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Happy 7th Birthday, Henry. (The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Written)

 

You is kind.
You is smart.
You is important.
– The Help

Oct 1, 2006

I remember two things about the day you were born, son. The first is that it was a Sunday and the St Louis Rams were playing on TV. When your mother and I arrived at the hospital the evening before, I realized that our in-room TV had only 3 channels. Wondering if this was 1986 or 2006, I was happy to pass the time that Sunday afternoon watching football. I had one eye on the game and one eye on you as you made your much-anticipated entrance. The second thing I remember is that after you were born, I went out to get your mom some dinner. It was late, and on my way back to the hospital, I stopped at a local gas station and bought a 6 pack of beer. I wish I could say this was a spur-of-the-moment act by an over-joyed new father, looking to make a celebration. The truth is, it was pre-meditated. So much so, in fact, that as your mother prepared for your arrival by filling  her Mother- To-Be suitcase with your first onesie, pacifiers and stuffed animals, I was preparing by being sure I had a cooler in the trunk of the car. I knew, 36 hours before you were born, that I would need a way to sneak booze into your hospital room. As you took your first sips of milk, I was downing Bud Lights.

Oct 1, 2010

I snapped the above video  on October 1st, 2010, your 4th birthday. There is nothing particularly unique about this video, except that I don’t remember taping it. Earlier that day, I participated in a local charity golf tournament. The 11:00am shotgun start was also my signal to crack open the first beer. I drank all day and won that tournament. About the time I should have been celebrating the 4th anniversary of your birth with candles and cake,  I was toasting my victory with a bottle of red wine. The next morning, I awoke to see that I had posted this video on my Facebook page.  As I stared at the screen, watching you and your brother, Charlie, run around the house, I knew something had to change. If I kept this up, I thought, I might not see your 5th, let alone 7th birthday. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that would be the last time I was ever drunk.

The following Monday, I entered a library, found a book titled “The Best Life Diet”, and checked it out. At first, I thought I needed to get in shape, which I did. What the book taught me  was there was a bigger reason why I struggled with my weight.  The diet suggested that I take 30 days off from drinking. I did, and it was the best month of my life. I found energy, time and you. I found your brother and your mother and it  was amazing. Shortly thereafter, I decided I wasn’t going to drink anymore.

Oct 1, 2013

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of that golf tournament, and I’ve been sober ever since. With this confession today, people will treat me differently, they may treat you differently, as well. Unfortunately, we’ll be judged. It would be easy to continue to give half answers to direct questions as to why I no longer drink. After all, why endanger the relationships I’ve worked so hard to build?  Why not keep this our little secret?  A pact between a father and son, never to be told, never to be repeated.

The answer lies in why I’m writing to you today.

Henry, there will come a time when you are asked to stand up for what you believe in, to stand up to a crowd of “nay-sayers” & “cannots”. There will be a time you are made to feel the outcast, like you don’t belong.  The fear will overwhelm you like a boat against the power of the tide, paddling as the waves crash upon you. Exhausted, you will be asked to find the courage to rise above and be yourself. And at that moment, when you feel the urge to turn to me and say, “Dad, I can’t”. I want you to think back to your 7th birthday, when your father sat down in front of a computer and proclaimed to any who would listen, “My name is Greg Younger and I’m an alcoholic.”

On a day we celebrate your birth, I want to thank you for giving me life.

Happy 7th Birthday, Henry. (The most important thing I’ve ever written)

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How Do You Raise a One-Armed Boomerang?

When I was 18, my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation. I thought and pondered, pondered and thought. What I really wanted, above all else, was my freedom. I didn’t want to live at home anymore, my only issue was money, I didn’t have any. I devised a plan and presentation, complete with notes and figures. For graduation, I told my parents, I wanted to move out of the house. I would agree to take a class at the local college, work nights to cover my cost of living, if they would fit the bill for the apartment. Knowing that I’d be attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence after the summer, I figured this would be a great “test-run” of the college life. I even called around and found a local complex allowing for 3 month leases. After reviewing my proposal, my parents agreed, and the lease was signed.

