Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Tim Buckland
I’m sitting on the living room floor. Surrounding me are a cardboard box and the multiple colors of extra-large Legos.
The box was used to deliver a vacuum cleaner to our house. It now serves as a hideout. Shh. Don’t tell anyone.
It’s 11 in the morning. On a weekday. I’m still in my jammies.
I’m trying to form the different locking blocks into a building or a boat - I’m having a tough time figuring out which one my creation more closely resembles - when two somewhat pudgy arms wrap around my neck and the little guy with the explosion of red hair softly tells me: “Daddy, I love you.”
This kind of thing basically describes my life since about two years ago, when I was able to secure a job as a newspaper reporter that lets me earn a living at night and on weekends.
I get to spend mornings with Max and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A little background on my little guy: for starters, he’s way funnier than my wife, Kate, or I could ever hope to be. He’s smart, clever and resourceful. He’s sweet, kind and an adorable goofball.
But these mornings with Max are not always how it was. When we moved to New Hampshire when Max was 7 months old, I was working at a bank and had a 45-minute commute.
Because I had to be at work by 7:30 every day, I got up at 5:30 in the morning - about an hour before Max - and was usually out of the house before he woke up. I typically didn’t get home until 7 at night. I also frequently had to work on Saturdays. I barely got to see my kid.
I was miserable.
But then the opening at the newspaper came up and I quit my bank job. Now, my full-time job is stay-at-home dad who moonlights at a paying job. The nighttime job comes with a paycheck, but guess which one is far more rewarding?
Every time I get frustrated with him or angry, all I have to do is remember how it used to be and how many people out there would gladly trade places with me. Bye bye anger.
I guess the best way to give you a little insight into my, well, daddy hood, as well as the kid we’re talking about today is to give you glimpses, mostly gleaned from posts I placed on Facebook, that hopefully will give you a big picture about this awfully cool little guy.
Oh so sly
Max has developed the ability to be conniving while somehow maintaining his innocent exterior. He’s gotten so good at pulling your leg you don’t realize he’s been hanging off your foot for some time.
Jan. 21, 2012, driving in the car:
Me: "We have to go to the dry cleaners." Max: "Why?" Me: "We have some clothes there to pick up." Max: "Why?" Me: "Well, they've cleaned them for us, but we have to go there to get them." Max: "Why?" It was at this point when I realized that the kid had drawn me into my first "Why" session with a toddler. He thought it was hilarious.
Jan. 22, 2012, after Max knocked over a bunch of Legos:
Me: “Max, why did you do that?”
Max: “Because I don’t know any better.”
Feb. 3, 2012:
Got Max a muffin that I said he could have as a dessert after his lunch of chicken nuggets, spinach and green beans. Max: "Daddy, can I have it now as an appetizer?"
What it means for Dad
What you’ve already read so far, and hopefully will continue to read after this section, is the easy stuff. See, reflecting and writing about my little guy is easy.
Me? Not so simple.
You see, Max has transformed me in so many ways.
I’m not sure it would be fair to me to have labeled me selfish before Max came along, but now I’m far less self-centered than I used to be.
And, like most parents, my view of the world has changed.
Before Max, working on an article about a child who, say, died in a fire gave me no pause and didn‘t affect me. I understood that it was sad, but felt no real emotional trigger.
Now, reporting or reading stories about child abuse or accidents that hurt or kill kids makes me - I have frequently been described as a newsroom “bulldog” - want to step away from my desk and cry. Every time, all I can think is: “What if that were Max?”
My biggest struggle has been with patience. I am not a patient man.
It’s been tough for me to adjust to dealing with someone who doesn’t understand that you’re not supposed to feed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the couch.
I have had to catch myself once in a while before yelling. There were a couple of occasions where I wasn’t able to and realized I’d just scared a little boy who only asks for love, affection and protection from me.
One day, Max spilled a bunch of milk. It happened on a day where I’d gotten little sleep the night before. I was tired and my fuse was short.
I shouted at him and, when he ignored me, I grabbed his arm. Too hard.
He looked up at me and started to cry. Max: “Daddy, you hurt my feelings.”
I hope you understand and don’t judge me too harshly.
I said I was sorry to my little boy and hugged him. We were pals again very soon.
But what Max has given me in terms of joy and laughter far exceeds any frustration or angst.
If he only did some of the following just once, it would be awesome. But he does stuff like this all the time:
Jan. 29, 2012:
Max spent about 10 minutes today hugging me over and over, to see if he could "make the hug stronger." There are worse ways to spend that time.
Jan. 6, 2012:
Me, while putting Max down for his nap: "Night night, buddy." Max, who's not fond of going down for his nap: "But I'll miss you, Daddy."
Oct. 12, 2011:
This is how I was woken up this morning - Max, shouting from his bedroom: "Hey Daddy! I hear whistling! It's BIRDS!!!" I can think of worse ways to be roused from sleep.
He doesn’t always know how funny he is
Like a lot of kids, Max is often funniest when he isn’t really in on the joke.
