The Obligatory (now) Bi-Annual Post.

IMG_0354

Self portrait: Frida Pentland.

The thing about writing a parenting blog about having a new baby at 45 – now 46 – is that you have no time to write a parenting blog at all. Kids take up pretty much all of your time. Especially if they can’t do literally anything for themselves.

Sure, she has a mother who deals with almost everything, but I would feel guilty if I just sat around all day blogging about parenting, when I haven’t been doing a whole lot of the actual parenting. So by not blogging about parenting, I’m actually being a better parent.

And let’s not forget there are still the other two kids, who I deal with half the week. The rest of the week they’re with their mother. So I deal with them half of the week, or half of the time of half of the week, as their step-mother (the mother of the baby) tends to “step” in when things get too much for me with the bigger two. Which is often. So I’ll round down to parenting them half the time of half the time of half the week that we have them.

Regardless, I like blogging, and need to do more of it. I used to do it every day, but I was paid for that. This? Not so much. Ergo, not so much blogging. Still, there’s no point in having a parenting blog if you don’t blog on it…at least twice a year.

Baby Frida is almost 12 months now. She’s mobile and vocal. That’s not to suggest she knows where she’s going, or what the noises she’s making mean. Actually, to be fair, she does know where the dog’s water bowl is, and how to crawl there as quickly as possible from wherever she is, at any time, to douse her clothes in whatever dregs of saliva and food particles the dog has left for her.

She and the dog have developed a symbiotic relationship. Meaning that we feed the baby food, which she in turn feeds to the dog. At first we weren’t aware of this arrangement, until we realized that Frida’s fingers were always weirdly clean, no matter how sticky or messy the food we served her. Also, the dog has become fat.

She also announces everyone’s entrance into a room with a loud, excited blast of recognition – although I tend to receive a somewhat subdued “it’s just him again” grunt.

Frida’s 1st birthday is days away. She just missed sharing it with Jesus, except he was most likely actually born in September, like me. I’m not making comparisons to myself and Jesus, but this blog could use some traction, especially with the lack of posts. So, in closing, Jesus and I are almost the same person.

(Note: No word of a lie, the second I finished writing that, Frida conked me on the head with a bottle of paediatric Motrin. And here we thought she wasn’t religious.)

(Also: Turns out this was my 7th post this year. Here’s to 7 more next year!)

Long time no blog – plus 9 THINGS MY KIDS DO THAT DRIVE ME CRAZY!!

Wow! Have I been so lazy that I haven’t written anything in almost 5 months?! To be fair, I have been working a little here and there, playing some shows, finishing up producing an EP for friends, and writing a bit over at TheLoop.ca. Oh, and raising a (now almost) 6-month-old baby.

Yep, 6 months. It flashes by, and then one day you remember you started a blog to chronicle it all, and were too busy to actually write anything. Well, busy is stretching it. There’s a lot of napping (mainly me), walking, carrying, and shushing. Plus there are two other kids to contend with, and as they get older, they need just as much attention.

One thing that we managed to pull off was travelling to California to play the Coachella festival. The older kids stayed in Toronto with their mother, but Laurel and I took little Frida with us, and stayed in a lovely gated community in Indian Wells. It was amazing, although I missed my other kids. Nevertheless, Frida was very well suited to California, and hopefully there will be more of that in the future.

As the summer gradually comes to a boil, I’ll have more to write about, as 6-month-olds are a lot more fun than baby lumps of pee and screaming. For now, here’s a piece I wrote a while ago that I didn’t publish anywhere:

 

Sticking out tongue

9 THINGS MY KIDS DO THAT DRIVE ME CRAZY

-note: that is not a picture of any of my kids, they’re too angelic-

Unlike most people, I love my kids. That’s just who I am. They are the apple of my eye, the sunshine of my life, and yet often the bane of my existence. Sometimes the apple of my eye is actual apple juice in my eye, and no one really likes direct sunshine, it causes wrinkles from squinting, and eventually melanoma.

Raising children is not an exact science, especially since they seem to effortlessly throw curve ball after curve ball at you, completely oblivious to your scrambling to keep up. Here are 9 things that my kids do that drive me crazy.

1. Talking – Remember your kid’s first word? Me neither. Whether it’s talking too loud, or using an annoying fake voice, they don’t stop talking now. Try having a conversation with anyone about anything. My kids are all over it, often with no idea what the subject is, and therefore needing everything explained, despite the fact that what ever you’re talking to the other adult about is way over my kids’ heads, and of no interest to them. It’s either that, or they just erupt into conversation right through what you are already talking about.

2. Forgetting – Want to know what your kids did in school today? Well, you’re out of luck, because they don’t remember. After all, it was almost a half-an-hour ago. “How was school?” I ask. “Good,” is the usual answer. “What did you do today?” “I don’t remember.” It’s a mystery.

