A Night with Mateo

Mateo in the mirror

Most evenings, Nicole and I tag-team the nightly Mateo maintenance. But when one of us is out of town, it all falls on one person. This week, that person is me. I’m really not complaining though. OK, that was a lie. I am complaining. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my son. He’s totally the bomb-diggity. But taking care of his little ass (literally) is a lot of flippin’ work! People who act like taking care of babies is all cake and butterflies are just plain crazy. Being a parent is a full-fledged job! Only with this job, the boss is an incredibly demanding 16 lb tyrant who expects you to obey orders, but doesn’t speak a lick of English! You’d think cleaning his butt at 5 am in the bathtub after what I like to call a “shitsplosion” would earn me a promotion or some sort of recognition in this company. But no, all it does is give me a whale-shaped bath tub full of poop water.

Somewhat ironically, if I were reading this blog post a year ago, I would have told myself to “Suck it up champ! No one forced you to have a baby!” My D.I.N.K. quasi-elitest attitude would have blocked any semblance of sympathy for the situation. I still respect that position although I do see things differently now.

So I thought it would be fun for the sake of commiseration or perhaps just a preview of things to come for friends who are about to have kids (‘ahem! Funk!), to review a typical night alone with Mateo.

5:00 pm – I pick Mateo up from Grandma’s (yes we are extremely lucky). We play, read books, roll on the floor, punch the dogs, and then watch a toy train go in circles for a while. Mateo then gets upset because he keeps trying to grab the train and is always a second too late. He decides he’s too cool to sit on daddy’s lap and wants to sit on the floor to get closer to the train. I abide his wishes and despite my hands supporting his sides, he tips forward and does a slow-motion face plant into the plastic train track. A pride injury really. Tears. Elmo to the rescue! Damn it! It’s only 5:15! Where are the dogs?

6:15 pm – Under extreme protest, Mateo hangs out in his crib for a few minutes while I prepare his bath and his bottle. At this point, he’s getting very cranky because he’s sleepy and tired. But the bath ain’t ready until the floating turtle thermometer tells me it’s ready!

6:20 pm – I struggle to remove his onesie. I say struggle because at this point, he’s like one of those water wienies I used to play with as a kid. He twists and turns and I can’t seem to get a good grip. Eventually I manage to pull in his flailing arms and get the thing over his big little head. Of course he hates this so we get a few loud cries. Once nude though, all is right with the world. Armpit raspberries bring raucous laughter and giggles that make me feel like a stand up comedian. I’m killin’ it! That is, until my always present stubble rubs just a little too hard and the laughter morphs into something that sort of resembles a whining cry.

6:25 pm – Like any good stand-up comedian, I quickly recover by acting out Mateo’s favorite super hero movie: The Adventures of Naked Superbaby. The general plot is simple: Mateo fights crime by flying around in the nude and pees on the villains from above. He seems to think it’s funny.

6:27 pm – Naked Superbaby flies into the tub for a well-deserved and relaxing bath. He grabs his “boyhood” with his left hand and splashes me in the eye with the other. He then sees his rubber bath dog and decides, like most things he comes in contact with, it belongs nestled deeply in his mouth. As I try to wash all of the important baby parts, he starts uttering the words, “ma ma ma ma ma” repeatedly in a mocking and menacing tone. Not sure what he’s getting at.

6:30 pm – Mateo let’s me know he’s done with his bath when he thrusts his mid-section up and over the little seat and proceeds to excrete oddly-scented bubbles into the water. Nice.

6:32 pm – Time to dry. I wrap my little bundle of joy into a towel that features a hood in the shape of a lion’s head. The hood thing never quite works out and it just gets in the way. Why the hell do we even have this thing?!?! I then lay him on the padded countertop and dry him off, Spagnuolo-style: I blow dry him. The boy loves it, just like his pop. Hey, you can’t blame a guy for wanting a dry undercarriage.

