Listen To Me on City Dads Group MovemberDads Podcast About Depression

Proud to have been a part of City Dads Group’s MovemberDads podcast titled Depressed Dads: Parenting Through the Darkness. Appearing along with myself are Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent’s Lunchbox and Ryan E. Hamilton of Life of Dad and it’s moderated by Matt Schneider of City Dads Group and the NYC Dads Group. Many thanks to Josh Kross for editing it. It’s a really important topic. Hope you listen and let me know how I did.

 

 

My Body Image Post Up on HuffPost + More

Thank you to Huffington Post for publishing my story about Sienna getting pressured about her body and marriage on Halloween when kids should just be having fun dressing up and getting candy!

And on the heels of that, please check out this terrific post from Mike Reynolds of Puzzling Posts who also talks about body image issues, both male and female.

My Appearance on Parent Nation Radio!

Yesterday I was a guest on Tara Kennedy-Kline’s show, Parent Nation Radio! We discussed depression, how mental illness is still mostly hidden from society and raising kids while battling the disease. Here’s a link to the show. Let me know how I did!

Stop Pressuring Girls/Women About Their Bodies And Marriage Already!

October 31, 2014. Halloween. Sienna dressed as Snow White. Yellow skirt. Blue top. Red bow in her hair. A plastic jack o’lantern in her hand waiting to be filled with candy. She’s 2 1/2 years old. She still doesn’t quite get the trick or treating concept. But that’s ok. Mommy and Daddy are proud. So proud. Mommy missed trick or treating last year and she’s super excited. And then we knock on the door. The man opens. He’s 50-ish. Salt and pepper hair. Taller than me. He hands Sienna 3 mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. And then he says it:

“Don’t eat all of that tonight or you’re gonna get sick and fat and you’ll never get married.”

Excuse me? Seriously, excuse me???

My wife and eye exchange a glance of anger, surprise. I grit my teeth through a smile.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “She’s not eating any of it. That’s our job for now.”

My head swirls. My daughter, my little Snow White just experienced the first crush of societal pressure heaped on girls and women about body image and marriage. I’m just so thankful she didn’t have a clue as to the negative and destructive power behind this man’s words.

But I did. My wife did. And I wanted to throw this man against the wall and scream at him:

“How dare you???” YOU are what’s wrong with this world! YOU are the cause of eating disorders and depression, of mental illness and suicide!! YOU and people like you!! Do you work in advertising, perhaps? Film? Television?? Do you enjoy spreading this propaganda?? This societal sickness that steals female empowerment, wrecks self-esteem and replaces them with a desperate need to compare themselves bodily and matrimonially, to starve themselves to death, to sit in therapists’ offices bemoaning that they’re 30 and not yet married. WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG WITH YOU??? Here’s an idea…read something about female body image disorders. Jean-paul Sarte wrote that ‘words are loaded pistols’ and you just pointed one right at my beautiful little girl. HOW DARE YOU???”

Instead I made a joke and my wife laughed, but as we left his door for the next, anger bubbled in us and the joyful playfulness of Halloween felt tainted. Our innocent Snow White just experienced the evils of the world even if she didn’t realize it.

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Does this little girl look like she needs to be worrying about body image and marriage

Sienna’s still too young to feel the backhanded sting of slings and arrows, still too young to study herself in the mirror, tearing herself to shreds because her 12-year-old waist is thicker than Mary’s or her belly’s too flabby so she needs to diet, diet, diet. Or she’s 28 and crying that no one will marry her because she’s too ugly, too fat despite her being positively gorgeous. Right now it’s just “green day” at school and she needs to wear a green shirt and bring in a green toy. Right now the world is an abundance of wonders.

“I want to touch the moon! I’m taking my flying carpet to China! Leaves are falling! Leaves are turning yellow!”

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Leaves!

