It’s not bad to give every kid a trophy

I’m not entirely sure when or where it started, but in an effort to peg both millennials and Gen Z as “everything that’s wrong with society today”, it has somehow looped back to our childhoods and how “everyone got a trophy”–hell, there’s even a book now about how to “deal” with Generation Y in the workplace because we are used to receiving trophies for everything we do.

I’ve followed a lot of the stories that seem to go to the extreme, and I understand why people are outraged when schools cancel competitions because they don’t want to make other kids feel bad, or sports leagues not keeping score for fear of making kids disappointed.

But there also seems to be a sense that if our kids all get trophies, that somehow they will never want to work or compete.

Let’s take a look at the adult world–there’s an argument made that people on welfare are just freeloaders and why would you want to work if you get access to food stamps, housing, education, and a check? Well, if that’s the case, why do you work then? If the government has said that if you don’t work, we won’t let you necessarily starve to death, why don’t more people quit their job and live that life? Because we understand that even though that safety net is there, it’s not an ideal life for the great majority of people (and yes, even those who currently do use government assistance).

Do you think everyone doesn’t get a trophy in the adult world? Look at step-raises based on longevity of employment. My place of employment has “merit raises”, but it all comes out of the same pool, and basically means that just about everyone gets the same raise each year, just for showing up and doing their job effectively. Soldiers in the military receive the Iraq Campaign Medal for spending thirty consecutive days within the borders of Iraq. If you engaged in combat, the 30-day requirement is waived, but it makes no distinction otherwise between guy on the front line and guy serving food in the mess. If you finish the Boston Marathon, you get a medal. Even if you come in dead last place.

So let’s not act like don’t we don’t still give trophies out to adults just for showing up, because we do. 

But getting back to kids, what really is the harm in giving everyone a participation trophy? My son played soccer this past spring. A natural soccer star my child is not, but he was 4 years-old playing an organized sport for the first time in his life. When your kid starts playing sports, you REALLY want them to be awesome at it, it’s fun having the really good kid on the team. But at his first game, he didn’t play for a single second. He said he was too cold and didn’t want to play. 

I adjusted my expectations for how I wanted him to perform.

From then on, I only wanted him to go out and participate. He didn’t need to score a goal, he didn’t even need to kick the ball, I just wanted him to step out on the field, play with his teammates, and provide a little bit of effort. And he did. And I was very proud of him for doing that. For young kids, having a memento of their effort might just be enough to get them to come back to play again and get better. I’m not saying every kid needs a trophy that says “#1 MVP”, but something that recognizes that their age-adjusted participation was appreciated. 

As our kids get older, competition becomes more natural, there’s a better understanding that there are winners and losers in a game. When you win your league championship, you do deserve something special and deserve to be rewarded for winning. But does it really need to be at the expense of the team that went 0-12, but did go out there and do their best each week? Kids are motivated as they get older by competition. By the time I was 12, I wanted to win the Little League Championship in our league. Even though I knew at the end of the day, we would all get the same trophy, I still wanted to win. I wanted to be the best. And that was after a lifetime of receiving participation trophies. 

And it’s not about the trophy, really, the trophy is just something concrete we tend to focus on. It’s not about mabndatory participation plaques. It’s about recognizing that our kids aren’t going to be made weak by simply making them feel appreciated. It doesn’t mean eliminating competition so that kids never feel defeat, but it also doesn’t mean making life cut and dry, because it’s not even reality in the adult world, and perhaps we’re placing too much stock in trophies for all the problems we have in society.

Parenting while white

Manic Pixie Dream Mama wrote a poignant blog this past week on “A Mother’s White Privilege” covering the implications of being the parent of white children in light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. She notes that it’s another flashpoint in this country’s complicated history with race.

And we in White America are terrified to look.

We make excusp2es. We assume that only bad people get shot by the police. That if we don’t want to get shot, we just obey the law and comply with police orders. If you don’t want to get arrested, don’t break the law. We justify what happened because it’s too much to admit after 238 years, we still have race problems in this country. 