6:35 pm – Back to the nursery where I slather on gobs of goo that supposedly protect his little buns overnight. One day, I will remind my son how I used to lube him up before bed. I think I’ll save that one for his first girlfriend. Anyway, at this point, he’s like a little greased pig and I need to fasten the diaper. Nicole is the resident greased pig catcher thanks to her Missouri roots but unfortunately, I’m from Trenton, NJ. So I distract my little man with a little talking Master Yoda and finally get the diaper on. I hope it holds.

6:40 pm – Time to eat. I can tell it is time to eat, not only because of the clock on my iPhone, but because of the 7 month old baby screaming in my ear with that perfect pitch that resonates the ear drum just right. I have never heard a banshee’s scream, but I imagine this is pretty close. I quickly grab the kid, the pillow, and the bottle in one (almost smooth) motion and finally, all is quiet.

6:43 pm – He drinks hungrily while I struggle to position a book on top of the pillow. I decide to try to hold the bottle with my left hand and grab the book with my right. When I look back, there is formula up his nose and his lips are smacking together longingly. Oops. A quick re-position and we’re in business. I begin reading a tale from a Disney storybook collection. Unfortunately, the way things are situated, I can barely read the words and there is no way I can flip the page. So I strain to read the same page over, and over, and over. Just to make it more interesting for myself, I try to read it differently each time. Not sure the kid notices. Thankfully, his eyes are getting heavy. I’m in for an easy one tonight!

6:50 pm – When Mateo is at capacity, he generally doesn’t push the nipple out of his mouth. Instead, he leaves it in there so it fills up his little cheek pockets and the formula begins to flow over his lips and down his neck. That’s how I know it’s time to burp. He usually burps fairly quickly without much help. But tonight, he has something special for me: his patented burp/fart/cough maneuver. I was really impressed but also a little baffled at how he pulled it off. My baby is so smart!

6:55 pm – I put him in his little wrap sac thing that makes him look like a starfish. Normally this is pretty uneventful when Nicole does it. But tonight, he’s a squirmy wormy. Finally I get him zipped up and hoist him up to my shoulder. Let the tired crying begin! I hold him for a few minutes patting his back gently. He then proceeds to lovingly smack his head into my face repeatedly. I swear this kid reminds me of Bonk from Bonk’s Revenge (old Turbo Grafx 16 game). After this somewhat painful exchange, I lay my sweet little boy in his crib. He’s still crying a bit but I hear a constant shuffling on the mattress. I can’t see anything (blackout curtains), but I have to imagine he’s doing some sweet 80’s style breakdancing in there. Within a minute he somehow has his head wedged into the corner on the other side of the crib.

7:00 pm – I move him back to the center and begin patting his butt and the farts start rolling out with gusto! From here on out, I’m just pushing buttons and turning knobs. This is the part Nicole usually takes care of while I’m in the kitchen making dinner, and I’m not afraid to admit I’m a little lost. So I flip the boy onto his back thinking the face in the mattress can’t be comfortable. He immediately rolls himself back over onto his belly with an angry grunt. Boy knows what he likes. At this point, I put a reassuring hand on his back because I don’t really know what else to do. And suddenly out of nowhere, silence! I grab the empty bottle and trip over the dog on my way out, but thankfully I made no noise. I close the door behind me and emerge into the world a little shell-shocked. Kind of like when you go to a really scary movie in the afternoon. You come out feeling really weird and surprised to see daylight.

It was a tough battle, but I was victorious. And my hard work will be rewarded with a prompt and punctual 5:30 am wakeup. It could be worse though. At least he is sleeping through the night. And tomorrow, we’ll do it all again.

