The Real Lesson of Dad 2.0

Doug French

Dad 2.0 co-founder, Doug French, speaks at the 2014 conference

On March 31, 2014, I tried to write a recap of my experiences at the Dad 2.0 Summit. I’d already written about at the conference, about how reading my blog about having depression in front of 250 people challenged my defenses, but I had stories to tell, pictures to post, impressions of New Orleans to express. My second Dad 2.0 recap had been on my mind since arriving home back in February, and at the end of March I decided I’d procrastinated long enough.

All I wanted to do was post pictures, tell a funny anecdote or two, and write about my overall wonderment during the weekend. It didn’t need to be a linear narrative. It didn’t need to have a moral or underlying theme. But as I wrote I realized I was falling into the trap of feeling like I had to write everything from start to finish and as the minutes and then hours ticked by I became more and more anxious – heart racing, chest filling with granite, tremors infiltrating my fingers, mind simply out of control with hateful thoughts about myself. So I posted on the Dad Bloggers Facebook page:

“Am trying to blog. Am failing to blog. Too much pressure to blog. Trying to do a second recap of Dad 2.0 but can’t figure out how. I don’t think I can be as poetic as so many of you. I have lots of pics and some stories and impressions, but everything feels jumbled and forced. Writing feels jumbled and forced lately. I hate this! I hate feeling like I’m in competition with all of you wonderful writers! I hate that I do this to myself! I hate that this is where I go! I HATE IT!”

Fury. Self-hatred. Envy.

That’s what circled through my addled brain. Immediately people responded telling me to to breathe (I couldn’t). Telling me to hug Sienna (I couldn’t). Telling me that this is normal, that all writers go through this. My narcissistic depressed mind refuted everything and instead doubled, tripled, quadrupled the attack. I shook as I posted this:

“I can’t take this. I’m no damn good. You guys are so prolific and so smart and so poetic and so genius and introspective and observant and it seems (SEEMS) that it comes so easy to you and I’m probably being irrational and I’m getting caught in that web I weave and I need help because I can’t breathe because I’ve sat here trying to write this stupid blog for 2 hours and it’s awful”

Fury. Self-hatred. Envy. Guilt.

More responses. Dads bloggers telling me they knew how I felt in regards to not being able to write. Dad bloggers telling me my reading at Dad 2.0 was amazing, inspirational, wonderful, brave. Dad bloggers telling to get away, get out, take advantage of the nice weather to help break out of this funk. Dad bloggers telling me that writing is subjective and nothing is perfect, that even someone famous like Jane Austen had a hater in Mark Twain. Someone asked if anyone was home with me which signaled worry about myself and Sienna. MY…BRAIN…WOULD…NOT…STOP! I posted again:

“no, it’s just me. I’m still recovering my an ear infection and Sienna’s still sick. I’m just so upset. I’ve thinking about this blog for 2 months. I got my pictures set up and I was all like, I’m just gonna throw out random observations and pics and thoughts and instead I’m getting bogged down in describing the conference from beginning to end. I tried to look at other people’s recaps and that got me on to the comparison game again. I recapped my experience speaking, but there was a bunch more I wanted to say. Maybe I should just forget it. I have like 5 ideas, but I’m getting so stressed because I keep comparing myself to all of the group members going viral and a bunch of people who write brilliant stuff almost every day and I can’t stop and I just hate myself so damn much! I can’t stop hating myself! Why do I hate myself so much?”


Facial-tic going like crazy. Whole body shaking. Hyperventilating.

More and more responses from fellow dad bloggers but I could no longer read or absorb them. Aaron Gouveia of The Daddy Files IM’d me, asked for my phone number. I gave it and posted:

“shutting comp off…I can’t deal w/ this. I’m sorry I’m failing all of you”

My phone rang.

I can’t remember much of what was said. All I know is that Aaron, this person I met at Dad 2.0, this person with whom I felt I strong kinship, started talking me down, listened to my stuttering, my hysterics, and gave me positive reinforcement by telling me I was going to be okay and so many people care about me. I’m not going to lie. I thought of suicide during the phone call as Sienna sat in her pen, concerned, as protected from her crumbling father as I could make her.

