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22 and Pregnant

I was 22. Young(er), (slightly) more energetic, and with the best girl this side of the Mississippi. I had a comfortable amount of money in my account – enough to cover my fiancee, our apartment, and all our expenses. Everything was much simpler back then.

My fiancee and I were in a phenomenal place. We were comfortable, happy, and so in love. We worked during the day, made delicious homemade dinners together in the evening, and cuddled together, watching our shows, before ravishing each other at night. Butter didn’t even come close to how smooth things went for us back in the day. So what happened?

Well, on one fateful night, we’d finished up our regular routine when suddenly I feel her head shift on my chest and her chin rest on my shoulder. My fiancee looks me in the eyes and says the words, “we should have a baby.” Without hesitation, I mirrored her stare and said, “okay, let’s do it.”

“I’m not kidding. I want to have a baby.”

To which I said, “neither am I. Let’s do it.”

Bear in mind, my fiancee is just over two and a half years younger than I am. Two years and seven months to be exact. But she is the most dedicated, and stubborn, person I have ever met. After this short conversation, she went off her birth control and took to studying.

I think she may have read everything under the sun when it came to parenting, newborns, and most importantly, childbirth. It was so inspiring.

My fiancee, who I am not sure wants to legitimately be named, is not someone who takes kindly to the concept of “buyers remorse.” From yarn to crochet with, all the way up to a car she may be interested in, she’s a studious little bug. She didn’t just want this baby, she took the parenting test and passed with flying colors. She earned this baby.

She learned when her birth control should wear off, any complications that could come with the pregnancy, and everything she should need to know when it came to C-Sections – an affliction the last few generations of women in her family had to endure to bring their children into the world.

When I saw her excitement about just the idea of having a child, I couldn’t help but mirror and triple mine. I knew a lot of things at this point in time, but the greatest, most beautiful and amazing thing I knew, was that this perfect woman in front of me was going to bring our child into the world. Boy, girl, I didn’t care. As long as we were together and our child was healthy, we would have enough.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What? You were only 22. What were you thinking?”

Well, I was thinking that I wanted to have a baby. At 22. I wanted one earlier, honestly. The only thing preventing me from having a child sooner was that she didn’t feel ready. And when she finally was, well, I was wholeheartedly in. And the coming January after our decision was made, roughly 7-8 months later, she stumbled into our room on a Saturday morning with the best thing I had seen in my life up to that point. A little white stick, freshly peed on, showing a positive result. We were having a baby.

Her becoming pregnant at such a young age didn’t come without challenges. There is a ton of stigma that follows people our age falling into parenthood. For one, we aren’t married. Getting married during the pregnancy has a real “shotgunny” feeling to it, too, so now we have to wait until after the baby is born. Then, there’s the financial aspect. Like I said before, I had some money in the bank. Not a ton, but enough to be comfortable with just the two of us.

Couple those things in with her car, at the time, being insured by her mother, something that would later cause us to be without one vehicle, and my car being a rear wheel drive, Michigan weather nightmare, and you have a cool stress cocktail only the young and pregnant can consume. Non-alcoholic, of course.

But none of those things really mattered. She wanted to be a mother, I wanted to be a father. I was happy, she was happy, and our baby was happy. It’s been over four years since we decided to have our son. He turned three a few months ago. Outside of a little cold, he’s a perfectly happy, healthy, beautiful little boy. All we could have ever dreamed of, plus a billion more.

Choosing to become a parent at a young age is not for the faint of heart, but it’s not a decision I would ever go back and change.

The key to being a good parent at this age is actually committing to it. Life doesn’t stay the same once the stick comes back positive. And you, well, you don’t change after your baby is born. Unless, you choose to change. Being a father is both a magical thing and a privilege.

If you and your partner are ready and willing to give it your all in your own respective ways, I say go for it. And if you become pregnant without the prior expectation, just know the rough parts are a fleeting moment when you play your memory tape back later.

I love being a dad.

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth

Tuesday

Tuesdays, am I right?

Hands down my least favorite day of the week. For sure better than Monday. Why? At least Monday is a day you can reference to something.

Monday – the first day of the week.

Wednesday – middle of the week.

Thursday – the day before Friday.

Friday – start of the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday – super chill, fun time with the family.

But, Tuesday? What is Tuesday? Nothing. Literally nothing.

“But it’s the day after Monday…” And?

“At least it’s not Monday!” At least Mondays have purpose. They’re a beginning with an end. The next day, Tuesday, is your 24 hour weekly purgatory that serves little purpose outside of being the most pointless and daunting day of the week.