3. Remembering – Like forgetting, except the opposite, my kids always seem to remember things at the very last minute that they should have mentioned hours or even days before. They are parented over two households, so it’s an even bigger problem, because you assume that the other parent or step-parent is on top of things. Often none of us are, and you’re at the mercy of an 8-year-old’s memory, which seems to flash on and off like a faulty engine light. Is there a problem? Maybe, but because the light just flashes every so often, you don’t bother to look into it until it’s too late. Ergo the mad dash to get said kid to school as her fellow students are boarding the bus for that class trip she just mentioned a minute ago. And that includes running to an ATM to get the required fee that was due two weeks prior.

4. Clothing – Who looks great in sweat pants? Apparently every child, according to my 11-year-old son. That’s why he will never, ever wear anything else from the waist down. It’s a bigger struggle to get him to tie his shoes, because it adds “hours” of extra time to his day, such is the complexity of the double knot. And that winter jacket that he had to have because it was going to be soooo cold this winter, and this particular brand could survive sub-arctic temperatures with ease? Well, despite a polar vortex, now it’s way too hot. Hot enough, apparently, that my son is actually, physically “boiling” when he has to wear it zipped up. His words.

5. Sleeping – Or lack thereof. You know the phrase “early to bed, early to rise?” Well how about “late to bed, late to rise, unless it’s the weekend, then way too early to rise?” Every single night it’s a struggle to get both my kids into bed. It’s not like they’re forced to go to sleep before the sun is down. Bedtime is 8:30, which usually means 9, and we try to keep to that. But between wanting that one extra page of a story, to needing fresh water…which leads to needing to pee again, to the “I hate school…” meltdown just as I’m reaching for the light switch, they must think I’m desperate for them to leave me alone. And I kind of am. Of course, the next morning is a hassle trying to get them out of bed. Unless it’s the weekend, in which case they’re up and watching TV before the sun rises, gradually making more and more noise, until you finally have to drag yourself out of bed and tell them to keep it down, which means you’re now up, and annoyed already.

6. Suffering – If your child has a fever, they stay home from school. That’s a no-brainer. But what about those illnesses that don’t have any real symptoms: the sore tummy, or the headache? It would be so much easier if whatever body part was actually irritated would glow red. But they don’t, and so you have to take your kids’ word for it some times, and hope that keeping them home is the right thing to do. After all, you wouldn’t want to be the parent who sends their child to school, only to have them rushed to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. At the same time, it seems the moment the bell has rung all those blocks away at school, the tummy or headache are suddenly replaced by an overwhelming need to watch television and get the dog all worked up.

7. Needing – How many handheld gaming devices does one 11-year-old boy need? All of them. As soon as they are on the shelves, forever. The fact that he rarely gets any of these devices only seems to stoke the neediness all the brighter. Of course sometimes the whining pays off. Sometimes you give in. Usually around a birthday or Christmas, but then it’s too late. Another device has been updated, or introduced, and the campaign starts all over again. You can substitute anything for a gaming device, and the older they get, the higher the price tag will be.

8. Fighting – They’re either fighting with you or with each other, but make no mistake: not a day will go by without some sort of explosion. The older they get, the more vicious the arguing gets, as if they secretly research words and phrases that sting all the more when uttered in a calm, even tone. While my kids rarely lash out physically, the odd kick or punch has connected, and landed one or both of them in deep poop. But it’s the insults that hurt more, and trying to get them to think about being on the receiving end of these attacks is one of the toughest, yet important jobs of a parent.

9. Eating – You have to do it to survive, but if it were up to my kids, the world would subsist of BBQ chips and Coca Cola. Not that they get much of either of these as it is. Healthy eating is only on the table because they’re vegetarians, and so most fast food isn’t an option. But that doesn’t diminish the need for candy and other treats that rot teeth and spike blood sugar. And when they actually have proper food, they are always mysteriously full within the first few bites. Then, minutes after they’ve been discharged from the dinner table, they’re starving again. It’s the endless circle of life, played out to the beat of a soft drink commercial.

I’m teaching my left-handed kids to play right-handed guitar

Marsh Guitar 2

Two of my three children were born left-handed – we don’t know what hand their baby sister will favour. What this means is that they tend to prefer doing most manual tasks with their left hand, more so than their right. They write, for instance, with their left hand, drink with their left hand, play sports favouring their left hand and foot, and punch much much harder with their left hand.

About 10% of the world is left-handed, although many can do a lot with both hands. This number is said to be increasing, and lefties as a group historically have produced an above-average number of high achievers. Many scientists agree, however, that there is little evidence that there is a difference in intelligence between right and left-handed people in general.

I’m teaching my left-handed kids to play right-handed guitar. In fact, you could say I’m flat out forcing them to play right-handed guitar. Why? Economics, for the most part.

