The Calm Before … The Birth

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The CalmSo here we are … 2 days past the due date of offspring number two … a.k.a. – The #StephensRemix version. Guaranteed to be chock full o’ fun given the recent ultrasound predictive weight of 7.7 lbs. Yeah, that was 3 weeks ago. Let’s just say that we either have a world record placenta or the remix version shares her daddy’s BMI.

Let me first begin by saying that my esteemed spouse is a Rockstar! And I’m not just saying that to keep on her side (maybe a little, but not so much). I have watched her grow in spirit and girth for 9 going on 26 months it seems and not once has she complained. Not once. So, shout out to the old lady!

Now, I fancy myself as a secure type of guy (some may say Bruce Willis-esque), so when I was recently approached by my wife to take a day off work and spend it together getting pedicures I was definitely all in. One last hurrah. The final countdown. 60 minutes of bliss before the storm … child free. For those of you who know the Stephens fam well, you can only snicker at the fact that our pedicure of solitude was parallel with the newest play area and it was crammed full. Go figure.

The experience began simply and innocently enough. A little small talk. A few questions about what we wanted and then …

The not at all attractive pedicurist person gleefully exclaimed, “Ohhh, so you a pedicure virgin!” And we were off. Did I mention that she was not the least bit attractive?

I’ll spare you all of the details, but let’s just say that there could be a 12-step program for this shiz … warm water, massage chair, oils, scrubs, paraffin baggies. Hello, my name is Chuck and I get pedicures. Often. The aforementioned snot toting toddlers just 20 feet away? Never heard them. It was definitely a “Calgon take me away” moment and it was pure bliss. Add in the fact that it was just me and my better half experiencing it together … pure perfection.

Upon leaving we had the rest of the day to spend kid-free with our silky smooth tootsies! What to do, what to do? The day was ours! Adventure awaits!

We did what ALL wise parents do when the kids are away …

We took a nap.

Cue Up The Jay-Z

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9424_1172503145992_2230064_nSince the day Charlie was born, my father-in-law has taunted me …

“You’re not a real parent unless you have two or more.”

Easy for him to say. I’m heading towards 42 and although I must admit I’m still very much on my baby-making game, it’s still a stretch to envision starting over again. Hell, C is just now heading in to week two of being quasi-potty trained … she’ll be four in August. #latebloomer

I remember the days of lying on the bed praying that the baby would sleep. Please, sleep. Drifting in and out of consciousness. Discovering Harvey Karp and “The Happiest Baby on the Block” in the nick of time. Projectile vomit. Flying poop on the new drapes. Endless bottle washing and … please baby, please. Sleep. Baby Einstein on loop while administering breathing treatments. And barely surviving the news that open-heart surgery was definitely in our future.

“You’re not a real parent unless you have two or more.” Riigghhttt. I’ve had enough real parenting to last me a minute.

I remember the days of lying on the couch watching our beautiful child sleep in her swing. Lulling her to sleep with the bass hits of Jay-Z in the car. Picking her up from school and the unbelievable feeling of the running hug into my arms. Endless trips to the Louisville Zoo. Swim lessons. Gymnastics. Dance recitals. Mickey Mouse on Spotify with a side of Kool & The Gang for daddy. No more diapers! Hatching butterflies from caterpitters. Gigs and gigs of images and video on ye olden Dropbox … memories of the greatest days of my life.

I don’t care how many you have. Parenting is a crap ton of work, but nothing compares.

Nothing.

Chapter 2 begins 11/1/13.

Hey Dewey. Look, I’m a real parent now!

A Fairy Tale Not Quite From The Hood

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photo (7)Once upon a time, in a land far away …

OK, let’s start again.

Once upon a time, in a 3-story Victorian home quaintly nestled in the urban concrete jungle of Old Louisville (to clarify, not in the hood, but you can see it from my front door), there lived two princesses. One Jen. One Charlie.

