Monthly Archives: April 2014

The ED Challenge

ed challenge

Jeannine over at Highchairs and Headaches recently posted that she had been suffering from the whole mommy guilt thing. She came up with ten funny reasons why she rocks as a mom and I hope they had the intended effect of reminding her of how hard she works. Well being a dude, I don’t suffer from mommy guilt. I do suffer from ED, or environmental dystopia, which is a term I just made up. It describes the feeling that I am in a place that is not functioning properly or a place that I clearly am not welcome. This could describe my house on some days, the park on other days, or taking three children grocery shopping. Being a stay at home father is not the most common occupation in these parts of the woods, and many people look at me with a sidewise glance when I am out and about. And in times like those I need to remember why I chose to stay home with my kids instead of work a job like every other single man on the planet (or maybe it just feels like that sometimes). So here are my ten reasons:

  1. I actually enjoy it.  Contrary to what my face may be expressing on certain occasions, I do enjoy being home with my kids. I love to watch them play and make up games and jump on the trampoline. Their energy and laughter remind me that life is for the living so let’s go live it. I can’t tell you how many people, both men and women, but mostly men, have come up to me and told me how they don’t know how I do it. Really? Is staying home with your kids that much harder than being stuck with your co-workers all day? I don’t think so.
  2. I make fresh bread.  I’m not exactly sure how this relates to staying home with my kids, but I think it’s part of what makes me rock as a husband and dad so I will just throw it out there. I make French bread, bagels, sandwich bread, pancakes, and a host of other freshly baked goodies just for fun. And my kids love it. They clap and smile and giggle when I throw a hot loaf of French bread on the table as a side to dinner. A little butter and salt and a glass of wine and life doesn’t get much better.
  3. I play games with my kids. Ya, I don’t really like to play games. But I do, over and over again. Did you know that if you simply turn the pile of Candyland cards over when you are finished that you will get exactly the same outcome? I do. If you are the first one the get past squares 48 and 49 on Chutes and Ladders, you will most likely win. I lose at all the memory games, I think. And I don’t even try at twister any more. Still, I play on.
  4. I raised all three of my children from infancy. I didn’t become a stay at home dad because I got laid off or was in between jobs. My wife and I chose to have me stay home. I have for the past 11 years done the daily work of keeping the family life thriving and organized, as much as those two things can coexist. Obviously, I didn’t personally breast feed my kids, but I did watch. I am hoping because I am her husband that doesn’t creep anybody out because we all know breast feeding boobs are amazing. Aside from that, I have done it all.
  5. I cook all the meals. I like to cook, I’ll admit. I cook almost every night of the year and often for friends we have over. I read the most recent recipes, shop for the ingredients, experiment with new types of food, visit the farmers markets, buy cheese online–the whole thing. And I never tire of it. It’s like sex, but with food. And if I didn’t stay home, there is no way I would have the time to cook like I do. My kids eat food from all over the world because I bring it into the house. They are versed in curries and spices and flavors and textures from every culture worth cooking.
  6. I clean the whole house. Yes, the whole house. My wife likes to do the large projects like Spring cleaning the closets, but I do the day to day everyday. The kids will pick up their rooms and put their clothes away, but the cleaning part I shoulder on my own. Like cooking, this may not seem to directly relate to my ED problem, but for me it is a part of the whole attempt to care for them. I don’t think children thrive in chronic disorder so I try to keep it to a minimum so they have the time and place to be kids.
  7. For a man, I’m pretty damn patient. Small children require a lot of patience because they are often really annoying. Sometimes I get too angry, sometimes I  have a glass of wine, but mostly I just grin and bare it. When they were younger I was never alone. I cooked dinner while they sat next to me in a highchair, they unfolded all the laundry I had just put away, and they were constantly at my feet in the bathroom (yes, I sat down all the time). Now they still want my attention, just in different ways. How far can they test the rules, how they attempt to talk themselves out of a punishment, and how they can try to use their parents against each other for their own personal betterments are just some of my personal favorites right now. I am aware that I am not their mom meaning that I know I am not a woman. The genders tend to deal with problems in different ways so I try to lend a softer touch to issues I feel like smashing. I don’t, and never have, for the record, smashed anything. Patience.
  8. I love my wife. I really do.  I think in the whole parenting thing it is easy to lose sight of the one thing that made us parents in the first place. My wife and I have been married for over twenty years. Yes, twenty years! That’s a damn long time. And while not all of it has been smooth, we have done everything in an attempt to love each other and the family we have created. Our kids see that and know that we love each other, and more than anything else, besides the fresh bread, it is our relationship that will guide them into adulthood.
  9. I love my children.  I’m kind of embarrassed that it took me this long to say this outright. Maybe I thought it was assumed the whole time but, sheesh, number 9 on the list? Well, I do and I think they are some of the coolest people on the planet.
  10. I am a stay at home dad.  I know at this point this may seem obvious so why say it, but it’s not easy doing something counter to the general culture. When you first meet someone new, the inevitable question is: So, what do you do for a living? When I tell other men that I am a stay at home dad, if the crickets weren’t chirping there would be a literal silence. They just don’t get it. Women think it’s fascinating, and I appreciate that, but it is so because it is unusual. It takes some guts to do something unusual.

