parenting

stars

Saying Goodbye to a Five Year Old

When I picked up my son after school a few days ago, he walked slowly to the door, head down and quiet. He normally bounds over to me when I show up at the end of the day. He got his hat and jacket on without saying much, and we walked out to the car.

When we got home I opened the car door, and he looked like he was about to cry. “I don’t want you to go on another trip,” he said.

That morning we had talked about the fact that I was leaving in a few days for a conference. I had only just returned home from another trip. “I just want some special time with you and me,” he said, reaching out and grabbing my hand. We decided that we’d go out for dinner together that night, and get ice cream afterwards.

An hour later we walked out the front door and he stopped in his tracks, looking up at the night sky. It was a clear, cold winter night, and the stars filled the sky. He smiled as he looked up at in awe. Usually we eat dinner around six, get ready for bed by seven and are reading books by eight. So he hasn’t had that many chances to see the night sky, so dark and deep and full.

I just watched him studying the stars, seeing the world through his eyes, feeling his wonder and thinking about how some goodbyes never become routine. I wanted to hold on to that moment. (more…)

I Don’t Want to Be Rested

Around Thanksgiving of last year my wife and I rewrote the lyrics to Lorde’s song “Royals” from the perspective of over-tired parents. We called the song “Rested” and posted it here on my blog and on Facebook. Here is the chorus:

We’ll never be rested
Now that we have kids
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us
We gotta find a different kind of buzz

A few weeks later my friend Lisa Hilary recorded our lyrics, and that is when our parody started to take off.

In the last month the song has been viewed nearly one million times, at one point getting more than 200,000 hits a day for a few days. Our parody started getting played on the radio and we got invited to go on CNN’s Headline News.

The best part however, was the amazing response from other parents who felt like the song validated their struggles and sleeplessness. The comments section on the post quickly filled up with people commiserating about never feeling rested, offering support and lots of advice.

Throughout all of this, people said to me over and over again, “Don’t worry – it get’s better. You’ll sleep again someday.” But here is the thing, while I would love a few more hours of sleep, the truth is I don’t want to be rested. (more…)

A Reminder of Falling

My son pumped his legs against the hard plastic pedals, willing away the late afternoon heat, as he aimed his bike towards the puddle in front of him. He rocked back and forth as the pedals turned, thinking only about how fast he could go. And then, his wheels cut into the water with a hiss that seemed to split the puddle in half, like Moses with training wheels. He laughed as he looked back at the wet tire tracks drawing out behind him.  (more…)

Turning off NPR: Media, Crisis and Kids

NPR used to be a morning ritual for me. Wake up, make coffee, turn on NPR. But for the last few months I have vacated that part of the radio dial, tuning in only occasionally, often when I’m alone in my car.

I was at the Boston Children’s Museum with my family on December 14, when I learned about the Sandy Hook shooting. Checking Twitter absent-mindedly while waiting in line, I saw the first tweets and news reports filling my stream. I looked up from my phone to a cacophony of kids laughing and playing around me, many of whom were the same age as the kids who were killed just minutes earlier.

Image via Flickr user Duane Romanell

On the drive home that day my wife and I were careful not to turn on NPR in the car with our two boys in the back seat. Since then, we’ve listened to a lot less public radio in our house. The Sandy Hook shooting coincided with my son turning four. While I’m sure he’s been aware of the media and discussions around him up to this point, recently he’s been a sponge for everything he hears.

For a lot of us who have children around the age of the Sandy Hook victims, that tragedy shook us to the core. But the endless media coverage of the event created new challenges as we tried to shield our kids from news of the tragedy.

This morning when I woke up, I made coffee and turned on the radio – it was tuned to NPR. My son was already eating his breakfast in the kitchen and before I could reach the dial words like “explosion” and “dead” came tumbling out. The devastation of Boston was brought into our little house so quickly. I changed the channel, I don’t think he noticed, but I don’t know. When I went to get the newspaper on my front steps images of the Boston marathon tragedy filled the front page. I folded it up and hid it from view. (more…)

Poem: The Sound of Words Colliding

Every year my dear friend, Andrew asks his friends for one thing for his birthday – that they write a poem and send it to him. Roberts is an accomplished poet himself and you should check out some of his work (try here, here or here). Below is the poem I sent him in 2012, and you can see the poem I sent him in 2010 here and 2011 here.

The Sound of Words Colliding
by Josh Stearns

My son sees every bookcase as a ladder and climbs with fists full of pages. The books – just pulp for chewing – old limbs to gnaw on. Sharp teeth and quick arms remind me he is more an animal than I, still close to something I have lost. Some beating, some rhythm, some heat.

