The Thanksgiving post, circa 2022

I am thankful for this photograph coming out pretty decently.  Through Facebook memories, I’ve seen pictures of past Thanksgivings where I remained home with my group of other vagabond friends who didn’t travel or have local family in town and we always got together for evenings of traditional Thanksgiving food, games and eventually Brack Friday shopping.

Then I got married, had kids, and it’s been a minute since we had a traditional Friendsgiving.

I called an audible this year, and made the choice to stay home for Thanksgiving this year.  With three adults and one child that no longer qualifies for lap travel, and no real place for us all to stay whilst up in Virginia, the idea of going up for Thanksgiving seemed like a colossal clusterfuck, so I made the call to forget the plan and just stay in Georgia in the comfort of our own home.  

I just didn’t want to sink a boatload of money on a trip that was going to stress me out when I could’ve gotten the same results staying at home.  Needless to say, the tone of this post is probably going to go downhill really fast now.

Because aside from the obvious things, like the health of my kids and having a better job than my old one, I can’t really think of anything that I’m thankful of this year.  I understand that putting such a sentiment in writing makes me sound like a bitter and miserable person, but at the same time all of the above isn’t really that inaccurate.

My job doesn’t burn me out on a daily basis, but the rigors and daily tribulations of parenthood more than makes up for it these days.  Even with an au pair that is like a gift from god, there’s still way more time than I want where I’m on double duty with both girls, and it’s just so tremendously difficult to manage a toddler and an infant at the same time.  It always makes me feel like a failure, because I can’t really give any one of my kids quality attention because I’ve always got to remain on defense that one doesn’t hurt herself while trying to man the other, and it fills me up with resentment when I logically should not be on double duty but I am anyway.

I am so burned out on a daily basis that people in HR would probably be willing to extend me a little leniency.  I haven’t had a proper or adequate break from being in this stage of dad mode, and I think I might be headed towards a breakdown if I don’t.  I love my kids more than anything in the world, but the day-in and day-out responsibilities that they are, and the fact that I get less than 2-3 hours a day to unwind unless I want to jeopardize sleep and being even a shittier dad the following day never helps.

Even trying to be introspective and analytical, I genuinely don’t feel anything to be thankful of otherwise this year.  I’m just so perpetually full of piss and vinegar that I have no thanks to give.  I am on an island where maybe one or two other people I know probably understands what I’m going through, and my mood swings are becoming more scathing and bitter the longer this continues.

I probably need therapy, a solo vacation wouldn’t hurt, and maybe stopping saying I’m fine when I’m actually filled with anger is a good idea too.   Maybe a Fight Club-like cry session would help.  But none of these seem particularly feasible without clashing objectives and wants, so I’m just left in this bitter mass of existence within myself where I can only hope to find solace in the little things and try to convince myself that they’ll make everything alright.

Permanent damage

An email late Sunday night came from #1’s preschool, stating that someone in my my child’s class had just tested positive for COVID.  They were at school on Friday same as my daughter.  But not only was my child exposed, this past Friday was also a special day in which several of the classes had a singing day where they all got together, and parents were invited to watch the children participate on the stage.

So instead of one child exposing a classroom of 13 kids and three adults, this child instead exposed four classes, all their teachers, and all parents who came, including me.  Despite the fact that I still mask up in public places and large groups of people, this doesn’t change the fact that not just one of my kids, but both of them, since I had brought #2 with me, were exposed on top of the nearly 60~ish people that were present on Friday.

Seeing as how #1 was already showing some sneezing, coughing and runny nose that I originally thought was just another run of the mill cold that she seems to get every single month, now it’s probably most likely COVID, but it’s something that has yet to be determined, because trying to swab her nose and run a rapid test is about as difficult as Left 4 Dead on expert mode, and two days past exposure, it’s already too late to try and protect ourselves in the house.

Another email Monday morning confirmed the spread, as both of #1’s teachers had tested positive and class was effectively cancelled, which was fortuitous considering we had already kept #1 home for safety purposes to begin with.

This is the world we live in now, where COVID is still all over the fuckin place, and the vast majority of people just accept the fact that everyone is bound to get it at some point, and they’re somehow okay with that.

And then there are people like me who get pissed and get mad over the spread of a plague that has basically killed six million people since 2020, and we’re the ones told to get over it or accept that it was bound to happen, when people continuously spread the disease like it were the common cold.

No, I won’t accept it or get over it.  I will always be upset, I will always be mad, and I will always be frustrated with how the world is being so inconsistent and cavalier about coronavirus.  And even more so when it afflicts my family, because people are so stupid, so selfish and so ignorant to the fact that we live in a world where a potentially lethal virus is just floating all over the place and we’re okay with not masking up and protecting ourselves because it’s uncomfortable or it’s hot or fogs up our glasses when we wear them.