Any guesses as to which one actually embodies the whole princess persona? Here’s a clue. After viewing the cool pic of her and her mom dressed similarly from significantly different time periods, Charlie turns to me and says,

“I want to look at pictures of just me.” #smh

I came upon both of these images earlier this week and realized that even though I fancy both of the females in my home as princesses in my mind, only one really gets the royal treatment. Truth be told, the other is more of a royal glue gal. She helps to hold everything together.

Now, before all ya’ll start hatin’ let’s be clear. I am not absentee and I absolutely pull my weight in the parenting department. I believe in complete equitable distribution of the parenting/household duties. I grew up watching my moms do everything and I always swore that if I could con someone into taking me on as a husband, I would not repeat the cycle. And I haven’t. So there.

Here’s the thing. I don’t spend nearly enough time reminding my spouse that she is and always will be my number one princess. I fail miserably in that department.

It’s true, but it hasn’t always been that way.

In fact, back in the day, I nearly screwed up what is now my charmed life because I spent too much time smothering my wife-to-be. Unfortunately I tend to be an all or nothing sort of partner. Black and white. Extreme to not so much.

It’s difficult to find that happy medium. Much to my wife’s chagrin I might add.

I’m learning a lot about myself these days and one of the things I’m trying to do is be honest about where I need to improve and more importantly, actually improve.

So know this. I love you wife. You are my partner and you are my best friend.

If not for you, I’d still be lying on a ratty futon eating Domino’s pizza every day. At least now, we have some decent furniture to sit on while we eat Domino’s pizza. And for that, I thank you.

Jen, you’re the shiznit and I love you for it. Don’t ever forget it.

And they all lived happily ever after …

Not in the hood, but you could see it from there.

Shoot. It’s Hard Out Here For A Dad.

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photo (7)I’m a sucker. Simple.

I know it. My wife knows it. Hell, everyone knows it.

Case in point. My wife’s latest Facebook comment regarding the much needed exorcism of our daughter:  Chuck is the one that sent her to her room so you know it must be bad. – J. Parker-Stephens

The next three comments ranged from: “Yeah, it must be bad” to “Oh my … that tells it all” and my favorite, “Seriously, wow that’s a first.”

Here’s the thing. They’re right. I’m finding it hard to hold back the tears tonight because I had to put my baby to bed without any of her shows, reading to her or singing her songs when I tucked her in. Yes, I know I need to discipline my child, but I’m not going to lie …

It’s hard out here for a dad.

My daughter is the best thing I have ever done in my life. She is my world and nobody told me it would be this hard to discipline her when she hurts my feelings or lets me down. I know that it’s the right thing to do, but it’s so hard. Even when she is SO wrong!

Truth be known I’m a softy. Outside this tough Bruce Willis-like exterior and Michael Keaton-like interior is just a dad who doesn’t know if he can always make the best decisions when his baby screws up.

So there you go. I’m a sucker. I know it. My wife knows it. And all of her Facebook friends and you know it.

I’ve gotta go. I think I heard Charlie hollering for a drink of water.

Shoot. It’s hard out here for a dad.

Sunup ‘Til Sundown

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FaceDownYes, that is my daughter face down in the middle of the street.

Yes, she is only three.

And yes, I laugh hysterically (without apology, I might add) each and every time I look at this image. How can you not? It’s wrongness alone is #instantclassic worthy, but it’s the sweetness that I cannot escape. The kinship of childhood  innocence that stirs within me.

Here’s the deal. The Old Lady and I were NEVER having kids. We were those people. You know who you are. Nope, it was going to be all “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” …  without the poop. Without the responsibility. Just me and the wifey doing what we do best … whatever we want. We were too selfish to pro-create.

Damn, that actually sounds good. No poop? Really?

So what changed? Not a thing. We’re still selfish. Wait, let me back up. I’m definitely still selfish. Horribly selfish I might add. #beatdownaverted

Here’s the point. There is nothing in this world that brings me more joy than watching my kid be a kid. It takes me back to a time where more than five minutes in the car seemed like forever and a new pair of tennis shoes was like getting an Apple product. No conference calls. No PowerPoint slides to create.

Just fun … sunup ’til sundown.