I’m sorry, I’m just really passionate about Tuesdays being the worst.

I actually had something a lot more serious and related to my life to write about, since it’s been a while, but getting out my true feelings on a day of the week seems to have taken over. I will write about something much more interesting, but I think I’ll leave this here for now.

Preparing For Your Baby

Imagine this:

You’re leaving the hospital with your baby. Everything is wonderful. You have this beautiful little angel in your arms that warms your heart so much that the near freezing temperatures outside hardly phase you.

The hospital valet is approaching with your car and your partner starts to gather herself to her feet. The nurse congratulates you, rolls the discharge mandated wheelchair back inside, and the valet opens the back door.

But, wait a second… The straps on the car seat are misaligned, the seat is too loose, and the baby just spit up on him/herself and you don’t have anything immediately on hand to clean them up.

You take a few minutes to fix the car seat, then another few after your partner tells you it still doesn’t look right, then remove your sweatshirt to put over the baby so they’re not so cold in the now wet onesie.

You drive home as carefully as ever, park the car, and head inside.

You put the car seat with the baby down on the couch, look at their adorable little napping faces, and contemplate a nap yourself. Maybe you have a minute if you just put them in the bassinet on the side of the bed?

But that didn’t get to the house until the morning her water broke. Hmm… What now?

How about a bite to eat? Maybe a pizza?

Nah, you’ve hardly eaten the last few days and were feeling something with some actual nutritional value.

Oh no, the fridge is empty and you only have frozen meat in the freezer.

Looks like pizza it is.

Aaaaand, scene.

Now, that probably all seems silly, but it is a reality far too many people face when they’re having a baby. Especially their first.

Preparation is key.

Put yourself in any of the positions I mentioned above. Now imagine what the real thing is like.

Being prepared for your baby to come home isn’t just about looking yourself in the mirror and calling yourself “daddy”.

Being prepared means being prepared.

When our families found out we were expecting our first, we were immediately overrun with baby clothes, toys, teethers, and anything else you could think to need for a child. Without him even being there, our house was already quickly reaching capacity just with baby stuff.

Considering our roommate had recently moved out due to the baby announcement, we, thankfully, already had a room dedicated to his arrival. While that room may have been fairly large to begin with, you’d be surprised how quickly 12 by 14 feet of space can turn into a 2 by 3 tote corridor to the closet.

The first thing we did, at least two months in advance, was wash and put away all the clothes. This was especially tedious because, unlike your regular clothes, newborn clothes need to be washed with Dreft. Baby skin is way more sensitive than adult skin and Dreft takes that into account by using less abrasive detergents. That doesn’t mean you can’t snuggle your little one on your sweater washed with Tide, it’s just important to note that they can develop skin rashes and irritation should they have to wear clothes washed in Tide all day.

Thankfully, this period does not last forever. After about 6-8 months, you can start using Tide Free & Clear. This is a big plus. Given it’s a gentler form of Tide, you can wash both your and the baby’s clothes at the same time – no more extra baby washes.

After we washed all the clothes, my father and brother in law came from the East Coast and helped me set up the baby’s room. From the shelf on the wall to the crib, we set up everything.

Something we had that a lot of people opt against, though, was a bassinet.

While this, technically, is optional, it was a huge plus for us. When our son was born, we were living in a 880 square foot apartment. It sounds like a lot more space than it was once you take into account the 2 and a quarter people that were going to be living there.

We had dressers that were spilling over, overly full closets, a small kitchen for a few people that loved to cook, and a cat litter box taking up half the laundry room. It was a little space.

We opted to go in the direction of a Moses Basket for ease of access to our son, versatility of the basket after our son was done with it, and cost. Compared to most other bassinets or cribs, this one ranges from $60-$120 depending on the seller. The Moses Basket does require a stand, but it fit perfectly on our bedside and would eventually house some of our son’s favorite toys for easy storage and travel. Studying up on what goes into your house or baby room is imperative when it comes to preparation. We definitely recommend checking that out if you enjoy the idea of a 10 inch walk to the baby for the middle of the night feedings over a walk across your house to the crib.

“But what about the car seat?” You might ask. Well, hours of research will probably go into this one. Car seats are changing all the time. Their safety ratings, shape, size capabilities no longer translate from one type to the next, and the car seat your parents brought you home in is now known for spontaneously combusting when left in the sun too long.