I’m the one who has to disclaim that I’m the social outlier these days, that I don’t feel comfortable in crowds or clam up when I see anyone sneeze or cough out in public because I want to be safe or keep my kids safe.  And yet, I’m the one who has to be concerned about the optics of not wanting to go into the office or into a crowded conference room, because despite the fact that people and businesses all like to talk a big game about how they take health and safety seriously, hardly anyone is actually demonstrating it in their actions.

It’s frustrating all the people and business out there that pretend like they care about people who try to take care of themselves or their families, but there are all sorts of inadvertent consequences to those who actually do.  It’s frustrating being an outlier who still takes things seriously, and being seen as a paranoid pariah instead of someone who is just trying to be safe.

I think this is what we call some permanent damage on account of the pandemic, and I don’t believe I will ever be able to readjust to a life being like it was pre-COVID, and it’s frustrating that I’m the one who is treated like the weirdo.  Because I value safety.  Seems legit.

Dad Brog (#100): One Hundred Dad Brogs

Because I’m a neurotic baseball nerd who has a hard-on for nice round numbers, I was always keenly aware of the fact that I was creeping closer to a nice round milestone number of 100 dad brogs, most of which are bitchy, ragey, or coming from a place of frustration.  In my head, I’ve written this post several different times now, but as is the norm for the life of a parent of kids as young as mine, there was never the opportunity to write this until a lot of the feelings in which I’m mentally writing, have already long passed.

This isn’t to say that I don’t love my children, quite the contrary, I love my children and my famiry and would do anything in the world for them, but it’s more of the unyielding truth of just how difficult raising kids is, especially in the circumstances I’ve been under, with two born during a pandemic and being on a path that has never really been explored except by those in similar boats currently charting them as we go.

There’s no sugar-coating it: parenting is hard.  Parenting two that are just 16 months apart is even harder.  I’ve completely lost the ability to feel any shred of empathy for anyone who proclaims their lives are difficult and they have no kids, because I frankly can’t imagine anyone’s life being as hard without kids as someone with them.  In fact, I’ve even turned my nose up at those with just one child, because at this point, I think one kid is a walk in the park, and that I could raise a single child with my eyes closed with the experience I’ve accumulated.

At no point during my journey as a dad, have things ever been easy.  When it was just #1, we had several months of having to deal with an apnea monitor, on top of not knowing what we were doing as new parents.  But once we began to feel that we were getting into a groove and that her sleep schedule was affording us time to begin feeling like human beings again, our world was rocked by the discovery that mythical wife was pregnant and #2 was on the way.

And then #2 arrived, and in spite of all the preparation and thinking we got this, based on all the experience we accumulated from our first go-around, #2 was all sorts of different than her sister, in terms of temperament, sleeping habits, and the presence of colic.  And with their being two kids now, the inevitability of double duty came into play, and let me tell you that there have been fewer points in my life that I have felt so helplessly inadequate as a father, parent, human being, than when I’m constantly falling on my face as a single person watching two kids.

Since then, my daughters have been living up to the tag team dynamic that I’ve given them championship blets for, because since the staffing up of my famiry, they’ve been systematically taking turns, tagging in and out, at which one of them is the difficult kid at any given time; naturally not ignoring any opportunities to get some double-team, tandem offense of both of them being difficult at the same time.  #2’s colic was a devastating time where nothing I did felt like it was right.  #1’s increasing curiosity and the development of defiance and the ability to say the word NO bubbled up as #2’s newborn vices began cooling down.  They’d take turn at being picky eaters, and seldom would eat well at the same time.  #1 started getting sick every single month since the start of 2022 due to our shitty nannies or sending her to daycare, and without missing a beat, when she gets sick, #2 gets sick 3-4 days later and it’s even worse on her because she’s younger and has a lesser developed immune system.  Everyone loves to say that it’s just them growing their immune systems, but I’d rather other parents just stop being selfish fucks and sending sick kids to school all the god damn time.

Continue reading “Dad Brog (#100): One Hundred Dad Brogs”

Dad Brog (#099): The Worst Parenting Product Ever

Throughout the last two-plus years, mythical wife and I have come across plenty of products that weren’t that useful, and/or drawn frustration from mostly me.  Things like wipe warmers, butt paste applicators, the 78 different types of sippy cups that mythical wife purchases despite my protests that we don’t need any more god damn cups, can fall into the category of being useless.

