Category Archives: Parenting

How to Wear Pajamas All Day Before You Retire

pajamas at walmart

Ostensibly the idea to homeschool my kids was to give them a better educational experience, and to wear pajamas all day. I have succeeded on both accounts. I believe my daughter has had a more dynamic and personal education. I have also managed to live a life where I am not required to get dressed for anything. In addition to these two amazing accomplishments, I have succeeded in reeducating myself not only in who my children are as people, but what transitive verbs are and why they are important. I don’t actually care about transitive verbs even though I use them all the time, but I do care about my children and only use them some of the time, but I don’t tell them that. I just call it doing chores.

Homeschooling my oldest child for two years now has taught me that educating children is hard. I’m not going to go into the whole teachers rock kind of thing because honestly some of the public school teachers I have experienced suck. They’re horrible at what they do and when it is your child who is in their class you feel like accosting them with a dull pencil and eraser; I’ll let you imagine how that would go down. Having to be a parent and a teacher is hard and considering that the salary is nothing and I have to put up with a lot of shit, I feel a little underappreciated.

I must be attracted to thankless jobs because between marriage, parenting and teaching I get nary a thanks out of it. It may come as some surprise, but my daughter does not bound out of the study everyday and say how grateful she is that we covered the volume of a cube. My five year old does call me “the best cooker” for the meals I put on the table which makes me feel good, but it is without the appreciation of what it took to make that meal. He just likes the way it tastes. But I digress…

What I have learned is that spending copious amounts of time with your children does not mean that you know them. Nor does it lessen the feeling that time progresses and some things are lost to that ever proceeding tide. It does, however, occasionally add to the feeling that I am trapped in a very small space and I cannot get out, but that is in my lesser moments. Spending a lot of time with people I cannot physically get away from tends to make me a little crazy on certain days. Still, time in itself does not lend knowledge about anything, except the knowledge that time in itself does not lend knowledge about anything. That’s it. Beyond that, I have to try to know who they are as they grow and change seemingly, and thankfully, before my eyes.

Being given the opportunity to homeschool my daughter, I have tried to know her for who she is and not for who I want her to become. Of course I have dreams about who she can grow to become, but if I fail to listen to her own dreams I have simply understood myself and what I want for her, and mistake that for what she wants for her own life. As a parent, this distinction is critical for me. I am not a person with a heavy load of expectations of others, but I do have a lot of hopes and if I am not careful my hopes may transubstantiate into expectations. I’m all for miracles, but that is one miracle that may do more harm than good.

Aside from the embarrassing fact that reviewing the fourth and fifth grades has done wonders for my personal education, I am mostly grateful for the time that has given me the opportunity to know her better. She has decided to return to the public school forum next year and I am in support of her doing that, but I will miss her. She will be gone from the half of my day that I have the most time to spend with her. Next year she will be one of three voices getting off the school bus competing for my attention and I will have to portion out my time equally and fairly as all parents do. We will adjust.

Maybe the hardest part about her going back to school is that I will have to permanently retire my pajama uniform. I envision folding it up neatly and setting it on the shelf in my closet. I will dress myself for my new vocation which has yet to be defined, and walk out of the house with a renewed sense of physical freedom. But I will also long for the days when she sat next to me for hours on end, in our pajamas, together.

I think I will try to talk my youngest into staying home…

Never…Stops…Talking…

never stops talking

If silence is a virtue, then my children are hedonistic pagans bent on creating anarchy and chaos. The only time they are silent is when they are asleep or staring at a screen. If they are asleep there is a good chance I am too so that time doesn’t count, and since we have a disciplinary system that controls how much screen time they get I am often left with children who simply make noise.

One of them whistles. Yes, whistles. A lot. Another one likes to whine and chew gum at the same time. And the last one, my youngest, is a Pentecostal in training.

All of my children have gone through a faze where they talk incessantly. My youngest child is currently smack in the middle of it. If we were Pentecostals, I would think he was speaking in tongues all the time due to the sheer number of sounds coming out of his mouth. Words, utterances, guttural noises, and bizarre facial expressions come forth out of him all day long. While he appears possessed by a spirit at certain times, I am unsure it is the Holy one. I think Holy spirits are supposed to bring meekness, gentleness, and self control. This one brings screaming, shouting, and animal sounds. It could possibly be an Old Testament spirit or maybe I should consider converting to the charismatic side of life. He would at least get extra credit while going through this stage.

