Why We Decided to Bank Our Baby’s Cord Blood

September 6, 2012 by  
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by Daddy MD Guides blogger Wyatt Myers

When my wife became pregnant with our first child in 2008, I was like most soon-to-be-dads. I loved the idea of having kids, and my wife and I were both very excited about what the future would bring. But the reality is that I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.

The next eight months, of course, turned into a crash course on baby basics. We took all the classes, read all the books, and stocked up on all the supplies. I still believe that nothing can truly prepare you for being a dad until you actually are a dad, but we did everything we could to at least try to be ready.

Interestingly enough, it was my wife’s mother who first introduced us to the idea of cord blood banking. As a health writer by trade, I was a little embarrassed about my ignorance of the practice, but I just hadn’t written a lot about pregnancy and birth at that time. Once my wife and I started looking a little more into banking our baby’s cord blood, we were definitely intrigued.

Obviously, no dad wants to envision a future where something is wrong with his baby. But the reality is that it is your responsibility to be prepared for any eventuality, even the very sad. Once we looked into it, we decided cord blood banking was the responsible thing to do for this reason. Having a rich source of our baby’s own stem cells banked and waiting, just in case, was peace of mind for us, almost like a form of life insurance. It definitely wasn’t cheap, but it was an investment that we felt was well worth making.

Once we decided to move ahead with cord blood banking, the process couldn’t have been simpler. The banking company sent us all the collection materials by mail, and then we let our doctor know that we were planning on having the blood collected after our baby’s birth.

I knew my wife would have more on her mind than cord blood banking on the day of the delivery, so I made sure all the materials were packed with our hospital bags, and I reminded the nurses of our plans when we arrived at the hospital. Once the baby was born and the blood was collected, I made a phone call, and a courier was sent to our room at the hospital to collect the cord blood.

I hope that we never have to use it. But if the unforeseen were to happen to our son, we now have the peace of mind of knowing that our cord blood is available to us if needed.

It Is Magic

April 14, 2012 by  
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by Ruda Tovar

The crowd gathered slowly but with purpose, it was a small intimate amount of people.  We were the ones who had left early, the ones who stayed late enough for some of the night festivities, but not the grand finale.  Above us, the sky was dancing with the lights being cast into it.  Bright reds became blue, yellow turned to green as the night-sky was painted by the fire from below.  The exploding circles transformed into spiraling clusters of light, almost teasing the clouds for being so static.  I understood why people stopped and watched, why it felt so good to just stand there and look.  After all, this was Disney World.

That’s right Disney World, the place, better yet the culture synonymous with childhood, fun, and fantasy.  At least, that’s what they want everyone to believe right?  Right.  When I was a kid I watched Disney movies. Who didn’t?  What’s more is I watched them not because all my friends did (which they did), I watched them because my parents had and they passed the torch to me.  That’s how long Disney had been at it, since my parents were kids and even before that.  So it was no surprise that I came up watching Disney, that most of my friends did, and that pretty much everyone sub-consciously accepted Disney—anything to be one of the great backdrops to American life and more specifically childhood.  Now I had a child, a boy who had been exposed to those same movies.  To be clear: My wife and I never made our son watch Disney, we never made him watch anything, we didn’t need to.  Disney is everywhere. They can afford to be, their annual revenue routinely exceeds $30 billion dollars a year.  With money like that and a legacy that’s interwoven into “regular life,” Disney will probably have a part to play in the lives of my grandchildren.

