Kids (Names & Ages): Caleb (5 mos)
Location: Washington, DC
Donald K. Sherman is an ethics and oversight lawyer who lives with his wife, Caitlin, and son, Caleb, in Washington, DC. Donald wrote for several years on his blog, Somebody Does That, and has written about career planning and culture in various publications. Donald loves to travel and loves Georgetown basketball, and especially loves to travel to watch Georgetown basketball.
- After having kids, what product can you not live without?
First, our espresso machine provides the “sweet nectar of life” as my wife calls it. Neither one of us has gotten a lot of sleep over the last five months, but at least we have caffeine … and each other.
Second, we would be lost without our Roomba, which is like a member of the family – seriously. His name is Jethro and we refer to him as our eldest child. Although he often gets chastised for taking naps in the closet or under the bed when he should be vacuuming, our hope is that when the machines take over, Jethro will spare us and his little brother.
- What was the best kid-friendly vacation or day trip you’ve been on recently?
We are spoiled living in Washington, DC, since the city has an extensive metro system and most of the best museums and attractions are free including the National Air and Space Museum, the National Zoo, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Museum hopping is a great way to spend an inexpensive day trip with a tiny human.
As for vacations, we enjoy anywhere with friends and other children. In December, we drove to Dover, Vermont to spend New Year’s Eve with two of my friends from high school, their wives, and their children. It was – 12 (yes, minus) degrees and snowy for most of the weekend, but with three kids under six months old, everyone stayed in and had a ball. There were a lot of waffles, bad television, and quite a number of games. Since none of the kids were on the same sleep schedule, we could eat and drink in the house while basically playing a zone defense on the children. It was a great time.
- What is a parent hack that you’ve discovered?
Sadly, sleeping in separate rooms has been essential to maintaining our sanity. Since Caleb is still primarily breastfed, I’m not very useful for night time feedings. In our
first few weeks as new parents, I would mostly wake up in a daze, shout, “Where’s the baby? Are you all right?” falling back asleep before my wife could answer. Although she carries an inordinate amount of the parenting load, getting uninterrupted sleep has helped me to spell her in the mornings so that she can get some rest when Caleb wakes up for the day. This practice kept me fresh during my paternity leave and sane when I went back to work. Although it’s not very romantic, sleeping in separate rooms has also encouraged us to be more intentional about spending time together as a couple. It’s easy for new parents to neglect their relationship as they focus on taking care of the new baby. Our weird sleeping arrangement reminds us not to take our time for granted.
- What are your kids’ favorite books right now?
Caleb is a little too young to articulate any preferences, but we enjoy reading Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle and King Hugo’s Huge Ego by Chris Van Dusen. Both books have great messages of humility as well as fantastic illustrations, though right now, Caleb mostly just tries to eat the pages.
I am also looking forward to reading Dear Pope Francis by Pope Francis as Caleb gets older and begins to ask questions about religion and his place in the world.
- What is your child’s favorite activity right now?
Caleb’s favorite activity right now is putting other people’s hands in his mouth. I hope he manages to grow out of this phase before he enters the world of work. Things could get awkward! He is also partial to playing with his new Zany Zoo, which is an activity cube with different games on every side. Caleb spends a good portion of every day rolling on the floor while spinning the alphabet blocks around and around.
- What’s a really useful product that you don’t see on a lot of registries?
I had to ask my wife about this one since I haven’t spent a lot of time on other people’s baby registries. It turns out that while lots of people ask for diapers and wipes, not a lot ask for a diaper caddy. Since Caleb has decided he likes to poop and pee in every room of the house, our diaper caddy has been tremendously useful.
- Do you love your stroller and/or baby carrier, and would you recommend it?
We didn’t plan it this way, but we basically have his and hers carriers. My wife uses the Moby, and I swear by the Baby Bjorn. Going “bjorning” with Caleb is perhaps my favorite part of fatherhood. We can go walking around our neighborhood and he can see everything I see. I wear him when we go to Georgetown basketball games and we can scream at the referees together. During the summer, I could take him to our local beer garden and have my hands free to carry a bratwurst and a pint. It’s like he gets to ride in the front seat on our father-son adventures!
A few months ago, we ran into a friend at Costco. He had his nine-month-old son strapped to his chest. It was clear that his son had grown out of the carrier about a month earlier, and the Baby Bjorn was holding on for dear life, but they just couldn’t let go. We totally get it.
- What is your kid’s favorite toy right now?
Outside of his activity cube, Caleb’s favorite toy is his Baby Einstein aquarium. My wife took Caleb to the mall one day and discovered that he was fascinated with fish. And when he got upset on long road trips, she showed him videos of fish swimming to calm him down. Her best friend then sent us the Baby Einstein aquarium to attach to his playpen. He loves it and has even figured out how to turn on the aquarium’s lights and sounds by himself. Life finds a way!
- What is something about having kids that you didn’t expect you would love?
I know that kids are funny, but that’s usually the ones that can talk and ask inappropriate questions. I had no idea I would find everything Caleb does impossibly funny, but I do. When he farts, I laugh. When he spits, I laugh. When he cries, I laugh. (My wife hates this one.) And when he looks at me like he thinks I’m a crazy person, I definitely can’t keep a straight face.
- What advice would you give to first-time parents?
For parents, my advice is to communicate clearly what you want and need and what you don’t want and don’t need.
You’ll have times when there are too many people trying to help, and it can become overwhelming. Or there will be so many people around that want to meet and hold the new baby that they forget that the experience is new for you as well. Learn how to say, “No thank you” or “We don’t want that.” Alternatively, there will be sometimes when people will not know how they can help you or not know that you need something unless you ask for it. There is no need to feel guilty asking for what you need. Just pay it forward and all will be right with the universe.
For the dads, I would advise that you spend some time befriending other dads with kids of a similar age. I have been so fortunate that several of my closest guy friends became first-time dads during the last year. These are friends that I’ve grown up with and gone to school with, so it’s been incredibly valuable to share this experience with them and add another layer to our friendship. Not every dad is as lucky as I am, and you may not want to defer to spending time with your partner’s friends and their partners. Cultivating your own relationships with other dads will create a network of people with whom you can have candid discussions about fatherhood and marriage that are going through many of the same experiences.