Friday, January 20, 2017

Daddy Hood


In my younger 20s I always said I could see myself as a stay at home dad. I’ve always loved to cook, I like to clean, and I tend to have the energy and outlook that I might need to keep up with a baby. I know it is not very “manly” or expected in the latino culture. As a matter of fact, most of my friends and family members gave me odd looks when I told them I was taking so much time off. But we'd waited and prayed for so long that I could not see any other option but to hang out with my little dude for as much time as I could.

For 34 working days, I got to stay at home and bond with my baby boy. By now Mateo was 5 months old, could recognize me, was laughing at my weird faces, could sit, roll, and had a solid bottom baby tooth which was ready to start munching on whatever he could get his hands on.

I knew that I did NOT want to be a home body. Mateo was a pretty well-seasoned traveler by this point, having already hit the road up through Northern California and into Oregon. So I made a list of things we could do:
parks, hikes, swimming, museums, farmers markets, learn a new language etc. I'd say that we would get out of the house every other day for sure. In the mornings I would get a laugh when I went to the store to buy things and see all of the OC mama’s in their yoga pants and Starbucks cups and here I was with my basketball shorts and little man in a carrier in front of me strolling down the aisle buying tri-colored quinoa.

I was also able to introduce Mateo to solids.
By 7mo he was having: sweet potato, avocado,
carrots, squash, banana, apples, cinnamon, & nutmeg

Some other things we did….

With Erika back to work I was lucky enough to take Mateo to basketball practice, where I coach high schoolers. This  was always an adventure. I would have to divide my time between trying to coach and making sure Mateo was happy. By mid practice he was most likely in the carrier, faced out, looking around at the team running around, with us (the coaches) yelling at them to stay in a defensive stance, run a play, rebound... all those darn things high schoolers never do consistently. The JV players who were on the sidelines were the most curious guys. They would often walk over to the stroller when Mateo was in there. I would scream across the gym “don’t touch my baby!!!” After all,  who knows where those unwashed hands had been all day.

Our typical Tuesday would be a 9 am walk around Irvine Park with a visit to the farmers market right afterward. The loop around the park was a solid 3 miles which took about an hour. We did the walk in the heat, cold, wind, and rain. Mateo has always liked looking up at the trees. I tried several times to point out the peacocks that would be roaming the area, but he could not care less.

Our farthest trip we had together was to L.A. Exposition Park where we spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum and saw the space shuttle Endeavor. He liked the dino skeletons and the elephants the most at the Museum. I tried my best to talk about the different animals on display. The time we spent at the Endeavor was more for me than for him. Growing up I always wanted to fly airplanes a-la "Top Gun." My bad eyes ruined my chances of being a pilot, so now I dream through my son. I can envision that one day he might be one of the fortunate few who get to be on the space shuttle headed beyond the Moon to Mars. I told him my dreams for this as he drank his lunch next to Endeavour.
In between these trips were the seemingly mundane parts of parenting, that actually made my bonding time more special. Even just holding him high above me, then bringing him down so I could give him a kiss, while he giggled the whole time. Changing his diaper early in the morning (with no rush) while he’d babble, telling me about his dreams and grabbing his feet.

Perhaps my favorite, was having him fall asleep on me. I could have a massive list of things to do, but when he’d fall asleep on my chest or shoulder there was nothing I could do but stay on that couch until he lifted his head up with a smile and rosy cheeks, glad to know I was still there.

Initially, going back to work was not something I dreaded. I enjoy my job. I like what I do. But about a month into it, I even told Erika, "I don't know how you did it." I seriously started to question my options.
Classic 'Washing Machine"

Now at seven months, he has 2 teeth, can sit, scoot backwards (moonwalk), and spin like a turn table. As the time came to go back to the classroom it was good to know, we had two eager grandparents who were waiting patiently for my days to end so they could spend all their days with Mateo. The first time I dropped him off at my mom's house I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice that she had been waiting for that day for a long time. She was quick to hand me some food, coffee, and shoo me off to work.

Just some of the pictures taken during time with Las Abuelas. 

"I don’t know what my relationship with my you would have been like without this time off. I doubt that any of these last 10 weeks will stick to your long term memory or that I’ll even remember all of the small milestones you went though. But even just the simple connection we have built, has made this time well worth it. When I look at you, without hesitation, you instantly shoot a big smile back at me. And for that I would do it all over again."

---expert from a letter to our baby



  1. sigh... Thats just the Best Luis... love the pictures, the expressions the adventures, the heart
    We love you guys......

  2. So happy that you were able to spend this time bonding with your son. You will do well,my young padawan! Patti


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