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Say YES To The Dress

Say YES To The Dress

There are very few genuine surprises in life. My wife and I seized the opportunity to enjoy delivery room gender reveals by not finding out the sex of our babies while they were in utero. That said, when we had three boys in a row, the surprises began to feel a bit anticlimactic. When my wife was pregnant with our fourth child, we opted for yet another surprise but resigned ourselves to the fact that we were likely to receive familiar news. So much so, in fact, that when the OB-GYN showed me our newborn baby I exclaimed, “hey doc, I think something’s wrong with his penis!” Suffice it to say that having a daughter was a true surprise and a new experience for us.

About a week later, I took my in-laws and three boys to a sidewalk sale happening at a nearby shopping plaza containing our favorite children’s store to stock up on supplies, entertain the kids, and (most importantly) give my wife and our sleeping newborn a quiet house. After purchasing the baby items we needed, we took advantage of the face painting happening outside a neighboring clothing store.

As we waited in line for the face painting, I started looking through racks of clothing on clearance from the fancy boutique that we’d never ventured inside of before. It wasn’t the type of store we’d typically visit, but I was a captive audience on the sidewalk and, being the proud father of a daughter for the first time, one particular dress caught my eye. The dress was expensive, but it was on sale for 75% off and I thought it would look adorable on my daughter. There was only one problem – it was only available in a size 5 and she was less than a month old. Nonetheless, I decided to make the impulse purchase as an investment in her future fashion. Below is a photo of my sleeping infant daughter “wearing” her new dress.

When we returned home and I showed my wife the dress, she thought it was pretty but was befuddled by my decision to buy our daughter a dress that she wouldn’t be able to wear until years later. I did some quick math in my head and determined that it would likely fit her around the time my nephew would be having his Bar Mitzvah (he was an 8-year-old at the time). We had a chuckle about purchasing her dress for the event five years in advance (let’s just say fashion isn’t a focal point in our household) and put the dress away in storage.

Fast forward from the summer of 2014 to the spring of 2019. As we planned for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, we told my daughter the story about the dress and she got very excited about the prospect of possibly wearing it. Because she’s a peanut of a 4 & 1/2-year-old, we were nervous that she’d still be too small for the dress. I took the dress out of storage and handed it to my daughter, who gleefully put it on.

She could hardly contain her enthusiasm about the dress fitting and I had an equal amount of trouble refraining from gloating to my wife about my “plan” coming to fruition.

She looked gorgeous in her dress on the day of the Bar Mitzvah (as did my beautiful wife). As Hannibal used to say on the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together!


Friday Dad Reads

Friday Dad Reads

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good read about the impact a father had on their child(ren)’s life, be it in remembrance of the dad or simply lessons imparted by him. Below are two pieces I’ve recently read which resonated with me.

Mark Suster is an entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist who produces a prodigious amount of content in the form of blog posts, tweets and even “Snapstorms” on Snapchat. I typically consume Mark’s content wearing my marketer/startup enthusiast hat, but I’ve always appreciated that he intersperses personal elements, including this excellent post about a valuable lesson he learned from his mother. A few weeks ago, Mark’s father passed away, prompting him to share a post he had published 5 years ago about lessons learned from his dad. I hadn’t read the post previously and I enjoyed it tremendously. I especially respected that Mark had the foresight to write the post while his father was alive to read and appreciate it.

I encourage you to read the post in its entirety, but I wanted to quickly call out one passage which particularly resonated with me.

“My dad always turned up. He was at my games — I don’t remember ever having a soccer match or basketball game that he didn’t attend. I still try to move mountains to be at my kids’ sports events. Knowing you have support really matters. Knowing that to your dad you’re the most important thing in the world lets you feel protected — part of a tribe.”