And that’s what it should be. That’s what it should be for everyone. This society has a deep-rooted, systemic sickness, a hatred towards girls and women with even an inch of extra meat on their bones, a brutal “tsk-tsk” for unmarried women. Society, thanks to unrealistic portrayals on magazine covers, in commercials, print ads, media of all forms, causes females to turn on and rip each other and themselves apart rather than band together as the beautiful people they are, and it causes men to objectify them. Sienna’s gonna face it. There’s nothing I can do to stop it except educate her as best I can, but what is one voice against the relentless, insidiousness media, the never necessary taunts in school, the comparisons, the scale, the mirror. How much can I do?

2 1/2 years old and already the pressure starts.

That’s why we need sites like A Mighty Girl. That’s why we need female superheroes. That’s why we need podcasts such as this one by City Dads Group in which Jeff Bogle of Out With The Kids and Mike Reynolds of Puzzling Posts discuss “the uphill climb our daughters still face in the 21st century and the role that we as dads can play in challenging the long-held beliefs and stereotypes that are foisted upon women and girls.” That’s why we need people like Christopher Persley’s column, Advice for my Daughter in which successful women provide advice for his 3-yr-old girl as well as the world at large.

I will educate my daughter as best as I can. I will raise her to avoid the societal pressure pitfalls that have led to my own battles with depression and anxiety (different pitfalls, of course). I will raise her to be strong, to fight back, to be herself and be proud of who she is. I will raise her to realize how ignorant a 50-ish man with salt and pepper hair can be.

Who’s with me?

 

Returning To the Scene of One of the Worst Moments of My Life (Sort of)

“Come to my apartment. It’s getting harder to meet in the city and you obviously hate phoners.”

But I hated the idea of going to her apartment more. Fear. Crushing anxiety. I’d feel them each time my therapist suggested we meet at her apartment. Why? It’s just an apartment, right? Not really. To me it’s a symbol. It’s a symbol of one of the worst moments of my life. My second nervous breakdown and my therapist’s home intricately link in my brain to form a site of horror and embarrassment, of uncontrollable stuttering, gasping for breath, sweating, shaking, and tears. So many tears.

And the craziest thing is that my therapist moved a few years after my breakdown, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still HER apartment. It’s still the idea of where I was at my weakest. It’s still a frozen, miserable moment.

But last week I did it. I went back. And it was scary. It was so damn scary.

As I sat in traffic my skin prickled from the memories of sitting in the car with my mom. 35 years old. Slumped and crying. The outside darkness matching my inner gloom. We were early. We waited. I don’t remember if my mom said anything. It doesn’t matter. This is one of the few times when I can recall the feeling of utter loneliness, helplessness, shame. 35 years old and I’m sitting there parked at the curb, my mom in the driver’s seat, a desperate last-minute meeting with my therapist looming. They would determine if I needed hospitalization. I knew I was bawling, but couldn’t understand why. All I comprehended was the oppressive humiliation.

The clocked hummed along and soon it was time. I stumbled to my therapist’s apartment building. Once inside I broke down. Wailing. Hyperventilating. Arms locked around my torso as if already in a strait jacket. How long did I wait in the lobby? How many people passed by trying not to stare? How did I get from the lobby to my therapist’s apartment? I have no idea.

I don’t remember much from the emergency session. I was far away, buried deep inside this shivering body. There was a consultation with my psychiatrist, I think. Discussions about hospitalization. Me screaming against such a thing. Someone calling my father. My abashment at my dad learning about my state, but an underlying anger at him as well, anger at everyone. I can’t remember exact words, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what to say. I’m pretty sure he said everything wrong that night. My therapist coaching him on how to talk to me, explaining things, I think.

I’M 35 YEARS OLD!!! I’M A FAILURE!!! MY TIME’S UP!!!

What did her apartment look like? Where did I sit? Where are the details???

Gone. All that’s left are tendrils of guilt and self-disgust and the apartment as the embodiment of it all. And that’s why I wouldn’t go back for a long time even though she’d moved. That’s why I wouldn’t go back until last week.