That’s white privilege, ladies and gentlemen, and we have it. 

My white children are less likely to be stopped and frisked, less likely to be arrested, and less likely to go to prison. They are more likely to go to college, more likely to own their own home, and more likely to make a higher wage (though it’s probably also important to note that my daughter will make about 77 cents on the dollar compared to my son, but that’s for another time).

But the solution we’ve come up with is to not talk about race–especially with our kids.

“Shhh, if you don’t teach your kids race, they won’t see race.” See? That’s all we have to do. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. We just solved racial inequality in this country.

Except kids do see race. They aren’t stupid or blind. 

My son was in the bathtub when he was 3. He has a little toy boat that comes with a captain. The captain is black. My son is playing with the captain and says, “Daddy, look, the captain looks like [a close friend of ours who is black].” I didn’t teach him that. I didn’t talk to him about race. He hadn’t even started preschool yet. His vision of the world was basically limited to the people that came over to our house. And here I was, confronted with talking, or not talking, about race at age 3 in my upstairs bathroom. 

Kids see race. Kids know they look different from other kids. It’s no different than if someone is in a wheelchair, or has a funny haircut, or a frowning face. We scan our environments and notice differences. Children as young as 3 have been shown to develop racial preference–and practice racial exclusion–in groups. 

But it’s easier to believe that we don’t perceive race. It’s easier to believe that there is no white privilege. It’s easier to believe that a white police officer shoots a black kid because the black kid was behaving criminally and the officer had no other choice.

And as a parent, it’s still difficult to talk about race. It’s an uncomfortable topic to cover, especially for white parents. And it’s hard for us to admit that there are differences. “Different” has become a word that even us living in progressive households try to avoid. But is it just because we aren’t explaining what difference actually is, and additionally, taking the time to say why difference is good?pswinging

Are we afraid of talking about race because we’ll look stupid?

Well that’s what we have. I am white. My kids are white. We shouldn’t need to bring in guest lecturers to speak to our children about race. There’s only one perspective I know, and it’s the 30 years I’ve put in as a white man in this country. But I also know there will be very few conversations between me and my kids about what to do when they are stopped by police, what to dress in so they don’t get mistaken for someone up to no good, or what areas of our suburb to stay away from because they will look out of place.

With my son starting kindergarten, we’re just really starting to navigate race. I know they have talked about it as his preschool, and I’m sure it’s a topic that will come up in school. But as parents, we should be doing more as well. Ferguson is a teachable moment, beyond just the shooting, it’s a lens into racial inequality in the United States. Why are there protests? Why are the police doing what they are doing? Why are people angry? 

And we in White America need to look in that lens.

Kindergarten

We’ve reached a “major” milestone in our lives as parents–the first kid is off to kindergarten, embarking on 13 of years of mandatory schooling with the option for 4 more. 

Sending him to kindergarten was much more difficult that I had anticipated. And that was strange for me. He’s been going to preschool full-time for two years, so dropping my off with “strangers” wasn’t exactly anything that was new to me. But watching them start kindergarten just feels completely different. There are no naps, no morning snacks, no unstructured playtime, it’s an environment of learning. He can’t just take the day off, there are procedures to be followed, pickup and dropoffs to be handled. 

The first day was difficult. It’s hard watching your kid go off on this journey. Because you know what the end brings–adulthood, moving out of the house, going into the open world, free to make their own decisions and choices. Yeah, it’s 13 years away, but I just did 5 in the blink of an year. I’m over a quarter of the way there already. 

As a parent, you work to make sure you’re setting your kid up for success. You buy a house in a good school district, you make sure they can write their name and say their ABCs, but in the end, they have to go out there and do it. They have to be the learners and they have to take an active role in their own education and success. And when they hit kindergarten, you wonder if you did everything you could so that they do succeed, or at least have that opportunity. 