That summer and the “Party Apartment” (as it became known) were on my mind when I heard about the “Rising Share of Young Adults living in Their Parents Home“. Apparently, at the end of 2012, 36% of young adults age 18-31 lived with their parents…36%! They are commonly called Boomerang Kids. Sent out of the house for a short while, only to return, like a boomerang, years later. That’s an amazing statistic. As a parent, it’s scary thought. I have three boys, Henry, Charlie & Max, ages 7, 4 & 1. How do I raise three One-Armed Boomerangs that fly straight through life, never making that u-turn back to my basement?

No child dreams of growing up and living with their parents. And, of course, there are situations when living at home, or needing help from a parent is the only choice. I’ve leaned on my parents plenty. But how do I raise my boys to value responsibility?

I’ve heard it said, from parent to child, “Do as I say, not as I do”. I verbalize how I want my boys to act. “Do your homework,” “Be nice to your friends,” “Clean up your room,” “Eat your vegetables.” Each instruction, outwardly describing a behavior I want to instill in my child. Yet, I often wonder, is it my actions, not my words, that are being heard?

Maybe the secret to breaking the arms of my little Boomerangs is to look inward, not speak outward, and examine how closely aligned my actions are to my words. Do I take my work seriously? Am I nice to the people I meet? How healthy do I live my life? Maybe if I want my boys to be disciplined, healthy, and keep a clean room, I should demonstrate constraint, eat right and take care of my belongings. Want a child to be good with money? Ask yourself, “How good am I with dollars and cents?” Want a child to listen, do less talking. Want a child less dependent on you, become less dependent on others. (See: Parents, Grand) Sure, it’s possible to live a life out of balance, only to see your own child choose a life in contrast to your own, but more often than not, it won’t happen.

The most important attribute I can demonstrate is the desire to become better and grow. I am not a not perfect parent, perfect son, perfect boss, but I can be better. Working on ourselves might be this life’s greatest challenge. Yet, it’s a choice, and it’s a behavior that will be learned by my children, and that’s a great thing. Because if I do nothing else but demonstrate a life-long lust to making myself a better person, and my sons only learn that one teaching, how can I fault myself for who they become?

1996 was a great summer, living in that one-bedroom apartment in West Wichita, working nights at Chili’s, and drinking on a fake ID. I aced that English 101 class and left for college later that summer, never to return. I have my parents to thank for raising this one-armed boomerang. And to my sons Henry, Charlie & Max…I don’t care what your presentation looks like, I’m not renting you an apartment for graduation!

Charlie Goes Skylander Hunting

I didn’t play many video games growing up. I spent my days outside; throwing balls against the house and breaking windows. My next door neighbor, Petey, had all the games. After school, I’d sometimes head over to his house and watch him play his Nintendo. Usually, after a few games, I’d get bored and head back outside. It’s hard to say whether my sons will become “gamers”, like Petey or “outsiders” like me. We own a Wii and the boys have recently become interested in a game called Skylanders. They are hot and cold on the game, it usually depends on the day and whether their friends are outside. But I do know this…my kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to watch videos on the Ipad. In particular, they love to watch toy videos.

When I was growing up, we had the JCPenny catalog. Every month or so we’d get this inch-thick book in the mail and I’d go through the toy pages, line by line, soaking up all the new toys and dreaming. I loved imagining that I could only have one toy on each page. I would go back and forth, in my mind, trying to decide which of the Star Wars, Transformers or Thundercat figurines I wanted for Christmas. So I understand my sons infatuation with the YouTube toy videos, it’s like the JCPenny catalog on steroids.