I take much comfort from the thought that he is just going through a stage although everything I know from my two older children tells me he is simply being himself. They make noise all day too and they are way past his age. Still, I’m not going to stop telling myself this untruth because it gets me past the moments and getting me past those moments is better than throwing the adult fit I feel like throwing because, as most of us know, adult fits can be noisy.

Before I was a father I would spend time over at a friends house. His kids would occasionally call for him about a dozen random things as children are want to do and he would habitually ignore them the first three times. This drove me crazy. I  secretly vowed I would always answer my future children right when they asked me something so as to avoid this mindboggling game. Now I get it. If you don’t answer them sometimes they just go away.

So much so, in fact, that I used to have five kids.

My children will ask me over and over and over for whatever random thing that pops into their minds. Can I have a snack? I’m cold, can you get me a blanket? Will you hold me? Sheesh people! What do I look like, your father? Wait a minute…yah, that doesn’t make me look very good. I’m really a pretty good dad, but sometimes the noise just gets to me.

If all the noise were gone, as some day it will be, would I miss it? Yes, terribly. The noise is, in fact, a sign of the vitality and individuality that inhabits my house. It is a sign that the people I love the most are living their life in my presence. They feel free enough to just be who they are and say what they need and make random annoying noises. Without them I would be lonely, or asleep; either way I would, after a small amount of time, miss them.

Fine. I’ll put up with the noise.

Well, someone is (what?) calling (huh?) for their (I can’t hear you!) father,

Steve

The Laundry Man Cave

laundry man cave

I am a man that enjoys a little solitude from time to time. A cup of coffee on a quiet porch. A book under the shade of a tree. A lock on the bathroom door. Before my wife and I embarked on the journey of creating a family I often found myself fishing alone, journaling, or reading. I liked being alone left to my own thoughts and feelings. It’s not that I didn’t like the company of other people; obviously, I fell in love and got married and a strong social life has always been important to me. Still, solitude was something in which I found a lot of comfort and clarity.

And then came the kids. Early on nap time was a welcomed break,  but that soon evolved into getting everything done that couldn’t be accomplished when the little one was awake which was virtually everything. This conundrum only got worse as we added child number two and then child number three. My days were filled with people constantly at my feet, on my back, and in the bathroom. They would fight with each other over toys, fight me for supremacy, and fight for the day old cracker on the floor needing me to stand a constant watch to ensure everyone’s life and liberty. Solitude became an idea from my youthful past like innocence and gas free Mexican food.

Now that my youngest is five, I find I can step out of the room for a few minutes without the fear of Family War XXILXILXIXLX starting. But, I can’t just go anywhere. The kitchen leaves me open to the requests from the living room to bring someone a snack. Out of the library door come the calls to fix the internet. My own bedroom is somehow the family movie theater with my bathroom as the common room for everyone. I have only one room in my house that no one, and I mean no one, will enter. The laundry room.

I have made the laundry room my new man cave. I know that other men adorn their rooms with guns and dead animals and beer cans but I chose the fresh scents of Downey because, and this is the only reason, no one will enter my space. I can spend as much time as I like in my new cave and while people may call for me, no one will come and get me. Why? Because I am armed with a basket full of clean clothes and, hey, while your down here, why don’t you go put these away. Nobody in my house wants to hear that and so everyone stays away.

I suppose until my children eventually move out I will be the one doing the laundry. Laundry suits my solitary nature. Sorting, washing, and folding has its own rhythm and regularity. Maybe eventually I can sneak in an ipad and wine fridge and kick my feet up on the dirty pile of laundry. Then I will have all that I could want at least for a couple of hours.

Homeschooling Demon Spawn

demon spawn

When our first child was born my wife and I talked a lot about homeschooling our kids. We didn’t consider homeschooling as a way to protect our kids from the evil, godless world around us but more to protect the world from our evil, godless children. No, I’m kidding. No, no I’m not kidding. Yes I am.

As she grew older I began to question the wisdom of our homeschooling dreams. Our daughter never went through the “terrible twos”. She went through the evil demon zombie stage and brought the term “stubborn” to new levels in the dictionary. While I was pretty confident I could educate any of our children, this new manifestation of demon spawn was a little intimidating. When her younger brother was born just six weeks into her newly manifested subspecies of humanity, I was sure she would have pulled his arms off and beaten him with them in the time it took me to take out the trash. Because of that, our house went through a period where it didn’t smell so good, but I am happy to report that my son still has both of his arms.

We enrolled her in preschool with the hopes that a little socialization may temper some of her wilder sides. We also took out a personal liability policy just in case she was especially adept at creating anarchy. She cried every morning as we approached the door to her classroom clutching to my leg like I was leaving her with strangers so that I could have a little break, which, of course, I was. Then when I returned three hours later, she would cry that I was taking her from her best friends, which, again, I was. We did this week in and week out for the entire school year.

