Dads Count as Real Help

This is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.

Mijos,

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
Dad’s count as real help!  Parenting is very complex and encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities which are split differently depending on the family structure and what simply works best for everyone.  However, it was made evident to me that there are people (I hope a small group) that assume that dads just cannot/will not/should not complete certain tasks.  I understand that men are not typically seen as nurturing, and may cringe at the idea of completing domestic tasks like cleaning and laundry.  But honestly, gender aside, who really enjoys doing these things anyway?(Except your mom, she gets an inexplicable satisfaction from cleaning).  However, this is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.  That mayMammoth include bringing a mastodon back to the cave for food or just changing a diaper.  Simply put, a new breed of modern men exist and are thriving.

Mom, you need HELP!
It all started around Mami’s 36 week pregnancy check-up with Deuce.  The appointment started off very routine with the doctor asking how things were progressing, checking Deuces heart beat and the usual “look under the hood”.  The mood of the check-up changed when the doctor used the dreaded “B” word, BEDREST.  Honestly, after understanding it was strictly precautionary to get as close to the 40 week mark as possible and that Deuce was healthy and thriving, my next emotion was jealousy.  Imagine not going to work, chilling in bed with a bell to ring for someone to address your every need, and endless hours of Netflix and DVR binge watching.  It sounded like a mini vacation to me; except for the whole human growing inside of you thing.

I quickly snapped out of my haze as the doctor began listing activities Mami should avoid while on bedrest.  As the list grew longer with orders like “do not pick up/carry your toddler, no vacuuming and no bending over”, I started a mental list of tasks I would need to take over.  Then came the slap in the face…the doctor finished the list and asked Mami, (as if I wasn’t in the room), “do you have any real help close by, like your mom?”  After glancing over to me with a puzzled look, Mami stated “no, my mom is not close by…”

In my opinion, I was expecting the doctor to turn to me and say “Ok dad, your time to shine!” It didn’t.  She started to explain how Mami could do modified tasks while on bedrest.  The modified task that insulted me the most was cooking.  She highlighted that Mami could season and prepare the food on the counter and cook on the stove top, but I would need to hand her any pots and place the food in the oven because she shouldn’t bend over.  While annoyed, I tried not to take it personal assuming she was under the pretense that women do all the cooking in the home, and this may be a valid concern forEating some pregnant moms.

Not Another One
Let’s fast forward to the delivery room the morning after Deuce’s birth.  As usual, the nurse arrived to check on Mami and Deuce, and after going over a few documents and ensuring that feeding and bowel movements were occurring regularly (for Deuce not Mami), the nurse asked Mami if anyone was in town or close by to help her.  Mami stated that ‘Abuela’ was in town, which prompted the nurse to respond “glad you’ve got some help here”…again…as if I wasn’t in the room.

Obviously every helping hand is welcome when bringing a new baby home, especially when this is the second one and we, as a family, could use all the help we can get from whoever is willing. It takes a village.  But, dads count as help too!  Maybe I’m reading into the nurse’s comments too much given the encounter with the doctor.  And it’s possible that I read too much into the doctor’s comments as well, but either way a dad is part of the family team and not a liability when it comes to domestic responsibilities.

“You ‘gon Learn Today”
As a self-proclaimed SSM, “Self-Sustained Man”, I cannot stress the importance of learning how to complete domestic tasks.  As your father, I never want you to be in a situation where you can’t be of help to your family or to yourself for that matter.  So as my parents taught me, I will transfer that knowledge to you.  Let the record show I am doing this in the spirit of caring, but at times, I know it may seem like punishment when I am making you do chores.  Just remember that one of the best ways to learn is to do.  The following is a list of tasks that will serve you well throughout your life and you can “help” with when you have your own family.

cooking

Cooking:   I learned the basics of cooking from watching your grandparents when I was young, but my love of food is what really got me into cooking.  During the holidays, I would spend time trying to help in the kitchen while asking a lot of questions to your great aunts/uncles and great-grandma as they cooked my favorite dishes.  Whether it was Aunt P’s macaroni and cheese, Aunt L’s dumplings or Grandma’s honey ham, I wanted to recreate those dishes because once a year was not enough.  I didn’t realize until I was older that what I learned growing up can save money, make me feel like I am back home or in a particular place/time, and can even impress the ladies (like Mami and your grandma of course).