A car seat isn’t a decision you make on the spot. Take a few days, at least a few hours if you can’t afford the extended period, and really research what you’re looking for. It’s also important to note that not all car seats fit into all cars. We went with a Britax car seat because, while it had great safety ratings, it had anchor bases we could buy for multiple cars, and it easily attached to the matching stroller. Taking our son out was a quick pop in to either device every time.

The part of the story that is 100% the least considered, probably every time, is food. And I don’t mean baby food, though I will touch on homemade baby food in the future, I’m talking about adult food. Or, just regular food. Whatever wording you want to use.

As a new parent, now having to work between your job, your fleeting moments of sleep, feedings, a crying baby, and a partner that also needs at least some attention, it becomes kind of hard to manage your own sustenance.

The best thing my fiancee and I did, which we plan to do with our next child, is meal plan. Meal planning doesn’t just have to be for people watching their weight or fitness fanatics, though it’s hard to argue that parenting doesn’t fall into those categories.

Meal planning, with the right food, is actually pretty easy. We found a few recipes online, and made some up ourselves. The best thing about it, is that as long as you have enough freezer space, before the baby comes you can spend a few days cooking, properly storing meals in oven safe tin trays, and storing them for at least 4-6 months before they’re inedible.

If you are choosing to breastfeed, though, a great investment we made was in a deep freezer. Ours was on sale at Costco at the time for $150 and it has made its way now into our house at least four years later.

The deep freezer didn’t just store our rainy day meals, it was also great for excess milk that we could just run under some warm water for middle of the night feedings, making oatmeal, and mixing into any other food our son may have required milk to make.

And don’t even get me started on how good that stuff is in coffee.

Just kidding. Probably. But you’ll never really know that.

This has been a longer post than usual, with a pretty obvious point to relate, but I can’t stress the importance of preparation enough. One second, you’re young and full of energy, the next you’re holding someone’s hair back for them to shout at you between morning sickness vomiting, and then you’re not so full of energy giving a small clone of yourself a bottle at 2:28 in the morning.

Life changes a lot faster than you think and pregnancy is such a short lived experience. Make the most out of it and prepare for the first few weeks, months, and if you can, years by being ready ahead of time. The less time you have to spend putting stuff together last minute, the more time you can spend building a bond with your special little one.

Is there anything I missed? Anything you wished I’d brought up in regards to preparation? Or any recipes you would like to know about for your meal prep? Let me know in the comment section!

The Importance of Hobbies

I noticed that my last few posts have been on the darker side, so it might be time to change things up a bit and get back to some more lighthearted material.

As I sit here, drinking from my Avengers themed coffee mug and looking at my Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer and Cast Iron Combo Cooker, I am reminded of the simple pleasures in life outside of just being “the cool dad”.

Being a parent is the best, of course, but being a parent 100% of the time can be draining. That is why it is so important to have hobbies.

Amid the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home for months on end, my fiancee and I were slowly slipping into madness. With our son unable to socialize with other kids, or really even be around his cousins, we were his only source of entertainment. Take that and add on to it that I was still working remotely, and you’ll make yourself quite the crazy cocktail. It was a real “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” situation.

With our patience dwindling, almost all of our marbles lost, and any ability to entertain completely gone, we started to seek solace in some activities we could do at home.

Bear in mind, my fiancee had watched just about every available video on YouTube at this point. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that she is very studious, and she found multiple options for hobbies I had never even considered.

Our son was a huge inspiration for one of these activities solely because he isn’t a huge fan of meat, outside of bacon. But hey, who doesn’t love bacon?

That’s when we decided to start a hydroponics garden.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, a hydroponics garden is a garden where nutrient rich water does all the work. The significantly dumbed down version on how to set up a hydroponics garden is this: you simply take a mesh cup, add some clay pebbles and a seedling, and set it in a tub of water with growing nutrients under a grow light.

Again, very dumbed down.

We bought all the equipment, seeds, and as much distilled water as you could find during the pandemic.

Considering how little of the water you could buy at a time, we actually ended up delaying out garden until we could get enough. It was a huge bummer at the time, but we settled for the loss when we came to the realization that it was far too cold in our house for the time being to commit to that anyway.

While we would later build up our garden outside in the Spring, we were at a little bit of a loss in the current moment.

“Now what do we do?”

Well, we did what I had always wanted to do. The “manly man” hobby – smoking. And I’m not talking about cigars, I’m talking about meat.

About a year before then, my father and sister had come to help us move into our new house. It was the middle of the summer and my dad was really feeling a good steak after his ten hour drive from the east coast.

