Rediscovering Santa Claus

One of my writer-friends posed a question to me the other day asking if I was going to write a post about Christmas this year. I laughed it off saying it wasn’t really my style, plus I couldn’t really think of anything snarky to say about my son pertaining to Christmas. That of course doesn’t count the numerous jabs I’ve been taking at him in 140 characters or Treeless on Twitter and the numerous statuses on Facebook detailing his buffoonery. But other than that, I got nothing.

Then a funny thing happened last weekend. As I watched the Wife and the Boy hang decorations on our mini table-top tree, I started getting a little mushy. Seeing him so excited to hang little ornament after little ornament, it got me thinking about the holidays and all the traditions and symbols that surround the Christmas season.

I was talking with a coworker just a few days later, when the topic of Santa Claus came up. They asked me if I had taken my son to get his picture taken with the jolly fat man in the red suit, to which I replied, “Actually no. He’s almost 3 and we haven’t even tried once yet.” To be honest the Boy has just started recognizing who Santa is, but he certainly doesn’t know, or care for that matter what Santa is all about.

My coworker went on to say, “Oh, you don’t know how lucky you are. At least you won’t have to lie to him that long, plus it will make it easier when you tell him Santa’s not real.” This got me thinking; why should I feel lucky? I’m actually kind of bummed we haven’t been able to do the whole mall-picture-5th-ring-of-hell experience; I mean it’s kind of a rite of passage for parents, and a tradition. Hell, I’m more upset about the missed opportunity to appear on awkwardfamilyphotos.com someday.

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Because who doesn’t need some of this in their life, right?

I remember the exact moment from my childhood that I first heard someone say Santa wasn’t real. I was 8 years old, and the daughters of the lady who watched me after school were making fun of their little brother (probably 4 or 5) for still believing in jolly old Saint Nick. They proceeded to ridicule and tease him telling them it was mom and dad who did all the Santa-related things on Christmas Eve. I was instantly crushed, and paralyzed by disbelief. The entire time they were picking on their little brother, they had no idea the kid standing next to them was having his heart broken from the news. As their little brother cried and refused to believe what they were saying, out of nowhere all the attention turned to me. The girls said, “If you don’t believe us, just ask Mike.” Their little brother, with tears in his eyes, looked to me for some sort of back up. Hoping and praying I would scream out, “DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!! SANTA IS REAL!!”, but out of nowhere the words just came out, “Oh yeah, I totally knew that already.”

It’s that memory that left me pondering; why do I ever need to tell my son Santa isn’t real? Who am I to make that decision for him? And further more; what if I’m wrong?

Look, I know I’m a snarky dude, and I like to shoot it straight, but if there is one time I’m going to admit this, it’s now; the Boy is my ultimate weakness. I’m never going tell him Santa isn’t real. Why would I do that? Why would I want to take that from him? Much like any part of life that has to do with belief or faith, shouldn’t this be a journey for him and him alone? Isn’t it ultimately up to him if he continues to believe in the man from the North Pole?

The really cool thing about having kids (and I’m serious; this is the only time of year you’re going to catch me saying shit like this) is that you get to rediscover everything in life all over again. I know what’s it’s like to be an adult, and it ain’t that fun. But everything he’s experiencing right now is off the wall awesome. Every time he finds a pine cone on the ground when we’re out for a walk and acts like he just found the fucking Holy Grail, it’s awesome, and I can’t help but get caught up in his excitement too. Whenever he sees a fire truck roll by and he gets so happy I literally think he’s going to lose his water in his pants, it’s amazing. So when I hear him get super excited when he sees a picture of Santa in a bedtime story we’re reading, and I see his beautiful little face light up I think, “You hold on to that buddy; don’t ever stop believing because the world needs more of that joy.”
It’s funny that it’s taken almost 40 years to learn that Santa is more than just the story of some fat dude in a suit who somehow squeezes his rotund self down each and every chimney, for every boy and girl, to bring them presents on Christmas Eve (not to mention somehow fitting in all the apartments and houses without fireplaces). Santa is a tradition; a symbol of all that is awesome about the holiday season. So what if someone tells you Santa isn’t real, I say keep on keeping on with believing. Would this world really be such a worse-off place if millions of people held on to the belief that probably the nicest person they have ever heard of exists, as opposed to being resigned to knowing their exhausted and cranky parents were the ones behind all the Christmas magic? I know one person is who definitely trying to keep that magic alive.

Cara Day, the founder of Daychild (daychild.org), is that person. Daychild is an educational online resource to assist parents in offering the very best options with trying to connect with their children in positive ways, especially for the busy parent (i.e. pretty much all of us these days). Mrs. Day is an educational therapist, life coach, and mother of 4, not to mention a fellow San Diego, CA native.