How long did the call last? I don’t remember, but as I listened to Aaron talk about me possibly taking a break from blogging and that if I did it would be fine, that no one would judge me, I began to calm. My hysterics became sobs. My sobs became deep breaths. Despite his kids climbing all over him, trying to get his attention, he would not hang up until he knew I was alright and safe. I promised I wouldn’t do anything rash. I asked him to tell the others that I was okay, that I thanked them for their support, but I needed to take a step back from Facebook as I was drowning once again in social media and self-induced pressures. We hung up. I put Sienna down for a nap. I fell asleep on the couch and refused to open the computer until the following day.

I was still in a bad state when Elaine got home. She took care of Sienna and comforted me. I felt like I’d run a million miles, my body broken, my brain like mush. I went to sleep early making sure to take a melatonin.

I looked at the computer the next day and saw 6 IMs from dad bloggers. I saw a bunch of responses to my final post most of which expressed how I was failing no one, all of them showing worry and reminding me I had this virtual community of dads on which to lean. It took me days to respond to the IMs, but I posted this:

“Thanks everyone. I’m still not doing great, but I’m braving FB because Aaron told me you guys have been really supportive. I can’t bear to look at what I posted. I also can’t thank Aaron enough for calling me. Just embarrassed I was so hysterical on the phone. I plan to read all of and take a lot of your advice. I’m not sure when I’ll blog again. It might be tomorrow or next week or next month. I’m still so down right now and I’m so sorry I haven’t checked so I could share your stuff and comment on it and support all of YOU. Just know how much I appreciate it.”

More responses about how there was no need for me to feel embarrassed, but it took time for me to get it.

As I remained in my depressed state for days, I thought about my failed blog attempt. I began to really read what people wrote to me. I wrote back to those who IM’d me. And I realized the real lesson of Dad 2.0, although it took me a long time to blog about it because I’ve been so scared to write that my anxiety level’s been almost radioactive. It’s a lesson with which I concluded my first Dad 2.0 blog:

I found my tribe.

Dad 2.0 and the Dad Bloggers Facebook site are all about at-home and stay-at-home dads working together, being there for each other when we have difficulties, sharing advice and experiences, reminding each other that we’re not alone, inspiring each other. Some dads suffer depression and anxiety just like me and I’ve written to them about it when they’ve hit hard times. I said I’d be there for them to talk to because I understood. In turn, when I posted what I did, those same dads wrote to ME using similar words, reminding me that I’m not the only one who suffers panic attacks and depressive episodes, telling me they’re there for me should I need them. Further, bloggers I compare myself to (even though I shouldn’t) posted that they too suffer insecurities and often hate what they write. Again, I’m not alone.

That’s the real lesson of Dad 2.o. Even though people have different lives and are scattered across the country, it’s a community of which everyone reminded me I’m an important part despite my irrational fears that they’ll forget me.

I’m nowhere near mentally healthy…yet. My stability remains shaky for the moment, but hopefully it won’t always be. Regardless this realization about Dad 2.0 and the Dad Bloggers Facebook page is significant. What’s even more pertinent is that I got it out of my system. I blogged, I hit “publish” and I shared. I thank every person who IM’d me, posted, worried about my safety, told me I’m not alone. I can’t express how much it means to me. I especially thank Aaron Gouveia for going out of his way (he’ll refute this) to talk me down.

Now I’m off to see my therapist.

Bye Bye Crib, Hello Panic

Another morning of awakening to hear Sienna chattering away in her bedroom, singing The Smurfs theme song (“So murf yur elf a griiiiiiiin!”). Sienna doesn’t cry for food when she wakes up. She can lie in her crib covering herself with stuffed monkeys and bears and Count von Count and whatever other character she chose to comfort her the night before, jabbering away while I hit the snooze button. I’m lucky that way, I guess. She can be demanding at times, but her imagination and enjoyment of singing allows me a little extra sleep each morning. So it was this morning. Sienna singing, speaking a mix of English and Toddler, me snoozing away. Everything was the same until I opened Sienna’s door to a sight that stopped me in my tracks leaving me so stunned I might as well have had cartoon birds circling my head. There was only one thing to do. Grab the camera.