I am sure all of you experienced parents are nodding your heads and laughing at my parental “noobness”. And those of you who aren’t parents probably gave up on this post 5 paragraphs ago. But I hope it was at least a little entertaining getting a glimpse into what it’s like to take care of Mateo. I never even held a baby before my son so I have nothing to compare this experience to. I make lots of jokes about it, but being a father has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Being a parent is something I don’t take lightly and it was absolutely life-changing, as it should be. But one thing I have learned in my time on this planet (I say this because I plan to visit other planets in other lifetimes), is that the best things in life come from challenges. Quitting my job and starting The Wood Whisperer was risky as hell and incredibly difficult. I was sweating bullets the night I went on one knee in the surf in Carlsbad, Ca and asked Nicole to marry me. And now I am challenged every day to not only care for my son, but to provide him with a framework that allows him the opportunity to become a responsible world citizen and a productive member of society. The rewards for this are substantial! From the little things like his infectious smile to eventually watching him embark on his own path in life as he becomes his own man. Hopefully, for his sake, he’ll be a little less hairy than his dad.

Well, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there! And Happy Father’s day to me too I suppose. Wow that feels weird to say!

29 thoughts on “A Night with Mateo

  1. HAHAHA!!! Your turn. You and Nicole are doing well. Very entertaining post. Glad it’s not happening to me. I’m way too old for that now. I see it’s giving you your first touches of gray, too!! It really does change more than you probably thought it would, but mostly worth it, right?!

    • First touches of gray? I got my first gray hair at 23 yrs old. Its just now showing up in photos. 🙂

      And yeah it is totally worth it. In some ways, we really miss our old lifestyle. But as he gets older, it’s pretty clear that we are still the same people we used to be. We are now just +1. Definitely room in our house and in our hearts for another Spagnuolo.

      • Be glad there are grand parents nearby. We thought that it was hard with one, but now that we have two (2-1/2 yrs apart) it’s a whole different ball game. Wouldn’t change a thing though. Our son is just a few months older than Mateo and just turned one last weekend… It really does go by quick. We swore after week on with two in the house, and again after paying double at Daycare, that we’d never have another… But even now we find ourselves open to reconsidering… As soon as they are out of daycare, that is. Happy Fathers Day, Marc!

  2. Awesome Mark, I really enjoyed your sharing this story with all of us! Congrats on your beautiful healthy son! Happy Fathers day!

  3. Very funny post! I remember those days well. But don’t you worry – pretty soon he’ll be in the middle of his “terrible two’s” (which, incidentally lasts from about 21 months until almost 4 years old) at which point you will look back fondly at this time and realize how easy it was :/

    Happy First Father’s Day! 🙂

  4. No question, you are in the soup for sure now. But as you said it is an unparalleled quest. Happy Father’s Day Marc and all other fathers. We earn our grays and our “old man” titles honestly and proudly.

  5. Happy Fathers Day Marc! You’re doing a great job, I have a feeling the three of you are going to be just fine. And hey, you don’t have to worry about remembering to tell his first girlfriend about lubing him up at night, the internet is forever! Just point her in the direction of your archives… 🙂

  6. At the sake of sounding like a stalker I just wanted to chime in on this topic and tell you a few things since I’ve grown to love your teaching style as a woodworker but can certainly relate to you in this realm too. You see, I’m 29 and had my first child, a baby girl named Vera, at just about the same time you had Mateo (11/10/11) which makes her also 7 months. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve done to date and even though I kept saying I was ready to be a father, I really wasn’t. I’ve heard stories of “easy” babies and hoped mine would be of that ilk. She isn’t. She cries uncontrollably and seems like she has ADD because one second all is well and she’s laughing but in a heartbeat her mood changes and she’s bored, wanting to move on to something else. When she isn’t being held she hates it which makes it really hard to do anything while she’s awake. the problem is I’ve played basketball for the past 19 years very regularly and I’ve worked for hours of every day on the computer for about the last 15 on top of it. My posture is terrible and my back, at 29, is probably that of a 60 year old (or at least it feels like it) and I’m unable to hold her for more than a few minutes at a time without being in excruciating pain. Sometimes I wonder if my wife feels like I’m lying just to get out of holding my girl but I assure you, it hurts, a lot, and there is no way for anyone but me to know that, unfortunately. Aside from that I have intestinal problems and spend long periods of time in “the office”.

