Thursday, May 22, 2014

Conquering Parental Anxiety, with a Car Seat

In my almost 5 years of parenting I’ve changed thousands of diapers, fed a comparable number of bottles, lost incalculable hours of much-needed sleep and had myriad Pixar movies’ images permanently burned into my corneas after perpetual viewings.

Parenting the two Junior Dudes has introduced me to activities that not only had I never done before, but many that I didn’t even know existed before I became a father. Siphoning the snot out of their congested little noses, anyone?

There is one invaluable parenting exercise, however, which I had intentionally avoided doing since even before Day 1: I never learned how to install a car seat. Though I’ve never acknowledged it before now, I admit that not knowing how to do something as vital as this has been a source of guilt. So you’re probably wondering why an extremely hands-on father like me never learned how to install a car seat and the answer is simple.


Not wanting to fail as a father has been an ongoing fear since long before I actually became one and I don’t think that’s abnormal. I frequently tell my boys, and myself, that my primary objectives are making sure they are always fed, healthy & safe.  

When we went to get our first infant seat installed a week before the Little Dude was born, it was my 37-weeks-pregnant wife maneuvering in the back seat of her Prius watching the Installation Guru finesse the intimidating harnesses and straps into place. I was afraid that when called upon to install a car seat in a real setting, I would do it wrong and my son would somehow get hurt as a result. So I strongly encouraged my wife, who is much better with attention to detail than I’ll ever be, to learn the process. And for 4 ½ years, she’s moved the seats in and out of our cars like a professional.

So I decided to finally do something about it.

When the Britax people asked if we wanted to test out their Advocate "UltimateComfort Series" car seat*, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally learn this skill I desperately wanted but had long avoided. Since we’ve used Britax car seats for years, and I felt confident that they’ve been keeping my boys safe, this was my golden opportunity to finally practice what I preach.

I opened the box and read the instruction booklet cover to cover. I felt comforted knowing Britax’s patented HUGS Chest Pads would be hugging the Littler Dude safely in his seat, since I can’t do it myself while driving. The technology Britax created to minimize the force a child encounters in the unexpected event of an accident is vital and the seat’s Integrated Steel Bars lock its connection to the car, reducing forward movement during a crash. There are countless features Britax includes to make sure that kids stay safe in the (Heaven Forbid) event of an accident. Those are the nightmares no parent wants to think about, but I feel better knowing Britax is looking out for my kids like they are their own.

Since both of my boys are near the top of their respective growth charts, it’s reassuring to know that the 19-month-old Littler Dude can stay in this Advocate until he’s 65 pounds (and 49” tall), which should be at least another year (hopefully 4).  

When the moment of truth finally happened, when it was time to personally ensure my son’s day-to-day safety, I brought the owner’s manual and one more essential asset out to the driveway to help me install my first car seat: my wife.

I expected a barrage of obstacles and challenges, but the truth is the actual installation took less than 10 minutes start to finish. Like a child afraid to try a new food, only to discover it’s delicious, I conquered a critical piece of self-doubt that had plagued me for 4 ½ years. Knowing how safe and well-built Britax products are, I have no doubt that the Littler Dude will be safe in his new Advocate. Plus, now that I know first-hand how LATCH connectors and the Five-Point Harness work, I feel extra confident that my sons are in good hands…and comfy seats. (Did I mention that it's called the UltimateComfort Series partly because the headrests and seat itself are Memory Foam?)  

Though I’m still a car seat novice, I can rest assured knowing that the Littler Dude clearly appreciates at least one essential feature of his Advocate: Britax’s True Side Impact Protection, or as he likely views it, a cozy place to rest his head.
I think he likes it. 

Disclaimer: Though I was given an Advocate UltimateComfort Series car seat by Britax for review purposes, I was not compensated otherwise for this post. All opinions contained within are 100% mine, for better or worse. Also, I wish they made these in my size so I could sit on Memory Foam whenever I'm in the car. 

*= The Advocate Ultimate Comfort Series is available exclusively at Babies R Us. 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Motherless Mother's Day Paradox

When I was younger (i.e. before I had kids) I used to celebrate New Year’s Eve by going out to parties, dinners and other festivities. Now Mrs. Dude and I stay in, make our traditional Appetizer Dinner, and usually fall asleep before the ball drops.

When I was even younger than that, Halloween was always a chilly Midwestern night spent running around the neighborhood with friends, dressed crazily and on the hunt for a slew of candy. These days I spend October 31st chasing down my 2 Junior Dudes, trying to get that one elusive snapshot featuring both of them actually smiling and looking at the camera while dressed in their costumes. I still try to get a slew of candy, though now it’s under the auspices of being for the kids.