Laundry:  This is a big one!  For me, I do laundry for a few reasons, first I don’t want Mami touching my gym clothes. They are usually soaked from sweat and have a smell of…. progress to them.  I personally feel that if she was subject to that encounter every week she would begin to resent me.  Secondly, one time she washed my clothes and she didn’t empty my pockets and there went my wallet…so yea, I just do it.  Doing my own laundry served me well, especially when puberty hit, but that subject is for another day.  Just know, it’s probably better for all involved for you to wash your on clothes and bedding yourself than to subject one of us to it.  Laundry is quite simple, the daunting part is separating everything and putting it away after it’s done in a timely matter.

Ironing:  There is nothing like a fresh pressed shirt, even if it’s a t-shirt, but it does take a little effort.  While putting it in the dryer and taking it out right after works to get outdryer wrinkles, a method I’ve used since middle school, it just doesn’t give it the clean professional look you get with an iron.  What I have learned though, is that ironing men and kids clothes is a lot easier than Mami’s.  Be thankful that you won’t have those problems because I still don’t know how to iron a dress with all those creases.

Dishes:  I’m going to pull the “you have it easy because back in my day” card.  Growing up your grandpa used to say “I don’t need a (machine) dishwasher, I have 6 of them right here”.  If you don’t get the reference he is referring to me and your uncles.  We got to the point where we used an assembly line with one person washing, another rinsing and the last person drying and putting the dishes away.  It wasn’t until college that I learned how to use a dishwasher.  However, you’ll still have to rinse off the food and give it a quick wash with the sponge and soap before running the dishwasher to sanitize the dishes.

SweepingCleaning:  Cleaning is a broad term, and depending on the room, the tasks change.  In the bathroom you’ll have to scrub the tub/shower, sink, toilet, and don’t forget to wipe the toothpaste splatter off the mirror.  In the bedroom you’ll need to just keep the floor clear of toys and other objects that will cause me pain when walking in the dark.  Also, make sure your clothes are put away because you can’t have a “chair closet” until you’re grown.  Don’t forget to make your bed and don’t worry, hospital corners are only for show and not practical.  Just keep the Living room in order and you’re done.  The dining room and den, well those rooms are just for show per your mom, so just keep them dust free.  Speaking of dusting, all furniture in the rooms will need to be wiped down and the floors will need to be swept and mopped or just vacuumed pending on the floor type.

There are levels to cleaning, but understand if company is coming over, Mami goes intoCleaning sanitation inspection manager mode and will expect a deep clean.  Honestly, my standard for what is considered clean is not to your Mami’s standards.  I don’t think anyone meets her standards, but she will try and teach you, I can assure you of that. Clean to her standard and you’ll be fine.

Sewing:  When I say sewing I am not referring to operating a sewing machine because I don’t have one nor do I know how to use one.  However, your great grandma had one and created awesome patch quilts, but her impact on me is for a different time.  In short, you will need to learn how to use a needle and thread to sew holes, put on buttons, fix a broken zipper or hem pants if you’re feeling adventurous.  As a parent this skill can be used to conduct eye surgery to give sight sewingback to toys or to ensure they don’t lose their internal organs.  To me, sewing is a lost art, but the trick is always being able to thread the needle.

Fully Equipped 
In college, I witnessed firsthand, other kids that couldn’t do for themselves.  Some were unable to do laundry and literally going home every other weekend just so their mom could do it.  During ROTC training, some couldn’t iron their uniform or make their bed to save their life.  While I learned all these tasks for different reasons, whether it was because I liked cooking or because I was forced to scrub a tub, they have all served me well once I was out on my own.  Again, this is not to be seen as “chores” or “punishment”, this is us (no pun intended, but also the name of one of the best shows ever!  Find it. Watch it.  See your life change) fully equipping you with the ability to be self-sustaining men and “Real Help” to your families.