For him, though, it’s no big deal. It’s school. And I remember feeling the same way. It’s school, it’s what I do. I listen to the teacher, I do my assignments, and I come home. We do that for 180 days each year and then progress to the next grade. And for that I’m thankful, that we don’t look through our parents’ eyes when we’re in school. That we don’t see ourselves as small children, wondering if we are old enough, or big enough, or bright enough to succeed. We see it as a journey, as something exciting, if sometimes tedious. He isn’t thinking about middle school, or high school, or where he will go to college. He isn’t worried about the school’s Value Added or Gap Closing or Performance Indicators Met, it’s just school.

And I guess that’s why we’re the parents. We worry about it so they don’t have to.

parkermommy

The lifelong implications of being in band

As primarily a parenting blog, I didn’t find any reason to make comments on the story about The Ohio State University Marching Band. And really, two days after the fact, the media has been able to take the story and run with it. And personally, I think that the arguments in the media (and in social media) have been played out enough that I don’t necessarily need to address all the things about it.

But there’s something I do want to say about it–that needs to be said about it. And it’s the one thing that, no matter the direction of the band, can never be taken away and I say is even my greatest accomplishment during my years in it.

Without it, I don’t have my family.

I entered school dating someone that I had dated throughout high school. I moved away to go tryout for The Best Damn Band in Land as an 18 year-old, with no expectations of suddenly finding someone else, I just wanted to be in the band. Strangely, the first day of tryouts, as the row–both veterans and candidates–went to lunch, two veterans agreed to take two candidates in their car to the lunch destination. The two veterans were dating and would later go on to get married.

But little did I know that the candidate I was sitting in the backseat with would later go on to be my wife.

It wasn’t an easy or quick path. It would still be another two years before we started dating, and we each had significant others on the way to it, but my third year in the band, it happened, and a year later, we were engaged. The following summer we were married and two summers later, we welcomed into the world our son.

Ohio State is a school of nearly 60,000 students. I can say, unequivocally, without the marching band, I wouldn’t have her and I certainly wouldn’t have my children. 

I would love to say that our story is unique, but it’s not. Since I was in the band, there have been 8 people–just from my row–that have married other people in the band. I go to at least one “band marriage” a year (one is next week, in fact). You build an incredible bond with the people you were in band with, and in a difficult time like this, it’s actually very nice to have a partner that is experiencing the same emotions as you becase they too were part of it. But if I’d never left my hometown, if she’d never left hers, we would each likely be leading two very different lives today. I would not have her, and we would not have our beautiful, amazing children.

And times like this are actually sad for our family (our oldest asked about it yesterday because he saw how much it was affecting us and said he was sorry about our friend). It’s easy to think, “What’s the big deal, it’s band” but I think just about any former band member will tell you that the 4-5 years that you do in band is simply a blip in your lifespan. I’ve been out of band almost twice as long as I was in band and I still make memories with those I was in band with. They are my closest friends and confidants. I go back every year as an alumni to march not necessarily because I want to march down the ramp again or do Script Ohio, but to have fun with the people that I entered adulthood with. To, in a way, be college kids again, if only for a weekend.

It was an honor and privilege to do be in the band and I’ll never forget, regret, or be ashamed of the four years I did in it. I owe too much of my life to it for that, especially when I got something even more.

And no, we didn’t give them rookie names.

Taking kids on vacation

I’ll be honest, it sounded a bit crazy to me. Taking a 4 year-old and a 6 week-old on a 7 (that was more like 12) hour car trip to a location with nothing but sun, sand, and water. One is very energetic and excited, the other can’t put on sunscreen, nor can she regulate her body temperature very well. But alas, we decided to go with my family for a week of a beach vacation.