Yet, all of that aside, here I was knee-deep in the Magic Kingdom, watching my son have the time of his life.  You could see it on his face, on the face of every non-screaming, non fit-throwing kid: All of this is for me.  All of these rides are for me, all of these little stores with toys and fun are for me, and all of this ice cream and cake is for me! That’s what my son was thinking; that’s what the other kids thought and that was the “magic” of Disney World.  I too got a little lost in the sauce.  This trip brought back memories of my own adventure into the realm of Disney more than 20 years ago.  I went with my Dad. Iit was just the two of us and all the fun a kid could conjure up. I drank that trip up with fervor of a hurricane and here was my son doing the same thing. Granted he didn’t know all of the characters, the movies, or the story of Disney, I’m not sure he’s ever seen Mickey Mouse cartoons, but he knew enough about some of the newcomers to have his literal day in the sun.  So my wife, her parents, and me, we did it all.  The long lines, the Florida sun beating down, the screaming babies who were trying to say “SYSTEM OVERLOAD,” and the screaming kids who were actually saying “SYSTEM OVERLOAD,” we waded through it all and came out as unscathed and intact as one could wish for.  As for my son, he was perfect.  I don’t use that word often when it comes to describing him or kids in general, but this time it’s the only one that came to mind, perfect.  He behaved well, he never argued, he didn’t fuss, he stayed with us, and he did it all with a huge smile on his face and the kind of enthusiasm we only see in kids.  I’d like to chalk this up to extraordinary parenting on behalf of my wife and I, but realistically this was the calculated design of the Disney World creators, at least the intended result.

As the night fell, we watched the sensorial buffet known as the light parade. Afterward we left immediately. As we exited the tram towards the parking lot shuttles, we stopped and gazed up at the sky, captivated by the distant booms and radiant spreads of light eclipsing the dark.  My son was dripping with a sensation, a feeling, it covered him, and if I stopped thinking about him, it would have covered me just the same.  That feeling is something distant to most adults: being young and having your mind filled with possibility, with an unknown future full of possibility.  Even if the kids don’t know it, they “know” it, it’s there swelling inside of them waiting for words and thoughts to express it.  That was the honey-like gel dripping from my son as the end to a “perfect” day was manifesting itself above us.  If there were ever any doubts as to the “magic” of Disney World, they were rapidly disappearing like the stars erupting over our heads.  I, as the part-time misanthrope/full-time adult still had a hard time grasping all of this, then my mother-in-law asked my son if he was enjoying the fireworks.  He turned to her and with the warmest of tones reflecting the joy permeating his body replied: “Those aren’t fireworks, that’s dreams come true.”

Did You Get the Joke?

February 20, 2012 by  
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by Ruda Tovar

Everyday I drop my son off at pre-school. This is one of my jobs, a small contribution to the workload of my family. Since the onset of this school year, I’ve been graced by the scent of decay inside my car. Naturally, I looked under the seats for a rogue banana or other fruit, but my search yielded nothing. I checked my a/c filter, and I looked for any spots in the upholstery where there may have been a yogurt or milk spill, but still no results.

One day, it occurred to me: Just as my son is exiting my car, he concocts a subtle mixture of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen. He then waits, until right before the door is shut and silently releases the flatus into my vehicle. Yes, the kid I’m raising farts in my car right before he gets out for school. Call off the search dogs, we’ve found the culprit.

What’s even more intriguing to me than the action is the motivation. This certainly seems like a systematic, calculated operation. How do I know? Because all of the toxic fallout thus far has been muted, which is in stark contrast from the norm. This is the careful fashioning, the methodical planning, and the brainchild of my child. But, why? My theory: He knows me. He knows that yes, he could draw me a picture or write an illegible “I love my dad” note, or make some thoughtful and creative train-wreck of a gift. But again, he knows me all too well, he knows I would thank him and parade his token around like all good parents do, but he knows it would be a semi-perfunctory act. So, what does he do? He drops some organic tear gas all up in my ride. It is as if he’s saying, “Look, Dad, I know this is going to stick with you much longer than words or a picture, so here it is: my calling card, my intestinal essence.” And if my dubious theory is correct, then son, you are right; those little inaudible gnat-killers you leave make my day, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

All jokes and bizarre conjectures aside, what does this mean for us as dads, us parents? I suppose it could mean that we should strive to find the laugh, the humor behind the surprises that our kids give us, because, well, we need those things to keep our sanity. Kids, jobs, an impending financial crisis, and the world in a constant state of social and political upheaval are just a few things that whether we recognize it or not effect our attitudes and make us all the more jaded and cynical adults we too often behave as. Our kids don’t know that, they just know that sometimes Mom or Dad gets that weird look in the eye as they stare off into the distance for a while. So, they give us reminders, memories, a life-vest to bring us back into our immediate reality and away from the worries and struggles we face. In my case, be it intended or not, my kid farts in my car, and it works, because here I am laughing while I tell you all about it.

