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The Letter "F"

When I started writing this, the intent was never to use words starting with the same letter, but the LETTER "F" ended up being a very popular letter.  Hoping the readers can connect, learn and share and of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  It's a long one, but I believe, well worth the read...enjoy!

THE LETTER "F"

FATHERHOOD: 
Probably the most important title any man can ever hold: a position that influences the past, present and future, and a unique connection that only very few fortunate men are privileged to have. Being a father is not easy, and at times, stressful, tiring, and one-directional, but ultimately, a gift and loaded with responsibility.  Personally, knowing that I’ve created life and now have the opportunity to help shape and create a human being, who holds on to my every word and move, is an incredible challenge that I’ve welcomed and am excited to see how the future unfolds. The feeling felt, is one that can be talked about daily, but hard to have another man appreciate until, he too, goes through it. A really good friend of mine just recently told me he and his wife are expecting, and to him, and all other to-be dads: prepare yourself for the ride of your life. No matter how tight or secure the seat belt, you won’t be saved from the bumps, twists and turns, but at the end of the ride, you’ll remove the safety harness and walk away with one of the best experiences of your life.

FRIENDSHIP:
 
What many dads have a challenge with when they become fathers, is how their relationships change. This starts when they get married and continues to change as they have kids and get settled into their “new” life. This isn’t a bad thing, and even though tough to understand and appreciate, you’ll quickly appreciate your other “dad” friends as you have more in common with them. It doesn’t mean that “old” friends are gone, it just means that there will be a gap in understanding life now, and this may cause some friction, but can be easily resolved with some empathy. If not, you know the reality of your “dad” life is that time is precious and stressing about relationships with those who aren’t willing to understand, aren’t worth your time: as you get older, in general, your circle gets smaller – this is just how it is. Personally, I’ve had a tough time with this since I got married: first to marriage, first to have kids…now, many of my “boys” are going through it, but will never admit, as they don’t see it as change, but did when I went through it. That said, I wouldn’t have changed the timing for anything – the new friendships I’ve created with my children and spouse are worth a million others. You’ll also learn to realize that quantity is quickly replaced with quality, and this isn’t a direct shot at the people you’re friends with, rather, it’s referring to the benefit you receive (and vice versa) from the friendship. We all, ultimately, maintain any form of relationship because we get something out of it; so rather than focusing on befriending everyone, you start to focus in on those who are similar situations as you, and those who you feel you can learn from, yet you’re still able to provide enough value where they appreciate your presence.  But more than all that, it’s about creating an environment that’s meaningful to the kid(s) and through this, your network is refined.

FEAR:
The saying goes, “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself”…when you take a moment to understand this, it really resonates and changes how you approach “fear”. After becoming a father (or parent) your perspective on fear is not so much “fear of failure”, rather, it’s fear of being a bad parent, or role model; it’s fear of not being able to provide for your family and one day, not leaving enough behind to “reduce” the burden for your children.  But loop this back to the opening quote, “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself”…so for all you dads out there, trying to be perfect and not make a mistake: don’t stress it; we all do and will continue to make them. I’m reading The Secret, and the book is all about frame of mind and through the teachings in the book, you prepare your mind to only see success and positivity, and you learn how to ask and use the Universe you live in. By effectively doing this, your “fear” of fear, quickly dissipates and is overridden by your anxiousness to succeed and be the man you’ve always envisioned.  Fear can be treated as a challenge, one that you’ll lose if you let it get the best of you, but possibly overcome with some work and commitment. Throughout my life I’ve feared many things, and in fact, still greatly fear death.  Before becoming a DAD, fear of death was more selfish than it is now.  Amazing what the birth of a child can do to your perspective on why you fear something: now it’s because I don’t want to leave the world my kids live in, as I don’t want to miss out on their lives. By no means am I saying living without fear is easy or even possible, but changing how we approach these “fears” may enable us to achieve ultimate happiness.

