Tag Archives: dads

Time is a Flat Skipping Rock

skippingrocks
photo credit: via photopin (license)

“You need to get better at managing your time.”

We have the same exact fight with Will every single night. An hour before bedtime we ask him to think about his plan for the rest of the evening. For instance, he can watch TV or play Minecraft for an hour, but at 8 pm he’ll have to go right to bed. Or he can choose to watch TV/play for half an hour and then we can rest for a bit together upstairs and chat before bed, which he loves to do.

He’s always so sure and steadfast when he makes the initial decision. But then, as bedtime nears, he gets buyer’s remorse and wishes he had chosen the opposite. Then come the tears, the yelling, the tantrums — it’s exhausting. But we stick to our guns and talk about the importance of time management. Time after time.

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I took Will to a local swimming hole with friends over the weekend. The weather is unseasonably gorgeous here for early May, so the kids fished for a bit and then stripped down and went for a dip. They were pirates, adventurers, and archaeologists digging in the water’s edge for time’s forgotten fossils.

Well, the clan of Spidey underwear clad explorers  didn’t discover a new species of dinosaur. However, they found the next best thing: flat rocks.

The sun-splashed afternoon quickly became a rock skipping competition of epic proportions — each kid side-arming stones in an attempt to skim it off the surface of the water and create as many jumps as possible. Who could skip rocks the farthest? Who could get the most skips? Which one of those trumps the other?

Then Will hucked a nice one at a great angle and attained maximum skippage. A nice big, arcing first bounce followed by four or five additional skips before the limits of the universe intervened and halted all progress. He turned and looked at me with a beaming grin and eyes sparkling with self-satisfaction in the noon-day sun.

He suddenly seemed so grown up, almost like a different person. And I wondered where all the time had —

Oh holy hell.

Time management is a crock of shit. It only took one look at the skipping rocks kissing the water’s surface combined with my suddenly seven-year-old son to realize time can’t be managed. Not really, anyway. Nothing as inexorable as time can truly be managed. Or contained. Or even slowed down. A few guys tried it once in the 1980s, but their DeLorean antics produced some unpredictable results.

We are shot out of a cannon into life’s pond and the clock immediately starts ticking. We skip along the surface and our respective ripples trace our journey. They are the major milestones of our lives — first date, graduation, buying a house, marriage, kids — because those things are the most visible. They are the moments stamped most markedly in time for all to see.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re the most important.

Time can’t be stopped or slowed down. But it can and should be savored often, and survived when necessary.

And although the splashdowns are the obvious focal points, most of life is the in-between. The bulk of our journey consists of the flight — rocketing through the air not knowing exactly where or when we’re going to land — and hoping we bounce up and keep going for just a little while longer. Just skipping ahead one more time until physics kick in and we inevitably sink to the bottom.

We’re all in flight and set in motion, and you can manage your time or enjoy it. For me, it’s time for the latter.

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Dads Clean Up Nicely These Days

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OK, let’s get this out of the way first and foremost. Yes, the guy who went on record saying he prefers parents with slightly messy houses is writing a post about cleaning houses. And while I can already hear the “HYPOCRITE!” chants, that really isn’t the case. Despite being comfortable with a little mess and disorganization, there comes a tipping point at which the mess threatens to climb The Wall like a mass of Wildlings and enslave us all.

Or, in other words, cleaning up occasionally is necessary, as is making sure it’s never just one parent’s job to do so. That’s where Swiffer and its #SwifferDad campaign comes in.

Did you know, according to the Swiffer Cleaning Index, dads today are pitching in around the house more than twice as much as their own fathers did? And of the men surveyed, approximately half say they do the lion’s share of housework. Gone are the strict gender roles and the Mr. Mom mentality automatically assumed when men donned an apron or cleaned the floors. Modern masculinity is about being present and involved in all of the moments, not just the one where you slap a paycheck down on the table and send your wife grocery shopping.

To be perfectly frank with you all, MJ and I have a fairly traditional arrangement at home. I work full-time and have a half dozen or so freelancing gigs on the side, which amounts to nearly two full-time jobs. With my wife staying at home full-time, the vast majority of cooking and cleaning falls to her.

But that doesn’t mean working fathers like myself use that as an excuse.

