Posting From an Undisclosed Location

Hey, Dads (and WordPress readers)!

Sorry for the lack of updates, but as you can imagine things are crazy right now.

I, like many of you, am feeling the effects of the corona virus in my life. These last few weeks were already going to be difficult-new job, fixing up our house to sell it, finding a new place to live-but I never expected the anxiety levels to be this high!

For starters, our daughter is a premature baby under the age of 12 months. Covid-19 could be devastating if she were to be exposed to it. I would be devastated as a parent if I knew I was the one who exposed her! So my wife and I have taken the precautions we can to try to protect her, but with something this serious and unknown there’s no guarantee that we can prevent it.

There are also the economic consequences. This may the worst time to try to sell a house or buy one, and we cannot afford to pay two mortgages. Up until this week I wasn’t certain that I would actually have a job to pay for anything! Thankfully, my start date has not changed. What has changed is that from day one I will be working from home, on-boarding and all, which comes with a variety of other anxieties.

Social distancing is another matter entirely. The country has never seemed more divided at a time when we really need to come together, spiritually not physically. Physical distancing is what we should really call it. There are many great ideas on how to stay connected. But I worry that in a time when we are already suffering from a pandemic of misinformation that we’re licked when it comes to doing what we need to do slow the spread of Covid-19. It’s one thing to disagree on policy, it’s another to disagree on facts.

WHYY Radio Times – Connection and kindness during the pandemic

So what have I been doing to cope with all of this? Let’s start with the simplest thing, knowing what I have control over and what I do not. Simple but not always easy. For one, I can make sure I wash my hands, I cannot make other people wash theirs. There is not point at being angry at other people for how they choose to deal or not deal with this pandemic. It’s out of my control, and it’s out of your control. The sooner you accept that the sooner you can focus your time and energy on what you can do.

I have tried to maintain a schedule, minus a few late hours trying to finish working on our house to get it ready to list, by going to bed and waking up at my regular times. Sleep is essential to good mental and physical health.

It has been difficult to unplug, but if the news or social media is stressing you out, turn it off, put it away and spend some quality time with your family. Play a board game. Cook together. Learn to tie knots! Anything is better than obsessing over something that is out of your control. Staying glued to your news feed may seem comforting, because we all thirst for information when facing an unknown situation, but drinking from a fire hose is a bad idea.

Know that this is temporary. It doesn’t mean things will go back to the way they were, but chances are we will have different things to worry about a year from now. In the meantime, I am trying to do today the things I need to do to set myself up for success in the future. Work out more if you have the free time. Learn how to cook and eat healthy, it’s not like we’re going out to eat all the time right now. Keep saving money and investing for retirement if you are fortunate enough to have a job today. Teach yourself something new if you suddenly find yourself with a lot of free time. And most importantly, hang out with your family. Take care of them. They need you right now and you, as a Dad, are the person who can comfort them in scary times.

I see a lot of jokes about being stuck at home with the family, but trust me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in your children’s lives. Don’t waste it worrying about things that in the end will not be as important. No man says, “I wish I had worked more hours” on his death bed!

Meditate. Pray. Take a nap. Do whatever it is you need to unwind (just a heads up, drinking increases anxiety) that improves your mental health. Write, even if you have never written before. Sit in a quiet place and record voice notes on what you are thinking and feeling. As soon as you bring it to the surface, you have a chance to identify what you are afraid of, whether it is worth fearing, and if there is anything you can do about it. Reflect on the moment. Step back and then you can calmly take action to resolve it. If you can do anything, then know that! The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.

This is going to be a trying time for all of us. I know that it has been for me, but I also believe that we will come out stronger on the other end of it. This is a time to practice humility, compassion, and gratitude. Everyday is a gift, don’t waste it.

Now listen to this great song by Toad the Wet Sprocket and relax.

Top Books for Better Dadding

How early should you start reading to your baby? You can start the same day they are born if you are so inclined. The psychologist in the NICU told us reading to our baby is one of the most important things we can do for her cognitive development. Newborns are taking in a lot of information so read to them and let your baby hear your voice and the variety of sounds that it produces. If you are running out of things to say to your baby (after all it is a one sided conversation for many months) and find your vocabulary is limited to few sentences repeated over and over you can just read books you enjoy outloud to your baby. It’s a win-win situation!

What to Expect: The First Year

Heidi Murkoff; Sharon Hazel

My wife and I read this book together while she was pregnant. There are a lot of myths and other misinformation that we pick up through life about being a parent and how to take care of our children. For example, I always thought you had to pat your baby on the back to make them burp after eating. Not so at all. Most of the time babies burp on their own, just make sure you are holding them upright should more than air come up with that burp! This book is a great starting point for knowing what to expect when you are a first time parent and how to just about any situation that you can think of during your first year as a parent.

The New Dad’s Survival Guide: What to Expect in the First Year and Beyond

Rob Kemp

The New Dad’s Survival Guide was one of the first books I picked up while getting ready for our daughter to arrive. If I were going to write about book about what you need to know as a first time, I wouldn’t, because Rob Kemp already wrote an excellent book to cover what you need to know. It’s about more than how to change diapers and burp your baby, but also covers things to like how to communicate with your partner and a heads up for some of the mistakes we make when trying to adjust to this new way of life.

The Gardener and The Carpenter

Alison Gopnik

What is your approach to parenting? Are you trying to shape your child into a specific person following strict guidelines or do you allow your child to come into the would and learn to flourish on their own? I think Dadding teaches me as much about myself as I can teach my daughter Parenting is a fairly new term. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult. Gopnik shows that although caring for children is profoundly important, it is not a matter of shaping them to turn out a particular way. Children are messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and very different both from their parents and from each other. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world.

The Consolations of Philosophy

Alain De Botton

I read this book to my daughter in the NICU. There was a local bookstore down the street from the hospital and this book was mentioned in an finance book I was reading at the time (Hagstrom). The book is an insightful look into how philosophy helps us to understand ourselves and the world around us. I read his book The Architecture of Happiness while I was in college and it completely changed the way I felt about what I could accomplish as an architect. Consolations changed the way I felt about what I could accomplish as a human being by changing my perspective.

Investing: The Last Liberal Art

Robert G. Hagstrom

In the year leading up to our daughter’s birth I was trying to learn as much as I could about personal finance and investing. I knew enough to know that the more money I invested the greater my annual income would become. I didn’t expect this book to be such a paradigm shift in the way I thought not just about investing, but innovation and insight. Hagstrom uses Charlie Munger’s ‘Latticework of Mental Models’ as a basis for understanding business models and how we can take the principles from one discipline and apply them to others. Depth of knowledge is great, but breadth of knowledge is where true innovation comes from.


Check out IndieBound.org for children’s books and support local bookstores

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

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

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?

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?