In particular, my boys love a video series called EvanTubeHD. Evan is a 7-year-old boy who does toy reviews of all the latest games. If you’ve got small children, it’s worth a look. You can see it here. The series is very PG and Evan’s father plays a prominate role in the series. My boys can sit down and watch EvanTubeHD for hours. And they are constantly asking me to make a video of them, just like “EvanTubeHD”.

Fast forward to Labor Day, 2013. Charlie, my 4-year-old, has been on a year-long potty training escapade. (Read about how it all started here). Charlie tends to go a few days without accidents, then he’ll “mail it in” for a day and have several potty-in-the-pants moments. In an effort to get Charlie focused, we decided to create a “Potty Challenge”. If Charlie could go seven days without an accident, I’d take him shopping for a new Skylander. As an added bonus, I told him I’d take a video of him and put it on YouTube. It took Charlie some time, but he finally made it seven days without incident. What follows is our first CharlieTubeHD video. Enjoy!

Le Petit Problème

“Daddy?”

“What, Charlie?”

“I need to go potty.”

“Of course you do…we’re late for the doctor, so you’re gonna just have to hold it.”

“But I can’t…I need to go now!”

“We can’t stop, Charlie, just hold it”

“DADDY!, PLEASE!”

The stoplight is red.  My steering wheel knuckles are white. Many miles away and very few minutes to spare lies the doctor’s office.  We had intended to leave 15 minutes earlier, but my wife was late.  Not that it would have mattered.  I was not ready.  Work piling up. Deadlines missed.  Soccer practices, baby’s not sleeping, family in town, medicine not adminstered, work to be completed, laundry to be folded, quality time to be scheduled, red lights staying red and red and red and red…

“Daddy…….Daddy……Daddy?”

“CHARLIE, JUST HOLD IT, GODDAMN IT!”

The intesnity of the scream startled even myself as I thought…”I supose I could have handled that better.”

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Petit Mal Seizures

A few weeks back, my wife told me that she  had begun to see Charlie, my four-year-old son, “space-off” from time to time and she asked if we should be concerned.  Shortly there-after, I saw one of these “space-off” moments for myself.  Basically, Charlie was mid-sentence at the dinner table, stopped, stared off into space for a few seconds, and then was back to normal.  At first, I didn’t think much of it and told Lindsey not to worry.  Charlie has a habit of getting ahead of himself, and I felt this was just an example of his brain working a little “over-time” to catch up with his thoughts.

Of course, these moments did not stop, and Lindsey continued to express concern to me, but since I wasn’t seeing them, I didn’t think much of it.  On Friday (6/28/13) afternoon, I was home from work early and Charlie finally had one of these moments right in front me…Once again, he was mid-sentence, broke it off, (“Daddy, Daddy, for my birthday, can we……………..”) but this time, it lasted for a while, maybe 10-12 seconds.  I knew right then what my wife new six weeks ago…this wasn’t good or normal.

Being the 21st century parents that we are, we Googled it.  The internet in these instances can be both a blessing and curse.  Our minds were filled with all types of crazy scenarios, but the diagnosis that we kept coming back to was a type of epilepsy called “Absence Seizures” (Also known as Petit Mal Seizures).  We called the doctor and they asked us to come in the next day (a Saturday).

Time slowed down, Saturday arrived.  Lindsey and I arranged for a sitter to watch Henry & Max, while Charlie, her and I went to see our pediatrician.  After a brief consultation he told us an EEG was needed and that we would have one scheduled on Monday.  And that was that.

The weekend was tough.  We were filled with all sorts of emotions and feelings.  As an added bonus, Charlie began to complain about a ringing in his ear, telling me at

Charlie 1

one point, “Daddy, my ears don’t work.”  I think Lindsey & I both wanted to learn more, but staying off The Google was a difficult, yet necessary task.  Spending too much time there, when you don’t know the diagnosis, can send you into madness.

Monday arrived and the doctor called first thing in the morning.  The EEG had been scheduled for 9am on Wednesday. And that was that.

