EXHAUSTED KIDS ARE BASICALLY LIKE NORMAL ADULTS

“Nooo daddy! … I don’t want to!” Then a small flail of her tiny frame. A convulsion that seemed like a tiny cute demon was on that bed and not my sweet Margot. I almost lost my cool. I came so close to getting upset at her for not going to bed quietly like I’d hoped that she would. Today was a great day. Every aspect of it was exactly as it should have been. Except for one little detail - Margot clearly needed a nap, but refused to rest. And as we inched closer to bedtime, that exhaustion was leaking out of her. Yelling that a random book be pulled off her shelf, bargaining to stay up later… all the usual things. For that brief moment I forgot that exhaustion was the reason she was acting as she was at bed time, and candidly neither her nor I both were operating from a place of rest.

The thing is - Margot is all of us. And we are all her. We move through our day/week/year/life and we think that there’s so much we have to see and do. So much that we have to fit in. It’s like we are slaves to FOMO. To keeping up. Maximizing our hustle. And the harder we try to do it all and avoid what our bodies and perhaps those around us are saying… we push ourselves to a place of exhaustion. The reason that’s dangerous is not simply for exhaustion’s sake. It’s because when we operate from that place, we will inevitably make choices that are less discerning than they probably would be otherwise. We get worked up over trivial things, and the things that are actually important can be lost by our exhaustion-induced tunnel vision for that which is insignificant yet shiny or impulsive.

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I think we all go through this at various moments in life. And that’s okay. What’s not okay is to allow that to become our acceptable mode of long-term operation. Here are my quick thoughts, for whatever they are worth, on how to pull out of this exhaustive slump.

1 - Zoom out.

Take a moment of pause every so often and attempt to view yourself from an outsider’s perspective. How are you conducting yourself? What are your life rhythms? What do you actually say you want to accomplish with your day/week/year? It’s called a fearless moral inventory. And it’s crucial.

2 - Good is the enemy of best.

Anytime we are willing to do something in the moment because it seems/feels “good”, chances are it may very well be distracting us from what is ultimately best for us. That could be an impulse purchase, an abuse of a substance, or you name it. The challenge is to be willing to endure the momentary pain of saying no — which I venture to say is something few of us are good at these days. In a culture where following your heart is in vogue, saying no is like a wildly foreign concept. But if you’ve done an effective job of zooming out and understanding yourself - it’ll be much easier to know what you should say no to.

3 - Seek sound wisdom.

My job as Margot’s dad is to watch over her and do what I know is best for her. To guide her. To lovingly come alongside her. Somehow as we become adults, we easily forget the importance of the reality that there is safety in a multitude of counsel. Find that person or persons who are further down the road than you… that have a degree of genuine wisdom… and be intentional about creating space for them to tell you when you just need to freakin’ go to bed!

As cliche’ as it sounds, this thing is a marathon, not a sprint. Margot’s not the only one who gets exhausted — we all do. Cheers, dear ones.

COFFEE HANGS

Margot and I have a weekly tradition of going to Kettner Coffee since our friend owns it and it’s just a few minutes from the house. We sit and eat icecream, read a book from the book store next door, and play on our reading app. It’s a highlight of the week. Here are a few images that were captured by Katie that give a glimpse into these moments.

(Tap/swipe your way through the photos.)

EMOTIONS ARE GOOD. NO REALLY, THEY ARE.

We’ve been programmed through Western thought to believe that emotions are a thing to be either suppressed or only engaged with if it’s an emotion that we deem is “good” — i.e. joy or happiness. But one thing I’m re-learning for myself as I teach Margot how to engage with her emotions is this: we are hard-wired with emotions for a reason, there is no such thing as a “bad” emotion, and it’s always how we respond to those feels that makes the difference.

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Margot is nearly three and is in the throws of having all the feels all the time. And there isn’t a face on the earth that’s cuter than hers, even during a tiny melt-down. But what I’ve seen parents often do, and what I myself am tempted to do, is if it’s an emotional response that I find inconvenient, I try to squash, distract, or otherwise wiggle her and I out of that moment without actually processing through it with her and using it as a teachable moment. Here’s the thing:

Emotions properly applied and interpreted reveal what our heart’s response is to a situation. And when we learn how to mine out those depths of our hearts, we become more empathetic, attuned, and a wiser human. If Margot has a meltdown — i.e. not wanting to leave the coffee shop when it’s time to go — that meltdown is a primal response to what she is cognitively believing internally. (We ALL do this.) What she is believing could be any number of things, from “we’ll never come back" to “this book on foxes is more important than getting lunch.” The thought behind the emotion could be valid, or it could be false — but if we never actually address that underlying thought — if I teach her that we don’t actually try to understand those big feelings and process through it — I will instead be teaching her to shut down those emotions and actually do damage by making her senses dull to the depths of her own heart!