Our ridiculously expensive double stroller has been a tremendous source of frustration for me throughout the journey of parenthood, because it was ridiculously expensive, but it’s also absurdly cumbersome, heavy, doesn’t fit into my car at the same time as an extra human being, and taking the thing down to Disney is a sure-fire trip-ruiner based on how often I have to break it down to fold because it’s either fold it to ride a shuttle or a Skyliner or fold it to put into the car to drive somewhere with.  But at least in spite of it all, it provides massive utility as the sturdy, smooth-rolling stroller to both my kids, when we need to roll them around.

But this past weekend, I discovered the absolute worst parenting product we’ve ever had the misfortune of being duped into spending our money on: the SlumberPod.

It’s basically a supposedly portable blackout tent that you put over the sleeping peripheral of a child, so that they can sleep in simulated darkness.  It has vents and even a clear plastic compartment to tuck a camera into so that you can monitor your child still.  The sales pitch of this product is that it’s perfect for you to use in hotels or anywhere where you have to shack up with your children in the same room, and you want to be able to sleep in the dark but not have to give up the convenience of lights outside of it.

But for my kids?  Colossal failure.  The SlumberPod seems like a great way to inflict trauma or cultivate claustrophobia to my kids.  We got it for #2 originally, because she typically needs a nice dark, isolated setting to sleep optimally, and sharing a hotel room with her seemed like a daunting task.  When we finally got it set up and put over her pack and play, it lasted all of two seconds before she was screaming bloody murder, and it didn’t even make it ten minutes before we realize that this wasn’t going to work.

Alternatively, we tried it on #1, to see if it would prove useful with her, but not only did she hate it as much as #2 did, she had the capability to fuck around with the camera compartment, reach outside of her crib to monkey around with the sound machine, and was just overall physically capable enough to jostle the entire thing to where we I threw up my hands and declared this the worst parenting product we’ve ever had.

Sure, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting product that is guaranteed to work on every single kid out there.  That’s not entirely why I’m so disenchanted with the SlumberPod.  My primary point of frustration with the SlumberPod, aside from its bullshit $170+ price tag, is the fact that it’s pitched like it’s this easy-to-assemble jesus tent that will help put your kids to sleep, but the reality is that you basically need the surface area of Lambeau Field in order to have adequate space to put it together.  Works kind of counter to the idea of assembling and using these in hotel rooms with limited space.

It’s a Christmas miracle that I didn’t, or my kids didn’t get hurt by one of the bullshit tension rods that requires an unnerving amount of bend in order to assemble, and I was afraid that one wrong move would result in a violent whiplash of a metal rod whipping the shit out of either myself or one of my kids.  It would’ve probably been violent enough to slash out an eye on a human being, and probably rip a massive scar into drywall.

It’s definitely not easy to assemble, and once it is, it’s this giant fucking blob of useless that you don’t want to break down on a daily basis and have to wrestle with it all over again the following day, so you leave it assembled and let it take up a giant chunk of space in your limited hotel room’s real estate.

And when it doesn’t work on top of the aggravation of having to assemble it, it’s a really easy call to make that this is basically the most useless and regrettable parenting product ever purchased.  Basically, my prevailing thought after having to put up with this failure, is that if you don’t want to have to deal with the stress and struggle of having to share space with a child that requires adequate darkness in order to sleep, don’t fucking travel with them.  At least it wouldn’t cost $175 and an entire weekend of sleepless nights because the kids are struggling to sleep in a shared space far from home.  But fuck the SlumberPod, I hope I’ll be able to recoup anything for it, because I sure as shit don’t want to keep this in my house full of kids stuff any longer.

Dad Brog (#098): Goodbye office, hello au pair

The blets are all down and in storage, my personal effects are all gone, and the only things left are my giant Jinx wall mural, and the hanging bar full of running medals, because they’re out of the way enough to where I don’t feel bad leaving them up.  But for all intents and purposes my office is no longer my office, and is back to being a bedroom, ready for a new resident to my household who will be arriving in short order. 

Mythical wife and I are long past the point of exasperation when it comes to childcare, and we’ve decided to embark down the route of getting an au pair, which is a fancy way of saying we’re bringing in a person from another country to come live in my home, and be a live-in nanny to my children. 

The hopes are that with a nanny as a resident, it will bring a semblance of stability to my house; reliable, consistent care, and with them living with us, the hope is it will greatly reduce the possibility of fake sick days, COVID exposures, and the litany of other bullshit that seemed to plague my home through the parade of temps and babysitters we’ve relied on throughout the rest of this year.