We left bright and early on Saturday morning. Daughter snoozing in the backseat, son enjoying the views and looking at a road atlas. To be honest, the first 4-5 hours of the trip were very smooth. Our daughter eats every 4 hours or so, so we just scheduled stops and used it to stretch while she ate. Shortly after we began the last few hours of the trip, we learned our son, who never previously had this problem–gets carsick. So that was a blast, as we were completely ill prepared for that. Then the traffic hit–and a 2-3 hour trip stretched on for almost 6. I’ve been going to the beach for a long time and never saw traffic like that. It was horrible. Of course, by this point, the daughter is hungry, but there’s nowhere to really pull off because we’re just stuck in traffic. After almost 13 hours, we pull into our condo and have a chance to get settled in.

Thankfully, the rest of the week went swimmingly. Our son LOVED the ocean and sand (probably too much, as it took a lot of coercion to bring him in every day). We were also battling no naps the entire week for him, and he actually rallied pretty well with few incidences.

For our daughter, we wanted to be outside, but also wanted to make sure she stayed out of the sun, and also cool the entire time. Thankfully, the beach was fairly cool all week and being near the ocean provided a nice, consistent breeze. We purchased a large, 100 SPF umbrella and she wore protective SPF clothing all week. We set up a travel bassinet in the sand on top of a towel, and then had a battery-operated fan on her keeping a nice breeze. We also had a spray bottle of water in case, but rarely used it.

We did get confronted by one older lady (whose obesity provided for an incredible hypocrisy) who asked if we were putting sunscreen on her. She seemed shocked that we wouldn’t put sunscreen on our 6 week-old (spoiler alert: you shouldn’t on any child under 6 months old). We gave her a solid dismissal of her concern (“She’s fine.”) and didn’t have any other run-ins (in fact, we were complimented several times throughout the week for our innovative setup).

When we were out in the evenings, we had an extendable shade for the stroller which provided her with complete sun protection, and then had a clip-on fan to attach to the side of her stroller (one passerby commented, “See that? Brilliant”). Both kids slept very well during the trip. Our son slept on a pull-out sofa in the living room and our daughter slept at the foot of our bed in a Pack N’ Play.

While all in all we had a great time, I won’t lie, vacationing with children is a lot different than vacationing without them. First, there’s sort of always an overwhelming concern about where your child is. Thankfully, we went with family, so there were always extra eyes, but I always kept a watchful eye, especially on my son near the water, and of course, our daughter couldn’t be left alone. And with two parents and two kids, it takes a bit of effort to make sure that everything is okay and the kids are being adequately supervised. I think it would have been not much fun to go by ourselves with just our kids.

Secondly, we are schedulers, and have found schedules that work for our kids that optimize both their and our happiness. However, that’s really easy to do at home, and not so easy to do on vacation. Our son, as I mentioned, skipped naps, which made our time more flexible, but also ran the risk of having a grumpy kid (thankfully, this wasn’t really the case). With him though, being nearly 5, he is able to entertain himself, be reasoned with, etc. There’s also a certain level of responsibility where he can do things on his own.

For a 6 week-old, the challenge is unique. Eating every few hours means scheduling beach time, dinner time, and activities somewhat “around” eating. Additionally, sleeping is still of utmost importance. Sure, we could have laid our daughter down every night at 10 and then stayed up with family until midnight or 1 having fun, but our daughter is waking up a 3 am to eat whether you went to bed or not, and she’s going to be ready to start the day by 7, whether you got 8 hours of sleep or 2, so it certainly cut into evening time, but it was a sacrifice necessary to make our days go better. So others may want to stay out late, but you’re saying, “We need to get to bed”.

And of course, you’re never not a parent. And so disciplining, consoling, assisting, snuggling, etc. is still ongoing, even on vacation, which certainly takes a notch out of the “relaxing” column. You don’t want to have to scold your kid on vacation, but you also can’t have them throwing sand that’s getting in people’s faces, or puts themselves at risk to get hurt.

But seeing your son see the ocean for the first time, to be able to snuggle your newborn on the beach, to spend time with your family for an entire week, it makes it completely worth it. We certainly look forward to doing it again next week and hopefully, by then, we’ll be even more seasoned.