I believe we tend to shut things down because we think certain emotions like fear or sorrow are signs of weakness. The reality is, it’s not weak to engage with your own heart. That takes incredible bravery. Imagine an artist who is incapable of understanding and creating from that deep place. Or a scientist who doesn’t actually understand the formulas required to achieve a desired reaction. The more we acknowledge, understand, and respond to the things happening inside, the better we are as humans. It’s what I want for Margot, and for all the rest of us. So I’m working to give myself more grace, Margot more grace, and those around us more grace — and actually understand what’s happening inside that moment of emotion.

Simply put: Let’s have enough courage to feel all the feels, dear ones.

WE ALL JUST WANT TO BE NOTICED

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Margot is two and a half. And she is absolutely the sweetest two and a half year old one could hope to parent. I don’t want to jinx things, but she listens extremely well, she behaves but is still being curious and fiery, she can hang with kids her age at the play place or with me sitting in a hip coffee shop coloring while dada works. I’ve even taken her with me to WeWork and she’s stolen the show and everyone wants to stop and talk to her. But there’s this one thing that happens…

We’ll be at the coffee shop or at WeWork — and there are moments when no matter how good the activity that I’ve provided her, or even if I’ve given in and let her watch an episode of “Word Party” or “PJ Masks” on my phone… those distractions aren’t good enough. She grows discontent with that thing in front of her and wants my attention. She’ll start by asking me a question or just poking me a little… something very mild. And if she doesn’t get the desired reaction, (aka my undivided attention) she’ll resort to either doubling down on the effort, or often she’ll simply try to climb on my lap. And when that happens — that moment when she crawls up on my lap and burries herself in my arms — that it all makes sense. She’s my tiny human. And no matter how important the work is in front of me, I have to pause and remind her that she is what’s most important to dada. The reality is - Margot Eloise Pringle is just doing what each and every one of us still do as adults.

We all just want to know that we are valued and cared for and that we matter to the people we love… the people in which we find our security. And just like Margot, we can get by with other distractions for a while! Replace crayolas and construction paper with shopping. Replace sippy cups of apple juice with a cocktail glass. — We all have mechanisms that are used to keep us busy and distracted. But at some point, those things just aren’t good enough. Because we’re hard-wired for relationship. For human connectivity. We all want to turn our eyes to that person we love and ask, “Hey, do you know I’m still here and do you really care?” And not only that, each of us find ourselves in both roles. Sometimes we are the one who craves a little attention and affirmation. Other moments we’re the one whose task is to liberally give that attention and affirmation to someone else.

The longer I parent, the more I realize that we are all the exact same. Whether two or two hundred… we have the exact same basic needs. And all that it takes is for each of us to be vulnerable enough to own both roles. The more we are willing to take pause and do just that, the better it gets for us all. A rising tide raises all ships. Let’s love those that need it, and be willing to say when we need it too.

Cheers, dear ones.

OREGON HOLIDAY

This December my heart was full after taking Margot to Oregon with me to enjoy a week with my family. We stayed at Bar M Ranch - a dude ranch that was once a regular stop for Stagecoaches, and who’s guest list has names like Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover in their logs. It was perfect. Here is a visualization from that time.

BATH TIME AND PATIENCE

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99% of the time Margot is the sweetest little gem of a tiny human. She’s gentle, full of joy, and carries a warm presence in her that makes me wonder how I’m the lucky one who gets to be her dad. Then there is that other one percent of the time when there are screams that sound as though they’re billowing from the black lungs of the devil himself. And nearly all of those times are connected to one regular occurrence: BATH TIME. Not even all of bath time. Most of her time splashing around is equally joyous. But when it’s time for her head and hair to meet that bathwater, all hell breaks lose. Last week we were right on the edge of that moment… bath time was in full swing, and it was time to wash her hair. It felt like that moment in Lord of the Rings before the epic battle for all of humanity.

But this time, it was different.

