The Power of the Apology

(this post originally ran on the City Dad Group website on November 20, 2019)

A few weeks ago, my eldest child did something that made me quite upset. But to be honest, looking back on it now, I cannot even remember exactly what it was.

As parents, we have to discipline our kids on a regular basis to varying degrees so keeping track of every occurrence could take up this whole article. But I do know he did something that made me mad enough to stop doing the dishes, call him into the kitchen and angrily reprimand him.

I didn’t even see the incident. I just overheard him “arguing” with my wife in the other room, essentially defending something wrong he had done. Hearing him talk back rather than own up to what he did when he was clearly in the wrong just really got to me in that moment. Once I spoke with him for a few minutes and I felt he understood why I was so upset, I sent him to his room for a time out. Looking back, I am not I am not proud of how I behaved, but we will come back to that later.

I often give Justin, my eldest, a bit of a hard time when he does something wrong mainly because he is a smart kid and I know he knows better. He does well in school, has lots for friends and his teachers have nothing but great things to say about him. He is also the oldest. His 4-year-old twin siblings see him as a role model, copying his every word and action, right down to the way they eat their food and brushing their teeth. But like most first graders, Justin can be impulsive. He doesn’t always take the time to think about the domino effect of his actions. But that’s part of our job as parents, right? To steer them in the correct direction and drop pearls of wisdom they will hopefully pick up and bring out again in those moments when we are not around to guide them.

After I finished the dishes that night, I felt a sense of dread and sadness as I replayed my interaction with Justin in my head. I had no doubt he had done something wrong and that discipline was warranted. But, more importantly, I realized I was in the wrong, too. I had overreacted. I had raised my voice, pointing and shaking my index finger at him. This must have been very intimidating, standing over him while he had to absorb my anger.

An apology for the ages

I had every right to discipline him, but I could have done so in a more loving and gentle way. I could have gotten my point across without raising my voice or making him feel small. I thought about the times my parents would have loud arguments in front of me about a variety of issues, but would always to apologize to me for their actions because they knew this is not the type of thing they wanted their son to see. More importantly, this was not the type of behavior they wanted me to engage in if I should every marry and have my own children. So I knew from early on the power of the apology.

After a few minutes, I called Justin back into the kitchen. I got down on one knee so we could be eye-to-eye. He wasn’t crying, but I could see he was still upset.

“I’m sorry. I overreacted,” I said to him. “I know you are a good kid and I just want you to make smart choices. I should not have yelled at you like I did and I’m sorry.”

I wasn’t expecting a response.

But Justin looked at me, patted me on the shoulder, smiled and said, “It’s OK, Daddy.” Then he went about his day as happy as ever.

My heart melted because he could have stayed mad. Instead, he accepted my apology in a mature way and moved on with ease to his next adventure.

What I didn’t know was that my wife was in the hallway. She overheard the original incident and she heard my apology. She came into the kitchen and said, “Thank you for doing that.”

I say all this because it seems that we, as a society, have become increasingly enamored with doubling down when we are faced with facts or confronted with the truth. Rather than admit being wrong, learning from it and moving on, we dig our heels into our position and fight no matter how many facts eat away at our argument.

And my son being wrong in one moment does not give me the right to be wrong in another with how I discipline him and give into my emotions.

As parents we have to teach our children right from wrong on a daily basis. That starts with not only knowing when we are in the wrong, but also being willing to admit it without shame. We may view ourselves as the final word in our respective households, but we are flawed and are far from perfect. We make mistakes. We must remember that we are the role models our kids, and sometimes even other parents, will look to. As the saying goes, if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are destined to repeat them.

Apologizing when you are wrong doesn’t make you weak or soft. It makes you human. We should not offer an apology because we want forgiveness. We should apologize because it is right, no matter who or how old the person we did wrong is. The minute we recognize that as society, we will start moving towards a more understanding and a more honest way of living and growing together, flaws and all.

Moments and Memories

My wife is a rockstar. 

Now,  before you say I am writing this to get in good favor with her, keep in mind she is barely on social media and it is unlikely she will even see this post at all (so there)!

But she is pretty awesome.  She is great mother, a wonderful doctor, loving wife and a great friend.  When you are married, life can be a blur. When you have 3 kids, life can be whatever is faster than a blur.  A superblur?  Uberblur?  Ultrablur?  Well you get my drift.  But I think for most of us, married or unmarried, life is really just series of moments and memories, some which make us smile with delight and others that bring a look of disgust to our face the minute it pops up in our brain or when we are experiencing it. 