I have a vivid memory from my own childhood which underscores this philosophy having been shared by my own father. As a senior in high school, I called my dad’s office, where he was a busy healthcare insurance executive. His assistant answered the phone and – after I said who was calling – she replied, “good luck in your big game against your rival on Thursday.” I asked her how she knew and she explained that my father had put my entire season’s schedule in his calendar in hopes of avoiding scheduling conflicts in the office and enabling him to attend as many games as possible. Even at the age of 17, this struck me as a remarkable commitment but only as I struggled to balance my own personal and professional lives 20 years later did I fully grasp the complexities involved. I now have a whole other level of appreciation for how impressive it was that my father somehow managed to regularly attend late afternoon or early evening soccer and basketball games of mine, often returning to the office afterward to finish working. This is a topic I’ll surely be revisiting and tackling in greater depth in an upcoming post.

Sally Jenkins, a columnist for the Washington Post, has long been one of my favorite sportswriters. Unfortunately, she too recently lost her father, a fellow sportswriter, as well. In the wake of his death, Sally wrote a piece entitled, “My father made me laugh, and now I have a problem.” In the column, she shared a familiar sentiment which stood out to me. 

“As great a writer as he was, I don’t know that you can say anything higher about a guy than that his children preferred his company to all others and his approval to all the credit in the world.”

For all his talents and accomplishments, there’s no greater accolade she could bestow upon him than the respect and adulation of his children. This reminded me of a great quote shared by Dax Shepard during a recent live recording of his podcast at the Dad 2.0 Summit in which he said, “I’d much rather be a mediocre actor and a great dad than the other way around.” I agree with the underlying sentiment shared by both. Put simply: the most important job a man will ever hold is being a father, not their profession.

Have you read a great piece of content about a dad recently that you’d recommend? Please share it with me below in the comments or on Twitter, where I’m @DadLifeStories. Thanks for reading!

Murphy’s Law of Parenting

Murphy’s Law of Parenting

It’s a running joke among my friends with spouses who travel frequently for work that chaos is destined to descend upon your house as soon as one parent is flying solo. More chaos than usual, that is – usually in the form of a sick child, malfunctioning car, or some other malady throwing a wrench into your daily logistics. With my wife in the middle of a crazy stretch of travel which has her on the road for 20 out of 28 days, I lightheartedly shared the following graphic across my social channels on Sunday.

I think you can guess where this is headed. At bedtime on Sunday night, two of my kids started showing ominous signs that they were in the beginning phases of a virus. Around the time I got everyone settled in bed, I noticed that it felt unusually chilly in the kids’ bedrooms. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the 2nd-floor heat wasn’t working.  I tinkered with the furnace a bit while muttering to myself but very quickly exhausted my HVAC unit knowledge and gave up.

Sure enough, my two little ones came in my room around 4 AM declaring that they were sick. My 6-year-old son had a fever and my 4-year-old daughter had awoken with one eye crusted shut due to viral conjunctivitis. I cleared the discharge from my daughter’s eye with a warm washcloth and got both kids settled in my bed with the dog lying between them.

Thankfully, we were able to stay in bed a little later than usual (I’m typically out the door with the dog at 5:30 and wake the kids at 6:30), the silver lining to my 8-year-old son’s school being closed for a professional development day. I called the heating company to make an appointment on the way to drop off my 10-year-old at school, then took Sandy (our dog) to doggy daycare before heading to the pediatrician. And that’s where the real adventure began…

The four of us crammed into a small exam room designed to typically house a parent, their child and a medical professional. My poor 6-year-old son has twice been diagnosed with strep this winter. Couple that with a few other near-misses and he was having his throat swabbed for the umpteenth time over the past few months and was none too pleased. While we waited for the rapid strep test results, I asked the nurse practitioner if she could sneak in a quick exam of my daughter’s eye, which she thankfully obliged despite me not having made a dual appointment. A few minutes later, she returned with a prescription for my daughter and a negative test result for my son. This whole time, my 8-year-old son (the lone healthy child in the room) had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room.

Because my son had been consistently complaining of a headache for the past few weeks, the Dr. thought it would be a good idea to draw blood and run a test for mono so we could rule out that possibility. On the heels of a dicey throat swabbing, my son decided he was having no part of any finger pricking and went into shutdown mode. I sympathized given what he’d been through and tried to quietly reason with him, quickly transitioning to full-blown bribery attempts. When it became clear he wasn’t willing to negotiate, the nurse recruited some assistance to help restrain my son.

