In Response To: Leprechauns

My 23 and Me results are quite dramatic. For all intents and purposes, I am a veritable mutt, 31 flavors of genetic ice cream. In all my inherited DNA is colored green, no luck of the Irish in me.

That’s why I forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day this morning.

Ironically, I am wearing a green shirt. It is one of my favorites: a Kafka Metamorphosis T-shirt. The perfect shade of green, a bit grassy, a bit mossy, not quite kelly and not quite pea, it suits me as an English teacher and fan of the book. It wasn’t until my wife opened her phone for a message that our household considered our wardrobe choices. Since I was already appropriately dressed, I didn’t give it further thought. My toddler however, immediately needed to find something green.

“Why do we have to wear a green?” he asked my wife, concerned he’s missing out on some holiday message. Then, she casually explained, “Because if you don’t the leprechauns will pinch you.” The machinations inside my son’s head begin to turn, each cog rotating with another. I can see through his facial transfigurations that he is pondering his next move. With the self-assurance only possessed by a toddler, he confidently requests his lime green sunglasses in an action that begs a leprechaun to dare come near him. Just try pinching me, he seems to say.

“I’m going leprechaun hunting,” he announces. Consequently, the wardrobe needed to be accessorized. Donning a double-sided hero cape, carrying his butterfly net, and of course, his now trademark leprechaun-hunting glasses. Preparing to go to the grocery store, hunting the little green men all along the way, his game face is on.

No pot of gold is safe from Ezra.

Color me jealous, in the appropriate shade of green. My child has a way about him, capturing the attention of most adults, as he casually explains his costume’s logic. My outfit? It’s for hunting leprechauns. Luckily, the myth is perpetuated by the kind adults who are accomplices, buying into his game, feeding the narrative.

With his curiosity and propensity for stubbornness, inherited from me, Ezra makes his mind up about something, and it just has to happen. Leprechauns may find sanctuary behind the boxes and cans of the groceries aisles, but if anyone is going to ferret one out, it would be my son. Net in hand, the hunt continues.

Ezra: Leprechaun Hunter, age 4

Today, I wear a green accidentally, but in accordance with my non-Irish Irish tradition. But I wish I weren’t; I wish I were carrying a butterfly net, wearing really cool sunglasses, and a cape, pursuing leprechauns with the innocence of a child, (and the support of all the adults around me).

What do you think will happen if I try?

In Response To: Needing a Band-Aid

Daylight Saving Time is great during the second half of the day, when the sun shines down during the early evening hours, giving you time to extend your outdoor activities. Less enjoyable, however, is getting up and going to work in the dark.

On an average day, I arrive at work sometime around 6:30 in the morning. Quiet and still, the parking lot is pretty empty, but a few of us diehard teachers are there long before our students. Knocks on the door at this early hour surprise me.

Thursday morning, one such disturbance startled me. Opening the door, three of my students are standing outside, looking expectantly, awaiting an invite. Waving them in, I return to unpacking my computer, plugging in its cords, and getting my technology tested for the day.

Cutting to the chase, “Mr. Ferro, can I have a Band-Aid?” It’s before seven in the morning, and already they want something.

A pretty innocuous question, I give you that. No one is denied such a request in my classroom, such things are in hand’s reach because when you need one, you should have one (like a pencil).

Responding, I’m not quick to hand over the requested item. Not yet.

“Good morning Mr. Ferro. How are you? Oh I’m fine, so kind of you to ask. How was you’re afternoon? It was splendid! I graded papers, caught up on my blog and some reading. And yours? It was good? How lovely. How’s the family? Oh, they’re great, too.” 

The barrage of questions seems out of place, but they are not.

“Umm,” the confusion trails on, ellipses, like lemmings, one jumping over the other. Each one looks to the other, unsure of which question to ask first, especially since I have provided a ready-made reply. 

Generally, I find it impolite for people to ask me for something without first greeting me or asking me how I am doing. Ego aside, it isn’t about me, but rather common decency. It’s the same with emails.