He snaps the bindings, strings and glue bending as he twists the covers, and the signatures come tumbling out on the floor like broken wings. He tests them carefully with outstretched fingers, their newly white shapes overlapping, stacked and spilled there. They belong here, he’s sure of it.

The surfaces buckle as he flexes his fingers, full of pages crackling. I imagine this is the sound of all those words colliding. Letters, those atomic elements of language, crashing into each other. It’s the sound he’s been looking for, and it fills his eyes with wonder.

 

Hearts and Fists: A Parent on Loving, Fighting and Gun Control

Bill Maher is wrong. It’s as simple as that.

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In a Facebook post hours after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the often provocative talk show host wrote, “Sorry but prayers and giving your kids hugs fix nothing: only having the balls to stand up to our insane selfish gun culture will.”

And Maher wasn’t alone. In the hours that followed the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary I saw that sentiment echoed across the web. “Stop being sentimental and starting fighting,” people seemed to be saying.

I’m a parent of young children, one of which is almost in elementary school himself. My first response when I heard about the shooting was to hold my family close and tight. In that moment I never wanted to let go.

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Headache Versus Heartache

For all its joys, parenting can be painful. After the birth of my two sons, who are three and a half years apart, I went through very different kinds of pain. The pain that accompanied my first son was very physical, whereas the experience of my second son has been much more emotionally challenging. Even now, after a few months of being a family of four, I’m still struck by the dynamic between these two types of pain.  (more…)

The Highs and Lows of Parenthood

Flipping through the journal that my wife and I wrote in while she was pregnant, I stumbled on a entry I wrote almost exactly a year ago and was struck by how appropriate it is to this moment. At that point my wife was nearing the end of her first trimester, now my son is five months old. Here is what I wrote:

Today is perhaps the most beautiful day since we found out we are pregnant. The spring has been manic — in both the pace of our lives and in terms of the weather. As Erica and I have see-sawed between successes and challenges at work and at home, the weather has swung, pendulum-like between frigid rainy gray and steamy bright sun.

Today however, the see-saw seems to have slowed, balancing at level, evenly perched, and the pendulum has settled at the midpoint of its wide arch. This past week has been a microcosm of the entire spring, with highs and lows at work, but towards the end of the week, like a raging stream emptying gently into the ocean, this week has slowed and deposited us here, like silt, forming new land.

The sky is almost too blue, with enormous white clouds accenting the horizon. In the sun it is almost too hot but in the shade, where we are sitting now under a maple tree, the air is cool and the breeze glides by.

Today, this moment makes all the highs and lows worthwhile. This is the kind of day that couldn’t exist without the extremes that preceded it, because those extremes are what make the simple joy of this moment possible.

And I guess that is what I want to say about parenthood. A reminder of sorts. With this new life, this new adventure, there will be highs and lows. We should not despair during he difficult times, nor should we always strive towards the high points. For the most part both are fleeting. But in between there is an incredible depth of beauty and peace. (more…)

Parenting is Political

Ever since our first pre-natal visit, when the midwife determined our son’s due-date, my wife and I have joked that our baby better come before election day so we can make it to the polls. As of this writing, the election is exactly two weeks away, my wife’s due date is one day away, and I have an absentee ballot filled out just in case.

For me, this election and the birth of my first child has been inexorably linked (for better or worse). Indeed, over the past month I have been getting as many emails from baby related websites as I have from political campaigns. I find myself alternating between baby books and election blogs, packing the hospital bag and checking poll numbers. (more…)

Ignore My Advice

What are you supposed to think when someone writes you a ten page email with advice, and then tells you to ignore all of it?

When Erica and I began telling people we were going to have a baby, we decided to try to head off the inevitable flood of unsolicited advice by soliciting it ourselves. We began asking all of the young parents we knew to send us their best pieces of advice, their reading lists, their favorite web sites. The response was amazing. People responded with care, passion, frustration, and wit. They sent general reflections and specific suggestions. (more…)

Some Thoughts on Impending Fatherhood

There are some obvious reasons why I might have fatherhood on the brain right now. 1) in roughly four weeks I’ll become a father, and 2) My own dad just visited for a long weekend, 3) I am editing an e-book on parenting advice from young fathers and mothers. That in and of itself is enough to have one mulling over the cultural myths, stereotypes, roles and responsibilities of fathers. But what has been interesting has been how fatherhood keeps coming up in the larger cultural discourse and how it has been pushing me to think about fatherhood in a much broader way. (more…)