I negotiated a flexible schedule at work so I could take my youngest to an Early Intervention play group once a week. I volunteer in my oldest son’s first-grade classroom every Friday. And at nights and on the weekend, I try to do a little cooking and cleaning. My wife works extraordinarily hard and now, 19 weeks pregnant, gets even more tired than usual. So if I can do the dishes, a load of laundry, or clean the floor, it makes her feel appreciated.

While I never cleaning interfere with the limited amount of time I have at home to be with the kids, it is important to get it done. So I get up early and do some chores while everyone is in bed before we start our day, which really frees us up to have worry-free fun.

Or, if my youngest decides he doesn’t want to sleep, I include him in the process. Because there really is no substitute for modeling involved fatherhood and giving him firsthand experience in the process.

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The Swiffer Wet Jet is easy for me to use, and my 20-month-old can’t stop pressing the spray button and then mopping. Which is great for me, since I flat out HATED our old mop and bucket. That was a whole damn process, whereas the Wet Jet consists of putting a Power Pad on, cleaning, and then simply removing the pad afterward and throwing it away. Easy, clean, done.

My kids know I work at work, and then I work at home. They know their mom and I are a team, and they have their own chores because now they’re part of the team as well. That’s imperative as gender roles shift, more moms return to the workforce, and dads make their home lives a priority.

*I was compensated by Swiffer for this post, but all opinions are my own.

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A Letter to My Unborn Baby

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Dear 3rd Child,

I wasn’t always sure I wanted you.

Oh, sorry about that. Where are my manners? Hi, I’m your dad. Nice to meet you. I’m the owner of that loud voice you’re probably already sick of. If you can even hear. Honestly, I’m not even sure you have ears yet because I hate those baby development calendars that tell me how big you are by comparing you to different fruits and vegetables. You know, this week you’re a peapod and next week you’ll be the size of an avocado. Maybe it’s because some of the vegetables they use are really strange, and because I don’t eat enough of them I don’t know what they look like and then all perspective is lost. I start to feel like if I can’t use vegetables to figure out your size then maybe you don’t exist. Maybe none of us really exist. And suddenly I’m in a full blown existential crisis all because I’m unfamiliar with rutabagas.

Sorry, sometimes I get off topic a bit. As I was saying, I wasn’t really sure I wanted you. I know that’s a horrible first impression I’m making, but it’s the truth.

You see, you’re our third child. The only problem is, I never planned on having more than two. It’s nothing personal, just that I’m a big believer in man-to-man defense. Or, in other words, one parent for each kid. It’s simple in theory, and it comforts me not to be outnumbered. But your arrival means your mom and I have to switch to zone. We’re going to be out-manned, forced to play a prevent defense. Insert additional football metaphors here.

It’s not like your mom tricked me or was deceitful. When we talked about how many kids we wanted she always said “two or three at the most.” I think I just ignored the latter part and assumed we were on the same page. And then we had trouble getting and staying pregnant, so in my mind, three was almost definitely not in the cards.

Last April your mom told me she was pregnant. Unfortunately (or from your purely selfish perspective since you wouldn’t exist, fortunately), it didn’t work out. But from that experience, I learned a few things. Mainly 1) how nervous I am about having a third child, and 2) how much that doesn’t matter because another child would be a wondrous, awesome thing.

We lost that baby before I could really wrap my mind around the whole thing. But here you are in the second trimester, and the reality is staring me full in the face. But, as usual, when one of my kids seems to be the problem, one of my  kids solves the problem and shows me how stupid I am.

Case in point…

I’m freaking out because we have no place to put you. We rent a cozy 3-bedroom duplex and currently, all bedrooms are occupied. To make matters worse, none of them are very big. So the question becomes where do we put you? And the answer is we have to put your two brothers in the same bedroom — the thought of which causes me great consternation.

When Sam was born Will lost his play room because it turned into Sam’s nursery. Now another sibling is on the way and Will is going to lose half his room to a 2-year-old tyrant. As an older brother who shared a room with a younger sibling for nearly a decade, I can commiserate. That experience can be suffocating and the age difference (5 years between them) makes it even tougher. I was dreading having to tell Will and the meltdown that would surely ensue.

But guess what? Will wasn’t angry. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When I told him he’d have to share a room with Sam his eyes lit up and his smile grew wide and bold.

“You mean I get to share a room with my brother??? YESSSSSS!!!!” he said, much to my surprised delight. “I bet Sam will even climb up into my bed and cuddle at night. I can’t wait.”

