05/26/2010 07:36 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Parent's Guide to Unplugging and Recharging


I still remember the first time I fed my son Seamus a bottle. He was six months old. I lived alone in a bachelor pad on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues in Boston. It was a moment that saved me: The smell of him, the feeling of his little body going limp with sleep, the sound of him suckling in my darkened bedroom. I held him long after he went to sleep. Finally, I placed him gently into the pack-n-play that I had set up nearby. Still I watched him sleeping, not wanting the moment to pass.

Seamus is as big as I am now -- a strapping teenager. He has an older sister who just went to her prom. I got remarried after six years as a divorced dad and had another boy, Cole, who is now five. So I still get to read bedtime stories and lay in his cowboy bunk bed well after he is asleep, just feeling him close and allowing the sensation of fatherhood to sweep over me like a cool breeze in a hot desert.

Maybe it is my difficulty with words, or my tendency to spin off into an 'Eeyore' grouchiness, or my struggle throughout my life to feel like I belong, but to me the touchstone of faith, unplugging and serenity has always been physical contact with my kids. When they were small and even now when I, bad back and all, play an all-out game of one-on-one basketball with Seamus.

I know that I am not alone in this feeling of connection. Moms obviously have deep instinctual drives that take over the moment their babies are born. But the reaction in men's bodies to physical contact is no less powerful. I have experienced similar relaxation by getting down on the ground and rubbing my yellow lab puppy Penny's belly. So, if you are a mom, dad, dog owner, or just an aunt or uncle, listen up. Here are some easy ways to forget your troubles and bliss out.

Rocking chairs are great. A standing sway of the hips works too. Sing some songs that come from the deep recesses of your childhood brain. Use your senses. Feel the child. She will find that little nook between your shoulder and neck to rest her head.

The guy is actually my guru to life. I have read the books over and over again to my three kids and each time I find something reassuring in the message, especially as Cole, my five year old, snuggles into my shoulder.

It sounds crazy but I often linger in my kids' beds after I have gotten them to drop off, just to watch them breathe and to stay in the bubble of their sweet smell before getting up to go back into the big bad world to face reality.

With kids ages 2-16, playful contact is important for them and for you. My kids and I tear up the house, to my wife's chagrin. The kids love to be chased and tickled and I love to see the joy that it brings them.

My little one runs to me when I get home with a crazy hug and kiss that are worth the price of admission in life. The big guys still hug me whenever they leave the house.

There's nothing that isn't common sense here, but there is something that is magical. As adults, we get stressed out, confused and depressed. Kids (and dogs) have something to teach us about the simple goodness of life. Just listen to them and you will be A-OK!