Gay Dad Life

Rocco: The Kid Next Door

This is the fifth article in Anthony Romeo’s series about his adoption journey. Read the first article in the series.

And then one day, amidst the clamor of moving trucks and adjusting to life in a new apartment, we realized that Rocco had been born.  Our first day in our new place coincided with the first day in the world for our next-door neighbor’s newborn baby.  In the 21 subsequent months since his birth, my husband and I have learned much about interacting with a child, the types of things you only learn by doing.

We’ve bookmarked these lessons, so that we can use them when we have our own child, and are sharing these here, for your entertainment and education. May the force be with you.

Nom nom nom nom nom!

  • Food is going to go everywhere, despite your best attempts at keeping things neat and orderly, you’ll realize at 5 in the morning that the squishy item you’re stepping on is, in fact, a green bean from yesterday’s meal.
  • If you’ve fed your child blueberries, please be prepared for the scare of your life when you open his diaper.  Your child’s diaper contents will resemble something out of a “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie. Which is appropriate, since you’ll never sleep again.
  • Tater tots and olives do not constitute a meal. Keep your fridge stocked. Olives are great in a martini, but Rocco doesn’t care for martinis.
  • Choking is a risk both when food goes down, and when it comes back up. Puree everything until your child is 30 and married. Then give a blender to his spouse.
  • 80% of food will immediately come out of your child’s mouth while you’re feeding him. Reducing the input will reduce the output, smaller bites are better.
  • Night Night, Rocco!

  • Rocco is the only baby in the world who will put himself down for a nap, wrap himself in blankets, and fall asleep. Way to ruin it for our own kid, Rocco John.
  • While you appreciate Disney classics, “Dumbo” will bore your child to sleep. Use it whenever you want an easy nap.
  • Be on the lookout for the 30-minute pre-nap eye rub. Your child gives you clues when he’s tired, picking up on them helps you organize your day!
  • The new technology for baby monitors is terrifying. We will be the dads who walk up and down the stairs 30 times to check on him, instead of watching him on the night-vision cameras that are a little too Paranormal Activity-ish for our taste. Once you’ve seen Rocco’s eyes glowing in night vision as he stares blankly into the camera, you know there’s something he’s not telling us.
  • Investing in a personal bean bag armchair for your child is the best idea you can ever have. And once you see how quickly it helps him fall asleep, you’ll find yourself searching for “Adult Bean Bag Armchairs” on Amazon.
  • Playtime Is For Everyone!

  • Is it round? Does it bounce? Is it bigger than a baseball? Then prepare for it to be thrown everywhere and anywhere, and for that to be the most exhilarating moment in your child’s playtime. Also, be prepared to roll your ankle at 11:30 on the walk to your bedroom, when your foot finds the ball that had disappeared earlier in the day.
  • Funny voices win the day. Take the time before you become a parent to practice your impressions, you’d never believe how much mileage you’ll get out of your “Kevin McCallister sledding down the stairs inside his house in the ‘Home Alone’ movie” impression.
  • If you let your child jump off the armchair one time, be prepared for him to want to do it every time. Even when you’re not looking. Install foam padding everywhere.
  • Just because your child isn’t saying words, doesn’t mean his vocabulary skills aren’t there. Flash cards are great ways to develop memory and internalize vocabulary. But remember, every kid develops at a different speed that is perfect for him/her. If you celebrate when new words are said aloud, then learning time becomes playtime, and that’s the best time.
  • Children love countdowns. Whether it’s jumping or throwing or climbing or eating, doing a dramatic “ooooooone…..twooooooo……three!” will allow you to hear the most amazing laugh your child can produce, and the look of suspense on his/her face between numbers will make you happier than a pig in doodie. (We have to say doodie, it ends in a “y” sound, and is immediately and infinitely funnier.)
  • Time To Get Dressed!

  • If you are my husband, and you’re reading this, then you already know to avoid snaps and buttons. If you’re not, then you should know that my husband once buttoned Rocco’s onesie four times, and each time the alignment kept getting further and further off, until the kid’s foot was buttoned to his neck. Zippers and Velcro? That’s the way to go.
  • Children will always get the cutest clothing to wear, but sometimes their Kermit sneakers will cost more than the shoes you get to wear.
  • There is no way to just “take a quick peek” in The Children’s Place without taking out your credit card. However, good luck finding a cat shirt if you have a boy, or a dog shirt if you have a girl. Staring you right in the face, Crazy 8 and The Children’s Place. Boys don’t care if they’re in pink, and girls don’t care if they’re in blue. Those are stupid rules we put in place as parents, not our kids.
  • Despite your best attempts, your baby’s pants will always make him look like a rapper, as they’ll never remain higher than the back of his thighs. Maybe cartoon characters got it right, and maybe pants really are optional.
  • You can never go wrong with a bowtie and suspenders on a baby, as long as you accept the fact that your baby will always consistently be better dressed than you are.
  • Video Killed The Radio Star!

  • Your child is not too young for “Showgirls,” as long as you’re showing him the VH1 version with cartoon bikini tops. In that case, it’s essentially a cartoon. (Some would argue that both versions are cartoons, but I digress.)
  • Your remote control will fascinate your child. Give him one without batteries, or figure out how to read Portugese, so that you can change your settings back to English once he’s done playing.
  • You will become intimately familiar with the characters of every children’s television show on Sprout. Your child will remain interested for 45 seconds.
  • Sometimes your child will catch a preview of a horror movie on television. Your husband can’t watch those commercials without getting night terrors, but your child will laugh. Don’t feel guilty.
  • Children and straight men seem to love Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” music video. You should feel free to assume it’s because of the music.
  • All joking aside, we are so incredibly lucky to have neighbors like Paul and Donna, who’ve let us work on our own parenting skills by spending time with Rocco. They call it babysitting, we call it training. But to allow two gay dads-in-waiting to learn so much from their son is a gift we can never repay. And to allow us to teach him?  Amazing.

    Moreover, our neighbors are helping to wipe hate from the world by putting their son into a world where love defines a family, making a better tomorrow for all of our children. Hell, for all of our grown-ups, too.

    We’ve been able to see Rocco grow from his very first day in the world. From a baby who could only pivot on the floor to the boy who growls like a lion while wearing an elephant costume;  from the little baby with the spit-up towel to the bigger boy who can recognize 80% of the X-Men by sight; and from a bite-sized swaddled bundle to a medium-sized sprightly daredevil, we are so, so lucky to have been along for the ride. And have I mentioned that he recognizes Hillary Clinton? I’m doing my job!

    By being such a great kid, he has absolutely given us unrealistic expectations about what it means to be a parent, but he’s also softened our hearts with his laugh, brought us to tears with his hugs, and helped us understand that the best way to live our lives is to focus on all the happy minutes inside of a day.

    Because of our time together with Rocco, the wonderfully amazing boy next door, we are better and more thoughtful men, we’re kinder people, and we are invariably more prepared to be dads to our own child.

    So thank you, Rocco John.  Uncle Ant and Unca Dom love you, are so proud of you, and can’t wait to see the type of man your mom and dad are raising you to be. So far, you’re one incredible guy.

    Read the next article in Anthony Romeo's series about his adoption journey.

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