Fried Laptop, Learning From Mistakes, And Overwhelming Guilt

On Wednesday night, NHL was playing a game on my laptop while I made dinner. Suddenly, he shouted that my laptop turned off and wouldn’t turn back on again. I checked and, sure enough, my laptop was dead.

After questioning NHL, he admitted that he tried to plug it in, but wasn’t paying attention. Instead, he shoved the round power plug into a rectangular USB port.

Normally, this wouldn’t have been much of a problem. The power plug requires a metal contact inside the plug itself and the connectors in the USB drive sit atop a plastic piece. Unfortunately, that plastic piece had gone missing and one of the USB connectors entered the power plug.

You might be able to guess what happened next. A surge of electricity flowed through sensitive computer components not designed to handle such currents. My best guess is that the motherboard was fried.

I opened the computer and looked it over. While I couldn’t find and visible damage, given the nonresponsiveness of the laptop, a fried motherboard makes the most sense.

Replacing the motherboard would cost half as much as a new computer. Even then it might not work right as other components might have been fried. So it looks like it’s time for a new laptop for me.

As for NHL, he was, understandably, upset. I’ll admit that, at first, I wanted him to feel bad about it. Making mistakes teaches you nothing if you don’t take the mistake to heart. Too many people are all too eager to blame their mistakes on others and thus don’t learn from them.

After awhile, though, I saw that this had progressed past simple “feeling bad for his mistake” and had turned into full blown “nothing I do is right and I always mess everything up.”

I know that mindset all too well. It’s easy to get stuck like that and spiral downward quickly. At that moment, I set aside any anger I felt over what happened to my laptop and put on my parenting hat.

I told NHL that I understood how he felt and that I’ve felt that way many, many times before. It can be easy to sink into a depression over your mistakes, but that doesn’t help. I told him that, when I feel like this, I intentionally set those thoughts aside for awhile. I picture it like I’m packaging up my feelings/thoughts and placing them on a shelf in my mind.

Once I calm down and can rationally assess what happened, I pick the thoughts up again, figure out what went wrong and how I can do better next time. I make sure I take those lessons to heart but then I put all feelings of guilt aside so as to not let them overwhelm me. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel guilty. I do and will apologize immediately to anyone that I need to. However, for my own self-preservation, I need to be sure to keep myself out of the guilt spiral.
NHL seems to have recovered from his bout with the guilt spiral. I don’t know just yet if he’s taken the lesson to heart. (The lesson being: “Always pay attention where you’re plugging things into.”)

Now, I just need to hunt for a new laptop.

Six Years of TechyDad

Last week was my sixth blogoversary.  Honestly, I completely forgot about it given that it was also the first full week of school.  That and other hectic life events caused it to slip my mind until I happened to notice it yesterday.  I decided to go back and see what I was blogging about in September each year (limiting myself to one or two posts per year).


This was the year that NHL started kindergarten.  JSL did not like his brother leaving every morning and he especially didn’t like me leaving every morning.  Though he still couldn’t talk, he made his opinions on the matter clear and gave me quite the guilt trip.


This seemed to be the month of cooking.  I tried making Mock Crab Cakes to limited success (though now I’m thinking of trying it again).  The Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Dessert Pizza, on the other hand, was a bigger success.  (NHL’s braces might preclude this one given the ooey-gooey marshmallows.)


JSL had finally figured out how to ride his big wheel.  He also got on his brother’s big kid bike to pose for a photo.  Little did I know, at the time, that not four year later, he would climb atop that bike again and ride it without training wheels.


This wasn’t the happiest of months.  Hurricane Irene had just swept through, devastating much of the area.  Though our property was relatively unscathed, we had planned a trip to Disney World with just B and me.  This trip had to be cancelled due to the hurricane.  While it wasn’t of the magnitude of what others had to deal with, it took me quite awhile to recover from this.  Posting my two part blog post detailing our could-have-been vacation was very cathartic.


Shhh…. There’s something I can’t share.  Or, at least, I couldn’t at the time.  I wanted to shout the news from the highest social media rooftops, but we needed to keep quiet while we got some things in place.  Eventually, I was able to post about how we had gotten a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome for NHL and how I suspected that I am an Aspie as well.


