Monday, July 8, 2013

Not Just a Fun Guy

As the pain in my ass continues to fade away the excitement for the next step in our baby journey has started to grow. While I remember all of the adorable things about my boys when they were babies, the not-so-cute catastrophes have made a comeback in my brain as well. The sleepless nights, the incessant crying for no apparent reason, the internal alarm clock that tells Baby it's time to wake up for the day at 5:00 AM, the diaper explosions that somehow made it all the way up to their little necks, the constant smell of spit-up all over all of your clothes...and furniture...and carpets...

Ah, the joys of having a baby!

But I've been there. I know what I'm getting into again. Though it's been ten years since I've had to go through the newborn stage, I think I'm prepared for it.

But then there's Jimmi.

Don't get me wrong. Jimmi is probably the coolest stepdad around. For starters, he's a tattooed drummer with a mohawk. But aside from that, he's so much fun! He plays basketball with Dylan and coaches Justin's baseball team. He's always up for Rock Band on Xbox and he gives the boys soda and sugar when I'm not around. "Shhh! Don't tell your mom!" he warns them as he's texting me on the side, "I just gave them Coke and donuts." He takes them shopping for my birthday and makes sure they have cards and flowers for me on Mother's Day. He goes to all of their School of Rock shows and gives up hours of his time to set up and break down a drum set when Justin decides he wants to play a four minute long song for his chorus class. Yes, my kids and I are VERY lucky to have a guy like Jimmi around.

But there are some limitations to Jimmi's SuperStepdad status.

Jimmi came into my boys' lives when they were just 3 and 5, but I kept him at arms length. Until Jimmi and I were totally committed in a serious relationship, the boys thought we were just friends and only saw him on occasion. I think they were 6 and 8 when I finally introduced Jimmi as my boyfriend, and, by that point, they were way out of the baby stages. I never asked Jimmi to put the boys to bed or take them to the doctor or care for them when they were sick. I've always made it a point not to leave him in a situation where he would feel uncomfortable dealing with the kids, and I knew his biggest fear of all was vomit.

Ok, I get it. NO ONE wants to deal with a puking kid. I have a fear of vomit myself, but when it's your kid, you do what you have to do. I remember Jimmi, the boys and I went on a trip to the West Coast about a year and a half ago. As we were driving from California to Nevada to see Hoover Dam I heard the dreaded words from the back seat, "My stomach feels weird." From past experiences I took Dylan's warning as, "I'm gonna throw up in the next thirty seconds so move fast if you don't want it in the car." We were in the far left lane of the three-lane highway and I screamed, "PULL OVER NOW!" The car had barely stopped in the shoulder when I flung Dylan's door open just in time for the fluid to hit the side of the road and not the carpet of the car. I turned to the driver's seat to see Jimmi closing his eyes and covering his ears to block out any audio or visual of the retching that was taking place a foot away from him. Dylan finished up, rinsed his mouth and got back into the car. We were back in the fast lane for less than five minutes when I heard a voice from the other side of the car, "My tummy doesn't feel too good." Seriously? I took one look at Justin's face and I knew. "PULL OVER NOW!" I shouted once again, knowing Justin wasn't going to make it. "Open the window! Get your head out!" I watched as the nastiness poured down the outside of the car then jumped out to open the door when we finally stopped. I was holding Justin's hair back while he finished up and I heard Jimmi's panicked voice from inside the car, "What's wrong with these kids?!" he asked. "Clearly, they're sick," I explained. "I hope I don't catch it. I can't handle that," Jimmi said.

That day has always stuck out in my mind.

I've always shielded Jimmi from the worst parts when the kids are sick. Yes, he sees them on the couch, covered in blankets. He watches me medicate them and rub their backs. He asks them how they're feeling and tells them he's sorry they aren't well. But I keep the gross stuff far away from him. But now we're going to be starting a family of our own. He'll need to step it up and learn to clean up vomit. But what if he can't? What if he gets totally freaked out and wants nothing to do with his baby when she's sick?

Maybe he isn't ready to be a dad.

Fast forward to yesterday. Dylan had been looking forward to the day for weeks! "Mom, I really wish I could go to Warped Tour," he'd said, nonchalantly, a few weeks ago. Van's Warped Tour is an all-day concert festival with tons of bands on three different stages. Never one to stop my kids from going to a concert, I immediately checked the local dates. "Hmmm," I said as I looked. "I'm going to see Cyndi Lauper with Grandma Leen the night Warped is in New Jersey, but I bet Jimmi would take you. Why don't you ask him?" The text had barely left Dylan's phone when he received a reply from his stepdad, "Sure!" Tickets were purchased, plans were made and the 12 year-old's excitement grew as each day brought him closer to the mega-concert. And, finally, yesterday was the day!

Because the show is an all day event, gates were scheduled to open at 11:00 AM. Unfortunately, they don't post a schedule of bands until you actually get to the venue, that way they can avoid having people just show up at the end of the night for one particular band and, instead, have them held captive and able to spend money all day long. Jimmi told Dylan they'd need to leave at 8:30 AM to make sure they had enough time for travel plus traffic and parking. I was shocked when I went down the hall to wake Dylan up at 8 and he was already downstairs, fully dressed and ready to go. "Ready, Bud?" I asked. His eyes were wide with excitement as he nodded his head emphatically. "It's super hot out today, so make sure you drink a lot of water, " I instructed as they headed out the door.