FAMILY:
Personally, without family there’s nothing. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we think about, has an impact on family.  Let’s define “family”. For many, it’s their parents, kids, siblings…actually, that’s for most. But for a few, family is friends, colleagues, peers, and that’s perfectly fine. The lesson here is to ensure you treat them like a gift. You aren’t owed anything in this world, especially not good people to help you be great, but if you’re the one to take these relationships and people for granted, than don’t be surprised if you’re left feeling alone, without family, and therefore, left with an empty, potentially, purposeless, life. Family is a sensitive one: but if managed properly and equitably, by far, the best investment of time and love you will ever make. Knowing that anywhere you go, any time, you have people you can call, people you can write to, people you can lean on for support, and to be able to trust these people without the worry of them taking you for granted or judging you, is an absolutely incredible and fortunate feeling.  Cherish these relationships.  The evolution of family is also important to understand as it changes greatly over the course of ones life.  It’s also important to teach the right lessons regarding family, so that the kid(s) not only know who family is, but appreciate the depth of the relationship and how to forever be grateful for this, and through this teaching, it’ll turn them into better, more appreciative people, and the lesson will be shared for years to come.

FASHION: 
As a child, I got used to my mom dressing me (picture Steve Urkel: high pants, glasses, suspenders...yes, I was that kid), I didn’t really care much to stay “fashionable” or, didn’t really know what that meant.  As I got older and started to use a mirror, I figured my best option was to mirror what my friends would do/wear. Once I got into the working world and started to realize that you are constantly being judged, I started to care for my appearance a bit more. This isn’t to be misconstrued with me always caring about what people thought of me based on appearance (as fundamentally, I have an issue with this), but rather, the desire to express my passion for fashion and flare through my appearance. Some think that you have to have money to be fashionable: WRONG. I am addicted to clearance racks and compounding sales; I’m not about particular brands, rather, I’m motivated to buy based on price and appearance (yes, there’s a good chance some of the stuff you buy this way will be poor quality and won’t last long, but that’s okay). Now, especially after becoming a dad, and someone who’s in the corporate world, I’ve put more emphasis on my appearance and through this, I’ve become a more confident man. May sound off, but when you wear the role, you feel the role. Like anything, effort is rewarded, and lack thereof, is the opposite.  A challenge many of us have is time and cost. So, the lack of either one becomes pretty obvious in not only how you dress but how you act.  What helps me is learning to work with what I have. Relating this specifically to fashion, it forced me to be creative and bit more risky and once I committed to what I thought looked good, I let my “swagger” lead the charge.  This isn’t being cocky, it’s being comfortable - so if you want to rock some track pants and a hoodie with a backwards snap-back (LAAD obviously) then rock it! The key to fashion, especially after becoming a DAD is being comfortable, but kept.  Spending a few minutes to groom yourself and smell good goes a long way (that means you must shower!). My favourite part about fashion, is how personal it is, and like I said before: feel good in what you wear and make sure it shows through you, in more than just your clothes.  I’m happy to share all my fashion ideas/concepts and where I get what I get and how much I pay – it’s a lot of fun, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly people will take notice and want to follow suit. And yes: go get those funky socks…the more colour, the better!

FITNESS:
By far, the hardest thing, personally, to commit to. This is an issue for my wife as much as it is for me. My entire life I’ve been a very competitive and decently talented athlete.  I’ve always been in “acceptable” shape (no massive belly, reasonable weight and strength) but, and as we all know, as you get older, the body doesn’t stay as tight, food doesn’t digest as quickly, and recovery is slow. So we’ve made it a point to get motivated and focus more on our health.  This is not about seasonal diets: don’t waste your time doing this. Rather, change your lifestyle…and this goes back to my earlier points…really, everything I’m writing about has a connection to lifestyle. Fitness and health for most, starts in the kitchen. I love food, so initially, found this very hard; however, your passion and love for food only increases when you are a bit more particular about it. Also, you get creative and you look forward to cheat days. Fitness doesn’t mean going to the gym everyday, but there is a huge commitment from a mental bandwidth perspective. Falling off the tracks, sadly, is almost inevitable, but not all is lost if you can catch yourself quick enough and transition back into good habits.. Don’t let time be an issue: I go to the gym at midnight (so I sacrifice sleep). I do late nights because this is the only time I can go that doesn’t take away from work, my kids or my time with my wife: I can give a good/fair amount of time to each, and then “do me” by going to the gym and sleeping 2-3 hours less than most. Don’t get me wrong, sleep is very important, so work out a schedule that suits you. The key take away here is the desire to be better and to not look at it selfishly, because the motivation is now our kids; we all want to spend as much time with them as possible, and there’s no guarantee tomorrow will come, but with better health and habits, you’re in much better “shape” than most so if it does come, you’re ready. You don’t need to go far to find the right motivation; it’s right in front of you every day: it’s your life!