    My wife has been extremely gracious and has allowed me to continue to do some of the things I like to do to get away a bit at times but I have regretfully not shown her that same pleasure. It’s not because I don’t want her to go out with her friends and have fun but because I’m deathly afraid that if left alone with Vera I won’t know how to properly care for her and soothe her when she cries. My wife has “the touch” and because she isn’t working and were fortunate enough to live on my salary alone she spends the whole day with the baby and thus Vera has grown to love her immensely and feels more at ease with her. I feel that i have to provide for my family financially and thats a big responsibility but not as large as the responsibility of taking care of her on a daily basis first and foremost.

    Don’t get me wrong, she loves to spend time with me too and I make her laugh like crazy, but I’m the fun guy and my wife is the support system when in need it seems. I don’t mind that role for now but eventually I want to be both. When Vera and I are both ready for it.

    Your post basically outlines a day in the life for us as well but I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I feel comfortable alone with Vera for extended periods. When my wife goes somewhere we tag along and wait in the car or walk around (she just had an hour long hair appointment) and that’s how I get by right now. I keep telling myself “soon” but it isn’t getting much better right now and I don’t know when soon will be.

    All this being said, I would not change my life one bit had I to do it over again. There is no other feeling in the world like seeing that toothless, gum filled smile staring you back in the face after you make a silly noise or do a goofy dance. I love my daughter with all my heart and plan to have many more years on this earth to enjoy her and any possible future children we may have. I can’t wait until we can fully communicate and I can impart the wisdom I’ve learned and will continue to learn throughout my life on her and watch her shape up to become her own personality. Just these first few months have been harder than I imagined and I’m still getting used to it.

    PS: apologies for any misspellings and grammatical errors. I wrote this whole reply on an iPad in “the office”.

  7. hehe yep that’s parenthood. I’d like to say it gets easier, but the challenges change, but remain constant (I can only speak for the first 5yrs). Isn’t it funny how your perceptions change when you have kids? My eldest is now nearly 5 and I still miss my ‘old life’ sometimes. I’m sure you know, but nothing you talked about is unusual, in fact it echoes stories I’ve heard from a lot of new parents. Don’t worry too much if you are ‘doing the right thing’. It sounds like you are doing a great job. Happy Father’s Day!

  8. Great post. I’m sure that like most of the other ‘experienced’ fathers reading this (there is no such thing, btw. They change the rules on you constantly.), it brought back memories of our first experiences like this.
    We are never really ready for those little people that look to us for everything and can’t utter a word of what yhey want from us. It’s the world’s hardest guessing game. Before you know it they are driving and they know everything. Then they don’t need you anymore (they think that anyway)
    Congrats on your son. Happy Father’s Day.
    Keep us laughing and learning with your experiences in the shop and with your boy.

  9. Ahhh, the joys of parenthood. Shitsplosion, now thats classic. It’s good to see that you and your son are bonding well. I really thought you would have him trained to use a random orbital sander by now but that will come soon.
    Happy Fathers Day Marc.
    Bill Akins

  10. Mark, congrats and I too and not to far ahead of you as a noob father. The best thing we bought for our son, Carter, was a in room video camera. Here’s the link and these are way less expensive than the baby monitors, and run on WIFI. we love ours, its great to be able to see what he is doing, even in pitch black. check it out for yourself, you will not be disappointed.

  11. What have I gotten myself into?! lol jk

    Interestingly, shortly after Julianna said she was expecting (maybe a month or two) I started to notice a good ‘salting’ of my sides. I’m starting to think there really is something to this kid = gray hair phenomenon. Just a month and a bit to go before ours (or so we hope 😀 ).