Normally I just take a deep breath, brace for the inevitable, and wash by force. This time, I paused. This time, while sitting on my knees at the edge of the tub, eye to eye, I told Margot it was almost time to wash her hair. She contested. Of course she did! I was compromising her sense of security and challenging what was comfortable for her. So this time I changed the play. I took her wet, pruney little hand in mine and said, “Margot, you know daddy loves you?” She nodded and said she loves dada too! — “And you know you’re safe with dada?” — She nodded. — “You know what, I know you don’t like water on your hair or in your face… but watch dada!” — And I tipped my head forward and poured water on my head and down my face. I then handed her the cup and said, “Go ahead, pour some water on dada’s face!” And she gleefully obliged. I laughed and talked about how the water tickled and she laughed too and told me I was silly. We continued this for a moment, then I took the cup and said, “Feel how it tickles!” And gently poured just a little water on the back of her head. She nervously laughed, but by the end of that bath, her head was clean, and we went from a moment of nervousness on the brink of chaos, to a moment of peace and trust. And also a clean kid.

See Margot Eloise didn’t actually have a problem with her hair getting washed. What she would bellow over was the fear of the unknown, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. And in those moments of complete vulnerability, she needed to know that everything was going to be okay. And not only that — if it was okay this time, it’ll probably be okay next time as well. It paved the way for a better tomorrow, because trust had been enriched rather than challenged.

I’d dare say that this is a pretty accurate picture of every one of us. We all want to know that we are safe, and that those closest can be trusted when we’re in a vulnerable state and we fear the worst. Conversely, we all have moments when we are confronting those we care for with a challenging scenario. What I’m reminded of is this: we all require an extra measure patience and love. I could have forcibly exercised my will versus Margot’s. And we know how that would have gone. But by humbling myself to the point of entering the moment with her — water down my own face — I showed her that I understand, that she is safe to trust me, and that I’m not above entering her world and her mess. Whew… if we could all be willing to do that for one-another.

I don’t know where you find yourself today — in the bath or bathing someone else. Possibly (probably) a little of both. But what I can say is — take a deep breath, go hand-in-hand, and it’ll be worth the effort. The only other options are clean but chaotic, or to just remain dirty and unattended.

Let’s double dose our patience and love, dear ones. It’s worth it for a better tomorrow.

COPARENTING AND THE NATURE OF RELATIONSHIPS

HOW TO NAVIGATE CO-RAISING A CHILD WHEN YOU CAN BARELY HOLD A CONVERSATION WITH THAT PERSON, AND WHAT IT ULTIMATELY MEANS FOR ALL OF US AND THE RELATIONSHIPS WE FOSTER

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This one sucks. Just being real. It sucks because there is nothing in the world that I would want more for Margot than for her to have love and respect modeled for her by the two people she cares the most about. It sucks because it represents an ongoing tension that doesn't have a clear expiration date or hope for reconciliation. And it sucks because what's at stake is the holistic well being of the sweetest tiny human to ever walk the planet. But it's real. And I've had enough others mention the same tension that I think someone should say something about it. Not only is it real life for co-parenting, I think it holds a few truths about the nature of all the relationships we foster -- whether it be a significant other or just a friendship. Here's one key that I'm learning and re-learning...

LET GO

Duh. Of course. That's something we all talk about... letting go... moving on... etc... but how do you let go when you still have to engage with that other person constantly? How do you heal? How do you reach a place of personal freedom and release when the "go" part is impossible and you know that they'll actually "stay" a part of your life? Answer: you release your personal expectation of them, not the human themselves. We all carry a set of expectations into just about every relationship we have. And that's not inherently a bad thing. Expectations are simply what we believe will transpire based on our previous history or knowledge of that person or circumstance. It's a tool that we employ without even realizing we're doing it. And we employ it because it is a form of self-protection. It's saying, "I know I am safe because my history with this person is safe", or conversely, "I must keep my guard up because my history with this person is volatile." The darker side of having expectations is this: it leverages the past to determine our posture towards that other person in a way that might not actually be helpful in the present. For me and my ex, there is a lot of lingering pain, even these years later. I hurt her deeply, and she has hurt me as well. And even still there are verbal arrows that are fired. What I cannot change is our history. But I do have complete power over today and the current moment. If I don't let go of my expectation (that the interaction will be difficult and I'll have to dodge verbal arrows), it might just hijack everything. The more I'm able to release any expectation of how I think we "should" interact, the more I am free to treat her with respect and engage from a healthier posture. I believe this is true with every meaningful relationship we have. There are seasons where things are great, and there are seasons that are challenging. The only way to make it through is to let go. And when a tiny human is watching and listening, I'd sure better take it seriously.