Cara reached out to me last week and presented me with her latest video on how to keep kids believing in Santa Claus for as long as possible, and I think it’s a pretty cool idea.

For even more videos from daychild.org check out their YouTube channel

So I say – why not keep the idea of Santa alive for as long as possible? After watching Mrs. Day’s video, along with seeing my son’s excitement over the past 2 weeks, I really feel like I’m rediscovering the excitement for Santa all over again, and I can’t wait to cultivate that excitement in my son.

To all my awesome Preachys out there, thank you so much for reading all my stuff this year. You have made this past year an unbelievably exciting time. And don’t worry; I’ll be back in 2015 with my same old snarky stuff. Besides, the Boy is turning 3 soon after Christmas, to which the Wife and I will be entering a new ring of hell. But for now, have a Happy Holiday and a very Merry Christmas from the Preach family.

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Dear ScaryMommy, Marginalizing Dads is a Scary Mistake

Since becoming a father, I, like many people, have spoken up about dads playing more of an involved role in the upbringing of their children — as well as how this increased involvement is still not only being downplayed, but even ridiculed by so many. And being the kind of person who loves to whip out my soapbox from time to time, I never have a problem when it comes to defending fellow dads.

This year has been unofficially deemed the year of the dad. We’ve seen some pretty big strides taken to help break down the stereotypes of the idiot dad, but it still feels like we have a long way to go. For every hip and cool commercial, like #HowtoDad from Cheerios and the call to celebrate dads with Real Dad Moments by Dove Body Care, we still encounter examples of dads being marginalized on a daily basis. Some men even face particularly harsh criticism; such was the case with baseball player Daniel Murphy, who took off the three days of paternity leave granted to each player by the MLB to attend the birth of his son. Because that paternity leave conflicted with opening day, Murphy was subjected to major criticism by many in the media. Even long-time family traditions like apple picking are not safe from those who would like to drum up a laugh at dad’s expense. Don’t believe me, just look at the picture below: Continue reading

That Time My Marriage Almost Ended, And Why That’s a Good Thing

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In the fall of 2012, my 3 year marriage to the love of my life was moments away from being over. My wife and I had many heated arguments during which the dreaded word divorce was shouted with such anger that, to this day, I continue to wonder how we came out the other side.

But much like that dreaded first step into a cold swimming pool, I know it’s time I take a deep breath and step off the side of the pool if I ever want to enjoy the freedom and joy that comes from a refreshing swim. Yes, it’s going to suck at first, but in the end there is a much needed benefit. For me, right now, the benefit I’m looking for is the unblocking of my mind; a release from the baggage that continues to weigh me down and impact my well-being. Allow me to back up a bit before we move forward.

Like many first time parents, that first year of my son’s life was really hard on the Wife and me. For reasons we couldn’t pinpoint, our history of meeting in the middle and balancing out one another, was eluding us.

We dealt with a great deal of stress during October-December of 2011. My Wife sadly lost her grandmother, we had a scare at 20 weeks where we thought our son was coming early, family drama throughout the holidays, and finally a couple we associated with gave birth to their son about 5 weeks before us, and named him the same name we were going to name our son. Yes, it’s laughable NOW to think of how worked up we got over the whole naming situation, but try explaining that to an almost 8 month pregnant woman.

Having some distance, I am able to look back and recognize these were simply excuses for our troubles. The real reason we were having issues is because we weren’t communicating. Simply put, we weren’t talking, our communication was broken. At least not about the things that didn’t involve sleep training, feeding and diaper duty. We neglected to communicate about the stuff that mattered most: Us.

So fast forward almost a year later. Our son was very difficult in his first year. No, that’s not fair to him. He was typical baby, maybe a bit more cranky than others, but normal nonetheless. It was his parents that were not well.

Unresolved stress from the prior year, was now growing with the addition of new stress. It all continued to pile up – stress of a cranky baby, a very difficult bout of postpartum depression, my own person life-long struggles with depression. And thanks to the continued presence of social media, it felt as if all we saw were other couples with children the same age as our son bragging about how awesome life was, and how kick-ass they were at being new moms and dads. I swear to everything holy, if I saw one more “#Blessed,” coupled with a pictures of an angelic baby with smiling, seemingly well-rested parents, I was going to go on a homicidal rampage.

We spent more time sitting around hating the kind of parents/people we weren’t while being angry at each other, that we failed to invest even one second in our marriage and, even more importantly, ourselves.

We tried, on occasion, to be that better person and support one another, even in our supremely broken state. Most days, unfortunately it was an exercise in futility.

