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.

 

 

No!

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Suddenly, it seems like every other word out of my mouth is, “No.” (The alternate word is still “Fuck;” I’m finding that one to be a tough habit to break.)

I’d been warned that this day would come. My older sister once said to me, “Just wait for it, one day you’ll see. Once they start moving, they know exactly where you don’t want them to go and what you don’t want them to touch. And that’s what they want to do more than anything in the world.”

That day has come. Little Dude has progressed well beyond the “baby” stage and into “toddler,” a word that is apparently synonymous with, “NOOOOOOOO! GET AWAY FROM THERE! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING??? (And sometimes, as the above photo indicates, “NO, HONEY, GET BACK HERE, YOU CAN’T GO BEHIND THE BAR!”)

This kid is simply into everything, and does not enjoy being still. Diaper changing has become a logistical nightmare – I could use a whole other set of arms just to pin his limbs down while I make the switch. (I occasionally need to interrupt Mommy’s work day to call her in for reinforcements.) And – I tremor as I write these words – yesterday, he figured out how to climb onto the couch.

God help me. I think I’m unlikely to stop cursing anytime soon.

Sprint

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I’ve been taking some heat for slacking on this blog recently, and while the harshest of it has of course been self-inflicted, it’s always a pleasant surprise to learn that there are in fact other folks out there who give a shit. (To those reading this – thank you!! Especially if you’re not even related to me.)

It’s Thanksgiving week, and there really is a lot going on. At Le Metro we’re preparing to release our annual sparkling wine collection, and we’re super pumped for our Champagne Masquerade party, coming up next Friday. (Tickets are still on sale here!) I’ve also been doing some fun writing for upcoming issues of Edible San Diego and Riviera, and honestly, I’m not sure how I managed to hit a single deadline. You see, there’s one critical development on the home front that’s made it impossible for me to even sit down:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Little Dude is walking. (Actually, as this post has been delayed by several weeks, he’s already trying to run away from me.)

I tell you, it’s pure madness over here. Along with the rapid evolution from monkey to human being that I’ve witnessed has come a noticeable (and frightening) increase in self-confidence. This kid is one, going on sixteen. All of a sudden he knows exactly what he wants at any given moment and will settle for nothing less. He lays claim to household items and places them where he wants them. He reaches for doorknobs, among other things. And when he doesn’t get what he wants, he throws himself on the floor and shrieks at the top of his lungs.

This scene is exactly as pleasant as it sounds – meaning not so much – although when I’m feeling more-or-less balanced his fits are a nice source of laughter. For of course there is a silver lining: in between tantrums, I’m having the time of my life. We can actually take a walk around the block together now – albeit extremely slowly – and our morning bike rides to the playground are a magical way to start the day.

I almost never make it to the gym anymore, but that’s ok. Although I’ve never been much of a runner, I now spend most of the day sprinting.