The Things I’ve Been Meaning to Tell Him

Tayler and I were building up towers of stacking cups in the playroom when I heard him moving around upstairs.  I thought that he was surely just using the restroom and getting back in bed.  It was too early.  My husband, Matt, was on a night shift rotation at the time, and he didn’t crawl into bed till nearly 3:30 a.m.  I was downstairs silently giving him a tongue lashing, “You better not come down here yet.  It’s only 8:30! You need sleep, too! REST!”.  A few minutes later, there he was.  Groggy and half asleep, but with a small crooked smile on his face at the sight of our daughter squealing and running around at the sight of him.  She was why he came down.

“Baaaabe! Why are you up already?! You’re exhausted!”.

“I have to head in to work a little early today, and I didn’t want to miss out on that time with her.  I just want to be with my girls”.

Oh.  How could I possibly fight that?

For the rest of the day that image of a hard working, sleep deprived, “I just want to be around my daughter” father stayed with me.  It was one of those days the gratitude in my heart for this man, my husband, spilled over the brim.

Since that day I’ve thought a lot about how today’s dads don’t have nearly the amount of support us moms do.  Matt doesn’t have a rock solid community of other dads to go to for advice, a quick vent session, or a simple “I hear you – I’ve been there, too”.  No one asks the dad how its going balancing work and family life.  They don’t have the online resources, blogs to relate to, or check-in’s from friends and family simply asking how life as a dad is going for them.  They don’t get the level of encouragement us moms often do.  The kind words that reaffirm we’re doing a great job at this monumental task of parenting little humans. I spend much time and energy every day trying to build up other moms and reassure them they have someone in their corner, but I overlook all too often the man who I share my home with and raise my family with.

Yet here he was… still kicking ass in his role as father.

I recently read an article written by a dad that talked about his frustration with being complimented at how amazing of a father he was when he was doing the simplest of things with his children.  Taking them to the grocery store by himself, changing diapers without being told, or getting up in the middle of the night for feedings.  To him, those were his normal duties as dad… nothing above and beyond.  Nothing spectacular or particularly noteworthy. To be complimented at the highest level for doing those things seemed insulting, like it put down what should be expected of dads today.  While I think Matt could’ve easily been the author of that article and I fully understand and appreciate the author’s argument, I still feel our cut-above-the-rest dads deserve more praise for doing one hell of a job.  While we consciously make an effort in our marriage to continually voice and show our appreciation for things we do for our family, there’s a lot I’ve been meaning to tell Matt.

I’ve written about my mom, my mother-in-law, my daughter, my unborn son, and my Momtourage.  But I’ve yet to write about my sidekick, my baby daddy, my best bud, and my partner I’ve created this beautiful little life with.  Today is his 30th birthday, and I can think of no better time to tell him how wonderful he is in this role as dad, and how I will always continue to be his biggest cheerleader.

I remember how frustrated you used to get at times when I was exclusively breastfeeding. You understood and appreciated this gift we wanted to give our daughter, but you so desperately wanted to have a more active role.  You wanted to give her everything she could possibly need. Your desire to be so involved from the very beginning illustrated just the kind of father you would become. You have been a natural from the start. 

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I adore the fact that you are trying to create special times and memories for just you and Tayler to share.  You want her to look back one day, and have those special places, activities, and items that scream, “THIS is my dad”.  The Giving Tree will surely hold a special place in her heart. 

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I admire your effortless ability to know when and how to teach her new things.  Things that I myself, even after spending all day every day with her, don’t realize she’s ready for.  She is a nose blowing, tooth brushing, hair washing, stair descending, fork wielding maniac… because of you.  

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I respect how diligent you’ve become in problem solving when new stages and phases pop up.  You don’t always look to me for answers, you read and dig and find them on your own.  You use trial and error, come back to the drawing board, and try again when needed.  Many times you know when we need to change our approach and stay flexible, while I’m still comfortable and set in our current ways.  

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I revere your unwavering desire to always want to be around our daughter.  When you’re dog tired, you’re still present.  When she’s at grandma’s for a night, your heart aches.  And when given the choice to sleep upstairs quietly or nap on the couch with guaranteed interruptions… you choose the couch just so you can be near her.  Space and time away from her at times is healthy for everyone involved, but there is no calming that pang in your heart to be close to her.  

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I hold dear how much pride you take in being the one to provide for our daughter in all forms of the word. You work hard every single day to ensure she has everything she could possibly need.  After months of me nursing her to sleep, she had a hard transition allowing anyone else to rock her to sleep.  I will never forget the first night you were able to successfully put her down for the night without a fuss.  The emotion on your face when you left her room said more than any words ever could. 

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I find an all consuming joy in watching you play uninhibitedly with her.  You are on her level, as silly as can be, and absolutely shameless when it comes to making her laugh.  Her happiness and smile are the motors that keep your heart running.  

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I feel so grateful for your attitude on the kind of role a dad should have in the home.  Anything I do, you want to do, too.  The 1950’s are long gone, and so are those divisions of labor.  You have a hand in everything, which makes my life as wife and mom that much more enjoyable.  You are one diaper changing, bath giving, night time rocking, dinner slaying, carpet cleaning, and clothes washing son of a B.  You are the epitome of a MAN. 

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I am so appreciative for how conscious you are of making sure we stay a team.  You go out of your way to make sure we’re on the same page, working towards the same goals, and following through on our plans to get there.  Our children will only benefit from how hard you work at ensuring we are always presenting a united front.  Together.