But, even in all our brokenness we knew we still wanted us to work. So we took steps to fix us. We sought outside help, and dedicated ourselves to being better with each other. Was it easy? No fucking way. But nothing good, nothing that matters ever is.

I bring all this up because the Wife and I were having a discussion while out to lunch recently – a discussion that floored me.

Wife: You know, I’m kind of thankful for all the crap we went through two years ago.
Me: How in the hell can you say that?!? What good can you possibly have gained from that? We threatened each other with divorce.
Wife: Yeah, but we didn’t do it. And besides, look at all the good in our life now. None of that would be here if we didn’t go through the dark times.
Me: Oh, bullshit. I just cannot agree. You don’t think we would be happy or in a good place if we didn’t almost ruin each other.
Wife: In a way, no, I don’t. Neither one of us would be on the path we’re on now without our rough time.

I left lunch in a fog of confusion and disbelief. How could she see what we went through as a good thing? Our son was almost a statistic of a broken home before he even knew what a home was. But as I sat with it for a while, I got to thinking that maybe she had a point.

Since her bought with PPD my Wife has worked very hard at changing her career/life path. She is now tirelessly working on becoming a birth educator and eventually wants to open a center for women that will focus on every need during pregnancy and post-natal; she explained that this is a path she most definitely would not have embarked on if we hadn’t experienced the rough period, especially if our experience was similar to the #Blessed people because the motivation to help others would have not been there. She also pointed out my renewed desire for writing as an example of how things have gotten better. Yes, I was writing/blogging before my son, but I had little direction. Now I have found that direction, started my own website (PapaDoesPreach.com) and have even formed relationships with other mom/dad bloggers. Many of those relationship have helped me see that parenting, as well as cultivating a marriage, is a rough and sometimes messy process, but at the end of the day both worth the effort.

From time to time friends have remarked how they think the Wife and I are the perfect couple, and how they one day hope to have what we have. They wonder how we do it, how we manage to be so great. I just hope after reading this, they now understand when I simply answer with, “it takes hard work” that I really mean it.

My Wife made the point during our lunch conversation that we should celebrate the fact that we’re better with each other. Are we perfect? Not even close. Do we still have room to be better? Of course – there is always room for growth. But all in all we are a team again. Before the pregnancy funk we made a promise to each other to always value one another the same way we did before we found out we were going to have a baby. Just as we did the day we said our vows to each other.

Because at the end of the day, “we were” before “he was”.

5 Reasons My Son is Like My Xbox

I am one of those quasi-adult parents – you know what I mean – the kind that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and now in our 30’s we are doing everything possible to hang onto some semblance of our childhood experiences at all costs. So, how do I do that? Well, at pushing almost 40, I’m still a gamer. For you non-gamer parents out there, that means I play video games…a lot.

I don’t just play video games; I invest quite a bit of time in my gaming hobby. I still visit GameStop and Best Buy to purchase new games, I still read reviews on the latest products coming out, and I still geek out with my friends and debate which console is better (Xbox or PlayStation).

My video game playing habit took a major hit in 2012 when our son was born. “Nothing’s going to change for me,” I foolishly told my friends, “I’ll just put the kid in my lap and play while he sleeps. Late night feedings will be cool; I’ll get in a lot of gaming time.” Yeah, think again.

Two and a half years later I continue the struggle to balance my nerdy gamer ways while in real life being a parent – that’s some pretty adult shit right there. In late 2013 I purchased a new video game console, and as we approach its half-birthday, I am noticing some eerie similarities to my toddler.

Only Responds to Yelling – One of the major attractions Microsoft tried to sell hard to the consumers was how their new console would be completely voice activated. Want to turn the Xbox on? Just say, “Xbox On” and it will recognize your voice and turn on. Want to do something other than game? Simply say the phrase, “Xbox go to…..” and fill in the blank and you will be binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, Skyping with grandma, or even watching TV. Problem is, just like our toddler, the damn system doesn’t do what we ask of it, the first, second, sometimes even the third time around. Many times I will be in the kitchen and hear my Wife yell, “XBOX ON, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!” Luckily, while just as difficult, our son receives a little bit more grace…..and I mean a little.

It’s always fucking watching me – While the last function was supposed to be cool, the next option is just downright creepy. Xbox has a built-in camera system that according to Microsoft, is always on, and is always watching; even when the system is off. So while it’s really annoying that my son follows me from room to room (even to the bathroom where he stares at me while I handle my business), at least when he’s asleep, I know there is no risk of him popping up and filming me while I walk around in my underwear and somehow posting that shit on the Internet. Trust me; no one wants to see that.