Should an email begin with a “can you” or “would you” or “please,” instantly, I am leery. Even when I am in a hurry or find myself with a shortage of time, my emails begin with some sort of salutation beyond the implied “I’m messaging you because I need something.” Humans should be treated as such, and seeing one another as just a means to a predetermined end diminishes our identity. I am more than a purveyor of Band-Aids, damn it.

Consider that the next time you knock on a door before it’s light out, or send an email. What message do you really want to send the recipient?

In Response To: Mercury In Retro(8th)Grade

Scientists say it’s nothing more than an optical illusion. Astrologists claim that, because of mercury in retrograde, we should not do anything hastily, like enter a contract or make a large purchase. I, for one, believe there is something about this astrological phenomenon that is severely altering the emotional state of my students.

Hysteria and general pandemonium washed over my classroom like a high-tide wave, crashing into our middle-school shore. Weighty universe altering gravitational and sentimental pulls, four different female students today cried, sobbed really, and were unable to explain exactly why. Mining for emotional gold has never been my strength, and as much as I would love to believe I can solve everyone’s problems, a cape-wearing crusader, Super Solace, you could call me, my kryptonite is tears.

Academic being far superior to my emotional intelligence, I never hazard a guess as to the trigger of female (or anyone’s) sensitivities. I know better. Growing up with an older sister and checking of hitched for my marital status, foolish I’d be to think I would stay married should I  ever make a claim as to why my wife is having an emotional day. Nope. Not going to do it.

Student tears, however common In middle school, make me uncomfortable.

Sanctuary from adolescent chaos, the majority of students, some not even my own, find my class to be an extremely safe place, and many use my room as a haven, a refuge of sorts, even during the lunch hour, when they are feeling upset or emotional in anyway. A few months back, a  category four of a hurricane embodied by a petite female student arrived to my fourth-period class visibly upset, her face slick with what I refer to as eye rain. Without words, she summons a dozen of her closest female friends, a coven of condolences. Around her they gathered, summoning spirits, healing energies transmitted through their presence, hands on shoulders, leaning in, giving words of affirmation, and supportive, friendly commentary.

I offered nothing but chocolate.

As I hesitantly approached the ritualistic ceremony, the student enshrouded with sympathy, my palms open. I offer her my comfort in the form of confection. Eyes glazed with wetness, the corners of her mouth form a subtle U not unlike an upside down umbrella. Accepting my gift, momentary peace ensues.

Early on in my teaching career, I learned to have a small stockpile of chocolate stored in my refrigerator or cabinets to quell the overwhelmingness of my novice teaching tumult. Diving into the sugary treats, the pleasure sensors in my brain light up whenever I eat a piece. Prone to being volatile myself, and having a hereditary predisposition for desiring chocolate thanks to my mother, the occasional piece  is enough to level me again.

Cloaked in the mysterious language written in the stars, I blame the current mercury in retrograde status. At a critical time about halfway through my day today, I realize I am running on fumes, too low on my confectionery counseling to deal with the emotional upheaval should this cosmo-consuming phenomenon persist.

Warning signs of the emotional apocalypse at hand, a trip to Costco may be in order after a day like today. Wholesale quantities of dopamine-inducing goodness required for survival. Fearful of being consumed by the sentimental storms, never again will I find myself this low on something that I find more effective than my less-than-quality, verbal support.

Written in the stars is our emotional fates and our destinies can only be altered if not sheer will, than by entire constellations of condolences: chocolate. May I never again experience the chaos that is mercury in retro(eighth)grade.

In Response To: Your Kid’s Smartphone

Today someone tried to take my photo. Without my permission. On their phone. 2000 me is awed by the technology. 2019 me is pissed off.

My first cell phone was acquired in 2002. I had already graduated high school, age 17. Enrolled in college, my first foray into mobile communication was compulsory. Because I had a job, one of the necessities of adulthood was self-funded. Like everyone else at the time, I got a Nokia 5150. The coolest thing about it was, with the help of the internet, you could spend hours composing monotone ringtones. If you listened close enough, it actually sounded like your favorite song. Brilliant.