Climbing Crib3

How long was she hanging on like this before I entered the room? Five minutes? Ten? An hour? Elaine mentioned a couple of days before that Sienna had gotten out of her crib, but it was just the one time and I kind of put it away. But now everything changed. Seeing Spider-Girl clinging to the outside of her crib hit me with a dose of RED ALERT!

I pulled Sienna down, changed, fed  and played with her and did all the fun Daddy-daughter stuff we do on a daily basis, but at the same time I worriedly texted Elaine who wrote it was time for the crib to morph into a bed which she took care of once we got home. But it wasn’t just the crib that had to change as we had to remove anything Sienna could climb. Bye bye changing table. As Sienna jumped on her new bed, we quickly stuffed diapers, Desitin, washcloths, etc., into the closet.By the time we’d finished rearranging her room it was almost 9:30. We didn’t yet have a railing, so we threw a large body pillow on the floor in case Sienna rolled off during the night.

“No more crib,” we explained as Sienna jumped on her new bed.

“Crib!” she responded gleefully.

“No Sienna,” Elaine said. “You’re not a baby anymore. You’re a big girl. Now you have a bed like Mommy and Daddy.” I’m not sure how Elaine felt about those words, but to be honest, they didn’t bother me. I enjoy Sienna not being a baby. I love this interactive phase – the singing and playing, the “Toddlerish” speak. This is the phase I don’t want to end.

“Bed!” yelled Sienna.

“That’s right!” I said. “Bed!”

Then Elaine put Sienna down for the night and we went headed to our bedroom. I started reading a biography of Jim Henson, but around 11:30 I heard Sienna whimpering and then crying and then screaming. I put down the book and found her walking in circles in the dark, her blanket in one hand, tears leaking from her eyes. Instantly I felt the sickening dread I felt when our cat Zeeb went blind overnight because cancer had spread to his brain – the poor thing yowled in shock and fear when he he tried to jump up on our bed only to leap in the opposite direction. Once more I found a creature lost in the darkness, confused, trying to navigate this massive disruption in her world. Anxiety coursed through my body, but I picked up my daughter, sat in a rocking chair and explained what it meant to have a bed. I rocked and hummed and eventually Sienna fell asleep in my arms and I placed her back in her bed. No further problems.

The next morning I walked in to find the room a mess: stuffed animals and laundry strewn everywhere. I sighed knowing this would be a new part of our routine, but it was ok. Not a big deal. I took Sienna to the local Y for playtime which she loved. Because of my slight agoraphobia and my fear of being judged for being a stay-at-home dad, I don’t take my daughter out enough meaning she doesn’t get enough socialization. But this day I overcame my anxiety and let her play with a bunch of kids, throwing balls around, climbing an indoor castle complete with a slide, letting her mouth gape open and her arms flail excitedly as a machine sprayed her with bubbles. We then did some food shopping, came home and had lunch meaning it was nap time. And this is when things went awry.

Sienna wouldn’t nap. I had no trouble with her talking to herself, but every time a loud BANG blasted over the baby monitor I rushed in to see if she was safe. At one point I discovered she’d climbed onto the dresser and panic crashed through my chest.


My head swirled. My heart pounded. My chest might as well have been a block of cement.

I called my mom, stuttering that I was on the verge of a panic attack. She came over right away and took care of Sienna while I lay down. Once the physical manifestations begin, it’s so hard to get out of an anxiety attack. Once the rational part of your brain is reduced to a whisper, you’re lost. There’s only one way out for me. Sleep. It’s the only way to clear my head. My mom gave Sienna dinner. Then my dad arrived and took over until Elaine came home from work. I slept because I couldn’t face my daughter. I couldn’t let her see me like this.

Elaine put Sienna to bed and we talked. She told me how I go crazy each time Sienna transitions, but then I find a balance and routine. I stubbornly argued that this time there would be no balance because of time…ever since the Dad 2.0 conference I’ve felt perpetually behind and now the loss of those precious few hours when Sienna napped? I’d never catch up. Never.

“Just because Sienna didn’t nap today doesn’t mean she’ll never nap again,” Elaine assured me, but I refused to listen. It was over. I would forever be behind. I’d never blog again. I’d just found this community in which I felt somewhat accepted and now, just like I’d experienced so often before, they’d  abandon me.

