growing up

On Being Seven

April 18, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

on being seven

When my son turned seven earlier this year, I had a couple of simultaneous epiphanies. First, I realized Jon was now the age I was when I experienced two of the most significant milestones of my life. Second, he’s going to remember a lot more from here on out, so I’d better get my shit together.

ME AT SEVEN

Not long after my seventh birthday, I did what every good preacher’s kid does around that age — I got “saved.” Accepted Jesus into my heart. In non-Baptist layman’s terms: I officially became a Christian. My father baptized me shortly afterwards.

My motivations were probably typical for a seven-year-old; a mix of peer pressure, avoiding Hell, and a sense of inevitability. Having been taught about salvation since birth, there was never any doubt I’d end up born again. And fear of eternal damnation aside, there was some comfort in knowing I was fulfilling my duty as a Good Son.

In thinking about this from my own fatherly perspective, it’s more meaningful to me than it has been for quite a while. Notwithstanding my spiritual path from that point until now, I can only imagine how special it was for my father to have that moment of bonding, when he baptized me in front of his congregation. I aspire to such moments with my own son.

The other milestone from that year was on a much less public scale, but equally significant. I had my first dream about a boy.

I don’t recall the dream being overly romantic or sexual; it was the intimacy that struck me. A faceless, nameless boy and me, both naked, sitting side-by-side on the floor by my bed. I don’t remember how I felt immediately following the dream; yet after coming out as gay nearly 20 years later, it was the point I looked back to and said, “This was the first time I knew.”

While I have memories from as early as two-and-a-half (hello, little brother … goodbye, only childhood), seven certainly sticks out at as a watershed year.

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Thanksgiving Evolution

November 22, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

It’s been quite a year of evolution for our little family. Between trips overseas, moving into a new house, and starting a new school, it’s been an exciting and eventful 12 months. Yet it’s also been daunting — facing down so much that’s new, and less and less that’s known. I’ve heard similar stories of big life changes causing children (and adults) to regress. They search for something comfortable and familiar in a wide, open field of uncertainty.

We’ve definitely felt it, seen it in one another. My newly minted 7-year-old experiences this the most. In addition to officially graduating from “big boy” to “kid” — and on top of a new house, new school, and new classmates — he’s also lost multiple teeth, grown multiple inches, and reads everything in sight.

When overwhelmed or insecure, my son’s default settings range from Silly to Ignore to Meltdown — sometimes all three within the span of a few seconds. This in turn triggers my default settings of anger, frustration, helplessness. Many times it’s damn near impossible to be the bigger person. Many times I fail.

But as seems to be my parenting mantra, I keep on trying. In attempts to empathize with all the transitions my little boy big boy kid is going through, I try to speak less; try to listen better; try to breathe more. And I try to do what he’s always needed the most from me — be there.

In organizing the new house, I culled several years’ worth of artwork and school projects. Among the mountains of crafts were these three masterpieces:

Thanksgiving Evolution

Created over the last three Thanksgivings, they are a gloriously fun study in artistic interpretation.

But they also serve as a reminder that time continues to continue; that it speeds by, leaving me stunned that I have a child who’s already been in school this long. It also shows that as each year brings new challenges, he/we keep coming out the other side slightly different, hopefully better. And with extra glitter.

This first Thanksgiving in our new surroundings brings new traditions along with it. But in the midst of the new and of change, I plan to soak up the familiar, appreciate the growing pains, and anticipate the next evolution.

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Running to Third & Other All-Star Moments

September 19, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Sometimes the big picture of parenting can be overwhelming. Taking the time to enjoy and celebrate individual moments is so important — a lesson I continually learn from my always in-the-moment son.

All-Star Moments Embassy Suites

This past spring, Jon played on his first baseball team. We were excited to have found a county league that emphasized fun and learning, with each practice ending in an unofficial “game” that only loosely adhered to big league rules.

While never much of a jock myself, I have fantasized about being a Cool Sports Dad. The emphasis on “Cool” — not the hot-headed kind of dad that screams obscenities at umpires and such. There are plenty of other things to hound my kid about (flushing, for example), so Papa and I were looking forward to his first team sports experience being on the low-pressure end.