But I did. I finally did even though all of those awful memories returned. I sat there clutching a pillow to my chest, my legs wrapped around each other. Twisted. Tight. Anxious. My therapist has a small dog and I watched (him? her?) gnaw on a bone thinking it’s so easy for dogs. It’s so easy.  My therapist showed me pictures from her life trying to break me out of my head, trying to show me she was a person, trying to kill the connection between her apartment and my breakdown.

We spoke a little. Not much. I mostly stared at the dog. She knew my fears of coming to her home. She worked with them. She worked around them. I did my best which wasn’t good enough. Or was it? Was just going there enough? Slicing through the thick web of panic and symbolization? I have to try to think it was for how else will I grow?

And so I’ll go back. I’ll conquer this fear. And one day maybe my skin won’t prickle; my chest won’t tighten; my breath won’t catch.

Maybe one day it’ll just be an apartment again.

Anti Same-Sex Weddings? Go To One Because It Might Change Your Persepective

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Look at the above picture. Religious zealots call this an abomination. Some people consider this against their definition of marriage which states marriage consists strictly of union between a man and a woman. I call this love. I call this humanity. I call this happiness. I call this evolution (sorry Creationists).

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending my first same-sex wedding. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t care who walked whom down the aisle. I didn’t care what the brides wore. I didn’t care if they called themselves “brides”. And why should I? We live in New York, one of the states that legally allows same-sex marriage, something that should, in my opinion, be legal throughout the nation.

But why can’t “they” just have civil unions? Isn’t that enough?

No. No, it isn’t because this is a free country and marriage should, in my opinion again, be about the love between two people and their willingness, their desire to spend the rest of their lives together just as my wife and I did 8 years ago. Anything else is exclusionary. It demeans people. It paints homosexuals as subhuman.

The wedding I attended was nothing short of beautiful and touching. The wedding theme was “Our Favorite Things” and the bridesmaids and held paper flower bouquets, each one personalized specifically for them. For example, one held an ingenious bouquet crafted out of Tom Petty lyrics. Placed around the room were wonderful black & white photos of the couple. Each attendee wore a button boasting their name and a short and personal humorous blurb – mine read, “I’ll be blogging about this tomorrow.” They sure know me.

The gorgeous program told of N & L’s story as well as how the wedding would proceed. It also included painstakingly punched out paper hearts made from NYC maps (NYC being one of the couple’s most favorite things) which we would throw instead of rice. We read that many of the items on the menu were provided or inspired by their favorite eateries and our mouths watered looking at the choices.

But first came the ceremony. First came two young women walking down the aisle, their arms wrapped within those of their parents’, and taking their places before a loving audience filled with family, friends, coworkers. They stood nervously before a judge and with humor and clear undying affection pledged themselves to each other. Tears flowed as family members read some of the couple’s favorite pieces. Laughs rang out when the judge, an old family friend of one of the women, pronounced them wife and wife but then had to take it back because he’d jumped the gun and forgot to let them read their own vows. Then he pronounced them wife and wife again and we in the audience clapped and cheered as N & L kissed.

What followed was like any other wedding. A cocktail hour. The wedding party entrance. The couple’s first dance. Speeches during which voices broke. Dancing to great 80s music. A brilliantly crafted wedding cake with NYC as its theme. A photo booth where you could take silly pictures. A sign-in book keepsake for well-wishers to express their joy to N & L. Booze galore. And then there were the special things. A real famed NYC Nuts 4 Nuts cart handing out roasted peanuts, cashews and almonds (if you’ve ever been to NYC, you probably know the sweet smell of these confections). Pizzas delivered by a favorite restaurant after dessert, after we’d all been stuffed to the gills by food provided by Dinosaur BBQ.

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The specialty wedding cake baked by N’s coworker

So now that I’ve been to my first same-sex wedding, let me tell you the 3 differences between it and all of the heterosexual weddings I’ve attended including my own:

1) Two people of the same sex walked down the aisle.

2) Two people of the same sex said their vows.

3) Two people of the same sex were joined as partners for life in sickness and health.

That’s it. Why does that matter to anyone? Why does that matter more than love, joy, happiness, life? And why is it any of your business? Who gave anyone the right to define marriage between 2 people? If Sienna discovers she’s attracted to women I’ll be as proud to say I’m her father as I would be if she were attracted to men.

