Monthly Archives: August 2010

It’s The Most Wonderful Time…

There’s a TV commercial that I absolutely love, and it’s the one I would pick if trapped in a place where I could watch only one ad for all eternity. It airs in late summer, showing despondent children watching a gleeful parent glide on a shopping cart amid office supplies at Staples. Johnny Mathis croons, with irrepressible cheer, “It’s the most—wonderful time—of the year.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I could watch that ad over and over and over.

So, that means that today in Maryland is the first day of school. Yahoo! We survived summer!

I decided a coupla years ago that I would embrace my contrarian self and do the opposite of what Eddie’s buddies’ parents did when all our kids were 4. No weeks and weeks of day camp and lessons and classes. The school year is busy enough, and I get sick of Having To Be Somewhere On Time. All the time.

So we embraced playing with mud, riding bikes until boredom sets in, reading a lot and generally having the unstructured childhood I had when I was a kid. This, however, meant way more work for Daddy. It required constant management on my part.

To wit:

“Dad, can I go ride my bike?”

Well sure, but where do you plan to go? When will you be back? Wear your watch so you can mind the time. Why didn’t you come back when you said you would? Why didn’t you answer when I called?

“Dad, can I have a play date? Right now?”

Well, sweetie, it’s almost lunch time/supper time/time to go to _____. And we have to plan these things in advance. How about I call your friend’s mom and see about a day next week?

“Dad, can we play Wii?”

Is Mommy home? Then, no. It’s her Wii, and you can’t play it without her. I don’t care if so-and-so wants to come over and play Wii. You’ll have to play something else.

“Daaaad? Carla/Eddie’s making a big mess!”

Well, tell her/him not to! Why are you tattling? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why don’t you help clean it up? Why don’t you give me half a moment without having to referee you two? Just long enough to rub two brain cells together and produce a complete thought.

Honestly, the summer wasn’t as boring as I had hoped. We didn’t even get halfway through my “Fun Stuff File,” an envelope clipped to the side of the fridge with free or almost-free activities written on scraps of paper. Never made it to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Didn’t go to Sandy Point State Park. Didn’t do a day trip to Washington. We didn’t even go to the library that much.

It was a heavy travel summer, however. Between a beach week in Florida with my wife’s family, a road trip to Georgia to nursemaid my mother-in-law and another beach week in North Carolina with my family, we spent a lot of time gearing up, gearing down or just plain being out of town. (I know, cry me a river.) Only went to the ER once. And we joined a pool in August.

Now I’m back to trying to cram housecleaning and yardwork and laundry and errands and writing and house projects (crown molding, anyone?) into the few hours that really result from having a kid at school. (A guy at church once asked me what I do when I’m home alone.)

Next week, Carla begins preschool five mornings a week.

I can hardly contain my glee.

This Shuts Me Up (For Awhile)

Whiling away the afternoon watching workers install new sidewalks in front of our house.

This installment of The B-More Dad Blog comes from an anonymous dad who leaves me with absolutely nothing to complain about. This on a week when I got to hang at the library with my 4-year-old daughter and my local at-home dads’ group, prep my bathroom for painting, join my kids watching new sidewalks being poured in front of our house and ride bikes to the pool three or four times with the kids.

For one moment, my whining will cease.

This came in as a comment in response to my post prompted by a guy who asked me what exactly do I do when the kids are at school. This dude deserves his own turn as guest blogger. And following it, a brief guest response from my Lovely Bride.

“As a part-time stay at home dad with a 19-month-old, I do the majority of the same things you do — day in and day out — to help maintain my home. The problem I’m having is ‘Stay at home dad’ envy. I’ve been at home with our son since his birth. My wife went back to work after 3 to 4 months of maternity leave. Since then, I’ve been the main caretaker for our son throughout the day.

“Last February, my former job called saying the my old position was opened and it was permanent with benefits working 3-1/2 days a week, 12-hour shifts at night Wed-Sat! I discussed this with my wife, and we agreed that this would help with our finances — and get me back on the horse and some well-needed adult time. Well, this worked out perfectly for us, because we also didn’t want our son in daycare due to every other person we talked to who has their child in daycare is ALWAYS SICK!! Plus, that fact that until he can actually say or show Mommy and Daddy who hurt him in daycare, we wanted to keep him out.

“With this shift, I work 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. I have an hour commute to come home to a wife who’s trying to get out of the door to go to work herself. So I’m rushing to help her by making a quick breakfast, getting coffee together, checking to see if she needs any help all while tippy-toeing through my home so I don’t wake my 19-month-old.

“Once I’m finished, and my wife’s successfully out of the door, who just happens to wake up maybe a 1/2 hour later but my son, and he’s ready to start his day. I run with him and do my normal errands until 1:30 or 2 p.m., then we can take a nap. We sleep for maybe 2 to 2-1/2 hrs. Then I’m up again getting dressed, and making a quick snack for our son before the babysitter arrives for an hour to watch our son until my wife gets home and I’m out the door heading back to work for another 12-hour shift.