May Malfunction at Any Moment – Like any new generation of equipment or technology, there are usually some kinks or bugs to work out of the system. We consumers are usually more forgiving when it comes to techie items,like when my new Xbox crashes for no reason; it’s because we know a system update is right around the corner. But, where the hell is my system update for my toddler that is happy one second and then a ball of fury and flailing limbs screaming, “NO, I DON’T WANT IT!” the next?? You show me that product, Microsoft, and I will be yours for life.

The so-called experts are of little to no help – I’ve come to learn that when those times your techie gadgets inevitably fail you, much like your toddler will inevitably have a complete fucking meltdown in public, the people we are supposed to be able to reach out to, to help us fix our problem, are just as fucking clueless as we are. Sure, your big-box store nerd-smug-asshole behind the counter will eventually fix your hard drive. Just like whatever family member’s, doctor’s, or supposed child-raising guru’s advice might work when trying to calm your kid down, but at the end of the day they can’t ever tell you why the breakdown happened, or how to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s all a bunch of finger-crossing and hoping. So in my book, that makes you all full of shit.

Both are a serious drain on my bank account – Having a kid was a mutual choice between me and the Wife, but buying the Xbox One (aka the $500 paperweight in our family room) was all me. Both have the exact same effect on our bank account, however; they continue to take and take and take. Both require a continuous credit line for maintenance and upkeep. Examples include buying games or new products for the Xbox One, and clothing, feeding and paying for daycare for my son. I invest so much money into both, wondering what I’m really getting in return, which brings me to my last point…..

How my son is NOT like my Xbox – While I joke that my Xbox is a useless paperweight (and will continue to be seen as such given current release dates for new games and products), that depreciates in value daily; the same cannot be said for my son. I see my son grow and change every day. While the Xbox can easily go unused for days at a time, my Wife and I enjoy watching our son as he is becoming a little person; sometimes too quickly for his Dad’s comfort. I will most likely outgrow my video game addiction someday, but I will never outgrow being a Dad.

Happily raising the next generation of gamers

Happily raising the next generation of gamers

Searching For Dad

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As much as I try and deny it when my Wife laments about it, our son clearly has a preferable parent…Daddy. In a perfect toddler world, his preference would be to have us both within arm’s reach at all times, but that’s not always possible. If the Wife needs to leave the house, the boy will typically fuss a bit, he even might shed a tear or two, but if Daddy has to go? Like every morning when I leave for work? Well, if you ever heard the term Bat-Shit-Crazy, that comes from my son, JSYK. Screaming, heaving his body onto the floor, hitting, kicking, and more screaming. And more screaming.

And it doesn’t stop there. My son follows me from room to room when we’re home, saying things like, “Ko Daddy” (aka Come on Daddy) and “What’d you doing Daddy?” I think the Wife actually gave birth to my second shadow. If I somehow manage to leave the room by myself, he tends to get very whiny, and sometimes very nervous and scared; only be relieved and all smiles when he sees me and runs up and grabs me.

Sometimes I get frustrated by the whining, and at times wonder out loud to the Wife, “Why is he so upset? I’m right here.” My Wife always tells me how much he loves me (which I know), and how I’m his hero. She also tells me to put myself in his shoes; he feels lost without Daddy. It makes me really reflect back on my relationship with my father, or more appropriately, the lack thereof, and one very pivotal time in my childhood where I felt very alone.

Over the years people have inquired about my dad from time to time, as I have spent the majority of my time talking/writing about my mother and the abusive relationship we had.. I never really wanted to talk about my dad. I realize now, that’s because the emotions were far more painful because they were born from a lack of his desire to know me, or even see me.

After a nasty divorce when I was just a toddler, my dad who was in the Navy, went off and lived the Navy life as a single guy. This meant I rarely ever heard from him; never saw him; and many birthdays/holidays passed with little or no contact. He eventually remarried and had more children. I met him, and spent a small amount of time with him in my pre-teen years, but for the most part our relationship was non-existent at best.

In early June of 1992, the week of my 8th grade graduation, my father was in San Diego (where I lived) for some sort of naval training exercise. He reached out to my mom to let me know he was in town, but only for a few days; so meeting up wasn’t a lock to happen. In fact, as the words left his mouth, I could sense the instant hesitation and regret because he might actually have to meet up with me.

I wasn’t super book-smart growing up, but I knew how to read people really well at a young age, so I picked up on his hesitation immediately. Pushing that aside, I decided to go for broke and invited him to my graduation that week, stressing that I really would like him to come. More hesitation, but he eventually agreed and even mustered up a half-hearted response of excitement and sense of gratefulness for my invitation. I knew he was lying, but for all my growing up way too fast and being able to sniff out a bullshitter like whoa, I still was a boy without a father. A boy who had always silently yearned for male connection; something I had none of to that point in my life.

