in 2012 after working a summer job painting houses.

Watching the World Burn

I burned through the savings and investments within two years, mostly spending it at bars and on alcohol. I bought anything I wanted as long as I knew it wouldn’t overdraft my account (occasionally my knowledge was mistaken) and ended up living in a house that looked more like a storage unit. And I somehow left college with over $90k in student loans. WTF?

After I finished my internship 2017, the first decent pay I received since leaving the army, and still didn’t have any money I started to realize I couldn’t keep living that way.

I’ve jumped from job to job all my life but I found a decent job after college even though I didn’t complete my degree. I started to get serious about managing my money. I started to measure how I spent it with something kind of like a budget and I started to focus on the psychological reasons why I kept acquiring so much crap. Cleaning up our cluttered space (my wife had to live in that mess too!) was like an overweight person getting into shape. First I stopped getting more stuff and then I slowly started getting rid of stuff that I did not need.

I started to be more mindful about my spending habits because of an investing app I was using and I started to use that money I saved from not buying things I didn’t need to pay off debts. First thing was the credit card, and today I pay off my credit card in full every month. Over the last ten years I slowly built my credit back up. Now I have a credit card that pays me! I have only just begun to put a dent in my student loans, but the total owed is shrinking now rather than rising. And I have a small emergency savings and the beginnings of a retirement fund.

I started trying to be a better employee and co-worker which is a real effort for me. And for some reason they decided to give me a chance. I got a raise and a promotion this year!

If I can keep it up 2030 me will be grateful for 2020 me.

Be the best husband, father, and friend I can be

When I came home from the Army in 2010 I had no friends welcoming my return. If I wanted to hang out with people I went to the bar and made friends for the evening, assuming I didn’t run into people I used to know. I’ve had a drink thrown in my face before, and I wish I never lived a life that was so selfish and arrogant that someone would want to throw a drink in my face, but that’s who I was and I have to learn from it.

I always thought being a loner was an asset. I hated going out to eat or going to movies with friends because they could never decide where to go. Or when they did I didn’t care for their choices. It was easier just to go by myself because then I could do what I wanted to do. It seems obvious now, but it didn’t at the time. What I was saying to my friends was that being in their company was an inconvenience to my wants. I thought I was a good person if I did anything nice for anyone. Truthfully, If I did anything for anyone it is because I expected something in return.

I never realized how selfish I was until a couple of years ago when I had to sit down and rethink my life. I certainly could not blame other people. If people who had never met each other all had the same reaction to me then the only common denominator is me. It’s not like I set out to be a crappy person, I just didn’t know how I could be better. Somehow I needed to change the way I acted and I had to accept my mistakes.

Andy Warhol

This is where I learned to think of mistakes not as blemishes on an otherwise clean slate, but as indicators that I needed change direction. Think of life as a canvas. At birth there isn’t much there but as time goes on marks are made with paint brushes, pens and pencils. Maybe glue and scrapbook clippings are added and the occasional puncture. At some point in life we take a look at what is on the canvas make the decision to be more intentional about what we apply to that canvas. When we make mistakes we have to practice our brush strokes more to get the desired result. There is no tabula rasa waiting for me, I have to continue painting on the canvas I I was born with.

Socrates Funny

I’m not a perfect husband, but I actually put in the effort to learn from my mistakes. I won’t be a perfect father, but don’t use that as an excuse not to try. And I’m not the best friend anyone has ever had, but I try to be there for them and expect nothing in return. I will never give up trying to learn how with the help of others.

If I can continue to make progress everyone in 2030 will be happier with me!

Take better care of my body

When I got out of the army I was in the best shape of my life, except for maybe right after airborne school. But I got complacent. I put on the freshman fifteen followed by the sophomore fifteen and so on. I was rocking the Dad bod before it was cool and I wasn’t even a dad yet! 2010 me didn’t think about being in shape to keep up with his kid, or living long enough to see her graduate from college. I think about those things now!

My wife and I met smoking cigarettes which is the funny part about our relationship. I considered quitting in 2013 and talked her into quitting with me. I lasted two weeks and she hasn’t had a cigarette since. It’s been a little over a year since I smoked regularly but not without getting nicotine from alternative sources. I started vaping a year and a half ago and when our daughter was in the NICU all the news about people dying from vaping was everywhere in the news. I switched to nicotine gum for a little while, but went back to vaping using one stressful day as an excuse. I hope to be completely nicotine free by this time next year. I really don’t want any of this stuff to be in my house while my daughter is growing up!

