Parenting TRUM

This post is going to look a bit different. I think it’s still worth reading (I did write it, after all), but I’m just giving you a heads up.

No, the title is not a typo; I did not forget the “p” at the end. TRUM is an acronym that stands for “Thoughts, Ramblings, Useless information and Musings.” Matthew Berry is a senior fantasy sports analysts at ESPN and TRUM is an acronym he created to structure some of his columns when he has a bunch of things to write about but none big enough to fill up their own column. I’ve been compiling a number of these types of notes myself, so I figured I’d do a blog post TRUM-style.

The following are some random notes about being a parent of a toddler, being a parent in general, being a father, being a husband and probably a few other classifications.

–I have become keenly aware of how noisy our neighborhood is. It’s not just that it’s noisy, it’s that no one else seems to respect the fact that we have a toddler at home who needs to sleep. We live two blocks away from a hospital so we hear a lot of ambulances go by, often with sirens blaring. Every time I hear a siren or someone’s absurdly loud music or a dog barking or people yelling, I find myself muttering, “Shut up! Don’t you know we have a sleeping toddler here?”

–There does not seem to be a limit to the number of places Eitan can hide things. Of course, things end up under the couch, under the bed, etc., all the time. But we have a carpet in our living room and yesterday, when I walked over a bump, I thought the rubber non-skid sheet under it had just gotten rolled up. Turns out Eitan had put one of his toy plates under the rubber. 1

–One of the worst feelings in the world is when you get caught humming at work and you realize the song is Baby Bop’s “Yellow Blanket” from Barney the Dinosaur or the theme song from Dora the Explorer.

–More evidence that Eitan is Trudy’s child: not only will he help clean up by vacuuming or mopping, he’ll also throw things out in the garbage, put toys back in their boxes, put laundry in the machine, start the dishwasher and lug the bag of dirty diapers out to the garbage room in the hallway.

–If it’s possible, the feeling of getting kicked in the balls by a toddler hurts more when you’re asleep than it does when you’re awake. And yes, I have a frame of reference for both.

–If there’s anything I’ve learned from being a father, it’s that you always need to be paying attention, even in the middle of the night.  Last week, Eitan was having trouble sleeping (again), so at one point, instead of Trudy nursing him (again), I got up to put some milk in a bottle for him.  I poured in the milk, screwed on the cap and brought it back to bed2 so Trudy and I could feed it to him.  Trudy took off the plastic cap that covers the nipple and promptly poured milk right into Eitan’s face and all over the bed because I hadn’t realized there was no nipple on the bottle when I prepared it. It wasn’t so funny in the moment, but from what I hear, it provided lots of entertainment at the mom’s night out.

I think that’s it for now.  I’ll have another post ready at some point next week.  Hopefully Eitan will bless us with the opportunity to get a bit of sleep between now and then, although obviously I’ll have to do my part, as well, by not trying to drown him in the middle of the night, too.

1. Cut to my father nodding grimly as he remembers my youngest brother hiding his drivers license in the baseboard heater.

2. Yes, Eitan inevitably ends up in bed with us at night.  We’re hoping to reverse this trend starting next week.

A Quiet Baby

I assume many people (especially those without children) think that a quiet and content child is a good thing.  Quiet means the child is sleeping, reading a book or perhaps playing with a quiet, likely educational toy.

Think again.

As parents of a very active almost 16 month old we learned oh-so-quickly that a quiet child is not a good thing. A very quiet child is a very bad thing.  If you find yourself saying, “It’s really quiet. Where’s Eitan?” then you’ve already lost.

A quiet child only means one thing: trouble.

It never seems to amaze me just how much “trouble” Eitan seems to get in when he’s “quiet.”  During these “quiet times” Eitan has managed to un-baby proof many of the places in our apartment that we tried so hard to prevent him from getting into.  He pulled the television cables wires off the wall1 and opened closet doors to pull out everything he could reach, including shoes, toilet paper rolls, paper towels, clothes, bags and a broom and mop.

I sit here and wonder what you all are thinking, “Where is his mother when all of this is happening?”  We try to give Eitan as much free reign of our apartment as we can since it’s not that large, but truth be told, our son is a force of nature.  Emptying an entire side of a closet surprisingly only takes him a few minutes.

A few weeks ago he climbed into the shower and dumped out all of his bath toys.  Yesterday he unraveled an entire roll of toilet paper and (of course) ripped it into tiny pieces all over the apartment. He also enjoys the toilet, which has been locked for a few months, after someone decided to try and give himself a bath inside.2  Oh, and there’s nothing like the sound of a toilet flushing to show you that when your son left the room, he did not go to get another toy or book to read, like you thought.