And suddenly I felt very silly. It reminded me of two years ago when I worried I couldn’t possibly love another human being as much as I loved Will. But I soon found out our hearts automatically expand when a new baby arrives, and in that vein we’ll find a way to make it work regarding everyone fitting under the same roof.

As for Will’s reaction, shame on me for not seeing that coming. Now don’t get me wrong, I know full well his tune will change after a few weeks or a month of his brother all up in his face all of the time. That’s inevitable. But let this be a lesson to you, baby boy or girl, of the kind of family into which you’re entering.

Your oldest brother Will has more kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence than any 10 adults put together. He is patient, a great teacher, and so full of love he’s in danger of bursting. He’ll be your guide and best friend. Meanwhile your older brother Sam is a tornado. He attacks life with zeal and fears nothing, yet he hugs every other kid on the playground and has smiles for everyone. You’ll be closest in age to him (26 months apart) which means you’re going to battle him your entire life. Yet all the while you’ll want nothing more than to be just like him. He will push you in ways that are frustrating and obnoxious, but ultimately he’ll make you a better person and he’ll force you to work harder and keep improving.

And your mother? Well, she’s a saint. And a gorgeous saint at that. But as beautiful as she is on the outside, she’s even more spectacular on the inside. I don’t have to tell you that though. You literally know what I mean.

You’re not entering a rich family so I can’t promise you a carefree life detached from financial struggles. You won’t have the finest things, occasionally you’ll have to go without, and some days we’ll barely scrape by. But there is one thing I can promise you with complete certainty. You’re being born into a family filled with love. Passionate, unyielding, copious amounts of love and loyalty that we’re never afraid to express. From your parents to your siblings to your grandparents and beyond, love will comfort you and cushion you far better than a life of riches and luxury ever could. So welcome, my little one. You’re the last piece of the puzzle and the world is waiting. Stay safe and grow strong and healthy.

One last thing you should know — it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. As long as you’re a Patriots fan.

Love,
Dad

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The Pros & Cons of Complimenting Parents in Public

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photo credit: Eres hermos@ via photopin (license)

 

***I have partnered with Similac for this piece.

People need to have more support for moms and fewer empty compliments for dads.

If you’re familiar with my writing and my unyielding advocacy of involved fatherhood, that sentence probably left you blinking in disbelief. “Did the guy who will never shut up about the importance of dads just say people need to compliment mothers more while praising dads less?” Yes. That’s what I’m saying. And no, I’m not crazy and this isn’t an impostor. Just hear me out.

When I’m out alone with my boys at the playground or a store, I am bombarded with compliments from total strangers. I’ll admit, it felt really good at first. So many people were coming up to me and telling me what a good dad I was, I felt like Superman. I don’t care who you are, it’s nice to hear a compliment. And when they come in waves and involve your children and parenting skills, it’s that much sweeter.

And then one day I saw her.

I was at a playground with Will (Sam wasn’t born yet) and was the only dad there. As usual, I was basking in the glow of all the compliments from the moms telling me what a good dad I was for being out with my kid by myself. Then I saw two kids, maybe 5 and 3 respectively, bolt by me and chase each other around the base of the playground. I could tell they were brother and sister immediately because of the bickering, which was growing louder by the second.

I looked over at the park bench and saw a clearly exasperated mom craning her neck to see where her two bickering progeny had gone. She had her hands full at the time because she was trying desperately to get her baby to latch for a mid-morning snack. Meanwhile her two oldest reached a fever pitch across the playground over the toy they both wanted, and it culminated with the older brother pushing his sister. She fell to the ground unhurt but crying, with the brother shouting at her to stop crying because they’d both get in trouble.

The mom was red-faced and hissing the names of her two kids in an effort to get them to stop. Meanwhile the jostled baby was having trouble feeding, and he/she (I couldn’t tell and it doesn’t really matter) also began wailing. I remember the “I’m at the end of my rope” look of temporary helplessness on the look of the mom. I also recall the other moms raising their eyebrows and rolling their eyes, as if to silently say “Geez, get control of your kids lady.” I remember wanting to go over there and offer to help her, or at least tell her we’ve all been there and she’s doing a great job. But for some reason, I didn’t. And now I’ll always remember regretting that.

That day made me realize something important, which is all the compliments I received from strangers regarding my parenting were actually anything but.