So there it is. My ten things. I feel better already and think my ED may be clearing up.

Her is Going to Love This!

sock monkey

I like to, as much as I can, let my kids choose for themselves. I feel like my job as a parent is to provide a boundary for those choices, a predetermined set of things that they can pick from to give them the sense, and hopefully eventually the discipline, of choosing their own life and having a say in their own destiny.

Now, if my kids were to read this, I think they would call bullshit on this. But since only two of the three know how to read, two don’t know my password (I think), and I don’t allow them to cuss, I don’t think they’re going to have that opportunity. I’m sure they experience my parenting as a relentless attempt to do the exact opposite of what I just so nobly described because I am constantly and persistently involved in their lives, but that is my job as a parent isn’t it? And, sometimes I just get bored and I like to mess with them. Still, overall, I think it’s for their betterment.

My kids need boundaries as much as I do. I mean, if I didn’t have any boundaries, I would be a drunk, 300lb, clown who makes balloon animals. Yes, I know that is weird, but I am simply trying to make the point that I would be a mess without boundaries. As it is, I am proud to announce I am not 300lbs so I do have some restraint. My children, on the other hand, without restraint would be booger eating, feet stomping, screaming, dirty, little Wal-Mart bastards. I must draw the line somewhere so I refuse to let them eat their boogers. Pick all you like but the minute it goes into your mouth, beware because my vomit is close behind.

I say all of this simply as a preface to say that I allowed my youngest child to pick out a present for his Mother with as little coaching as possible from me. I wanted to see what was actually in his little heart. What would he pick out, looking through his five year old eyes and without interference, for his Mom? I took him to Target to find out.

We walked in the store and immediately he went for the dollar section. Now I’m not against a bargain basement gift for my wife, but she is, so I quickly steered him away from the cheap lotion and scrubby sponges. We walked towards the clothing section and he started to suggest a few clothing items that Mom might like: a sexy nighty (I hope he suggested that item because it was pretty, not because he was unknowingly awake), a SpongeBob tee-shirt, and bright pink shorts. Referring to my comments above, I started to limit his choices.

Naturally we moved over to the toy section. “Would Mom like this?”, he asked, holding up a Barbie doll. I am sure that one of the reasons I married my wife was because I intuited that she had never ever in her life liked Barbie. “I don’t think Mom likes dolls anymore”, was my gentle reply hoping I didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for this present adventure. We walked down another isle when he stopped dead in his tracks. He had found it and he knew it.

“Her is going to love this!”.

I looked up and there it was. The perfect amalgamation of my desire to provide a set of choices and his five year old mind: A sock monkey. Yes, a sock monkey. I knew the moment he said it that this was the gift that would delight both the giver and the receiver. He would be overjoyed to present this to his Mom, and she would be genuinely surprised and know the joy of receiving a gift that was given with the whole of his heart. It was perfect.

We purchased the sock monkey and promptly went home to wrap it. Now, at five years old, he understands the idea that giving someone a gift is supposed to be a surprise. Feeling like he fully grasped that idea and wanting to add extra tension to the element of surprise, right before she opened her gift he blurted out, “It’s not a sock monkey, Mom!”. I am sure in his young mind he thought such a statement would only add to the tension of the moment and the eventual surprise. It didn’t add to the surprise of course, but it did add something to the moment. It added the hopes of a five year old that he would truly and joyfully surprise his Mom.

She was surprised. She  loved the sock monkey and it has taken up a permanent position on the dresser in our bedroom. It sits there staring blankly up at the ceiling fan as a daily reminder that our children love us with a childlike love, as they should. Our sock monkey reminds us that although our youngest is five years old now, he is still young and small. The knuckles on his hands are still indented like all young children’s hands are.

As our children grow and become better at choosing for themselves and others, there are two things that will endure in our house; the sock monkey and his misuse of pronouns. The phrase, “Her is going to love this”, has also taken up a permanent residence, but in our family lexicon instead of the dresser. We all say this phrase now when we know someone is really going to like something, and it all started with Sawyer because him loved with his whole heart.