At 10:45 I got a text from Jimmi, "Here. Waiting in line to get in." Ok, good. They made it. But when I saw Jimmi's name pop up on my caller ID about 15 minutes later I knew something was wrong. "Dylan's throwing up," Jimmi said with a surprisingly calm tone. I had to let his words register before I responded. "What? Why?" was all I could get out. "I don't know," he said. "He was perfectly fine. He ate a bagel and drank some iced tea. We were standing in line and all of a sudden he felt sick. He barely made it to the grass." My stomach dropped and my heart was pounding. They were an hour and a half away and Jimmi can't handle a vomiting kid! What was I gonna do? "Is he ok?" I asked. "He says he's fine now. He doesn't know what happened." I thought for a minute. Dylan has always had a weak stomach. Even one whiff of a smell he doesn't like can aggravate his gag reflex. Or maybe he was just so excited he got sick? "What do you want to do?" I asked Jimmi, knowing he was probably about to have a panic attack. But, once again, his voice was very calm, "It's ok. He said he's fine now. I don't want to make him go home. This is his day." Wow. "Ok, well keep me posted," I said as we hung up the phone. I was impressed. Jimmi didn't freak out when faced with a puking kid. He must be growing up.

But when I heard my phone buzz 15 minutes later, my heart stopped. "He just pooped his pants." No way. NO WAY! "What?! He's 12!" I wrote back. "Is he ok?" Something was definitely wrong with my kid and I was completely helpless from where I was sitting. I couldn't wait for the text back and I picked up the phone and called my husband, "Is he ok? What happened? Can I talk to Dylan?" I didn't know which question I wanted answered first. "He's fine," Jimmi tried to calm me down. "He's in the bathroom cleaning himself up. I don't really know what happened. We were sitting down talking about our plan for the day and he just told me it happened." All I wanted to do was talk to Dylan. I needed to make sure he was ok. "I think you should come home," I told Jimmi. "I really don't want to make him leave if he's ok. I'd feel really bad if he didn't get to see the bands he wants to see." Was this the same person who freaked out on the side of the road last year? "But what about his pants?" Jimmi laughed, "I told him it happens. Sometimes a fart isn't just a fart! I told him to throw out his underwear, clean up, wash his hands and come back out." I was speechless. "Ok. Have him call me when he's done." As I waited to hear my baby's voice I just sat there thinking about how well Jimmi was doing with this whole mess. I'm pretty sure I was handling it worse than he was! Dylan called me back and he sounded totally fine, "I'm ok, Mom. I really don't know what happened. I felt fine until right before I threw up. Same with the poop thing. That's never happened to me before!" "Do you want to come home, Baby?" I asked him. "No. I'm fine. Really." I wasn't convinced, "Ok, just let Jimmi know if you change your mind and he'll bring you back."

I hung up the phone and looked at the clock. It was only 11:45. They'd literally been inside the venue for 45 minutes and the day had already turned to shit. Literally. And then I received the next text, "I don't think he's gonna make it. We were waiting in line for passes to meet his favorite band and he told me he had to go sit down because it's too hot." I called Dylan again and he assured me that he was ok; just a little queasy. I texted Jimmi and told him if Dylan had one more incident they needed to come home, but make sure to ask for a plastic garbage bag to take in the car with him, just in case. I'd barely sent the text when my phone started buzzing, "We're coming home. He's throwing up again." Poor kid. "Are you ok?" I finally asked Jimmi. "I'm fine. Pretty proud of myself, actually. I rubbed his back the entire time!" You wouldn't think a statement like that would make my heart flutter, but it totally did. "Awww," I said. "You're gonna be a GREAT Daddy!" And then I remembered my show, "I'll call my mom and tell her I can't go see Cyndi Lauper tonight." Jimmi replied, "No, don't do that! I'll stay home with the kids. It'll be fine. Go have fun!" I had to lift my jaw up off the floor before I answered, "But Dylan's sick. And you'll have to pick Justin up from his friend's house at nine and put them both to bed." He was totally unphased, "We'll be fine! Go do your thing. You've been looking forward to mother/daughter night for a long time."

And that's how the night played out.

Dylan seemed a bit better after he'd been home and out of the heat for awhile, so I was a little more comfortable leaving him. Jimmi made him some plain pasta (Jimmi doesn't all!) and made sure he drank lots of fluids. But while I was at dinner Jimmi texted to let me know Dylan didn't eat at all and he was sleeping on the couch. It was only 6:00 PM. "Can you take his temperature?" Without hesitation, Jimmi figured out how to scan the thermometer across Dylan's forehead and give me the reading: 99.7. "Ok, it's not really a fever, but obviously something is going on. You'll need to check him again in about an hour. If it goes over 100, he's gonna need Tylenol. Shit. I only have extra-strength." Jimmi wrote back, "It's ok! I'll run out and get the regular one. Anything else?" I thought a minute. "Ginger ale," I typed. "But don't leave while he's sleeping!" He replied, "Relax! I won't!"I looked across the table at my mom and shook my head. "Who is that man at my house taking care of my sick kid like a pro?" She laughed, "He had to learn sometime!"

By the time my concert started Jimmi had already purchased regular Tylenol and ginger ale, picked up Justin from his friend's house, taken Dylan's temperature two or three more times (never went over 100) and gotten them both into bed. "Everyone's asleep!" he texted me proudly. I hated feeling like a nag, but I had to ask, "Can you please put a bowl next to Dylan's bed, just in case?" He wrote right back, "Already did."

And just like that, Jimmi made the jump from stepdad to dad.

And the timing couldn't be more perfect. In two days we'll meet the woman who will hopefully become pregnant with our baby in the next month or so. I finally feel confident that Jimmi is ready for his new title...



  1. I think he is ready, too! And I just officially met him (and you) on Thursday. What a sweet story--and a great guy! You are a fortunate woman to have him---but then, he is fortunate to have you, too!

    Tina Diefenderfer

  2. Bravo!! Let's get this show on the road! :)