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I feel so thankful for how you’ve always gone out of your way to build me up as a new mom.  You brush off my shoulders when I make mistakes and offer both hands to pick me back up.  You praise me and vocalize how wonderful of a job you think I’m doing.  You’ve got a keen sense for knowing when I really need to hear it.  You support, support, support, and step up when you know I need a break.  You take such incredible care of me, which allows me to take the utmost care for our daughter.  Tayler thanks you for that.  

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I’ve had the pleasure of watching you grow from boy, to man, to husband, to dad over our 12+ years together.  And soon, our little family of three will become a family of four.  I can think of no better husband to share this journey with, and no better father to grow our family with. While I may not say it quite as much as I should, please know that I think the world and the moon and stars of you.  You’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, and despite those times she does really sweet shit, neither is our daughter.  Together, however, we make one incredible little team, with you at the center of it.  

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Happy birthday, love.

Your mother would be so proud of you.

Cheers to 30 more years.

We love you!

(And to answer the question a lot of you women are thinking: yes, he has a brother. But no, he’s not available. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey Dogs for Life

I need to send out a hug.  A giant, heartfelt, bear hug to all of you parents that have ever dealt with a toddler that’s a picky eater.  Why? Because OH MY GOD.

Dealing with a picky eater wasn’t even in my peripheral vision.  Not even on my radar. I guess that was one potential challenge of parenthood I overlooked.  Maybe I just assumed because I’m such a good eater that my kids would be too.  After all, I read that moms who eat a variety of foods while pregnant pass those flavors to their baby, therefore creating a pleasant, adventurous eater.  So that must be true, right? Gahhh.

I even remember before I had kids and would see other parents of picky eaters.  The naive, young, head in her butt Erica would tell herself, “Come on! Its not that hard! Its either what you make or they don’t eat! Simple.  Problem solved”.  I love giving that Erica the, “Haha, ok, because you know it all” eye roll.

This one isn’t about advice, or a “what works well for us”. It’s simply a hug.  Because dealing with a picky eater can be so overwhelmingly frustrating and trying.  Even knowing that its a phase, and knowing I’ve never seen an adult only eat turkey dogs and cheese… when all you want is to be able to nourish your child with plenty of vitamins and wholesome goodness for the energy and growth they so deserve… its all too easy to feel defeated.

This one’s for you.

This is for the parents who have brought out the Brezza or food processor time after time after time, determined to make your own baby food, only to have a messy kitchen and a stocked freezer that will never get touched to show for it.  

This is for the parents who have tried steaming, broiling, baking, boiling, and grilling.  There’s bound to be a preparation method they’ll like, right? 

This one is for the parents who have gone out of their way to eat good foods with enthusiasm and passion in front of your children repeatedly to show that if they would just try it ONE MORE TIME, they’ll like it! We promise! 

This one is for the parents who after a long day, consciously prepare dinner with a lean protein, vegetable, and whole grain that you know are sure hits with your tot.  You just can’t deal with defeat.  Not today.  Until you sit down to eat, and this fab trio you prepared is met with an adamant, “NO! NO! NO!”.  

This one is for the parents who purposely take their kids to Sam’s Club for free samples. So they can try new foods without you having to buy or make them.  They love and eat up the cherries for the first time, so you happily buy a carton.  You get home feeling victorious, clean and cut some up, and then she acts like you’re trying to feed her feces.  

This one is for the parents who have resorted to acting like flipping magicians in the kitchen, hiding and covering up veggies in ways no child can detect.  Until they do, and that whole portion of their meal is now deemed inedible.  

This one is for the parents who have tried to wait it out. Leaving little ones in their booster or high chair for awhile.  Surely, she’ll cave.  She HAS to be hungry.  I WILL win this one.  Until you don’t.  

This one is for the parents who have made so many smoothies they should moonlight at their local Jamba Juice.  If they aren’t going to eat their fruits and veggies, you’ll be damned if they don’t drink them.  

This one is for the parents who know the anxiety that comes from knowing they only have one shot at introducing a new food at meal time.  And the WHEN during meal time is critical.  Too early – the entire meal could be shot.  Too late – the entire meal could be shot.  It’s an art form, people.  

This one is for the parents who have felt the repeated devastation of wasting food.  Oh, the wasting of food.  You consider eating it yourself, until you realize its not healthy for your mental well-being or waistline.  Breaks my heart one tiny piece at a time.  

This one is for the parents who have sat there at night, rocking their little one to sleep, replaying the day through their head and cataloging every thing their child ate.  Most days, it never feels like enough.  

This one is for the parents who rarely get to eat warm food.  You want to share meals together, and you want to set an example every day of what eating well looks like, but when you’re up and down repeatedly – the chicken is never warm by the time you get back to it.  

You know how important nourishment is for healthy minds and healthy bodies.  Your child deserves the best, and you so want to be able to give it to them if they just let you.  You envision the day when a family meal time will go smoothly, without disappointment, interruption, or requiring a short order cook.  You’ve read the books and articles.  You get the unsolicited advice.   And you know, like all phases, this too shall pass.   But in the moment, when you’ve pulled out all the stops, sometimes throwing up the white flag feels like your only course of action.

Some of my wonderful dietitian moms have recommended this Ellyn Satter site as a guide for setting healthy eating boundaries and sharing the responsibility of eating well between you and your children.  Hopefully some of you find it beneficial – I know I have.  A lot of great resources.

Until then, I feel for you.  We’ll get through this, one GD chicken nugget at a time.

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