This was already a step up from the cell phone I used in high school, an ancient artifact of technology’s past, that I shared with my mom. It flipped open and shut to cover the buttons, and was married to an extremely fragile antenna you had to pull up so delicately for fear you’d snap it in doing so. It’s only purpose was to call someone and to receive calls from someone else. Nothing fancy, nothing beyond the bare minimum, nothing at all like the phones of today. 16-year-old me sitting in the bleachers, using my shared cell phone to call our landline to get a ride home, one of the only purposes it served.

Nobody needs to tell you the ubiquitousness of smartphones – just look around. Regardless of where you are, it is incredibly likely that there is someone staring downward, thumbs racing across tempered glass. These digital devices cost more than computers because they are, in essence, handheld computers, evolutions from the earliest forms of PDAs and BlackBerries, PalmPilots that purported to be the “future,” already banished to the past.

The device I currently use, the one I am using to help me record this blog through voice text, is an iPhone 8, an already outdated model that the eighth graders in my class like to remind me. One student in particular, offers frequent criticisms, his iPhone XR is far reigning superior. Because he is a spoiled brat, he’s filled with a sense of entitlement that is beyond appropriate, but his brattiness does not mean he is incorrect; his phone is better, certainly newer. I’m being shamed for this.

Shaming another for what he or she does or does not have is nothing new. Whether it be clothes (Supreme) or shoes (Vans) or smart phones (see above), the  practice of mocking someone for having less than you do could not be more quintessentially middle school.

Unsurprisingly, you would be hard-pressed to find any teenager walking, under any circumstance, without a smart phone in hand. Admittedly, I find more uses for my smart phone than I ever would have initially thought when I received my first iPhone about a decade ago. Now, it is far easier to navigate the world, check in on social media, post to Google Classroom via my handheld device than it is by way of my laptop. This efficiency, however, comes with the price. What are we sacrificing at the cost of convenience? The short answer? Our children and, quite frankly, their innocence.

As a conscientious parent, I try as hard as possible to not use my device while I my child is present, and it’s damn hard. Of course, there are times where I feel that it is unavoidable. Heck, if I were to leave my house and get within 5 miles and realize that I have left home without my device, I’m turning around to get it. I used to have no excuse other than the desire to have it, but now I offer the fact that I am emergency contact for my child, and of course I cannot be without it. I have chosen to separate myself from the mainland by cutting the cable to a used-to-be traditional home phone. More the reason, clearly, to stay connected to my device, at least physically.

As a conscientious parent, I try as hard as possible to not use my device and I have my child. Of course, there are times where I feel that it is unavoidable. Heck, if I were to leave my house and get within 5 miles and realize that I have left home without my device, I’m turning around to get it. Are used to have no excuse, but now are use the fact that I am emergency contact for my child, and of course I cannot be without it. I have separate myself from the mainland by cutting the cable to a traditional in-home phone. More the reason, clearly, to stay connected to my device, at least physically.

My students on the other hand, are more connected to each other than ever, yet could not be further apart. You’ve all seen them: the group of similarly-dressed teenagers, gathered around a bench at your local shopping mall, sitting together, laughing and smiling, while staring at their screens. Likely, they are celebrating their togetherness with complete social isolation. It’s as though they’re saying let’s be together, but not interact in anyway that is human.

No. Human interaction? That is so 2005. Gross.

Friendships have evolved into something totally different in the digitally-connected age. More disconcerting is the evolution of frenemies, gasoline fires fueled by social media.  The unwinding of the social fabric is even worse, made threadbare by constant interaction with smartphones. Although they can only be part of the blame, the rapid decline in student behavior is at least somewhat attributed to smartphones. Such a change, as monumental as it is, has only taken place, in my observation, within the past decade.

The average student 10 years ago would start their day like any other kid. Probably hitting snooze a couple of times, maybe even being jostled awake by his or her parents, but eventually, he or she gets out of bed to start their day. Let’s call our imaginary subject Clark. He is an eighth grader at his neighborhood school, all-around average American adolescent.

When he sits down for breakfast, he’s not thinking about social media. His mom makes breakfast, or his dad does if his mom goes to work early, but he sits down with his family to eat. He has a cell phone on his parents plan, but with very limited minutes, texts at a per-use fee. It’s probably still upstairs charging, and he forgets it at least once a week. He hasn’t given it much thought since the night before when he plugged it in to charge. Purposed for an emergency, to call his parents for rides, and occasionally, call a friend at school if he’s absent, he rarely goes over his allotted minutes.