This seems like a good time to remind you that pediatrician’s offices tend to keep their examination rooms at abnormally high temperatures to ensure that small children stay warm during their check-ups despite having disrobed. Combine that with jamming 3 kids and 3 adults into a room designed to house 3 people and we were operating in sauna-like conditions. Oh, I should probably also mention that the 8-year-old sitting idly in the corner doesn’t do well observing medical procedures of any kind (can you guess where this is going?).

While we held down my son so his blood could be drawn, I told the other two kids to look away. As I focused on trying to soothe my son during the blood-drawing process, I suddenly became aware of a commotion behind me, complete with a wretching sound. The combination of being overheated and witnessing blood being drawn had made my son violently nauseous. I turned around to see that, for some reason, he was still wearing a sweatshirt and jacket. He was sweating profusely and his face had turned ghostly white. I quickly told him to take off a couple of layers and head to the sink in case he needed to throw up before shifting focus back to my son on the examination table.

One of the nurses and I shared a knowing glance and smile and I let out a small chuckle. Never had my parenting motto been more apt. As I often tell people, without laughter, there are only tears! In moments like these, when everything has gone to hell in a handbasket, all you can do is embrace the situation and laugh. Fast forward a few minutes and we had my little guy band-aided and calm, my other son sat with an ice pack on his neck and bedpan held to his chin, color slowly returning to his face. One of the nurses returned with juice boxes for all three kids and, with a grin, asked me “so, where’s mom today?”

Shortly thereafter, we made our way home, the proud new owners of a bedpan. I got the kids situated on the couch and turned on a movie. The repair guy came and restored the heat. A friend dropped my oldest off at the house after school (it truly does take a village, doesn’t it?).

I’d definitely file this one in the win column for Murphy’s Law of Parenting but, ultimately, we emerged relatively unscathed. I’m sure we’re destined to encounter other fun obstacles during the remaining few weeks of my wife’s busy travel schedule, but such is the nature of the beast (law?). I’ll say this much – the whole situation was made much more manageable thanks to my recent transition away from my full-time gig. I’d have reached an entirely different level of stress and frustration had I been trying to manage colleagues and clients at the same time as yesterday’s mess.

Do you have a Murphy’s Law of Parenting story to share? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter by tweeting at @DadLifeStories. Thanks for reading!

Kids Embracing The Dad Life

Kids Embracing The Dad Life

Last week my 8-year-old son’s school had a professional development day so he spent the day at home with me (sidebar – don’t you love when a school decides to tack on an extra day at the backend of February break after everyone’s already been off for a week?). Anyway, we’re sitting at the kitchen table together and as I worked on a blog post, he (seemingly) absentmindedly colored on some construction paper. A few minutes later, he handed me the paper, which had been folded into a card.

I glanced at the outside, addressed to me, and briefly admired the artwork adorning the cover before opening the card. What I saw on the inside nearly made me melt.

The acrostic, written in support of The Dad Life by a child with whom I sometimes share a challenging relationship was notable for a few reasons. It was the first (and likely to be the last) time my blog was referred to as “lit.” It also marked the open acknowledgment of the blog and me sharing our family’s story, a departure from the behind-the-scenes posting I’d done in the past on Facebook and Instagram. I felt strongly about having an open and transparent discussion with my children about launching this blog and was pleased to receive both their permission and blessing.

The sharing of our children’s lives on our social media accounts has been a hot topic of conversation of late. A series of thought-provoking articles have been written on the subject recently, most notably this piece from The Atlantic which generated a considerable amount of discussion and introspection (including by yours truly). Admittedly, I have likely skewed in the direction of oversharing online with respect to my kids, although it’s certainly a wide spectrum and I don’t consider myself to be on an extreme end of it. In hindsight, there are undoubtedly things I’d do differently. Conversely, I launched this blog with the awareness and permission of my kids and an agreement to discuss the subject of posts and usage of photos which include them in advance. My son gave me the green light to use his note in this post.