Friends of ours described a recent bath time discussion they had with their daughter about playing with the neighborhood kids that day. She was definitely not mistaken and went to great lengths to get them to understand, “No, we didn’t play war. We played whore! NOT war!”

This weekend my daughter has taken to calling me a crackaa which coincidentally delights me to no end. I don’t know why, but it does. Probably because she enunciates it correctly. Drop the “er” white people. And for the record, she was lying in the street with her eyes closed “hiding” from her cousin. She figured her stealth was all in the eye closing. I can’t make this stuff up. This is life.

Every day is a reminder.

I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder – the reminder that life is short and I better get on with it.

Enjoy it, sunup ’til sundown. Poop and all.

I’ll take it.

Enjoy. Every. Second.

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20130305-180438.jpgThe hardest thing I have had to come to grips with as a parent is that my baby girl will only be around the house for a short time.

When you have a child it’s always the same litany of advice being bandied about by those who have gone before you, “Don’t do this” sprinkled with a little bit of “Don’t do that” and the coup de grace of all parental cliches … “Enjoy your time with them, it goes so fast.”

What I have learned is that it does indeed fly by and there’s not a dang thing you can do to stop it. Believe me. I’ve run every scenario and it’s just not possible.

It is my friends … inevitable. She will grow up.

So what’s a dad to do?

At the ripe age of 41, I’m doing this later than most who have gone before me. The old bones already lament the trip up the 21 stairs to the second floor (I do rock the Fitbit stats though) and I’m not too far removed from becoming the codger who uses the same excuse for everything that is wrong with the world — “It’s those damn kids and their rap music.”

I say all this only to emphasize the simplicity of how you should approach parenthood:

Enjoy. Every. Second.

It’s difficult to drop what you’re doing and answer the all too familiar call of, “Daddy, will you play with me?” Am I right? Need to pay those bills, wash those dishes and the litter box is disgusting. How do I have time to make it all work?

There’s a wonderful song that I listen to at least once every day (this is a true statement) since becoming a father. And without a doubt, it will be included in any future marital ceremony that may come to pass in the coming years. It’s lyrics are simple, but the message is sweet … and yes, I cry every time.

Here’s the chorus:

So I will dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella, I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone

Simple as that — enjoy it. Bask in it. Suck every ounce of goodness, pain and life lessons out of that super short stint of time.

‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone.

Cinderella
Cinderella (acoustic version) highly recommend
Cinderella (not acoustic, but still good)

Doppelganger Style

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They call me Bruce.

There’s a running joke in my social network about the celebrity I most closely resemble. Or if you’re in the small group of haters, the celebrity I look nothing like.

Of course, it’s Bruce Willis … the eyes, the smirk, the hairstyle, or lack thereof. Forget about the more obvious similarities: good looks, magnetic personality, effortless repartee and the list goes on.

Bottom line, I look like the dude.

Hell, just last night a 20-something chick called it. Without hesitation I might add.

What can I say? It’s a gift and a curse. Sometimes it’s a struggle just to get through a meal with all the interruptions and all. Other times, it’s just awkward when someone doesn’t see the obvious connection, but what are you going to do? You push through and you make it work.

Let’s face it. If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t choose B-Dub. Don’t get me wrong. I have definitely man crushed the guy for many years, but I fancy myself more of a Michael Keaton type of guy: unassuming humor, attractive but not to the point of making others uncomfortable and clearly the best Batman, by far. Sorry Christian.

No, I’ve always held to the idea, “I want to be like Mike.”

OK, maybe it’s less about wanting to be like Mike. It’s probably more like, “Face it. You’re not Bruce Willis. You’re Michael Keaton.” If I’m being honest.

220Bruce is a walk through glass barefoot ass kicker. Michael is a bassackwards dad who wires his house in “220 … 221, whatever it takes.”

Bruce is all “Yippee ki yay, mutha …” Michael is “My brain is like oatmeal.”

Yes, I realize I’m describing the characters and not the actors, but I can’t help but feel like Michael Keaton is very much Jack Butler in real life. Mr. Mom and Batman all rolled into one.

OK, so I’m Michael Keaton … and I’m just fine with that.

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