My mom tried to be supportive; her attempts however, could not hide her massive skepticism. If she were a betting person, she knew she would win all kinds of cash betting on my father being a no-show to my graduation. But I didn’t care; I knew he was coming.

The big day came. I still remember it like yesterday. It feels today, like it did then; like a scene out of a movie. My dad hadn’t shown by the time the pre-ceremony chit chat and socializing were over. So what? So I didn’t get to take a picture with him before the ceremony; there would be plenty of time afterwards to take pictures and go to dinner. The important thing is that he’ll see me walk and get my graduation certificate.

We all took our seats as the graduation ceremony began. Nervously shifting in my seat, I turned from side to side, looking back and forth hoping to catch a glimpse of him as he arrived. Scanning every face in the crowd, eyes squinted by the bright California sun, I saw parents’ faces full of pride and affection, but none of them belonged to me. Occasionally I would catch my mom’s face; a smile plastered on her face as if she has just swallowed cough medicine. She was trying to convey pride and joy, but just under the mask of faux-happiness was a tornado of sadness, worry, and angst, along with a dash of “I told you so,” as she watched me desperately search the crowd. But I didn’t care; I knew my dad was coming. I would not acknowledge her worry; I would not give her the satisfaction. This time she would be wrong.

The ceremony came and went like a flash; I stood and walked and returned to my seat. It went by so fast I could barely scan the crowd for my dad for what felt like the 500th time, but I knew he was out there and he saw me, so no sweat; that’s what was important.

As soon as all the pomp and circumstance concluded, we were released out into the world; but first back to our parents. My mom found me so quickly it was almost as if she materialized out of thin air. She was beaming with pride, tears in her eyes telling me how proud she was of me, and how much I have grown up, hugging me tightly; too tightly. That’s when I knew; my father never arrived. Even though I knew the truth the lonely, sad, boy inside would not be shoved aside this time. I blurted out, “Where’s dad? Did he see me?” My mother stared at me blankly for a moment, and just as I looked away I spotted the slightest of smiles form on her face. Not only was she not sad; she was happy this had happened. Victory was hers.

So yeah, my son hovers around me, and follows me from room to room. And yes, my son has to be involved in everything I’m doing, but you know what else he does; he bursts into the room on my mornings to sleep in and wakes me up by jumping on the bed, smotheringme with hugs. So my son whines when he can’t see me, or cries like a crazy person when I leave for work, that just means there is a super happy running hug with the scream of, “DADDY” when I get home.

I don’t begrudge him for getting upset anymore; well I try not to at least. And when he calls out, “Daddy, where are you?” I make sure to hug him a little tighter these days when I say, “I’m here buddy”…because I’ll always be here.

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A version of this story has been published in the book Dads Behaving Dadly 2 (clink the link to purchase this book).

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The Silent Killer

Ever since I started blogging about 6 years ago, I swore I would be brutally honest and forthcoming about any and all topics I wrote about.  I’m pretty proud to say that I have lived up to that promise pretty well.

Blogging has become my therapy over the years.  The dad blogging is for fun,  but talking about deeper issues; truly I tell you helps me make it through the day.  I know that sounds very melodramatic, but it’s true.  I see so much nonsense in this world, as I am sure most of you do as well, that it drives me absolutely bonkers sometimes.  I gotta vent or I’m going to go crazy man, for reals.

There are some obvious areas I have chosen to abstain from “true honesty.”  By that I mean I never refer to the Wife by her actual name, nor do I reveal my son’s name.  But, unfortunately, like many others, I have some very sick family members that would love nothing more than to track me down, just to cause me harm.  And when I say sick, I mean crazy-sick, not like curable illness-sick.  So you can see why I choose a certain level of anonymity in my writing.  Although this reality bums me out, I try and peel back the layers and let you all in as much as possible.

This blog helps me a lot; more than you may ever know, because there are still so many things I struggle with on a daily basis, but if you knew me, or were around me, trust me you would never know because I have become so good at hiding my pain and struggle that it’s almost as easy as breathing now, yet not as healthy.  But, some emotions have come bubbling up recently that I feel it only right that instead of hiding, like I am used to, I should stand strong, peel back another layer and show you a little more of me.  So….here we go.

Wednesday May 2, 2012 will be a day I will probably always remember for a long time, if not forever.  This is the day one of my childhood heroes died.  And not only did he die, but he passed in such a fashion that is so close and personal to me that it rocked me to my very core.  This past Wednesday, former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.  Yes, he committed suicide in his own home; he was only 43 years old, and this was not his first attempt.