That 70's show

And I haven’t had a drink in over two years now, which has been the biggest contributor to my betterment as a person. People just don’t make good decisions when they drink and they certainly don’t consider the future. I wish that ordering stuff from Amazon and eating a whole pizza were the worst decisions I ever made while drinking, but sadly that’s not the case.

How to change the past and make a better future

I hope that 2020 me is laying the groundwork for a successful future, because I know that 2010 me was not. I can get angry at myself and point out the monumental mistakes I made, or dream about what you have happen to my 2010 investments if they had stayed invested in things McDonalds, Microsoft and Target. Or better yet, I had made those investments in Netflix and bitcoin!

That just isn’t being fair to myself and it ignores the lessons life was trying to teach me. 2020 will be the past eventually and it is up to me to do the right things today so that I don’t look back in 2030 wishing I had done things differently. You got the rest of your life to get it right, don’t waste it on yesterday.

Use this New Year to make progress, and don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Life takes practice just like learning to play the guitar you’ll hit the wrong note or playing football you’ll fumble the ball. If you stop practicing you cannot expect to get any better. Start with one thing and when you get good at it use that success as motivation to move on to the next thing.

Wishing you the best in 2020.

Back to Winning at Dadding

What toys should you get for a premature infant?

I spent the first couple of weeks with our daughter really not knowing what to do as far as play is concerned when it came to our premature daughter. I was told in the NICU the most important thing I could do is read to her, sing to her, and hold her. After a couple of weeks of my wife and I feeling like we had to constantly entertain her and we started to realize she could in fact entertain herself if we let her. Then came her first Christmas and we really got to see what she was interested in.

Our daughter was 20 weeks old at Christmas, nine weeks old adjusted for her premature birth and there are certain milestones she has hit for a three month old. But there are still some zero to three month milestones she hasn’t hit. She just recently started to reach for things, and probably not coincidentally it was when we introduced the piano mat. Mostly, she loves the lights on our Christmas tree.

She received some gifts that are intended for when she gets older, but others we were not sure if she was ready yet. These are the gifts she was most receptive to. So if you are trying to figure out what kind of toys to get for a very new baby, start with these.

Our Daughters Top Five Gifts

5. The Glowing Plush Animal

Bstaofy Glow Polar Bear LED Stuffed Animals Night Light

This was a gift from my wife’s brother and sister-in-law. This toy may not be that impressive to a Dad who has lived a life of sensory overload but this toy makes our daughter smile. It’s pretty simple. My daughter has no idea what a bear is, but she knows this soft bear feels nice and she is fascinated the light glowing from inside. Let it be a reminder that Dad can overthink things.

4. The Carousel of Music and Light

Haktoys 2-in-1 Activity Toy & Night Lamp Sky Constellation Rotating Projector

This was a gift from my Dad and Step-Mom. My Step-Mom told me they were just as clueless about what to get a our daughter as well, but they nailed it. Our daughter loves this toy! Obviously she cannot push any of the buttons yet, but she enjoys watching the lights pass by and coos to the tunes for now.

3. The Tummy Time Pillow

VTech Tummy Time Discovery Pillow

This was a gift from my sister who has three kids of her own so she has a pretty good idea about what kids like. So far our daughter only accidently hits the buttons but the pillow itself is a good start for getting our daughter doing push ups and trying to use her hands while she is on her tummy. Before this toy she was using Dad’s belly as her primary source for tummy time fitness.

2. The Lullaby Hippo

Summer Slumber Buddies Projection and Melodies Soother

This was a gift from my wife’s mom. Despite the horrible photoshop images trying to sell this toy, it is honestly more impressive in real life. Remember those glow in the dark stars that a lot of kids wanted in their rooms in the 90’s? This is the same idea. Thinking back to when we are kids my wife and I knew this toy will spark joy at bedtime for years to come. As a bonus for parents who share the room with baby, there’s a sleep timer that shuts off the lights and music so you don’t have to get out of bed to turn it off.