Here's how I release expectation and "let go". I take a moment to pause and reflect on what I know to be true about the nature of our dynamic. I don't dwell on what I wish it were, I simply acknowledge what it really is. I then ask myself if I want to allow that narrative to continue, or do I want to create a new narrative? And if it's a new narrative, what must I do differently to see that come to life. Some things might include not responding if verbal arrows are hurled. Or perhaps it's choosing to say something kind, or, just not say anything at all and simply carry a spirit of peace. After I take this moment and make this mental shift, I pause to express thanks for what is good. MARGOT is good. There is much about LIFE that is good. The neuroscientific research behind what our brains do when we are grateful is pretty incredible. It releases "happy chemicals", and it causes our brains to fire. And they say "what fires wires"  -- in other words, the more we exercise certain parts of our brain, the more natural it becomes to do that, and the more it becomes our norm. When we choose to let go and when we choose a better way, it rewires us for better outcomes in the future as well. 

Life is hard. Relationships can be too. But the choices we make today will affect our right now, as well as our tomorrow. Cheers to making good ones and loving well, dear ones.

FOSTERING CURIOSITY

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There are so many qualities I hope to foster and encourage in Margot. Gentleness, kindness, peacefulness, joy... you get the idea. But one thing that I think is incredibly important and often lost in an age of divisiveness and things like social media bickering is curiosity. To me, curiosity is a humble desire to say, "I don't know everything, and I actually WANT to understand, enter in, and explore the mysterious and that which is personally uncomfortable." From people to places, I desire that she would be the kind of soul that would rather look wide-eyed at the world and learn than assume she has nothing to gain from that posture. So here's what I'm practicing right now to encourage and foster her curious heart -- and perhaps they're things we should do for one-another as well.

CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT

An environment that feels threatening or unsafe means she'll be primarily worried about protecting herself. And while self-preservation and curiosity may not be mutually-exclusive, they equally don't go hand-in-hand. That is to say - if she's worried about protecting her most basic sense of safety, she won't have the mental or emotional freedom to look beyond herself. To be clear, this is not a "safe zone" in the current socio-political sense that I'm fostering her to be incapable of having tough conversations lest her feels get hurt, this is the opposite of that. This is helping her to know that differences are actually a natural part of the human experience and it's how we choose to engage with it all that makes the difference. How does one achieve this? It's the little things. Like holding her close and squeezing her (communicating physical safety and security), and not over-reacting when she misbehaves, and even modeling it for her in how I interact with those around me (emotional safety and security).

ENCOURAGE QUESTIONING

I am a firm believer in at least two layers of questioning. In other words - what's the question behind the question? Going a layer deeper than whatever lies on the surface or just below it. I've found that's where wisdom and understanding begin -- when those deeper questions are asked and answered. And the best thing I can do for Margot is help her navigate and explore her questions as she begins to form them. Yes, she's only two - but it starts now. Example: when someone's a jerk -- it's not enough to say, "What's their problem?!" Perhaps a more powerful question would be, "What has led them to a place where they are operating from a place of hurt?" and then we could even get crazy and ask, "What could I do to be an agent of healing in their life?" 

DISPLAY HUMILITY

Ego and curiosity cannot coexist. Or at least that's my opinion on the matter. Humility is a sense of honest self-reflection, and then responding in like form to the people and circumstances that happen in each moment of life. It's releasing personal agenda. It's a jrejection of pride. And it's only when I release personal agenda that I'm able to engage with curiosity, and teach Margot to do the same.

You might notice that this particular music uses the personal pronoun "I" quite frequently. That's because if fostering curiosity in Margot will ever be a real thing -- it will first happen because she sees it in me. And my hope is that she'll see it in you too. (Assuming you know her? Okay whatever. I'll stop.) Cheers, dear ones.

WHAT YOUR CHILD REALLY NEEDS

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America. Land of the free, home of the consumer. If there is one thing that I believe humanity-future will have to say about humanity-present, it's that this is the age of mass consumption. It's an unprecedented amount of food we eat, entertainment and media we take in, and STUFF that we purchase. Sure, there are now simple living movements popping up all around us, but by-and-large we are still consuming at an astronomical rate. And I believe all this consumption has led to a parenting lie that is not only incorrect, it's toxic. It's this: "I love my child, so I want them to have everything, and the best of it." Simply put: I would respond by saying, "I love my my child, and she doesn't need more stuff and the best of it, she just needs more ME and the best of ME."