The season had lots of stops-and-starts, with several rain delays and a week skipped for holidays, but the last game day finally arrived. Not unexpectedly, there was a much higher percentage of parents in attendance — and I imagine expectations (real or imagined) weighed heavier upon the players’ sweaty heads. I hung back for most of the game, only walking up to the fence to encourage and cheer when Jon was up to bat. The innings consisted of each child getting to bat once, with unlimited strikes until they got a hit.

As the game wrapped up, it became apparent that Jon would be the final player at bat. Even with the loosey-goosey rules, my heart quickened a bit — nervous for him, excited for me (or probably the opposite).

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Growing Pains

January 29, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Growing Pains

I slowly pushed and contorted my way out of the car, minding the door against a bank of snow, eyeing the slick of ice under my left foot. I was very much feeling all my forty-six-and-a-half years as I gingerly walked towards the pale, blue house. The sitter had agreed to keep Jon for a couple of hours while I attempted to eke out a bit of work and restock our depleted pantry.

The worst of the storm was past, and with it the worry that we’d lose power. Yet as we were midway through what would eventually be a full week without school, new stresses were putting my stomach through its paces. A full week (plus the weekend before it) of no school meant lots and lots of hours spent indoors, or at most, on our unplowed block.

I knew it was coming, and did find comfort that we kept the lights and heat (and TV and Internet), but that barely made the challenges any less so. My aspirations were grand — to bake, to craft, to LEGO — but were slowly and monotonously eclipsed by my desire to keep the peace and my wits.

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Boys, Boundaries, and Blue Balloons

September 26, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

communicating with your five-year-old

To explain the stress there’s been in the house the last couple of weeks… well, I could, but I need to hold it close and protect it, or at least disguise it in prose. And by it I mean him — our brave, defiant, demanding, turbulent, tender boy.

Limits have been being pushed. Or is it boundaries? Whatever they are, they’ve been pushed. Also, buttons.

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The In-Between Boy

September 17, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

In-between boy

Last night I sat and watched as my son played out an allegory for his life at this moment in time. Having eaten his dinner, my five-and-three-quarters-year-old requested ice cream. I got one of his “baby bowls” from the cabinet, after a second or two of consideration as I skimmed through the options in my well-oiled (though oft -addled) dad-brain:

“Though he does fine with the plates, his clumsiness rules out a ceramic bowl. The plastic ones Papa and I use for ice cream are rather deep — he’s still a bit short to reach inside… Plus a smaller bowl would do better for a smaller portion. Baby bowl it is.”

I placed the ice cream in front of him at the table, then ever-so-carefully scattered out sprinkles until he’d declared there were enough. He then jumped up, scrambled to the cutlery drawer, and came back wielding a large, red-handled spoon. He explained he needed a grown-up spoon because “my mouth is so big.” Truer words.

As I finished my salad, we talked about school and who his new friends were and the song about elephants he learned in music class that day. And he ate his ice cream. Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, in a too-small baby bowl, with a spoon too big for his talkative mouth. He would pick off the tiniest of bites with his giant spoon, careful to get a couple of sprinkles in each nibble, placing some atop the ice cream if the spoon failed to snatch some. Perhaps his micro-bites were an attempt to avoid brain freeze or him wanting it to last longer or trying to avoid catapulting the entire scoop out of his bowl.

Whatever the reason, I continued to soak in the image of my newly-minted kindergartner with his tiny bowl and huge spoon, reflecting on recent weeks and the growing pains it had brought us. His final morning with preschool classmates and teachers closely preceding the afternoon he met his kindergarten teacher; his first day of class a mere two days later. I worried it was too quick; too abrupt a transition, but he took it in stride. No tears, only excitement tinged with nervousness.

On that transition day, after seeing his classroom and chatting with his Mrs. Kelly, we roamed the halls of the new school as a family, dodging teachers and parents, kids of various sizes and speeds, exploring the cafeteria, the library, the gym. As we maneuvered these large, crowded, foreign halls, my in-between boy would absentmindedly reach up for my hand, feel it was there, then drop his back to his side. Never looking up, never taking hold, always moving forward. My hope, that it was with the knowledge I was by his side, had his back, and was ready to take hold when he needed it. And to let go when he needed that, too.

It was a bittersweet moment, and a portend of the weeks ahead, between then and the ice cream. Weeks that have seen a straining to grow more, to catch up, to chase after the big kids, to be his own person. And the fall-out from falling short or trying to go too far, too soon. Meltdowns and tantrums. Defiance and anger. But with moments of joy and triumph, laughter and maturity in-between.

