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.)

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.

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.