So I created a desperate thread begging my fellow dad bloggers for advice, espousing my fears of desertion, asking how they do it. How do they juggle their time so that they can blog and read other blogs and do things for themselves all while taking care of their child(ren)? Because I have no idea how to do it. I’m as lost when it comes to time management as I am when it comes to calculus, and what kills me even more is that I need to solve this NOW because I’m a perfectionist. I received a lot of helpful responses and below are some examples.

Aaron Gouveia of The Daddy Files: The trick (and I don’t know how to get you to this point personally) is to realize you’ll always be running at a deficit and be OK with it. You and your contributions are always welcome here and the support isn’t going anywhere. Even if you need a week or two away from us. Prioritize on a continuous basis, do what you have to do, and try not to feel guilty about what you’re not doing. Easier said than done, I know. But you’re a conscientious guy and as long as you keep making sure the important things are being taken care of, you’ll be OK.

James Austin of Luke, I Am Your Father:  I hear so many guys here apologize for ‘not contributing enough’ or ‘being gone a week.’ Every time. EVERY time, my reaction is ‘I didn’t even realize you were gone.’ I suspect most of the guys would agree. You don’t have to be here all the time to maintain a noticeable presence. Don’t try to give more than you can. We will all be here the next time you want to check in.

Lee Bodenmiller of Souvenirs of Fatherhood: What I have learned is that achieving perfect balance is a myth. I might even call it a destructive lie. There is no such thing as a single perfect state of time management. Responsibilities shift. Expectations change from different people in your life. New demands pop up while old ones become satisfied or unimportant. The key is to constantly be shifting the fulcrum in your life to what is most pressing and urgent.

Neal Call of Raised By My Daughter: I’m poised to step back a bit, because [blogging is] a seriously deep pit that sucks and sucks at you, and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around all of it. Facebook, particularly, sucks time away. And, even though I’ve had my little successes over the last year or so, it’s pretty clear to me that blogging will probably not be a direct income source. Perhaps it will be a platform for other projects . . . a lot of the guys who are prolific here have older kids or have their younger kids in daycare/pre-school. With a needy kid at home almost all day (which I totally get), I’ve just had to get comfortable with the idea that a lot of my projects are going to have to wait until my daughter is in school.

Scott Behson of Fathers, Work, and Family: Rule#1 for me is you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself- just like the airplane thing- put your oxygen mask on first before helping with others’. At this point (I say this as a PhD is psychology, but without really knowing your situation), I think you need to prioritize yourself and work on coping with your anxiety- your therapist and family are best positioned to help. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be here whenever you need us.

Eric B of Dad On The Run: I also enjoy reading and watching TV and never have enough time to do all I want, and sometimes not enough time to get what I need done. Prioritization is key. You have to decide how much time you can devote to these areas of your life and stick with it. I don’t know any better way of saying it. Don’t worry about the group abandoning you or wondering why you haven’t read something or commented on something, that’s just self-imposed pressure…I chime in when I can and where I want to. I read what I see and what interests me and comment, provide blogging feedback where and when I have the time. We all understand that there is not enough time. When I post something and it gets little or no response then I figure guys have other more important things to do and I get that. Work on that understanding, it’s a river. We dip our feet in when we can, we wave at passing boats when we’re in it and we handle life when we’re not. I’ve found life in general to become more and more overwhelming as I’ve aged so I’m trying to be careful to be sure my social media presence is helping me deal with that instead of exacerbating the problem.

I’m so thankful. So thankful. Because I feel less alone. Because they get it. They get me. They get that I feel like I’m drowning in social media, that I’m so scared of not being able to top my Dad 2.0 reading; that I feel this ridiculous obligation to each and every person who stood up and clapped and complimented me in the Marriott hallway; that I’m terrified the dad blogger community will cast me off just because I don’t have time to comment on or share one of their blog or write something witty or emotional myself.