Zipped inside his backpack front pocket, the phone remains there for the entirety of the day. There’s no need for it. Clark’s classwork is on paper, or the computers that he uses in class are sufficient for whatever task he is assigned. He doesn’t even own headphones.

During passing period, when trying to retrieve his history textbook from his locker, Clark can’t help but notice that the lock is stuck as he’s tried repeatedly to break it loose. He begins to struggle publicly as the lock won’t budge. As his anger increases, he begins to hit on his locker, turning heads. To a casual observer, he probably looks upset, maybe even a bit crazy. Another student, Clark’s friend Alec, sensing his dismay, walks over and begins to help him with his locker until they can, together, open it up to retrieve the book.

They walk to class, Clark slightly embarrassed with himself, but he doesn’t give it much thought once he enters his next period.

In 2019, the scenario looks a little different.

As soon as the sun rises, if not before, Clark’s already on his phone. He stayed up until 1 AM watching Netflix and Youtube gaming videos. He has managed to check to see if his Snapchat streaks have remained intact, already played through few rounds of Fortnite (half of which he wins), and checked in on his group chat. He notices his battery is down to 25%, still – or is it already? He will have to bring his charger to school today, and charge it during passing –  or, find some teacher kind enough to let him charge it at the back of the room. If Clark can’t find a teacher, he will just charge it in the plug and hope that no one notices. Covering it with his backpack may fool the watchful eye.

There is no such thing as breakfast as a family. Between checking emails and texting friends, each person goes unnoticed, tiny islands in the familial archipelago. The breakfast table is no longer a place for conversation but rather a dumping ground for whatever piece of life’s debris should grace its surface.

The car ride is no different. With headphones on, Clark browses through Spotify playlist in order to determine what song to play next. Each song blares.

Upon arriving at school, the hallways are electric, alive with conversations of YouTube videos, gossip about seven social media posts, or, most rare, discussion about something remotely school-related.

No sooner than Clark makes it halfway down the hall then he is a texted by Alec. “Where R U at” it says. He ignores the bad grammar, doesn’t even notice it, texting back “On my way to first period C U during passing.”

During class, he dares only sneak to view his phone four or five times. This particular teacher is a stickler for a device-free setting. If he gets caught one more time, he’s going to get a call home and his parents will have to pick up his confiscated phone. He doesn’t want that to happen, but is really curious to see how many likes he received on his latest Instagram post. Surprised to find that there’s only 32 likes after the first hour, his heart sinks. In his mind, he should’ve had at least 50 likes by now. Clark’s selfie game is strong. Maybe people are lagging today. Or, worse yet, maybe they just didn’t actually like his post.

When the bell rings, he does as promised, meeting up with Alec beside his locker. They talk a little bit about the test they’re going to have later, but it’s no sweat. Someone shared a Google Doc, and most of their conversation centers around their after school plans: video games. Arriving at his locker, he can’t help but notice that it’s stuck. The normal combination won’t crack his academic safe, it won’t budge. He begins to feel a bit embarrassed, Clark’s face heats with the eyes of his schoolmates. Why won’t his locker work? This usually isn’t a problem. In his frustration, he can’t even notice that he has begun banging, loudly at that.

His so-called friend Alec, the one who is so eager to meet him during passing period, impulsively pulls out his phone. Because he thinks this moment is too funny to miss, he begins to record it to be added to a Snapchat story. The entire time, he can tell that his friend is frustrated, but this is comedic gold. Alec’s a meme god. He can already tell that people are going to definitely like this on his story. Maybe he’ll post it on Instagram, too.

While Clark was in class just 20 minutes ago, he couldn’t wait to get more likes on Instagram. Little does he know that he is going to be the school’s Internet superstar for the afternoon, posted and reposted on private, public, and spam accounts. Before he’ll even leave school that day, he will have earned his friend well over 200 likes at his own expense.