B went to Type A Con.  While she was away, the boys and I had some time to ourselves and I learned some valuable lessons.

There you have it.  A quick overview of my six years of blog posts, or at least a selection of the September ones.  It’s been quite a wild ride.  I can’t wait for the next six years.  Then again, that will bring NHL’s bar mitzvah, NHL going to high school, JSL graduating elementary school, JSL’s bar mitzvah, NHL prepping for college, and me being the father of two teenagers.  Maybe I can wait for a bit for all of that.  Here’s hoping the next six years go by slowly!

In Defense of Paternity Leave Trumping Baseball

297px-Daniel_Murphy_on_June_16,_2009While browsing through my Twitter stream yesterday, I noticed a tweet from FiddleDeeAsh about sportscasters Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton lambasting New York Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy for taking paternity leave when his son was born.  Daniel Murphy wound up taking three days off (as allowed by Major League Baseball paternity leave rules) and missed the first two games of the season.

Craig wondered why Daniel couldn’t just hand his wife off to a "good support system" so he could get back to his team and play baseball.  Boomer took it a step further and said he would have had his wife have a c-section so that he wouldn’t miss any games.  He actually said:  "This is what makes our money.  This is how we’re going to live our life.  This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life.  I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player."  Finally, on a different program, radio host Mike Francesa expressed the opinion that "you see the birth and you get back" and "your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple days, you know that."


I almost don’t know where to begin so let me start with Craig’s opening remarks.  Yes, a good support system is essential.  New parents with a good support system will tend to fare better than new parents without one.  However, part of a good support system is having both parents helping out.  When NHL was born, I took a whole week off from work.

Lest Boomer and Craig think that new dads sit around watching TV and grumbling to their wives that the baby is screaming again, we don’t.  When NHL was born, I would take my share of turns taking care of him.  I actually tried to do more than my "share" since B had done the hard work of giving birth to our new baby (something I obviously couldn’t do) and needed time to recuperate.

But if Craig had a grain of truth in his otherwise warped statement, Boomer was full-on looney.  First of all, a c-section is surgery.  It is a highly invasive process that puts the mother’s life in jeopardy (even if it is commonly done, it still carries risks) and can result in permanent scarring.  To suggest that Daniel Murphy’s wife should have had surgery just so Daniel could play baseball is beyond insulting.

Then there’s the "this is how I make my money" argument.  Sadly, this argument isn’t limited to professional sports.  Too many people in too many other occupations bring it up as well.  For all of our advances, many still think that a dad’s only role in bringing up a child is earning money with all of the "actual parenting" being the mom’s job.

How many times must we smash this stereotype before it stays smashed?

Earning money is important, but I doubt many kids grow up and think fondly on all of the money their dad made over the years.  What truly makes a father isn’t the size of your paycheck, but how you interact with your children.  Great fathers spend time with their children and bond with them like Daniel Murphy chose to do.

It wasn’t like Daniel Murphy was quitting baseball and somehow dooming his family to poverty with his actions.  He was taking a couple of days off as per league rules and then he went back to work.  The Mets aren’t going to fire him for this.  Honestly, if I worked for a company and they wanted to fire me for daring to take time off to be with my wife after she gave birth, I’d rethink how much I’d want to work for that organization.  (Thankfully, I never needed to do this as my boss at the time let me take off as much time as I felt I needed.)

Finally, we get to Francesa’s comments.  Somehow, I think that "I’ve seen the birth, I’m done here" is missing something.  Like maybe that baby that was just born!

As for "your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days, you know that"… Actually, I didn’t know that.  So you mean right after my wife pushed a watermelon out of her, when simply going to the bathroom was a challenge, when she was mentally and physically exhausted because she had essentially run a marathon (child birth isn’t a "I’m going to give birth now – oh, there’s the baby" affair), she didn’t need any help at all?  I beg to differ.  If anything, my wife needed me more than ever at that point.  I couldn’t shoulder the physical burden of childbirth for her, but I could shoulder as much of the baby-handling responsibilities as I could right after child birth so that she could rest and recuperate.  If Mike Francesa’s wife was able to do everything to take care of the baby immediately after childbirth, then more power to her, but most women don’t recover instantly.