FOUNDATION:
Brick by brick…this is what we have to do…you can’t just throw up a house, you must build it. Parenting is all about laying the bricks…sometimes they’re misaligned, but nothing that’s irreparable so continue to lay them. A disservice to you and your family is to stop laying bricks or to stop because you feel you’re off track…without failure, no one ever succeeds. You have to fail so you know your own limitations and what needs work. Apply this logic to building the foundation you want for you and your family and stay committed to creating something incredible. We often equate success to wealth, and in many ways, that’s the only barometer to use. Society doesn’t help when it comes to this either: it continuously throws rich people in front of us and makes us salivate over their lifestyles, basically stating that if you don’t live like them, you’re not living. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being money motivated, in fact, you almost have to be in order to get to new levels in your career, but beyond money and wealth, there’s the purpose of why you want this. If you can define this early, then your ability to lay the right foundation and create the right path for your and your family becomes much easier. I mentioned The Secret, and again, it reinforces the concept of visualizing your successes before they’ve actually happened, and then the Universe through the “law of attraction” will naturally grant you this success (but the key here is to be clear, committed, and confident – no negative thoughts). Laying the right foundation not only helps you prepare you and your family for the future, but will very well set future generations on a path that every time they take a step, they’ll remember the legacy you created.

FAITH:
A big one in my books. Faith doesn’t necessarily mean religion, so let’s be clear about what the intent is with faith: to ensure that whatever you believe in, you believe in wholeheartedly and done in a way that bears no negative impact on others. This is a challenging thing to grasp, more so after kids. Growing up raised one way, and then having your own beliefs that have a bit of a contradiction on how you were raised, and now bringing up your own children in a similar manner, yet with your perspectives and bias’…as you can tell, it gets a bit convoluted. Of course, we all have our preferences and beliefs towards which religion or path is the right one or the most absolute, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to shun others. As our children grow older, they’ll get exposed to more and more, some good and some bad, and this is where your foundation is key: because you developed a strong one for them, and you’ve instilled certain values in your children, the faith in their decision making process and their own faith in themselves and the world, will make this process a bit easier. Personally, the best path is humanity: be a good person, don’t judge others, be righteous and truthful, be trustworthy and reliable, give often, love lots, hate none…following these tenets enable one to believe in the greater good, which gives them faith in people and themselves. These basic fundamentals, if planted correctly, empower people to make good decisions which are driven by their faith and beliefs.

FINANCE:
Probably the number one argument starter in every household. It’s a big deal: if you don’t have enough money, you worry about it and stress, and if you have too much, well, that’s a problem I haven’t faced and seems like a good problem to have if you approach it the right way. Money is not the fix to all problems (contrary to what many believe, especially those who don’t have “enough”), but it definitely eases some pressure and burden. Going back to previous comments, it’s about knowing what you want and how to get it; putting yourself on a path and understand the risks/reward from the journey you’re about to embark on. With finance/money, saying you want a million dollars is useless, but knowing why you want the million and how you can achieve it, enables you the opportunity to work towards it. To many who come to me asking for advice on financial hardship, I always try and flip it to look at the positive and then help them understand what more money will do but more importantly, how I believe they can get there. With family, money is a necessity: you have to feed mouths, clothe backs and enable habits/desires. Everything is controllable: remember, “stuff” doesn’t bring long-term happiness, experiences do. So if the intent to have more money is to buy you something temporary, your issue will never be resolved, but if it’s to create an experience with your family, then you’ll see that it’ll come easy and often.  A massive issue this generation has is learning to live within or below their means. We want more than the generations before us, and we want it faster. So we attempt to live this lifestyle which is premature to our demographic yet we are disappointed when we don’t achieve it immediately. Understanding the path and having patience are two very important, yet extremely difficult, facets to success in the world of finance and in life in general. This brings me to when the wife and I first got married and without sharing too many details, were literally left to $50/month of “spending cash”.  We were just getting our careers going, she had moved to Toronto from Los Angeles, we were renting an apartment in the city (which we assigned a high value to and was worth the spend).  What was incredible during this time was how quickly we adapted to not having money. Friday nights which most would spend on a night out, we played Scrabble and ate ice cream.  One of our biggest challenges was our inability to hang out with our friends often, as there was a cost to this (usually dinners/parties) and we’d always respectfully decline.  Our close friends knew our situation and were really supportive and this made it much easier for us. This is why I often revert back to committing to a path and focusing on the goal, because then you’re not as near-sighted and focus on long-term. In doing so, you involve your family more and your passion for the journey strengthens with every step, because of the profound impact it’ll have on everyone’s life. Being financially independent is everyone’s dream: and yes, getting there is an incredible feeling; so continue to work on the goal and the purpose, because the reward is more incredible than ever imagined (and you’ll be amazed that it may be a lot less than a million dollars).