Being a professional (right-handed) guitarist in the band Sloan, I have amassed a collection (12-14) of guitars. So I have enough, and don’t see the point in starting a whole new collection of left-handed guitars, which are generally harder to find and more expensive.

Now, before you go pointing fingers calling me a me “sidist,” consider that guitars are one of the only instruments made specifically for either lefties or righties. Nearly every other instrument is made in one style, and not necessarily because 90% of the world is right-handed. For instance, it is possible to buy a left-handed piano, but I’ve never seen one.

The guitar was historically made with the neck pointing to the left because the guitar was picked by the fingers on the right hand, and fretted by the fingers on the left. Much like a piano, both hands were put to work almost equally. By the 20th century, strumming had become popular, so the dominant rhythmic hand was the one strumming. That meant that, if you were right-handed, you would strum with your right hand.

Jimi Hendrix is perhaps the most famous left-handed guitarist, taking a regular right-handed guitar and simply turning it upside down and restringing it to suit. Other notable left-handed players are Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Paul McCartney, Iggy Pop, and Justin Bieber.

You might think that I have left off (get it?) one of the most famous left-handed guitarists, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Cobain was an interesting player because he was actually right-handed, but played left-handed guitar. When he was growing up, the only guitar in his home was left-handed, and so that’s what he learned on. He wrote and played drums with his right hand. In fact Hendrix was also right-handed, and could actually play both right and left, but playing lefty certainly helped him to stand out.

To back me up I compiled a list for my kids of lefties who play right-handed: B.B. King, David Bowie, Noel Gallagher, Joan Jett, Joe Perry, Paul Simon, Billy Corgan, and Mark Knopfler. They claim to have never heard of any of them.

So, for the most part, I’m being frugal, more than cruel. I have some pretty nice guitars, and although my kids aren’t allowed to touch any of those, I also have some work-horse guitars that I don’t mind getting a few greasy chip finger prints on every now and again. They mix well with the beer stains and cigarette burns (not from me – I quit that habit many years ago).

I have even bought them a “short-scale” Squire stratocaster, which is basically a smaller version of a regular electric guitar, and fully functional. It sounds great, especially through my Marshall micro-stack, which is – you guessed it – a small version of a regular Marshall stack. It’s all kid-sized, and conducive to small hands (8 and 11-years-old respectively) making big noises.

So far, protests have been minimal, although constantly showing them how to hold, strum, fret, and pick the damn thing has been a challenge. As for their “playing,” that has been limited to wildly strumming all the strings at the same time, with very little attention played to melody. Or neighbours.

Marshall Guitar

All music is bad, yet all music is great.

katy-perry-super-bowl-sharks

A few months ago I posted about how my kids weren’t into punk rock, despite my attempts to show them how that music had influenced me for the better.

I received comments on various social media platforms ranging from “I know what you mean,” to “I worry about the music my kids listen to.” The latter sentiment basically boiling down to, “I don’t like the music my kids listen to, and I want to guide them to music of ‘substance,’ or ‘quality.’” Meaning: “my kids listen to Katy Perry, but they should be listening to the Beatles.”

Of course they shouldn’t…or at least not if they don’t want to.

This isn’t to suggest that the music of Katy Perry is somehow more valuable than that of the Beatles, or the Kinks, or Randy Newman, or Led Zeppelin, or whatever the hell else you want to throw in there. It’s just that kids need to be kids, and find their own way to music they appreciate. If the Kinks are good, chances are they’ll find them.

When I was a kid it was “Disco sucks!” Not really. Most of it might have, but that was down to the individual. Then it was “Rap is crap!” Never mind that the morons making this proclamation were unknowingly rapping as they said it. Heavy metal was demonic, with bands ingeniously writing lyrics that somehow said “let’s party!” when played forwards, and “kill everyone in Satan’s name!” when played backwards. Didn’t happen. Grunge got a pass because somehow all that flannel and ripped denim reminded people of Neil Young, and for whatever reason that was a good thing.

There are all sorts of socio-political and cultural reasons why people argue about the value of one form of music over another. Race can play a part in it; rap music, like jazz, heralded an age where a spotlight was focussed on the social plight of black North Americans in a way that some deemed dangerous. Public Enemy using the silhouette of a black man in the crosshairs of a rifle scope as their logo was a powerful image set to a funky beat that damned The Man, despite the fact that increasingly The Man’s kids were the ones buying their albums and rapping along.

Likewise, country music reinvented itself as it absorbed and white-washed pop, becaming “New Country,” modernizing a genre often associated with the quaint and the traditional. To believe the critics, it was like a folksy wood cabin morphed into a Walmart, from gingham and dungarees to star-spangled everything through a straightening iron.

Punk was the subversive underdog, until it started filling arenas at $100 a ticket. And Lenny Kravitz got 40 seconds during the Super Bowl half time show to air-band the intro to – you guessed it – a Katy Perry song.