I recently revisited a piece from 2014 in The Washington Post entitled, “Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything” and it resonated even more so than it had when I originally read it 5 years ago.

“It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels. After all, I didn’t even learn to use e-mail until I was 19 and a sophomore in college in 1993, and only for a slightly cringe-worthy reason: a cute boy at another college asked me to e-mail him. My generation, it seems, had the last of the truly low-tech childhoods, and now we are among the first of the truly high-tech parents.”

I highlight this dynamic not as an excuse for any choices I’ve made, but rather to underscore the challenge faced by this generation of parents. I’d argue that most parents initially operate in “fake it until you make it” mode, to varying degrees. However, with regard to the Internet specifically as it relates to parenting decisions, we are figuring this out as we go, without much in the way of a roadmap to follow.

“When it comes to parenting, I find this middle place extremely uncomfortable, because I know what childhood and adolescence were like before the Internet, and my parenting models all came from that era.”

This naturally leads to some missteps along the way. Thankfully, we are not yet dealing with navigating the murky waters of having children with social media profiles as our oldest is 10. That comes with even more significant obstacles to overcome, most of which are unique to the social media era.

While we’re only now scratching the surface with respect to the challenge of raising responsible digital citizens, I’m thankful for the rise in tools and resources available to parents tackling this task.

For those who are curious, I learned about two great resources at last month’s Dad 2.0 Summit; Google’s Be Internet Awesome initiative and Bark, a monitoring service which gives parents peace of mind about their child’s online activity without feeling overly invasive for the kid. We’ll be teaching the kids how to be “Internet Awesome” with the help of Google and will definitely explore Bark further once the kids reach an age where they’ll be actively participating in social media. I can also recommend the book Screenwise by Devorah Heitner, and her website Raising Digital Natives, which has other helpful materials.

In the meantime, I’m perfectly content to be living squarely in the analog world of adorably misspelled hand-written notes and will continue to bask in the glory of maintaining a blog that’s considered lit by the coolest 8-year-old I know.

Are you re-thinking some of your approaches to sharing content about your children online as we all grapple with privacy concerns and/or the reaction our children will have when they discover what we’ve shared down the road? I’d love to hear your take!

Throwback Post: How To Dad

Throwback Post: How To Dad

I’ve often said that parenting my 4 small children requires more creativity and multitasking than nearly any profession.

Like most parents, I’ve also learned that a universal murphy’s law of parenting is that when one parent is out of town, a child will get sick, a car will have trouble, there will be a snow storm or some combination of the above. Fellow parents – am I right? WITHOUT FAIL.

So what’s a dad to do when his wife’s away at a conference, he’s alone with his 3 sons under the age of 5, and a snowstorm hits? That’s exactly the predicament I found myself in last winter. The boys were too young to help shovel and, more importantly, too young to be left unattended in the house while I shoveled. With the snow slated to come overnight, I set the alarm for an ungodly hour, planning to let the dogs out and shovel before any of the kids woke up. There’s an old Yiddish proverb that says, “Man plans and God laughs.” Never is this more accurate than when solo parenting.

Sure enough, my 1 year-old woke up at 3 AM with a low-grade fever and spent the rest of the night in bed with me, negating my plan entirely. When my other two sons woke up, saw the snow and asked if they could watch a movie, I suddenly had an idea and quickly hatched a new plan. I prepared some breakfast on the go, got the boys dressed and ready for school. I fired up the minivan to get it warm, popped in a DVD and piled the kids inside with their food.

With my sons happily ensconced inside, eating breakfast and watching Doc McStuffins while buckled into their seats, I was able to shovel nearby without worrying about them getting into trouble. Shortly thereafter, we were off to school and the kids were asking if this could be a part of their normal morning routine. 

Problem: Home alone with my 3 little guys during a snowstorm.
Solution: Fire up the heat and DVD player in the minivan, load the kids inside and get to work shoveling. Victory is mine!

When my wife called to check in later that day, she was impressed with my ingenuity. To steal a phrase from the folks at Cheerios, that, my friends is #HowToDad.

*This post was originally published on