First-time Dad Woes

Being home during the day with infant twins is a challenging task for anyone, but is was especially hard for me because, well, I’m a guy.

I’m not speaking for all dads who stay home with the kids, as I’m sure there are plenty who could handle the kids and house with ease. However, for me it was difficult.

On top of having to make sure two kids were fed, cleaned, dressed, rested and kept in good health (which was stressful enough), at the beginning of my tenure as a Daytime Daddy there was a certain expectation of me to keep the house in good shape.

Now, just because I was home during the day it didn’t mean I was domesticated. Sure I can do laundry, but I’m a little challenged at folding it. Sure I can run a vacuum, but I’m not good at cleaning. And of course I can use a bathroom, but not good at…I think you get my drift.

Needless to say, it was very difficult for me to keep up the home and watch the twins. Fortunately, my wife caught on to this early on and the household duties were quickly lifted from my to-do list. I still did the “guy” things, like mow the lawn and balance the checkbook (not sure if that’s a guy thing or not, but for the sake of this it is), but the cleaning chores were taken from me. Mama Bear felt it was better for her to clean, rather than clean-up my clean-up. Apparently that’s how bad I am at cleaning.

To give you an idea of how challenging it was for me to just watch over the kids, here are a few things I did as a first-time father:

I used to write down the time of day the kids had a feeding and how much they had. This helped me remember when I fed them and figure out how long it would take for them to get hungry again. At the time it made sense, in hindsight it was silly. Now, I would tell someone to just feed the kid when he gets hungry.

My diaper challenges also started at an early stage. I would try and be proactive and as soon as I heard a noise I was stripping them down. Well, this didn’t work out that well. See, as soon as I removed the diaper, more would come out, dirtying everything in sight. Of course there was the time I lifted Junior Bear’s legs to ease his “exit,” only to learn I assisted in his wetting his face!

When the kids were older, I once dressed the Peanut Bear in Cookie Bear’s outfit and Cookie Bear in Peanut Bear’s outfit and sent them to pre-school. When asked by Mama Bear later that night what I was thinking, I responded, “I thought it was odd you picked out clam diggers for Peanut and full-length pants for Cookie.”

Point is, I often screwed up the easiest of tasks and was clueless I did so until someone pointed it out.

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Note to self: Expect the Unexpected

I've been real busy this last week. Not that you want to hear about everything I'm doing, but I've been full-steam ahead on the basement bathroom (drywalling the walls and ceiling and spackling everything), work has been exceptionally busy trying to fit in a bunch of meetings before the holiday and t-ball seems to be every night of the week (although it's just twice). Then, just when I didn't expect it, the washing machine starts acting up (looks like the pump isn't working right). Ugh!!!

Anyway, speaking of the holiday and expecting the unexpected, we had a unique exchange with Peanut Bear and Junior Bear regarding Memorial Day this week when we were getting ready for our Wednesday night t-ball game.

Peanut Bear asked, "Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?"

Mama Bear: "So we can remember all the people who have died fighting for our country."

Peanut Bear: "Well, I don't know any dead people!" (Saying it like she wouldn't be able to celebrate the holiday like everyone else).

...But wait, it gets better...

Junior Bear (jumping right in and not allowing Peanut Bear's punchline to fully sink in): "You mean, like the African Americans?"

...catching me completely off guard...

Papa Bear: "What?!"

Mama Bear: "They've been learning about the Civil War in school."

Papa Bear: "Oh. In kindergarten!!!???"

So then we had to take the time to explain all of this to them (and when I say "we" I mean Mama Bear).

...Everyone enjoy the long weekend!


Sleep Part 2: Sleep Safety

Last week I wrote about how sleep deprivation can take its toll on parents. This week I’m going to touch on how sleep can actually be dangerous – that’s right dangerous!

You might think I’m crazy. How can sleep be dangerous?

Well ladies and gentlemen, allow me to explain.

It all started simple enough. You’ll remember the end of my last post mentioned that the kids, especially Peanut Bear, woke me up in the morning by sticking her little fingers in my eyes, mouth, ears and nose (that’s right, I said nose), and take my word for it things quickly escalate.

By now you know I worked mostly nights and operated on very little sleep (sometimes just a few hours) when the kids were younger. As a result, I usually found myself dozing off, mostly during the daily dose of Baby Einstein.

I figured I would place the kids in the Boppy, put the gate in the doorway of the room, pop in a Baby Einstein and lay next to them on the floor. Well, I quickly learned that I needed to do one more thing before lying down -- and I learned that the hard way.

One day I went through these steps and before I knew it my eyes were closed. It was a light sleep as I could still hear the TV, but that was about it. The kids were just starting to crawl and that’s why I put the gate up (safety first is what I always say). It was shortly after my eyes closed that I was awoken by Peanut Bear hitting me in the face with a toy!

I don’t remember what the toy was, probably because she gave me a concussion, but I do remember telling myself to never complain about an alarm clock again. I mean, have you ever been awoken by toy hitting you in the face?! Trust me when I say it’s not pleasant.

Then there were the times Mama Bear insisted on having Peanut Bear sleep with us at night (you’ll find most sleeping stories that end with a Papa Bear injury have to do with Peanut Bear).

It seemed harmless enough. I mean, how much damage can a 1-year-old do when asleep?

Well, ask my nose.

See, Peanut Bear had this habit of violently swinging her arms outward when asleep, and it seemed that my nose was always at the end of that swing. I can’t tell you how many times I was smacked in the face over the course of a night. I started sleeping with a pillow over my head just for safety.

