X-Ray

Well, that was without a doubt one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever had.

36 hours into our Chinese sojourn, we were treated to our initiatory Shenzhen taxi trip, a voyage that doubled as Little Dude’s first car seat-less car ride. Where to? Why, the hospital, of course.

Fear not for us, dear friends, for this was not an emergency journey. As it happens, in order to obtain a Chinese residence permit, one must first undergo a local medical exam. What are they checking for, you ask? It beats the hell outta me, but the process was shockingly thorough – despite the almost complete lack of verbal communication.

Following an extended cab ride through a tropical downpour, clutching our child on our laps, we arrived at the hospital. We were then led immediately out of said hospital, down the street to a small, heavily trafficked photo shop. After our visa photographs were taken – no small feat, with a highly energetic almost-two year old – we returned to the hospital, where Wifey and I each subjected ourselves to a series of unusual medical tests in rapid succession.

First, a standing X-Ray; presumably of our torsos, to what end I have no idea. Then, even more strange, a brief EKG, followed by an ultrasound of God-only-knows-what, in the general vicinity of our ribs. Next, an eye exam – not so far off in practice from the one at an optometrist’s office stateside – but consisting solely of letters similar to M, W, E, and what I could only hesitantly refer to as a “backwards E.” (After comparing notes with Wifey on the ride home, I now believe the expected answers to have been more simply “up,” “down,” “left,” and “right.”)

Finally, a rather large quantity of blood was drawn, with no indication whatsoever of what it was to be tested for, and we were each told to pee in a cup. For descriptive purposes, it bears mentioning that the cups had no type of closure, and upon being filled, were placed on a tray containing samples from all the other newly arrived expats in Shenzhen.

I’m not sure what any of this means, or if we’re soon to be deported because of the results. But from my perspective, this adventure confirmed two things. One: the Chinese bureaucracy really is extremely efficient. And two: we sure as hell ain’t in Kansas anymore.

Praise

Each day, while I’m out and about with Little Dude, I receive a number of totally undeserved compliments from strangers. Not that I necessarily mind the attention, but I do heed the social ramifications. When was last time you saw a stay-at-home Mom receive heaping praise from fellow supermarket shoppers, simply for making it to the check-out line with her toddler?

The subject has come up more and more frequently as of late, and an article that a friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning inspired me to sit down and put some thoughts in order. Somewhat provocatively titled, “My Husband: Five Reasons Why I Am Not Lucky To Have Him,” argues that it is by choice, rather than luck, that many of our generation have managed to alter our household roles.

I’ll raise a glass to that. I choose to spend my days with my child and to encourage my wife to continue her career (in which she utterly excels). She, in turn, takes pride in setting an example as a working mother, as well as in my decision to raise our son. Of course it would be lovely if we could all stay home together, but for practical reasons that’s not really an option. However, we have chosen our roles, and taken them upon ourselves willingly.

At the end of the day, I do give luck some credit. It brought Wifey and I to the same place at the same time, so that we could choose to spend the rest of our lives together.

 

Dawn

In the final hour of blackness, before the shutters of our bedroom are illuminated pale blue by summer’s early dawn, we’re awoken by an unmistakable cry.

“DaddEEEEEEE! MommEEEEEE!!”

Shit, I think. And for once, I was sleeping so well. I hear weeping through the wall, and the sound of my own heartbeat, now racing. We pray that he will fall back asleep unassisted. But we should be so lucky.

In solidarity, we rise together, sandy eyed both. Speech represents wakefulness. Noiselessly, step by step and hand in hand, we make our way across the house, determined to deter morning’s inevitable arrival.

One light switch is turned to its minimum setting, and in the murky darkness, a diaper is quietly changed. Pajamas are reapplied. Then, tiny arms cling to each of us in turn, as we eagerly collect our hard-earned gratuity.

We trace our footsteps back to bed. Heads hit pillows, accompanied by sighs of relief. Thank God, it’s still dark out. We can go back to sleep. 

Or can we? Having been disturbed once, the pre-dawn quietude seems too good to be true. Although two sets of eyelids have eased gratefully closed, four ears remain peeled for whimpers.

The smallest sound causes anxiety. Is that him?? No, just something outside… I reach for sleep, and feel it approaching, only to be pushed away again by the noises of the house. This pattern is repeated endlessly until finally, peace draws me in, and I embrace it.

“MommEEEEEE!!! DaddEEEEE!!!”

There’s no denying it this time; it’s light outside. And so begins our Sunday morning.

Identity

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Little Dude’s new creative writing project is proving to be lots of fun for both of us, so it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write in my own voice. Things are as hectic as ever over here in stay-at-home dad land; Wifey’s back to weekly travel, and, well, HOLY SHIT WE’RE MOVING TO CHINA IN SIX WEEKS!

So yes, there’s that.

None of this, however, seems to have had much of a dampening effect on the miniature boss man who rules my world. Just this morning, in fact, we hit a new milestone. While siting there enjoying breakfast, he looked at me and quite clearly spoke his own name.

“Wait a minute… did you just say your name??” He grinned from ear to ear, and repeated it. I grabbed my iPhone and immediately started shooting video.

“Hey, little guy, what’s your name?” There it was again, with another face-splitting smirk. Yup, he knows his own name. And words have meaning at this age – he’s no longer just trying out new sounds. So it’s both exciting and scary to witness; as his self-identity begins to develop, I can only imagine how it’s going to affect his (already hearty) sense of independence.