The prevalence of social media on smartphones doesn’t sound so good to him anymore now does it? He’s liked, but at what expense?

This scenario, although fictional, is all too real. With quick access to such devices, nothing is sacred anymore. One’s personal embarrassment becomes public. Once public, it becomes someone else’s boost in popularity, enabling kids like Alec to climb another round in the social hierarchy. This is our new normal.

Increasingly resentful, situations like this are not rare in my own school. Obsession with documentation, making the personal public, is truly ingrained within the brains – and smartphones – of the students I teach.

The ultimate lack of privacy is what concerns me the most. Anything can make it onto social media, and I find myself preoccupied by this as a teacher. On numerous occasions, I have become the subject of students’ photographic attempts. Denouncing such attempts, I find myself saying, “I am not at all flattered by your need to photograph me. What makes you think it’s okay to take someone’s likeness without permission?”

Threatening to take phones away, or even actually physically removing them from the student, rarely helps. They learn nothing from the experience. Disrespect and lack of boundaries is commonplace.

Alternatively, I’ll say something like “We are not playing paparazzi right now.”

Students find me funny or entertaining, maybe, or I’m just going to be the subject for their meme-ification later, capturing my likeness on their smart phones, in any capacity, it all makes me increasingly uncomfortable. My likeness is just that. Mine. It never even occurred to them to ask my permission. They believe that because they have access and interest that it is suddenly acceptable to you make a forever memory of any situation.

Every persona is public, and you are only one Snap away from fame, but do you even know when it’s happening? Our students, who are definitely digitally native, are not necessarily digitally literate. Moreover, they lack the proper etiquette. Can we fault them when we don’t teach them? It’s like putting young people behind the wheel without a license. The danger, folks, is real, and we may all be casualties on the internet highway.

In Response To: Reply to All

I’d like to personally meet the man or woman who invented the reply-to-all feature. It would be an honor to shake his (or her) hand so I can wrap my hand around, grab with a firm grip, and squeeze all the fingers, one by one, until they break with a satisfying crunch.Whoever thought that this anarchistic feature was a good idea should be punished adequately.

Any type of group messaging system irritates me to no end. It’s nice to be included, and we all have a need to belong, but never have I ever felt that I need to belong to an email chain. You know the kind I am talking about: it originated from somebody at your teaching site, like your demanding principal or complicit administrative assistant, that is addressed to all staff. You also know that one staff member who can’t help but reply to every single email ever written by anybody on the face of the earth that he or she receives because it is a compulsion. Even more terrifying is the incessant need to reply to every single person who received the original email. And you’re included.

No, I don’t care that you can’t come to a staff meeting because you have an optometrist appointment. I’m sorry that your child threw up on you this morning and that you will be unable to be present something (irrelevant) to our department meeting. Yes, it is a travesty that you can’t find your keys and you will be five minutes late, but when you do come in, you will announce something like: “They were in my purse all along. Isn’t that silly?”

Yes. Yes it is.

Please do not take this opportunity to sell your daughter’s Girl Scout cookies because we were just reminded of a fire drill. Please feel free not to use the staff directory as a classified ad to unload that old sofa, mini fridge, or broken cabinet that sits in the back of your classroom.

Maybe that was just a little bit harsh. But, I do wonder who actually pays attention when they hit the reply to all.

Let’s do a thought experiment: if the computer system, every time someone clicked “reply to all” generated prompts, what would happend. Person clicks “reply to all.” Computer prompts: Are you sure? Click YES or No. No. No is the right answer. If the person still clicks yes because, you know, they are seriously deluded into thinking that all, if not, at least half, of the recipients need to know this information, a second prompt will arise. Are you REALLY sure? No. Please click NO. Unfortunately, there is that guy, the one who insists on the relevance of replaying to everyone. It really is critical. The third and final prompt arises: Are you really, REALLY sure? [Flashes in red. Skulls and crossbones. Blaring horns.] Should that lovely human still persist in proliferating toxic communication and click “YES,” the computer self-destructs.