Unlike the people in my past, these dad bloggers understand me. Even if they don’t suffer depression and anxiety, we have shared experiences in child rearing. We’re all trying to figure out how to manage time for ourselves while our children grow and change on a daily basis. Routine is an illusion when it comes to raising children and if you get sucked into one, you’re going to be shocked when it changes in a split second. If I don’t remember that in my bones I’ll continue to suffer panic attacks each time Sienna transitions. I can’t let that happen. I have to grow and stop letting my anxiety get the best of me. I have to step back from Facebook and stop feeling guilty if I don’t comment on something. I have to stop feeling discomposed if I don’t get a hundred comments and “likes” on a blog post. And I have to stop comparing myself to those who are so prolific in the blogging community because the reality is many of them have jobs in addition to fatherhood that allow them to interact with social media throughout the day; others are former or current journalists and have an easier time writing and know the tricks of the trade; and some have older or younger kids that require less attention. None of them will hate me if I I miss a blog here or there or don’t hit a “like” button.

If I felt I’d found my tribe at Dad 2.0, after this most recent panic attack and my plea to the dad blogger community, I know I have.

As for time management, I’ll figure something out. Maybe my mom will take Sienna for a few hours a couple of times a week. Maybe Elaine will give me some time away on weekends. Maybe I’ll cut back on sleep. Maybe I’ll have to miss a program here or there. As Elaine says, I’m not Superman. Hell, I doubt even Superman could handle all the things I want to do as well as raise a little girl about to turn 2 who now sleeps in a bed instead of a crib, but I know he wouldn’t feel guilty and anxious about it. It’s time I don’t either.

1st Night in Toddler Bed2

Breaking Patterns

I sat in my aunt and uncle’s house on Sunday, mere days before Dad 2.0, anxious about having to talk about the conference but wondering why I received zero congratulations. I sat on the couch waiting, butterflies fluttering throughout my torso and into my throat. Nothing from my aunt and uncle. Nothing from my cousins or their spouses. I couldn’t understand it, especially from my grandmother who supposedly was “thrilled” for me and cried when she read my post about Sienna and the moon. Wasn’t this supposed to be a big deal of sorts even if it made no sense to me why I was chosen? Even if I was having trouble accepting compliments and validation? Face-to-face with my extended family and there…was…nothing.

I asked Elaine her thoughts and she said maybe they were afraid to say anything that would upset me. My mom said the same and asked if she should investigate and if it turned out that there was a moratorium in place on talking to me about Dad 2.0, should I give my consent to lift it? I said yes. What followed was some whispering amongst my relatives while I sat, nervous, not knowing what I should with my hands. On one hand I dreaded the compliments and discussing the summit. On the other hand I craved them. My mom came back smiling and said that that’s exactly what was going on. My relatives were afraid of upsetting me, once again understandably walking on the proverbial eggshells.

I come from a very small family. I have one sister, an aunt (my dad’s sister) and uncle, two cousins and unfortunately only one grandparent (we’ve lost two and the other I never knew). I have a number of second cousins, but I rarely see them. Since I was born, we’ve gotten together with my aunt’s family about eight times a year, so if you think about it, I grew up with my cousins, though we’ve never been particularly close. We rarely see each other outside of holidays, birthdays celebrations and the like, and because I’ve suffered depression since around age nine and because I was a very angry and morose child, my kin (had to use that word!) tended not to know what to do with me. Depression can be a very selfish disease. One of its consequences is that it affects everyone around you without you realizing it. I remember a time before my first breakdown when my sister yelled at me to open my eyes to how my mood and behavior impacted my parents. It was the first time I saw the egocentric aspect of depression, but I was still too weak to act on it.

So even though my cousins and I can now sit at the “adult table” and even though my entire extended family has experience enough to discuss anything from politics to raising children, we generally don’t, and since my breakdown in 2010, it’s gotten a bit worse in terms of avoidance of certain subjects. I get that, but it also hurts and sometimes it’s not conveyed to me that that’s why there is no conversation. Thus it builds up in my head (Why? Why? Why?) and leads to further anxiety. For example, there was a miscommunication about Sienna’s 1st birthday that led to anger on both sides, but it took forever to resolve because we didn’t talk to each other directly. Likewise, this past fall, I unwittingly hurt one of my cousins when I wrote something on my blog, but it wasn’t discussed until I broke down in front of my uncle, hyperventilating, tears streaming down my face, my chest like concrete. He took me for a walk and I told him how I felt everyone hated me and was angry with me and how guilty I felt, how the last thing I ever want to do is hurt anyone. We sat on a stoop and I went deeply into my childhood and how I wish there was more communication in our family to draw us closer together. He had his arm around me, talked about his own childhood, insecurities and wishes. He even teared up a little. He assured me that no one hated me. No one was furious at me. Everything was water under the bridge. Everyone loves me. When we got back to my house, I talked to my cousin about the incident and everything was ok. I’d been advised not to bring anything up, but I had to lest I explode which, of course, I eventually did.