N & L are deeply in love. They’re happier than they’ve ever been. They’re off on their honeymoon.

Just like any heterosexuals who decide to take the marriage plunge.

Why I Want My Daughter To Curse

No. Not right now. She’s 2 1/2 years old, silly people! Right now I want to her to spout goofy things or get all serious like she did the other day when she said, “I love you, Daddy.” I’m not ready for her to go all Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy of George Carlin on me, though come to think of it it’d be pretty cool if Sienna started dissecting language the way the great Carlin did. No. I just don’t want her to become like me, a person so scared of being judged that he’s unable to say the four-letter words that comfortably fill the public lexicon.

I’m not ready for Sienna to have her mom’s sailor mouth, but eventually, when she’s a teen, I don’t want her to be afraid of speaking the language of her classmates (yes we’ll have the comedic swear jar) and once she reaches adulthood, I hope to be ready for her to speak such words in my presence as part of normal conversation because the reality is that cursing is ordinary and sometimes, often even, acts as a release for pent up stress.

I wish I had that release, but I’m terrified of what people will think of me if I curse – fear of judgment, just another aspect of suffering depression. I’ve been trying to figure out where this particular one comes from and I believe it’s from my father who in turn got it from his mother. My grandmother doesn’t curse at all and doesn’t believe either of her children, their spouses, any of her grandchildren or THEIR spouses use words like s–t or f–k…EVER. She lives in a perpetual dreamworld, a life of denial, because as far as I know, just about all of them curse. My sister dropped the F-bomb at least 4 times during a magazine interview about the prominent comedy club she runs and I can only imagine my grandmother’s face as those bombs exploded before her eyes. My late grandfather, teller of bawdy jokes, probably cursed, though never in front of my grandmother. My aunt, I’m not sure. My dad? I assume he did when he was younger in front of friends and while in the National Guard. I know he does at work sometimes. I heard him once when I temped at his office. But he seems uncomfortable with it, like my grandmother’s directly in his brain.

My dad never cursed in front of me when I was growing up and seemed terribly uneasy when my mom did. And I think I took that discomfort and internalized it to the point where I can’t curse in front of anyone…not even my wife. I think I feel that if I utter a f–king this or f–king that or call someone an a-hole, my dad will know and think less of me. To be honest I imagine everyone will think less of me. And that’s insane. It’s ludicrous. Why would anyone care? But just like with my anxiety it manifests physically, twisting my stomach, weighing on my chest, my veins feeling as if shot with cold radioactive dye. I even have trouble writing the words as you can see by my incessant use of hyphens.

I tried to change when I went to college. I went in there thinking that I’d start cussing like Al Swearington on Deadwood (ok, Deadwood wasn’t on yet, but you get my meaning). I wanted to create a new identity. I wanted to be normal. So I tried. Freshman year I said something about my roommate to my best friend, something like my roommate’s “getting off” on being a jerk and my best friend’s eyes widened to the point where I thought they’d burst.

“You’ve never said anything like that before!” he shouted. I know he was proud, but I took it as criticism – and I didn’t even really use a swear word! And that was it for me in college. I couldn’t curse after that. Freshman year became a pathetic war with hallmates trying to get me to utter obscenities.

I’ll never forget Chad, a tall, lanky, long-haired blonde fratboy who’d corner me daily.

“Say s–t,” he’d say, but I wouldn’t. “Come on. Just say it.”

And he’d laugh when I I couldn’t because at that point he’d win. They’d all win. I’d be cursing for them, not for me. And the pressure in my head built.

When alone, profanity swirls through my head and expletives spout from my mouth. If driving alone I’m not immune to deriding a bad driver with a “motherf–ker” or even give someone the middle finger. When I’m alone vulgarity comes easy, but my jaws clamp in front of others. “Friggin’” I’ll say. “Morons. Jerks. Idiots.” For the longest time I wouldn’t even say “hell” or “damn.”