We often associate the quality of music with historical context. Whether a song evokes memories of a time in history or a time in your life, what that time means to you can have a bearing on how you judge the song. Unfortunately most people remember their high school years as the best of their lives. I often talk to Sloan fans about what their favourite album of ours is, and more often than not I can already tell judging by their age. Older fans will pretty much always name one of our first records, and younger fans will be less familiar with those older albums. We see it when we play shows. If we play a club, it’s usually a younger crowd and they will react strongly to newer material, stuff that has been played on the radio in recent years. When we play seated theatres, it’s usually older fans, and they will react to the older songs more strongly. There’s no reason for older fans not to know the newer stuff, and they might, but they have a fondness for the older songs, even if the band cringe at the immaturity of the writing from that time.

All music is at once worthless and vital. Songs are just chords and lyrics, generally repeating the same traditional sentiments, re-interpretted by often over-hyped, over-paid, and manufactured stars all around the world. Yet they can have an immeasurable impact on any and everyone at some point in their lives, no matter what the songs are. So it is entirely possible that a Katy Perry song can have as much resonance on a soul as a Lennon and McCartney song.

For me, despite the fact that – or maybe because – I make music for a living, I have a different relationship with it than most. “What are you listening to these days?” is something I’m asked almost every time I do an interview, and usually the answer is “Nothing really.” And it’s often true. I don’t listen to the type of music that I play and write, for the most part, in the same way that an accountant doesn’t rush home to use his calculator at the end of the day. I have spent my time learning the craft of songwriting, and found my niche, but that doesn’t mean that I am jaded, or over music. It’s just that I often want to listen to stuff that I wouldn’t make, in the same way that the accountant wants to listen to music as opposed to…people counting. That doesn’t mean that I’m a classical buff, or a fan of New Country. It just means that I see music as something of a tool, and so I don’t value it in the same way that someone who doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of how it’s created, yet it envelops them.

Because of this relationship with music, I can see the value of even the most inane, even vilified songs. As I stated above, most pop music, when broken down, is just a basic chord structure, melody line, and lyrics. It is what the artists and producers skin it with that makes it unique, for better or worse. We see this, for instance, when a pop star covers a song deemed a classic, and the world screeches “sacrilege!”

Britney Spears covering the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” is an example. It’s the same lyrics, chords, and melody as the original, but it does not evoke the same reaction. It is how Spears and her producers present the song that makes it horrible. Mind you, the original isn’t that great either, but you get the idea. So to criticize one artist over another, while being perfectly understandable, is generally all about personal taste. And personal taste, while perhaps pliable, is something that your kids should be allowed to develop for themselves. Exposing them to music you like is fine, but restricting or discouraging them from listening to what they like doesn’t steer them towards anything but resentment, and ultimately to second guess things that they enjoy.

So when my kids ask me to turn on one of the many radio stations that I can’t stand, I don’t worry about what it is that they are listening to, I’m just glad that they want to listen at all. They will decide what they like or don’t like as they grow, as I did, as everyone does.

So I have another kid now.

Frida:Fred1

My daughter, Vera Frida M. Pentland, was born on December 27, 2014. She goes by Frida, as far as we can tell. She barely responds when we say her name, preferring instead to either sleep or eat, basically ignoring everything else. If you threw in an Xbox and a bag of chips, she’s pretty much just like her older siblings.

Her mother took her sweet old time having her too, clocking in at 56 hours of labour, including making me drive her all over town at all hours, from home, to birth centre, to a hospital. Needless to say, things didn’t go according to our birth plan, but everything worked out in the end, and one month later baby and mom are doing great.

So now I officially have three kids. It’s been almost 8 years since the last one was born, and while some things are coming back to me (the quick-change diaper maneuver, opening a bottle of wine with one hand while rocking a baby with the other), some things have definitely changed. For instance, it seems that strollers are actually made to be harder to open as time goes on. When I was a baby, they didn’t fold up at all. When my son was born 11 years ago, it was a flip and a slip and a bang and you were on your way. Now I seem to have missed the classes needed to operate the damn thing at all, and practice does not make perfect in this case. The brake seems to always be on, and the beer holder attachment barely fits a take-out coffee cup.

Not only is the stroller a puzzle to fold and unfold, but it comes with a bassinet that somehow attaches to it, and that my daughter hates, if her screeching is anything to go by. In fact, she doesn’t seem to like travelling at all, unless it’s in my arms and my back is about to give out. With my other two kids, the only time they would nap was if I was driving them around, usually on the highway, at great financial cost given the price of gas at those times. Now gas is crazy cheap, and this one hates being in the car.

My older kids have been great with the new addition, and are constantly eager to hold her. Neither of them are eager to change her, however, just as they both physically gag if I ask them to take the dog out in case she poops and they have to pick it up. I’ve even said they could use a plastic bag on their hands, but still it’s a no-go in both cases.