So basically we never had to buy Eitan any of his million toys, just put him in the bathroom, closet or any area of the apartment that we thought we babyproofed and he’s set for a few hours.

Needless to say, Aaron and I quickly learned that the bathroom door needs to stay closed during the day.3 We re-babyproofed in hopes of preventing any injuries or additional destruction to our apartment.

Not all of his “quiet times” are destructive or likely to cause injury. He learned to climb into his toy chest (which is so cute), opens and closes his crib drawer (not before pulling out all of the blankets and sheets – and sometimes getting into the drawer). He’s climbed onto his music table and attempted to climb on top of his kitchen.  Many of these activities have been with me watching, making sure that he is safe and at the same time still having fun.

But yes, the moral of the story: if you don’t hear your child, be afraid. Very afraid. And then go quickly to see what he/she has gotten into.

1. Yes, the brackets holding them to the wall were nailed in.

2. Do you see a pattern? Eitan really likes the bathroom.

3. As you can tell, we forget to do this sometimes. Not to worry, Eitan always catches our mistakes.

Forgive Me, Father…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately.

You’ll notice, obviously, that it’s been a little while since my last post. This is largely because I’ve been thinking, as opposed to writing. That, plus the fact that I’ve been working overtime at my job, Hebrew school has started for both my wife and me, I lead junior congregation services at a synagogue on the high holidays and I have a fifteen-month-old child who has decided it’s his mission in life to break world records for speed in making messes of our living room. So time to write has been hard to come by.

That being said, things are finally starting to get somewhat back to “normal” at work, or as normal as they can be when they involve working with families whose kids have mental health and behavioral challenges, so my brain has been slightly less fried on my commutes lately, so I’ve been able to think about things a bit.

This past weekend was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There are a number of different interpretations regarding the purpose of Yom Kippur. Traditionally, this is the day when Jews request forgiveness for their sins1, both from their friends and family and from God, and pray for a favorable judgment from the Almighty that leads to being inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.2 People approach this day differently, according to their own spiritual and religious beliefs, their personal relationships and understandings of “God,” and whether they buy the whole concept of God pre-determining whether they’re going to live for another year or not. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle on all three, but either way, I tend to use Yom Kippur as an opportunity to reflect on my place in life, my relationships with the different people in my life and my behavior over the past year.3

I’m sorry if you’re disappointed, but I’m not going to list all the things I came up with during those self-evaluations. This may be a space for me to share my thoughts with the universe, but I think a lot of that stuff is probably better off kept private, if only for the sake of the other people involved. Let’s just say I have some work to do and leave it at that.

If I consider one of the functions of this blog as a way for me to communicate with my son (as has been suggested in the past), though, I do think there’s a message or a moral that was underlying a lot of the dynamics I was examining. I’m not usually one to get preachy but I do think it’s important that Eitan be aware that it’s easy to become complacent. Relationships take work, whether they involve family, friends or even co-workers, and the effort a person puts in to those relationships is usually directly correlated with the quality and strength of the connection that results. I feel comfortable admitting that my understanding of my role as father has fluctuated since Eitan was born, as well as the work I’ve done to care for my family. I haven’t always been the best father over the past fifteen months, but I do feel like I’m finally starting to understand exactly what my family needs from me. The main concept dealt with on Yom Kippur is t’shuvah, a word generally translated as “repentance” but which is more closely related to “return.” Asking forgiveness from God and from the people I have wronged over the past year is the first part of the process. The other, much more difficult step is making an active decision to change the behavior that led us astray in the first place.

I’ve asked for forgiveness; now the real work begins.

1. Autocorrect may want to find a therapist to work out its daddy issues because it keeps trying to change “sins” to “sons.”

2. My favorite moment of leading junior congregation during the High Holidays was when I compared the Book of Life to Santa’s nice and naughty lists and one of the kids said, “Hey, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is my jam!”

3. This post, from a friend of mine whom I’ve known since elementary school, also got a lot of the self-examination juices flowing.

Happiness Is Complicated


Please read this link first. It’s a cartoon illustrated by a fan of Bill Watterson’s named Gavin Aung (his website can be found here). The words are from a commencement address Watterson gave about 20 years ago:

I think that it’s difficult for me to separate my ambition and dreams from my upbringing, sometimes. My parents gave me such a comfortable life that when I ventured out into the world I was scared to be uncomfortable – but I mistakenly interpreted “uncomfortable” as “without the means to pay bills.” As a freshman at Indiana University, I declared as a business major.

What the fuck was I thinking?

Fortunately, when I found out that being a business major meant I’d have to take calculus, I switched my major to English before classes commenced.

Uncomfortable actually means “unable to know your place.” I found my place so easily in high…

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