Babies can’t read–and how to set up yourself to parent successfully

“My kid will NOT use a pacifier.”

“I will not swaddle my kid, it’s bad for arm development.”

“There’s no way I’ll ever give my kid formula.”

“NO TV in this house!”

First-time parents, it’s likely that you thought, uttered, or exclaimed some of these sweeping grandeurs of sage parenting, back when you were reading every book on the planet on how to raise well-adjusted children. And I’m also sure that you were frustrated beyond all belief when been there, done that parents said, “Just wait…”

And if you aren’t a parent yet, I’m sure you have some really good ideas about how you’ll parent your kid to maximize their and your happiness (read: sanity). Believe me–I did it too. Somewhere on a bookshelf in my house are all the parenting books that I read diligently when we were expecting our first child, collecting dust. It seemed so easy! They make how-to books for parents! And then your kid is born and realize, oh sh*t, babies can’t read. Not only can’t they read, but they don’t seem to give a you-know-what about your plans for them.

This time around, I didn’t even pick up a parenting book. You learn very quickly that 90% of parenting a newborn is trial and error, and really the other 10% are instincts that you guessed right on. Even between two of our own children, I notice differences in how one thing worked with one isn’t working for the other–and neither scenario was adequately explained in What to Expect the First Year. I guess I just finally realized why already-parents get to act so smug, because at one time, we were all those first-time parents that knew how we were going to do everything, just to get knocked down a few pegs when our kids didn’t calm down after The Five S’s, or how attachment parenting was slowly making us lose our minds, or when the only thing that could calm them was the aforementioned pacifier previously relegated to Public Enemy #1.

Similarly, I now know that newborns are evolutionarily designed so that first-time parents really have to try to cause serious damage. I also realized that if you give your kid like 5-10 extra seconds to pull it together on their own, they often will (which saves me many trips into their room to pick them up in the middle of the night).

But most of all, I learned that the best way to keep yourself from stressing out is to not set up yourself to get stressed out. First-time parents, expectant parents, eventually-will-be-parents, take a deep breath. Never say never. It’s fine to draw your lines somewhere (for us, it’s sleeping arrangements, our kids will never penetrate our bedroom’s threshold to sleep), but don’t get set up rules for a creature that has no idea what a rule is, and then be stressed out when the rules have to be broken. And then you can be smug like the rest of us.

Ending your childbearing years before age 30

I went back and forth on even writing this blog post. Making the decision to end your ability to have children is an incredibly personal one–in your relationship, physically, and mentally. However, after we made that decision, I was astonished by the lack of available information out there from people who had gone through the same thing. If you google “vasectomy”, you’re left with Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and urology websites describing the procedure, but very, very few testimonials by people who have gone through it, and if you are like me, that causes some anxiety. So yes, much of this is probably too much information, but I hope it’s helpful to someone either considering the procedure now, or expecting to consider it in the future.

I’m a medical procedure wimp, I want to know what to expect, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don’t want it sugarcoated, I want to know what it was like to have the procedure performed from someone who experienced it.

28 probably seems young to make such a permanent decision in your life. But the plan for us was essentially two children by age 30, and that’s what we got. We made the decision pretty early in this pregnancy that this would be our last. Several factors played into this decision. First, pregnancy is not always a fun experience for my wife, and this one, especially early on, was pretty rough. Second, we had a boy and a girl, which, for us, was our “dream family” and we were excited to get one of each. Third, and this can’t be understated, but children are an economical and emotional commitment. I think sometimes the “expense” of children is overstated, but daycare isn’t, and having a kid already starting school, we really don’t want to be dealing with a baby when our oldest in middle school. We wanted to be done with that part of our lives and go forward with raising two kids into adulthood.