Our apartment complex didn’t allow grilling of any sort, so we didn’t have anything worthy to grill on when he got here.

Given the recent purchase of our house, my funds were on the lower end. Rather than splurging on a more expensive grill, I opted for a small “charcoal grill and smoker” from Wal-Mart. Not the best purchase I’d ever made, but a year later it would make for a great catalyst to one of my favorite hobbies today.

I took to the internet and learned everything I thought I needed to know about smoking meat. I learned the proper temperature to smoke at, several different rubs, the 3-2-1 method for making ribs (a specialty of mine), and pretty much everything I would need for a successful smoke day.

After a few tries with the charcoal smoker, I had opened the door to a world my fiancee and I have come to love. The following Father’s Day, she actually gifted me the smoker I use now. To this date, I hold firm to that being the best gift I have ever received (outside of my son, of course), and that if our house burned down, after my fiancee and son were out, I’m grabbing the cat and my smoker. Everything else can go.

I will be touching on my smoker hobby more as these posts go on, but I think it’s time to return to the combo cookers mentioned above.

While my fiancee and son were a big fan of my new found hobby, we were still looking for something we could do together.

Laying in bed one night, watching cooking videos on YouTube, we found ourselves in a rabbit hold of Joshua Weissman videos. After learning about the best method to make chicken parmesan, sticky buns, and birria tacos, we found ourselves watching an older video of his with some crackling sourdough bread. Mouths watering from beginning to end, we took a moment to grab a snack from the kitchen and prepared a shopping list.

The first thing we needed to do was make our sourdough starter – unbleached all purpose flour, dark rye flour, filtered water, some Weck Jars. After one week of careful calculation, watching your newest family member rise and fall so many times, you should be ready to make a Levain and get to baking.

The process itself takes roughly a full 24 hour period before you can actually take a knife to your loaf, but the wait is well worth it once you throw some quality butter on a warm slice. The dough will have to undergo multiple hours of proofing at roughly 78 degrees. While you can just do that in your oven with the light on, the Brod and Taylor Proofing Box came to be the perfect tool for the job. The consistency of the temperature will keep your timeline solid – too cold, and it will take longer for your Levain to rise, too hot and you risk killing the natural yeast produced by your starter. It’s pretty much the most scientific way to bake bread.

Cast Iron Combo Cookers and two Bannetons are required for the actual baking piece here, but thankfully their price tag is nowhere near that of the proofing box.

I will link his video here as to not bore you with every detail or try to take some sort of credit, but note that with every feeding and every bake, the bread only comes out better and better.

Considering you probably have stuff to do today, I will leave you with this: hobbies are important!

Having something to do for yourself, like my smoking, is a good way to get out of your own head and focus on something that you really enjoy. It’s a great birthplace for serotonin.

Having something to do with your family, like our garden, is a great way to bring the family together and smile about a fun mess in the kitchen.

Having something to do with your partner, like our sourdough, is an exciting way to branch out from your regular routine and discover things you love to do together.

Hobbies should be a fun way to break out of regular routine. To me, they should be a form of self-care. Do you have any hobbies? What are they? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Strong

January 2nd, 2022. There was a time where I honestly didn’t think I would see this day. Just a few years ago, my life was a lot darker than it is now. I held in resentment, guilt, and anger from what previous years had brought me. I felt like I wasn’t receiving much out of life, especially compared to what I was putting into the world.

I won’t run anyone through all the dirty details of the time, but needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of a desire to pursue my life further.

Just waking up in the morning felt like a challenge. My parents were constantly hassling me about my life choices, I was never the person my son ran to for anything outside of the occasional diaper change, and my fiancee and I were fighting almost daily.

These issues seemed to compound daily. A little something more seemed to pile on top of the landfill that my life felt like it was becoming. I had very little will to continue with much most days.

This was years ago now and my life, outside of my current employment situation, is better than it ever has been.

It’s kind of amazing to think about now, honestly. There was a point when my life seemed so meaningless that I didn’t care if it ended and today, I’m just grateful it didn’t.

Seeing where I am now, with the same and best partner imaginable, the sweetest, most perfect little boy, and a mountain’s worth more confidence, its hard to think that I could even have had those ideas.

This mentality did not come without its challenges. Around the time that I had these thoughts, I was going through therapy – multiple times per week. While I did enjoy getting my thoughts out there, this is where I’m also going to express the importance of the right therapist.