For some mysterious reason, prekindergarten and kindergarten went off without a hitch. No crying as the teacher pried her off my leg, no grand bargaining about what I would do if she could make it without crying, and no turning of her head in a 360 degree circle. She seemed to be having fun at school and so reserved all of her misdeeds for the moment she walked back into the house.

She continued through her scholastic career all the while slowly maturing. As she completed second grade the thoughts of homeschooling started to creep back in, as did my doubts. I wondered if I could really handle her all day, everyday, for months on end. Could I maintain my well designed façade as a patient and loving father if we were sitting side by side her trying to teach her the basics of algebra? These and many other doubts went through my mind but in the same way as I ignored the doubts about being a good father before I created her, I ignored my own doubts once again and decided to homeschool.

We are now onto our second year of homeschooling. Having done this for two years now I am either a glutton for self induced frustration, or I am trying really hard to do the right thing. Really hard. My daughter is an image of myself and the things I find most frustrating about her are, predictably, my own personal struggles. We both have a hard time with patience. We both could use a little more compassion. We both like soup and noodles which is neither here nor there but is something we hold in common. And, I love here fiercely. I have loved being with her and we know each other in a more complex and nuanced way for our time together.

She has decided to go back to public school next year. She misses the day to day fraternization with other spawn such as herself. I understand. But I am beginning to pray now for a saint of a teacher to continue the exorcism that is the raising of children. Hail Mary, full of grace…

I Am a Human Tampon

human tampon

Today I shuttled my youngest off to a daycare for the day because I was having problems with my internal absorber. We have had a lot of snow days recently and he has been home for hours and days on end. Hours and days, I say. On end. Inside the house. People always talk about how you need a lot of patience to raise children. Well, they’re right. Children require, at least for me, a lot of absorption. It’s the ability to soak up all the random shit they throw at you. You have to soak it up because you can’t simply give it back to them or let it bounce off of you and on to one of your other kids. It makes you look, well, like them.

All three of my children have now gone through the phase where they say “Dad” a hundred times in a day. It happens around the ages of four or five. Suddenly their little minds start to expand and become aware of things they had never thought of before like how do we get oranges?, why do zebras have stripes?, and why does that woman have a mustache? (yes, out loud). I don’t mind answering any of these questions but the sure pace of them tests my ability to think on my feet. And to make things worse, sometimes they call me and have nothing to say. The other day in the car my youngest says “Dad?” and of course I answer “What?”. He sits there a bit and then says “Umm”. He didn’t have anything to say. He was simply sitting there and spontaneously said my name like spontaneous human combustion but with words. And, even if what they say isn’t directed at me the things they say are still within my field of awareness. Yesterday, out of the blue, I hear him say “Fluffy unicorns!”. What? Where did that come from?

The stress of being the sole adult for the majority of the day goes beyond being the only one to answer questions. The ubiquitous squabble of siblings is in itself an unpleasant fact of life. The sibling relationship, that fertile ground of mutual understanding and protection, is forgotten and discarded at the hint of misunderstanding. Words are shouted, faces are curled in anger, and blood is shed as the house descends into chaos. In the middle of these daily, sometimes hourly, events I am to remain calm, cool, and collected. I am supposed to absorb. I am the family’s sanitary napkin.

I think the not often talked about reality of parenting is that sometimes these people in my house are really annoying. On a human to human level. Annoying. I can’t say that to them because they are my kids and I would hurt their soft, little, brutal hearts but the truth of it is they bother the shit out of me sometimes. They say dumb things and chew gum in my ear and leave crumbs in my bed and smell and spill their food. Since I cannot say these things to them what are my options? Absorb, absorb, absorb, drink wine. I added that last one just to throw you off a little. And I like wine.

So as a human tampon I spend my day soaking up all the yucky stuff. And since these kids did come out of my wife’s who who I think the metaphor of being a tampon is really clever. But I can’t tell them that either. There is no way I could explain how it is that there are people who bleed for five days and don’t die. I don’t think they are old enough to absorb that yet.

Well, someone is calling (absorb) for their (absorb) father (absorb)

Steve

Don’t Ever Role Your Eyes at a Girl

girl rolling eyes

The other day when I dropped my youngest son Sawyer off at preschool we were standing at the door to the class room. I was getting his backpack off and telling him goodbye when I heard a voice from behind him call in a soft, gentle, four year old little girl kind of way “Thawyer, Thawyer”. Behind him was one of his classmate, a beautiful blonde girl with brown eyes. He turns around abruptly and says “What!?”. She demurred at his offensive ways and asked him if he would like to play blocks later, or something like that. Sawyer rolled his eyes and walked away to put his backpack in his cubby clearly offended by the attention of a girl.