Love you both to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@Outer_space_dad

The FEAR of Fatherhood

My Beloved Osito,

I always had dreams of my future and how my life would turn out.  That future always included having the “perfect” family, like the Cosby Show, and being the fun, enthusiastic, and involved dad.  But, no one ever explained to me the utter FEAR that comes with fatherhood.  For me, the fear came in three distinct stages, the announcement, pregnancy and labor, and your introduction into the world.  With the arrival of your brother, “Deuce”, I had to relive the fear that comes with stages one and two and now I have a double dose of fear for the third stage.

Stage 1: The Announcement – FEAR of being Unprepared
This is the beginning of fatherhood.  For you, the announcement came one fall afternoon.  As I was watching The U’s football game, Mami came in nervous and hesitant.  After asking her to tell me what was wrong a few times, she handed me the pregnancy test and sheepishly said “I think I’m pregnant”.  For Deuce, the announcement was the complete opposite, occurring one June evening.  As we were sitting on the couch I noticed an inexplicable glow encompassing Mami who had just walked into the loft
from taking a shower.  See, I knew that glow. I had seen it before. Add that, and the fact that in hindsight I noticed she had been getting tired earlier than usual I had the pleasure of telling her she was pregnant.  Disclaimer: She completely brushed me off and life went on as usual until she took a test 2 weeks later that proved I was right.

Along with the shock and the joy of expectancy that comes with the announcement, the FEAR of being unprepared is not far behind.  For me, I feared being unprepared financially, to an extent, but honestly my biggest fear was my maturity level.  You hear stories (and they are true) of the financial burden that comes with having kids, and I knew we were not in a place where I felt comfortable to do more than just meet the needs of having a child.  My plan was to be a D.I.N.K (Dual Income No Kids) for several years before children came into the plan.  As Announcmenta D.I.N.K, my goal was to be debt free, (95% of my debt comes from my school loans), followed by building wealth and then preparing for kids.  However, things did not go as planned and while I still have the same goals, the schedule has shifted slightly.  While managing this fear, I chose to change my lifestyle dramatically and with that my priorities changed.  Since money always goes to your priorities first, things freed up in the budget.  And while some things I enjoyed have been cut out, I honestly don’t miss them because I have us.

Maturity was a completely different battle that I couldn’t figure out with spreadsheets and formulas because it was completely mental.  Prior to both of you, I would constantly have thoughts like “I am not really an adult”, “it feels like I left college yesterday” and “why is the cashier calling me sir, I can’t be more than 4 years older”.  Following your births, those thoughts along with the fact that I’m now supposed to raise and be responsible for a helpless human being…you may understand my fear.  While no switch has ever flipped that I am aware of, each day, I simply try my best, read what I can, listen to the doctors and do what we believe is best for you both.  However, it has been beyond refreshing to realize that I can run around the house in my underwear with you in your diaper yelling and mimicking my every move at the age of 29 without fear of being judged (except by your Mami) because I’m “playing with my kids”.

Stage 2: Pregnancy and Labor – FEAR of Helplessness 
This stage of fatherhood is very hands off and feeling helpless for 9 months is an indescribable FEAR.  Between the 37th and 40th week of pregnancy, there was not much I could do directly for you, but by making Mami comfortable, I knew I was helping…I think.  This phase was very difficult because while the reality of fatherhood becomes real upon hearing your heartbeat, seeing the ultrasounds, and watching Mami’s belly grow, there was nothing else I could do to make sure everything was going as planned.  During the day, to help ease the fear and feel part of the process, I studied like I was trying to be valedictorian in our lamaze class subsequently acing all the quizzes.  At doctor’s visits, I always had a list of questions and just tried to remind Mami of all the questions she had because “pregnancy brain” is real.  However, at night was when FEAR would peak.  Some nights were sleepless, but sleep or not, thoughts of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy and labor crept into my mind.

Labor was more intense than the pregnancy, whether it lasted 3 days (you) or 3 hours (“Deuce”).  Watching the sheer pain that Mami was in and only being able to offer ice chips or suggest a position change, gave me an overwhelming helpless feeling.  And, as she pushed, I offered what felt like empty words of encouragement like “just a few more minutes” and “one more good push”.  As I watched you guys come out, instantly, I counted limbs and appendages and wondered if the purple hue was normal. Specifically, during your birth Osito, your purple appearance had me speechless as the doctor guided you out and stated that the umbilical cord was around your neck.  His calmness didn’t help ease my fears of the worst because I was sure you weren’t getting enough oxygen.  It turns out, 1/3 of babies are born with the umbilical cord around their neck and some doctors don’t even mention it during the labor.

