Family: Our story, and an intro to the “11 Questions with…” feature.
06 Mar 2017
When my wife Wendy and I got married, we already knew through talks we had together about family… how many children we wanted; how long we wanted to wait after getting married to start having children; and how far apart we would like them.
We started trying for our first child in February 2004. As luck would have it, it didn’t take too long, and Wendy was pregnant. Wendy had joined an online “mom” forum for advice from other moms. This proved to be a very valuable resource.
We did what every other parent was supposed to do… we signed up for birthing classes. I walked in to these classes with an open mind, but still a bit scared.
After the first session, I was relaxed. I was in there with a bunch of other first timers who, like me, had no clue.
Some were more relaxed than others, and some looked like they were just there because their wives told them they had to be.
Now this is just my opinion… but if you plan on having a baby as a couple, then every part of that experience should be done together. Wendy and I attended these classes together, and even made them date nights. We would go to dinner after the classes and talk about what we had learned. I even won all the diaper changing competitions at our sessions, beating out the fastest female. Ya… not something you’d put on a resume, but it was fun to compete with other couples.
By that time, most of the other guys had gotten more comfortable, feeding off those of us who really wanted to be there and be involved.
Do we find out?
We had to decide whether or not we wanted to find out the sex of the baby. So on Mother’s day, we had planned a visit to Wendy’s parent’s place, where we were going to announce to them that Wendy was pregnant.
We came up with the idea of giving her Mom a Grandma card, her Grandma a Great-Grandma card, and her Aunt a Great-Aunt card. Her Aunt figured it out first (probably because Wendy did not have a beer in her hand – she loves her beer).
The first question she asked us was “are you going to find out the sex?”. I answered, “I’d like to, but Wendy doesn’t want to”. I’m a planner, and wanted to make sure the nursery was painted a specific colour, and all the bedding matched, etc. Her response changed the way I look at a lot of things… “It will be the only surprise you’ll get”.
I think it was decided right there it would be a surprise. We had also decided shortly after that I would announce the sex of the baby to Wendy, not the doctor. We had talked to our doctor about this, and to the technicians at the ultrasounds that we did not want to know the sex of the baby.
So December 2004 came along, and our first child, Rachel, was born. After just over 11 hours of labour, Wendy gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We were finally parents! Wendy beamed at her baby girl. We were so happy.
We arrived home a couple days later, and that’s when we realized… birthing classes help you get there, and how to change a diaper, but nothing really prepares you for parenthood. Luckily, Wendy’s Mom stayed with us for a week, to help with the baby and things around the house.
We were fairly quick to pick up on things. Wendy used her online moms board resource and found valuable info and much needed help from her online friends. This was our 2004 version of Twitter.
I was there for everything, working with her to make sure she was not doing things on her own. When I arrived home from work each day, I would spend some quality Dad time with my new baby girl. This was important to me. I made sure it was the first thing I did. Any time she was up, I would play with her, and when she was tired (but not sleepy), I would cuddle with her on the couch.
On the move…
Fast forward about a year… we had decided where we were living no longer suited our lifestyle. The city was growing too fast, and the crime element was increasing at a very fast pace. I looked at Wendy and told her that even though I had grown up in this city, I didn’t want to raise children in it.
So we listed our house for sale. We sold a couple months later, and found a beautiful place in a quiet neighbourhood down by the lake in Oakville. Around this time, we started trying for our second child. Trying stopped at the first try. Wendy was pregnant.
Our move date was in August 2006. She was approaching the end of her first trimester. We had some friends helping us move the small things while movers did the big stuff. Wendy co-ordinated everything from the old house.
After the move was all done and we were at our new home, we sat down for beer and pizza with our friends. Someone noticed Wendy not drinking and said “What, are you pregnant?”. Everyone stopped and looked, to which she answered “Yes”. Our post-move party turned into a celebration.
This pregnancy was totally different. Labour was only a couple hours. Our second daughter, Lauren, was born in just under an hour after we arrived at the hospital.
Once again, we had decided we didn’t want to know the sex, and I was going to announce it to Wendy. It was another girl, and she too was beautiful!