I often feel a tension to buy Margot more stuff. Sometimes it's rooted in a genuine desire to bring a smile to her face -- like a new toy I know she'll love. Then sometimes it's to bring a smile to mine -- like dressing her in a super cute outfit. I'd say that this battle of genuine expressions of love vs. sneaky self-serving motivations are at play in all of us.

This weekend was Margot's birthday. She turned two years old, and I'm absolutely blown away at how fast time slips away. If there is ever a time when this inner battle of consumerism rages, it's holidays and birthdays. The irony of that statement -- that time moves fast -- is that my time is also the most precious gift I can actually give my daughter. She won't necessarily every toy I purchase for her. She will remember the moments we spend laying on a blanket in the park pointing at trees and birds and clouds and how it makes her feel safe and secure and teach her to slow down and be inquisitive. Another stuffed animal will not teach Margot what empathy and love is to look and feel like. That's my job. The only way I do that effectively is by giving myself to her. Giving my attention to her. Giving her my T-I-M-E. and not just my time, but give her the best of me.

Do I want "more" and "best" for Margot? Absolutely. But if more and best are not tied to the most fundamental parts of being a good father -- it's not actually best, it's just more, and it's probably actually worse.

Let's not just GIVE more and best, let's BE more and best. Cheers, dear ones.

HIPSTER DADS AND THE "COOL" MYTH

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So here's something that will probably be a shocker: I get labeled as a "hipster". I know... it's mind-blowing, right?! And what I find so interesting is the intersection of things that are typically associated with this subset of society and what it means to be a good dad. Hipsters are often seen (incorrectly so, mind you) as vapid, aloof, and image-conscious... whereas fatherhood is transcendent, focused, and selfless. And even on my own Instagram account the photos seemingly dance a line between these worlds. But here's the reality that I know, and with which I'll encourage any other new parent out there: none of us are actually cool, and there is nothing cooler than being whatever your tiny human needs, and that also applies to every other person we meet.

There once was a time where if you took a look at my most played songs in iTunes, you'd see a litany of great bands. Now don't get me wrong, I still love great music and listen to it regularly. But the top album that is played on the reg' these days is Disney's Moana Soundtrack. And even worse: if I'm being honest, I'll conceded that the song "How Far I'll Go" is hot fire, and it may have drawn tears out of my eyes a few times. Need a deeper confession? Okay fine... any time this track comes on while Margot is riding in that back seat, I immediately jump to a falsetto karaoke voice, incorporating dance moves and dramatic facial expressions, and the people next to me at the stoplight are left gawking and asking, "What in the world is that dude in the wide-brimmed fedora doing dancing in his car to Disney ballads?!" Well I have an answer for them: I'm doing literally whatever it takes to make Margot crack a smile. Because her joy gives me joy.

Here's the part where I share the nugget of truth inside that parenting snapshot:

The reward of humility and surrender is joy. 

See, the moments when I'm willing to set aside "my agenda" (i.e. not listening to that hot new Childish Gambino track and instead spinning Moana yet again,) are the moments when I see my daughter light up. And I'd say this applies to almost every interaction and circumstance we experience in our lives. Here's why: when we surrender our will and our "rights" for the sake of someone else, we're telling that person that they matter. And we all want to know that we matter! And when we surrender our will for the sake of someone else, we are also reminding ourselves that the "thing" we're giving up has no power over us, and that people are more important than the things we otherwise allow to define us. Perhaps you're saying, "But Micah, I get it when you're talking about your daughter... but what about other grown adults? I'm not gonna surrender my will for my difficult neighbor or coworker, because they're selfish and have their own agenda and I refuse to be used or walked all over!" To that, here is my reply: I feel ya. It can be tough when you wonder (or sometimes outright KNOW) that someone might be trying to take advantage of you. But I'm not going to allow someone else's selfishness to hijack my generosity. If I choose to be generous and set aside my will, I will do it with wisdom and discretion, but I will also do it with abundant consistency. 

I know, I know... we just went down the rabbit hole. But that's what happens when you pair an existential hipster with a hot fire Disney ballad! I'll shut up now. Today we all have a choice - we can choose ourselves and our agenda. Or we can choose one-another. I propose we employ the lesson that Margot keeps re-teaching me, and we choose one-another. Because the reward of humility and surrender is joy.