I legitimately enjoyed speaking with, let’s call her ‘Kay’, but after things took a sharp turn for the worse in November of 2020, I realized that just talking about my problems wasn’t actually solving anything. She helped me learn to communicate about certain things in a very effective way, but my overall mental health was still on a decline. Long story short, she wasn’t an awful therapist, we just weren’t a good match.

After we parted ways and I began to see someone new, let’s call her “Jan”, Jan taught me multiple ways to cope with my anxieties and depression. I decided to start a regiment of antidepressants, I took better care of my health, I started journaling, I was more attentive to my fiancee, my son, and myself. After months of intensive self-care, things finally started to look up.

Eventually, I did opt to come off the antidepressants and journaling about my feelings wasn’t as required as it previously had been. I was starting to recover.

With the time that’s gone by, I’ve made sure to continue checking in with myself and my loved ones. Probably one of the biggest sources of the issues I was facing was my inability to empathize.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you could probably imagine that my house was not one where emotional intelligence and empathy were part of the “required learning”. Knowing how you felt and why you felt that way was not a staple of my upbringing.

Despite this, I spent the remainder of 2020, and all of 2021, teaching myself to empathize. I never really knew what that meant until I had to put it into practice. Once I could, my view on everything related to my dark times changed completely.

I could never see or understand the pressure my fiancee was dealing with because of my depression and anxiety, so I couldn’t help her when she clearly needed it. I couldn’t see or understand why my son was acting up because I wasn’t in the right headspace when we were together, so I couldn’t improve his mood or calm him down in any way.

Learning to empathize, discovering my feelings and why I felt them, and giving myself a level of self-care I never did before, completely turned my life around.

There is a ton more to this story that I wish I had the time to tell, but it is so personal, I’m still working on how to tell it.

I hope I can tell my story soon and that this little bit I shared here now can help someone. I wish you all the best in 2022. 2020 was literally the worst year of my life, but I thankfully managed to turn the following year completely around – saving my family.

Things can get tough, sometimes a lot tougher than we think we can handle, but it is so important to remember that these battles aren’t meant to be lost but to be conquered.

Stay strong everyone.

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth

The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams

When I was a kid, there were so many things I wanted to do. So many things I wanted to be. From police officer, comedian, actor, firefighter, military man, chef, all the way up to doctor and astronaut. It was as if there were endless possibilities. Like any kid, I had a lot of dreams.

My parents, though, had a lot of dreams for me.

“When you grow up, you’re going to go into the family business.”

Great, right? Problem solved.

Let’s fast forward to being around 6 or 7 now.

It’s 5:30 in the morning. I, a small child, am being woken up by my parents, throwing on oversized clothes, and rushing to get out the door because I woke up late.

We take a short, sleepy, 15 minute ride to my dads construction yard, and grab some materials before spending the next hour picking up a few employees from their houses. It’s now close to 8:00AM and we’re finally taking the hour drive to the first job site of the day.

We spent the next ten hours out before finally getting home. When that day finished, I felt so proud to have “worked” with my dad, but something became very clear to me: I didn’t want to be a construction worker. The unthinkable had happened to me – I lost all interest in being in the family business.

As I got older, it became pretty clear that their dreams for me weren’t my dreams. As disappointed as that made them, at least they didn’t throw that on me every chance they got, right?

Wrong. One thing my parents never let go of was my lack of interest in the family business. It’s come to the point where every opportunity they have to remind me of their disappointment, they take it. Yes, present day. It’s been 20 years and they still do it.

As I grew up from that day at work with my father, I came to build new dreams. From an actor on broadway, to a Marine, then eventually a doctor. As much as these ideas gave me excitement, life even, it gave my parents an equal lack of faith in me.

“An actor? Good luck. Because there aren’t a lot of those in the world.”

“A Marine? No. Absolutely not. If you do that, you do it without me.”

“A doctor? Aren’t you a little old for dreams? If you want to make real money, construction is where it’s at.”

I don’t remember a single time my parents supported any of my dreams. Any of my goals. Any of them.

Over the years, this has actually built quite a gap between us. As time went on, I stopped confiding in them. I stopped telling them my plans or anything I wanted to do. I knew they just wouldn’t support it. Hell, when I was 18, I was accepted into a culinary school four hours from my house and my parents refused to let me go because it was “too far from home” and I couldn’t work for the business while I went to school.

Bear in mind, they’re already aware of my lack of interest in working for the company, they just haven’t let it go.