My wife started a new job recently, and her hours are much much  MUCH better, so she is home a reasonable time for dinner, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be on time when you can come home to this…

Or this…

Or this…

(the crab legs are not made by me, but the facial expression is all me)

Better hours means she is a lot less tired in the evenings, so she can happily take over story time on occasion while I handle some other urgent task in the house like laundry, the dishes or a quick round of Super Smash Bros on my Nintendo Switch.  Again, she rarely sees my articles so this our little secret….

Story time is one of my favorite parts of the day 2 reasons. 

One: I can do a variety of silly voices depending on the books my kids have selected (Paw Patrol or Disney are always a blast) and if you know me at all or follow me on Instagram, silly is my middle name (not legally, just for this article’s sake)

Two:  Story time means the daddy day care is coming to a close and I can get 2-3 hours of kid-free bliss (I love them to pieces, but we all need some downtime right?)

Recently at story time, my wife took the reins, and as I loaded the washer in the kitchen, I could hear her and the kids down the hallway in their bedroom chatting away about what stories they wanted to read.  I immediately heard them select one of their favorites called Lets Share!  As you can imagine, it is a book that teaches the importance of sharing with a few ups and downs along the way.  I love this book because I have a certain way of reading it, complete with very specific voices for each character, reactions, and flawless comedic timing that the kids love and that they anticipate every. Single. Time. I. Read. It.  They fall over laughing every time with their legs in the air like the characters on Peppa Pig, so I love when they pick it.

But when they choose it for mommy, I immediately stopped loading dishwasher so I could eavesdrop.  How would she handle the voices, the emotions, and the perfect comedic timing that makes Let’s Share the amazing tale it is because of my outstanding interpretation of it?  I sat quietly in the kitchen, waiting to be disappointed with her valiant attempt at reading this masterpiece, and readied myself subpar rendition.

Then something shocking happened.  SHE NAILED THE READING

It’s not that she did a brand new version.  She did MY version.  The voices, the reading style, the comedic timing and everything!  I was shocked because she is not a silly person by nature, so hearing her read it like me was a bit, well, shocking.   Additionally, very rarely do we both handle story time together, so her reading it in this way meant something much more important to me in that moment. 

It meant she was listening almost every time I read it.  Not passive listening, but active listening, like she was taking notes on how the kids wanted this particular story to be read to them because she noticed how much they loved hearing me read it to them. 

Maybe it was the raucous laughter that made her perk up one night, so she listened extra carefully to see what all the hubbub was about. 

Maybe the kids just told her how to read it. 

Whatever the reason, I was so proud of her in that moment because it meant that even in those moments where she was barely able to stand up because she was so tired from work, she still observed what was going on with me and the kids, even if she didn’t have to.  It meant she was being a rockstar mom and wife when she could have just as easily been sleeping.  I am proud of her almost all the time, except that time she came home and told me that she had told her co-workers I was rooting for the Pats in most recent Super Bowl. 

I mean, do you even know me woman?

But, is spite of that slip up, her reading of “Let’s Share” just added more fuel to the fire for reasons I love her in the first place. 

I say all this because moments are really all we have during our limited time on this earth.  That moment hearing her flawless rendition of Let’s Share will stay in my heart and mind forever. I hope I can create a lot more moments and memories with my family in years to come so, even if my kids might not be able to give me a play-by-play of their days at school, moments like story time will stick with them forever. 

So, go out and create as many moments you can, while you can and make a wonderful memory you won’t forget.  Within reason on course…

Ribs, Razors and Republicans…

Blogging is a funny thing… or not funny at all depending on the subject matter of the blog post.

Some people do it every day to express themselves to the world in way that can’t always be achieved through a face-to-face conversations, especially since a large portion of conversations are done via text and email these days. 

Others blog when inspired by something that has happened in the world and they want folks to really know where they stand on a subject and, in some cases. bloggers really like to engage internet trolls.  To each is own. 

When I opened up my computer this past weekend while watching the NFC Championship Games (both games were amazing, sad and controversial is a number of ways), I was not sure what wanted to write about, but I knew I wanted to write about something. 

Do I comment on the Gillette ad that seems to have half the world ready to switch to Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s and the other half of the world grateful that a billion dollar company has decided to weigh in on the subject of “toxic masculinity”? ( I actually left Gillette long before this ad because they are just way too expensive and let’s be honest, how advanced can razor tech get? Are they in a board meeting weekly saying “Hmmm.  We have 5 blades, what about making it 6?  Nah.  Too advanced, meeting over”)

Do I go political and talk about Trump, the wall, Democrats, Republicans, blah blah blah?  Meh.  It’s been done and is being done 24 hours a day.  I truly miss the days of past administrations and not really knowing on a daily basis every. single. thing that the commander-in-chief is thinking. Wake me when the Mueller Report is done.  Also, there are too many Breaking News stories to keep up with in this administration to even stay up to date by the time I post.

