Staring at this Elephant

 For the past week or so my wife and I and my mother in law spend our evenings admiring and quizzically staring at a very large elephant in our proverbial room. We are going about life as usual, well almost. We are expecting our second child very soon. With this comes a heap of anticipation/excitement that makes us just wanna sit there and wait like a little kid for Christmas. But sitting there waiting isn’t gonna do anyone any good, and its definitely not going to make this baby show up any faster. So on with our day to day we go, realizing that we will drop everything at a moments notice, and enter that space where time and space have no meaning. Birth is All of the Emotional, and All of the Amazing, and All of the Breathtaking, and All of the Everything. I have never been a part of something so Incredible, and I cannot wait for this opportunity again. 

It makes it hard to not be a bit stressed and just downright antsy. We just do as we do, and say hi to this elephant periodically. This time we chose not to find out the sex of our child. This comes with some extra anticipation that I can’t quite get a handle on. I am so excited to see our child be born, and then I am so excited to see if we have  a son or daughter. I am not sure what to do with all the excitement. I feel two sources of wonder at the same time, they are so much the same, yet so different. First there is just the excitement of a new life. Then I want to know so bad whether we are having a boy or girl. 

With our daughter we/I was aching to know what we were having. My wife said that she wasn’t adamant that we know but I think she wanted to know just as much as I did. It’s an easy out to put that on me. I may have been very convincing on getting the info from the doc. I wanted something that I felt was a sure bet, so that I could let my mind wrap around what was to come. At least this is what I was telling myself the whole time. And to be honest I felt like it really helped to know that I was going to have a daughter. I didn’t really care about whether we would have the right color of clothes or paint the nursery the right color, since we lived in a 1 bedroom apt. But I did want to have just one little thing that seemed concrete-ish, because admittedly, I had no experience with babies, and knew that I was in for some serious learning.

Now that we have one child, and we know that we can keep a human alive, it is much easier to throw some caution to the wind and just wait it out. I am still happy we made this choice, but am dying to know what we are having. With this decision to not know comes a unique challenge/opportunity. We have gone back and forth over names for some time now. Our name conversation has never really stopped since our daughter. As we approach what we think are the final days before our next child arrives, I cannot help but think that one of these names will stay on the bench, and one will play. We have no idea on the sex, so we are basically there on the boys name, and closer I would say on the girls name. I already love them both, and haven’t even met our baby. So to not use one is gonna be a little strange. It’s crazy what you attach to. Its crazy the thoughts that you have, and what you can build up in your mind. I guess I try to stop my mind from racing about a boy, or racing about a girl. This raging river of thoughts is being held back by this dam that is a huge elephant that we have become so accustom to. We live with this big beautiful beast on the daily. I am not sure which way to turn my mind, I am really just not sure. All I know is the excitement is crazy, daily life seems all to trivial with the impending birth of a child.

Is tonight gonna be the night? Was that text the text? Is this contraction the one? Well then not if tonight, are we talking tomorrow? I come home at the end of the day, say hello to the elephant, I wake up in the middle of the night say hello to the elephant, I get ready to leave in the morning and say goodbye to the elephant for a few hours. My wife can’t sleep because of our toddler. Then she can’t sleep because the elephant keeps nudging her. Then our daughter falls asleep and the elephant wants to hang out. Then its morning and none of them slept. Then another day passes, and we all have our separate days, all the while thinking about the elephant in the room. We come together at the end of the day, and discuss any changes in the elephants demeanor, yet still the elephant is with us. This has been the past 10 days or so.

What a time! What a crazy time. I would not trade this for anything. This is the Good Stuff! These are the best times. I am simply trying to give you a small window into the experience. I hope by the time you read this we will be holding our little one. Maybe. Maybe we will still be hanging out awkwardly yet overwhelmingly excited.

2 years later commentary

Man, its crazy to go back and read this. I remember it like I am right back in that room looking at that elephant. You become so accustomed to it, and so enthralled in its presence. Massive props to my wife on her growing and carrying and birthing and feeding our girls with her glorious body. When this hits you as a man, and you process what actually happened, it grows a much deeper respect for the female body and your partner in this journey.

The build and the breadth of having children is crazy. The day you have reached in your journey seems to be as much excitement and stress and anticipation as you can handle. All the while knowing that the breadth of the growth you have realized has formed you into a new man. If you let yourself take stock of what is going on, which I highly recommend. I think you will have a much greater appreciation for what is going on. Seeing your wife with your child is incredible. Wait till you meet your child. Wait till your child opens his/her eyes and and meets the world, and meets you. Think of the magnitude of these moments.

Sitting there in your normal day, realizing that one of life's grandest moments is on your doorstep is crazy. At any point, maybe after the next breath, or the next time you blink, its time. I can tell you the anticipation makes this even better. The less you know, the better the experience in my opinion. I fully understand both sides, but waiting and truly not knowing is rarer and rarer in this life. This is one time where you can.

Let me tell you in hopes that you might actually take action. If this is you and you are waiting for your baby. Be in the room, actually be present with your wife. Enjoy this time. Step outside of the stress and realize that these days are numbered. Jot down some notes about how you feel. Make a video, take a picture. When I say "These are the best days of your life" I really mean it. There will be a day in some years you will look back and search the corners of your mind for the glory of these days, for the joy that was present in these days, with every moment. Just know that you are here. Take a note from a guy that has been there twice.


Expecting a baby is truly the peak of anticipation. Have your bag ready. But more importantly have your heart ready. Things are about to change. Be available for your wife, and let her know. The most important thing is that you are fully invested in the moment, your wife needs you, and so does your new baby. Write in the comments about your experience if you will I would love to hear about it.


Danny Lesslie

The Pearl Divers

Three years have gone by. Our family has grown in an exponential way. We have two beautiful daughters that fill our lives. I am eternally thankful and indescribably blessed in this life. I have never been filled with more love and gratitude. I cannot tell you that this journey has been easy, nor do I ever expect it to be. During these years, my wife and I decided I would be the one to work, and she would raise the girls. This has been quite the challenge in many ways.

Reconciling the chasm, to move forward together is quite the task. The daily reality for one is totally different than the daily reality of the other. Yet it is the same. Now we find ourselves at quite a juncture. My wife is amped to get back in the workforce, and I can’t blame her. I have nothing but respect and awe for what she has done in the past 3 years. It is incredible to watch a woman grow a baby, give birth to a baby, and feed a baby with her body. Then she turned around and went back for another.

Speechless and Grateful, is where I find myself.

Now we are beginning to change the roles a bit. I am taking a larger role caring for the girls, which is very new and pace-wise a huge change. I love it, and am seriously challenged by it. This is an area of tremendous growth for me. Lots of learning going on, with lots of questions, and first experiences. Frustration abounds, and when the dust settles, I find myself with a new lesson and an opportunity to grow. To be honest, allowing myself to slow down a bit, and just enjoy the time has been the greatest gift. The space has allowed some perspective, some much needed perspective. Reframing your life is sometimes exactly what you need. In my case, this is true.

My wife is super pumped to start working and pursuing her professional interests, and I couldn’t be more supportive. Caring for children all day can get a bit smothering. It can make you feel as if your life is not your own. Your personal interests seem set aside, and you are now in the backseat. This is quite a realization, a daunting one at times. After awhile it is easy to lose a sense of self. You don’t have to look very far to find some information on this topic, as everyone with children feels this a bit.

A close friend pointed me in the direction of Mark Nepo the other day. This man is incredible to say the least. Along with surviving cancer, he is a philosopher and a poet to the tune of 30 years. Below is his entry, and it provides quite a bit of context to a few parents raising children.

""We Must Take Turns”

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We must take turns, diving into all there is and counting the time.

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The gift and responsibility of relationship is to take turns doing the dishes and putting up the storm windows, giving the other the chance to dive for God without worrying about dinner. While one explores the inner, the other must tend the outer.

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A great model of this is how pearl divers search the deep in pairs. Without scuba tanks or regulators, one waits at the surface tending the lines tied to the other who soft-steps the sand for treasures he hopes he’ll recognize.

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He walks the bottom, watching the leaves of vegetation sway and sways himself till she tugs the cord. He swallows the little air left as he ascends. Aboard, they talk for hours, placing what was seen, rubbing the rough and natural pearl. In the morning, she dives and fills their baskets and the counts the time, hands wrapped around her line.

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Quite plainly, these pearl divers show us the work of being together and the miracle of trust. We must take turns: whoever is on the surface must count the air time left, so the one below can dive freely. "

Parenting is about growth, its about raising humans. To raise a human, you have to step outside yourself and think for them. One parent is responsible for the kids and the other goes out to pursue themselves. Yet both are part of the same journey. Being at home on both sides of this equation takes some work. I am finding this now.

Success in one area of your life does not lead to less value in other areas of your life. It grows you as a person. It makes you more whole. Don’t pay attention to the lack. Look forward to the opportunity for growth.

Let Go to Grow!

2 years later commentary

We are further down this road now. We have left our jobs and moved across country. My wife has continued down the career path and is navigating the ups and downs of full time work. I see it bothers her being away from the girls so much. I still feel the pull to work some so maybe our answer is some blend of us both working. We still are of the belief that we will take care of our children. Nothing can replace this time, no job, no amount of money, no babysitter or nanny. We firmly believe that investing our time in our children is the best thing we can do, for them and for us.

The days are long as my wife works 30 minutes from the house and we have 1 car currently. So we gather everyone up and make the journey together. It seems a bit much, but not having a car for 10 or so hours a day with 2 restless kids can get a bit rough on the sanity. Plus they enjoy spending the extra time with mom.