In 2010, Seau drove his car off the road and slammed it into a tree.  While he survived and claimed he fell asleep at the wheel, rumblings began to stir that this was no accident and there may be something deeper going on.  Sadly, we now know what that “something” was, in fact going on.  Seau, always known to be one of the most energetic and positive personalities in the NFL, suffered from massive depression, which eventually led to him taking his own life.  In the weeks, months, even years to come, much will be made over the fact that he chose to shoot himself in the chest; presumably to preserve his brain to be studied for the effects of concussions received while playing.  Even more sad, Seau is not the first former NFL’er to do such a thing; former NFL player Dave Duerson committed suicide in similar fashion, and left a note explaining he wanted his brain to be studied.

So why am I taking this so personally?  Well, one, Seau was a personal idol of mine….but two, and most importantly, I know what it feels like to suffer from depression, and sadly, I even know what it feels like when you come to that conclusion that it’s time to check out….sorry to make that sound so casual.

I have gone through most of my life struggling with depression, and I still do to this day.  Much like when they tell you that you will never “not” be an alcoholic, but instead you will learn to manage and live with the disease; I feel the same goes for depression.  I don’t believe it ever truly goes away, you simply learn to manage it, and hopefully suppress it in a fashion that makes life easier to manage.

I don’t really know how to segue to this next part of this story without it being super awkward, so just like pulling of a band-aid or jumping into a pool; I’m just going to do it.  I also relate, sadly, to the rest of the story about Junior Seau, with one major exception.

Around the end of 2005 I had pretty much reached an all-time low in my emotional state.  I was heading down a dark and lonely path and I could not see any way out.  I had recently purchased a condo, which I had no business owning.  I was not in the financial standing to even utter the word homeowner, let alone be one.  But, like many times in my life I listened to poor, selfish, pressure-filled advice from my mother, and once again landed myself in a situation with only one possible outcome…and it was going to be bad.

I always knew I shouldn’t be in that situation, but I wasn’t strong enough to say no to that woman.  I never was.  This had been the story of my entire life, and by the end of 2005 I just couldn’t see anything changing.  So, I decided to change it myself.  I didn’t see much value in living anymore, so as the holidays crept closer I had finally reached a decision to…..cash out, if you will.  I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this unspeakable act, but I simply didn’t care anymore, and I was fully prepared to follow through.

I started to quietly make plans to end things directly after the holidays.  I don’t feel the need to share my plan of how I was going to do it, but trust me when I tell you I was prepared.  I had already put in for 2 weeks off of work that would extend into the New Year, and I had come to the decision that a pre-New Year’s follow-through was what I wanted.  I didn’t want to risk hanging out with people on New Year’s Eve and start to feel guilty, thus backing out of my plans.  But, life had other plans for me.

Just prior to Christmas a friend from high school came into town for the holidays and she called me up to hang out.  This friend was actually a high school crush (on my end that is, she wanted nothing to do with me), and even though it never became anything other than friend-status, we remained cool throughout the years.  Like most school friends we lost touch when she went off to college and I joined the military.

We eventually reconnected through social media and chatted regularly via IM.  When she called me one day and said she was in town for the holidays and wanted to hang I was a little taken aback.  This was definitely going to throw my plans out of whack.  Nevertheless, we hung out.  In fact, we hung out every day, even after Christmas family stuff was over.  I wish I could tell seeing her made me so happy that it rekindled my joy for life, but that is just not true….in fact, to this day, I wonder if she was planning on doing the same thing I was planning.

This friend of mine had become the most annoying person I ever met, I swear.  All she did was complain about her life.  Every conversation was about her and all her troubles.  I feel terrible admitting this, but all I kept thinking was, “Good Lord woman, just jump and get it over with.”  I was so dumbfounded, how could this girl go from someone I was completely infatuated with in high school to…this?  And to top it off she just wouldn’t leave.  I kept asking her when she was flying back overseas, but she never had a straight answer.

And just like that, the very thing I didn’t want to happen did happen.  Since she never went home, we ended up hanging out on New Year’s Eve.  To this day I still wonder why.  There were so many other friends she could have hung out with, but instead she was with me constantly.  I mean all of her cackling-hen friends from high school were in town, yet she was always with me.  And before you start thinking there something sexual about this, I tell you now, there wasn’t.  Nothing ever happened.  Nothing ever was even hinted at happening.  She even crashed several nights at my place, but she always stayed on the couch, and neither of us ever tried to make something happen.

So, New Year’s Eve came and went, and I spent the entire night “faking the funk,” pretending to have a great time, when in actuality all I was thinking about was what I was going to be doing that very next day.  When the morning of Jan 1, 2006 rolled around (I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday) I was ready to move forward with my plan.  I walked out to my living room to BS with my friend a little bit and try and send her on her way so I could get started, but when I walked out to the living room she was already gone.  Blanket folded, pillow neatly placed on the blanket, and her dishes in the sink.  She was just gone.