 

You’re Not Ready—And That’s Okay

January 25, 2012 by  
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by Joe Lewis

It’s been five weeks since my first child was born. At just over a month into fatherhood, I find that I finally have the chance to sit down and reflect about all the wonderful (and stressful) changes that having a baby has brought into my life. And make no mistake: They are many. First, however, I would say this to any expecting fathers out there.

You are not prepared.

That’s not a slam on your manhood. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have the ability to handle pressure situations. It’s just a fact of life. You are not prepared for the deluge of changes that your life is about to undergo. But it’s okay. Nobody is prepared, really. If people had a real sense of the utter chaos and confusion that accompanies the birth of a child, they probably wouldn’t have children. That ignorance, the complete and utter inability (particularly of men) to contemplate all that being a parent entails is the very bliss that gives us the guts to bring those wonderful children into our lives.

For today, though, I’d like to talk about the birthing experience in particular. A reasonable man would expect that the whole ordeal to be difficult to watch. After all, your wife is pushing an object roughly the size of a watermelon out of an opening that’s about the size of a lemon. There’s bound to be some “collateral damage” involved, right?

You have no idea. You just don’t. It’s impossible to understand birth until you’ve actually been in the room. So don’t get all worked up about it now. You’ll just freak yourself out. Simply understand that the experience will be unlike anything you’ve seen before or will ever see again. It will be hard to watch, but it’s not about you. It’s about supporting your wife and making sure your child is born safely. So do it. Talk to her. Tell her that she’s doing a fantastic job. Hold her hand.

It’s okay to freak out a little bit. Admit to yourself in the moment that you don’t understand what’s happening. You might even get a little bit overwhelmed. This is normal. So try not to get all bent out of shape about the fact that things feel out of control. They aren’t. Just because you can’t control the situation doesn’t mean that the situation isn’t under control. Trust your doctors and nurses. Do what they tell you to do.

As traumatic as watching a live birth can be, there is a saving grace. Once your lay eyes on your child, you will immediately push all of it out of your mind. When you see that baby, you can’t think about anything else. It’s just not possible. So stick it out, Dad. The payoff at the end is exponentially more worthwhile than the uncomfortable feelings you’ll experience throughout the birth.

What’s the Hardest Part of Being a Dad?

October 8, 2011 by  
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by Ruda Tovar

I once had a non-parent friend of mine ask me what the hardest part of being a dad was. I laughed and told him I would tell him when I myself was able to filter out the difficulties to just one thing. I’m still not sure what my answer is, and honestly I’m okay with not ever knowing. What I do know is that the answer (if there is just one) is in a state of flux, like a pendulum oscillating, only the pendulum starts to swing in multiple directions at various speeds, hardly predictable. And maybe that’s the hardest thing about being a dad for me: the fact that its never just one thing, the fact that all the work you did on that other thing doesn’t matter because there’s another thing happening now, and you need to deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some ultra routine oriented person, I need a impulse in my life. I like a good charge-into-the-night like the next guy, yet none of that seems to help when it comes to my miniature counterpart. The constant shifting of gears can be a taxing process for even the most “successful” dads.

For instance, when I’m at the park and I’m watching my son run around on the playground harassing other kids with random one-liners and dead-end comments, there always seems to be “that mom” or in this case “that dad.” Lets be honest, we all know this parent, we’ve all at one time or another played the role of this parent, and if you haven’t yet, don’t worry that day will come. This is the parent who appears to have everything under control, an answer for everything, and some nouveau-trendy tactic for handling his or her child. Here’s what burns: A lot of the time, this parent succeeds. The parent succeeds in maneuvering the kid out of a potential meltdown and convinces him/her to share something he/she doesn’t want to share. This parent is not a bad guy, it’s the parent who all of the other parents love to hate.

But, alas even this parent has those days when “it” is too much, and by “it” I mean the child. When that happens and you witness the countenance on their face fall and all of sudden they know nothing, it’s bliss for us struggling landlords. I’d like to clarify that, I never wish for any of this to happen, honestly I don’t even think about these people till I see them, but when it happens it is inescapable and I (it’s safe to say “we”) feel a sense of relief. It’s the moment when we have shifted through all of the gears multiple times, exhausted all of our fresh-off-the-market tools for child-rearing and for a fleeting moment we are lost, hopeless.