Stage 3: Introduction to the World – FEAR of the unknown. 
The fear in this stage is difficult to categorize, so we will call it the FEAR of the unknown.  I can’t count the number of times I check to see if you’re breathing by watching your chest rise and fall on the baby monitor or by blowing softly in your face while you’re in my arms to make sure you twitch.  While part of my fear has to do with innate behaviors like will you choke on food because I don’t know how you learned to chew and swallow or complications like the risk of putting tubes in your ears, the biggest area of concern is how you will successfully navigate this harsh world and making sure I teach you everything I know to help you do it better than me.  Reading and watching articles and videos on social media of kids getting bullied or an encounter with the police that goes tragically wrong, I find myself analyzing the situations like a case study.  My hope is that I can learn something, anything that I can teach you both to ensure you always come home.  What I have concluded to from my own experiences is that this fear is difficult to overcome, just being a father, but there is an added layer of complexity being a black dad raising his sons to be men.  My fear is that I may miss something and the worst happens to you because of it.

Osito and Duece

Coping Mechanism: 
As the cliché goes, I have a good understanding what my parents must have gone through raising me and your uncles and yet you’re not even old enough to leave the house, drive nor are you even ready for kindergarten for that matter.  I also understand why my parents and grandparents spent so much time praying for us.  Once you’ve done everything you can whether that be by making spreadsheets, reading and making up case studies, you have to turn it over to Jesus and know that he is your help and trust that all things work out for the good of those that trust him.  While fear is a natural human response, I encourage you both to not let it control you and prevent you from living the life that was planned for you before you were a twinkle in my eye. Despite all of this, you guys bring me so much joy with just a simple smile and I will never let fear stop me from being the best father possible.

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Food & Football Week 13 2016: The U vs Duke

My Beloved Osito,

It’s week 13 and with this being the last game of the regular season, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel of the 2016 NCAA Football season.  The grand finale will be a match up against the Duke Blue Devils in Durham, North Carolina.  This is an intmiracleriguing game solely based on how last year’s game ended with the “miracle“. It was a crazy last second play that ended with some officiating controversy.  The wildest thing about this game was not the play, but the backlash from the media after the game.  Many across the country were calling for The U to forfeit the game or for the ACC to give the win to Duke.  Anyone who has played sports or been around sports knows that you can’t focus on one play or call and ignore all the other calls throughout the game.  The U isn’t the first team to win (or lose) on a controversial call, yet this is the first time I’ve seen the ‘mob’ calling for a team to void a win.  It just feeds the narrative that the NCAA and the media is not very fond of The U, but I digress.

For the game meal, I explored a few options. The first was the “Devil” aspect of Duke’s mascotmascot named after the French soldiers of WWI, “Les Diables Bleus”.  This led me to explore devil’s food cake or maybe even loaded deviled eggs, but that didn’t intrigue me.  I reverted back to the state vegetable of North Carolina, the good ole sweet potato.  The game was right after Thanksgiving and everyone was shifting into the Christmas mood and I was craving a homemade pie.  It was a perfect match because I really wanted a sweet potato pie like I used to have at your great grandmother’s during the holidays.  The icing on the cake, or pie if you will, was that we also had a Weekend Adventure planned to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, TX.

The game, with all the intrigue leading up to kickoff, was basic fundamental football.  You could tell The U had no intentions of putting the game in the hands of the referees again and took care of business.  Despite a very tight game in the first half, 16 -14 UM, The U ran away with it in the 3rd  quarter which gave more playing time to 2nd and 3rd string players in the last quarter.