As I write this, I am 26 years old and have struggled for years to figure out anything I want to do. Having the lack of support for any dream or dreams I’ve had over the years has made it impossible to speak to them about work options or have any kind of conversation that doesn’t land in my feeling guilty about the decision to steer clear of the company. Even on the off chance that I do speak to them about a work interest I think will be great for me, I get a firm, “there’s no money in that, you’re going to ruin yourself.” They’re real, “spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down” kind of people.

Our relationship has been broken through the years and that is a lot to blame for my decision not to go into the family business. What is the most to blame, from my end at least, is the complete lack of support for any of my dreams. I wish I could say that I know my parents meant well, but what they really wanted was for the guilt to drive me where they wanted me.

Supporting your children and their dreams is such an effortless task. Seeing them excited, happy to know where they’re going, is something to marvel at and then nudge them in the direction they should go to keep that excited mood going. My parents have never supported my dreams, and for that I will never stifle the dreams of my children.

Were your parents supportive of your dreams? Did you end up following any? Let me know in the comments!

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth

Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents

Ever since I was a kid, I always loved making people laugh. It sort of came naturally to me. If someone laid out a zinger for me to knock out of the park, even at the ages of 6 or 7, I could do it. I don’t know why I was so good at it, I just was. The house I grew up in wasn’t one you’d really see a lot of comedy coming out of, either. My parents were constantly fighting, and when they weren’t, it felt like I took the brunt of the rest of the rage. At some point in those years, I think the humor might have fallen out of me.

When I was around 10 or 11, though, I was forced into a language school with my sister. This was particularly annoying because we were both pretty solid when it came to the language itself, the classes were twice a week for two hours at a time, the school itself was an hour away from our house, and we were already attending regular school hours during the day. The normal school days extended for us by multiple hours weekly. It was a nightmare.

Though, that did eventually change for me. After the first few months, with the holiday season approaching, our school decided to put on a winter show. I was nervous at first, but quickly became enamored with being on stage. It felt so natural to me. I loved it.

I was excited for script reading, practicing the acting itself, everything. Before I knew it, I was auditioning for roles in my middle school plays, and then again in high school. I almost always landed a main role and that left me with such a rush, I couldn’t help but want to pursue it further.

Alas, in my junior year of high school, that dream would end up snuffed out by lost opportunity. Something I still hold resentment towards my parents for to this day.

After landing the role of Orpheus in the Metamorphoses story of “Orpheus and Eurydice”, my director, between directing shows on Broadway in New York City, recommended I follow this passion and meet a casting agent she knew in the city. I was ecstatic, but my parents couldn’t have cared less. After weeks of pleading, trying everything I could to convince them, the inevitable realization of this broken dream came to be. I would never see my day on the big screen.

Let’s take a brief moment of silence for the drama geek moment and move on.

Fast forward to today, not landing on any more tragic stories of my childhood, I want to touch on something a lot of people are coming to realize: the sins of your parents still live with you.

It actually took a lot of therapy and introspection to arrive at this realization. At some point in my late teenage years when my parent’s opinion of me lost its high value, I gained my humor back. I wish I could say I eventually got my dramatic tendencies back, but those sort of never left, just evolved into much darker ways. You’d be surprised the parallels with my joke telling these days, though.

My parents, as well as many others, I think meant well. Fighting with each other is a part of life, they just didn’t fear what it could do to their kids when they did it in front of us. Forcing your children into, or out of things, probably wasn’t supposed to be as damaging as they thought it would be, but it was. Beating me to the pulp when I did something wrong never yielded the result my mom wanted it to. I think they were trying to mimic their parents because of how they turned out, but the big problem with that is that their parents came from third world countries (at the time) and were incredibly strict. My mother on multiple occasions has recounted times both of her parents beat her senseless and my father has continuously reminded me that health comes first, then work, then family.

That was their upbringing. Your parents may have their own trauma and that may have translated onto you. They say that generational trauma takes at least three generations to break. What my parents did to me, in my opinion, wasn’t right. Sure, keeping us locked in the house probably seemed like the safest option, but none of us are really the prime example of solid mental health they probably thought we’d end up being.

The sins of my parents lead them to believe that it was impossible for me to have depression, anxiety, a lack of self worth. It lead them to believe that because there was nothing, in their eyes, that I should be depressed about, that there was nothing I could be depressed about. By blindly following in the footsteps of their parents before them, they pushed us to live the same kind of life.

My father’s inability to understand or agree with my depression and anxiety caused an incredible scene one night when I was 17. A scene that followed me into adulthood. My mother’s inability to, what felt like, even care about my mental health made it impossible to confide in her without some sort of competitive reaction to see who had things worse. Almost every time she technically won, but the problem was that she was forcing me to qualify myself.