The instructions were to keep Charlie up about an hour later the night before and try to wake him up an hour early.  Lindsey and decided that I would take Charlie to the exam while Lindsey stayed home with the other two kids.

I was up early on Wednesday and had Charlie up by 6. We left for the exam around 7.  The morning was unusually mild (mid 60’s) and Charlie needed a sweatshirt to keep warm.  The hardest part was keeping him awake in the car.  We headed to the hospital (about 40 min drive) and found a breakfast place close by.

After a grilled cheese breakfast (I might be Father of the Year), I realized that the appointment was still 30 minutes away.  I found a park close to the hospital and Charlie had a blast exploring the new surroundings.

Charlie 2

The time had finally come to head to the hospital.  The waiting room was filled with toys, kids, and stressed parents.  The eyes in that room is scene I will never forget.  So much sadness.

The wait was not long and soon we were being led to the examination room.

The EEG lasted about an hour and included Charlie sitting on my lap as the nurse (Roslynn) placed about 15 nodes on his head.  Charlie watched a show (“Good Luck Charlie”, you can’t make this stuff up!) on the Disney channel as the lights were dimmed.  The nurse came in and out a few times and Charlie did great.

After the exam, a gentleman named Brad came in, and nervously said, “Hi, Mr. Younger.  We don’t usually do this, but based on the exam results, we thought we should discuss the results with you immediately”.   Charlie, still on my lap, felt like 100lbs and the white walls of the exam room seemed to close in on me…time slowed down and I feared the worst.

Charlie 4

Brad went onto to tell me that since it was the day before the Holiday (July 3rd), and that results of the EEG had shown clear indications of activity, he had called our pediatrician and gotten the OK to share the results with us today.  Further, he informed us that the neurologist had been watching the results in real time in his office and was also consulted.  He had clearly seen indications of “Absence Seizures”, and felt we should know ASAP. 

My heart was racing, but the results were both what we expected and actually were the best results we could hear.  You can learn more about Absence Seizures here: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/seizures/genconvulsive/absenceseizures/Charlie 5

You can also watch a pretty good video of an example of these seizures here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE6N0Da8Ce0

Basically, Charlie experiences short seizures many times a day (50-150).  The nurse told me she stopped counting during the exam, but probably had five or six seizures during the thirty minute EEG. They last anywhere between 2-30 seconds and don’t cause any harm to Charlie.  The biggest concern is that he might fall on the stairs or on the playground.  Also, we must watch him in the water, as a brief loss of consciousness may cause issues.

It was a long morning and the sleep deprivation was more than Charlie could handle as he passed out in the car on the way home.

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“Honey, it’s OK, we’re not that late”  My wife said as she gently touched my arm.

I took a deep breath and the stop light finally turned green. 

“Charlie, there’s a QuickTrip up ahead, how about we stop there and you can go potty, sound good?

“Yes…but hurry, I really have to go.”

“Ok, I’ll hurry.  How about this, you look out the window and as soon as you see the QuickTrip sign, yell as loud as you can, just like Daddy did, OK?”

“Ok, Daddy.”

I gassed the Volkswagen Minvan and we raced ahead.

“Do you see the sign?” I asked.

“No.” Charlie quietly replied.

I went faster and we got closer.  I saw the sign in the distance and asked again, “Charlie do you see it now?”

“No.”

I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw Charlie looking intently out the window, holding himself with both hands, while his legs jiggled like butterly wings.  I peered out and saw the QT sign fast approaching.  Pleading now, I asked “Charlie, do you see the sign?”

“No”

Again, I gassed the van, our heads bumped against the headrests, the gas station was close now…”Charle, don’t you see it!”

“Daddy, do you hear me yelling?” Charlie asked.

Puzzled, I responded, “No”.

“Then I can’t see the sign”.

My wife and I smiled as I finally made the turn into the Quicktrip parking lot.  Charlie hopped out and we were off and running to the potty, crisis averted.