People share things that they clearly should not be sharing with an entire recipient list. Years ago, I was copied on an email that went out to all fifth-grade teachers in my very large school district. I cannot remember what the original email was for, but I’m pretty sure I just deleted it. My rebellious streak is strong. Anything with that many recipients probably wasn’t intended for only me, and if it’s that important, someone will track me down in person.

Flash forward to 11 years later, I receive an unwelcome if not surprising email from somebody trying to sell their couch. To the entire fifth-grade teacher population. I now teach middle school, and can’t believe he or she thought it was a great idea to use a massive list-serv that came from our very large district over a decade earlier. Needless to say, teachers districtwide climbed aboard their beautifully-adorned soapboxes, empowered to be communication crusaders for Internet justice. They voiced their frustrations at the sheer inappropriateness of such a self-serving advertisement, chastising the sender. The majority noted how unprofessional it was to use reply to all. The irony? Every single person told the sender not to reply to all by replying to all.

May their computers not-so-spontaneously combust.

This went around and around for two, maybe three, weeks With my deleted box overflowing with copious responses.

It’s no different within sites. This week’s school bulletin, which is emailed out the Friday prior to the week it “bulletins,” received more than the normal reply to alls. I

t all started with a question from one teacher, the one teacher who usually has questions that I’ve already been answered but since she doesn’t pay attention, her question seems completely valid. This is the same teacher who, at staff meeting, only has “me” questions, during roundtable, the unspoken and agreed upon period where teachers have an unspoken agreement to never, under any circumstance, say anything that jeopardizes leaving the torture that is a compulsory staff meeting. This same teacher, In order to get a question answered, naturally, had to reply at all. As the answers to the questions came in, everyone just has to reply to all. In fact, several people reply to all with the same answer as the previous person. The entire time, I can’t help but be very upset as the important emails in my inbox get buried beneath this avalanche add in significant questions and responses. The best part? The answer to her question could’ve been found in the bulletin itself had she only looked.

Thank goodness for the 12 staff members who came to her rescue. 15 emails later, and numerous thank yous and assorted you’re welcomes, the great reply to all deluge of March 2019 had subsided, yet none of their computers exploded in a suicidal protest to reply to all.

I beg. I implore. Please do NOT REPLY TO ALL. Should you find yourself tempted by the potential to spread your digital, communicative seed, reflect upon that imaginary warning pop-up asking you if you’re sure. If you’re not, then don’t reply to all. If you are, trust me, don’t reply to all. Envision the motherboard and internal components of your favorite device strewn helter-skelter across your living room rug.

[Please reply only to me when commenting on this post. NOTE: No staff colleague or computer was harmed in the creation of this blog post.}

In Response To: Quiet Mornings

I wake up and I t’s dark, a rather disorienting blanket still covering me. How unnatural it is to wake up when you feel you should be sleeping. Struck with a conflicted feeling of being simultaneously grateful and hateful for the extended light that I will have today because in this moment, all I can think about is that without sun, nobody should have to be awake and trying to begin their day.

My wife has one of those projector clocks, the one that reminds you immediately, laser beams across the ceiling, upon opening your eyes that you were either waking up way too early, or late enough that there’s no point in trying to go back to sleep.

See option two: today the clock said 6:13. My alarm goes off at 6:15.

I rollover, as gently as possible. Owning one of those mattresses that doesn’t transfer movement, I turn smoothly but carefully. My four-year-old has an arm, a leg, and a teddy bear all slung halfway across my body. It’s these moments that I like to hang onto, but the day calls. There’s somewhere to be, there’s someone to provide for, and there’s a whole day ahead of me that I have not yet accepted I have to live.

My clothes wait for me in the bathroom, draped over the shower rod. Taking them out the night before, I avoid the extra five minutes it would take me to select what to wear in the morning. Scratch that; it would take an extra 15 minutes. I’m indecisive. Selecting clothing is tantamount to making a major life choice. Any choice, really, is painstaking. Did I mention it’s still dark?

Tiptoeing through the quiet darkness of the house, I slink through the early morning, a ninja-in-training, careful not to stir even a mouse. In this case, my mouse is a fluffy, black-and-white, and about 50 pounds. My seven-month-old Sheepadoodle sleeps in her crate in the living room. Even worse than waking the child right now would be disturbing her. If she’s awake, everyone’s awake.