JACKSONVILLE FL

A snapshot into our week in North FL

HOW TO FLY WITH AN INFANT

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Air travel with an infant: it's no big deal. Just go do it and stop worrying!

There are a few locations that infants (anyone under two years old) are extremely unwelcome according to societal standards. It's possible that none are as treacherous as airplanes. And I totally get it, because I've been that guy. The guy who is sitting on my flight with my Macbook open, in-flight cocktail in hand, muttering about the kid in the seat behind me and wishing they'd just control that kid already so my flight can be a peaceful one. (Translation: I was a non-empathetic jerk.) And it is that kind of sentiment that often make parents think twice before booking that plane ticket to jet off on an adventure with their little one. BUT... after traveling with Margot when she was only a few weeks old, and now when she's nearly two and can speak her mind... I'm here to preach the gospel on how to navigate the airspace with a youngin'. So... here are my top three tips:

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1 - Stay calm.

Seriously... For the love... don't get stressed out. Vibes translate into vibes. What I mean by that is -- if you keep it cool and level headed, you project that to those around you and they'll typically follow suit. If you act frazzled and overwhelmed, the folks around you are going to inherently think, "oh crap... this parent is a hot mess and this flight is gonna be a struggle bus." The rule of first impressions has never been more true than how you carry yourself with that kiddo onto the plane. Not only that, there are numerous studies that reveal our kiddos often reflect the energy we project. So... want a calm kiddo? Want calm co-flyers? Be calm. Smile. Take a deep breath. It really will be okay!!
 

2 - Take full advantage of the free stuff. 

Most airlines offer a handful of hook-ups when traveling with an infant. Examples include seat upgrades and often kid-gear can be used as checked baggage for free (like strollers or car seats). A quick phone call or search can verify the details on baggage, and the rest is usually done through a little sweet talking once at the ticketing counter. (For seat upgrades just point out you don't want to inconvenience other flyers by climbing over them to take your munchkin to the bathroom multiple times during the flight, and smile when you say it, and they'll most likely give you that isle seat! Also: two year old kids love to play with the window shades... so you can opt to sit at the window, but prepare for that mini-battle.)

3 - Pack smart, pack light.
There's a propensity to want to pack for every possible scenario... and old wisdom would tell you to do just that. I tend to somewhat disagree. When I pack, I try to pack light, because you'll have to carry all that crap AND your kiddo through the airport... so don't load yourself down! When packing smart, I think/pack in three stages: 1 - Checked luggage. This bag gets the stuff that I know we won't need till we arrive at our destination. 2 - Carry-on luggage. This is (obviously) your typical midsize bag packed full of anything we might need while waiting in the airport.  3 - Seat-stow luggage. Now this is where it counts! I have a small pouch (actually a Utility pouch from Treason) and in that pouch I pack a two diapers, a ziplock bag of wipes, a tide to-go pen, a notepad and pen, a snack, a mini-bottle of cologne, and a phone battery backup charger. As soon as I board, I pull out the utility pouch and put it in the seat before stowing my carry-on bag. This way if Margot needs a diaper change or anything else, I have the essentials right at my finger tips and I don't have to go digging around in my bag mid-flight.

Flying with a munchkin is honestly not nearly as scary as some would think it is. And the reality is, even if your little one is an absolute terror on that flight... who cares!? Seriously... as crass as this might sound: you'll never see any of those people again, and everyone arrived in one piece. They'll spend thirty seconds talking to their friend about how a kid was crying for most of the flight, then everyone will move on with their life.

So get out there. Enjoy life. Take that flight, and make those memories. It's worth the effort.

Cheers, dear ones.

DADS ARE NOT IDIOTS

FATHERS AREN'T INCOMPETENT NEANDERTHALS

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Like, really! I remember growing up watching sitcoms on TV (think "Home Improvement" with Tim the Tool-Man Taylor) and my dad would quietly grumble about nearly any character that was a dad. He'd mutter his disapproval of the portrayal that dads are often incapable of functioning inside the economics of the home. You know... things like making a good dinner, changing a diaper, or providing nurturing care of their children. Instead it'd be absurd portrayals of dads using welding torches to cook a chicken and being disrespected by their kids.

I never really understood my dad's gripe -- until now. Funny how becoming a dad can do that so quickly. 