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Officially the Parent of a Kindergartner

August 31, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Okay, yeah. I went ahead and did one of these annoyingly cheesy, Pinterest-y “First Day of School” photos. But with that face, how could I not? Don’t worry, I took plenty of sweet (i.e., non-goofy) ones to send Grandma and Nonna. But my kid is a Grade A Ham, and I intend to exploit share that with the world.

First Day of School - Kindergarten

So how’d it go? Jon mentioned during his bath last night that he was a little nervous. When pressed further, he was concerned about having so much fun.

This morning he was eager, but not maniacally so. After we took our photos in the backyard, I told him we had to go inside so I could put the camera away. He said he wanted to meet us out front, so I watched as he struggled a bit to remount his backpack, grab his lunchbox, and walk ’round the house where he sat patiently on the steps until Papa and I made our way out.

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Dad Brag: The Eye of the Tiny Tiger

March 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Though I don’t dump much of it here, a lot of what I feel and think about my parenting lately tends to be whiny, worrisome and negative. In an effort to counteract that — both in myself and in my attitudes toward my son — I’m making a concerted effort to focus on the positive, particularly what makes me proud.

My inaugural Dad Brag is about Jon’s adventures in Taekwondo. About a year ago we attended a classmate’s birthday party at a local martial arts studio, and it should have come as no surprise that our energetic then 4-year-old took to it like a duck to Kung Fu.

We enrolled him in the Tiny Tigers class a few months later, and have since watched him flourish under the unimaginably patient tutelage of the instructors. You can feel the energy pouring off of him as he runs laps at the start of class, a telltale sparkle in his eye. And nothing warms my heart more than him completing a task successfully, turning back towards me and giving me a thumbs up, awaiting my reciprocation.

dad brag taekwondo

I take him on Thursday nights, Papa takes him on Saturday mornings, and at the end of January he graduated to Little Dragons — now sporting a cool cammo-patterned white belt as he learns alongside a group mostly older than him. And yet he already longs to advance further, admiring the older kids’ skills as he waits for his class to begin.

dad brag taekwondo

dad brag taekwondo

One Saturday morning, the mom of the other “John” in the class asked Papa if our Jon had older brothers. Answering no, Papa asked why. She replied that he looks like he’s having so much fun all the time — that surely he must have a houseful of older brothers where there is never a dull moment. Papa told her that what he did have was two fathers, to which she smiled and responded, “Well that must be why!”

I don’t know that Jon’s oftentimes tired, old dads can take much credit for his boundless enthusiasm, but in the right setting and mixed with some focus and padded floors, it’s a sight to behold.
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Feel free to brag about your own kids (or yourself) in the comments!

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5 Ways Little Kids Wash Their Hands

January 13, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

5 ways little kids wash their hands

They don’t call this the dead of winter for nothing. Bitter cold. No sunshine. Cooped-up kids tearing the house apart as you slowly tear out your hair. No new episodes of The Walking Dead  for nearly a month.

And the sickness – the never ending cycle of sickness.

Mid-winter is always rough for families with kids, and this year has been particularly infectious. Aside from getting a flu shot, the most effective way to prevent illness is to wash your hands. Every doctor, childcare professional, teacher, parent, and educational Muppet has been drilling this into your kids’ heads since birth. And yet, based on personal experience of how regularly my child practices responsible (unassisted) hygiene, it’s a wonder we’re not in the midst of a full-blown toddler zombie apocalypse. Here are five reasons why…

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Designer Daddy’s Top 14 Blog Posts of 2014

January 2, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

DESIGNER DADDY'S TOP 14 BLOG POSTS OF 2014

A lot of people seem to be glad 2014 is behind us — in a hurry to forget all about it. Certainly it had its share of frustration, failure and loss. But there was also plenty of good I want to remember. I interviewed an author I’d grown up reading, wrote some movie-related stuff, shilled for the enemy, won Halloween, defended manliness (for mature audiences only), reviewed some children’s books, gave advice to parents of gay kids, added a buttload of magnets to my fridge, attended a couple of conferences, and helped raise over $35,000 for a dear friend in need.

And somewhere in there, I found time to write other things. Personal, soapboxy, silly and celebratory things. These are my 14 favorite blog posts of 2014, in chronological order.

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