Some people appreciate the wee hours of the morning, the fleeting minutes they have for just themselves. They take their coffee and newspaper at the kitchen table while others catch up on “correspondence.” Never have I ever felt that these moments are special. They are just that, minutes. I have reduced my schedule to allow me approximately 10 efficiency-demanding minutes to get ready in the morning and get out of the house. It’s either a mere 10 minutes, or I sleep less. In my life, Sleep is at a premium, so whatever I can do to extend that time period, is welcomed. Regardless, I will arrive to work bleary-eyed, with just enough blue and purple beneath my eyes to show that I haven’t recovered from the four years since the birth of my child.

He’s not always to blame. Sometimes my wife and I actually have a conversation over a glass or two or a bottle of wine at night in which case, waking up at any hour is unpleasant. No matter. I shake it off and continue my crawl to the restroom where the first part of my routine still awaits.

I don’t turn on the light. I barely close the door. That would make noise. Noise wakes people. People who wake up not ready to be awakened are generally unhappy and unpleasant. That’s me, unhappy and unpleasant and awake.

Oh – and just to be clear: I have a toddler and teach middle school and I don’t drink coffee. Never have.

95% of my days, i’m awake without any prompting other than biology. What’s the point of an alarm when my body has a natural alarm clock

I’m that guy who has dreams, has hellish nightmares really, about being late. Never having anywhere special to go or anything worth anticipating, ironically, I have this overwhelming anxiety about being tardy to the party. That is so ingrained in my humanity that I get that you’re-going -to-be-late dream at least once a week. Sometimes more. Inevitably, I wake approximately two or three minutes before my alarm goes off.

Damn you, nature. I could’ve use that two minutes. I would’ve treasured them.

Getting dressed is a fairly silent activity. Who makes a lot of noise when putting on socks and pants? It is not until I make my way out of the restroom in the morning that I then contemplate where to put my shoes on. I don’t worry about packing my bag, everything is ready to go from the night before. Again, I’m obsessed with saving time. I’m efficient. Obsessively so.

I’ll put the shoes on right before I walk out the door. That’s a good idea.

The dog is snoozing in her crate. Luckily her face is towards the other direction and maybe she won’t sense me. Wandering through the kitchen, I cautiously, oh so cautiously open the refrigerator door. Extracting my food for the day, I crawl my way back across the tile to grab my things. Taking a deep breath – a very deep one  – because I’m going to hold it until I exit the house.

Towards the door I go. The first door is our front door, heavy and secure. It almost forms of suction every time it is closed so I know there will be noise when I go to open it. Still holding my breath, I begin to turn the knob. Slowly, my fingers wrapped themselves around the knob. While balancing all of my materials, work bag, keys, lunch, anything extra that I need to take with me to work, I hear the first creek. I inhale more deeply. It’s almost a gasp. The door opens fully, as if in apology for making a sound, as I reach for the second door, the security door that will eventually lead me outside. Metallic as it is, it is relatively quiet. Releasing the lock and grasping the handle, I simultaneously hang onto the front door, making sure to slowly close that one while squeezing as neatly as I can between the next.

When I close the front door, I exhale, and my lungs burn, a tiny fire turned to ash. I’ve made it this far, but my morning escape is incomplete.

Not out of the danger zone, I need my sneak my way into the car. The remote makes a beeping sound whenever my door is unlocked, so in order to reduce the amount of beeps, I only press it once, opening only the driver’s door. This way, I can slide all my things into the passenger seat and only have to close one door, that’s only making one sound. Ridiculous? Maybe. In order to be a ninja, however, I need to make it out completely unscathed and inconspicuously.

My bedroom window faces our driveway and consequently, my car’s engine faces our bedroom window. Holding my breath again, fingers fumble for the ignition, turn it as quickly as possible, and start the car. What happens next: foot on the brake, release of parking brake, transmission in gear. I roll out the driveway.

My success is gauged based on whether or not I see tiny finger is parting the blinds in my bedroom. If not, I have made it out without waking anybody.

This folks, is how I gauge success at 6:30 in the morning.