Do I talk about all the highlights of 2019 (new house, Weber grill, wonderful wife and kids, Nintendo Switch, etc)?  That’s what Facebook is for!

So what’s left?

I do like to eat.  I like to cook too and I do a majority of it for the family since I am home full-time with the kids and my superhero wife works full-time bringing home the bacon (which I will then proceed to cook for breakfast or an amazing BLT).  So, this post will simply end with a bunch of pictures of various meals I have recently prepared (which can also be found on my @coolminivandad Instagram page).  Maybe I will start talking up food a bit more and get a sweet endorsement deal with Ronzoni (my kids are HUUUGE fans of the Super Greens Thin Spaghetti) or Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Marinade (amazing on ribs) or get a free Pastrami and Corned Beef from Sarge’s Deli.

 Regardless, I hope you will stop by on occasion to hear what I have say or what I happen to be cooking for my family.  I will try to say things and cook more often if that helps.

Peace and Love

Vern (aka coolminivandad) 

Pregnancy Loss from a father’s perspective

Back in April, I was honored to have my article on a pregnancy loss posted by the Washington Post online  You can see the full article here and I have reposted it below for you to read.  I truly hope you are able to get something from it!

 

In the summer of 2011, my wife and I were overjoyed to learn that not only were we pregnant (well, she was pregnant), but we were having twins! And not just twins, but TWIN BOYS.

I’ll admit that as a man, I felt that my ability to make more men somehow made me more manly. This was our first chance at being parents, and I thought I was owed a parade.

Two boys would be a blessing, and the idea that I would some day be able to boast about my 6’8” boys being drafted first and second into the NBA gave me an epic ego boost.

Then around the 15th week of pregnancy, the obstetrician told us there was an issue that would require a small cervical stitch to prevent the boys from being born prematurely. She got through the procedure like the champ she is and we went back home, but she would need increased bed rest.

November 22, 2011. 11-22-11. I remember the date because it is filled with so many double numbers, like God wanted to make sure I had an easy way to remember it.

A few days before that, my wife and I went in for an anatomy scan and we received dire news. The stitch was not holding. She was already dilating, experiencing extreme labor pains which would cause her water break soon. It was becoming evident that she would give birth in a few days. Her OB scheduled surgery to remove the stitch. Because the boys would be coming into the world at just 19 weeks old, they would not be developed enough to sustain life outside the womb.

After surgery, my wife’s water broke while we were at the hospital, and then we waited. Once my first boy was delivered, the OB asked if I wanted to see him. I reluctantly replied yes, and the minute I saw his tightly closed eyes and motionless body, I cried like never before. I didn’t think I had that many tears in me. I remember my wife not crying at all because I think in that moment she wanted me to be able to lean on her immense strength and courage. She gently patted my head to console me, while my parents remained stoic, but their eyes were welling up, too.

Our second son emerged, and while I was still distraught, I kept my bawling to a minimum. The nurses placed the boys in separate bassinets and allowed us to have some time with them before they would be taken away. I remember looking at the twins with my parents, trying to figure out who they resembled. My mom said one relative. My dad played the contrarian and said someone else. In this tragic moment, it was nice to have a bit of levity.

A lot of the rest of the evening is a blur. My parents went back to New Jersey, my mother-in-law stayed at our house overnight, and my wife had to stay overnight for observation.

I remember driving home with my mother-in-law and her asking if I needed anything before going to bed. I told her I was fine, I hopped into bed, where I proceeded to cry even more.

I questioned myself: Why was I not able to make two healthy boys?

I questioned my wife: Why didn’t she put up her feet more and focus on bed rest?

I questioned God: Why is this happening to me even though I am good man, a good husband and a good son?

It wasn’t until I heard from many of my friends who are fathers that I discovered they had had similar experiences. Some at 10 weeks, some closer to 15 or 20.

My wife and I were not outliers on an island of parents, or some exception to the “having kids is easy” rule we had created in our minds. I realized it’s called the miracle of life for a reason. The fact that any of us make it from conception to birth, when there are any number of forces that can keep us from existing, is indeed a miracle. And, as taboo as I thought the word “miscarriage” was (I never even wanted to say the word out loud for fear that I was going to somehow jinx the pregnancy), loss of this kinds happens in many pregnancies.