Oh how things change. My wife and I have been happily married for 18 years. While we have been married for over 20 years I do not hold those 2 years against her as some of it was surely my fault (or all of it if your reading this, honey!). It’s just that we weren’t totally happy for about 2 years time and the fact that those were not two consecutive years but the grand total of unhappy times gives us pause to remember all of the other great parts of our marriage. Come to think of it, of our 20 years we have been asleep for roughly a third of that so let’s say 7 years of our marriage we have been neither happy or fighting, just lying next to each other with our mouths open. That leaves 11 years of happy marriage. But, if I am to really think about it, we have also worked the entire time save a few short vacations which cuts out roughly another 7 years of not really being together. So I guess we are at 4 years of happy, and I mean happy, marriage.

I think when Sawyer gets a little older I’m going to do the math for him. He seems, at this point in his life, to not want to spend any time with a girl, but I think if I show him the real numbers and how you’re really not together for as much time as he thinks, he might be more receptive to spending time with the little girl at his preschool. She is really adorable. Especially with her four year old lisp. And as he grows older into his teen years I think I can use these same numbers to limit the amount of time he will want to spend with a girl. I will talk to him about not spending all of his emotional energy obsessing over someone he may only spend about a fifth of his actual life with. Or, if you’re going to obsess over her, limit your obsession times to a fifth of your total time. Spend the rest of your time thinking about school, world peace, and how you’re going to take care of me in my old age.

And, (he really needs to listen to this) do not ever role your eyes at a girl. If you make a girl angry when you are young she will relentlessly pursue you in an attempt at revenge. If you do it when you are older, she will leave you before your eyes come back down. It will mess up all of my numbers.

Preschool is About the Parents

valentines box

Some parents, notably those of the female gender, seem to have the instinctual ability to know what day it is at preschool. Their kids are always impeccably dressed for whatever special event is taking place with belts and bows in all of the appropriate places. The child’s hair is done, their laces are tied, the hats are super glued to the kid’s head, and the brand new costume is ironed. My child, in contrast, is not quite so together. Most of the time. Alright, almost never. I don’t know what it is; I have the same school calendar all of the other parents have. I get the same warning from the teachers the week before about the next event. And yet, when I show up with my child he is somehow out of place and I feel like a middle school student at, well, anywhere really. They always feel out of place.

When my second child was in the preschool Valentine’s Day was upon us. Every child needed to decorate a shoe box that the others kids could put their valentines into. I worked with him to decorate his box and deferred to him about what he wanted it to look like. Now, I know it’s my job as a parent to expand his awareness of what life could be like and who he could be in it. I know I’m supposed to support him in his dreams and provide the fodder for him to be creative. But, I had no idea that I was supposed to do this with the shoe box. He colored on it and put some stickers on the lid and called it good. It looked good to me. It was simply a box to hold valentines right? Wrong. We walked into the classroom on Valentine’s Day to an array of paper mache creations. These boxes had been transformed into robots, cupids, cars and hearts. The little girls were in brand new dresses with their hair in curls. The boys had slacks and belts, new shoes, and hair cuts. My poor son walked in wearing his normal school clothes and his stickered shoe box.

My first reaction was one of embarrassment for him. I, like every parent, want my children to fit in. Not that I want him to be like everyone else, I just don’t want him to be weird. My second reaction was one of embarrassment for me. I want to fit in too. Clearly, in this instance, I was the weird one. As a parent I had failed to perceive what preschool was actually about. I had mistakenly thought it was about the children and helping them to do the best that they could do. I’m not here to accuse anyone, but I’m pretty sure those kids did not make those boxes. Unless it was a class full of future Michelangelos, I think some of the parents made those things. Apparently, preschool is about the parents.

As a man I’m not terribly competitive. I always gravitated towards the individual sports like swimming and drinking wine. I’m generally not concerned with outdoing someone else or positioning myself to look better than anyone. Other people, apparently, are not as laid back when it comes to Valentine’s Day at preschool. To some, every day is an opportunity to show the world that they can outdo other people through their children. I will leave open the possibility that some of the parents were closet artists, but that still doesn’t explain all the bows and dresses. Unless we’re all looking to position for some early marriage proposals, which I’m not totally against, I’m going to relax about preschool.