You’d think that Papa Bear’s Little Girl would threat him a little better, even if it was in her sleep. But I have to admit, it wasn’t Peanut Bear who put the biggest hurt on Papa Bear.

One night Junior Bear, who was about 2-years-old at the time, got a treat and slept in our bed. Junior Bear, though, doesn’t like sleeping under covers for whatever reason and he does move around a lot (which is an understatement) and this led to one of the worst experiences in my entire life.

At one point, Junior Bear – my offspring, the boy who will one day carry on the proud Papa Bear name, the boy whose dirty diaper I used to change changed – lifted his leg and kicked me in the privates!!!

I woke up in such pain, screaming at the top of my lungs. It gave a whole new meaning to a starry night.

Mama Bear couldn’t believe what happened. She, of course, got a good laugh at my expense. But this leads me to wonder why she never gets this treatment from the children?


Sleep Part I: Learning to Operate Tired

I once had a boss who said only one thing to me that turned out to be right – and it had nothing to do with work. He told me when I announced that my wife was pregnant, “You will now learn how to live just about the rest of your life tired.”

Boy, was he ever right.

Now, I could go on a completely different tangent on that boss and how wrong he was so many other times, but that’s a story for a different blog. So, for the sake of the PBM we’ll focus on this one thing he said to me that actually made sense.

I, like many first time parents, learned very quickly how different life is with kids and how tired you quickly become. The first night we brought the twins (Junior Bear and Peanut Bear) home from the hospital, my wife and I stayed up all night just starring at them as they slept. We were so paranoid that something bad would happen that we just sat on the edge of the bed and looked at them.

So, from that night nearly six years ago, I have been playing catch-up in the sleep department.

After we realized nothing would happen to them if we fell asleep, I can remember that we set our alarm clock for every three hours to feed them. The docs at the hospital told us the kids needed to have a bottle that often, so we carried that schedule into the wee hours of the morning. Also, since we had twins we also wanted to keep them on the same feeding and sleeping schedule, otherwise we might’ve been feeding and staying up around the clock.

Then, as the kids began sleeping a little longer and required only one overnight feeding, that’s when things really became interesting (for me at least). Since I was home during the day, I took many of the overnight feedings to allow Mama Bear the consecutive hours of sleep leading into work.

At this point, let me add that we formula fed the kids. We heard all the stories and got all the pressure from the nurses at the hospital on breast feeding, but with twins and a working mom, it just wasn’t going to work.

Here is my contractually required tangent…

Honestly, though, is everyone who is pro-breast feeding part of some kind of cult? I can’t tell you the pressure we felt from the nurses at the hospital. It honestly got to the point when I had to kick the nurse out of the room because she was making us very uncomfortable. I repeat, I kicked a nurse out of our hospital room!!! True story: At one point she told us our kids wouldn’t be smart if Mama Bear didn’t breast feed. Really?! Seriously?!

Trust me, for how much formula costs and how much we went through the first year, I would have much rather Mama Bear breast fed (if memory serves correct we spent around $3,000 in formula alone the first year), but breast feeding just wasn’t realistic with our situation.

Anyway, where was I?… Oh yeah, lack of sleep and overnight feedings.

As I said earlier the big theme of the first year with twins is keeping them on the same schedule. Same schedule and life is easy (relatively speaking), different eating and napping schedules and life is miserable.

So once we realized we could wait for Peanut Bear and Junior Bear to wake up to feed them, I would feed the kid who woke up first, then wake up the other (if they didn’t wake up on their own) to feed him or her, just to keep them on the, that’s right, same schedule. However, I realized that this wasn’t the best way to waste an hour of my life at 3 am. So, I had to come up with a different plan and that’s when the boppy became my best friend.

I would take both kids to the couch, put one kid in the boppy on my lap with the head on my right thigh to feed with my left hand, and the other kid on the boppy on the couch directly next to my right thigh with her head closer to me and fed with right hand.

The only downside -- I became such a pro at this set up I often fell asleep in the middle of the feeding. And since I rarely noted what time it was when I got up to begin the feeding, I had no idea how long I was asleep. I guess it really didn’t matter, but it was very frustrating when I put the kids back into bed only to have them get up an hour later hungry again.

Then there were the feedings at 6 am-ish. Mama Bear would more times than not take these feedings. She was up already getting ready for work and she would knock out the feedings to help out.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this was a big help, but there was a big down side – Papa Bear wasn’t ready to get up yet and the kids often were. At first this wasn’t a huge problem, but as the kids got older and I started working until 1 am every night, it really became a problem for Papa Bear.

Mama Bear would put the kids in bed with me and turn on TV so they could watch whatever was on PBS or Disney Channel or Noggin while I slowly got going. It was great when the kids fell right back to sleep, but when they were really ready to get up, I paid the price.

Often times, Peanut Bear, more so than Junior Bear, would find my face absolutely fascinating. While I was trying to sleep, she would put her little fingers in my ears, eyes, mouth and nose (that’s right, my nose).

Does anyone have any idea how annoying it is to have someone else stick their fingers in your face, especially when you’re asleep? It was so annoying for the seriously sleep deprived Papa Bear.

Now that the kids are older, it’s nice to be sleeping through the night…well kind of. Next week, in Part 2 of this series I’ll talk about how sleeping can be considered a contact sport -- in our house at least.

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