My wife’s grandmother said in a very sweet but straightforward way: “Maybe those two boys were going to be rascals, and God wanted to spare you the pain of raising them. He knows what you can handle and maybe you were not ready for this burden. He has great things planned for you.” That gave me a chuckle and still does to this day.

Fast forward to April 2013, and my wife and I were blessed with a healthy baby boy. After he was born, I would sometimes wonder what it might have been like to have three boys at one time. Would I be happy with three healthy children, destined to be the first set of three siblings playing in the NBA at one time? Or would I be asking my wife for kid number four in hopes of a little girl I could spoil? Fortunately, God quickly answered in September 2015, when we were blessed with another set of twins, one boy and one girl. I knew when holding them both at the hospital that not everyone has a second chance at having another child, much less twins, and I try to make sure to love all of my children double so they will never have any doubt how much they are treasured.

So, to Lance and Samuel, my twin boys so eager to enter the world that they came out at 19 weeks, know that you are loved, you are not forgotten, and your parents’ short experience with you made us into the parents we are today. Your story will be told to all three children many years from now. And hopefully, many, many, many years from now, when my time on earth is up, we can play of game of catch in the big baseball field in the sky. Or basketball. Or My Little Pony. But can we skip “Caillou”? I’ve become a “Paw Patrol” guy myself. Love, Dad.

5 toy Lines begging for a relaunch

 

With the impending end/re-start/buyout/liquidation/tbd of Toys R US coming/not coming soon, I got a bit misty-eyed thinking about some of the toys of my youth I wish I could see again in the toy aisle.  Here are a few I would love to see relaunched someday. Hard to know what what the future of toys will be (I hope it is not all online), but one can dream right?

Five Toys Just Begging For A Relaunch!

 

An open letter to BLACK PANTHER

My 5 year old son loves superheroes like most kids his age.  He is big fan of the Avengers, but I have to admit that Batman is his favorite.   As much as he likes them, he does not like seeing them in the movie theatre.  I think the prospect of a very dark room combined with very loud explosion is not very attractive to him yet.  Also, his attention span does not allow for home to really sit thru 2 hour movie before he gets bored or needs a bathroom break (he ‘s not the only one).

So, it took me by total surprise when he said to me this week:”Why haven’t you taken me to see Black Panther?”  He has seen ads for nearly every superhero and animated movie you can imagine, and this question has NEVER come up.  EVER.  He never even asked to see “Cars 3”, and he loves him some Lightning McQueen!

I personally think that seeing commercials for an action-filled adventure full of characters that have the same skin color as him really resonated, even if he didn’t know it consciously.  Don’t get me wrong, he has absolutely no problem playing dress up as Iron Man from the Avengers or Catboy from PJ Masks.  But, for the first time, I believe he could really see himself as THE superhero.

HE could be Black Panther.

HE could be the one to save the day.

HE can do cool flips off of the roofs of cars and rule a kingdom.

So, with that in mind, I would like to do my best Oscar Award-type acceptance speech, and say a few thank yous…

Thank you to Marvel for boldly making this movie and creating a vision on-screen so captivating that the commercials alone encouraged my wife to get a babysitter so we could see it as a couple (she LOVED it by the way!)

Thank you to the cast and crew for creating such an amazing-looking world and filling it with equally amazing technology, costumes, and effects while staying true to the African roots of the source material.

Thank you to the casting director for getting the national treasures known as Angela Bassett and Forest Whittaker into the Marvel Universe as well as a 91 year old woman making her first feature film appearance

Thank you to Disney for putting $1 million towards the Boys and Girls Club STEM center in Oakland, California with more cities to come including Baltimore, Chicago, Harlem, Hartford, Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Watts.

Thank you to STAN LEE and JACK “KING” KIRBY for creating a black superhero in a time period when strong black heroes we few and far between.

Thank you to the woman in our theatre who yelled out loud with joy when (SPOILER ALERT) T’Challa was found alive, but very very cold in that bed of snow.  Clearly she had not seen a Marvel movie before because pretty much everyone in the theater knew getting thrown of that waterfall was not gonna kill him since he is the star, but to hear that kind of childlike innocence and sense of surprise from an adult gave me goose bumps.

Thank you to Martin, Malcolm and the many many others who fought for our freedoms and rights.  They are a reason a movie like this could happen.  Hopefully it is only the beginning of a trend in Hollywood.

Thank you to the world for putting Black Panther in the Billion dollar club.