Nevertheless, the three of them are getting along – or at least the two older kids are getting along with the new one. They are definitely not getting along with each other, but that is a given, and something that we have been trying to figure out. With a new addition comes new rules, or new ways of handling things. Trying to get the older sibs to pitch in a little bit more, but not making it seem like their lives have become so much worse with a new sister, is the goal. It could be very easy for them to see the baby getting all the attention, and their stepmother and I have been trying to make sure that they are involved in things, despite the fact that “things” right now involve a lot of poop and spit-up – from the baby, let’s be clear. For the record, I take care of my own poop and spit-up.

We have allotted them some new chores, simple tasks like making their beds in the morning and picking out clothes the night before. This was met with the expected outrage and venom, as if asking an 11-year-old to feed a dog every morning is tantamount to making him rebuild a car engine blindfolded. Hopefully this new world order will stick. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I ain’t raisin’ no princess.

Carrie-Fisher-Star-Wars-618x400What is up with dads referring to their daughters as princesses? Unless they are, in fact, the fathers of actual princesses. Those guys get a pass, but what about all the hundreds of thousands of other dads who are not royalty, yet use the term? Is this even legal?

I get that your daughter is super-special, someone you feel is precious and are loyal to. I also have a daughter (with another one on the way). I understand that feeling of protection and affection. I also feel it for my son. Yet I have never found the need to use royal terminology to describe either of them.

My daughter’s aesthetic is not very “girly.” She doesn’t like pink, or frilly. Nor is she prone to donning tiaras or succumbing to bouts of the vapours when flustered. This is not to suggest that she is a “tomboy,” because that term is misleading and sexist. I’m also not suggesting that there would be anything wrong if she was “girly” either. She’s just not.

She likes to wear her older brother’s hand-me-downs, and while this has not been actively encouraged, it is economically pleasing to me. But that’s about it. I don’t really care how she dresses, except that, like anyone, I can tell that she is conscious of the image she puts forth. I know that she feels uncomfortable wearing dresses, for instance, because she will never wear one. This doesn’t disappoint me, because I don’t care. But I feel I might be in the minority when it comes to these things, at least if the mass media is the yardstick by which I should be measuring all things in my life.

For instance, when my daughter gets married (if she even does, or if there is marriage at all in the future…on the space station EARTH 2.0), what is up with me “giving” her away? Sure, legally I own her, but only half. Her mother has dibs on the other half, and I’m not sure who ended up with which end. But traditionally the dad gives away the bride in a wedding scenario, and I don’t know how I feel about that. I never want to actually give her away because I always want her to be in my life. And while I recognize that kids grow up and leave the nest, it’s not likely that she would be climbing into her covered wagon and setting out to discover the Wild West. Even if she did, I’m fairly certain they have wifi out there now, or at least spotty cell reception.

Getting back to the princess thing, I suppose you can call your kid whatever you want, really. Words and labels have power, and the idea of a princess can be different things to different people. Some think of someone special and irreplaceable. Others think of the damsel in distress, waiting for a brave knight to save her. And others think of a feisty, no nonsense, get the job done lady with bagels on either side of her head. Who am I to judge? I just don’t feel comfortable with the connotation that my daughter is anything other than who she is. Sure, she’s as valuable to me as I can imagine, but she’s her; she’s her own person, and I want to encourage that. I’ll always be there for her, but part of watching your kids grow up is watching them become independent, and using nicknames like “princess” or “not you, the other one” can help or hinder that sense of identity and independence. She’s already well on her way at 7, and I’m pretty sure she’ll be running the whole show around here by 17.

It goes without saying, however, that if she (or her soon-to-be-born sister) does some day become an actual, for-real princess, I’m fine with just a little castle somewhere over on the edge of whichever kingdom she marries into. Maybe I’d take a dragon to get around on, and some cool looking armour (think Stormtrooper – Star Wars, not Nazi – but maybe shinier).

Kids cost money…lots.

Money baby

As I have stated in the past, I am approaching fatherhood for the third time, and I’m 45. My currently-existing, already-born kids are only 7 and 10, but given that another one is on the way, I’m basically treating them like they are already grown and out the door.

It’s not like I’m eager to get rid of them at all (and legally I can’t), it’s just that kids cost money, as unromantic as that sounds, but so do babies. Big time. And this is something that I hadn’t really been thinking about when I “agreed” to have another one. Well, I might have mentioned the astronomical cost of raising a child once or twice or every time the subject came up, but that was always shut down by a random combination of facial expressions, emotional cues, or verbal persuasions, sometimes accompanied by minutely implied physical threats.

I’m not suggesting that my (much younger and stronger) wife blackmailed me into having a baby in my almost-twilight years. It’s just that she let it be known that this could, in fact, be my twilight year if I didn’t get with the program.