Maybe I should start drinking coffee.

In Response To: Newly-Minted Dads

Congrats, newly minted dad! Now you’re a dad. Next comes eighteen years of fabulous parenting. That’s when you must do what most new fathers do: freak out on a daily basis and wonder what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into, like Kanye West in a bookstore.

Panicking is a fairly common reaction for new parents, most of whom don’t know the first thing about rearing children. The few who do are still terrified by the newly-birthed meatloaves they bring home at two days old.

It’s not just new fathers who are as clueless as Ariana Grande watching Jeopardy. New moms can be overwhelmed, too. They, however, cannot show this. The good news? If there are over seven billion survivors on this planet, you can (probably) raise a child. By following this free-to-you advice, you’re assured to have some success with little Johnny or Suzie (or whatever New Age, hipster, or unpronounceable, made-up amalgamation of letters you’ve chosen for your progeny).

Ten essentials, just to get you started:

    1. Try, really hard, then try again. Babies are confusing. One moment they want one thing, the next, they’ve changed their fickle little minds, like tiny drug addicts looking for a fix.

    2. Buy so much crap, you feel like a good parent. Let all of the baby items pile up and take over your life so you can’t find your keys, wallet, or sanity anywhere in your home. Make sure your kid gets the best of everything (as recommended by an arbitrary online resource) so you can keep up with the Joneses, that annoying family down the street you think has it all together, but probably doesn’t. Your baby needs a swing and a bouncer and a bassinet and a crib. There is no expense too great for your little leech.

    3. Read every single parenting book and memorize the baby diagrams. These pictures are particularly helpful because you won’t have any time to read again – ever. Also, they tell you the parts of the baby so you don’t forget what goes where.

    4. Take lots of photos of your friends. Hang them up on the walls around your home and try to picture their faces when you close your eyes. Caption the photos. It is likely that you will not see them again in the near future as being a new parent is similar to being the last remaining leper on Earth – no one will come near you for fear of catching “it,” as if child-bearing is  contagious. Remind them that you are still the person you were before you had kids, except that you have a kid, so basically, you are nothing like the person you once were. You are now a diaper-bag—that-looks-like-purse-carrying, bottle-slinging, ABC-singing skeleton of the man you used to be. You won’t even recognize yourself.

    5. Buy under-eye cream by the gallon. Since you won’t be sleeping, it gives people at work the impression that this parenting thing is no big deal. You must appear well rested even when you can’t remember the last time you slept more than a four-hour stretch. Use it nightly because missing a single application may result in reality: you look terrible, as if approaching an untimely death.

    6. Hire a babysitter to watch your kid so you and the Mrs. (or baby-mama) may go on a date. It’s okay if you’re being very selective, so take your time for that “just-right” fit in your caregiver. You have at least five years before you’ll have desire to go outdoors and see each other in the light of day, let alone have a “romantic” evening. That’s how the first one happened, remember?

    7. Don’t make plans. Ever. Pretty much forget about predicting anything. You have no schedule and writing it down will only further depress you.

    8. Learn how to answer “when are you having a second one?” in creative ways. For example, say “when you pay for it” or “a second what?” or my personal favorite, “when we go to the pound and pick one out.” Everyone will tell you to have a second. Misery loves company.

    9. Know that you will never, under any circumstance, regardless of what you think, matter again, to anyone, but you. Your own parents will ooh and ahh and go ga-ga over every little thing their precious grandchild does. Your wife will look at you, often, as responsible for her corporal demise and rapid aging. You will become (insert child’s name here) father and when people ask you how you are, they mean how is he or she.

    10. Most of all, set up a huge support system around you. It’ll be a long time before you recognize that you need help because you’ve tried to self-convince that you have it all together. You’ll need people with more experience than you for placation and to tell you you’re doing a good job, especially when you’re considering running away to Canada to join the Royal Mounted Police or to Nicaragua to traffic exotic birds.

See, dad? You can manage it. Do these things now along with follow every piece of unsolicited and unwanted advice thrown at your exhausted feet, and the next 18 years will a piece of cake, unless you have a second one, then you’re screwed.