A little while later, we were at the doctor’s office (only a couple of minutes late) for Charlie’s check up.  It’s now been 5 weeks since the EEG.  He’s been on medincine and the seizures have almost completly gone away.  The doctor gave Charlie a great report and the prognosis is very good.  The bottom line is that he should grow out of these in a few years time and it does not appear to be turning into anything greater.  This is a small problem and we are truly blessed that it isn’t something more serious.  Even the ringing in his ears has stopped and we’ve got our Charlie back.

These type of events teach you many things.  Most notably, I must remember that all the small problems don’t matter.  What does matter is your kids and your family. Charlie’s clarity of thought refreshes me.  We can and should refuse to listen to the small stresses in this world.  Deadlines are usually self imposed.  The laundry always get done, the red light always turns green.  Being a few minutes late will not impact the outcome.  When the world is pestering us like an overbearing father racing a white mini van towards a Qicktrip, let’s say, “Do you hear me yelling?  No?  Then I can’t see your stresses”.

Thanks for your thoughts, prayers and support.  Now, let’s go Enjoy The Day!

Confessions of a Rookie Father

Believe or not, I was a pretty good little league baseball player. If there was better 8 year-old fielding shortstop in West Wichita, circa 1986, I’d like to meet him…of course, history has a way of allowing us to remember things the way we want, no sense in getting caught up in facts. As I got older, I wouldn’t say my skills diminished as much as my body stopped growing, and the other kids got better…much better. My playing time decreased, rapidly, and I looked to find someone to blame.  In my case, it was easiest to blame my father.  In my mind, he had put pressure on me to perform…too much pressure.  So I did the unthinkable…I asked my father to stop attending my games.  He stopped showing up and my playing time continued to drop, until finally, I got cut from the team. Although my Dad wasn’t to blame for my benching’s, I was sure I wouldn’t put pressure on my kids when I became a father of my own.

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Four weeks shy of his sixth birthday, my oldest son, Henry was about to start in goal for the first time in a competitive soccer game. Turns out Henry acquired some of his ‘Ol Man’s hand eye coordination and has quickly showed a real gift for the little round ball.  This year, my wife and I decided to enroll Henry into a competitive league in our area, complete with yelling coaches, score being kept, and parents that really, really care. So it was, on this particular Saturday, that Henry found himself, between the pipes, with all of us parents looking on. As the whistle blew to signal the start of the game, I was overcome with a weird sensation. As the ball rocked and rolled around the field, bouncing like a pinball amongst the clump of boys, my heart began to race. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I found myself beginning to yell…”BE READY, HENRY!”. He didn’t look ready…, but why is he looking at me now? “WATCH THE GAME, NOT ME!”…what’s he doing?…he’s not even looking at the ball…oh no the ball…it’s coming right at ’em…I was sure my  heart was going to explode.

As if it had been blown out of a cannon, the ball broke away from the pack and was now heading right towards my oldest.  There was Henry, like a deer frozen in a head light,  as the opposing forward approached and with one swift kick, as if in slow motion…the ball went right through Henry’s legs.

My first thought was, why are all these people screaming? Then I remembered…all those parents care. The crowd was simultaneously groaning and cheering. When, from the corner of my eye, she turned. She had been sitting there since before the game, making small talk with me…

“…where do you live? Oh really? My son goes to the same school, what teacher? Oh that’s great, us too.  Don’t you just love this soccer team?…”

As my ears continued to ring from the groaning cheers, my emotions began to lava over…she turned and muttered,  in the condescending voice only a mother can deliver…”It’s OK, I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it.”

My mind erupted with emotion:

“Get the hang of it? Get the hang of it? Do you know who the hell my son is! Ya, the one that scored the winning goal last week, the only one that can kick a forward ball with any real force! Is that your son sitting in the dirt, eating grass? Ya, thought so…Henry will “get the hang of it” as soon as your son “gets the hang of putting his shin guards on right!”