So, with the cost of camps, and tutors, and clothes, and various candied confections, I am adding cribs, and strollers, and nursing pillows to the list of expenses that no one celebrates in pre-natal classes when they tell you all about the miracle of child birth.

Of course, you don’t need any of these things. Millions of years have passed without the need for a nursing pillow, although the fact that there is almost no evidence of dinosaurs using them, and there are basically no dinosaurs left, could be used in a pro-pillow argument.

The same goes for strollers. I could argue, for instance, that babies don’t really need to be mobile until you salute them as they march out the door to kindergarten. I mean, isn’t that what we have dogs for? I’m already dropping some $150 a month on organic, grain-fed, non-GMO food for a beast that I then shell out some $1000 a year on medication because it can’t stop eating sticks and rotting carcasses every time I’m not looking. Just strap the baby to that thing and make it work for its penicillin.

Ok, maybe a stroller can come in handy. I suppose we need something filling up the trunk so groceries have to be squeezed in the back seat between the two bigger kids and the car seat ($$) for the new one. Which means a bigger car ($$$). Practicality dictates a minivan. My wife dictates “no way.” Of course.

Am I the only one who thinks that babies should be wrapped in paper for the first year of their lives? What’s the point in buying clothes made of actual cloth? They grow constantly, from what I remember. You burn through onesies almost as fast as diapers…which, I’m being told, will be cloth as well. Which means I’m expected to master the twists and turns of the cloth diaper, and the accompanying diaper cover, or whatever it’s called. I’ve been through this before, and needless to say, when I’m on duty (not going for the pun) I’ll be sneaking disposables (non-chlorinated) under the diaper cover. “I seriously have no idea how that got on there…I’m pretty sure the dog might have done it.”

I may be exaggerating a tad with all of this. It’s natural, at least for me, to expect the worst, or bemoan the inevitable. The world is against me, and only I can carry its burden. The truth, of course, is that none of this really matters next to a healthy, happy wife. And baby.

Of course, you can substitute the word “wife” with any number of terms, depending on your situation. No matter what type of partnership, sexual background, race, creed, or age you are, we all want the same thing: a happy, quiet baby that won’t bug us. If that means doling out thousands of dollars, and going without yet another new Xbox, or making do with the last, stupid version of the iPhone, so be it.

 

“We’re pregnant!” No, she’s pregnant.

We're Pregnant!

“We’re pregnant!”

All too often I hear couples that are expecting a baby announce, or let slip in conversation, that they are, in fact, expecting a baby. “We’re pregnant,” they say, with a little squeeze or a hug, and smile as they look into each others’ eyes for a brief second, sharing a bond that only they can know, while a cashier waits a beat before asking if they collect Air Miles, and want a plastic bag for the Anusol, Doritos, and pickled onions they dashed out to the pharmacy at midnight to buy.

Great news. Couldn’t be happier. But you don’t need a bag for three things, and I too am at said pharmacy, waiting in line, so hurry up and get going. It’s late, and my own pregnant wife is also craving Doritos.

There are differences between a couple having a baby, and a couple being pregnant. While both soon-to-be parents are changing, those changes are not the same.

The main difference is that, while I may be indulging in a few more Doritos and pickled onions than I usually would, and have noticed a slight increase in my midriff, it is nothing compared to that of my wife. This is in large part because I don’t have an actual human being growing inside me.

You see, I am not also pregnant. I do have things growing in my stomach: excitement, anxiety, flora, and maybe the odd parasite. No kids, though. No fetus, no placenta.

Yet people keep saying it: “It might be a little soon, but…we’re pregnant!” Cue screams and high-fives all around.

Maybe the idea is that there is a sharing of both the good and the bad during this time. “We’re pregnant, we’re going through this together.” It’s true that we will be having a baby together (the good), but let’s face it, the majority of the “having” involves extraction through extreme means (the bad), and will not physically effect me beyond a severely squeezed hand (also bad). My vagina will not be stretched to its limits (good), because I don’t have one.

It could be argued that this is all just semantics. Having a child is a life-long experience for both parents. The fact that the actual, physical act of giving birth is down to one of us is really just a sliver of time in our lives. But what a sliver.

And it’s not just the whole birth/stretching of private parts/potential complications and surgeries etc. that set mother apart from father. There is a bond that, whether fathers want to admit it or not, is always there between a child and their mother. Sure, I have seen this bond blossom into an explosive cocktail of anger and resentment, but it’s there nonetheless.

This isn’t to suggest that fathers don’t have their own bond with their children, because they certainly do. It’s just that, due to the pre-existing bond between mother and child, which is more symbiotic, fathers are usually able to engage the “go ask your mother” protocol, as clearly that bond is traditionally seen as taking precedent. And, of course, at some point father and child become one in the same; it’s her sand box, we’re all just playing in it, kicking sand around and making a mess that we’ll have to clean up later. Except, of course, we won’t clean it up “properly,” and she’ll just have to do it again anyway.