That’s the hardest part about being a dad, a parent. Sometimes, all this entropy just breaks you down, and you have to gather yourself however you do it and continue “striking out into the night,” raising your kid.

Life Gets Messy

October 8, 2011 by  
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by Ruda Tovar

I had the honor of cleaning some excess clutter out of our basement the other day, and during the process I stumbled upon my sons old training toilet AKA “the potty.” This little relic instantly brought a hundred memories rushing to my brain, some good, some bad, but almost all were ugly. So there I stood, reminiscing about my son’s historic battles with toilet training and I remembered the worst moment during his transition from diaper to toilet.

My family was at a park enjoying a nice sunny day, letting our son be a 2½-year-old with other  2½-year-old year olds. My wife and I had been “potty” training him for a month or so, and it was a slow and arduous process, full of surprises and very few success stories. Nevertheless, we knew—or at least thought we knew—it was time for him to make the change. As all parents who went through this know, you always have a back-up plan when taking your child out into public places (an extra set of clothes, an extra diaper or pull-up etc.). Preparation for the dreaded “accident” is crucial. This day was no different; we had the emergency bag with us, and all was well. A half hour past, and our son was darting around, behaving like a maniac toddler, drunk with freedom. Then, it happened.

“Daddy, I need to go there, I need to go there!” as my son points to a huge flower- pot in the middle of the play area. I ask if it was pee or the other one, and he informs me via an unnatural look on his face that it was the other one.

At this point in the story, I’d like explain a few things:

A. Yes, we had been watching for all the indicators of a bathroom break, and had even asked him if he needed to go.

B. We had never been to this park before, and therefore didn’t know where the bathrooms were.

C. We were in China. TechnicallyHong Kong, but at this point what difference did that make.       

My initial reaction was panic, but that subsided when I realized we had the emergency bag within arms reach, ready for deployment. My wife was gone, so was my mother-in-law, and so was the bag. Welcome back, panic. I snatched my son up and told him to hold it; I picked a sign and started running towards it, looking for any indicator of a restroom. After several failed attempts, all I had was an increased heart rate and a toddler that was ready to go Chernobylin his pants. Then, finally there it was: the restroom.

I darted in and suddenly felt like I had stepped into an alternate reality. A reality in which toilet bowls didn’t exist, just porcelain-lined holes in the ground, a reality in which there aren’t doors on any of the bathroom stalls, a reality in which the water (?) pipes are leaking above me, a reality in which my son rendered a pungent poop-dragon from his bottom region, a reality where I didn’t have a phone or any means to communicate with the emergency bag. But, this wasn’t an alternate reality; it was the reality I had to deal with. I took my boy to the “toilet,” instructed him the best I could to release the rest of the foul beast within. He wasn’t feeling it, but knew there was no choice. The underwear went straight into the trash, and the pants went into the sink. So, there I was, in a Chinese bathroom washing the you-know-what out of my kids pants, then the door opens and a local walks in. He took a glance around the small space we were stuck in, a double take on the naked white toddler staring at this mysterious semi-toilet and then he started to relieve himself right next to me, sans partition. I know it just keeps getting better. I kept washing and scrubbing my sons pants, pausing only to let my new friend wash his hands, yeah he was that cool. At last, I had my son’s backside looking clean and the pants weren’t half bad for a Chinese park bathroom. I cleaned myself up, dressed my kid, and took a deep breath, because I don’t think I had taken one since I ran out of the playground. We walked back toward the play area, found my wife and mother-in law slurping their frozen treats and resumed the day’s activities. Yes, I told my wife what happened, but it still hadn’t hit me, it was all so transient.

So, for all you dads out there who are worried about your child’s success ratio, for all you dads who get stuck with the disaster, the memory I just related is for all of you, for all of us. I know there are much worse stories than mine, and I’d love to hear them because after all, this is your kid’s life. It gets messy.

What’s the Plan?