Luckily, that was my internal voice…

The external voice was saying something like “That’s OK, Henry. You’ll get’em next time.”

It wasn’t till later that my emotions for the game subsided enough for me to fully reflect. As I drove home, I was filled with questions, most notably, had I become my father? Was I becoming the very type of pressuring parenting I never intended to be? The feelings I had were real, but what was I feeling exactly? Why did I care, in the heat of that moment, so much about my son’s performance? My initial thought was something along the lines of “He has so much potential, and I just want to see him compete like he does in the backyard with his friends, after all, I’ve seen him stop those kind of shots in his sleep”…but that would be false parental rationalization on my part. The truth is, I want him to do well for me.  We, as parents, do sometimes live vicariously through our children, and if we are not careful, we can want for our children what we really want for ourselves.  It occurred to me that all I want for my kids is for them to be happy…and that happiness has nothing to do with soccer or sports.

As I pulled into my driveway, I began to realize that although I have three boys, I’m a rookie when it comes to my oldest.  Every new experience for him, is a new experience for me.  No matter how many diapers I’ve changed or boys I’ve potty-trained, I’ll never be fully prepared for Henry’s new experiences…and that will last his lifetime.  I shouldn’t be concerned that I felt that way for his first competitive game as goalie…only concerned if I don’t change my thought process.  Because like any good rookie, I must learn from mistakes, or risk being put on the bench by a son who thinks his father is to blame.

Lessons To My Sons – Back To School Edition

Lessons To My Sons – Back To School Edition

On Values.

Values should guide your life.  Write them down, early and often.  Review them regularly and recognize that values evolve as your life & priorities change.  When you run up against difficult decisions, and you will face many, use them to chart your course.   Share your values with the people you love, as they will help hold you accountable.  My values are as follows:  Family, Achievement, Integrity, Health & Tranquilty.

On Love.

Love will confuse you, force you into mistakes, yet make you whole.  Understand that love is muscle, one that needs exercise and maturity to reach it’s fullest potential. I Love your mother and I love each of you, but my love does not end today, I must continue to practice, or the muscle develops atrophy.

On Politics.

Understand that we are Americans first, Republican & Democrat second.  Vote when you are able, and notice that your political opinions are worthless if you don’t.  Recognize that politics is a game, a negotiation, and that the answer tends to find itself in the middle.  Be careful when sharing your politics, as this subject will stoke emotions in others unlike any you’ve seen.

On Leadership.

Be a leader.  Understand that leadership comes in many functions & forms, and has little to do with your ability to speak or yell.  Your leadership will be judged by the number of listeners, whether you speak often or seldom.  Leadership almost always comes from the front, so understand that your actions will often be your loudest words & listening will be your greatest leadership gift.

On Passion.

Be passionate.  Take care of what you do.  Understand that your task, your work, your success will be enhanced when you are passionate about the project.  Have passion for others.  Success without sharing is failure.  Too much is given, much is expected, and I and your mother will give you plenty.

Stuck In The Middle With You

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams – Kahlil Gibran

Don Draper is a bad ass. For Mad Men fans, this is not news. The creator, Matt Weiner, deserves many kudos. He not only creates an observation deck into 1950’s New York, but also great characters…characters that explore human behavior and interpersonal relationships. The show may be set in the 50’s, but the characters are as fresh as ever.

In the season 4 finale, Draper, the leading man, decides to dump his reliable girl friend, Faye. She’s the one who, on paper, seems to be the perfect match. She’s intelligent, attractive & understands his history better than any other leading lady to that point…so he, of course, dumps her for the young, artistic, secretary, whom he proposes to after only a weekend together. As Draper breaks the news to Faye, she tearfully declares that she hopes the new fiance understands that Don “…only likes the beginnings of things”.

The Don

Draper smokes often, drinks heavily & cheats constantly…I don’t exactly relate to the character…but I do understand the notion of enjoying the beginnings of things. The challenge and discovery of taking on new projects is exhilarating.