But I digress.

So, in closing: while I’m not trying to preach to anyone, think twice before announcing that the two of you are pregnant. The two of you are having a child together, for sure, but only one of you can bend over and pick things up.

 

Note: While this post is about expectant parents in a relationship, I am not suggesting that only people in that situation will experience the joys and frustrations of having and raising children. People from all backgrounds, orientations, and status can make great parents, and may find some truths in here as well.

Hey Internet, thanks for telling me how to raise my kids, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it covered

FirePlay1

I get the irony of having a parenting blog, and then complaining about other blogs telling me how to be a parent. To be clear, I don’t intend this blog to be a how-to guide for doing anything, but more my take on things, based on my own experiences and opinions. Hopefully you will see some of your own life in here, and maybe things I’ve dealt with might help you in the future. For instance, both my kids are left-handed. I am not. So, there are situations where that difference has come up (buying a left-handed vs. right-handed guitar, or should lefties be treated as “normal”), and I will write about that.

I hate Facebook. I am on Facebook, but I do not like it. It’s not that I don’t value social media, and the interaction between people that it encourages. I hate how it sometimes turns some of my friends into blithering idiots. This is strong wording, I know, and I don’t even really mean it, but it got your attention, so… If you’re on the ‘Book, you know that, unlike Twitter (which I like better, and am more active on), people seem to use it as a platform to pontificate about some subject or other in a way that they would never do if they were engaging with you face to face.

Twitter has a limit to how much you can say in one post (tweet). Sure, you can link to longer pieces, and you can use services like TwitLonger that get around the 140 character restrictions, but for the most part, brevity is encouraged, and makes for a more to-the-point experience. Facebook, on the other hand, is endless. And for every pic of someone’s unimpressive dog or random leaf they just had to share, there’s a diatribe about what’s wrong with whatever, and here’s why, and “it wasn’t that way when we were kids,” and blah blah blah.

When it’s someone I know commenting on a popular or timely article, that’s one thing, but when it’s a friend asking, “What the f**k is a – insert new, hugely popular phenomenon that is meant to appeal to people much younger than said friend, and they know this, and also know full well what it is, but pose the question to seem just slightly out of the loop because they have more important things to think about, and want to make sure you know it -?” For instance: “What the f**k is a Skrillex?” I cringe, and quickly move on and try not to read any of the comments, most of which are from yet other friends who quickly pounce on modern culture, denigrating anything that they weren’t in on the ground floor for, and inevitably moan on about the Star Wars prequels and the inferior quality of mp3s.

So, what does this have to do with parenting? Since a good chunk of my friends are parents, I see lots of links to click-bait articles, quizzes, and lists about parenting that they all too often fall for, click on, and comment. And then I’m sucked in too. Such-and-such commented on a comment? Well, I have to see that original comment, and what they commented about it. After all, I may or may not agree with them or the comment they are commenting on. But wait, while I may or may not agree with my friend, all these other commenters are idiots! And I certainly don’t agree with this article, nor the random stranger who wrote it. Who are they to write about how they think things should be? They’re just some faceless blogger who I am now taking so seriously that I too may comment, and will most certainly address on my own blog!

Of course, it’s only made all the more attractive/infuriating if it’s being suggested that there is an appropriate way to raise my kids, and I am not adhering to it. Which is almost always. I’m not talking about common sense things like: “Don’t let your kids lick aloe vera off of their burned fingers.” Or: “Don’t let your kids put matches out with their fingers.” I mean more broader topics, like a very popular meme from earlier this year stating:

respect

Of course this is complete bulls**t. I know, because my parents spanked me, and while it’s true that I don’t actively go around disrespecting others, I don’t think being spanked taught me anything more than it hurts. But I had many people in my feed, people who I grew up with, some who have kids, and even some who don’t, give this meme the old “like” thumbs up. Really?! You hit your kids? In 2014? And you’re proudly, even smugly, advertising this to your friends, friends of friends, and I’m assuming in-laws and business associates?

My point is that these opinions are far reaching, can reflect back on you, and are generally not your idea in the first place. Sure, you may agree with the notion that kids shouldn’t get an award for simply showing up to a track meet or some other contest, but you didn’t write about it, you just “liked” it. And how much thought did you put into it? Teenagers don’t necessarily deserve trophies for showing up to a tournament, but maybe a 7-year-old would like a little ribbon for participating in their school’s track meet. Is that ribbon going to have a lasting impact on their lives? Will they expect to be pre-approved for a mortgage because one time years before they got a ribbon for something, and now everything should be handed to them for the rest of their lives? No. Don’t be such a friggin’ Grinch, she’s 7.