1. The Kick Piano

MooToys Kick and Play Newborn Toy with Piano

This is the gift that my wife picked out for our daughter. Dad approves! I have never seen my daughter get so excited for anything. Being a fan of music (the noise making toys don’t bother me except that I usually think the sound resolution is cheap) I expected the piano part of this toy to be the most exciting thing for our daughter. While she does interact with the piano as intended the biggest surprise was how excited she is to interact with the mobiles dangling from above!

My wife found it used to save money and we replaced the missing hanging plastic animals with stuffed animals on clips. Which actually worked out better because they hang a little lower so our daughter can reach them.

Infantino Shake & Pull Jittery Pal, Lion

Hopefully these gifts give you a good idea of where to start. As a bonus I have included one more gift idea specific to Christmas. Every year since my wife and I have been together I buy an ornament with the year on it and sometimes an ornament to mark a special occasion such as graduation, our marriage, our first house etc.. Over the years our Christmas tree begins to tell the story of our family, just like my Opa and Oma’s tree did when I was growing up. This particular ornament marking our daughter’s first Christmas came from my Mom. Thanks, Mom!

Unapologetic Dadding

Pre-parenthood I would have made fun of people for talking about their kids all the time. Or made jokes about the goofy pictures parents posted on social media. And why not? It is pretty common in our culture to complain about social media posts with pictures of your food when you go out to eat with friends. Or pictures of your kids just doing whatever weird things kids do. And even our ridiculous pets.

What it does tell us about our culture is that these are the things that matter to us. The picture of that plate of food is expressing our natural human desire to share a meal with friends, because friends matter. Those pictures of our kids are an expression of our desire to be a part of a family, because families matter. And yes, our ridiculous pets matter!

I withdrew from social media in 2016. No more Facebook. No more Instagram. No more Snapchat and Twitter. I decided to go back to a time where the relationships I had with people happen in real time, unscripted, warts and all. I decided to let people see me as I really am, not how I wanted to be perceived. The unexpected consequence was that it forced me to actually act the way I wanted people to see me.

Just not right away.

Thankfully I had a little time to make improvements to myself before my daughter was born. I am tested often and sometimes I fail those tests, but I make it a point to learn from my mistakes. The things that matter to me today seemed unimportant years ago. I had grand ambitions that were primarily driven by selfish ideas and reinforced by the desire to have others think well of me.

Today I do not worry about what others think of me, and I will never need to worry as long as I know that I am doing the right thing. My grand ambitions now seem like tiny matters, but they are not. I desire to be a great husband. I desire to be a great father. I desire to be a great friend. And when I fall short of these things the people around me let me know because I have a great wife, a great daughter, and great friends. I’ve surround myself with great people, and they help me to be a better person.

Being a good dad is not easy. Being a good husband is not easy. But the things worth doing in life usually aren’t easy. If I make a mistake, I learn from it and try harder. Life takes practice. And if people make fun of me for getting all gooey eyed when I talk about my daughter and pull out my phone to show pictures of the cutest kid in the world I don’t worry about what they think about me. Why should you?

Don’t panic!

Not too long after we brought our daughter home I had a terrible scare. My wife and I were eating dinner and our daughter was fussy. I paused my meal and picked her up and put her on my chest to console her while my wife finished eating. She wiggled around for a little bit being the wiggle-worm that she is and settled into a spot near my armpit. Face down in my armpit she fell asleep and then I started to think about the ABC’s of safe sleep. I started to think about SID’s. And then I wondered, ‘Is she getting enough air lying like that?’

I went to adjust her position and she was limp as a doll. My experience to date was with a wiggle-worm. Always grunting. Always self-adjusting her position to find a more comfortable one. This was not the wiggle-worm I know.

I panicked and flipped her on to her stomach to pat her on the back like she was choking because I saw a friend do it with his son in a restaurant once when he started to choke. Never mind that this was not the appropriate response; I was sleep deprived.

She did not respond at all.

My wife seeing this and the panic on my face was now overcome with a panicked face of her own. We jumped up and my wife said let me see her. We were both looking for the same thing-our daughters face wasn’t blue, but she was still limp. I rushed over by the light to get a closer look and all I could think about was a cat that I had years ago…

The cat was in my care when my mom moved to Palm Springs and I wasn’t a very good care taker. I never paid much attention to it and when I noticed the cat wasn’t eating she was already very ill. I set out to call a vet but the cat went limp in my arms.

One minute she was here and the next she was gone.