That was March of 2007. Raising 2 girls is no easy task. As they have grown, they have played together, and fought with each other. However, they have been best friends, and always support each other.
Wendy and I love when we see them using their manners, and when others tell us “Your girls are so well behaved”. That makes us proud to be parents. Is that a reflection on us? Of course.
We are only doing what our parents did, and Wendy was instilling some of what she learned had worked for other moms on her online mom’s forum.
Around this time, we were looking to have someone inspect our newly installed car seat. Everywhere we turned, the person at the fire station or police station who was trained was off, or wasn’t available.
So Wendy called St. John’s Ambulance to get info on where to take our vehicles to have them checked. The operator had said “we do have a certification course starting next week which has one spot left if you’d like to be trained yourself”.
Wendy jumped at the opportunity and said “sign me up!”. She became a certified car seat technician, and has volunteered at many car seat clinics with local and provincial police services.
Our biggest success as a family comes in that we work and gel as a team. All decisions are not made by one person. Wendy and I discuss everything. We used a printed family calendar before we both got iPhones, and now our iPhones are synched with iCal on both our Macs.
This is how we co-ordinate all of our schedules. Now that they girls are a little older, they are attending Guides and Pathfinders, swimming lessons, Tae kwon do, choir practice, and youth group. I have a very busy schedule, as I work full time (from home), and Wendy works in downtown Toronto, so keeping everyone on the same page is vital to our family.
Every time we go out, and the girls get in my truck or my wife’s car, they know that the first thing they do is get secured in their seats. Now that they are old enough, they do this themselves, and understand the importance of using seatbelt. When they were younger, we secured them in safely. Knowing that they know how important it is to be safe when in a vehicle is important to us.
Off to school!
Wendy leaves for work way before the girls get up, so I am the one that makes sure the girls have everything they need in the morning. The girls prepare their own lunches the night before, so in the morning, they just have to get themselves washed up, dressed, have breakfast, out the door and on the bus.
Even though Wendy and I aren’t in the same place at the same time, we are still working as a team. We make frequent phone calls to each other throughout the day as things come up. I was involved with their school’s Parent Council for several years (from 2009 to 2015), and co-chaired for 2 of those years.
I also volunteer at certain events, and design/print their school yearbook. This keeps me involved in their lives even when they are not home, in a cool way. A lot of it happens behind the scenes.
I think it’s important for parents to be involved in their kids education and lives, in a non-overbearing way.
We started at a young age so the kids would get used to us being around, but never want to be those “uncool” parents that never give their kids any freedom. We also make it a point to get to know the parents of their friends.
Communication is key!
Being a close family with great communication from day one has helped us stay strong as a family.
We do things as a family… go for bike rides, go camping, play together, and even the simple things like grocery shopping.
It’s all life’s little lessons that Wendy and I have learned, that we are proud to pass on to our girls.
No one said parenting was going to be easy. Wendy and I knew right from the start, if we wanted to be successful parents, we needed to be on the same page, in all aspects of our relationship.
Our relationship is based on three things… and those three things were recited at our wedding… “faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.”
It all starts with us. Our love story. And together, that is how we have raised, and continue to raise, our girls.
Why did I write this post? In hopes that somewhere along the way, it will help new parents. To cope with challenges, to know what to expect after your baby is born, and to be open to advice from parents who have done this before.
While most people are reluctant to listen to “mom’s advice”, as they feel the advice is outdated, in a lot of cases, some things never change. But in some cases, they do.
11 Questions with…
My hope is that you, a new or soon-to-be parent, will find value in not only this post, but in the posts to come. I will be interviewing moms and dads, with the same 11 questions. The questions will evolve over time, but for now, they will be the same. That way, you can see how different parents handle different situations, what advice they have to give, what advice they have been given, and other bits of info I hope you find valuable.
“11 Questions with…” is an on-going feature. I will be interviewing parents with the same 11 questions, who like me, live in the digital world. The goal is to examine different perspectives, advice, challenges, and experiences from how people parent their children, and live a successful work / life / online balance.
With all the challenges of parenting these days, we could all use stories from fellow parents, who may have already gone through a similar experience, or were offered advice that you could use.
If you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming edition, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.