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August Had A Seizure...

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"Hey Babe, August just had a seizure..."

Not the call I was expecting to get from my wife the afternoon of December 27th, 2017. Our boys were with my mom for the day, so of course I figure my wife is calling to discuss how we'll exercise our freedom that evening - wink, wink. Or maybe something super funny happened that she had to share in that moment, because otherwise it would be forgotten by the time we both got home.

Out of all the thoughts running through my mind prior to that call:

  • I should be done with this appointment in about an hour
  • I think I'll use this product to treat this stain
  • This kind of carpet takes a bit of time to dry, so I think I'll leave my air movers here and come back for them tomorrow

I never once imagined I'd have to process - August just had a seizure. But I did.

If you know August, you'd understand that he's the coolest 2 year old ever. It's like he's beyond the trials of life, seizures or any kind of sickness. But his humanity quickly became evident in the most heart-wrenching way possible. I was instantly reminded of perhaps the most difficult aspect of fatherhood; having to come to grips with the fact that you can't protect your family from everything all the time.

I wasn't there when it happened. I wasn't there to call for help. I wasn't there to ride with him in the ambulance. I wasn't there to hold him while they wrapped tubes around his feet. I wasn't there while they tried to keep him still to get his temperature. And it's not because I chose not to be there. It's not because I didn't care or because I'm a bad father - but because it's impossible to be all places at all times. There was nothing I could do with this news in the moment. I was powerless.

"...Don't worry, he's stable."

No parent wants to hear of their child at any age being "stable." Like what does that even mean that my two year old is stable?!

Backtrack. This whole series of events started earlier that day. My mom took the boys to Target to get August some fever medicine. Unfortunately, the virus that caused the fever, won before it could be beat. My mother noticed him seizing in the red cart and immediately yelled for yelp. Thankfully, a woman next to her was familiar with these situations, as her daughter suffered from seizures, and was able to give instruction until the paramedics arrived (thank you whoever you are from the bottom of my heart). At this point my oldest Aaren, age 5, is crying because he thinks he's about to lose his brother, while my mom has to try to be strong for him and for herself and for the paramedics to explain what happened. Thank you mom as well.

Sidenote: This is why we should be extremely selective and intentional about whose care we leave our children in.

Back to the story. I finally made it to the hospital to meet my mom, wife, Aaren and of course August. Seeing him in the emergency room connected to tubes was extremely difficult. Having to wait for a room didn't help emotions at all, but I'm glad I was there in time to be the face he saw once he woke up.

Turns out this was an isolated incident, not something that will be recurring, nevertheless this has been my most frightening moment as a parent. The thought of being without one of my sons is one I can't even fully think. Neither do I want tragedy to be the only catalyst of perspective. So it is my goal to parent and love them intentionally. Everyday. Not as if it's our last, but as if this is just what we do.

Who's Parenting Your Child?

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If the man at the coffee shop asked to replace me as the parent of my children, of course I'd say no. If the people on my row in church offered to relieve me of parenting duties for all eternity, I would swiftly decline. If the person behind me at the grocery store asked to let my children leave with them after their transaction, I'd call for security. Why then am I allowing these people to parent my children? I tell my sons to "behave" in the coffee shop, so the man next to us doesn't get upset. I force stillness upon their bodies that don't have any concept of what still even means, so that fellow congregants aren't annoyed. I try to keep my toddler son's ramblings to an acceptable decibel level, according to the woman behind me in line at the grocery store. In so doing, I'm giving these strangers license to parent my children.

And for what? Where's the payoff? Maybe they'll say, "Oh, you're such a great parent." Or maybe the classic line, "Your children are so well behaved."

Never say that regarding my kids. It's not a compliment and I won't accept it. Not today. Not ever.

How much of what I teach my children is actually for their benefit? If I'm being completely honest, all the no's and don't do's and sit downs and be stills, are to hopefully ensure they act "right" when they're not at home - this is not okay.

Home should be where kids can be free to run, play, be wild, be loud, be wrong, be right. Home should be where they can be children, fully. Afterall, do they really need to be quiet, or is it just that my bad day needs some silence? Do they really need to stop running back and forth through the house, or has my laziness overpowered my desire to engage them? Does the inquiring mind of a child really need to stop asking so many questions, or is my inability to answer the why's of my own life shutting down their curiosity?

When I say I, I mean we, and we cannot continue to parent our children with the hope that they meet the flawed expectations of other people; people who don't even matter. Being seen as a good parent to the rest of the world means nothing if our children see us as the complete opposite. Let's deal with our lack of self-esteem in the therapists office, or community group or in meditation, or any other form of healing that doesn't involve damaging the lives of others, i.e. our children.

Yes, it is our awesome responsibility to guide them on this journey of life, but guiding and controlling are not the same. We spend too much trying to control and prevent the inevitable: they're going to make mistakes and do things we don't agree with - there's no way around it. So, instead of trying to force them into perfection, let's foster a culture that develops their emotional intelligence to deal with life when things go wrong.

Instead of saying: OMG, I can't believe you did so poorly, or what's wrong with you, or I thought you were smarter than that, or some other highly inappropriate phrase that would make any adult or child crawl into a corner, we can say something like: Hey I know you didn't do as well as you hoped on ______, but let's do some extra practice TOGETHER and see what more we can learn."

Sounds easy enough right? Then why is it so difficult? Because this type of parenting requires active engagement and a constant evaluation of self. Why do I feel the need to scream at the top of my lungs at a 5 year old? Am I trying to control my child beyond reason because I'm lacking control in my own life? Am I forcing my child to do something because that's how my family has always done it, even if it's void of any benefit?