I genuinely can’t express in words the sheer exasperation I’ve had with all the babysitters I’ve had to endure over the last year.  All the bullshit sick days called in where I’m the one who has to eat the sick day from my own job.  All the regular tardiness from them where they were always 3-10 minutes late every single fucking day, where those small amounts of time are the difference between being prepared for an early meeting, or needing to log into a meeting with a crying baby in tow, praying that I’m not called upon to unmute my mic.  All the clock-watching when it came to the end of the days, to where they’d leave on the dot, and I’m on double duty while on the clock at work until mythical wife gets home.

I’m sick of feeling like a liability at work, and questioning my job security, and really hoping that nobody’s taking notes or building a dossier on my occasional work flakiness on account of putting my kids first.  I’m sick of feeling like I’m wasting money when I have to pay shitty babysitters who grew complacent and fell into routines and lazy habits.  I’m just sick of unreliable help.

Of course, mythical wife and I are more than prepared to welcome our au pair with open arms and hope to embrace them as a legitimate member of our household, and we’re really hoping that by giving a shit about them will make them want to give a shit about us, more importantly the kids, and that we’ll have a mutually beneficial year of reliable childcare while they get to explore a slice of life in America, as polarizing of a place we are these days.

But this also means that I’ve had to forfeit my office, as all the other bedrooms in the house are occupied by the kids, and that was honestly one of the things that gave me pause about heading in this direction in the first place.  I loved my office, I loved my wall of blets, and I loved having a personal space for all of my shit that I geek out and obsess over, even if nobody else gives two shits about wrestling, running or any of the rando pieces of art and figures I had on my walls.

However, I love my kids more, and frankly it goes without saying that a large part of parenting is sacrificing things for the sake of our kids.  So add my office to the list with hobbies, disposable income, freedom to bullshit and just time in general, and I’m hoping the au pair experience will go so well that I’ll have zero chance to have any regrets about it.

It’s funny, because while I was on the fence about going the route of an au pair, when my last full-time nanny’s personal drama bomb went off, and she used it as reason why she couldn’t come in to work, I remember my wife showing me her phone with the wall of text, and two seconds after reading it, I was just like, fuck this, let’s get an au pair.  I don’t need my office so much as I just need some fucking reliable childcare, and it just doesn’t seem like we’re going to find any viable options in our area, much less this country full of lazy and entitled people who have some babysitting experience, looking to cash in on a hard caregiver’s market.

But all the same; vaya con dios to my office, as it’s going to be a long time before you will be mine once again, and I will have my blet wall back, and a place to put my nerdy framed artwork and League figures up on the shelves, and have a place in the house that is solely my own.  But the kids come first, always, and one day I will have my office back definitively.

Dad Brog (#097): A brog-worthy bad morning

My current routine is to wake up at 7:10 am, every single day of the week, regardless of if I have to work or not, with the objective of having the kids’ breakfast ready to serve by the time I get them at anywhere from 7:30–7:45.  Preferably with me waking them, because if they wake up on their own, it usually means something is wrong, and by something is wrong I mean that one of them has probably shit themselves.

Believe me, there have been mornings where it has been both, and those are wonderful times.

However the thing is, every single morning is kind of a race against a clock that I can’t see and know how much time is left until zero, where, usually #2, wakes up on their own.  Which is never peaceful, or cute babbling on the baby monitor, resulting me in wistfully looking at my youngest with love and admiration.  No, it’s always with crying, and mornings like today, instantly going all the way to 100 on the rage scale within seconds of waking up.

I try not to compare my kids, but it’s unmistakable that on #2’s character sheet, emotional sensitivity is at a 100 out of 99 and that she is without any question, a massive crybaby.  Everything is worth going nuclear over, everything results in screaming, snot and tears, and the only things that can quell them is if one of her parents drops everything they’re doing and probably need to be doing, and picking her up for some snuggle therapy.

Usually at this time, #1 either gets jealous and starts blowing up herself, or she’s capitalizing on my inability to do anything else and runs off and gets into some mischief that I’m put into a Sophie’s choice of stopping my eldest from some form of damage versus allowing the crying machine to explode again, with ten times out of ten usually resulting in putting #2 down to where she blows back up again to stop #1 from hurting herself or hurting something important.

By the time I get the two of them in their high chairs with food placed in front of them, I’m already burned out because my daily allotment of patience has been reduced to a stump over 30~ straight months of waking up to deal with the first shift of parenting, and I’m typically on the verge of a breakdown and chanting to myself that I don’t have enough help and I don’t know what can be done about it and that for just one fucking day, want to not have to do, this.