September 23, 2011 by  
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by Ruda Tovar

I stood in my son’s doorway looking into his room and surveyed the landscape. All the usual suspects were present (cars, LEGOs, blocks, animal figures, crayons, some magnetic letters, etc.), and they appeared to have gotten into a fight with an industrious four year old.  To the untrained (non-parental) eye, this would seem like more than a fight, maybe a battle, maybe a war, maybe an epic personal vendetta against the collective toy culture.  One could easily guess that this “encounter” lasted quite some time, perhaps hours, perhaps multiple days, well again, one with an untrained eye.

Twelve minutes. That’s how long it took my four-year-old to locate all his toys that were stored, get them out, play with them, and then decide to launch an assault that could challenge our finest military strategists. Twelve minutes and then he was onto something else, although I’m not sure what that was because all of his possessions lay in front of me gasping for air. I was used to this. He came, he saw, he conquered, and he did it all in record time, every time.

I left the room alone and sat back down to continue my reading. After about 50 pages, I realized I hadn’t seen the person responsible for unleashing his fury on the gang of unassuming inanimate objects. I soon found my son sitting on the kitchen floor with the sole surviving crayon of his room and an empty egg carton. He had been there at least a half hour (probably longer), fabulously occupied with circling the inside of the egg carton with his crayon. How did this happen?

As I hovered over my son, I couldn’t help but think about the semi-huge amount of toys he has at his disposal, and how the makers of these toys spend time and money trying to figure out what kids like. Well, there you have it: This kid likes two objects with no real connection picked at random. “Random,” that actually describes a lot of decisions made by our shorter comrades. Then again, it’s only random to us, the adults. We grew up, we forgot what it was like to think like a kid, and when we remember, it’s never a convenient time (you try making weird sounds whilst driving only to realize you’ve called somebody on accident). After all, this is the same kid who single-handedly wiped out an entire ecosystem of toys in 12 minutes, and yet now is content to color an egg carton for quadruple that amount of time.

I’m not saying that kids are capable of expressing it in an understandable manner, and I’m definitely not saying that it would make sense to us if they could, but these little mortals have a plan. Now if only I could figure out what it is…

Change Is Good, Right?

September 8, 2011 by  
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by Ruda Tovar

Five and a half years ago, my wife informed me she was pregnant. We had been married just over a year. We were young, we were in the midst of selling or giving away most of our belongings and were about three months away from moving across the world. As you may have guessed by now, we weren’t “trying,” but now, we were pregnant, expecting, with child. Everything was about to change.

Like all other things in life that are unexpected (which I’ve come to find out are most things), preparing yourself and your family for something as significant as childbirth might seem at the very least overwhelming.  I ran the emotional gamut, after all, who was I kidding? I wasn’t ready to be a dad, at least not now. I was ready to travel the world, thrive in my youth with my wife next to me, the two of us living a symphony of adventure and conquering obstacles together. Not now, not ever, no way.

As I stated, that was about five and a half years ago. Indeed much has changed with my life. We didn’t move across the world, we didn’t traverse the ends of the earth together, thriving in our youth as I selfishly thought. Instead we watched God, or the universe, or whatever you want to call it give us a miracle. My wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy on a dreary October morning, just in time for lunch, and the three of us haven’t really looked back. Yes, it has been hard, dealing with the unexpected, and I’m not even talking about the sleepless nights, and the incessant crying. You try to equip yourself with all the “right” tools to help with the all-too-often precarious task of raising a child. You can come to question all of the decisions made, regularly second-guessing your spouse and causing a whole other subset of emotional stress and tension. You make mistakes.

Why? Because, you care more about that little human, that tiny apprentice of life more than anyone or anything else on this planet. You push your feelings aside and just do it. You want that kid to have all the things you didn’t—emotional and material—and you make the effort because, well any parent can answer that.

One day I realized that those adventures and obstacles I thought I was going to conquer back in my days of ignorance and bliss, my wife and I were doing now. Only, we were doing (and not always succeeding) these things for the benefit or someone else—for that little guy who came along and changed all of our plans.

Coming Soon

August 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Bryan Wood Blogs

Coming Soon…

Dad, Do You Want to Play?

August 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Joe Kita Blogs

by Joe Kita

You’ll be getting this question a lot. Here’s how to respond.

For my son’s second birthday, I bought him Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots. In case you never lusted after this game as a child, it features two brawny machine-men inside a miniature boxing ring. Each player uses hand controls to maneuver his robot while thumbing buttons to throw left and right uppercuts. When you hit your opponent’s jaw in just the right place, there’s a satisfying “Eeeyyyaaawww” sound as his head springs up. This is called “knocking his block off.”