I’m not doing anything special when I’m out with my kids. I’m literally just walking around, getting my errands done, and hoping they can play without killing themselves or each other — same as every other parent. The reason I’m complimented is solely because I’m a dad out with his kids alone, and therefore kind of a novelty. And that sucks. It sucks for dads AND moms.

While I’m 100% confident no one has any ill will when complimenting me, I have NEVER seen a mom in the same situation with her kids receive similar kind words. Why? Because parenting their kids is what moms are expected to do.

If we truly want to move toward being equal partners in parenting, that has to change.

Dads shouldn’t be singled out for praise simply for basic parenting 101. If we accept those compliments while mothers get no public support for the same tasks, we’re automatically erasing the level playing field. We’re saying raising kids is a mom job that dad helps out with every once in a while. We’re patting dads on the head for nothing more than completing the basic job requirements of parenting. That belittles fathers and ignores mothers — a dual disservice.

That’s why now, when I see any parent struggling to keep up with their brood, I take the time to stop and tell them we’ve all been there. There are good and bad days. But either way, they’re doing a helluva job.

It’s not much and it takes so little effort, but sometimes a kind word and some reassurance — even from a stranger — is enough of a lift to get through the day. Small actions often have gargantuan positive repercussions, so next time you’re out and you see someone struggling, throw her a compliment.

And while complimenting a dad with just cause is always worthwhile, please stop doing it just because we’re out with our kids. Despite your best intentions, it ultimately comes off as patronizing and does a disservice to dads and moms.

Let’s work to support all parents, because you never know when a random kind word will make all the difference.

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ABB_SIM_BloggerBadge_250x151I was compensated by Similac for the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” campaign (#SisterhoodUnite), which aims to unite all parents in a judgment-free zone. But as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy this fantastic video Similac developed that shows we’re all #ParentsFirst when it comes to raising our kids. You can visit Similac’s website or go to its Facebook page to learn more.

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11 Ways Valentine’s Day Has Changed After Kids

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Look, I wasn’t too fond of Valentine’s Day before I got married and had kids. It’s a contrived, ostentatious “holiday” that does nothing but set impossibly high expectations and create an atmosphere conducive to crashing and burning when the bar isn’t met.

But it doesn’t stop most people from trying.

When I was sans children, I definitely tried to put the saint in St. Valentine’s. I was flowers, jewelry, expensive dinners, and handwritten poetry. Rhyming poetry. In fact, one poem I wrote to a girl started with “On this day of St. Valentine, I’m oh so happy you are mine.” Yup, that’s right. I won’t go so far as to call myself a stud, but yeah — pretty much a stud when it came to Feb. 14 romance. Anyway…

MJ and I were like most couples before they have kids. We were attentive, passionate, and we couldn’t imagine a scenario in which stepping on a LEGO could be an injury that lands us on the sexual injured reserve list (and by us I mean me). We were young, hot, and could choose to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in a tropical paradise if we wanted.

But as kids arrived and time slipped past us, things have most assuredly changed.

As most parents will tell you, children bring a ton of joy to your lives. However, they also have a tendency to bring about the death of romance, sex, and yes — Valentine’s Day. If you’re a parent, these before and after descriptions might have you nodding your head in agreement. If you’re an expectant parent, you might wonder what the hell you were thinking. And if you’re a hot, young, fancy-free couple who gets to have Valentine’s Day sex without using SpongeBob as a distraction, I hate you. And stop judging me.

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Before: You probably went the first year without farting in the other person’s presence. You held it in and put yourself through gastrointestinal torture just to preserve the romance and aura, only releasing the horror outside after you two were finished watching The Notebook and promising to be just like Noah and Allie (yeah I watched it, so what??) forever.
After: Someone just ripped a horrible, nasty fart and now the scent is wafting through the air like a WMD. Also, you don’t even know who it was. Partner, kids, or the dog. For a second you actually have to think about whether or not it was you. Because life with kids is one noxious scent after another, and you can’t help but think how much of a prick that Nicholas Sparks is for his damn, dirty lies.