“On most occasions, I can handle the routine. I catch up on a good bit of sleep on my off days, Sun-Wed.

“The issue is, while running around with my son we do a lot of things together, and my wife hates the fact that she doesn’t have the time to do these things with our son until the weekend. I can’t share certain events with her because she gets jealous, much less when a good bit of her friends are ‘Stay-at-home’ moms and are always posting on Facebook and e-mails about all of the good times they’re having with their children.

“I keep trying to tell my wife that they’re omitting the lion’s share of all of the other 10,000 things we have to do to avoid our working spouses from coming home after an 8- to 10-hour day and dealing with home chores! Not to mention also dealing with relationship issues on top of everything else. We’ve been battling some serious issues lately — both work and personal — and as a couple we’re SERIOUSLY misfiring, and it’s starting to get to a boiling point.

“If anyone reading this has experienced any of the things I’m going through and have weathered the storm, PLEASE share any suggestions you may have  — this will be HIGHLY appreciated.

“Thanks for letting me bend an ear.”

So that’s the end of the anonymous guest blogger.

My Lovely Bride had three thoughts in response. (Clearly, there’s lots more to it than this, but these were the first three thoughts.)

  1. The guy’s wife oughtta fix him breakfast after the 12-hour shift. Not the other way around.
  2. She needs to work through the Working Mommy Guilt/Jealousy for missing “those special moments” and focus on what’s best for the kid. And on the time she does have with him.
  3. Naked naps. For Mommy and Daddy on the weekends, that is. Ya gotta start somewhere.

Are You Kidding Me?

I pick strawberries, too.

My jaw dropped recently when a guy at church asked me, “So what do you do when the kids are at school?”

Seriously?!?!?!

In 2010 modern America?

You’re asking me this?

It was at a church band rehearsal, where musicians included a drummer with a newborn and a singer and at-home mom with a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old baby. The band members are a jovial bunch, good-naturedly ribbing each other. But I couldn’t tell if the guy asking me – he works at the church and is younger than I am, with a toddler, I think – was teasing or really wondered what I do when I’m not lying on the couch eating bonbons.

The at-home mom’s eyes widened as she turned to look at me.

“Well, I can have a beer at 4 o’clock whenever I want to…” I said.

He wasn’t laughing it off. I think he was serious.

“But really, I clean the house, buy the groceries, take the kids to the dentist, scrub the toilet, do the laundry, organize the basement, scrub the bathroom, cut the grass,” I said. “That keeps me pretty busy.”

I suspect the guy was trying to ask what I do professionally – or did before I became an at-home dad – but that’s not what he said. I eventually told him I’m a journalist by trade. He had wandered away by the time I mentioned that I had a paid gig  earlier this year. I actually made money!

What I forgot to tell the guy – I’m not the quickest with unplanned witty responses – was when I’m not doing those things, I fix breakfast (my waffles from scratch are awesome). I pack lunches and try not to do lots of prepackaged, processed stuff. I fix a hot supper five nights a week. I clean it all up three times a day, and I boss the cleanup of bedrooms and playrooms. I walk the dog twice a day.

I find the right soccer league for my firstborn and choose the right ballet class for my second child.

I drop my wife’s dry cleaning and pick it up. I buy the birthday presents for my kids’ friends. I find a reputable carpet cleaning operation and jam the living room rug into my car to haul it there and back. I paint the bathroom and replace the front-door light fixture. I potty train two children in a house with no first-floor bathroom (I’m long done with that one – whew!).

And then I volunteer at my son’s school. I dig worms from my compost bin for his first-grade class’s science experiments. I pay the bills. I get the car inspected at the place way the heck across town. I hunt down overdue library books by the dozen and try to schmooze my way out of paying the fines.

Individually, none of these tasks are especially difficult. But focusing on any one thing for more than five minutes without interruption – now that’s the hard part.

Oh, and when I’m not doing all that, I’m busy actually rearing my children. I mediate endless ridiculous disputes. I determine whether an offense requires a timeout or is merely worthy of an admonition. I make them get dressed and brush their teeth. I hold them still long enough to comb their hair – well, my daughter, at least. I take them to a weekly gathering of at-home dads and kids, which they’ve come to think as so normal that our son asked one time, “How old do mommies have to be to go to law school?”

I teach them manners (read: pound into their thick little skulls) and get them not to talk like rotten little potty-mouthed kids. I try to train them not to want lots of TV or computer time and instead think up their own things to play, preferably outside. (Now we’re getting to the more abstract stuff that’s a lot harder to figure out.) I try to instill enough (but not too much) of a sense of danger when my 7-year-old plays outside out of my view that he won’t get hit by a car or abducted.

Yep, I do that, too.

When I’m not eating bonbons.