I'm the oldest child in a family of six. Yeah, you heard that right... SIX! Growing up we had a lively household where there was always something happening. Never a dull moment. And as the oldest, I was dubbed with two nicknames: "The Dictator" and "Mister Mom". Both were because I became incredibly good at giving orders to my younger siblings (with painful consequences for disobedience... which I'm not proud of) and also good at all the stuff most folks learn in their home economics class. (Is that still a thing? Is there a home ec class anymore??) You know -- making dinner. Doing laundry correctly. Changing a diaper. Being empathetic when a knee is scraped. 

So my gripe is two-fold:

1 - Shame on culture shapers for setting a precedent that men are inept.
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2 - Shame on men for playing in to this narrative and using it as license to be lazy and/or act like neanderthals.

Not much can be done about the portrayal of Tim Taylor. But what I can do -- and you can too -- is to choose a different narrative. I think the current narrative is played in to because it's convenient. It leaves men in a posture of getting a pass on things like empathetic engagement (being gentle and kind with significant others and children), expressing care and support through making dinner, or being lazy by saying "I'm not good at baby stuff like diaper changing". And what's worse is when we choose to use this narrative as license, it inadvertently accomplishes something else that we as men completely hate. It breeds disrespect from others. Men love respect! So isn't it ironic that we'd say with our actions, "let me pretend like I can't be mister mom and let me act like a boy by using a flame thrower to grill a turkey" but then our next breath demands respect?? It's nearly laughable. (I know -- I'm using strong statements. That's on purpose.) 

So -- change let's the narrative. Be the dad that not only supports their child financially, but emotionally. Be a humble beast. Be the dad that shows care and fortitude by being a freakin diaper pro.

Just today I had Margot's poop on my shirt, cleaned while attending to her needs and holding her in my arm, and managed to get her fed, cleaned, and all our stuff loaded in the car and out the door on time. And it was the most manly thing I'll do all day. I'm not Tim Taylor... I'm Micah. And I'll wear that poop like a badge of honor. (Metaphorically of course.... I took a shower, y'all.) 

Fathers are not idiots. Let's choose a better narrative. Cheers, dear ones.

SINGLE FATHERHOOD

THE CURSE OF SPLIT HOLIDAYS

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This one stings. Many who read this don't know much about my story, and that will largely be saved for another day. Margot's mamma and myself are not together. And if there is one thing that no one can accurately prepare you for when it comes to co-parenting, it's holidays. Holidays take on a new shape and a new flavor when you now have the looming question of whether they will be spent with that precious tiny human, or spent apart. They can go from the sweetest moments with those you hold dear, to being apart from that one little person who somehow holds the keys to your heart. You're left wondering what they're doing, what their holiday outfit looks like, and wishing you could scoop them up and, in this case, help them chow down on a couple of disgusting peeps then run around the lawn on a sugar high.

Up to this point, I have not spent a single major holiday with Margot. She has always been with her mother for them. To be clear - I've allowed this to happen. (Allowed is such a strange word to use there. Agreed? Permissed? Nothing really works because it all sucks. Real bad.) The best I've been afforded is moments of Facetime with her, playing peek-a-boo through the phone and drawing pictures of shapes and mountains on my tablet and holding my phone above it so she can watch as she tells me what colors to use. (Which is usually pink or purple.) 

It can feel suffocating. Downright hell. To be apart and left wishing. To feel distant and wish I were squeezing her till she squeals. It can be crippling! But the key word is CAN. Because the only way it happens is if I allow it to be that way. What I mean is this:

Our moments are only what we choose to make of them.

If I choose to focus on things I cannot change, it will always leave me feeling powerless. But the reality is -- I am not. And neither are you. I have the choice of how to filter those moments. Rather than longing for her physical presence, I can choose to find peace in knowing she is loved and cared for by both me and her mother. Rather than selfishly wish I always had things "my way" I can release that and recognize that while I don't have her next to me this exact moment, I will see her very soon -- and she will know how much she is loved by the way I display it in THAT moment. 

A book I've been reading describes it as this: you have the choice between two postures: that of a victim, or that of a creator. I can choose to posture myself as a victim. A victim of circumstance... of a failed marriage... of the pain of distance from those I love... the list is endless. OR I can choose to change my mindset and set my mind on a better outcome and a future vision. I am not a victim of a calendar day where I'm not with my daughter. I'm the creator of a better tomorrow when I AM with her. That small shift in my mindset is the linchpin for a cascade of empowerment. A catalyst for living from a place of passion. And that passion translates into fuel for actions.

Single fatherhood can really suck. But only if I choose that posture. Whatever YOUR circumstance is might also really suck -- but only if you choose that posture. Perhaps it's time we all choose to create together. 