For obvious reasons, we wanted to wait until she was born before taking the steps to become permanently finished. Well that time had come and went, and 5 days later, I was sitting in my urologist’s office discussing permanent sterilization. It is my intention here to give you a solid overview of what went down. Firstly, we chose a vasectomy because it’s much less invasive than other forms of permanent sterilization, such as tubal ligations. It’s an outpatient procedure, recovery is only 2-6 days, and has minimal risks. Vasectomy is also a much more successful form of permanent birth control. It’s 99.9% effective in the first year, and long-term rates have failures marked at about 1 in 50-60,000. Tubal ligations, while effective, fail at a rate about 5 times more often than a vasectomy, and long-term rates actually decline after the first year.

My consultation was only about 10 minutes. The urologist did confirm with me that I had children already and that my wife was on board with it (I guess there have been a few “incidents” in the past). I explained to him that she drove me to the appointment. Vasectomies should be considered a permanent method of birth control, he said, and that reversals are expensive, rough, and not a guarantee. Anyone considering one should have discussed it with their significant other and also assume it will not be reversed. I actually expected more pushback about my age, but he seemed to address me just as he would a man in his 40s or 50s. After we determined I wanted to go ahead with the procedure, we scheduled it about 10 days later.

I mentioned earlier that I am a medical procedure wimp. So while I was confident about the procedure, I was still very anxious about it. I reported to the outpatient surgery center at 7:30 AM to complete some paperwork and was taken back around 8:15 for pre-op vitals. After sweating it out for about a half-hour, I was taken back to the “operating room”, which was really just a standard room with some extra lights. I did my best to keep my eyes off the sterile blue tray that contained all the instruments needed for the procedure. I knew basically what to expect, but still didn’t really want to see what was going to be headed towards my nether-regions.

My urologist explained the first thing would be a local numbing agent. Yes, it is a needle. This was probably the “worst” part of the entire procedure. Since the procedure happens in two places, he did one side first, which included probably 2-3 separate injections.  They did feel like very small pinches. But in my experience, a single flu shot in the bicep hurts more. It was about 5 seconds, if that, of discomfort–but it did the job. A small incision was made (there are technically no-needle, no-scalpel ones as well, but this was not one). I didn’t feel the incision at all, thankfully. There was a brief tugging sensation. It wasn’t necessarily painful, but it felt similar to getting hit there. However, whereas when that happens “in the wild” the sensation lasts for about 90 seconds, this lasted for maybe 2 seconds. At that point, the vas deferens is extracted, a small section is cut out, and then the rest is cauterized. Then maybe 2-3 sutures are placed to close the incision. This was absolutely pain-free.

After one side is done, the same process occurs on the other side. Since you’re already numb from the first series of injections, this is even less painful than the first time. A few pinches, a brief tugging sensation again, and then you’re done. In all, the procedure took about 15 minutes, though it only felt like 5. I walked out of the office on my own. On the overall pain meter, you’re talking about maybe 10 seconds total of discomfort over those entire 15 minutes. On the “pain scale”, this was about a 2, and a bad papercut is a 3. Stubbing your toe is honestly more painful.

Again, while considered a permanent procedure, it’s not immediately “effective”. Generally 6-12 weeks is necessary for the procedure to take effect, and an analysis is performed to ensure that you are, in fact, sterile. Most vasectomy failures occur because the patient didn’t wait long enough and spontaneous “reconnection” of the vas deferens is very rare.

Post-operation, the urologist was adamant taking it easy for a full 48 hours. No exercise, no lifting, minimal walking. All in all, with rest, ice, and Tylenol, you’re pretty much back to normal in 2 days, and can resume full activity in 7 days. There’s some soreness, but I really thought it would be worse. But I’m also taking maximum care, and I think if you do that, you shouldn’t really have any adverse post-op experiences.