So here I was again with my family wondering why no one was talking to me about my upcoming adventure in New Orleans, about how I was chosen to read from my blog in front of 300+ people. Once it was cleared up and my mother handed my nearly deaf grandmother a sheet of paper on which was written, “It’s ok to talk to Lorne about New Orleans,” things got better. I spent an hour using my dad’s IPad to explain the conference to my grandmother. She read the piece I’d been asked to read. I told her how I was advised to create business cards but made the mistake of writing, “For the first time in my life I can say, ‘Here’s my card'” which only reinforced in my brain the poisonous “success = money/job status” mantra that permeated my life. (ASIDE – that I recognized my negative phrasing is significant. It’s something I couldn’t have done before). I asked my grandmother if she was proud of me. She said she was “mesmerized” and then added she was excited to see where this leads. I took this part as if being invited to read at Dad 2.0 still wasn’t good enough for my grandmother even though she probably didn’t mean it that way.

I felt drained when the conversation ended, took a deep breath and shook it off. I went into the kitchen where my cousin told me he was proud, that he loved to read my blog (I didn’t know this…or I did and swatted it away like an annoying fly because I refused to accept it) and that I was going to do great in New Orleans. As the day continued, I received compliments from everyone and though they still stung, they didn’t destroy me or create a massive panic attack. I was glad I addressed the lack of communication, breaking the pattern of an innocent, yet hurtful, miscommunication roiling in my stomach only to morph into rage. I took action even if I timidly used my mom to solve the mystery.

By the end of the evening all was well. At one point I sat talking about Frozen with my cousins’ kids and we all watched a clip of “Let It Go” on my phone. I observed Sienna (who’s never seen the film but has heard the song countless times) interacting with her older cousins, singing along in own way, mimicking the gestures of Princess Elsa and I felt…rich. I wish for Sienna to develop a closeness with her family early and it’s partly my job to move things in that direction. It’s time for me to speak up. It’s time for me to stop relying on Elaine and my mom to diffuse and/or explore these situations. And I will. Yes the compliments about Dad 2.0 stung and added to my anxiety because I still feel underserving, but at the time I need to hear them if I’m to grow. I need to hear that my entire family loves and believes in me. One day I’ll believe it myself.


Sienna and her cousins watching and singing along to “Let It Go” and yes we immediately got her off that table!

Do You Have Toddleritis?

Have you been popping Advil like E.T. with a sackful of Reeses Pieces? Have you been reduced to a quivering ball of stress after finally wishing your child goodnight? Do you have a sudden thought that you want your kid gone…just gone…coupled with a crippling guilt at even thinking such a thing? Then perhaps you’re suffering from Toddleritis, a very real but treatable and curable mental exhaustion created by a myriad of both exotic and commonplace actions and behaviors.

Possible Todderitis causes include:

  • Your toddler purposely pouring a bowl filled to the brim with milk and cereal on to herself, her high chair and the floor forcing you to clean her up, do a load of laundry, scrub the floor and vacuum the carpet all while she wails to the point where it sounds like she’s barking like a seal
  • Your toddler refuses to eat lunch for some unknown reason, pushing away all food and utensils and crying as if you’d threatened to never let her see the clip of “Let It Go” from Frozen again
  • Your toddler decides not to nap and instead sits in her crib intermittently whimpering and talking to herself as you try to read or watch a television program or get some work done
  • Your toddler poops during nap-time and because she’s rebuffed sleep, her inability to stay still allow the poop to seep through her diaper all over her clothes, sleep sack, sheets and stuffed animals forcing you once again to the laundry room
  • Your toddler keeps climbing on bookcases, tables and anything she can reach despite the amount of times you’ve asked/told her not to do so because it’s dangerous
  • Your toddler decides mac and cheese, vegetables, grapes, etc. aren’t good enough for dinner; all she wants are “Puffs!” and she’ll scream unless she gets them
  • Your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night screaming for Daddy and after you wait the required 5 minutes to see if she’ll fall back asleep, you go in, hold her, sing to her, rock her until she falls asleep in your arms looking precious – so precious – but a half hour later when you try to put her back in her crib, she reawakens and starts crying forcing you to do everything all over again and wonder if you’ll ever get back to your own bed

And it’s very possible all of these things have happened on the same day!