At the tender age of five, I can see my oldest son, Henry, takes after his Ol’ Man. He goes full tilt, at all times…a few minutes of watching Olympic high diving, and he’s got the entire family room rearranged, re-creating the make-believe pool scene to a T. Things come easy to him, and he moves from one topic to the next, until he comes across an item that he can’t conquer…and then he gets frustrated, easily…

…I know the feeling well.

While Henry’s running full steam, Charlie, my middle child, personifies a “No Worry’s” attitude that would make Bob Marley proud. If there is more laid back 3-year-old, I’d like to meet him. At Thanksgiving last year, my Mother forgot to clean out the oven after cooking the festive turkey. The next day, as she tossed a couple Totino’s pizza’s in the oven for her three grandson’s, a grease fire broke out. Of course, most in the family over reacted, grabbed children, rushed out the door, assured the house was going to burn…except, the “Honey Badger”, as he was soon called. Charlie sat in his chair, observed his Dad and Uncle Dave put out the fire, and went back to coloring his books, only asking “Is the pizza ready?”

“I don’t think so, Badger, I don’t think so…”

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I often hear new parents use the term “zone” or “man-to-man” when comparing the difference between having one child and two. If that’s the case, and I don’t disagree, then having a third child is like getting a red card. You feel like you are a man down from the second those kids wake up in the morning till there heads hit the pillow at night. Needless to say, our house is “busy”…So what’s the ray of light in our cloudy skies? The oasis of peace in a desert of chaos? That’s right…school…magnicant school.

This year, my oldest starts kindergarten and Charlie goes off to pre-school. That means many hours of peace and quiet for my wife and less stress on the family… hallelujah!…of course, there’s one small issue….Charlie refuses to pee in a toilet. And suburban St. Louis preschools apparently don’t look highly on dysfunctional tinklers.

Raising a toddler that cares very little is a blessing. Grab the kid some juice, throw him in front of the Ipad, ensure there’s no older-brother-torture, and voila…you’ve got one happy child. The flip side…he’s three and without a diaper, he’ll pee through his shorts, down his leg, into a carpet puddle, at which point he’ll look up and smirk, “It’s only a lil’ bit”.

Here’s the thing when a father who likes the beginnings of things meets the toddler who cares for nothing…we have issues. I say “Jump”, he doesn’t move. I say “potty”, he still doesn’t move. I say “I give up”, he giggles and runs away. I’ve tried just about every technique, idea, piece of advice I could find on training…Potty Charts, M&M’s, fruit loops in the toilet, you name it, we’ve tried it…he just doesn’t care…but preschool starts in two weeks and my wife is up all night with the newborn. So what’s it gonna be son, you and me, we getting this done or what?

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The midday, two-minute walk from my car to Barnes & Nobles has me sweating profusely. Not how I wanted to spend my lunch break.

See anything good?

“Excuse me, Madam Book Lady, yes, I need to potty train my child, do they have a book for that?”

“Yes, yes they do”…

She guides me to “Potty Training your Child in just One Day”. Apparently, the gold standard of Potty Training.

I have lots of issues with this book, which we’ll get into, but it starts with the title. It should be called “Potty Training in a day, after you prep for 6 months”. If you think you’re gonna grab this book and start her process the next day, you’d be mistaken.

The book’s intense. I’ve never met the author, but I think we all know the Alpha Dog, Super Mom type…think that, times about 60…she had me running all over town gathering items for her so-called “Potty Party”. Did you know they have stores that ONLY sell fabric? Well, they do, and you’ll find out when you go, because you have to hand make batman underwear for a doll that pees on itself…

Intense.

Here’s the basic idea…You throw your kid a big party. Streamers, themes, whatever. The morning starts with your child opening a gift, which happens to be a doll. You name it (we went with George), make a big deal out of it. You spend the morning playing games, watching videos and teaching the doll how to pee on the toilet. Fingernails on a chalkboard, people, fingernails on a chalkboard.