I have been searching for games and activities for the girls and this has really been challenging. Toddlers like to go from one thing to the next without cleaning up. I am constantly left in the wreckage of lego explosions and mini doll and dress-o-paloozas. The clean up song is literally a Godsend. The screen time temptation is real. There is something so tempting about finding an activity that consumes your kids, and seemingly takes the pressure off you for  a minute. But just as I think to myself and get cautioned by my wife, too much of this and control and attention start to be harder to gain. I literally notice a shift in my girls demeanor when the tv is on. They don't listen, they are short and distracted. You can see it, they almost appear to have become more powerful. Its a trip. Discussing amount of time with them beforehand seems to work very well. Define the boundaries and they do great. Just putting the tv on for relief makes it a bit harder to reconcile.

The financial game of switching jobs and roles gets a bit hairy as well. As the one making the money from before I always felt I had a sense of what was happening, now that I am not this person I couldn't feel more distant. We have really had to work on our communication. Multiple bank accounts, multiple people it takes check ins. For us once a week seems to have some success. Everyone is very different here, but the thread that links us all is systems and communication.

Can you attach today and right now to your direction and focus in life? This has been an important home base to operate from for us. Most things have been new that we experience. So does today make sense as a part of the journey or not? If it doesn't fit, we change it. If it seems to be some version of stripes we must earn along the way we stick it out. Some jobs just don't pan out. Its not about failing, its about finding your fit. Some activities with the girls just don't work out, its not a failure, we just look for new ones.

Watching your partner work their way through something your familiar with is quite the adventure. Because I have the exact same journey but completely different on this side. Truly being supportive can sometimes be a challenge, because I feel the other side of the blade as well. As the poem above says we must take turns. We must pursue our own lives, to be better partners. We must have space to grow. The greatest gift we have (our children) joins us. So we must alternate. There is a cadence to this, and we have been figuring it out.

My heart goes out to all the parents that are out working long days to make ends meet. My heart also goes out to the parent that stays home with the children. Both of these are valiant efforts, and for us its about closing the gap on the different experience. Our days are so different, but we are both driving at the same goal. Empathy and Communication are musts in our life. The days we have this present are much better than the ones where it may be lacking. The equation has many variables, but the constants have to be our connection and our availability for each other.

Danny Lesslie

Talk, Sing, Laugh, and Smile

If you go out there and read anything about having babies, and how to raise them. Talking, singing, laughing, and smiling to them are always recommended. The more interactions a baby can experience from his/her parents the better. Their brains are constantly developing, and with each day there are changes. At first the changes seem a bit slower, but after about 3-4 months, things start changing overnight. All the while they are taking information in their wildly growing minds.

Since day one, my wife and I have been doing all of these things with our daughter. Dancing has also been very commonplace in our household. I can only hope that all of those things have been helping her. Because we are not planning on stopping.

The best part about the whole thing is that it has really helped me. As a brand new dad, there are a  whole lot of “what the hell do I do” moments. When your holding a newborn baby, that has no experience, and is just simply breathing and observing, Anything is helpful. Talk to her, dance with her, laugh, sing, whatever. Before you know it, you are in the game. It almost doesn’t take any thought. Just do the thing. The songs that I sing to her, consist of words like “You should go to sleep, because your a baby and your tired.” Definitely not the most riveting of lyrics, and I have a terrible voice. When I talk or sing to her, my voice goes up like 5 octaves. But it works, and  it makes us both feel better.

This has been the biggest confidence builder for me. There is nothing worse than feeling that you cannot provide for a human that you are responsible for. And being frozen with uncertainty is a terrible place to be. Just interact, its all valuable for them, and who knows it might even make you feel like you have some stripes. It has done wonders for me.

2 years later commentary

These moments of having no idea what to do absolutely do not go away. They just ramp up in ferocity as they get older, and I am no where near done as our girls are still young. I am glad I have a few more years before they become teenagers because WHOAH. When I look back at these times that everything seems to be a blur, the only thing that really was of help was to interact with them. To be in the room and put forth effort, whatever seems to make sense to me, was the best move I could have made. In our culture we must banish this whole right and wrong thing. Each day we all wake up with a set of tools that has gotten us to this day. And they did a pretty good job. But sometimes, and commonly as a new parent we come upon situations that we don't have the tools. We can learn too and this is ok. Don't beat yourself up over your amateur status. Everyone was an amateur at one time, even the big wigs that wrote those books we are all supposed to read. Life is about experience and learning and becoming. All of these require a lack of resources, all of these require being in the room and not knowing. This is the beauty of parenthood. We get to learn to live again. We have the opportunity to do this again, and this time we have some experiences and some stripes.

Your kids are yours, and your intuition is also yours. Stay plugged in to both, and I believe you will figure it out. If you are in need of some inspiration, or advice reach out to someone you feel comfortable with. Always remember, they are just a person as well. What they say is their experience and it may have worked. That doesn't mean it works for you. But it damn well may offer some insight. Work on yourself and be clear with what you want. This is a good place to start from. All things will begin to fall in line as you focus on where your going, as opposed to the friction of the moment.

The beauty that is present when our girls read books to themselves, and dance and sing songs in their pjs is hard to explain, but its immensely joyous to watch. All of this grew from a place of amateur status. All of this beauty came from not knowing what to do, and following our intuition. What it grows into from here, who knows. But each day you are planting seeds with your children. The ones you plant when your in the room and present will prove to be the strongest and most steadfast trees in the lush forest that becomes their life. The ones that you plant when your not paying attention, well I am sure you can imagine how those will turn out. 

The Puker

Having 2 kids is a challenging situation. Hell, having 1 kid is a pretty challenging situation. 2 just lets you know further more that you are not in any form of control, even though you may think you are. You see, when you have 1 child and something goes wrong, you have 2 adults capable of finding solutions. Even if 1 of the adults is gone, the other is fully capable of dealing with whatever may arise. Now when you have 2 kids and something goes wrong, you are outgunned and on your heels. Immediately when something happens with one, you have to secure the other, you immediately need more hands.

I want to use puking to drive home this example. As you know if you ever read this blog, we have 2 daughters. The oldest is now 2 and the youngest a bustling 7 months. We have been a part of the puking dilemma multiple times, as I am sure many of you have. In the first example my wife was home with our oldest and actually pregnant with our youngest. Our oldest threw up everywhere. I think the original nucleus was in the kitchen, then up the stairs and into the bathroom. I got a message from my wife to come home, so immediately I headed that way. About 30 min later thanks to trusty LA traffic, I had traveled 6 whole miles and made it home. I came upstairs to see my pregnant wife sitting on the bathroom floor with our daughter, both naked covered in puke. This was the first of the puking incidents. It was apparent that the tag team that was to come was gonna give us a run for our money. The issue was that our daughter didn’t want to move or do anything after she threw up and she fell asleep on my very pregnant wife. So the easiest place to stay was just on the floor. Good thing my wife is a warrior and took this in stride.

The next time I got a text about the puking was probably a year later. My wife texted me the same thing. So I dashed out of work and headed towards the house. Luckily, one of our close friends was at the house. Because the puke was once again everywhere. But this time it was different. We had a fresh baby in the house. Well 4 months fresh, still pretty new to the equation. So immediately when 1 pukes, the other is exposed. Thank the Good Lord our friend was there to hold our youngest. Because I don’t envy anyone that is being puked on by a large toddler, and having to fend off/keep safe a curious baby. When I arrived home, our Godsend of a friend helped the girls up to the shower, and helped clean up.

Just 3 days ago, my wife left for work and I was attempting to get the trifecta. Getting both girls to sleep and then myself is my new goal anytime I am watching them. The sleep is amazing, but the glory in this moment is unmatched. I had gotten our 2 year old to fall asleep, just by about 82 seconds. I was still laying there, not to make any sudden movements to bring her out of her slumber. The 7 month old was on the other side of the bed playing with some toys in her own quiet way. Then I heard it, the guttural blluuuppp, a sound heard anywhere and immediately recognizable. I was laying right next to her, so I was a goner. First launch was a small amount of puke on the pillows. By that time I picked her up and headed for the bathroom, as smoothly and quickly as a possibly could. In the 27 feet to the bathroom, I got 3 rushes of warm toddler contents down the front of me. I don’t wish a puke shower on anyone, but I would have to say, my concern was only on my girl. I wanted her pain/puking to be mine immediately just so she could feel better. This is a very strange change for me. I thought I would be grossed out for sure, but I was not at all, and I was covered. Its amazing the changes that take place inside of you that you are not aware of with kids. When the time arises, you all of the sudden have some new tools in your tool belt. I took off all of our clothes, laid them on the floor, and turned on the shower. Where is the 7 month old? SHIT!! I very calmly told my post puking toddler that I had to go check on sissy. I quickly washed my hands, and ran my naked ass into our room. She was just playing away. Thank GOD!! I put her in her pack and play (essentially a small baby looking cage) and headed back to the bathroom. My oldest and I took a shower and cleaned all of the puke off. She literally projectile vomited into the undercarriage of my beard. Getting this out was quite a feat. I still don’t regret having a beard, even after having it filled with toddler vomit. Manstuff really. If you have a beard, you understand.

We headed back into the room, to meet up with our screaming roommate. I now have one limp and tired toddler that is soaking wet, and a screaming 7 month old that keeps getting on her knees and falling down in her baby pen. Triage folks, its about triage.

#1 Dry off and Dress Toddler

#2 Put Toddler to bed

#3 Get 7 month old out of pen

#4 Take her out of room where Toddler (hopefully finished puking) is now sleeping

#5 Fail miserably at putting 7 month old to sleep

#6 Check on sleeping toddler 28 times

Survival. Its about survival. We are trying to keep the 7 month old alive, and keep the toddler from going Godzilla on her. This is a story about love. But its always a battle. Someone needs to sleep. Someone needs to eat. Someone needs to be changed. Someone is doing something new that we cannot figure out. Did we eat? When did I shower last? Can we do laundry now?

Having 2 is incredible and incredibly challenging. Our oldest is just getting to where she can tell us what’s wrong, when she wants to at least. Otherwise, we find ourselves sifting through screaming fits, and dirty looks. I am assuming this is a small preview of how the teenage years will go. We are all constantly learning about each other, and this is a beautiful thing. Turns out when you have another baby, you already forgot about all of the shit you had to do for the other one at that age. Not forget like you don’t know what to do, just conveniently forget so you are so viciously made aware with the new one. I completely forgot how a young baby will incessantly scream and cry in the car. Our oldest grew out of this , and I guess I just thought we were done. I was definitely mistaken. This was a rude awakening. Then the much louder toddler joins in. The glory of this situation is hardly done justice to with words. We and you are totally screwed.

It’s an illusion. Control is completely an illusion. I mean you are in control to a certain extent, like you pay for everything and you are the one that can reach the high shelves. As far as  antics go, you are a guest. When both of your kids are mobile, you will start to realize the lack of this so called control. You suddenly start dreaming about padded walls and naps. Children reframe life. When you have 2 its man to man defense, so awareness is heightened for sure. When you are by yourself and you have 2, you are currently losing with zone defense. I am not sure how 3 or 4 or 5 go, but thankfully they get older and they learn. When they outnumber you, this is where elegance comes in. Say few words, get maximum response. Triage and elegance folks. Put out the biggest fire first, and be direct with your tasks and actions. Parenting truly is a jungle. Kudos to all of you in the trenches on the daily.

2 years later commentary

I look back on this night and laugh hysterically and remember it like it was yesterday. The warm surge of toddler vomit on the underside of your beard and chest is not likely a feeling that will wash away anytime soon. But thankfully it hasn't happened again, but we have had more nights with puking as the main event. One night all four of us got a bug that until today has us unsure as to what happened. The best guess was that we had bad food. It started with a barrage of puking from our oldest in the bed, in the bathroom and all over our room. Then our youngest started in. Then mama brought her violent puking in the already tumultuous scene. She was having her way with the toilet for six bouts with the exorcist sounding experience. All of our towels, all of our sheets were covered. I was so confused to whether I felt the puke coming on because of everyone else's puking, or because I actually felt the same way. I went downstairs and gagged myself just to get it over with. This is always a fun experience. I kinda felt halfway here and halfway there. The semi puking didn't really make me feel better, it just knocked me just enough off normal that everything else became harder.

The cleanup was pushed to the next day. We literally just left a pile of wreckage in the bathroom, that we then just threw into multiple trash bags straight to the dumpster. No one wanted to clean that mess up, and not to mention we were all so depleted that it really didn't matter anyway. Sleep and hydration became the priority, nothing else really mattered.

You know what really sucks that no one ever talks about. Sick kids really make life a challenge. Wait till your sick too. The magnitude of throwing up yourself, and caring for a throwing up child is crazy town. Its all consuming on multiple levels. It literally seemed like it took us a week to recover from this night. Between yawns all day, to tantrums, to thousands of cups of coffee, we were feeling it hardcore. Other than those instances puking really hasn't been a big hurdle for us.

As the years fly by and the days drag on we have become very accustomed to dealing with situations with the girls. Its always about triage, and thats honestly the easiest way I have to relate to it. Who is in the worst condition? Take care of this first. Then deal with the next most threatening fire. Usually by the time the worst is resolved the other is dwindling, as toddler problems aren't always long winded occasions.

To be real honest at one time in my life, puke made me puke. After having being puked on multiple times. I really don't care any more, it doesn't bother me. Kids have their own magnificent way of destroying your irrational but very real phobias. Space doesn't matter with kids and neither does time. Your relationship transcends this and you will never be the same. I see all you parents out there killin the game. High Five and big hugs to you. Tell me your puking story in the comments.

The Wandering Child

Our oldest is 2 and is on the cusp of the toddler version of sprinting. She is getting pretty quick, and her version of fun just happens to be eluding her mother and I. Just over the weekend we went to the beach and she was flat outty. I saw her make her ever so graceful saggy diaper exit and just followed. I was doing my own little dad-experiment just to see how this went, in hopes of gaining some insight into what she was thinking. I am a huge believer in letting children venture out and do what they want as long as its safe. When I started to follow her she was about 100 feet from our basecamp at the beach. Basecamp meaning where mom and the towels were.

She was just above a casual toddler stroll for the first 50 yards or so, then she picked up her pace to quite the scamper to catch up with these 2 older ladies out for a stroll. She never looked back or for that matter to the side 1 time. She has very impressive closing speed I might add. She basically from what I could see said hello to these ladies, and they were very happy to have such a bright child joining them. I am very proud of my daughter for having the sense of wonder and individuality to just go. I know plenty of adults that could use a lesson or two in this. Contrary to the excitement for her explorer attitude, this is also a tremendous lesson in fatherhood for me. Being aware when with my children is of the utmost importance. In no time she could be around a corner, or down some stairs, or something worse could happen. If you have experienced that brief moment when your kid is gone, your heart drops, your whole world crashes, and its full on panic mode. Then you fully know what I am talking about.

When it comes down to it. People in general these days are too distracted. Presence is a damn joke. Bodies are together, but no one is engaged with each other, just groups of people disconnected. They all seem to be connected to their cell phones without a problem, as emphasized in my rant that can be foundhere. As a parent, we cannot afford this luxury. We need to stay with our kids. The reality of the world we live in is that not all people want the best for kids. People take children and do terrible things. Too high a price for some social media updates/other non essential tasks at the moment. Your children are your task, get after it.

When my daughter was about 1 we were at a park. My wife and I were sitting cross legged in the grass helping her take her first steps. I am guessing at the age, but a 3 year old boy ran right over and sat in my lap. I had never seen this little boy before and he literally sat down in my lap. I was surprised and laughed because honestly it was funny. He then started to pat my beard, and take my hat, which was pretty forward of him. At this point, I was able to see what was going on from the 10,000 foot view and I removed him from my lap. If I was his parent, I would come over and at the very least have some very serious words with the person whose lap my child was sitting in. This looked absolutely terrible, and this poor boy clearly just wanted some attention. God forbid if someone with dangerous wishes was sitting where I was, because this kid just dropped in my lap in the most literal sense. My wife and I walked him around and tried to find who his parents were. There was no one. This little dude was just infatuated by me, so much that a nearby woman saw what was going on and took over leading him around. Thank You Woman, I owe one in the largest sense. Eventually she found his grandfather, or what appeared to be so, asleep on a bench with his earphones in. I wanted to lecture this dude, but held my tongue. Then his little dude ran over to me again and did the leg hug, face in crotch move, which is all kinds of terrible. The grandfather gave me a shitty look, as I would have done to whomever. I coulda punched this fool. My wife and I then left with our daughter because this scene was going nowhere.

The scary part here is he never knew. That poor kid probably is still at the park doing the same shit. In retrospect I should have stopped and taken a moment to tell the man what had happened. But we all have things to learn I guess. We as parents need to accept our role in our kids lives. We need to be ahead of the game in this regard. NO you don’t need to go read a book. NO you don’t need to take a class. But by all means, do so if you are open to it. Just be present with your children. Just be with them. If they wander, follow close behind. Presence is better than Presents.

2 years later commentary

We now have another daughter who is quickly approaching 2. It is hilarious to read this entry because she is so very much the same while being totally different. Since the first entry we have moved to a farm in the midwest which is much more conducive to children roaming free, and that they do. I fully support them exploring but also still am aware of the dangers out there. They both have done the grocery store disappearing act, or the standing inside a clothes rack at target move, that gives me a silent freak out. And damn, now they are fast. Our oldest is almost four and likes to play games, and her crazy sister just wants to be a part of everything.

Since that experience at the park, we elect to go on hikes or activities where everyone is mobile and active. I still remember it like it was yesterday, and to be honest it scares me even more thinking of one of my girls doing that to someone. I struggle to even go there in my mind.

Have you seen the leash thing? These parents that have their kids on leashes. Its attached to a backpack, or a sort of chest harness. I am not quite sure how I feel about this. I understand the need, because I have experienced the momentary terror of losing track of your child first hand. And using this leash would definitely keep them close. But to what end? Is this a bandaid for an ever increasing distraction of parenting? Are we that disengaged with our children in public that we need to lash ourselves to them? Are our children that distracted that communication is just not possible? I just feel like there might be a more conscious way to go about this.  Is our world in such a place that external stimulus and need for attention, greater than our drive for connection with those closest to us? The answer is yes, and this is where the leash comes in.

I think we as parents need to have an honest conversation with ourselves and delve into the details of what makes us present, and what steals our attention. Our child's safety should not be on the chopping block with texting, or reading updates on Twitter or Instagram. The simple connection between parent and child literally gives the child a foundation on which self worth is built. It gives them confidence, and teaches them how to love, and how to connect. The lack of connection, well this leaves a gaping hole in a child. The leash is not the problem, but its not the solution either.

Is it possible to structure your day so that when you are in the room with someone you are engaged with them? Could you pull this off? Would your day be better? Granted, work is an exception here, as are libraries, etc.  But take a look if you haven't noticed already. The disconnect of people despite literally being next to them is terrifying. No wonder empathy seems to be at a all time low, and there is so much hate. The hyper-connected distant generation. Its not official unless its on Instagram. Damn it's sad.

I heard this the other day and it hit home for me. "Be in your own shoes." If your gonna be somewhere, actually be present. Don't be the guy not paying attention. Have you seen the video of the girl walking into a water fountain because she is walking and texting? It hilarious, and pretty sad. Distraction is so prevalant. Its literally driving a wedge in between us and our lives.

My wife and I talk about this a lot in an effort to be more present with each other and our girls. The presence of devices is inevitable in our lives. But how and where we use them is completely up to us. If you need to post, or send a message or make a call, or do some work. Go somewhere and do that. Don't do that while trying to have a conversation, or helping your kids. I know this is a challenge and I literally fail daily. But at some point, we have to value those in front of us, more that our little social media monsters.

I can't imagine the remorse of losing someone because of such a distraction. Stay present. Stay engaged. I would imagine that everyone will be much happier if the time we spend together is time with connection. And don't forget to keep and eye on your kids at the park.

The Cold 90

The first 90 days, after your baby is born, are a very interesting time. Granted this time may be a bit longer or a bit shorter, but about the first 3 months are a bit fuzzy. This whole experience feels like a crash course. Lessons are learned, and some of those are like taking a heavy weight pounding.

I had the fortunate experience of having a fellow father tell me that there is nothing wrong with not feeling attached to your baby at first. He continued to tell me that it really feels like a job, with no pay. You put out all the effort, and to be real honest, the baby isn’t giving you much back. We spend this whole time waiting through the pregnancy, and the excitement and anticipation builds, and then nuthin. You have this very small human that just eats, sleeps, makes dirty diapers, and there is a good amount of crying. It begins to feel like a groundhog day scenario. It is easy to almost feel jealous of the relationship that the mother has with your child. This is definitely a check your ego moment in life.

This is the time to be a father. Provide what is needed. Spend time with your child. Get right in there and change diapers, rock your child to sleep, or just rock your child they may not fall asleep. Skin to skin is huge. Take off your shirt and hold your baby. Remember they are learning all the time and need a hell of a lot of loving, and quality time.

A huge hurdle for me was to not let my emotions rise when our baby girl began to cry, and scream. I would go through all the emotions from calm and collected, to frustrated, to frantic, to angry, to worthless, to confused, and all the while the baby is crying in my arms. Crying is how they tell you they need something. Trying to figure it out, will keep you a bit calmer. They are tired, or hungry, or need a change. Go through those three and usually you will find the issue.

Pretty soon your baby will start to smile, look at you, and recognize you. He/she will reach for you and let you know that you exist. This is the best feeling! There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

2 years later commentary

I still remember the frustration and the unsure experience of this time. It was so real and just swallows you up. Following your instincts, however frail they may seem. It truly does improve, and your get better, and you learn how to be a father. This whole game is about learning, you truly become a student of your child.

One thing that always helped me was to focus on the needs and stay away from the emotions. Literally write down what they need, and go through this list when things begin to go awry. I like all of us was so easily swept up in the emotion. My amateur status and their frantic tantrums sent me whirling into a mess of frustration and declining sanity. I can think of multiple times I just had to set my daughter on the bed or in her crib and just leave the room for a minute for a breather. It’s not a joke, just some piece of separation and perceived control because I was losing exponentially with my daughter. But really we were just both learning. The razors edge of the skills gap in fatherhood is sharp. You will learn, and you will be great. Nothing will give this to you but time. Throw yourself in there, and be present.

When your child smiles at you, or giggles, or reaches for you. It turns you to butter. It melts you in your shoes. Literally you feel your heart get warm, you feel the rise of emotion and the fire in your soul. When these moments come, you think back to the struggle and laugh. It seems so small. The magnitude of the joy that continually hits you from your children so far outweighs these early struggles that you can’t even compare.

Communication with your partner is also of the greatest priority. Remember, your on the same team. Sometimes this is quite the challenge as the lack of sleep and intense change can get to both of you. Take your turn and offer to care for your baby. Change diapers and give baths and feed if a bottle is around. Take your baby on walks and dance and sing to them. Supporting mama and giving her healing time, and self care time will do wonders not only for her, but for your sanity too. Being very present and very clear about what each other need is so helpful. A healthy dose of empathy goes a long way.

Give yourself the space to learn and feel new. Loss of control is a hard thing to contend with. Beware of the connection to anger. This time is full of opportunities to learn and become better. Don’t let the struggle wear you down. Being very intentional about time for self can literally save your sanity.

These first days, these times are of huge value. Take pictures, write in a journal. Be Present, and stay plugged in with your baby and your partner. Take one day at a time. Some days I remember trying to take 5 minutes at a time. The panic is when you are in the time of the greatest learning. When it’s uncomfortable, be easy on yourself. Take a deep breath and just be in the room. This is your time to shine. Remember, everything is a phase. You child will move through this. If you need help, reach out. There are people that have been there and will help and listen to what’s going on.

Congrats and welcome. This is the greatest time of our lives.


Danny Lesslie

Sleep or Crumble

Some of the best advice I have ever received to date about having a child is, no matter what, let your partner sleep. Above all else, make sure both parties have had some sleep. Unexpected things will happen, frustration and confusion will no doubt ensue. Tempers will run hot. You will have to experiment, and learn a lot. Finding a solution to a situation may take a long time. It may take hours, it may take days.


There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as form of torture, and a way to get information. Without sleep, reason begins to have no value. Rational conversation does not exist. My daughter is 7 months old in 2 days. Each and every time my wife and I have gotten into it, sleep has been pretty scarce. We are not 2 people that get after each other a lot. But you start taking away sleep, and I am the first to not want to talk to anyone, let alone start solving problems.


Some how, some way, make sure your wife/the mother sleeps. I adjusted my work schedule to come home in the am for a few hours to give my wife a break, and this was Huge!! My wife works a bit, and takes care of our daughter full time. Her plate is jammed full, so a bit of time to sleep, or shower, or leave, or workout, saves the day. 


Sleep is Success! Let your wife recharge, and your life will be a whole lot better.


2 years later commentary


And this continues to be increasingly true even as our girls get older. Sleep is literally a goldmine. We have chosen to co-sleep with our kids, and this at times has its challenges. In the end I believe we made the right choice for us. But I cannot tell you it has maxed out our sleep, especially my wife.


It still remains true that the collapse of sanity usually follows a very light dusting of sleep. The game for us has now become the sleep and eating combination. If our girls wake up, they immediately need to eat. They always wake up hungry. And with small kids they don't always know thats the case. But if you let too much time squeeze in between waking up and eating, the tantrums will very soon make you want to pull all the hairs off your head.


We have 2 girls that are 19 months apart (youngest is 2), so as you can imagine, individual sleep needs begin to vary as ages change. We sleep in the same bed, and for the most part try to keep our sleeping times the same. We go to bed about 8pm-9pmand the girls wake up about 7. As my wife will attest the nights are always full of wake ups and snuggles and now sometimes even changes of clothes from our oldest.


We have them both take a nap and this still works. I have them during the day so I lay down with them about 1 or 1:30usually. Depending on how the day goes and the last nights sleep it varies a bit. The three of us nap together and this typically will be a 2 hr sleep. Depending on how my day and night have been determines whether I will sleep or just do work while laying there in between the snugglequeens. When they were younger I would sleep a lot more due to my lack of sleep working long hours. Now, my wife has taken on the working so I am a bit more well slept, so I have energy to stay awake.


As the years have rolled on, I have began to value fatigue more than time as a signal to put them to sleep. Watching your child's behavior will tell you when they need to sleep. Granted this is something that takes time, but in my humble opinion you are much better off to put a child to sleep when you see them nearing the end of their rope, than you are to rigidly stick to a time for some ideal that you read in a book. An overtired small person is quite the situation. Logic and coordination have left the building, and crying takes on a whole new exorcist twist. Hanging on to the last thread of sanity you possess becomes quite challenging in these times.


This small piece of advice, "let your partner sleep," is still the best advice I have received. You need your partner. You need your sanity. You need each other. Adulting with a small child, or small children in your care is a hell of a challenge. Its your own challenge, and the nuances and decisions are going to vary. But we all need sleep. The team just plays better when they have a good nights rest. If your kids didn't sleep, get them rest. Not much steps in the way of bedtime and naptime in our house, because we have suffered the wrath many times. Let me know in the comments how sleep has gone for you guys.


Danny Lesslie

Don’t Be Right?!

This has been an incredible challenge for me! The right/wrong dilemma. There are a billion decisions that have to be made raising kids, opinions will vary just like colors in the rainbow. As a family unit we need to establish a way of doing things. We have, and you too are sure to run into some hurdles along the way.

My wife and I haven't always agreed on how to do things. So in most cases one of us will have the solution that is the one that works. Guys, if your method happens to be the one that makes the most sense, for the love of Gawd, don't say you were right. There is no glory in this road.  There isn't much worse than having there mother of your child pissed at you. This is a game of solutions, and you and mom are on the same team. It sometimes feels that you are playing against each other. But it's just not the case.

It’s crazy, somewhere deep down inside us, there is this little piece of something that likes to be right. There seems to be some justification, or some badge of honor in being right. If we can steer this driving force into something that is more team or purpose oriented, I think we can find much more success. It may be a bit cliché, but the working/not working reference gets a lot of traction with me. You try something, and it either works or doesn’t. There is no ownership, no shame, no personal accountability, no badge of honor. There are only solutions. We as a team are getting closer to where we want to be, or we are not.
Next time shit hits the fan, or the diaper, and everyone is screaming. Think about solutions, think about what is working, and what is not working. Not whose idea it was. I think we will all be much happier if this is the case.

 

2 Years Later Commentary

Working and not working moves directly towards a conversation of mindset. There are those with that operate from a fixed mindset in which our worth and our abilities and intellect are fixed. It creates the need to prove yourself over and over again. Hence being right. The growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure as launching pad for learning and improvement. These mindset differences are formed at a very early age and very much affect how we live our lives. If you would like further resources on this, look up Carol Dweck. She is the one who championed these, and the book Mindset will change your life.

I personally grew up feeling like I was always wrong, so my direct tendency is to push to be right. I came from a very fixed mindset place in my life. So this feels like home to me, although it is not a very constructive place to live my life from, nor parent my children. Having a growth mindset to me is very learned and most of the time a conscious work in progress. But for all the difficulty it is, it friggin works. I am happy to take the toil of rewiring my self and my mind, if it means that my girls can see that failure is ok, and we better ourselves constantly by learning.

I never appreciated the beauty of learning in my life. I learned to an end. I learned for the grade, and I got very good grades. I graduated from a Big 12 university with a business degree, and I never really appreciated learning. It wasn't for my own betterment, it wasn't for improving my mind, it wasn't for giving myself more tools in this life. It was for the grade. Dammit. Ya wanna hear something funny. My diploma is still at the university. Don't get me wrong college was amazing, but it was more of a social experiment for me, than it was a scholarly journey. I look back now as I see kids at school, and I am so envious of their position in life, and their opportunity. I am so curious as to what they are thinking about learning.

You see, I was so stuck in this fixed, prove yourself or your worthless mentality that I could only focus on the next instance where I could prove myself. I couldn't see and appreciate expanding myself by reading books, and studying. It was just a necessary chore. I wasn't allowing myself to go there. I couldn't see the 10,000 foot view and concentrate on moving the needle for myself. I was so concerned on what those around me were thinking. Now I became very adept with people during these years, because it seemed to end up as a huge experiment on interaction with others, which I am forever thankful for.

Now I look back, and think about how this mentality works in parenting. Parenting is about the 10,000 foot view all the time, with very loving attention to the moment you are in. You can't ride the roller coaster of emotion with kids, and if you do, crazy is far short of the sensations going through your body and mind. I trained myself for so long to operate in the moment and not really worry about tomorrow. I wasn't concerned with taking the time to learn and get better. And this has run me into the ground countless times. Relationships are about learning and supporting others. You can't be in a constant state of this is right and this is wrong. There is too much gray area. There is too much need for forgiveness and grace. When co-parenting, you are a team, and what you are doing is working or its not. Very simple. I gently urge you to employ a growth mindset, and lovingly move the needle in your lives. Teach your children to appreciate their ability to learn and create anything they wish. Devalue accolades and praise curiosity and hard work. 

Danny Lesslie

Mind Explode

There are a lot of moments that happened to me since I have become a father, that have changed the way I see the world. I believe that this is the case in all parents lives, but I can definitely speak for myself in this. The whole game is different.

First of all, the obvious, but not so obvious hits me all the time. This child is half me. I created another person. Holy Shit I am responsible for this human. I have to teach her everything. She doesn’t know anything. She has my eyes, she laughs like my wife. WHAAAAA?!?!?

My mom sent me a onesie that I wore when I was a baby. They other day my daughter wore that same “still” soft onesie. It is pictured above. At first it was cute, and it looked warm, then it hit me that I wore that. I looked at myself in the mirror, with a few years, a few more pounds, and a bit of height, and my daughter in my arms, so small and beautiful in my onesie. MindMelt

Then I think about my wife. What a wondrous being! I remember seeing her before we ever were together, and being so attracted to her. It was magnetic. I remember seeing her when she was “barefoot and pregnant” in the house, totally different, but even more in love. Then I watched her give birth to our daughter. Now THAT was a REAL moment in time. Time and Space did not exist in this moment, it was Primal, Raw, and Wondrous. I was still hopelessly in love, with 2 people now. Now I am a father, she is a mother, and we have a daughter. I have never been more in love with my wife and my life. But its different. Watching a woman go through these things and being by her side, you change. I changed, and will never be the same. All you know before, pales in comparison with what you will know after.

There are so many instances when I just need to stop and appreciate this life. These changes have been the best things ever to happen to me. I can’t wait for more. Life as a Dad is constantly mind blowing. Bring it!

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Thoughts 2 year later

Still the most amazing day I have ever been a part of was the birth of not only 1 but both of my daughters. I was really actually worried that I would be able to love our second with the same intensity and passion that I love our first. And thats where Love brought me into the light. Love is not linear, love is not inside a container. Love is exponential. When you open yourself to loving someone, you receive exponentially. And damn have we been receiving over here.

To find the words for my respect and reverence of my wife, it would take many leather bound books, in many libraries. Watching your person literally make a child, and then bring this child into this world, and then feed that child, and care for that child with her body. I don't have words. Jaw on the floor. Heart Exploding. And then she did it again. Both births have tear filled stories which I have attempted to capture in blogs to come.

Both of our girls are uniquely quirky and magnificent. Daily they drive me crazy, and minute by minute they steal my heart over and over. I see behaviors in the younger that take me back to when her sister was our only. They play and my heart skips a beat. Wait till you see them hug, or read each other books. I almost cry every time. We have a few things from when I was a baby, and pictures of me in them. Now I carry my girls wearing my vintage jackets now in their size. They love my onesies, and fitting your brain around that is crazy.

With 2 little ones, life is crazy and it seems like we are always behind and have a million things to do. I find myself all wrapped up in the crazy, and then it hits you like a brick. STOP! These are the moments you will look back on. These are the best moments in life. A giggle from the belly of a little girl. "Papa give me a kiss." And I melt. These moments are nothing short of spectacular. Stay in a place in your life where you can appreciate them. Our kids are only around and little for so long. Don't miss it.

Your life changes. I like to think about it like your children continue the revealing of you. You see being a man, being a father requires different layers of you that you may not be in touch with. Believe me it will take you places in your mind, and in your body that you haven't been. It happens to us all. Always learn, always be humble, and always start with love. Immersed in change, its easy to act from fear. This is no place for a man to move forward from. This is no place to parent, or be a husband from. We must delve into ourselves and find the fear in us to know that its all a hoax. Its wholistically limited to your mind. You give it power, or squash it all together. Step into the light and move from love. Its in there for all of us, and we all need that version of you.

Record these moments in your life. You will forget. Journal, video, take pictures, for the love of God these are the days you will look back on, when everything is sagging. I wish you all the feels, and all the warmth that comes from having children. I am forever changed, and forever blessed from my experience. Cheers to being a father. Its truly the best.

Squat for Change

I believe my presence in my children's life at the top of the list of value I can bring to them. Of course I can provide value in other ways, but when all is said and done, being present in their lives will be the greatest gift I can give. My time, and my intention to their lives is paramount. I know there are plenty of fathers that share this sentiment and know the value of their role in their child's lives. We can't ignore the distinct reality that sometimes fathers find themselves outside the walls of their child's lives. For many reasons a GAP exists today between fathers and their families. Our society unfortunately doesn't always help out, with jobs, illness, bills, and debt, etc.

No one is calling into question the value of a father. The overwhelming stats would sway you far the other way. But are we fostering an environment that makes it conducive for fathers involvement? I think we could agree that our kids are the future. So why is their best interest, and their childhood experience not of paramount attention?  I am not speaking to the parents that do their best for their kids. I know you are concerned. My question is posed to those who are in positions of influence. Are we fostering a culture, and an environment that is conducive for our fathers to parent their children? Are we valuing their experience, over their dollar bill? Before I had children, things like this really weren't in the forefront of my mind. We opened a business, and made some choices that probably were less than accommodating for dads. It wasn't that we were actively making choices against fathers. We just had things on our plate that were pressing on our minds. Looking back, I could have done better.

To me, I think of the struggle of the new father. This is something I know very well, and have been in this place the past 4 years. What were the things that were terrifying to me? When did I feel unsure? When did I feel like a failing amateur? I was terrified to take my girls into public. I felt so inadequate. I felt so unprepared even if I had 100 diapers and 40 bags of wipes and a stroller and helmets and elbow pads on both girls. I was overthinking a possible situation that might not even happen. It was all very real in my mind. And it kept me in my safe place, at the house. Sad, I know. But very real. And I don't think that I am the only one.

I know there were dads that have been in this same situation before me, and had similar concerns. But to what end? As a Community let's Pay it Forward. As a community let's put some feet on the ground and make some change. #Squatforchange is a step in this direction. Its by no means the answer to all the concerns of fathers raising their children. But it will start to shift the paradigm. It will start to build an environment that welcomes dads with their kids. It will be well received by dads that are in a fluster.

And it will promote the value of fathers spending time with their children. And for this it is a valuable cause. Children need their fathers. And so do we, as families, as a larger community, and as a culture. 

Have you ever been to a large lake in the still of the morning light? The water is pristine like glass, it reflects the sky and the trees. It's truly magical. 1 stone thrown into this body of water will produce a ripple that will cover the whole lake. It takes 1. You don't even need to hit a special spot, just get it in the water. Doesn't seem that hard, now does it? Next time you see a stone, pick it up and think. What could I do today to make this change? How can I move the needle for dads? Eventually we find ourselves faced up to the fog. The next step is unclear, but that doesn't diminish the need to take it. Their is a whole world through that fog. Do you have the courage to seek it out? Someone, somewhere will take this step. Is it you?

 

Danny Lesslie

Dad’s Maiden Voyage

Dad’s Maiden Voyage

So today is Monday which means that all parties survived the first weekend without mom. The first time I have been alone with my 7 1/2 month old daughter for multiple days on end. Before this weekend got here I was a little nervous about how this weekend would go. Mom had always been within reach, even if a few hours away. Now mom was gonna be across the country for the weekend. No bailing out dad this time. Despite a calm demeanor, I was shaking in my boots. I have changed diapers, and I have rocked the baby to sleep many times, but have never been, just her and I for days. Now I am responsible for all the feedings, and all the things.

Moments to Pause

Moments to Pause

Today I sit here a father of 2 beaming daughters, one is 3 1/2 and the other is chomping at the bit of being 2, and still to this day I have to tell myself to quiet my mind and slow down. There are so many moments in becoming a parent that you will never see again. There are so many things that are new. There is so much learning and struggle. There is also an immense amount of joy and connection. I urge you to slow down and enjoy these days. The professional, career oriented you might have to take a little step back, but this is not to your demise. Life is not a job, life is not money. Life is about our relationships with people, its about the journey. Don’t let yourself get lost in the race, don’t let these precious moments slip away from you.

Clockin Out

You know what’s difficult. Having small children, having a loving marriage, feeling fulfilled in yourself, and your path, and supporting your spouse. To be firing on all cylinders is pretty rare, and if you are it feels like you need to immediately pinch yourself to make sure it’s real. My wife and I have recently switched roles almost entirely. For the first 3 years of us being parents, she stayed home with our girls and I worked, now I stay home and she works. As you can imagine there have been some growing pains for all of us. The girls have had to adapt to mama being gone all day, which can be quite the challenge when you don’t have the words to explain the problem. I have had to adjust to being home all day, and not feeling like a failure because I am not working. Finding enjoyment and progress in providing for our children in a very matter of fact way from minute to minute. Cooking and taking naps and cleaning is not easy sh*t for all of those that write things like this off. The development of domestic skills takes work. My wife has had to adjust to waking up early for work despite maybe not sleeping all night due to nursing and all around mothering. She misses the girls dearly but also lives her work. 

One thing that came up the other night in the derailing train that can easily become of the nighttime routine is clocking out. I literally just needed a minute or two. I wasn’t going to explain myself, nor did my wife expect me to. I said I am clocking out and went to do my thing, which happened to be a shower. The beauty of this moment was the ease. So many things with children become these overblown, logistical nightmares. 

I think we all need theses moments, and we should have an agreement that we can take them. We are all playing for the same team here, and the goal is the same. In this case it was get the kids to bed. I needed a minute and took it, which offered me just enough space to breathe and come back with intention and a clear mind. Without this space, it’s easy to get short tempered and less productive. Its important that we as partners raising children work together and this includes creating space for eachother. 

So find a way, is the clocking out if you want. But acknowledge with each other that you both have needs. Call it something, make a agreement. And claim the space that you need. Otherwise this train will derail and everyone suffers in that case. 

 

Danny

Virtue

They say patience is a virtue. Well, the first known recording was in a poem called Piers Plowman written by William Langland between 1360 and 1387. It has similarities to an expression in latin as well. Either way, it appears that the struggles we tangle with have been very common throughout history. It is also one of the seven heavenly virtues. This makes a a lot of sense why it would be so highly regarded when you have children. Yesterday, my virtue list was put to the test. Holy Hell, I wasn’t aware it was possible to talk yourself off the cliff so many times in one day.

Since we moved our family to my parent’s farm, I have been staying home with the girls, and my wife has been working. To say this has been a challenge would be a large understatement. The change of pace is nothing but abrupt. Yes I get to take naps, yes we just hang out all day. No it is not a dream. It is very challenging. I give all the credit to those that stay home and raise children. Work seems like a vacation. Now that I have been on both sides of the fence, the picture is starting to gain some clarity.

With the change of my wife working, our 3 year old is having quite the time. Very simply put, she misses Mama. What I see are legendary freak outs, spitting, blowing snot, endless screaming, and the list goes on. Yesterday, we dropped off Mama at work and went to fill the rig up with gas and wash Betty Blu (thats our sweet van). Then we went to the park for an hour or two. We had a blast swinging, climbing, and chasing birds. I was pretty happy with how our morning was moving along. Papa got a few things done, and the girls had fun. We got home and all I was seeing was yawns and eyes closing. It was time to lay down and have quiet time. For any of you with children, you know timing is so important here. Too early and your colossally screwed, too late and you may as well light your day on fire. I am not sure the exact time window, but its gotta be similar to the chances of winning rigged games at the county fair. Its very small.

We all laid in bed and all was pretty calm. Our 3 year old was a bit weepy which is normal, and the younger one (18 mos) was just laying down relaxing. Then we jumped on the accelerator. I can’t even tell you what happened. The 3 year old started to cry and say she didn’t want to sleep. And as any of you know, when you draw a line, you hold that damn line. Or your kids will walk all over you. I drew the line for quiet time, and I wasn’t budging. The screaming went on for 20 minutes or so, this was high pitch screaming, yelling that she didn’t want to sleep, yelling that she wanted to sleep somewhere else, and yelling general protests.

Then came the active part. This was a nice buffet of kicking, throwing her body around the bed, shaking her head back and forth, standing and yelling, and screaming into the blankets. The general theme here was movement around the bed. Some more violent then others. It was at this point that safety became a concern.

She is allowed to be mad, and she is allowed to express herself. She is not allowed to be unsafe with her body or someone else’s body. It was here I gave her the choice to stop or I was going to hold her body till she would stop and be safe. I counted to 5 with no change in her behavior. I held onto her, much like cradling a child. I told her very calmly that in order for me to let loose, she would need to calm her body. She was able to stop throwing her body around, after she peed all over me. Right now we are 35-40 minutes into a very loud session. I went to grab her new pants, and changed my pants. And this gave us a much needed break. She then struggled to put her undies back on, and this sent her back into a tailspin.

This is the precipitous chapter of the session. She began to spit, and blow her nose in between screams. Mind you this entire time, I am laying in the bed next to her little sister who is still not sleeping, nor has she cried one time. Keeping yourself and the other child calm during a crazy freakout will burn your candle all the way down 10x over. At this point 45 minutes has gone by. She said that she wanted to sleep in her little sister’s bed. At this point I was willing to give a little, saying that she could live up to her side of the bargain. If she would calm down and sleep, I was willing to let her sleep there. I made this very clear, and helped her get in her sister’s bed. She yelled a bit, and cried a bit, and then finally fell asleep. Then her sister began to scream. She fortunately had a very short-lived crying spell.

This was the better part of an hour. From 11ish to noon yesterday, we battled. At about 2pm, my 3 year old woke up. We very calmly talked about what happened. Talking through actions and how this makes people feel is very important. As an adult, my hardest struggle is to let it go. Understanding that she is trying to deal with inner frustration, and she doesn’t have many tools to use, yet. It really has nothing to do with me. It really just comes down to change, and her missing her mom.

The rest of the day went pretty well, despite a few hiccups. We played outside, and petted the animals. Then we went to pick up Mama. I thought we were in the clear. Shit, was I wrong. She got in the car and the hurricane showed up again. This time it was yelling and kicking and telling me which way to drive. She didn’t want to go home, she only wanted to go to the flower shop where my wife works. Clearly we found the issue. All the way home she was screaming. She hit herself, and coughed and carried on. We eventually stopped and my wife walked home with her. Living in a small town was key here. This individual time has been huge. As she has gotten older, the implicit competition with her sister has been bubbling beneath the surface. The older one is jealous of the attention the younger one gets. So time away has been so helpful. My wife strapped on the carrier, buckled her in, and her body immediately lost tension and her spirits heightened.

People have been having children since, well the beginning. The battles are the same. The virtues are the same as well. Understanding your purpose, and your role as a parent is huge. We are here to protect our children, and empower them to live fulfilling lives. We are here to direct them, and reveal to them the tools that will help them navigate their emotions. Understanding where you stand is vital to your approach in parenting.

So patience is said to be a virtue. I would whole heartily agree. Losing your sanity is a slippery slope. It takes no time to lose your head and get wrapped up in the emotion. It takes all the intention and gumption you can muster to stay stapled down to that line your holding, with calmness while holding boundaries. You just need to decide where you draw this line. Value the higher things. Value the virtues. Patience my friend is quite the chase.

Yogurt Slingin’

Our youngest is 18 months old, and only wants to eat by herself 90% of the time. This 90% encompasses 100% of her eating time with me. She will eat for her mother or grammy, but just laughs and doddles away from me when I try to feed her. It is most definitely a game to her, and she thinks its hilarious. I don’t think its funny really at all, although sometimes I laugh cause she’s so damn cute.

The battle that is really going on here is a battle of control. She wants to be completely in control of everything. Obviously this can’t happen for many reasons. So we must give them a little slack and see what they do with it. Yogurt is likely the worst kind of slack to give. She is able to eat yogurt on her own with a spoon, a vertical spoon that is. This has proven to be a very effective way to dollop yogurt all over the floor, her clothes, the furniture, the unassuming sleeping dog. Just about everything under about 2 feet tall is fair game for this little monster. Here is my battle. I know she wants yogurt, and her only chance at eating any is if she is in control. I just don’t want to clean up the whole house from 1 cup of yogurt. The slack I am giving is the cup of yogurt, and the damage rendered every time is previously stated. I have tried to sit her in plenty of places and feed her. I have also tried to feed her helicopter style in which I follow her around, or the other case where she aimlessly circles and drops in now and again for a bite. Any way you slice it, the yogurt is not all going in the child. In fact most of it will be slung all willynilly about the house. Is is bad that this drives me nuts?

Psyching yourself up for breakfast shouldn’t be a thing. But it is here, that the beginning battles of the day are housed. Hangry children I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And as the minutes in the morning pass, each momentary decision walks the edge of the cliff with treachery. What do they feel like today? Do we even have anything they will eat? Can we just have a breakfast buffet in our house? The conversation is simple. Feed your children, and do so such that they have nutritious choices. Easier said than done.

Control ends up being the biggest perpetrator of issues with our little ones. They are learning about their little worlds, and learning about relationships. They are learning to navigate these bodies and these voices. We as parents have to remember this. Its so easy to just jump into a battle with them. Realizing that they don’t always have the tools to understand things like we do is a huge help. The take a breath approach has helped a ton in these instances.

I find that the biggest issue I have is the walking into a mess situation. If I know a spill is imminent, and I go ahead and give them the thing to spill, am I just adding to my own nightmare? The answer is “NO”. I had to tell myself this over and over again. Because  I have been cleaning up messes for years from this exact situation. The focus of this whole interaction is on their progress, its not on my cleaning, or my mental state. We all learn by doing, when it is appropriate for them to understand the orientation of a spoon, and the dolloping of yogurt, they will. We as parents, most importantly I as a parent, need to understand and be patient with them learning. We need to give them enough slack to learn. We need to grant them the freedom to fail. They need to have the latitude to live their lives and learn. They also need the support to understand why things happen. This is not for us to lay out for them. We are passengers on this train. Not that we don’t have a say, or that we have to sit idle, but we need to empower our children to claim their space in life. We need to empower our children to manage themselves. We just need to empower our children. So, as I will be doing, keep your mouth shut and just clean up the yogurt pops.

Danny

Shame on ME

I have really been trying to get some time to myself lately. For me this is waking up early before the girls get up and squeeze in some fitness and then also some reading of some sort to get my mind rolling. This has been a huge help for me since I am taking the role of staying home and keeping the hooligans safe during the day, while my wife is out hunting down the bacon.

The other day I came upon a short blog on shaming. I was shocked at all of the different applications and situations that this applies too. I was also shocked at how often things that I do could be construed as shaming. In my mind they are constructive and helpful, but in my girls minds they may not come across that way.

All day, and each day since, I have been all over myself trying to reroute how I do things to be conscious of this. The example that sticks out in my mind is the shoe dilemma we revisit every day. My 3 year old wants to put her shoes on, which is amazing. But, this typically means that we spend a decent amount of time in the shoeing process, and this can be something that can blow way out of proportion and make us late. This is a minor frustration, but very avoidable with a few minutes head start. The next hiccup is guaranteed. She always puts her shoes on backwards. My tendency of course is to tell her, and interrupt her actions with my supposed “correct” actions. This is where I was going way off.

I realized that I was rewarding her self motivated effort, which is a huge positive, with negative feedback, and telling her she did it wrong. This my friends is no bueno. We try to get our kids to think for themselves, and learn from their decisions, and then we immediately jump all over their decision making and do things for them. Well atleast this is what I had done in the past on countless occasions. Well this time was different. I simply just let go of my obsession with shoes being on the “correct” feet, and just praised her for putting her shoes on. After all if they don’t feel good on her feet, she will notice and switch them. Then we can have the conversation about which shoe goes where.

The goal is understanding and learning. Learning is best done by observation and then trial and error. That is why kids do things 100 times in a row. They practice and practice and practice. It’s ok for them to fail. We and I need to just step out of their way and let them learn. Let them tinker. Maybe watch them, and realize how we as adults lack imagination. Don’t stifle your children. Dammit don’t shame your children. If they take initiative, praise them and lead them. I found out that I unknowingly was shaming, and I was appalled at myself. But you know what, I am learning too. Consider that a different conversation. Mistakes are ok. In fact making mistakes is fantastic. It ensures that you are learning. Be open to change, it’s surely coming.

F*ck the Mold

What do you picture when you picture a dad with kids? What does that man do? What does he look like? How does he behave when he is around his family? What are his hobbies? Does he have facial hair? Does he drive a minivan?

Over the past 3 months we have moved our family away from the coast. We did this in an RV and made one hell of a trip out of it. We landed on my parents farm in Kansas, and are starting over. We threw it all on the line in the name of quality and family and boy, was this a great move. I have never seen my girls so happy. Busy schedules along with the hustle and bustle of a town like LA were just not for us, anymore. We felt people were stressed and just didn’t care for one another, and this really began to weigh on us. I noticed that the stress was starting to show up in our girls. Our tired became their tired. Our stress became their freak outs. Our struggles became their regressions. We all were suffering. We just had to take the time and look at how we were living. No money at the end of every month was terrible to live with. Those rent checks began to cut like a knife. By the end, we couldn’t leave sunny California fast enough.

Throughout the first 3 years of being parents, I worked and Raff stayed home with the girls. I always felt guilty for this, but due to the need for Mama, this is how we did it. We repeatedly discussed the route we were going to take, but this didn't make it easier. We found that this time spent away each day, was very hard to reconcile. I was out with people all day, and Raff was home with the girls. All she wanted to do was have a break, all I wanted to do was have some energy when I got home. The rubber really met the road in the evenings. Everyone was tired as hell. We all needed to bathe and eat, and we needed to spend some quality time together. Evenings usually looked more like freak outs and dinners huddled on the floor around a communal bowl. I would’t trade these years for anything, and I wouldn’t change them either. They were just quite the experience, our experience.

Having small children wears you out, and this really isn’t a shocker. But having your head on straight, and communicating with your lady can make a huge difference. Who works? Is it simply a money conversation? Or does quality of life matter more than money? I can tell you that there is not one answer to this question, and it's easy to get into emotional, heated conversations. We have definitely had our share of these.

We decided in our move that Raff would look for jobs, and I would take some time home with the girls. WOW, what a change! This is gonna take some serious re-wiring. I still panic when it's time for food. I panic when it's time for me to feed myself. Now, add two wildcard curtain climbers and I am a fish way the hell outta water. Changing diapers and naps are easy. These have never been a big problem for me. Activities? I am also quite challenged in this department. I also don’t do very well when our 3 year old is an a**hole. Damn, that girl is mouthy. All of these challenges, while personally and professionally, I feel the looming sense of standing still. When you have 2 mobile children to look after, you can’t get shit accomplished. I shouldn’t complain, I have very well mannered and sweet children. I just want you to have a picture of what goes down.

There is a real safe space to working, it is a huge outlet. You get to talk with adults, you get to feel some independence, you get to go to the bathroom by yourself. When you are corralling the beasts, it's full on, all the time. They want you to run and jump, and push the swing, and play with blocks, and play dress up, and everything else all the time, and they never want to put things away. I thought I had a real accurate picture of what my wife was dealing with, but that has become increasingly more clear and more daunting and today is day 7 of full time Daddery. Thank the good Lord for naps. I have been having some luck syncing them up lately, so Papa gets a rest too.

I am ok with all of the change, but I still care about the things I want to do. I still want to do "man" things, like build stuff, and tinker around the farm. I refuse to trade my beard in for a laundry basket. Choosing to stay home with your children is a very valuable and challenging proposition. It will test you in ways that your not ready for. It will make you grow in ways that you cannot imagine. You know whats really cool about staying home with your kids? There are only a few years that you can do this. When they start school, its over Pops, you missed your chance. Establish bonds. Be there for them. Lay the groundwork for some epic humans to build their lives. You know what you have the rest of your damn life to do? Work. You can always work. Put yourself to the side a bit, or just have the forethought to understand that you have a higher purpose, than your own wants and desires.

This pursuit of switching who stays home with the kids, takes constant shifting. I need to accomplish things for just me, or my psyche plummets. Literally half a day goes by and I haven’t had some time, it's like a time bomb starts ticking. Currently, I get up early and get in some fitness. I come from a place professionally where all I did was fitness for a long time. I needed some space from this setup for a while, and I happily took it. Now, fitness is just my personal time. Some days its a run, some days its burpees. I don’t want it to be my business any more. This is very new to me. I need time professionally to find myself again. It's like starting a whole new relationship. I also need some personal time, this can be a variety of things. Building things is always at the top of my list. I have always loved laborious tasks, so the farm is my haven. Remodeling our RV, working with the alpacas, horses, and goats, all fit the bill. These are all things that need to be fit in my week, or I am terrible at the most important role. Being a husband and father are where I soar. But having these other pieces in place allows me to be fully immersed and at peace.

Yes, it is important that you do the things that make you feel fulfilled. But, don’t kid yourself, your most important role is right in front of you. There is no need to hide, or divert. You know. All of the times I am happiest and feeling like I am the man I aspire to be, is when I have time for me, so I am present for them. Break the F*ckin Mold. Fatherhood is what you make it. There is no defining occupation, there is no look, there is no way to be. If you have to wake up early to squeeze time in for you so you can be your best, for them, do it. If there was a thing to aspire to its Present Fatherhood. An engaged father is a father that inspires his children. Lighting the fire of inspiration in your kids should be something we are given awards for. Our future is our children.

 

Danny Lesslie

Sanity

Sanity, Dear Lord does it seem out of reach many times as a father. Managing kids, work, relationships, schedules, finances, personal responsibilities, goals, trying to sleep and have a litttle fun on top, it’s easy to fall behind. There are literally months upon months that I can think of when my eyes open in the morning, I am already down on myself because of progress, or what feels like everything has come to a standstill. 

Personal care has become huge for me, and I am not talking about massages and pedicures. If you know me you know that these are not my speed. I am talking about listening to the things I need from day to day. The things that make me feel on point. 

One day I was on a flight and it all started to click. I was listening to the stewardesses talk through how to use the oxygen masks. You know the part where they tell you to put on yours first and then help those around you. If you read between the lines, they are telling you that it matters that you have oxygen, it matters that you are capable, it matters that you are able to help others. And this paralleled my life directly, and provided a much needed window into a dilemma I was caught up in. 

It became apparent to me what was missing from my days. I didn’t give myself time, just for me. When we had 1 daughter this conversation was a bit easier to make a case for. We were able to manage time easier, even though we didn’t know it in the moment. Now with 2, and I would assume this gets increasingly challenging with more, you have to start making some larger edits in your calendar for this to happen. As you keep adding humans, I believe it to be that much more important for dad and mom to have their heads on straight. 

When I began to give myself some time, I immediately noticed that I felt better about my progress. Progress might not be the best word. I felt much better about where I was. I felt much better about where we were as a family. I was more mild mannered with the girls. I was more interested in..... well everything. You could say the blade just feels sharper when you give yourself time. What a discovery! It may sound simpleton of me to say this, but its easy to get lost with children. Its easy to not know which way is up. I mean I forgot to pee one time. Can’t tell you how that happens, the urge to pee doesn’t just go away. 

Over some months or maybe a year and some trial and error of how to make this schedule work, I came to a pretty workable routine. There have been 3 things for me that do nothing but improve my sense of well-being, and are worth “Gold." The first of these things is Silence. I need time in silence. I have done breathing exercises, meditation, cycling, just sitting in the dark, and combinations. Any and all of these just allow my body and mind to feel one. I get up at 3 am most mornings and this is first on my list. It is dark and quiet most mornings, and you can catch me cashing in on some serious “Gold” time. The days when I do this, I feel like a man on a mission, I feel like a man in control. The days I miss, I feel extremely reactive and behind the ball.  

The second one for me is Sip. It’s important to me and my soul to have hot coffee in the morning. It’s more than just a drink. It breathes life into this tired body. It is a source of joy for me every morning that I cannot explain. Just me and my coffee. We have moments 7 Days a week. Most days I try to have 2 before I see or hear anyone else. These times are also “Gold” for me. Just a little dose of ME time, does wonders for my sanity.  

The third one on the list is Sweat. I must sweat in the morning. I used to sweat in the middle of the day and his is overrated. The victory that you claim sweating in the early morning misty darkness is a majestic. I have changed the method to the madness over the years. Lately I have been riding my bike to and from work about 30 min each way, and this my friends is “Gold” for me. Everyone laughs at my Gold helmet that I wear on my bike. But that Gold helmet is much more than the coolest helmet on the road. It’s my Gold! It’s me out there fighting the good fight. That is my time, at at this juncture of my life, I am literally trading sleep for quality me time. Every time it is time well spent, even when its raining. Sweat for me is more than just the commute. I head straight to the gym to lift, and this makes me feel alive. Nothing is harder in the day than putting a cold barbell on your back at 4 in the morning. Perspective arrives in droves. Make yourself struggle early in the day, and you my friend have just won the day. 

There are plenty of things that have helped me along the way with the girls. But I am here to tell you that caring for yourself, even if that means 5 minutes of breathing, or grabbing a cup of coffee will do wonders for your sanity. Don’t underestimate the power of a calm mind, and a body that feels alive. Don’t underestimate the result of encouraging Mama to take the same time. Go out of your way to help her do what she needs. Relationships are about support. Support Mama. There are things that she needs as well. Hopefully you 2 are a unit as far as raising your children go. But each person is very much still an individual, its crazy to think different. Support each other, Make sure each individual gets their time, and this journey may just be much more enjoyable. 

 

Danny Lesslie

Being "Tough" Enough to Be Vulnerable

Male vulnerability seems to be a pretty hot topic lately, especially when kids come into the picture. You see growing up as a man, there is a definite pressure to be tough. Men are supposed to be tough and women are supposed to be loving and nurturing. This is just how it seems to be growing up in the US. I personally believe there are two sides to this coin. Life has its times to be tough, and it has its times to be loving and nurturing, what is, I believe unfair here is the gender bias. Women have times where they need to be tough, and men have their times to be loving and vulnerable. 

As a grown man, there are plenty of situations that I have encountered that require this “tough” we talk about. There are also a plethora of opportunities for vulnerability. I as many other men were raised to take advantage of the “tough” ones and maybe not always the “vulnerable” ones. Somewhere in my mid twenties I began to value the vulnerable side a bit more. For me this changed the game. Getting married and having children definitely opens up this gateway further. And to be honest I am thrilled. Being plugged in emotionally is a big bonus in your relationships. Well I feel that it is. But its not an easy spot to be. Part of the deal is the exposure, being hurt is an option, and its available. But really what other choice is there, to not make yourself available. To just exist on your own little tough island. Sounds pretty terrible to me. 

Rue crushed me the other night. She is 2 and a half, and is in one of these phases now where she wants her mom when she is tired. She wants her to hold her, she wants her to put her to sleep, and she wants her to help her. Dad is a very distant second place. I am beginning to think she would pick just about anyone before she would pick me. On the contrary, this couldn’t be further from the truth when she is not tired. She loves her papa. 

Our bedtime routine starts out with Mama nursing Ace, and Papa giving Rue a bath and brushing her teeth. When we get to the bedroom we switch, and I put Ace (11 months) to sleep, and Mama puts Rue to sleep. Two nights ago, in pretty regular fashion lately, Ace could not fall asleep and she wanted Mama. She has been teething for 4 or 5 months now so its been fairly challenging keeping her asleep. So Rue is stuck with yours truly. And she was effin pissed. Screaming pissed. She had been whining and screaming for about 3 hours at this point. We were all pretty damn over each other. Everyone was tired, and had short fuses. Rue is screaming things like “No Papa” as I lay next to her in her bed quietly. Eventually the flurry of screaming subsided for a bit with a well placed binky, when she pulled her binky out and uttered words I would be thrilled if I never heard again. She said “I don’t love you papa.” 

The thud of these words was so deep in my heart, I almost lost my breath. Now, I realize this is not true, and she was out of her mind when she said this. If you didn’t know overtired children do all kinds of crazy things. But let me tell you about the burn of this. I still get pukey when I think about it. Vulnerable is an understatement in this case. I felt like I wanted to run out of the room, right through the wall. Sleep deprived, still a bit congested from being sick the past week, frustrated as hell with our children, hungry for dinner, and she drops this fucking bomb on me. Wow, hit a guy while he is down. I was crushed. And then she put her binky back in her mouth and fell asleep and just left me there in dark silence to deal with those vicious words. 

I didn’t say anything about this until the next day. I just sat on how it made me feel. I felt so exposed, so vulnerable, so hurt, and at the same time still hopelessly in love with my girl. Its quite a dilemma. I have always known my vulnerability was there, and sometimes I have spent years trying to get away from it. Children are plugged right in. They have access at all times.

Being a father is such a gift. Such a gift that is wrought with challenges and growth. As men we need to embrace our vulnerability, we need to embrace our feelings, and know ourselves. We need to be loving and we need to be tough. Our children depend on our leadership into these dark corners of our being. They have a lengthy journey ahead of them, and direction we must provide. Implicit in our role as fathers is work on ourselves. We must reach into those dark corners and understand our part in our journey. And moreover we must understand our role in their journey, and how our experiences shape our actions. And how our actions shape their learning. 

Children have to learn, well everything. They will learn what joy is, they will also learn sadness, they will learn anger, regret, and disappointment. They will learn these things from someone. They will learn how to communicate about what they are feeling as well. They will learn how to express themselves in all of these states. How do you deal with these things? Could you talk yourself through these feelings? Its really weird talking to a small child about navigating what they are feeling, and helping them to make sense of it. Especially when you are the brunt of the other side. This is a beauty of parenting for sure. Its also a really big damn challenge. A lot of adulting happening over here. 

As fathers we need to show our vulnerability. Our children need providers and protectors, but they also dearly need to be loved and they need to be nurtured. Step up to the plate in the vulnerability department and I think you will be very happy with the result. Being plugged in with your family truly is a very freeing experience. The switch over from the rigors of the outside world to the innocence of the world of a child is sometimes a pretty challenging transition. Dealing with traffic and road rage on the way home after a long day, and then walking into your front door to smiling faces is a pretty drastic environment change. Sometimes I imagine walking through a car wash right as I open the door to the house. It helps me visualize the transition. 

Be available emotionally for your kids. Be available emotionally for your wife. Be vulnerable in your life. I am not too worried about your ability to be tough, we men have a knack for being pretty solid in this department. We need men that are emotionally connected. We need men that are tough enough to be vulnerable.