  12. LOL! Great literary expression of such an event. It’s foreign feeling now, but will be old hat before you know it!

  13. I love your style. Enjoy this time while you can. I know it is challenging and all but it goes by so fast. I have 8 and they are all grown now. I miss the “learning” experiences like what you just posted for us. Soon they will only be distant memories…ones that you sometimes will question if they ever really happened. I appreciate you sharing as it brings it all back to me now.

  14. Oh, man, I was dying! That was a great story.

    Reminds me of my first Father’s Day way back in 1998. It was early in the morning (actually, I considered it very late at night, but what’s the difference at that age? All concept of time is an illusion) and Rhonda was feeding Dominic. The boy was a stout two-month old and a voracious eater, and I was called in for burp duty.

    Rhonda passed the wee lad to me so I could begin the process. There, in the dim predawn light, my young son turned his head to look into my face. As our eyes locked, I was beaming with the pride that any dad feels when realizing just how lucky he is to have taken the bold step to enter parenthood.

    It was then that my son squinted his eyes, and his face started turning a lovely shade of crimson.

    At this point, I have to digress to tell you about the diapers the boy was wearing. My wife’s friend had her first child about four months before Dom was born. She was a full on save-the-Earth-Lola-Granola type, and rather than use the commercial disposable diapers which would poison the environment, she used Earth-Friendly disposables made of cotton batting. I believe they were known by the brand name of ‘Tushies.’ She had bought a large number of the smaller sized models, which her child had quickly outgrown. Rather than return them to the natural food store, she offered them to us. That was so sweet.

    But, just as with the Chernobyl reactor, these babies lacked one critical safety apparatus. In all commercial disposables, there is an elastic leg-gathered ‘dam’ of sorts that prevents the accidental release of – how shall we say this – ‘waste material’ through the sides of the diaper.

    Of, course, we were not savvy enough to know this would be a necessity, so when he woke with a wet ‘Tushie’ before his morning feeding, we put him into a new one, oblivious to the peril we were about to experience.

    Now, where was I? Oh yes, the boy turned his face up toward me, we locked, eyes, he squinted then became this bright shade of crimson. It was shortly after that I heard the most monumental ‘ripping’ sound I have ever heard being emitted from a human. I can only equate this to what the survivors of the Johnstown Flood must have heard shortly after the dam gave way back in the late 1800s. That audible clue should have alerted me that things were amiss, but I was in a temporary state of denial. After all, how could someone so small make such a loud noise from a part of his anatomy other than his mouth?

    Within mere seconds, I realized the error of my ways. I became aware of the sensation of two rivulets of warm, molten poo cascading out the unprotected sides of these organic diapers on to my shirt. Pulled by the irresistible force of gravity and the seemingly unceasing torrent emanating from deep within my son, these rivulets flowed from my shirt , down my lower extremities, ceasing only when the molecular bonds of the carpeted floor prevented the vile matter from penetrating to the center of the Earth.

    Rhonda looked at me and said – most eloquently and appropriately – ‘EWWWWWW!’.

    I passed my son back to Rhonda and – using a burp cloth, proceeded to contain the worst of the steaming mass of ejecta. After leaving the room, throwing my bedclothes into the trash can and showering, I came back with a larger towel to clean up the mess. As I approached, I could see Dominic, his eyes closed, returning to his blissful slumber.

    Which must have been difficult for the young lad. After all, Rhonda was laughing so hard, she was nearly convulsing.

    Needless to say, I remind my now 14 year old son about our very special first Father’s Day together. And, I giggle slightly to myself…

    Boy, one day, your offspring will return the favor.

  15. Awesome post, Marc! Thanks for sharing. I remember my first night with my daughters alone too. It seems to get even better every year and every year I think the trend cannot continue, but it has.
    Happy 1st Father’s Day!

  16. I loved reading ur post, think our boys are about the same age. Dont stop blogging, it helped me when I was wondering what the hell I was doing wrong^^. But its the same in every household with a young un:)

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