In the end, Daniel Murphy missed two small games of baseball – the first two of the season.  While those games might be big on pomp, they really don’t make a big difference on how well the team does throughout the rest of the season.  Plenty of teams have started their season with a few horrible games and then did great.  Many others started with a fantastic winning streak before it all fell apart.  Daniel Murphy’s absence wasn’t going to somehow doom his entire team.  Even if he was going to miss game seven of the World Series, however, being there for the birth of his child was the more important event of the two.  He made the right choice and these commentators are horribly, horribly wrong.  I applaud Mr. Murphy for his choice to be a great husband and father and wish more people would recognize that dads are more than just "backup parents" and "wage earners."

NOTE: The photo of Daniel Murphy above is by Keith Allison.  It comes from the Wikimedia Commons and was posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Letting Your Child Shine (Or Fail)

super-nhlWhen you have a child, the instinct to protect your kid from all pain and sorrow is powerful.  It gets even stronger if your child has special needs.

I know that NHL’s Asperger’s and anxiety creates barriers for him that other children don’t have.  Depending on the activity, NHL might be more likely to fail than a neurotypical child. And when he fails, it is more likely to be a horrible mess rather than a near miss.  Adding to this are the many horrible messes I’ve encountered in my life.  There are the things I’ve tried and failed at and the things/people who hurt me.

This has led me to instinctively try to protect NHL.  When he tries to do something, my mind immediately lists all of the ways that it could go horribly wrong.  Where NHL sees enthusiastic fun, I see horrible crash and burn.  I wind up holding him back.

This was the case the other day when we were seeing an improv group for his school.  He kept trying to raise his hand and I, sitting right behind him, kept gently pushing his hand down.  Towards the end, they began to ask for more volunteers.  NHL, as always, raised his hand.  I decided to let him, knowing that it was close to the end and seeing all of the other hands raised.  There’s no way he’ll be picked, I thought.

He was picked.

As he walked up, my mind immediately listed all of the awful things that was sure to happen.  He would say something inappropriate.  He would do something inappropriate.  He would horribly embarrass himself and come back to me with everyone laughing at him.  His classmates would make fun of him over this debacle for months to come.

I was powerless to stop him and could only hope that the crash and burn wasn’t too bad.  NHL was told to act like a pigeon when his turn came up as part of the ad lib.  Then, NHL did something surprising.  He waited his turn and put on a perfect pigeon imitation.  Whereas other kids just stood in one spot and made one or two motions to ad lib, NHL bounced around, flapped his arms, and pecked just like a pigeon would.  He couldn’t have been more pigeon-like without growing feathers.

He returned back, giving me and his teacher a high-five.  He proved me wrong and made me realize something.  When he says he can’t do something, my advice to him is invariably that he can.  However, by trying to keep him from failing, I was implying that he couldn’t do some things.  I need to take my own advice and let him try.  I can still look out for him by providing my advice, but in the end he needs to try these things out for himself.  Will he fail?  Sure.  But he will also rise higher than either of us thought was possible.

NOTE: The image above is a combination of a photo of NHL and “super hero flying silhouette” by laubc which is available from

To Do List Prioritization

To-Do_List_smallOn Sunday, I had so many things that I needed to do that I couldn’t keep track of them all.  Out came my trusty To Do list app of choice (Out Of Milk) and before long I had a list of 10 things I needed to get done.  By the end of the day, all but 2 were done.  Those remaining two were put off for another day since they involved shopping and we feared the pre-Christmas crowds.

After dinner, I sat on the couch with my boys and watched some television.  I only managed to get in a half hour before duty called again.  This wasn’t on my To Do list, but it should have been.

There are so many things that I "have" to do that it all-too-often seems like I have no time for the things I want to do: Like spend time with my boys or go on date nights with my wife.  Real life has a habit of butting in and pushing the things I want to do off the list.

I realized that I always want to have "spend time with my family" on my to do list.  Even if it’s just watching TV for a half hour.  The "need to get done" items can wait until this "want to do item" is checked off my list!

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