Sept. 6, 2011:
Max is reading Busy Town. Me: "Max, do you like your Richard Scarry book?" Max: "It's not scary, Daddy." Me: "Oh, you're right, it's not scary. But the person who wrote the book is a man named Richard Scarry." Max, with a look and tone of slight impatience: "Daddy, it's NOT scary."
Feb. 4, 2012:
Max fell down. Kate: “Max, what happened?” Max, crying a little: “I fell down.” Kate: “What did you hit?” Max: “The floor.” He didn’t like it when we both started laughing.
Sept. 18, 2011:
So the family is on our way home from apple picking this morning. We're passing by some farms, with the windows open, and it's fertilizer time. Max, though, has no clue what fertilizer is yet. Hence: "What's that smell, Mommy? Was that you or Daddy?"
Dec. 1, 2011:
So Max is riding in a car with his friend Ally, the daughter of friends of ours. There's a lot of chatter and Ally would like everyone to listen to her.
Ally: "Everyone pause!"
Max: "I don't have paws. I have foots."
Nov. 14, 2011:
Max and I are outside. He's sitting on the lawn with his back to me, poking something. Me: "Max, what are you touching?" Max: "Don't worry, Daddy. It's not poop." (it turned out to be a rock).
Nov. 6, 2011:
Max has some punch-out-and-stick letters. He and his mom were making a sign for a friend and had to punch out the holes in some letters, i.e. - "I'll punch out the O's hole." Max: "I'll punch out the A-hole."
Sept. 27, 2011:
Naturally, we're teaching Max good hygiene habits. However, today, hilariously but to my extreme embarrassment, Max took it upon himself to teach others at a Wal-Mart bathroom. Max, to the guy who was walking straight from a urinal to the door: "HEY! You have to wash your hands after you go potty!"
Sept. 13, 2011:
Max's sense of frankness and honesty can often reveal itself in hilariously inappropriate ways. Such as today, as he and I are on our way to a playground and pass a guy shooting hoops without a shirt on. Max (shouting loud enough for him to hear): "Hey, that guy has nipples!!!!"
July 21, 2011:
Proof you’ve got to be careful what you say around a 2-year-old. Max, shortly after successfully using the potty: “Daddy, I dropped a deuce!”
I told you he was smarter than me
Is there a non-clichéd way to say that my son is smart? Sorry, I’m not talented enough to figure out a clever way to describe my son’s intellect without bragging or without feeding you an eye-roll-worthy line.
So here are just a few examples that maybe will make you chuckle at the same time.
Jan. 4, 2012:
Max got a brand new giant fire truck for Christmas from his grandparents (thank you!). There's a switch that activates a flap. I couldn't figure it out.
Max: "I got it, Daddy."
And he did, activating the switch for me.
Max: "That's how you do it."
Dec. 8, 2011:
Max is walking around in circles. Me, hoping to find some larger meaning: "Max, what are you doing?" Max, after giving me a "duh" look: "I'm walking around in circles." Guess I deserved that.
Jan. 31, 2012:
Max was at his annual checkup today. He showed the pediatrician that he knows his right from left and correctly identified several letters in the alphabet, then went into funny mode and kept answering “A” for other letters, then laughing. Besides being super healthy, she labeled him “brilliant” and “awesome,” saying most 3-year-olds haven't grasped the abstract concept of playful fibbing for humorous effect.
March 28, 2012:
I'm not making this one up, I swear: Max and I are playing with some cars when Sadie the dog approaches. Me: "Look Max, Sadie wants to play with the cars too." Max: "She can't Daddy. She doesn't have opposable thumbs."
He’s not always fun
Like any parent, I know that my kid, while wonderful, is not perfect.
He can be frustrating, of course. He sometimes will take swings at us and can throw furious temper tantrums.
He’s already told me, out of anger, that he doesn’t love me.
When it happens, I know it’s just a part of being a kid and that I did the same thing to my parents.
But that knowledge doesn’t exactly make you feel any better when your kid has just popped you in the mouth (how ARE they so strong, anyway?), your eyes are watering with pain and you’ve just been told by the person you love most in the world that they don’t like you anymore.
It happens with Max, though thankfully with increasing infrequency.
My wife and I are expecting a little girl. The situation comes with the usual nerves and excitement that a new baby presents.
I’m not breaking any new ground here by saying that I can’t wait to meet this new person, but that I’m also nervous about trying to handle an infant while still dealing with a precocious 3-year-old and worried about how to afford food, clothes and college educations for both children.
Max has no such trepidation.
Perhaps my first indication came a year and a half ago, when we started trying to have a second baby. I asked Max, who was then just short of his second birthday, whether he might like to have a little brother or a little sister.
Max: “I want a lawnmower.”
Since then, thankfully, Max has decided he’d like to have a human being as his sibling rather than a garden tool.
My wife is due in a month or so and we’ve been training Max to be ready to be a big brother.
His reaction when we told him?
“Can I have a baby too?”
Tim Buckland is a staff reporter with the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester and a full-time dad. He moved to New Hampshire in 2009 when his wife graduated from law school and accepted a position with a Concord law firm. After a five-year hiatus from journalism, Tim joined the staff of the Union Leader in 2010. He lives in Concord with his wife, Kate, and son, Max.
Last updated by Parenting NH Administrator May 29, 2012.