Toddleritis symptoms may include:

  • Extreme physical, emotional and mental fatigue
  • A wish to tear your hair out and run down the hallway yelling incomprehensible words and phrases
  • Severe pain from wrenching your back while preventing your toddler from grabbing something she’s not supposed to touch
  • An inability to sleep or at least sleep well enough to function
  • As reported above, a desire for your toddler to disappear instantly followed by oppressive guilt
  • An urge to strangle Elmo (though that could also be an ordinary feeling)
  • In your mind, your toddler has morphed into this:


The good news is that Toddleritis symptoms can be treated and the disease has numerous cures. Perhaps a loved one is willing to take your toddler off your hands for a night or even a few hours allowing you much needed alone, sleep and/or spousal time. It’s possible your spouse will “give you a day a off” allowing you to meet up with some friends, watch something like The Wolf of Wall Street and then debate Matthew Perry preparing to write and play Oscar Madison in a remake of the beloved sitcom, The Odd Couple (as Darth Vader so famously said, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”). If no loved ones are around, you can maybe pay a babysitter an exorbitant, yet well-deserved wad of bills so you and your spouse can have a wonderful date night. All of these can act as treatments and/or cures, but the best and most effective are the following:

  • Your toddler does something hilarious like finally answering “Braaains!” along with a throaty laugh when asked what a zombie says (ok, I’m weird)
  • Your toddler runs into your arms and gives you a warm hug
  • Your toddler gives you a look that melts your heart
  • Your toddler smiles, jumps up and down and says, “Daddy!” when you walk through the door

Toddleritis can be a serious condition, but rest assured, it won’t last forever because at any moment your toddler might exhibit such glorious glee at the most run-of-the-mill thing that your body swells with pride and love. In essence, your toddler might all of a sudden look like this:


And how could you feel anything but enchantment when faced with a moment like that?


Any Given Sunday Guilt Can Be Your Enemy

First I want to thank everyone for all of the comments from my last blog. I’ve been completely overwhelmed by your kindness, so much so that I’ve been unable to fully address your support. I’ve also been paralyzed, my brain taunting: “How am I gonna top what I last wrote??” I’ve been battling that and simultaneously trying to absorb all the wonderful advice and encouragement. I promise to get back to each of you. For now, I have to write about yesterday even though it doesn’t involve Sienna.

For a few years now, my two oldest, closest friends (one friend, whom I met in 2nd grade, lives in Maryland, the other, whom I met in 6th grade, lives in Florida) and I have annually reunited to go to a Giants game; for perspective purposes, we’re all turning 40 next year. The fourth spot in our reunion quartet has changed over the years for one reason or another. This year I decided to invite another old friend who coincidentally also lives in Maryland. We met in 3rd grade, I think, but we fell out of touch for some years post-college. Thanks in part to Facebook it’s like those lost years never happened.

To give you a little background, this friend of mine had an extremely rough childhood. I witnessed harsh verbal and emotional abuse from his parents that eventually led to psychological damage manifesting itself physically as stress-related seizures in JHS and the sudden development of an allergy array that boggled the mind. His allergies have since abated, but the seizures have followed him into adulthood, through two bad marriages, high pressure jobs, etc. Thankfully he’s happier now than he’s ever been. I was very protective of my friend when we were kids (I still am), always telling my parents about what he went through, but they felt I  exaggerated because knowing his parents, they couldn’t believe some of the things I described most of which they couldn’t have done anything about, but a couple of which directly involved me. I held this grudge against my parents until it was finally resolved in family therapy a few years ago, but it helped establish in me a deep-rooted need to be understood and believed that remains to this day. It’s partly the reason why I write this blog – to be understood.

Anyway, we chose the game in July, but as the day neared, my friend discovered he couldn’t get away Saturday and needed to be at work early Monday morning so he decided to drive up Sunday morning and then drive back right after the game (I thought this was audacious, even nuts, but I deferred because he so wanted to go).