In the afternoon, you pull the ol’ switcheroo on your toddler and begin teaching them how to use the potty, instead of the doll… you finish by going out to dinner, & opening some presents. Throw in a few calls from Nana & Papa, and Boom!, they’re trained like a teenager emerging from boot camp…by the way, if all that sounds kind of expensive, it is.

What the book doesn’t warn you about is this: What if your kid doesn’t give a rip about the party and the doll? What if he looks at your Potty Power DVD for about 2.5 minutes and rightfully turns if off and says “That’s silly, Daddy, let’s watch Clifford?” What if he has a father who only cares about the beginnings of things?

Handmade Batman underwear, people, handmade Batman underwear

I’ll tell you what happens…you go off script. No sense in spending the morning trying to get my son to care about a doll and some DVDs. Besides, Charlie’s issue isn’t the process of jumping on the potty, it’s the process of knowing when to go…

To be honest, maybe not my best moment…

By 7:15am, we had the big boy underwear on, the DVDs off, and coffee was brewing. The book instructs you to fill your kid up with liquids so he “feels the pressure” on the bladder. So I was pumping little Honey Badger with a juice box every 30 minutes…the only thing feeling the pressure was my carpet, under the constant barrage of accidents that littered the floor. Meanwhile, baby-doll George is laying face up on the bathroom floor, mocking me every time Charlie decides to tinkle anywhere but the toilet.

“You should have stuck to the plan, Ol’ Man, you should have stuck to the plan.”

By 10:15 I was running out of towels to clean up all the messes. I was beginning to lose my patience and the only thing making it into the toilet was my attitude. By lunch, I’d lost count of the accidents. My wife and I began to consider what missing pre-school would mean to Charlie.

Wife -“I’m sure he’ll be OK, we’ll just go next year…”

Me – “Maybe they have a class for potty – challenged kids”

As Charlie & I sat down for lunch, I pondered the morning’s activities. I had planned, practice, and (mostly) followed the book. I had spent money, time, prepping for this day. I had poured myself into this, into Charlie. My wife had left with the other 2 boys, leaving just Charlie and I to bond, to discover, to overcome. I was stuck…Things come easy, remember…this did not. Charlie looked amused. I was broken.

“Time for your nap, Badger, time for your nap”

****************************************************************************

Something happened that afternoon that I’ll never fully understand. From the time that kid went down for his nap, till the time he went to sleep 8 or so hours later, he didn’t have one accident. Not one tinkle awry. Hell, he was pullin’ the Stand-&-Pee routine by the time we hit Chick – Fil- A for his celebratory dinner…

Where’s the Daddy Training In-A-Day Book?

He’s too young to remember, and I’m not smart enough to understand, but it makes me wonder. In our crazy, red-card world, Charlie sits and sees a new brother, stealing a bunch of kisses on one side. On the other side, he sees an older brother, so full of energy, stealing the rest. Makes me wonder, did good ol’ Charlie enjoy the morning of chaos? Enjoy that attention? Enjoy “his time”? I’d like to believe it was the calls of encouragement by the grandparents in the afternoon, or my tried and true enthusiasm and positive thinking, but deep down, I think he saw the despair & frustration in his father’s eyes, and thought…”Ok, he’s had enough”.

Several days of passed since the Potty Training in a day…and Charlie’s had very few accidents. He’s ready for preschool and his mother couldn’t be happier. I guess the book did it’s job, although if asked, I don’t think I’d recommend it.

I’m learning quickly that our kids will do what they want, when they want, despite what us Father’s say….better get used to it, I hear. But maybe, just maybe, those same kids will see how much we care, how much we want them to succeed, and they’ll take it easy on us…maybe, if we show them the dedication they deserve, stay true to ourselves, they’ll end up being OK…they can’t pee in the their pants forever, right?

The training is complete, the story has been told…and in this case, I enjoyed the ending of things.

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