It’s that simple. It’s that thrilling.

Indeed, I am so excited by this gift I’m barely able to resist helping my son unwrap it. “It’s Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots!” I scream, since he obviously doesn’t know what it is. But the box is big and colorful, and that’s exciting enough. While he smacks the tray of his high chair in delight, I begin assembly.

“Don’t you think he’s a little young for that?” asks my wife.

“Oh no, dear,” I reply, weaving the ring ropes through the plastic turnbuckles. “He’s going to love it. It’s a classic! I always wanted one when I was a kid.”

“But it’s so violent. Suppose he tries knocking somebody’s block off at day care?”

“Aw come on. It’s harmless. Here, I’ll show you.”

And with that, I place the game reverently between my son and me. He leans forward attentively as I demonstrate how to throw punches and glide around the ring. Then we touch gloves, I yell “Ding! Ding!” and the fighting commences.

For a while, it’s mayhem. He comes out of his corner flailing and squealing. I cover up. Then, as his little thumbs tire, I respond with a flurry of brutal rights. One finally hits home, and his block gets knocked off. Eeeyyyaaawww! I jab the air in jubilation, and my son starts crying.

“It’s okay, it’s okay. Look, we can pop the robot’s head right back on. See?”

After he realizes that defeat is temporary, he calms down, we regroup in our respective corners, and we emerge to battle again—and again.

Since then, as my son has grown, I’ve had similar bouts of joy with radio-controlled cars, Nerf guns, model trains, Creepy Crawlers, and whole battalions of little green army men. I used to love wandering the aisles at Toys ‘R’ Us with a shopping cart, throwing in all those things I begged for as a kid but my parents refused to buy.

But even more delightful than the purchasing was the playing: sitting Indian-style on the floor with my son, surrounded by 750 individual pieces from a giant Lego pirate ship, breath heavy with concentration, time suspended. I was never happier, never more relaxed, than when I finally pushed aside the work in my day and agreed to play.

Why was that?
I think part of the reason is because play is instinctual. You see it in cubs; you see it in kids. Give a child an interesting object, and it follows as naturally as giggles from a tickle. It is how we learn, how we explore, how we first open our minds. And when we stumble across it as adults, part of us remembers and prepares to grow again.

Another reason is that play provides balance. It’s a built-in buffer to stress, a sort of conscious version of sleep. Think about it. What rest does passively for us at night, play achieves actively for us during the day. It’s restorative. It’s refreshing. It’s another subtle dimension of life from which we awaken slightly better. For proof, watch children coloring, or listen to the happy hum of a schoolyard at recess. The delight in the moment is utter and pure. Play is child’s meditation, a toddler’s trance, the most-tender zen.

But adults don’t appreciate this. Most times, we are too busy to play, too mature to get down on the floor. When our children implore us, we give in grudgingly and then remain distracted by the hive of priorities in our lives. We place such little value on play that we rarely immerse ourselves in it guiltlessly.

The late writer Wilfrid Sheed told me this when asked for the secret to happiness: “Develop something outside of yourself,” he said, “a burning interest in Napoleon or the Civil War or anything that inspires the same kind of passion that kids have with ease but adults somehow forget about. I’ve never known an unhappy person with a stamp collection.”

He was referring, of course, to play. The point being that the thrill of getting a new bike is no less grand at 75 than it is at 5. It still feels just as good now to swing a bat, throw a Frisbee, run fast, or do a waterhole cannonball as it did then. It has to do with a willingness to call time out for recess and then be unafraid to do something spontaneous.

I found the Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots the other day, deep in the toy closet, long since packed away. I started to get wistful, remembering my son’s second birthday and how much fun we had. I started to wish for good old times like that when life was innocent, uncomplicated, and free. And then I stopped myself, realizing that it still is. I opened the box, wove the ring ropes through the plastic turnbuckles, and then set off to find my 14-year-old boy—the one in my house and the one still inside me.

Excerpted from The Father’s Guide to the Meaning of Life by Joe Kita. To read more about this book and order a copy, click here.

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