Monthly Archives: December 2009

Port Discovery Survey / Renovating Young Kids’ Area

Port Discovery, an outstanding children’s museum in Baltimore (www.portdiscovery.org), is preparing to renovate and expand its young children’s area, known as The Sensation Station. If you would like to provide some input into the new area, which is intended for infants, toddlers and preschoolers up to age four, then use the link below.

I love Port Discovery — though it can be harrowing for to take my 3- and 6-year-old there and lose them as they head in opposite directions on the 3-story climbing structure — but the number one thing I wish they would do is scrub the place within an inch of its life. A lot of the museum’s areas are grimy and shop-worn, and heavily used parts are wearing out.

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e2nzv2xlg3j5x5aa/start

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At-Home Dad As Empty Nester

It’s as if my life is flashing forward 15 years, when our second-born will head off to college: there are no children in the house.

My parents graciously agreed to keep our two kids for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s. It gives the kids some time at Grandparent Camp, and it gives me a few days to work on a freelance assignment with practically no interruptions at all. In fact, I wish there were some –- it’s too quiet for too long.

This must be what it’s like to be an empty nester. I’m not used to focusing for hours on end on anything at all. The constant changing demands on my attention that come with being an at-home dad (meal prep, time to go to school, finding shoes, folding laundry, more meal prep, “he hit me!” or “Who was president during the War of 1812?” and so on) are so different from the focusing for long periods that come with professional journalism. Sure, the phone rings and editors and colleagues ask about this or that in an office, but thinking and writing for hours on end is tiring in an entirely different kind of way.

By 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, I had had it. My lovely bride was home sick, so we went to the movies! We didn’t book a babysitter! We didn’t admonish the children to behave before we left, or lay out pajamas and figure out what leftovers the sitter could give the kids for supper. And when we got back around 7:30, we fixed supper in peace and actually got to eat while the food was hot! No supper getting cold while I holler “For the third time, I said, wash your hands! Put down your art project, or I’m coming to throw it in the trash!”

I’m not a big fan of baked potatoes. Fried, scalloped or mashed –- maybe. But my wife never lets me forget that I once called them “starch bombs” because they’re so boring and bland unless you slather them with butter, sour cream, salt and bacon bits -– all delicious, but completely negating any nutritional value. So I only fix baked potatoes about twice a year, under duress. But last night, we warmed up some leftover “twice-baked potatoes” (one of my wife’s favorite recipes, which she made for Christmas dinner) and ate them while they were hot. Before I looked down, I had eaten all she put on my plate. Getting people to the table while the food is hot – an impossibility with a first-grader and a preschooler – made everything taste better.

As we dined by candlelight, we actually discussed the movie –- uninterrupted. After washing the dishes, there was no rush to put children to bed. We played the TV at whatever volume we wanted. And when my wife was upstairs and I was down, I just called up to her in a loud voice with my question –- knowing there were no kiddos I would wake.

But I miss having the children around. Getting to read to them. To kiss their bellies and extort hugs out of our son (our daughter hugs with abandon). Having a reason to get out of the house, other than to walk the dog. Having a reason to interact with other grownups, usually prompted by the kids. And with more time, I have less energy to do the housework that I usually scramble to cram in before preschool pickup or elementary school lets out -– unload the dishwasher, clean the bathroom, vacuum the living room, and on and on. What’s the rush? I’ll do it later.

Tonight, my wife is going to the gym after work, then having drinks with a coworker, then we actually get to go out to dinner. At whatever time we want! With no Working Mommy Guilt for ditching the kids after not seeing them all day. We can stay out as long as we want, but we’ll probably be back by 8:30 or 9, feeling drowsy as soon as we get home.

And for a moment, we’ll wonder where the children are.

Diaper Bag Dialogue: Disperse, You Men!

(Diaper Bag Dialog is a new series of posts inspired by conversations in the real world of the at-home dad. Like at the post office this morning. Cheerful 50-ish woman in line: “Your daughter’s shoes are on the wrong feet.” Me (smiling through clenched teeth): “But she got them on herself, didn’t she?”)

The Baltimore County Public Library has tons of great books in its children’s departments –- I can never walk out with less than a towering armload of books. An added gem at the Rosedale location is Storyville, a play area for preschoolers with a pretend store (complete with plastic vegetables and laminated fake money), fake garden and a couple of climbing structures. (www.bcplstoryville.org) If it were closer to our house, I’d go every week.

The group of at-home dads I hang out with gathered there last week, and it sparked some online chatter. It’s about the age-old double-standard when the at-home parent is a man, not a woman. Read on…

“There were four of us dads standing and talking at Storyville on Wednesday while our kids were ‘interacting’/playing with each other, when a librarian came up to us Dads and told us Storyville was intended for the parents to interact with their child and that more or less we should get to “interacting” with our kids.

“It didn’t bother me so much while I was there … but when I got home I thought about if the scenario was different and we were four mothers standing there. Would anyone have dared to walk up to four mothers and tell them they need to start interacting with their child??? And if they would have dared I am pretty sure the scenario would not have ended as peacefully as it did with us.”
–Joe K.

“Interesting. I’ve been there plenty of times to see moms talking with each other. Not an issue unless mom or dad’s kids are going crazy, I would think. But, what would a Dad know?”
–Tom M.

“That’s a pretty disgusting story. Good thing I wasn’t there because, being my father’s son, I would have lost my temper.

“I just emailed them asking for an apology (info@bcplstoryville.org). If I don’t get a reply, I’ll see what else we can do. Maybe email the County?”
–Oren M.

“My daughter and I have been to Storyville at least a dozen times during the last couple of years and not once was I instructed to “interact” with her, but only to make sure I didn’t leave her unattended (should be noted that we have gone there many times for playdates with other Dads). Sounds like another example of the all-too-prevalent “double standard” that sometimes still makes being a SAHD a little uncomfortable.

“Here’s another one: the mother of one of [my daughter’s] classmates approached me about a playdate with her child outside of school. As usual, I was agreeable and inquired about their availability. Her response: ‘Oh, um, what days is your wife available?!?’ Thanks … thanks a lot.”
–Christian

“In her defense, she was probably feeling nauseated by our in-depth analysis on the Patriots’ lambasting Monday and the genius of some fella named Sean Payton who, to her chagrin, turned out to be just some coach to some sport called football :)”
–Joe

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“Happy SAHD” Premieres In NYC On Jan 27

A documentary film about at-home dads is premiering in New York next month. The Baltimore-based filmmaker, Michael Ivan Schwartz, followed about a dozen Baltimore at-home dads (including me) for about a year. So in case you find yourself in New York City and in need of entertainment on January 27, here you go!

For more information, visit:
www.happysahd.com or this other site. \

And to reach the filmmaker, contact:
Michael Ivan Schwartz
LOUD Communications, LLC
michaelivan@loudvideo.com
(410) 718-0344 Cell