Thank you  Michael B Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, and the many other black men in the movie for making want to get into better shape (Jury is still out on that happening or not)

And thank you to….(uh-oh, the music is playing so I have to stop now)

If you are wondering what happen with my son, I offered to take him out see it ASAP, but apparently he still does not like movie theatres, even with the lure of unlimited Sour Patch Kids and popcorn, so we will have to wait for the DVD or On Demand.

Maybe he will be ready for the theatre experience by the time the sequel comes out.

-coolminivandad

A small gesture goes a long way….

This entry will be pretty short.   Not because I don’t have much to say, but mainly because I think I can say what I need to say without saying a lot.  Know what I’m saying?

We are 2 weeks removed from Valentine’s Day, which for many people around the country and the world put people thru a variety of emotions.  For some, there was anxiety about forgetting to make plans with your better half or buy flowers and/or chocolate.  For many others, there was a sense of mourning surrounding yes another awful tragedy that was unfolding, this time at a high school in Florida.  And for some, it was just another Wednesday.

Now, if you think I am going to go in to a big story about how my wife surprised me with a V-Day dinner date without the kids because she had hired a babysitter and we were going to get 3 kid-free hours to enjoy each other’s company without a trio of under 5-year-olds interrupting our ever word, prepare to be disappointed (although this did all happen and I am forever thankful my wife pulled of this feat)

And if you think I will follow up this story with an equally engaging tale of about a group of valet parking attendants who had lost track of the keys and to whom they belonged and were literally pulling up in random cars, shouting out car models in hopes that one of the 30 people waiting for their cars in the cold was the owner of said car…I am not (but this also happened)

What I found most interesting about the evening was my 2 minute walk from the car to the house.  Since the valet parking debacle made us 20 minutes late getting home to relieve our babysitter, I dropped my wife off at our front door rather than have her search for parking with me so our sitter could get paid and then get home as quickly as possible.  I circled my block a few times, but it was late and most people had settled in for the night, so there were no open spaces.  After about 10 minutes, I managed to snag a spot right next to the gas station that is only a short walk from our apartment building’s front door.  I pass thru this gas station twice a day with all 3 of my kids on the way to school.  It is well lit up all night, so it adds a great sense of security overnight and I quickly parked the minivan.

As I left the car, locked it up and made sure to push in my side view mirror (I won’t make that mistake again) .  I crossed thru the gas station and who was still there?  A young man who had set up a table a few days earlier to sell Valentine’s Day gifts .  You know those folks  you see setting up shop 2 or 3 days before Valentine’s Day with a fold up table, lots of single roses, bouquets and overpriced teddy bears for those men and women who liked the luxury of gassing up their vehicles and not going home empty handed.  He was pretty low on products, which was good Considering Valentine’s Day was nearly over.  He only had a few single roses and some heart shaped balloons left.  I had seen him every day since he started selling his heart shaped merchandise in front on the gas station the weekend before V-Day, since I had to pass him to bring my older son to school with the twins right there along for the ride.

Little did I know that he had seen me.

As I said “Hey!” to him while he sat in his chair probably hoping to sell the last of his Valentines Day loot and be on his way, he said “Hey!” back and then grabbed a rose and ran up to me and said, “This is for you”.  But before I could respond, I must had had a look of bewilderment on my face at being handed a rose because he quickly said “I see you everyday out here pushing those 3 kids back and forth to school man, so this for you”.  I thanked him a few more times, and went on my way.

I was honesty choked up from the encounter because he sees 100’s of people daily, so I was genuinely surprised he recognized me without the kids in tow!  But his generosity in that moment was just a really great gesture we don’t see enough of these days.  It was his very simple way of saying “You are doing a good job as a dad”, and to have that come from someone you don’t even know is paying attention to you can really go a long way.

So, if there is someone out there you think deserves an “Atta boy” or just a smile of acknowledgement, share it with them.  It could go a long way.  And probably help you forget the Valet Parking debacle you managed to escape from with your actual vehicle and not the BMW you tried to claim as yours.

P.S. Writing less than 1000 words is keeping it short for me, so I win.  J

Enlisting Help from Siblings (cause you need it!)

Not everyone who has multiples has help like I do.  No, I don’t mean my wife who of course is as helpful and loving as they come.  I am referring to my older son who will turn 5 this April.  His help with the the 2 years old twin tots has been essential in keeping them safe, happy and sometimes even fed!  I was able to write an article on this for the FATHERS OF MULTIPLES site so please take a look if you are looking for some advice on how to get those siblings to really chip in.

Operation Newborns- Getting Help From Siblings