18 years post-college and I’ve cried in front of my therapist about my inability to curse, tears streaming, face scrunched and reddened with embarrassment and anger.

“You’re safe here, she’ll say,” leaning towards me as twist myself into a pretzel. “Let go. Say f–k.”

I sputter like Fonzie trying to admit he’s wrong. “Fu…fu…fu…fu.” But that’s as far as I’ll get.

“I’ll leave the room,” she’ll say. “I won’t hear it. Just say it.”

And she’ll leave, the door clicking. I’ll sit there furious with myself, face blotchy, hands tightened into fists. The room dulled and quiet. Sometimes I’ll whisper it, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter. No one’s there to hear me so I’ve still failed. “F–k” and “s–t” and so many others remain missing from my daily speech.

I have, however, added some over the years. For some reason I can now say “hell” and “damn” and even “bastard” and “son of a bitch.” It took 30+ years for me to say those words out loud in front of people. I’m not sure if I say them in front of my dad. I KNOW I don’t say them in front of my grandmother. But I still feel so much internal pressure when it comes to swearing, like the world would stop, a collective gasp catching in everyone’s throats, fingers pointing, judging, always judging, if I dare utter the f-word in front of another person. And I don’t want that for Sienna. I never want that for her. The cycle that began with my grandmother, passed to my father and then to me seemingly by osmosis will end. I want my daughter to curse.

I look forward to having a swear jar and by the time Sienna’s old enough, I hope to be adding a few coins to it myself.

Could A Tire Blowout Cue The Dawn Of Positive Thinking?

I was loving Utah’s 80 mph speed limit when our rear back tire blew and I mean BLEW, like a small explosion, our car suddenly lopsided and dragging. As I slowed down and pulled to the shoulder, we watched the full rubber ring roll by our window until it settled a ways away. We were 130+ miles away from Sandy, Utah, 130+ miles away from my friend, John Kinnear’s of Ask Your Dad Blog home, the place where most of our stuff remained. We had a flight the next morning. We wouldn’t be taking the Kinnears out for dinner tonight as thanks for letting us crash at their house as promised. Instead we sat at the side of the road, a bit stunned, but safe,  in the middle of nowhere, Utah.

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Elaine poses w/ our tire ring

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Blowout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I talked with our rental car company and discussed our options (the closest rental car place stood closed 100 miles away, and driving back to Sandy on a donut was out of the question, especially since we’d have to go 40-50 mph) and Elaine used her phone to figure out nearby places we could stay, a Good Samaritan stopped and put on our donut. He refused the $20 bill we offered and instead said, “Pay it forward.”

We drove 15 miles to Fillmore, Utah, where we found ourselves at a Best Western hotel/restaurant. And there we waited 2 1/2 hours for a taxi to come get us and then drive another 1 1/2 to John’s house.

As we sat in the restaurant waiting and waiting and waiting, Elaine expressed her worry that like usual, I’d internalize this maddening experience and let it sour things, allow it to damper our vacation to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. And it was at this mention that I, a heavily depressed and anxious person with warped views, an insane ability to take everything personally and a man whose glass remained perpetually empty, not even half empty, but barren, realized I’d somehow…grown? I registered that my first thoughts upon pulling to the side of the road were:

At least it happened AFTER we’d visited Bryce and Zion

At least it happened while the sun still shone

That’s not me. That’s never me. I’m the one who curls into a ball of anxiety at the slightest inconvenience. I’m the one who rails against the gods for raining on my parade without even considering anyone else. I’m the one battling a selfish, narcissistic disease. I don’t look on the bright side. But I did. Somehow I did. And somehow it came naturally and I can’t explain why.

Maybe it’s because Elaine and I had already done a 3 1/2 hour horseback ride through Bryce Canyon, one in which the cowboys seated me incorrectly leading to so much pain that I felt my knee would be wrenched off, one that caused the tops of my hamstrings to scream at the slightest touch or movement later that evening, but one that blew my mind and I’d do again in a heartbeat.