Continue reading “Dad Brog (#097): A brog-worthy bad morning”

I might be more Korean than I give myself credit for

Obviously, being American-born, there’s a ceiling of just “how Korean” I feel like I can declare myself.  I don’t know more than a few passing slices of actual Korean history, I don’t have tremendous knowledge of my personal bloodline’s lineage and journey of how things have come to be, and my capabilities with the language are pretty elementary in the aggregate; I feel fairly confident in my speaking abilities to have navigated throughout the country with relative ease, but ask me to write anything from a written note to text messages to my own parents, and it’s like a 4-year old trying to write High Valyrian.

But over the last few months, I’ve been reading some young adult stories to my daughters, because I’m of the belief that even if they don’t understand the words that are being read to them, hearing them helps with absorption and future comprehension of the English language.  And the thing is, the authors that I’ve been reading lately, have been of varying Korean descent, and their stories have been featuring Korean characters and telling relatively Korean-in-America types of stories.

One of the common tropes I’ve observed from the youth generation of Koreans in America characters, don’t speak Korean.  Sure, they know choice words that they hear from their parents, but in the grand spectrum of things, these characters are about as American as Wal-Mart and Panda Express.  I find that to be kind of tragic, and rather depressing to my soul, because these characters’ parents are all basically like my own, where they know very little English, but with them knowing NO Korean, they clearly have way more communicative obstacles than I have ever experienced in my life.

Additionally, when I went back up to Northern Virginia to have #2’s first birthday party, it was effectively a large famiry and famiry friends reunion on the side.  Among the famiry friends that were present were the parents of my childhood best friend, as well as several of my parents’ friends from my hometown.  Knowing the mixed audience, when I welcomed everyone to my daughter’s party, I did so in both English, and the best rendition of Korean as I could, because in my head, it would be disrespectful if I didn’t even try, because I did know some Korean.

When I went to do the rounds at each table, the family friends from my old hometown all marveled at the fact that I spoke Korean to the room; to me it was really no big deal, and honestly I appreciate having the opportunity to actually use the language, because I never want to forgive it.  But the kicker was that my old best friend’s parents told me that their three sons, two of whom went to the same Korean language school I did from ages 6-8, have basically forgotten all Korean, and don’t speak it at all.

Again, when I thought about the conversation, the whole thought made me feel really sad.  Sure, I would venture to say that they speak way better English than my parents do, but on the same token, they’re put in a situation where they can’t use their native tongue with their own children.  Yes, I have my own communication issues with my parents due to the language barrier, but at least they can say whatever they want to get off their chest, even if I don’t understand every word of it.

The thing is, this hasn’t been an uncommon story in my life.  Whenever I come across random Koreans in my everyday life, most of whom are usually workers in some sort of service industry, I still like to utilize my own Korean with them, because I figure it would help expedite service.  And so often times, I’m met with some degree of marveling at the fact that I’m an American-born Korean who actually speaks Korean, as rudimentary as might seem.  And I’m often told that their own kids don’t speak any Korean, and I kind of frown and explain that such is unfortunate.

I like to think that encounters with me, cause some parents to get mad at their own kids for not learning Korean.  Like they go home and give some not-so-passive-aggressive remark about how they met a second-gen Korean-American guy who spoke serviceable Korean, and give them the pregnant pause of death to let them know that they’re disappointed in them.

Without question, I want my daughters to pick up some Korean.  Mythical wife and I already discussed that it will be mandatory for our daughters to learn a second language, because the world is way too small to handicap ourselves to knowing just English.  Obviously, Korean is the first preference, so they can communicate with their grandparents, but honestly I’ll accept any other language, as long as they learn it.  Very few of the next generation of children in my family really speaks any Korean, save for maybe 1-2 of them, and again, that’s sad to me.

Last Thanksgiving, I had a cousin of mine ask me to speak to his eldest son, to try to sell learning Korean to him.  I’m the youngest cousin of the generation, and his son was one of the eldest of the next, so I think he was hoping I’d be able to get through to him, so I explained to him how much I hated Korean school and the sacrifice of every Saturday for years, but when I visited Korea and went off on my own, I realized just how confident and capable I felt, because of my ability with the language at all.  I was met with eye rolls and a rebuttal that my example was such and isolated scenario, that it didn’t seem like a hard enough sell for him.  I left it with that I thought a Korean that didn’t know Korean was kind of tragic, and let him go do his thing.

The bottom line is that no matter how inadequate I might feel as a Korean, there are constantly plenty of reasons that come to light how apparently I’m more Korean than so many other Korean-Americans out there.  I don’t want to let it get to my head, but whenever the realization sinks in, I am proud of it.