So we’re done. And that’s it. I’ve had a very surgeries in my life. Leg surgery that was performed under general anesthesia, wisdom tooth extraction under twilight anesthesia, and this procedure. This was undoubtedly the easiest and least painful process. Leg surgery, while under a general anesthesia, felt horrible the week following. Wisdom tooth extraction was not painful, but I could still “feel” it happening, and again, the recovery was miserable. In no uncertain terms would I call this “fun”, but I would imagine every person has experienced something more painful, and in the end, it’s certainly less than 9 months of pregnancy and labor.

But we certainly didn’t take this decision lightly. We discussed the future and were both 100% positive that we did not want any more children. No reversals, no going back, this is a one and done. And if anyone is considering this, I would encourage you and your significant other reach the same level of agreement. But that’s it. It was not bad at all, and if fear of the procedure is the only thing holding you back, don’t let it.

Paige is here!

Paige decided she didn’t want to wait around until June 5th and made her grand entrance on May 31st at 10:11 am.

My wife had an induction scheduled on June 7th, as progression had been very little up until the last week of her pregnancy. She woke up shortly after 1 am on Saturday, May 31st to a few contractions. By 3:30, the contractions were starting to come every 4-6 minutes, and by 4:45, the call was made to go to the hospital.

Our son, she, and I, arrived at the hospital at 5:15, where it was determined she was in labor and her water had broken. By 6 am, we were in labor and delivery, and by 9:45 am, it was time for PJ to make her arrival. At 10:11, we saw our daughter for the first time…and she is perfect.

It amazes me how much she reminds me of my son, both in looks and actions. She’s really awesome, she’s sleeping great, and is all around a very happy baby. We couldn’t be more happy to have our daughter with us.

Entering the home stretch, been there, done that.

Today marks 36 weeks for us, which means technically, only 4 weeks remain, though really that’s anywhere between 1 and 6.

We’ve been quickly preparing ourselves for her arrival. Last week was room painting, so added with a built crib and changing table, and the pending build of her dresser, we’re getting close. I hate to say that this time has been more “non-chalant” for us, but really it has. Having a kid already changes your entire approach. You realize infants basically just need a place to sleep, a food source, and diapers to live for the first month or so. We’ve been slowly buying more things as we realize we need them, but it’s not the mad rush that we had with our son.

But at the same time, we’re doing more for her than our son, mostly because of our living situation. Last time, we were switching apartments on his due date, this time, we already have a house, and therefore, feel like we can actually do some decorating rather than subjecting her to the spartan surroundings our son had his first few months in the apartment. So even for having a brother whose items we’ll be using as hand-me-downs, we’ve been doing a decent amount of things for her that we didn’t really get to do the first time, so that’s kept it interesting.

It’s marked, though, the experiences between a first-timer and a “been there done that”. It’s hard to express how much being a parent is really just “on the job training”, but it’s something you don’t really understand until you are one. You can read all the books or blogs or articles you want, but in the end, a baby can’t read. At the same time, past experiences as a parent don’t always mean that it will work the second time around. Odds are, we’ll be altering a lot of the things worked so well with our first.

But as last time was met with a lot of anxiousness and mystery, I think this time I’m just totally excited to do it again, though I reserve to change my mind after the first few nights of sleep.

An experienced dad’s guide for first-time dads: Labor & Delivery Edition

We’re sitting here very close to being inside 1 month until the arrival of our daughter. Mom is probably getting ready to pack her hospital bag, and as a dad, you need to start preparing yourself for Labor and Delivery as well.

1) Understand first and foremost, that the woman doin’ the pushin’ gets control of the room’s temperature. If you’re spending the night on the room’s sofa or pullout, you’re going to want to pack both shorts and pants, t-shirts and sweatshirts, even in the middle of the summer. Because one minute, you’re freezing to death in the middle of the night and then next, you’re under the deathray lights while you’re standing there holding your wife’s hands as she gets an epidural. You don’t want to be that dad that passes out.

2) Learn the lingo. You’ve probably heard the word “dilation” before, but get used to words like effaced, crowning, episiotomy, etc. Like really dig deep, because it’s a lot more pleasant to know beforehand than having some L&D nurse have to talk about cervices, mucus plugs, etc. And if you hear a word you don’t know, just Google it, for the love of God, just Google it.