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Horseback riding through Bryce Canyon

 

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My beautiful wife on “Sweet Pea” with the famed Bryce Canyon Hoodoos in the background

Maybe it’s because we’d already hiked through Zion, one a sharp and steep incline that led to Weeping Rock, a beautiful rock face that naturally dripped water, another a 2 mile stretch through the darkness during which I got to give my “city girl” wife (born and raised in the Bronx, NY) the stars. At one point she lay down on the path and marveled at all the celestial bodies she’d never seen, at their infinite number and splendor. Was it because during that night hike I moved my headlamp to the right unwittingly illuminating a tarantula (A REAL, WILD TARANTULA) that stood waiting for its venom-filled prey – a large, black, still-flailing beetle – to fall still so it could feast? Was it because I witnessed a large fox cross our path in the night, it’s eyes aglow from our headlamps? Was it because I’d already seen this:

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Native American petroglyphs at Zion National Park

Was it because Elaine convinced me to drive back through Zion which padded our return trip by a couple of hours but allowed us to see these:

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A desert long-horned ram and mate at Zion National Park

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Closeup of a desert long-horned ewe Zion National ParkWas


Was it witnessing and experiencing the majesty of nature I’d craved for so long that filled my glass? Was it sharing my love of these things with Elaine? Blowing her city-raised mind again and again?

Even when things went wrong during the trip, something seemed to go right. I wanted to give Elaine the stars at Bryce which has the darkest place in the continental U.S. I wanted to look through telescopes and see Jupiter and the Milky Way, but a rainstorm killed all of that. So we went to a local steakhouse, enjoyed a fine meal and a sinful Oreo cream pie despite the severe pain from our earlier horseback ride and then, there it was, right outside our window:

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There was so much beauty on this trip. A picture everywhere you turned. It was exactly what I’d wished for. So how could I complain? How could I wail and moan after we’d been so lucky to see so much? My brain knew it…even the irrational part…and it naturally thought about the positives following the blowout instead of the negatives – possible costs, the hassle of the taxi, having to wait for hours. Normally I’d shake and quiver at having to arrange for service. I’d be lost. I’d let my wife take over. I’d call my parents. But instead I was so full of vigor from experiencing Bryce and Zion and so many amazing things that my depression and anxiety never reared their ugly heads.

None of this hit me until Elaine told me she was worried about my mental state and when she did I sat bewildered but strong. I talked to my therapist yesterday and she told me I now have a muscle to strengthen because I have proof that I can fill my glass. The water might evaporate over time if I let it and to be honest, I’ve been a bit sad since we returned. I’ve been afraid to look at Facebook. Would I be forgotten? Abandoned? I’ve been scared to write. But on the flip side I have all of these pictures and more so, I have life experience to conjure if I can. I lived through a blown tire in the middle of nowhere, Utah, and my reaction was one of humor, lightness and positivity, because nothing could take back what I’d already seen and done.

So is this the dawn of Lorne Jaffe, positive thinker? I don’t know. I might fall back into pits of depression as I return to the normality of life as a stay-at-home dad. I might suffer anxiety attacks over ridiculous things. My judgment might be clouded at times, my thoughts muddled, my self-loathing beastly.

What matters is that I fight through it all, that the dad blogger friends I’ve made around the world continue to support my battle, that my family and friends keep loving me, that I keep loving them, that I look at Sienna with wonder and joy. That I remember that just because this vacation is past, it doesn’t mean another one won’t be in my future. And I will fight. And I will remember.

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Elaine and I at Zion National Park

Sienna Puts Me In A Compromising Position

I sat with my back to the door, arms and knees to my chest, hands covered in kitty litter dust. Toe throbbing. Knee burning. Face red. Minky’s soft, hungry meow coming through the door. Next to me sat my near 2 and a half-year-old Sienna smiling proudly, impishly. And why not? She did something that a student of media had to appreciate. She succeeded in creating a living sitcom. For you see, the door we sat against led to the inside of our apartment. We sat in the hall facing the elevator. And I was dressed in nothing but my frog-printed boxers.