Now I’m really in for it.

 

 

Espionage

IMG_8093.JPGMore big news this week: in preparation for our upcoming adventures, Little Dude has recently launched his own blog, Trailing Toddler.

Given who he hangs around with, I suppose it may have been inevitable. The content, however, is probably not what you’re expecting. As it turns out, my international toddler of mystery has his own take on things, and he’s even wilier than previously suspected. The little guy is a super spy!

Check it out over at trailingtoddler.com, and please do let me know what you think. This is very much a work in progress, and I’ll be sure to pass along your feedback myself.

Changes

IMG_7797.JPGLittle Dude’s passport arrived last week, and he’s going to break it in awfully quickly. Big changes this way come; thanks to Wifey’s consulting gig, we’re preparing to embark on a yearlong family adventure in Shenzhen, China!

I’ll be bidding adieu to Le Metro Wine at the end of June, to focus on the little guy and my own writing as we begin this journey. So, please do keep your eyes on this blog (and anticipate some changes here). There’s bound to be no lack of material for a big-ass white dude chasing a tiny, crazy blond person around parts unknown.

You can never predict where we’re going to pop up next. But my question is, will I still be called a “stay-at-home-dad” when we’re 7,000 miles away from home?

Mama

IMG_6888.JPGMother’s Day is coming up this weekend, and Little Dude and I are determined to make it a special one for Wifey. Not only is she totally our favorite person – and also, “Mama” is the little guy’s current favorite word – but she happens to have a pretty grueling travel schedule these days. So we haven’t seen that much of her the past couple of weeks.

Absence does make the heart grow fonder, especially when said heart is both exceedingly large and belonging to a very small person. Truly, it warms me to know that he misses his mother as much as I do. But it can be a real bummer to be rudely woken before 6:00, sandy-eyed, only to stumble across the house to pick up my son and listen to him call out – despairingly – “Mama?”

Let’s be honest here – mommies are the stuff of legend. And even in the sociological experiment that my household has become, with gender roles utterly reversed, this holds up as true. I may be the one to collect him from his crib most mornings, feed him most of his meals, and kiss his scrapes and bruises. But there’s nobody quite as special as Mama.

Time-capsule

IMG_5279.JPGEvery time I take Little Dude to the Pediatrician – most recently last week for his 18-month checkup – I return home with a print-out of his measurements. I open up his baby book, search for the right page, and inevitably mutter to myself, “well shit, I haven’t written a word in here in months.”

Rather than letting the guilt eat away at me, though, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m simply not really what one would call a short-form writer. Instead, I’ve decided to play to my strengths, and to make up for being a total slacker in the baby book department by occasionally writing rather lengthy letters to my son.

When I print out each letter, fold it, and place it inside the baby book, it becomes a time capsule of sorts. I can’t help but wonder, who is it, exactly, that will someday be reading this? Writing to a future version of my little boy has become a fascinating writing exercise. After all, as I tell of our life together – peppered with bits of my own inner happenings – I’m not really sure of my audience. It certainly won’t be the one-and-a-half year-old whom I currently know so well who reads the words that I write today. Will he be in elementary school, when he takes an interest in his baby book? Or will he be a teenager? For all I know, he won’t read a word until he’s a father himself.

Perhaps, the most interested party will end up being none other than a doddering, old, white-haired me. But I guess that’s the kind of the point with a time capsule. I’m documenting the present, for one never truly knows what the future will bring.

 

 

Vocab

IMG_6963.JPGLittle Dude is 18 months old this week, and his language retention has officially reached sponge-like proportions. Not only does he now parrot everything that we say, but each day a few new words stick. Yesterday, the catch of the day happened to be, “I love you.” (Yes, seriously.) And today, even before noon, he added “flip-flops,” and “bar” to his vocabulary. (He’s using the latter as if preceded by “granola,” rather than “dive,” or so at least I hope.)

Recently, I documented a list of the words that he’s mastered so far. Given the amount of time that my sidekick spends by my side, I can’t help but wonder what it says about me. (Then again, he often says da, instead of “yes” – thanks to his grandmother – so he’ll be linguistically well-rounded.)

  • Daddy
  • Doggie
  • Car
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Blueberries
  • Apple
  • Thank you
  • No
  • Yes (“ya!”)
  • Da
  • Happy
  • Hi
  • Bye bye
  • Baby
  • Agua
  • Coffee
  • Achoo!

Luckily, as you see, there are no curse words on the list – at least not yet. But it’s probably time to start watching my fucking language.

Happy

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Yesterday, as we were putting our shoes on for our afternoon adventure, Little Dude looked at me, smiled contentedly, and said – for the first time, mind you – “happy.”

Needless to say, I melted. And moreover, at a moment when life is certainly not without its challenges, I experienced a sense of gratification that is difficult to express. At 17 months, he still has fewer words at his command than he does fingers. So, as I figure it, the fact that he’s managed to wrap his little mouth around “happy” before learning even “no” must mean I’m doing something right. Right?

Words have a high value in our household, so I took pains to make sure that I was properly understanding my small sidekick. “You’re telling me you’re happy, bud? You’re excited to go to the beach with Daddy?”

“Happy.” He said again, with that grin on his mug. There was no mistaking it – and no denying the rush that I felt. This stay-at-home-parent gig, like any other, has its daily ups and downs. And sometimes, the lows can be seriously low. But that smile is the most valuable paycheck I’ve ever received.