Think about the power that a successful meme or blog post can have. The ripples that expand across the Internet, reaching past your feed, your world, and out into the zeitgeist can drive traffic back to that blog. The more views a blog has the more attention it gets, and (theoretically) the more successful it is. The more successful, the more money it can generate. What posts get the most attention? The ones that convey the most outrageous ideas. Ergo: Hit your kids!

That the blogger actually believes what they are writing is almost inconsequential. The fact that they chucked it out there, and you caught and ran with it, with all your friends and followers running right behind you, is the goal, for the most part. It’s common sense. Sure, you’ll have people who are trying to be helpful, I suppose, but more often than not, they are “advising” because, let’s face it, they want you to know they “get it” a little bit more than you do. Even if “getting it” means knowing how to pull your strings. Plus, they know how to use WordPress.

A recent perusal of Facebook over the last few days yielded these gems:

Wearethatfamily.com claims that goodie bags given out at the end of Birthday parties are a no-no: “We take our kids to parties so they can give a gift, but they take a small one home so they won’t feel bad? It’s not their birthday. This concept of spoiling kids is temporary fun. It’s okay for them not to be the center of attention.”

While I agree that kids don’t always need to be the centre of attention, I would say that a goodie bag isn’t so much given so guests don’t feel bad, I think it’s more of a gesture of thanks for coming, and bringing a present. There’s nothing wrong with showing a little gratitude, which is something we can teach our kids by having them give out little gift bags at the end of their Birthday party.

Wearethatfamily.com also say that families “simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ.”

So, no goodie bags, and their children shouldn’t be as important as a carpenter turned magician who lived over 2000 years ago? I’m sure their kids feel the same way about the importance of their parents vs. Santa.

Huffingtonpost.com managed to cobble together a list of 11 Things Only Parents of Boys Will Understand.

For the examples in the list, think “girls don’t” in place of “boys do”: Girls don’t give the best hugs. Girls don’t think farts are funny. Girls aren’t physical. Girls don’t love unconditionally. What a load of sexist bulls**t. I understand that this is A. written by a person who doesn’t have a daughter, and B. on huffingtonpost.com, so it’s not to be taken seriously. Still, almost everything on this list can be applied to either sex. I don’t want to get too far into double standards, and I know this is a bit of fun, but as a parent of a girl, with another one on the way, the generalizing and attempt at being both cute and provocative negate the whole thing, rendering it an exercise in simply filling in space.

Yet I did click…

Dad Brains: From the Brains of a Dad

BrainsofaDad1

“I’m pregnant!”

I am not an early riser. So, hearing this bit of info a few months ago at 6 am was met with equal parts surprise and confusion.

“Oh. Are you indeed?” Gulp.

To be fair, it wasn’t actually a complete surprise. We had been “trying,” except, to my recollection, we had only tried once. But there it was, a line on a stick, and a whole new chapter in my life.

A little back story here: I am a professional musician, having played guitar, sung, written, and produced music for Canadian power-pop icons (not my words) Sloan since 1991. I have also written music blogs, entertainment news, opinion pieces, and parenting advice. I have two children, a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, from a previous marriage, and have just found out recently that I am having a third child, a girl. Oh yeah, I’m 45.

My wife is 15 years younger than me, and very good with kids. In fact, when I first met her 6 or 7 years ago (whose counting…well aside from her, of course), she was very keen to talk about her young nieces. After we moved in together, and my kids started spending more and more time with her, she quickly eased into their lives, and now we have a great blended family, where they refer to her as their step-mother, and she has become an active part in every aspect of their lives.

We get along great with their mother, and with 50/50 custody, the kids spend ½ the week (Monday, Tuesday, Friday nights, and Saturday afternoons) with us, and the rest (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday nights, and all day Sunday) with her. It can be complicated at times, but everyone has worked hard to make things happy and healthy for the children.

Now the balance is going to change a bit, as the new baby won’t be moving back and forth between the two homes. It will be something new for all of us, and a transition that we will have to navigate carefully so that everyone feels included and happy.

This is all well and good, but, as I said, I just turned 45. Having a baby at this point in my life, with two kids already milling about, wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but there is a certain degree of the unknown that can keep you up at night, staring into the darkness, calculating a decade or so more of daycare costs, high-chairs, strollers, car seats, clothes, food, water, and…air – because by the time this one hits 10, I’m sure we’ll be paying for that too. Thanks a lot Obama.

Nevertheless, life keeps moving forward, one day at a time. I had the same fears before my son was born, and before my daughter, and so far I haven’t had to sell even one of them. Plus, pretty soon I can send my son out to sell encyclopedias, or newspapers, or oranges, or whatever. I was 15 when I got my first job, and since they grow up so much faster these days, my math seems on point.

So, I have decided to chronicle my life as a new/old dad. Since I have written extensively about most other aspects of the entertainment world, and make rock music for a living, I’ll throw a bunch of stuff about all of that in there as well. Please enjoy, and comment when you feel like it.

PP