 

You're in charge!

The wife had a conference in Keene, New Hampshire (I know...where?!?!)...so I had the option to keep both kids here in Toronto with me for the 3 days, or go with her and be on "Daddy duties"...either way, I'm taking time off - might as well get new scenery out of it.

Did someone say ROAD-TRIP? I can't complain...the kids were incredible.  Yasmin (9 month old) slept for most of the trip with the exception of 1 tantrum which required a u-turn to a local gas station in the middle of nowhere (of course I made the wife get out...) Ruqi (3 year old) was a saint...we introduced a DVD player to her, and she was on cloud 9...problem for the wife was that Ruqi has the attention span of a 3 year old..which means she had to keep changing dvd's every 20 minutes.  For any DADS who think 500 miles (800 KM) is an 8 hour drive with 2 kids (or any number of kids)...is sadly mistaken...it took us 10.5 hours...between 4 bladders and 4 appetites, we stopped every 2 hours.

Check in was smooth in a town where the population is 30,000 and people feel that driving 20 minutes to get somewhere requires planning...they've clearly never had to use the 401.  Wednesday morning came and Uzma got up, kissed me and the kids goodbye and off she went to her conference/course and I stayed lying with eyes wide open, trying to figure out what I'm going to do without a car, in a small town, for 8 hours until she returns...oh yes, with 2 kids, a double stroller and snacks...lots of snacks...if you can't entertain 'em, feed 'em.

To save everyone all the small details, it's safe to say I survived and really bonded with my girls.  Yes, there was a lot of yelling and chasing, and  a lot of, "what are you doing? Why did you do that? Did you just hit your sister? Can you please just brush your teeth!" but it was time that, in retrospect, I was so fortunate to have.  

During normal days, Ruqi is in full-day Daycare, and Yas is home with Uzma...so the fact that I had both, all day, was pretty incredible.  It helped that there were a few local parks within 10 minutes and an awesome Children's museum.  With the exception of a lunch-time tantrum (Yasmin) that the customers at Friendly's reacted quite the opposite, but more in a, "where's the mom" type of disbelief.  The staff on the other hand, felt horrible for me and started dancing for her while I scarfed down my lunch and Ruqi fell asleep while eating fries and colouring...DAD OF THE YEAR (the sandwich was delicious though).

One interesting experience was at dinner, once Uzma returned Wednesday evening, when Yasmin has turned herself around in the highchair at a restaurant and literally got stuck.  We were about 1 minute away from break the highchair, as we had to twist her body in a way that wasn't natural to get her out - this freaked us, and the restaurant staff, out!

This stage is so incredible. Yes, moving around with a relatively inaccessible town, was tough.  Yes, having 2 kids with different schedules and needs, but both being pretty dependent is tough. But with all that said, the ability to see the world through their lens for 3 days was an incredible experience.  Being the only caregiver (much to the confusion to many people) for these 3 days was amazing, as the girls needed me, and only me, for anything and everything, and as tough as this was, because it was a constant juggling act, it made me melt every time they stared into my eyes.  These are emotions that only people in the moment, can share, and I hope that those who haven't, get a chance to.

Now, the downside of being outnumbered is you let a lot go, as you have to pick and choose your battles.  Biggest word of advise: BE FLEXIBLE! If you're strict about schedule, than you're preparing yourself for hell - IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.  Be flexible, roll with the punches, let it go...whatever, just enjoy the moment and don't stress the small stuff (definitely easier said than done, but it works...trust me).

Three 8 hour days with the both of them felt like one month of work as a construction worker...physically draining, but amazing when you see the final result.

Would love to hear your stories about traveling with the kiddos and specifically, DADS being left for a while with them and how they coped, what they did, and what they learned.

 

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