The importance of introspection is something a lot of people don’t truly consider until they’re in a state of emergency or crisis. Until they have no choice. I call it “the sins of the parents” because of the immortal trauma that follows.

As a father now, I can see certain aspects of my own parents coming through sometimes. It’s tough to hold that back sometimes, but for the most part I find it relatively easy to go with my gut on what I think would be the least traumatic option for my son. The shouting I do my best to steer clear of. The fighting with my fiancee in front of him is such a rarity, I’d be surprised if he even recognized when a fight was happening. My fiancee and I have a strong view against corporal punishment and we would never hit our children the way my parents hit me. The part I didn’t really touch on here, though, is that my son will definitely have friends.

One thing my parents did that I still really don’t understand is why they did everything they could to hinder my ability to be with other kids. Once the school bell rang, my mother was outside waiting to pick me up. If a kid asked me for a playdate, my mother would deny it. The first time I ever had a sleepover was when I was 16, at my own house.

At this point, I will prepare my departure from this topic. At the end of the day, we all have trauma from our upbringing. Some, definitely more than others, but everyone has at least a sprinkle of trauma. Recognizing your trauma can take you a long way when it comes to parenting. Were your parents too strict, or even too relaxed? Did your parents fight in front of you or prevent you from building connections outside of the house? What will you do to prevent the trauma from your upbringing affect your kids? Let everyone know in the comment section. Who knows? You could help someone parent just a little better by sharing your own experience.

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth

The Importance of Date Night

Day after day, night after night, it’s always the same thing. You wake up, brush your teeth, take care of the kids, feed them, clothe them, do everything for everyone, and polish off the day with a bath, bedtime, and about 30 minutes of relaxation before passing out to do it all again tomorrow.

Whether it’s your main job or your partner’s, the act itself can be monotonous. Before you know it, you’re months without alone time, weeks without intimacy, and days without really even speaking to your partner about anything but the family. What a life, am I right?

And that is precisely why taking time for just you and your partner is so important. That is why Date Night is a resource.

Imagine doing the exact same thing every single day. Sounds miserable, right? Well, if that’s exactly what you and your partner are currently doing, I’m willing to bet there’s a little bit of spice missing from your house right now. Possibly even a little bit of resentment lying beneath the surface.

With that in mind, why not take a break? Why not take some time with your partner or even set some time up for both of you to do something – either together or apart? Your partner might be sick of you, and vice versa.

Date night is something I look so forward to when the opportunity arises. Taking time out of the ritualistic continuity and complacency of life to enjoy something greater without screaming kids around can completely change your week. Constantly doing the same thing over and over again can drain you faster than the expensive C batteries in the RC car your son left on for six straight days. Date night is the recharge you both need.

Don’t get me wrong, taking the family to a steak dinner at Texas Roadhouse is always nice, but getting to sit down at your favorite sushi restaurant with just your partner after being on parent duty exclusively for eight months consecutively… It feels like the first date all over again. You don’t even realize it before the night, but you actually have things you’re catching up on with your partner. Be it how work is going, the new Pixar movie that had surprisingly adult themes, or gossip among each other’s friends you haven’t been able to share yet. The adult conversation is like taking a deep inhale of beautifully fresh air.

Now, date night doesn’t have to be dinner. My fiancee and I have used “date night” to do stuff like clean our house without our son around. We’ve used it to see movies, finish Christmas shopping, even hit the grocery store. For a brief period, we even used it for therapy. Date night is the light at the end of the tunnel when all you can see is bright yellow rubber bath time duckies.

“But how could I possibly leave my baby?” Honestly, that’s a really fair question.

Leaving the kids for date night can be tough. Especially post-pandemic. When your kids have been locked inside for over a year and their only friends have pretty much just been you, you’ll probably have a harder time leaving them than you or your partner think. But you have to just rip the bandaid on that one.

Believe it or not, a little distance between you and the little ones is okay. Leaving them with grandma, cousins, or even well-trusted friends helps them to socialize and build a healthy level of independence. And when you get back, they grow a little more comfortable with the fact that, “hey, mom and dad would never leave me behind.”

Date night is good for them. It’s good for you. Giving yourself some time to just be adults, or just hang around and act like kids without the kids around, can be super beneficial. You can re-spark lost intimacy, relearn your partner and what runs through their mind all day. You can build that Lego Guardians of the Galaxy set you’ve been wanting to build and eat big kid food with the love of your life without having to worry about getting fruit snacks for the kids.