The adult world requires perfection, even though no one is able to provide it. When I succumb to this unrealistic expectation, I fail everytime because flawlessness is unattainable. And in this failure, I rarely give myself grace, which often leads to grace not being shown to my children for their mistakes. Mistakes that probably aren't even mistakes. This means I'm withholding grace because someone else's expectation of my child is not being met. Looking at it even deeper, what if the woman behind me at the grocery store is actually thinking: I'm not annoyed at all, I totally understand. Now I'm making my kids act a certain way to satisfy what someone else isn't even thinking!

Bottom line - WE are the parents of our children. Other people's beliefs and thoughts and opinions can't sign our children out of school as parent or guardian. Only we can do that.

If I had a Brother

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Growing up an only child has benefits. The most obvious being, not having to share. However, when there's no other option, not having to share isn’t as glorious as it seems. Perfect example: Toy stores were annoying at times, because manufacturers would insult me time and time again, putting Rocksteady and Bebop together in the same impossible to open package. How dare you? Don’t you know I’m an only child? Don’t you know what it feels like for one kid to control the actions of both figures? My left arms always knows what my right arm is doing. I can only bang these figures together for so long, while trying to come up with different sound effects with each clash. Sure the toys were all mine, but what good was that?

Video games weren’t as fun alone either. Tecmo Bowl lost its luster without any human competition. Talking smack to a CPU who can’t talk trash back to you, is wack. And let’s not talk about Super Mario Bros. Remember, I grew up in a time when saving your place in a game didn’t exist. Video games back then had to be won by dedicating an entire day to it. Embracing such a task was dreadful alone. Thankfully, my friend would come over, but he was an only child as well. On our own, we were both used to being Mario. Naturally, arguing ensued over who would have to be Luigi, which was usually resolved how all matters were back then: Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Not having a brother meant having internal discussions all the time, asking myself is this a good idea, or should I do this or say this; exhausting stuff. Trust me. I wish I had a brother to say, Hey bro, that’s a crazy idea or I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Not having a brother meant peer affirmation and encouragement was often absent. Of course my parents did their part, but they had to. It’s kinda in the parental code of conduct. But I feel like a “good job” from a brother would be more sincere.

If I had a brother, I’d undoubtedly want him to be just like my son.

Watching my oldest son Aaren interact with his younger brother August is heartwarming. There are plenty of times when August annoys him to the ends of the earth, but there are other times, when they are inseparable. “Good job August, Auggie, Augusto” - can be heard multiple times throughout the day. Aaren protects him. He loves him genuinely. He hugs him. He takes him out of his toddler chair. He helps him out of bed. He reads to him and August actually listens - well most times. They play together as if they’re the same age, though they are 4 years apart.

I imagine things would be different if I had an Aaren in my life. But knowing that August does, is reason enough to smile.

I. Hate. Parks.

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Ok, so maybe hate isn't the right word. But as soon as my foot steps on the first blade of grass or sinks into the infinite grains of sand, a very, very strong dislike settles in. How long do we have to stay? How am I going to successfully lure them away when we leave? Who's that strange man sitting on the bench? All of these kids are accounted for...oh wait, it seems the child wandering aimlessly on the other end of the park is his - my bad bro.

Moving on. Why has no one figured out a cure for slide-shock? All these years and still no solution, come on man. I just want take my son off the slide without trying to brace myself for electro-shock therapy. Is that so much to ask?

And then there's the vertical poles. You know, those things that are supposed to be in place to keep children from falling while walking up the stairs or walking across bridges. Yeah. Those. Why can my child fit his entire body through this gap!? Why can I fit my entire body through this gap!? Did the parks department reach the maximum on their pole budget, how does this happen!

Perhaps the most frustrating complexity of park culture, are park politics. The kids are never the issue, it's the parents one has to be leery of. You've seen them. No matter how much sand their child throws or how may times that little offspring of theirs "accidentally" pushes other children, they're the parent that still kinda acts like it's the fault of the other child. Yes. These are the parents who try to nervous laugh their way through me saying something like: Hey, your kid just pushed my kid, what are you going to do about it?

But perhaps the worst perpetrating park parents, are the ones who act like they don't see me and my little one waiting to get in the toddler swing that your child has been in for the last hour. You see me. I know you see me. I see you trying not to see me. Your kid is friggin' sleep, get'em outta there!

Sigh.

Amidst all of this, is supposed to be fun being had somewhere. I still haven't found it. I'm not sure I ever will. And that is why I hate have a very strong dislike for parks.

Because Fathers do Exist

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If you would've told me, at age 34 I'd have 2 sons, my response would be a swift #LOL. Now that I actually am a father, most of my #LOL's occur off screen, where words and characters lack the substance and effectiveness to capture real uncontrollable laughter. The kind of unprompted, contagious laughter that comes from a toddler - there's no emoji, meme or hashtag for that. It's real. It's magical. And so is this journey of fatherhood - a journey worthy of sharing. That brings us here.

It is impossible to share every waking moment in the blogosphere that I experience as a father, nor do I wish to do so. Some experiences are better kept within the blue accents of our walls, so that when later recalled, we can relive these special moments as a family from a proprietary viewpoint.

There are other experiences that must be shared for my own sanity. Children do things beyond my understanding, and I need to know that I'm not alone when they lift their shirts repeatedly for no reason, or say they like the taste of dirt and sand, or call my name (daddy, daddy, daddy) over and over and over for no real reason at all, or ask for a bandage when they fall even though the slightest trace of a cut or scrape is nowhere to be found. I need to know that somewhere out there, is a parent who can say, me too!

Other times, will simply be to share overwhelming moments of joy and excitement; and in an effort to makes this blog as genuine as possible, even not so joyful and excited moments. Because sometimes - that's life.

And so, this is the beginning of a collection of experiences; real experiences from the lens of an invested Father deeply in love with his sons.