Our 553rd Dad in the Limelight is Daniel Claudio. I want to thank Daniel for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
My name is Daniel Claudio. I am a Mexi-Rican who grew up in the inner cities of Chicago and Milwaukee. I’m an introverted-yet-confident bear of a dude who likes his head bald and his chin hairy. I have absolutely no sense of fashion unless sweatshirts and jeans become the next big thing (again). I would definitely not say that I am in any limelight, but I do have a new blog who’s following is still small, but growing quickly. I recently became a stay-at-home-dad and have always had a penchant for writing. My wife suggested to me that I start a blog and after some hemming and hawing, Papiology.com was born. Its a very frank, often sarcastic, and always earnest account of my journey as a father. If you could ask my wife to sum me up in one word, she would probably say ”…incredibly handsome and the smartest person I know, I can’t live without him, he is everything I ever hoped a husband would be.” If you asked my kid, he would probably just stare at you and poop his pants.
2) Tell me about your family
Asking a Hispanic to tell you about their family is like opening a snake-in-a-can. We tend to be very close with our extended family and so telling you about what I would call “my family” could easily turn into a multi-volume ancestry-chronicle. I think you’re asking about my immediate folks though, so I’ll stick to that (although my 3rd cousin-once-removed-Enrique, on my mother’s side is going to be very angry that I didn’t include him). My wife Leecia is a cute little paralegal who left Tennessee to come try a relationship with me in Milwaukee. She soon realized the mistake she had made, but we were married by then and she was stuck, so now I’m just what she gets. We met at an internship when I was 20 and she was 16. She was in love but I was a grown-up looking at a teenage Leecia, so we went our separate ways as good friends. Ten years later, we reconnect on Facebook and I’m suddenly talking to a woman that looks very little like the girl I once knew. I totally trick her into thinking I’m awesome and she moves to Milwaukee. A year or so later, we’re married on the front porch of her family’s farm (its WAY less country-music-song-ish than it sounds…sort of) and less than two months after that, we’re standing in the 6-by-6 bathroom of our one-bedroom apartment, staring at a positive pregnancy test, wondering why there isn’t some sort of licensing process for getting pregnant.
Shia is our 6 month boy. He is both a delight and a constant source of extreme stress. It’s like having the most amazingly beautiful Vietnam war cooing at you from the floor of your kitchen while you make a bottle and wonder, again, why there isn’t some sort of check and balance on who gets to have babies. He smiles constantly, almost like his life is nothing but sleeping, playing, and getting fed whenever he opens his little mouth. He almost never actually cries, unless its 1:30am, 3:30am, and 7:00am, but he totally stops as soon as he’s been fed, changed, and rocked back to sleep, so…like almost never. He has more personality than I think a 6 month should be allowed to have and he is constantly surrounded by mostly-stable people who love him immensely. He’s a huge friggin’ kid, slender but wearing 12 month clothes at 6 months of age. He has a raspy, deep voice that is going to be a gift to listen to when he stops speaking gibberish and learns to communicate like a human.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
The constancy. I have always had a place to escape to. As a proud introvert, I love people…but only for short periods of time. Extroverts get their energy from interaction and relationships. Introverts get recharged by having alone time and periods of quiet contemplation. We’re a dramatic lot, but it’s what we need. My biggest challenge about being a parent has simply been the fact that I am NEVER alone. Gone are the days when I could throw on an over-sized hoodie and go alone to a movie where I could sit in the dark and enjoy blissful anonymity. Gone are the days when I could. like, close a door and….excrete without being interrupted. Even a simple trip to the store now comes laden with inevitable and interminable interactions because no one can resist talking to (or at) a cute baby and his no-longer-scary-looking dad. There is a sweet-spot right at about 8pm when the baby is down for the night and my wife is dead tired that I can enjoy a couple hours of solitude but even that feels like an hour of yard-time given to a prisoner in the hole. I get to stare at the sky, but only through the fence and barbed wire. Taking care of a kid is a never-ending, 24-7 job, especially for a stay-at-home parent. Its a low-but-constant level of stress that never goes away as phantom cries and bumps in the night make you stupidly believe your child is dying. If I could afford it, I would hire an expensive and well-vetted nanny to take my boy for 3 hours a day, when I could just disappear into some deep pocket of a public library and inhale the precious scent of solitude for a few, precious, minutes.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
When you find yourself adrift in the middle of the ocean, float, don’t swim. Life can be like an ocean. Sometimes its calm and glassy, other times its horrific and overwhelmingly angry in its size and incredible strength. I love to swim. I’m not anything near an Olympic athlete, but I’m a better swimmer than most. I can swim for miles without stopping and I enjoy it. The ocean though, I could never swim that. Its too big, too vast, too unpredictable to even consider trying to work my way across it. Life is like that. It’s too big, too vast, and it’s waves are too overwhelming to try and fight your way against it. What I’ve found, however, is that life, like the ocean, offers currents beneath the surface that will almost always carry you to land if you can stay calm and keep your head above the water for long enough. Swimming against the storm is a sure way to sink to the bottom but floating wherever life decides to take you will usually get you back to solid ground. Don’t worry so much. Be happy. A life full of accomplishment at the expense of Joy is a life wasted. Strive for what you want but don’t make it the point of existing. Learn to enjoy what you have now. Stop and listen to your kid breath in his sleep. Stare at your wife as she walks out of a room. Taste what you eat like it’s the first time you’ve had it. Love where you are and learn to be content with slow, gentle floating.