Cheers, dear ones.

PATIENCE FEELS GOOD

We all have our triggers. One of Margot's triggers is if I dare to give her regular shredded wheat as a snack instead of FROSTED shredded wheat.

HOW DARE I.

She literally turns the little wheat cubes over and over to inspect for frosting... and if' it's nowhere to be found, brace for an onslaught of high-pitched Margot tones accompanied by some serious water works.

But here's the thing -- I love those moments. They don't stress me out. Because then I get to kneel down next to her and take the cereal out of her tiny fingers and wrap my hands around hers. And then I get to gently hum and whisper to her and tell her it's going to be okay, and wipe that salt out of the corners of her eyes, and assure her that she's okay and that she is so loved.

In those moments there's something amazing that happens... and if feels really really good... she responds to my calmness by calming down herself. She quiets for a moment, and then she looks up at me and says, "nooose" and touches the tip of my nose. And then I hug her, and she hugs me, and all that brain science kicks in and her and I both know there is safety and love here. 

I'm a firm believer that the best response to crazy is not crazy in return. It's peace, love, hope, joy... all the things we really want deep down. I often say that "good leadership brings peace to chaos", and in like fashion -- good relationship does the same. It's never about that bit of cereal... it's about that person holding it. Whatever the issue is that arises for you today, dear ones, remember that patience feels good when it's taken it's affect. It might take a little longer in your circumstance than it does with my tiny one and her cereal woes... but it happens, and it's totally worth it.

Patience feels good.

LET HER LEARN

I'm regularly amazed at how often folks comment on Margot's spry little self. Quips like, "She's so tiny but she sure is agile!" And while I suppose it's possible she is just plain gifted and has a future as an Olympian, I think the actual reason she's so spry and daring and coordinated and just plain sharp is -- I let her learn. And so does her mamma. What that means is -- she's given the room to explore, get bumps and bruises, and get dirt under her tiny perfect fingernails. It's actually an amazing thing to watch, and it's teaching her not only about the world around her, but teaching ME so much about myself too. It's a regular reminder that the only way I'll learn is by risking failure. Risking falling flat on my face every now and then. And that typically it happens right at the moment when I'd least expect it. It's a reminder that we're all incredibly vulnerable, and we all need someone to pick us up and dust us off and remind us we're immensely loved and it'll be okay and we'll get it next time. 

I plan to continue letting her learn. Because the only other option doesn't lead to a life of fullness and exploration. And really who wants a life without those things?

THEN SHE HUGGED ME

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I used to call her the tiny terrorist. Because when I found out I was going to be a father, it meant that my life was about to be overtaken and interrupted by someone who was uninvited. It meant I wasn't going to get to hop on a plane to Iceland, and then hop another plane to Nepal. Because that's when Margot Eloise Pringle was going to make her grand appearance. And when she was born, there was nothing that could have prepared my heart for the hijacking that was about to take place. You see -- I was the guy who wasn't kid averse. (I'm the oldest of six! I've been around kids my whole life.) It's more just that I had a comfortable lifestyle that would be inhibited if a tiny human came in to the picture. But the interesting thing about it is, once that tiny human arrived, and now that she's old enough to throw her sweet little arms around my neck and squeal "daddy!", it's all worth it. Here are a few lessons I've learned from being a father thus far:

1 - Your life doesn't end, it grows more rich and meaningful. // It's true. It's cliche, but screw it. It's true. Life takes on a whole new perspective and there's a care and an empathy that one develops when they have the responsibility to now see everything through not just their own lens, but the lens of such an innocent soul. I think it's because you now have to actually take time to explain and engage with the world around you on their behalf, when before, I was too busy and distracted to often see what was right in front of me.

2 - Your activities don't have to cease. // You can still be you. Do you love hiking? Cool. You can still hike. Do you enjoy traveling? Cool. Go do it. It's really not as complicated as it's made out to be. Sure, it requires more forethought and planning. But a little one does NOT necessarily mean you no longer get to enjoy the things you love.

3 - It teaches you about sacrifice -- and that's a good thing. // There is nothing more freeing than learning what matters. A child does mean that your finances are re-prioritized, and how you spend your energy shifts. The amazing realization that happens inside of that -- if you let it -- is that there is incredible freedom found in not being bound to the things you once thought you were bound to. 

Margot is still a tiny one. There's a long road ahead. But I can say from the deepest parts of my bones that I'd have it no other way.