As I later stood in the bathroom of my condo prepared to move forward with my plan I found myself standing and just staring in the mirror.  I stared at my reflection in the mirror, but that was simply an outward appearance.  In actuality I was staring into my soul.  I was watching the story that was my life; every disappointing day; one failed thing after another, and everything I ever quit.  And at that moment I heard the faintest voice in my soul speak, “You’ve never finished anything in your entire life…..”  Just then I started to cry at the realization of the brutal honesty of my life, but the voice was not finished.  As I prepared for more painful realizations, expecting even more affirmation to why my current course of action was the right thing, the voice said, “…..please don’t start now.”

Right then I was pulled back to reality like one of those scenes from a movie where the character was traveling through time and space.  Picture what it looked like when the Millenium Falcon went into hyper-drive.  I was no longer staring at my life, I was staring at my now.  I knew right then what I was planning to do was not the right answer; it was the wrong answer; the selfish answer.

From there on out I made the decision to get up and move forward.  I realized it didn’t mean that my life was any better, because truth be told it was not.  In fact it got a lot worse before it got any better, but I never would have known any of this had I followed through with my plan.

I decided to take small steps in improving emotional state.  I even convinced myself to start taking chances in life; small chances, and if they didn’t work out, then so be it.  My first small chance challenge I gave myself, ask out that Cute Girl (that’s what I called her at least) you see every day at work, but have never had the courage to speak to.  You know what I call that Cute Girl now…The Wife.

Now, I’ve said that I wanted to be brutally honest, and for the most part I have, but I also realize that I’ve skirted around the real issue in this blog. One of the hardest things I’ve learned in my time in therapy is that one of the best way to openly face your issues are to say them out loud, call them by name and take their power away. Because if you don’t, they will forever have a hold on you.  So here we go…

I have suffered from depression my entire life, and on January 1, 2006 I planned to commit suicide, but I chose life.  I continue to live with depression every day, but I will always choose life.  My heart goes out to all those who struggle with depression on every level, but most importantly those who cannot choose life in the end.  While some will point the finger at those who do succumb to depression and follow through with their plans that they are weak or that they are cowards, but I tell you now suicide is the greatest cry for help anyone can give, and know that even those individuals who are carrying their plans, they are not happy about it; they are crying out.

Now, to bring this full circle.  The passing my childhood idol hit me really hard.  I am still finding it hard to believe that a man such as Junior Seau would end his life this way.  Instead of morning his choice of suicide I am choosing to celebrate his memory, or at least my memories of him.  What does sadden me a little has been to see the amount of people who are so upset by what happened, but instead of properly mourning the man, they choose to degrade him by calling him weak or a coward.  On friend of mine on Facebook said he did not deserve to be called a hero because he was a coward.  They could not be more wrong.

If you do not want to see him as a hero, that’s one thing, but don’t sully his memory by calling him a coward because he could not fight off a debilitating disease.  He will always be one of my idols, but it’s more important to remember he was a hero to many people, but none more than the 3 children he is leaving behind.  He was their hero, and he always will be.

However, I will say one thing. The most important thing I ever did was to reach out for help.  I had to admit to myself that I needed help, and I still do.  I rely on the love from my friends/family and most importantly my Wife.  Had Junior been able to see the pain that his actions have brought on his family, I truly believe he would have chosen a different path.  There is no positive taken away from someone taking their own life.  I just wished he would have just been strong enough to say he needed help.

I know this is a heavy topic to read, but it’s all true, and it is long overdue for me to talk about.  I have never shared this story with anyone, including the Wife, and while I am not proud of the state I reached, I am proud that I was able to pull myself out, and most of all I am proud I chose life.  And I am proud to share this story with anyone who will listen.  If this story somehow makes you see me in a negative light, then I am sorry for that, but I am not sorry for sharing this story.  I am also proud that I have been strong enough to admit that I need help, and also strong enough to accept that help from others.  My Wife has long been an inspiration for me to grow and change and become the man I should have been long ago.

I have told my Wife several times throughout our relationship that at times I feel like she saved my life. I know she has always taken this in as some sort of over exaggerated show of affection.  Now she knows I mean it.

#55, you will always be one of my heroes; I’m just sorry things had to end the way they did.  I pray you find the peace in death that you could not find in life.

 

I’m an average Dad, and I love it

We live in a world where being average just isn’t something you shoot for. That’s not to say that average people don’t exist, because let’s face it, most of us ARE average; and that’s ok. But, the topic of being average takes on a whole different meaning when you’re a parent.

