Burb Dad Begins

Updated: Mar 13

Look kids, Big Bend, parliament

I spent the majority of my adult life in the military, retiring after 24 years from an adventure that took me all over the world. During my career I served in many roles and sometimes I didn’t understand what I had to do, but to help me navigate the hyper-regulated culture of the military, I had ample reference materials like regulations, manuals, directives, orders, standard operating procedures, etc. Want to grow a mustache? The Army will tell you how to groom it in a regulation. Need to drive a HUMVEE? The Army will not only tell you how to operate it in a manual, but it also offers information on how to get into it the vehicle (seriously, it is called three points of contact). Needless to say, I’m a big fan of manuals because they show how to operate things and how to maintain them so they don’t break.

In 2004, the guy formerly known as Capt. Steve Alvarez.

So when my wife announced that she was pregnant in 2001, instinctively, I searched for a manual. I read everything I could about parenting. Magazines, books, studies, you name it. I also looked back on my own childhood and my relationship with my parents and tried to take mental notes of what worked, what was memorable, what I didn’t enjoy. When Duncan arrived I thought I was pretty prepared. I had a head full of Dr. Spock and I read all about what to expect the first year. Truth is, I wasn’t prepared and it wasn’t from lack of effort it was simply because no book, no words, no expert can prepare a person for parenthood.

Children cannot be categorized, labeled and placed into pretty boxes and bins where they are all the same types. Like anything, kids can be small, medium and large, fast and slow, colorful or plain, and they can come in various models. But a kid does not have a manual. A manual for my youngest son cannot be used for his classmate who sits across from him. They might be the same year, but they are different models. That’s not to say that all children should be treated as if they are special, however, they are individuals and the one-size fits all pop culture child-rearing advice that is constantly being spewed at parents does not work. We need to find child rearing methods that fit right for our kids and for each of us as parents.

Me with some Iraqi children at a market in Baghdad.

I have spent most of my professional life writing about the military, war, foreign and domestic policies and a bunch of other topics that make the adult world what it is today. I learned that writing about those topics causes me to endure what my wife calls “a heaviness.” It is a weight that as a soldier I have carried for many years and nowadays after the release of my book, Selling War: A Critical Look at the Military’s PR Machine (University of Nebraska Press—Potomac Books), I’ve come to terms with the fact that I no longer want to carry that weight and that I would prefer to replace that heaviness with the weight of one of my kids on my shoulders. Today, as I watched my oldest son walk out the door I couldn’t remember the last time I had him on my shoulders, but the good news is that I have plenty of memories of him riding high with his arms wrapped around my head and that’s the weight I’d prefer to carry and talk about from hereon in.

Me with some Iraqi troops shortly after an enemy mortar attack that injured about half a dozen soldiers at Taji MTB.

In this blog, you will not find answers to all of your parenting questions. It isn’t a manual. What you will find are candid anecdotes of a modern-day father with a not-so-traditional vocation (writing) who is completely devoted to his kids and his wife. I decided to launch this blog because parenting has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done, but one of the things in my life that has consistently brought a smile to my face and it has been a source of emotions I never knew existed. Frankly, why would I want to write about terrorists and war when I can share stories about my kids and the challenges we all face as parents. I’d rather tell you how my daughter came into our room one morning as we were in bed and told me “Dad, do you know that it is really hard to bounce with your legs straight?” Or how my teenager every now and then struggles with his desire to eat chicken nuggets which he considers to be “little kid” food. I’d prefer to tell you about how my youngest son loves to hold my hand when we go for walks and how our hand-holding always ends with him looking at my hand and telling me how his hand is getting bigger. He reassures me that even when he’s a man that he will still hold my hand and silently I wish I could freeze that moment and that his little hand will always be in mine.

My daughter loved those dishwasher buttons. Now she pushes mine.

That’s the world I live in today and that’s the world I’d prefer to write about. One with hope, adventure, love and discovery, not just for my kids, but also for me as a dad. This blog is about my continued journey into fatherhood, without a map and compass and without a manual. Like most blogs, it will be interactive and I encourage all of you to share your comments as I write about parenting and more specifically, fatherhood. I’ve learned in my time as a dad that I get some of it wrong, but I get some of right and that the best sounding boards have always been other parents. Sharing what works, what doesn’t, and just talking in general about parenting I think makes us all better parents in the long run and it helps us raise kids as best we can; not perfect kids, but kids who are pretty darn good. At the very least you will be able to visit this blog and say, "That’s not how I’d do it," and if that’s the case, then I’ve helped.

After a long day at my unit, I assigned myself dad duty, the best kind of detail.

So think of this blog not as a manual written by some expert but as a guy who has been there, done that. I’m not a childhood development or early childhood expert. I have a license to fish and drive a car, but no license to parent other than just my natural paternal responsibility and pure boundless love for my kids.

I’m a father of four, who had no father before. A father with a writing problem. And with that, this blog begins.


©2020 by Steve Alvarez, Burb Dad.