Before: Remember how you used to search high and low for the perfect Valentine’s Day card? One of those decorative, doily type deals with lace and fancy trimmings. And the wording on the inside described a love eternal, a flame burning hot, and unbridled passion that would bring tears to any eye and yearning to all loins.
After: Shit! You forgot what day it is. Now the store is all out of cards and you’ve only got minutes to spare to get something done. In a panic, you grab some paper and crayons and tell the kids to get busy. The result is a bunch of nonsensical scribbles or yet another tracing of their hands. On the inside is a hastily written “Happy Valentine’s Day! We love you!” And you know she can’t say anything to criticize it because then she’s a bad mom who doesn’t appreciate artwork from her kids. Because who needs those fancy store bought cards when this is from the heart??

Before: I remember one year, I believe it was our first Valentine’s Day, MJ went all out. She had candles lit and the room all decorated, and made a night just for me. In fact, she even put a whole bunch of Hershey’s Kisses on the ground, and told me it’s because she kisses the ground I walk on (no really, this happened!).
After: The floor? Hahahaha!! No one has seen the floor in weeks because of all these toys.

Before: Speaking of chocolates, I used to get MJ divine candies for Valentine’s Day. Boxes of delicious little treats with who knows what kind of scrumptious filling inside. Which one am I holding now? Only one way to find out. Now let me seductively feed this to you in perfect, sexy little increments.
After: Ummmmm…the store was out of chocolate. But I think I remember Sam dropped a half-eaten Peppermint Patty behind the couch. Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you — because romance.

Before: I have one word for you: massage. Ooooooh yeah, baby. You know what I’m talking about. I slowly undress you and lay you down on the bed. Then I get my array of oils and gently but firmly rub my hands all over your body. I massage you into a state of simultaneous relaxation and anticipation until neither one of us can take it any longer!
After: Well, I guess a kid walking on your back kind of counts as a massage.

Before: That hip and fancy new tapas restaurant? You’re damn right I have reservations. I’ve had them for a month because I know how much you were looking forward to this. Order anything you want off the menu baby, tonight is your night. We’ll dine like royalty and then we’ll have “dessert” at home.
After: Crap, we forgot to get a sitter and there are none available because it’s Valentine’s Day. Well, we could try going out to eat with the kids. Yeah, you’re right — terrible idea. Oh well, so should I order pizza or Chinese? Or how about leftovers??

Before: Sweet googly moogly, when I think back on what MJ was wearing during Valentine’s Day of old — yowza! She was dressed to the nines with full make-up, fancy earrings, a dress that makes men fall to their knees, and heels higher than Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused. Like she stepped out of Vogue and onto the runway. Hell, even I managed to put on a suit and tie once in a while and flirt with looking dapper.
After: She’s in yoga pants. I’m in pajamas. Will has a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit on and Sam is sporting this season’s latest diaper trend from Target. Also, is that poop or chocolate on your sleeve? Yeah, you’re probably right. Best not to find out.

Before: Foreplay. When I think back on how much time we had before kids for all things related to sexy time — hellllloooooo nurse! Not to go all TMI on you, but most couples I know were like us. Enjoying being together for hours in various states of undress, taking your time, whispering sweet nothings, whispering dirty somethings, and generally letting the proverbial oven heat up until the timer goes DING!
After: Foreplay consists of the brief moments before someone shouts “JUST HURRY UP AND FINISH, THE BABY IS WAKING UP!!!”

Before: Sex. Doin’ it. Gettin’ busy. The main event. After all, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is REALLY about? All the fancy dinners, gifts, cards, etc. are really just a prelude to taking a trip to Funky Town. And couples with no kids can do that any time they want. Anywhere they want. At any volume they want. For so many, sex is the end all be all and if it’s good, then everything else is good.
After: Hey parents, without thinking about it tell me which one of these you’d rather do — sleep together or be able to sleep in? Yeah, thought so.

Before: Think back to pre-kid times and try to remember what you did after sex on Valentine’s Day. I bet there was some cuddling and almost certainly some spooning. Whether you were big spoon or little spoon, you had time to reflect on the earth-rattling experience the two of you just created, while you breathe in her heavenly scent and feel his strong arms wrapped around you in a beautiful embrace.
After: Get on your own side of the bed! Don’t you dare cross the unseen but very real border that separates us and maintains the delicate peace as we struggle to get scraps of sleep.

Before: At the end of a beautiful Valentine’s Day that consisted of looking our finest, eating an exquisite meal, receiving lovely cards and gifts, and was capped off by the best session of lovemaking EVER, what’s left to do? Chat for a bit about life while gently trailing off to sleep as we gaze into the wonder of each other’s eyes, naturally.
After: Wanna binge-watch Netflix?

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