I am the proud parent of a growing and learning toddler. Every day I look at this little carbon copy of me and my Wife and I can’t help but wonder what he’s “going to be” someday. I know I will eventually become like many parents, that will tell my son he can be whatever he wants when he grows up, and that he can be the best ever at it…however; that message will become more refined as he ages to instead sound something more like, “You have to work hard to be good at what you want to do, or you won’t achieve your goals.” And while I will never promote a life of mediocrity to my son, there will be one aspect of life, if he so chooses to experience, that I will teach him that being average is actually the best way to be the best…..and that’s fatherhood.

My Wife doesn’t like it when I downplay how good of a father I am to our son. But, when I say I’m average I’m not actually saying anything bad. Being well-versed in the art of self-deprecation, you would be hard-pressed to find a time where I give myself credit for anything, and much of that has to do with my upbringing, or lack thereof. But, fatherhood is not an area I would ever treat so lightly as to put myself down, because that would show my son that I don’t take my role seriously, and in turn don’t take our relationship seriously.

Over the last couple of decades there has been a great deal of criticism on how society has gone soft on kids; making them all feel like winners, and giving trophies or praise where it doesn’t belong. Well, what about parents? It feels like every time I get on social media I find a post of some parent doing what parents should be doing, like being awesome for their kids, only to see the comments section rife with comments from posters saying something to the effect of, This is what a Super Mom/Dad looks like or Greatest Mom/Dad ever!! When in reality, that’s what simply being a parent looks like.

Society as a whole shares just as much, if not more, of the blame for the continually skewed view of parental roles. Far too often we still see advertising perpetuate stereotypes of dads being the lesser option to moms. And while there has been a good deal of progress on this front, it still leaks over into every day encounters.

When my son was ready for his 18 month checkup, it fell to me to take him to his appointment. My Wife and I had gone to every milestone appointment together, as we both wanted to be there to ask questions and hear how our little guy was doing. Unfortunately, my Wife had work engagement that could not be missed, and this one time it was up to me to get all the info.

It crushed the Wife not being able to be there. She loaded me up with questions to ask (on top of my questions), but she knew I had it covered and would fill her in on all the details when she got home. There was never a doubt in her mind I could handle it, because as parents and partners we believe in each other. In fact, the idea that one parent would be seen as more the parent than the other never really crossed my mind until I checked us in for the appointment; that’s when a simple comment by the nurse took my role in my son’s life and took a metaphorical Ginsu Knife and diced it all up.

As we were walking down the hall to the examination room my son was doing his typical flirting with the ladies (He takes after his old man), that’s when the nurse asked me if my Wife would be joining us soon. I said, “No, mommy is busy today….” to where she cut me off and said, “Ooooohhh, someone’s playing daddy for the day I see.” The comment hit me like a sledge hammer. I responded, “No, I’m dad every day.” At this point the awkward silence set in as the nurse clearly realized the comment she just made hurt. To her credit she attempted to correct it by starting, “Oh, no, what I meant was, most dads don’t…..” and I in return cut her off with the reply, “Well, I’m not most dads. Ok?” We just left it there and went about our appointment.

I know she meant no malice in what she said, or with her follow-up, but it still hurt; even my Wife was offended when I told her the story later that night.

I really hope the nurse and I are both wrong in what we said. Her in attempting to say; that most dads don’t care to come to appointments for their children, let alone bring the kids by themselves, and me in my response that I am not like most dads. I hope that while there are those out there that fit that stereotype, that in actuality most dads do care, and that in turn, I am like most dads.

I’ll be honest, my Wife and I are awesome parents, but we would never look for superhero labels when it comes to taking care of our son; we’re doing what we’re supposed to do; what we want to do, and being the kind of parents we hoped we would be.

Many times, much like the nurse incident, when my Wife is away on business, people will make comments like, “You’re Super-Dad taking care of you son all on your own.” This kind of comment, while not intended that way, is both ridiculous and kind insulting. I’m no super hero people; I’m a dad.

Look, dads, I just want to talk to you for a second here…taking care of your kids; being a steady entity in their life; being involved in their upbringing and later in their activities is 100% awesome, but in no way are you “awesome” for doing so. Changing diapers and feeding kids their bottles doesn’t make you Super-Dad, just as taking on 100% of the load from time to time in no way makes you a superhero. It makes you Dad, and that is way better than being a superhero. If you read any comic or watch any movies, superheroes only show up when there is a crisis; but dad is there all the time.

I still believe that the numbers are on our side men. I still hold out hope that there are more dads that do all of the above things, which means the average is on our side, and in turn that makes us average. I do everything I listed above for my son, and my wife, and so much more. I don’t want any credit; I don’t desire a parade or anyone to boost my ego by telling me I’m Super Dad or the Best Dad in the World, because I know I’m an average dad…and damn proud of it.

me and b