The pie was very basic in execution as well.  I thought it was a complicated endkaden-patatoeeavor, but after talking with my mom, it is a simple dessert to make.  The game ended with a score of 40 to 21 and the U closed the regular season on a 4 game win streak.  The pie, coupled with all the nostalgia, ranked an 8 of 10 for me and it was Mami’s first time having sweet potato pie.  Next time I make a sweet potato pie, there will be a few tweaks I would like to make to enhance the experience.  For example, making the crust from scratch and adding a crunchy element of some type on top. But overall, this one was really good.  The U’s next game is a few weeks away as we wait for the start of the “College Football Bowl Season”.

crust-and-patatoe

Ingredients:

1.  Take two sweet potatoes and place them in the oven at 350 degrees until the peel starts to blacken and pull away from the flesh of the potatocooked-patatoe

2.  After the potatoes cool, peel and place in a mixing bowl

3.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg

4.  In a separate bowl, mix a cup of milk, two eggs, melted butter, and vanilla

5.  With the mixer on, slowly add liquid mixture into the potatoes and mix thoroughly

6.  Add mixture into the pie crust and sprinkle the top with a little cinnamon

oven-ready

7.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for ~30 min or until filling is set and the crust is brown

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad

Christmas Traditions: All of the Lights 2016

My Beloved Osito,

Christmas traditions come in various forms and develop under different circumstances for each family. Despite the tradition or how it was developed, pPresent.JPGeople cling to these events, activities or foods and find comfort in them and admittedly I am no different. Growing up, our traditions never revolved around presents. Presents were not a focal point, not
because we didn’t want things like every other kid, but because Mom and Pops only had enough to provide us with our basic needs most years. And thankfully, now that I’m grown, I am glad they were not the type to go into debt to get us things we were convinced we needed to survive.

As a kid, outside of dreading the presents aspect of Christmas; when other kids asked “what did you get for Christmas?” while showing off their designer clothes, shoes and overpriced toys from their parents; I looked forward to one thing (other than family), Christmas light displays. Going to see lights was not a tradition in our family, but more of a coincidence. Honestly, I don’t know why I enjoy the lights, but the art behind these master pieces with different colors, inflatables, and the surrounding environment
brings me joy. As a kid, there was one stretch of road, merry-texashighway 278, which always had an enormous display that stretched across multiple houses. I remember being in the backseat seeing all the vibrant colors and pointing out all the characters and designs screaming “did you see that?!”

Now, this childhood “coincidence”, has now become a part of our family tradition. As the Air Force moves us around through the years, we will explore the    Christmas lights displays in those areas and surrounding cities. This year we had a very “Merry Texas Christmas [Y’all]”. Comprised of two Hutchins’ Weekend Adventure(s), we went to Magical Winter Lights in Texas City and Santa’s Wonder Land in College Station, Texas.

Magical Winter Lights (MWL)

The environment of MWL did not create a Christmas mood, at all, given it was a gigantic parking lot right off I-45. Once you enter, there was no organized fchinalow, but just isolated displays scattered throughout the parking lot. Once you get over the highway noise, the street and business lights in the background and the huge Waffle House sign that looked like it was part of the park and focused on the displays, it was really awesome. We started at the enchanted forest, fully stocked with deer, unicorns and a carriage and then made our way around the world with stops in several different countries. We then took a step back to the “Land before Time” and visited with the dinosaurs. We then rushed to ‘Houston’ making it in time to catch the Space Shuttle. (Don’t be confused, you know the Shuttles were launched from my first base, Cape Canaveral, but there is a replica at Space Center Houston. We ended the adventure with a view of the solar system.

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Santa’s Wonderland (SW):name

SW completely nailed it when it came to putting someone in the Christmas mood. Once you walk through the over-sized red doors, you instantly felt transported to a scene out of a Christmas movie. The design of the different shops, the fire pit in the center of town and the music made for an amazing ambiance. The food was good and decently priced, but you can easily bring your own food inside. I am not sure if this is against policy, but you do what you want/need to when you have a baby bag and a sometimes picky baby (looking at you). The main attraction of SW is the hay ride through a wooded area full of lights and displays. The line was long, but worth the wait. Plus it didn’t seem that long since Mami held our place in line as I walked you around to keep you occupied. SW’s displays ranged from military tributes to magical castles with national landmarks and scenes from the North Pole in between. It was definitely worth the trip and you loved your first hay ride. However, I would suggest going during the week for a lower cost ticket and a smaller crowd.

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Overall, Christmas 2016 was composed of two really good adventures, but they both had their good and bag. If you could take the environment and ambiance from Santa’s Wonderland and combine it with the displays from Magical Winter Lights it would be an epic park.

1-houston

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

Outer Space Dad