Date night can be a lot of things. It can be anything. It can be everything you’ve been looking forward to having or just getting a chance to see your partner be happy about something other than seeing your son land almost the entire stream in the toilet that one time. Don’t let the little ones affect the big picture all the time. You may live for your kids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a little while you’re doing it.

So leave work a little early this Friday, ring up the babysitter, and tell that special someone to go out and get themselves a little something nice. Date night is right around the corner.

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth

Far Away Holidays

The holidays. They can be such a magical, fun, exciting, and sometimes outright crazy time of year. Especially when you have kids. When the holidays come around, the world sort of flips upside down. People who are generally happy throughout the year may tend to move to a darker place. People who are usually on the darker end of things can surprise you with a jovial, outright jolly attitude. One thing that is certain, though, is that the holiday season is pretty much universally known as a time to be together.

But what happens when you can’t be? What about those people that, no matter how bad they want it, can not seem to be with family at this insane time of year? Well, things are a little tougher, a little quieter, and a little less jolly. Not all bad, just not as festive as previous years.

When I was 20, I met the love of my life. Unfortunately for me, at the time, she was located about three whole states away. So, thinking as rationally as possible, I packed all my valuables up, jumped in my car, and made the ten hour drive to live with her and her family three weeks after we met. Crazy, right?

My family wasn’t completely on board, my friends thought I was an idiot, but we were so quickly enamored with each other, it felt stupid not to take the leap. And looking back, it really was stupid. But I’ve never done something to perfectly stupid in my life.

We lived together for about eight months, spent some time apart as a long distance relationship, and then have been together since with only one holiday apart. We’ve grown our family since then, but we’ll talk about that story later.

For now, we’ll stick to what I sat down to write about – the holidays and spending them between families.

When you live states away from the family you grew up with, you develop a sense of nostalgia for old family traditions. Be it the food, the decorations, or the people. There’s something that feels very irregular about the situation.

I remember spending my first holiday away from my parents, my siblings, and my friends. The feeling sits as fresh as the day it happened in my mind. I felt guilty, empty, scared for some reason, and like I was damaging something that I could never fix. After some therapy and a lot of self reflection, I can tell you why I was feeling those ways now, but back then it was a hellish feeling.

I feel like I should mention that my family and I have a strained relationship. Things were especially difficult six years ago when this happened. Why did I feel so guilty? Because I felt like I was taking something from them. Their little boy was away for Christmas. As a father now, I can definitely empathize, but as the child at the time, the guilt they were openly pushing me to feel was unbearable. Unfair. Ridiculous. I wasn’t going to stay a child forever. Hell, within three years from then, they’d have a grandchild out of me, so I would definitely fall out of the “little boy” category at that point.

Things had pretty much always been strained before then, and in the moment, even more so. I knew how tough we’d always been on each other, and usually been fair about where to place the blame, but for the first time – it really felt like this was my fault.

The guilt was filling me to the brim and spilling out of my ears. Suddenly, all the fights my family and I had consistently had throughout the years felt like a giant ball of my mistakes that I had just been trying to throw on other people. Maybe that was the case, sure, but I don’t think that’s really what that was.

Being away from my family, I remembered the fun my cousins and I would have. I remembered the jokes my father would tell and the food my mother would cook. I remembered the time my siblings and I spent together. I remembered all the good times and none of the bad. Thinking about all of that, on a day like Christmas, truly made me feel horrible. Not horrible because of what I’d done by not being there, but because of what I’d taken for granted. Since having my son, I promised myself I would not deprive him of what I had growing up. Hopefully, sparing him all the pointless fights, but gifting him with all the love that I had experienced.

Having a child with grandparents in different states has been tough. We treat the situation a lot like divorced parents working out custody. There are on and off years for Christmas and Thanksgiving, with birthdays being up for grabs. It isn’t an impossible situation, it’s just a situation you have to want to make work. My family loves me. I know they do. And I love them. We just fight a lot. If you think about it, that’s actually a really good sign. It means I feel so comfortable with them, that I can let out my aggression. Like how toddlers are always worse with their parents than they are with babysitters or relatives. Of course, I am not a toddler, but just a grown man comparing himself to one.

Holidays are tough when you live separately like this. So just try to make sure to keep things as even as you can, video chat, text, send pictures, make your favorite dishes, and try to keep traditions alive in your own house. Living distant shouldn’t affect living beautifully.

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth