So, Jeni did a great job introducing me, how we met, and how we came about the #SummerofDad idea. In the last (nearly) 10 years (!) since Jeni and parted ways after graduating from Purdue, I’ve done a lot of things.
I’ve traveled to Costa Rica, Greece, and throughout the US. I worked as a pharmaceutical research coordinator for a couple of years. I applied to grad school a bunch of times (three, to be exact) and even moved to New York City to attend a physical therapy doctoral program. But I dropped out after a few weeks. Luckily, a girl I knew (and liked) moved up from Austin that summer, too. So instead of heading back home, I decided to stay and hang tough in the city and see about a girl. Also, I decided that, since I didn’t know what I wanted to do for graduate school, I needed to try something different: so I got into publishing.
During my four years in New York, two amazing dreams came true: I got to work in publishing for a couple of years at Penguin/Viking (as well as some other very cool places); that girl (Jenny-with-a-y) became my best friend, partner-in-crime, the love of my life, and then my wife. We got married in Austin in 2012 and in 2013 we did an amazing 6-week backpacking trip through Turkey and Greece for our belated honeymoon. About the time we got married I was realizing that publishing wasn’t working for me. Though I love writing, I wanted to get back into science. I learned about genetic counseling and applied — 3rd time’s a charm — for grad school. I ended up getting into my top program at Johns Hopkins and the NIH.
The big life changes kept coming, because almost exactly a year after being accepted, in June 2014, my son Gabriel was born. This past year has been quite a challenge, balancing grad school, family, and my wife’s writing career. I also write, and have published fiction pieces in various places, but most recently I’ve been writing for the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Genome Advance of the Month, where we try to explain interesting developments in genetics research!
So onto the post for this week…
Let’s call this first week a very successful dry run.
My wife, Jenny, and I have been married a few years and we have a 1-year-old boy named Gabriel. I’m in grad school at Johns Hopkins and the NIH doing a masters degree in genetic counseling. When classes are in session, my schedule can be brutal. Because of this, my wife has done the lion’s share of parenting this year. I’ve been a “sometimes” parent—doing the parenting when I can between classes, clinical rotations, writing papers, and commuting between Baltimore and Bethesda—a thirty-mile stretch of highway that can sometimes take two hours to drive. Sometimes I’m out the door at 7am and return at 9pm and then need to catch up on emails and prepare for the next day. So my school schedule doesn’t leave me much time to help out, unfortunately. But, now that summer is here, and she now has the crazy schedule, I’m the primary parent.
Some backstory, part two: Jenny has been fortunate enough to win or be selected for several exciting playwriting, TV, and film development opportunities this summer. Basically we’ll be traveling around to various places—Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Washington State—for these opportunities. Others involve her writing whenever she can get time. So she needs as much time as she can get to work on her writing this summer.
The tables have turned! Which means before the fall semester starts and my schedule gets crazy again, this will be the #SummerofDad—which I’m very much looking forward to, as I’ve missed Gabe during the Fall and Spring of Mom.
This first week I had him fully to myself for only two days—nothing heroic—as my wife commuted back and forth to Philadelphia. The first day was easy—a 2-napper and no meltdowns or other issues. But bedtime with no mom cuddles/breast milk was commented upon quite loudly and duly noted. Even with that, I thought I totally have this. The second day was a bit long—only one nap—plus we had a 12-month doctor’s appointment, but when late-afternoon crankiness was setting in we hit the dog park. Gabe pet a gorgeous lion-like collie and all was well. And with only one nap, he basically passed out at bedtime. On day three I had the afternoon and evening shift. Again, with no mom cuddles and breast milk, there were many bedtime complaints. Eventually, we walked around the apartment, drifting from room to room, showing him that I was not holding out on him and that mom was, in fact, not home. We did three circuits of the apartment, which still didn’t satisfy him. Are you sure she’s not in the living room, Dad?
We sat in his bedroom, him staring at me, grumpy, me shushing in vain like a broken steam pipe. After an hour of crying he gave up and/or wore himself out.
Many thoughts crossed my mind in that hour, namely: maybe this isn’t as easy as I thought it might be…
There will be room to grow and learn, for both of us. And even in these few short days, I’ve learned a few things:
- I love being goofy with him. One game is where we pretend the oven mitt is an affable little monster with a penchant for nibbling on his fingers, arms, and toes. He runs, oven mitt chases! Good times.
- I (usually) enjoy taking him to places—cafés, museums, libraries—and getting to chat with other parents or the people who work there.
- I don’t mind babbling all day to a mostly incommunicable toddler. I was worried I’d get tired of talking and wouldn’t say enough words to Gabe, which is important. But apparently I can be pretty talkative when I’m just narrating my life or his.
- I love getting to watch him wander around and figure out how things work. It’s really amazing to see their little minds at work deciphering the world around them.
- Toddlers have as much fun playing on the playground as they do in the weeds and grass surrounding the playground. Gabe is mostly interested in grass and pebbles, not colorful, but static, metal and plastic.
- So glad I don’t live somewhere with intense racial stereotypes and have to carry papers proving my child belongs to me.
- Everyone (well, almost everyone) loves when babies wave at them. And they wave back. I’m convinced a baby’s wave is a universal language that can bridge any divide—social, economic, racial—no matter the circumstances.
- Continuous isometrics with a 20-pound weight are a great way to tone those arms. (You should see my guns. OK—maybe not. It’s only been one week.) But I still might open up a toddler daycare-cum-faddish-workout boutique.
That’s Week One in a nutshell – stay tuned for Week Two’s triumphs and tribulations!