…And while I was standing there holding my daughter with thoughts flashing by faster than I can process, my wife and I staring at our daughter trying to hear if she is breathing? She grinned!

I am about to have a heart attack and my daughter is in the deepest most pleasant state of slumber. I have since become familiar with this deepest of sleeps that often occur while she is comfortably in my arms. My wife is able to stay at home with our daughter and was already familiar with this deep sleep to which her reaction was very different from mine.

I still get anxious every time she falls asleep like that, but I’ve learned not to panic. I’ve learned to examine the facts before me and assess the current situation rather than react to memories from a long time ago. Just like anything else I want to well, parenting takes practice. But the thought of failure can be overwhelming.

Car Seat Safety Checks

Did you know the local fire station will check you car seat installation?

My wife and I first heard about fire stations offering free installation and inspection of car seats when we were going to parenting classes at the county health department while she was pregnant. Car seat inspection is one of many services fire departments offer besides fighting fires, checking smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and more. Our daughter was still in the NICU when my wife had the car seat installed in Kansas City, Missouri. I was already back at work in Manhattan so I missed out.

We saved a bunch of money leading up to our daughters birth, and had some home improvements planned before she arrived, but I was scrambling to get things done when she arrived 11 weeks early. When I borrowed my wife’s car to pick up some kitchen cabinets in the back of her Honda Fit I removed the car seat to drop the seats and make room.

I was fairly confident in my ability to reinstall the car seat, but let’s be honest; being father-knows-best, it’s not like I pulled out the instructions and made sure I had the seat correctly installed.

So during our trip to Kansas City for Thanksgiving and upon my wife realizing I had removed and reinstalled the carseat my wife was distraught. As new parents any little concern about the safety of our daughter can become an overwhelming worry. And any little criticism of dad by his partner can feel like a gut punch to the ego. Certainly, I am competent enough to install a car seat. Right?

However, putting ego aside, lets look at the facts:

I wasn’t there for the installation.
I never read the manual.

Now this post is not to provide you step by step instructions on how to properly install your baby’s car seat. I recommend you stop by your local fire station and find out. The fire fighter inspecting your car seat took several days of classes to get his certification. If anything, this is post on how to win at dadding and be a good partner.

So before we could get in the car and head home, Dad had to make a trip to the local Fire Station. And I am glad I did.

Driving to the fire station I wondered if I did indeed have the car seat properly installed. And if I did would I point it out to my wife and say, ‘Look everything was fine.’

Nope. That’s not the kind of father and husband I want to be.

The visit to the fire station was more than just a check-up. In about 15 minutes the fire fighter explained to me everything I needed to know about my car seat and keeping my daughter safe, including what I need to look for to ensure that not only is the seat installed correctly, but that my daughter is strapped in right. Turns out there are two ways to install my car seat, either with just the seat belt, or with hooks and one of them is more secure than the other. He also instructed me on how to handle situations that never occured to me to think about. My car seat carrier can also strap into a car without the base if for some reason we needed to ride with someone else or take an Uber. And of course he inspected the car seat to see if it was properly installed.

By the Grace of God it was.

And that had nothing to do with how great of a dad I am. It was just luck. And I am grateful that I put my ego aside to make sure.

Good vs. Bad

For most of my life I sorted everything into two categories. Good and Bad. There is a varying degree-really bad, very great, the best, the worst-but everything fit somewhere on that spectrum. There is of course, okay and neutral, but who fondly looks back on the neutral old days or fears an okay situation?

I should be afraid, or maybe feel this is the greatest time of my life. I do and I don’t.

A few years back when I was trying to figure out why I was such a catastrophe in my own life and the lives of those around me I turned to faith and spirituality in a desperate attempt to alleviate the suffering for both myself and the suffering I caused others. I read this story and suddenly life made sense.

Once upon a time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

And such is life. This is the Tao.

Life is full of good things and bad things, when life is looked at in isolated events. Taken as a whole it becomes more difficult to see what is good and bad. One way I have applied this in my life is that the things I have typically categorized as ‘bad’ are challenges. I should not miss the point that challenges are meant to be overcome. When I overcome a challenge I see growth and that is typically categorized as ‘good.’

The conclusion becomes obvious that one situation cannot occur without the other. Gradually I learned to face my fears and accept life’s challenges. And the greatest time of my life is every day I get to live on this earth.

Back to Winning at Dadding