When my friend from Florida arrived on Friday, we happened to meet up with another one of our good friends from elementary school. I mentioned our annual tradition and how our fourth for this year was facing a crazy schedule. I asked if should my friend have to cancel, would he be interested in going to which I got a hearty yes. I thought it was logical to secure a backup just in case, but I never imagined what would unfurl.

Four and a half hours before the game I got a text from my friend saying that he’d had a seizure while driving and totaled his car. He was unhurt, somewhere in New Jersey, and still wanted to go to the game. His closest friends, (two very sweet women whom I’ve met on several occasions) were driving from Maryland and he wanted them to take him to the stadium. Shaken and stunned, I called him and said he was acting crazy, that his health was a hell of a lot more important than a football game, and that he needed to go to a hospital and head home. He was adamant about it, though. He wanted to see us. He’d make the game. He hung up because he needed to talk with an officer.

The women were already on their way. I spoke to one of them and begged her to talk my friend into going home. She said he’d had a rough work week but had been looking forward to the game for a long time, building it up. Because she loves him, as do I, she was naturally scared about his health. We were both on the verge of tears. I had a feeling guilt was involved. He didn’t want to let us down. He didn’t want to see the ticket go to waste. I told her I could get a replacement, that he shouldn’t worry about the ticket. She agreed guilt could very well be raising its insidious head. She’d call him.

As I waited, my facial tic started going (it only appears now when I’m severely anxious). I’d been hit by my own guilt wave: I somehow caused this by enlisting a potential replacement. My friend would hate me if I refused his going to the game. Do I tell my other friend and have him come to the stadium with us just in case? If so, would HE hate me if he wound up stuck in a bar instead of at the game?

Guilt and clinical depression go hand-in-hand. Over the last few years I’ve allowed absurd guilt to slash my rational mind to ribbons. My therapist always tells me guilt is a dangerous emotion when it comes to living with depression. It prevents recovery. It prevents living.

Elaine and my other friends were trying to calm me down, telling me I was being irrational. I tried to listen, but my brain wouldn’t compute. This was somehow my fault via some ridiculous cosmic event.

My friend called back. He’d decided he was too shaken to go and was just going to go home. The truth was he did feel guilty about the ticket and about not seeing us. Through tears I told him I loved him. I said we’d make a plan to visit him, maybe even watch an old Giants game. His health superseded everything. My other friends agreed. We all took turns talking to him, making sure he was ok, telling him not going to the game was the smart move. When he hung up, my emotions collapsed and I started crying in front of Elaine, my friends, and worst of all, Sienna. Elaine took me into another room to hug and soothe me, constantly telling me it wasn’t my fault.

Eventually I settled down and the four of us headed out. We had a good time, but I couldn’t shake the guilt. Several times my friends had to tell me I was being ludicrous. I kept pictured my friend in Maryland curled up, beating himself up because he’d disappointed us and himself. At one point I had to take a walk. It took until the second half to untether myself, to mostly (still not completely) stop the guilt from eating away at this reunion of my closest friends. Although I couldn’t really get into the game, I did manage to joke around and talk and remember how lucky I was to have these people in my life. I also got a text that my friend had made it home safe and sound.

Guilt almost made my friend make a terrible decision that put his health in jeopardy. Meanwhile, my own crazy guilt nearly sucked any enjoyment from seeing my closest friends. Thankfully we both were able to eventually overpower our own irrationality. I fully plan to teach Sienna about the dangers of guilt when she’s older. Further, I will do my best to never use guilt as a weapon (even in a joking manner). I’ve seen more than enough of it in my lifetime. I’ll also make sure she knows I trust and believe her lest she somehow (and I’m sure she will at some point) blow it, but of course, she’ll be able to earn it back. If she tells me about something going on with one of her friends, I’ll believe her and explain whatever options might be available, that I personally don’t have the right to take charge, but she should be there for her friend and encourage her/him to reach out to the proper authority figures be it guidance counselors, social workers, teachers, even police; only if there’s legitimate proof can I act myself.

Now I have two things to look forward to: a soon-to-planned reunion in Maryland and next year’s annual Giants game.


At the Giants/Packers game on 11/17/13 posing with former Giant great, Stephen Baker “The Touchdown Maker”