3) A lot of dads like to be really “in there” when it comes to delivery. Word of advice, even it’s your wife of 20 years, there are just some things that you probably want to keep a mystery, and believe me, that mystery can be kept if you stand near your wife’s head during delivery. Like–things happen down there, and you’re probably better for just not seeing it.

4) Have some respect, don’t house a really damn tasty cheeseburger right in front of your significant other when she’s not allowed to eat anything. If there is support there, have someone come hang out with her while you go and eat something, and then lie about it later. If you don’t have any support, make up an excuse to leave the room like–I forgot to lock the car (even better, forget to lock the car on purpose, or leave your cell phone charger in there so you have a legit excuse), and then just take a big bag of Wendy’s into a bathroom stall and have at it.

5) If your significant other is hooked up to a monitor that monitors things like contractions, be sensitive. You’re going to see a contraction coming about 5 seconds before she feels it, and making a grimacing face probably doesn’t help

6) Stay positive, but keep expectations realistic. There may be a few times when you think your significant other is really going to fucking lose it. Like, really kill someone, or like my wife conceded, that the baby was never going to come out and just live there forever. Try and stay really positive about it all, but also don’t stand there and tell her that it will all be over soon and that this is a really fun time for everyone.

7) Bring some entertainment. Even in labor, women might want to rest their eyes. And sometimes, labor is really long, and your ass is sitting there watching whatever daytime cable show that happens to be on (try to convince her to go into labor on a Tuesday, because USA shows Law and Order: SVU marathons).

8) Slip the nurse a $20. I don’t know if this works or not, but it seems like a good idea. Tell her to make the ice chips good.

9) You have no idea what the pain feels like, so just don’t even question it. It doesn’t matter. Don’t hold up the little smiley face chart and ask her to point where she falls on the scale, if she says it hurts, assume it hurts, and do what she wants.

10) Realize that sometimes, you won’t be able to say much besides “I’m so sorry” or “Is there anything I can do?” Like, what are you supposed to do, your significant other is pushing a baby out of her and you’re just standing there. You aren’t an epidural and you aren’t a physician. Just be the punching bag if you need to be, do the things she needs you to do, and when you’re not doing those things, just stand there and feel helpless and realize there’s nothing more you can do.

11) Don’t complain about how long it’s taking. Seriously. Why the hell would you do that?

12) Be on camera patrol. Seriously, you’re never going to be forgiven if you forget to take that first picture. My kid was like 7 seconds old when his first picture was taken. I was like Johnny on the Spot with that camera. Be sure to vet the pictures before posting to social media. You don’t want a placental photobomb. Or a friend to catch a glimpse of your wife’s hoo-ha.

13) If your wife has a birth plan, stick to it with her. Set up everything in a way that she can do that. But also be prepared to be the voice telling her it’s okay if she needs to deviate from it. She’s the one in labor. Just because she wants to go med-free during Hour 1 doesn’t mean she’ll feel the same in Hour 11. If she needs to break from the plan, be the person telling her it’s okay to do that. If your significant other who was adamant about going natural suddenly wants an epidural, drag the nearest anesthesiologist into the room and hold him against his will if need be. Don’t act like a birth plan is a contract in danger of being breeched if you at all deviate from it. (Additionally, check with your her BEFORE it all starts going down to determine how breechable said birth plan is. If she states that she wants you to keep her to it no matter what, then do that, perhaps create a safeword or something).

14) Be the least-complicated thing in her life for the day. There’s a lot of shit going on, and very little, if any of it, is legimately enjoyable or fun. Like, even if you’re not having fun (and you likely won’t be), just be the one thing that she doesn’t have to worry about. Everyone has it in them to not be an asshole for a day.

15) Seriously, though, I think greasing the nurse will go a long way.