Five seconds. That’s all it took for Sienna to create this hackneyed yet utterly embarrassing situation. I’d just finished cleaning the cat litter and stepped outside in my boxers like I’ve done hundreds of times before because the garbage chute stands 3 feet away from our apartment door. I threw away the garbage and suddenly heard a soft creaking. For a split second my heart stopped and then I reacted. I twisted around, slipped, bent my left big toe sharply backwards while falling, skinned my knee on the rug and reached the door just as Sienna closed it and locked us out. At first one thing zoomed through my mind:

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But then I sat there half naked with my toe throbbing and me knee burning and my daughter smiling not realizing what she’d done and I thought of all the sitcoms where a character’s towel gets caught in the door and they get locked out of their house or apartment, naked, flailing, and all I could do was add to the canned laughter.

I also realized how glad I was that I decided to change the cat litter later than usual because we only had 30-40 minutes until Elaine came home as opposed to the hours we’d normally have to wait. Plus I felt thankful that BOTH of us were outside instead of Sienna locking me out and her in. Ugh. Could you imagine?

What to do? I suggested Sienna run up and down the hall while we waited for Elaine and/or I thought of a way out of our predicament. Thrilled, Sienna obliged except she looked back at me with a sunny grin rather look ahead and thus she smashed into a hall corner leading to tears, wails and cries to go back “outside.” I couldn’t stop laughing, not at her pain but at how ridiculous everything was, at how it kept escalating into further ludicrousness. I didn’t want to hold Sienna with my hands because they were covered in kitty litter dust so I held in my forearms and calmed her by telling her to listen to Minky’s meows through the door. I always feed the cats after changing their litter so poor Minky wanted his food as his meows were so pathetic and sad and funny because of the inches of door separating us. Meanwhile my toe began to turn black and blue. I couldn’t bend it downward without causing sharp pain. Here’s a pic I took later:

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Believe me, the toe looked worse the next day. Now it’s taped and immobilized. But back to the hallway.

Sienna stopped crying after five or ten minutes. I thought of my options:

1) Sit and wait for Elaine

2) Knock on a neighbor’s door to ask if I could use their phone to call my parents so they could use their key to let us in (plus I could wash my hands)

3) Knock on Fae’s door (Fae serves on the building’s board and I thought she could somehow secure a key. I knew our super was on vacation so I didn’t see the point on taking the elevator down to the lobby while in my boxers to knock on his door…and there was no guarantee Sienna’d stay still. She could take off leading to a seriously embarrassing chase through the lobby and ground floor. Problem was I didn’t quite want Fae to see me half naked and looking like an idiot)

I wanted to just wait for Elaine, but then decided to go with 3. I asked Sienna to knock on Fae’s door and miraculously she did so…a few times. No answer. I think I was too ashamed to do it myself even though I was laughing at myself. Somehow my realization that I was living a funny cliché combined with the knowledge that Elaine would be home soon helped stave off an anxiety attack. But still I’d rather not let anyone see me in boxers.

So we sat watching the elevator go up and down hoping it’d land on 4, the doors would open and my wife would do a double take. And then it happened. The doors opened and there was the double take…except it was 2 young women who live down the hall. Oh boy. I covered myself as best as I could. And at that point I didn’t care if Fae saw me in my underwear. We had to get back inside.

“Hi!” I said. They averted their eyes and almost ran to their apartment. “Umm…can you do me a favor and knock and that last apartment door and see if Fae’s home? This little one here locked us out.”

“Ok,” said one of them. They knocked, Fae opened her door and saw me sitting on the floor half-naked with Sienna standing next to me.

“Hey Fae!” I waved. She was dressed for bed. “Umm, Sienna locked us out and John’s on vacation. Is there any way you can get a key to our apartment?”

“I heard knocking,” Fae said laughing, “But I figured Sienna was just playing. Give me a sec. John’s back home. I’ll go downstairs and get the key.”

She ducked back inside as the 2 young women waved goodbye. Within a minute she came back out in jeans. I related the story to Fae and she belly-laughed.

“Don’t you unlock the doorknob when you step out?”