The way we celebrate events and milestones evolves over the course of our lives. Things that seemed extremely important then (like having a Valentine) are not nearly as important as I realize that others are now (understanding why Martin Luther King Day is not just a random day-off).  There are also some days that we don’t realize the importance of until after the fact.

This year, for the 6th year in a row, I’ll honor Mrs. Dude on Mother’s Day. The first year was merely symbolic, since she was just completing the first trimester with the Little Dude in her belly, but the last 4, plus this year, are the real deal.

Also this year, for the 4th year in a row, I’ll remember my own Mother who is now infinitely farther away than she was on the phone calls I made to her over the previous 11 second Sundays in May while living 3,000 miles away from her.

This maternal dichotomy has turned Mother’s Day into a bittersweet time for me. I couldn’t be more proud of my wife for the amazing job she does day after day caring for and nurturing our two spirited young sons. But I also couldn’t miss my own mother more than I do on this day, for some reason more than on others.

There are myriad annual events which might be considered more important or seem more significant like birthdays, anniversaries or even the date of her death. But for some reason Mother’s Day now always feels like a bucket of ice-cold water to the face for me. Maybe it’s the regret of not spending more of these holidays actually visiting her or it could just be further reinforcement of the finality of her passing.

Just as I felt like an outsider while growing up Jewish during Christmas season, silently dreaming of the grass being greener in the other Testament, now for some reason I have a hard time shaking the emptiness that is inherent this time of year.  Again, this is not a knock on my own wife who will be celebrated from start to finish that day because she has earned and deserves it. But these women who sacrifice literally everything for their children & families should be remembered not only on a random Sunday, but every day. These incredible parental legacies must live on, whether they are around the corner or on the other side of fate.

Maybe the most important thing I can hope is that just as my Mother used to wait up for me to come home around midnight when I was a teen to make sure I was home safely and securely, that she is still watching out for, or over, me to make sure that things are OK on my side. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to know she’s looking for assurance that I’m happy, which I usually am, or that my family is thriving, which we seem to be.

What I now know is that even though I only got 35 Mother’s Days with my Mother, which was more than some people get and less than others, those were the best possible gifts for her and for me. Now I must teach my boys to make the most of their own Mother’s Days, because no matter how many they get it might not be enough to fully honor the most special person in their lives: their Mother. 

Happy Mother's Day to you and yours. 

The two finest mothers I could ever imagine:
 Mine (L) & Mrs. Dude (R)
10-month-old Little Dude (C)

Hey, I'm all about Instagram these days.Come hang with me there: @DudeOfTheHouse


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sleepless Sunday Morning at the Dude's House

Its 6:15 on Sunday morn, why am I awake?

I’ve got one son who passed out early last night after a Spring day filled with T-ball and his first pool day of the year and another who wouldn’t go to sleep ‘til half past acceptable o’clock. Surely they’ll be up soon.

I’ll just check Instagram, that should do the trick and I’ll be back asleep in no time. Check out some pics of other peoples’ more interesting Saturday nights before resting my eyes for a few more minutes of glorious early morning shuteye, the kind I dream of all week long.

Nope, nothing too exciting. Maybe I’ll see how many people Liked my clever Facebook status posted before I went to sleep. Ooh, 9 friends think I’m witty. This just might be a good day.

I’ll close my eyes again and maybe I can still get another 20 minutes before one of them is definitely going to be up by 6:45, which inevitably happens every day.

The birds are singing and the sun is blasting through my blinds. Today I curse you Daylight Savings.

Tossing and turning to no avail with ears pierced by a snoring dog across the room, maybe I’ll get those last 10 mins. I’m not even going to say minutes because I don’t want to waste time. Oops.

6:50am: How is it possible that A) I’m still awake and B) No one else is?  I don’t even know where to begin.

Now that’s it 7:00 and this is anarchy is still permeating in both directions, maybe I’ll run out and get bagels. What a great Sunday surprise when everyone finally gets up, right? Eh, the bagel store’s probably not open yet since it’d be cruel and unusual punishment for the employees.

Forgot to plug in my phone last night and now its battery’s down to 3%, it’s make or break time. Should I get out of bed and plug it in or stay for the inevitable momentary exodus from the boys’ room into ours which definitely must be imminent?

Check the news Apps: nothing good and certainly nothing that will help me rest easily at this point.




How can I find the number for Guinness Book of World Records? Certainly this qualifies.

Wait! Maybe I should actually try to be productive. I’ve heard that’s something people do in the morning sometimes.

Ugh, need to restart my computer since I for-some-unknown-reason shut it down last night.

Loading. Loading. Loading.

Open new document.

Type first three words of potential Nobel Prize winning essay.  

They’re awake.

Hey, I'm all about Instagram these days.
Come hang with me there: @DudeOfTheHouse