5) How have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
I consider them one in the same. As a parent, I no longer have a life outside my family. My kid and my wife, like my arms and legs are just a part of who I am and a part of my life everywhere I go. Even my very sparse moments of solitude are only enjoyed when I am first sure that my family taken care of and safe. I often read about people’s desire to “have a life” along with being a parent and it confuses me. I dont want a life apart from my son. I dont want a life apart from my wife. I dont even believe its possible to have that, lol. As a family we are one unit and if I haven’t learned to integrate them into all aspects of my life, then I have failed somewhere along the way. Do I want some alone time sometimes, yes, of course. Do I dichotomize that time as another life alongside my life at home? No.
Like I said before, I do want to get away sometimes and thats pretty hard to do when your kid is so young. I suspect that as my boy (and future kids) get older, I will have plenty of time to do what I want to do. For now, I’m happy to float along in the adventure that is being a dad for a while.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
Everything. Everything I know about being a good and terrible father comes from my interactions with those around me. But here’s a better spin to your question: What have I learned from interacting with other stay-at-home-dads? So much….
- We can be a whiny lot. Staying at home alone, all day, with infants tends to degrade your sense of cave-man-ness. You wash dishes and change diapers. You watch kid-shows and take naps when you can. We never get to destroy shit anymore. We never get to flex and be strong. We never get to lift heavy crap in front of swoony girls and we let ourselves get whiny. We start moping about the dumbest things and we lose the hearty, thick skin that once deflected yo-mamma jokes and let us laugh when people tried to belittle us. If we’re going to make stay-at-home fatherhood respectable, we gotta do it like men. I’m not a man because someone says I am. I’m a man because I sweat testosterone and chew on steel cable for fun. I’m a man because I simply am and I challenge anyone to tell me I look girly doing anything. A real man can make an apron look like a Kevlar thigh-shield. A real man can change a diaper while also looking like he’s winning a street-rod, quarter-mile suicide-heat. We are men because we just are and when we come up against people who belittle us, show them what men do, rather than fulfill their ridiculous ideas by mopily whining about people not understanding how hard it is to be a stay-at-home-dad.
- When it comes to parenthood, “deer in the headlights” is an apt analogy, no matter who you are. I’ve worked as a pediatric medical assistant for about 15 years. I’ve coached parents on topics ranging from breast feeding and what to expect during labor, to developmental milestones and what to do about constipation. I have an excellent familial support system. A stable family that helps whenever needed, on both sides of our marriage. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I was about as prepared as one can ever be for having a baby and yet…having a kid has felt like staring into the headlights of a 87′ Chevy while innocently trying to cross the road. We all feel that way. Its a terrifying experience. Its outside the bounds of anything we have ever done and it never, ever, feels comfy the first time.
- Having kids and specifically being a stay-at-home-dad gives men who have absolutely NOTHING in common so much mutual ground upon which to bond that we forget how different we are. Were I to have met some of these men before I had kids, I would have turned around and walked out. Now, I’m just happy to be talking to another adult. I gladly deal with the idiosyncrasies of another dude’s personality simply because he is also someone who understands my plight and looks just as shocked that no one properly expressed to us what having a kid really meant. When my son is 16, I’m gonna sit him down. I’ll hand him the keys to his own car. I’ll punch him in the stomach, hard. While he’s still struggling to breath I’ll walk him outside to where his brand new sporty convertible is glinting the sunlight and I’ll say “Now you know that feeling of being terrifically happy and in terrible pain at the same time. That’s what having kids is like. You’re welcome.”
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
Everything that’s on my blog lol. I write my blog because I’ve found that not only is is a great outlet for me to vent about my daddy-issues but also because I get so much feedback from people who are in agreement with me. It’s comforting to have so many others express gratitude and understanding, especially since I tend not to sugar-coat my thoughts. If you want to hear more of my silly, self-important rants about why babies are inherently suicidal, you’ll have to check out my blog.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
My kid is only 6 months, so I haven’t had much time to gather the big memories. He has yet to say an actual word and hasn’t even learned to walk yet. He’s still on a steady diet of liquids and can’t control his bladder. The best times, though, have been the little stuff. Listening to him coo alone in his crib early in the morning. Finding just the right spot to tickle that makes him belly-laugh. Having him fall asleep on my chest. Watching him smile at my voice even while he’s sleeping. It’s what makes the war worth fighting. It’s what makes me not care that I forget to brush my teeth and spend a huge chunk of my income on powder formula and leak-guard diapers. It’s the shiny convertible part of being a dad and I’m looking forward to many more years of discovering new and awesome ways my kid finds to trick me into loving him.
If you have any questions for Daniel, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!