“Nope. Only when I do the laundry, but you can bet I’ll be doing it from now on.”

“Ok,” Fae said. She smiled. “Sienna, you want to come with me in the elevator?” Sienna did. She took Fae’s hand and I shook my head at our predicament as I watched the elevator door close.

Great. Now John gets to see me in my boxers. Except he didn’t because apparently he had no extra key for our apartment. Everyone else yes, but us no! What next?

Fae invited us to wait for Elaine in her apartment. I graciously excepted, keeping my arms crossed on my chest the whole time (still a behavioral remnant from my years of suffering gynecomastia). I washed my hands. Sienna started at the TV. Then Fae brought out a box shaped like a treasure chest on which Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s faces were imprinted.

“I’ve been meaning to give this to Sienna. Princess dresses!” Fae exclaimed.

Sienna jumped up and down as Fae ripped open the box.

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Sienna grabbed a pink skirt.

“Put ON!” she demanded. “Put ON!”

Fae helped Sienna into the skirt as the elevator doors dinged and Elaine stepped out.

“HI!” I called out and there was the double take. The real one. The one that read what the hell’s going on?

I relayed the whole adventure as Elaine cracked up, Fae laughed and Sienna swished about in her new princess dress. Then finally we thanked Fae and Elaine opened our apartment door. I limped inside and sat down. Sienna being Sienna ran about the apartment as Elaine checked out my toe. Years ago I ruptured the tendon in my right big toe after I slipped in the shower the same day we had to drive to Vermont. Now that was a painful trip (Elaine doesn’t drive). Elaine was worried that I’d ruptured my other tendon and she wanted me off my feet because next week we’re heading to Utah and Bryce Canyon meaning a bit of hiking. After examining me, she decided it was a sprain and she wrapped ice around my toe and sent me to bed. I took a pic of Sienna dressed as mixed princesses before I left.

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Sienna as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with ubiquitous security scarf

She fed the poor hungry cats and got Sienna ready for bed. Then she brought Sienna in to say goodnight and to make sure my foot was properly elevated.

Sienna watched quietly as Elaine adjusted the pillow beneath my foot and fixed my blanket. And then she did one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen. She did something that made my heart nearly explode with pride and nearly set Elaine’s eyes to tearing.

Sienna gave me her precious scarf.

“Daddy’s scarf,” she said, her voice sweet like cotton candy.

Then she took her cherished white blanket and covered me with it, carefully adjusting it just as Elaine had fixed our normal blanket.

“Daddy’s blanket, she said. Daddy has a boo-boo.”

“Thank you, Sienna,” I said, a smile on my face, amazement, joy, pride flowing through me. Elaine stood near crying.

Then she said kissed and hugged me goodnight and I said it was ok to take her blanket and scarf which she grabbed hungrily.

But it was worth it. All of the embarrassment. The three women seeing me half naked. The sprained toe. The rug burns on my knees. The sitcom brought to life. Everything was worth it to witness my daughter give me her most treasured items because Daddy was hurting. My love for her grew exponentially if that’s even possible.

I’m so proud of her. So proud.

And lesson learned. Never again will I leave the apartment to throw something in recycling or the garbage chute without unlocking the doorknob.

I can’t wait to see what sitcom plot we act out next. Hopefully I stay fully clothed for it.

 

 

I’m Featured in A “Today Parents” Article Re Parental Pressure & Mental Illness

Please check out this terrific article for which I was interviewed by Alice Gomstyn, contributor to Babble, ABCNews.com, and Babyzone, etc., that explores the correlation between societal parental pressures (such as seeing all those “perfect” pictures on Pintrest) and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I’m always playing the comparison game and things like Pintrest & Facebook, all of the social media on which people post pics of the various activities they’re doing w/ their kids and meals they’ve cooked too often have me feeling like I’m failing my daughter. And I’m not the only one. Also interviewed were Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress, and Jennifer Marshall, the woman behind Bi-Polar Mom Life. I’m honored to be included.

You can find the article here.

Thanks for reading!