Category Archives: stay at home father

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

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

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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.

Fat!

Fat!

There are a lot of things you never want to expose your children to; radiation, the last episode of Lost, and naked people. I mean, come on, you only need to see a handful of naked people to realize, sheesh, the movie industry must use a lot of make up and prosthetics to make it look that good. Next on my list is run down carnivals in dying Midwestern towns. Every summer come July, the month that most resembles Hell in the Midwest, my children scratch and paw the windows of the mini van like, well, children in a mini van, every time we drive by “Galena Days”.

The first time my wife and I went to “Galena Days” we didn’t have any children and therefore felt freer to risk our lives riding the decrepit machines. The brightly colored rides played music that sounded like cats having sex and many of the people running this traveling circus appeared visibly high to me. More disturbingly, many of the people operating the rides appeared to be happy, way too happy, to be doing what they were doing. There is no way a person could smile as much as they did while operating the merry-go-round stone cold sober. No way.

“Galena Days” proved to be an eye opening, gut emptying experience. Growing up I ate my share of deep fried foods like fish sticks and corn dogs. But, I had no idea of the creative depths the Midwest was bringing to the culinary table. I had heard the jokes about how people around here would deep fry anything and eat it: road kill, turtles, and the like. Here, though, I was confronted with the ugly truth. Deep fried pickles, Oreos, Snickers Bars, cheese cake, and pancake batter were some of the morsels to be found. Deep fried cheese cake! My chest tightens at the thought. The size of the corn dogs would have made a horse blush. The combination of the heat, the oil, and the absent stares made for a gastro intestinally unsettling day. I knew then and there I would use all of my super human dad powers to avoid bringing my offspring to such an event.

Events like these are easy to avoid with the proper amount of parental bribery. Other parts of the culture that surrounds us are not events I want my kids to avoid but lifestyles, or more specifically, buffets. Buffets are like 70’s porn; wet, cheesy, and soft featuring people with horrible hairdos. Buffets are endemic here as are the appetites to match. Awhile ago walking through the grocery store my then four year old daughter saw an enormous man; not only was he tall but he was obese. Very obese. As we walked right by him she asked in an unmitigated four year old decibel level, “Why is that man so fat!”. My two year old boy in the cart seat repeats “fat!” with enthusiasm leaving no doubt, if there ever was any, as to who and what we were talking about. I smiled at the man and quickly turned the corner figuring I could outrun him if I needed to. He walked on graciously without commenting on the socialization, or lack thereof, of my young children.

I can’t protect my children from everything and really, I don’t want to. Growing up where we have chosen to raise them presents itself with certain difficulties, as does any area in which you choose to live. Some of these we can avoid and some of them create awkward, but teachable moments for us all. It is not in their best interest to put them on a portable Ferris wheel run by people who look like they don’t know where they are. But it is in their best interest, and in the interest of my personal safety, to be curious about the people around them in a way that is respectful. I am hoping to help them realize that it does make a difference to avoid certain heart stopping foods as much as it helps to lower your voice out of respect for others. Little by little they seem to understand, although July continues to necessitate the most creative bribes.

Well, somebody is calling for their father…

Steve

An Open Letter to All Politicians From a SAHD

Phone photos 09-10 062

Awhile ago my wife had the opportunity to introduce a Missouri senator at the Young Professionals group of which she was the chair. She wanted me to attend the event so I packed up our then two month old boy and went to meet her for the luncheon. As soon as I walked in I knew this would not be easy. The addition of a politician made the room charged with people who wanted to say something important and shake a lot of hands. As the senator and his wife were walking around the room she spotted the baby and quickly zeroed in on the chance to kiss it. I glanced awkwardly as I held the car seat. “Hi, glad to meet you. How old is the little one?” she asked. I quickly assessed she was asking about our baby although my wife is technically shorter than I am. “He’s two months” I replied hoping she would move on without touching him. I hated it when people wanted to touch my babies. Germs. “Well, I hope he grows up to be a conservative.” I threw up a little in my mouth at this point. The senator stood silently smiling the whole time. Maybe he had nothing to say, which would be odd for a senator, or maybe he was the Yin to my Yang and thought it was the baby who had the germs. Either way, he remained mysteriously absent from our conversation.

What do I wish he would have said to me? Since he said nothing a polite “Hi” would have been nice. Beyond that I can’t help but imagine that if I had I been the chair of the Young Professionals group the conversation would have been easier. He could have slapped me on the back and congratulated me on putting the stem on the apple and the wives could have conversed about how hard it is to get the baby fat off, or something like that. I don’t know what women talk about. Anyways, even as it was I would have been fine with him slapping my wife on the back and congratulating her on still being fertile. I’m a modern man. But, I am not going to discuss breast feeding with his wife. She’s old and that’s gross. I’ll leave that to the post modern men.

I appreciate that the stay at home dad may not appear to have a lot to bring to the table. But, if I had been the power hungry narcissist in the room I think I would have paid more attention to the people who are thinking outside the box. While my diaper changing skills are probably not important to his political career (at least I hope so), the fact remains that if you are talking to a stay at home dad you are talking a couple, a husband and a wife, who have chosen to live differently. While that may be initially uncomfortable it is worth pursuing. So, the next time you see a man with a baby, think twice. While you don’t stand a chance of converting me to the Conservative side, you will have saved yourself from being the object of an unknown bloggers rants. Take heed.

No, My Husband Stays at Home….

Imagine this: You and your husband crawl out of bed in the morning because you can both hear the baby is up. You brush your teeth and get ready for your day which begins with a work out at home since your workday doesn’t allow time for the gym. Your husband stays in his underwear and scuttles off the make a bottle for the baby. While you work out he has the baby in the highchair and the other children in various stages of getting dressed. You shower and get dressed for your 7.30 meeting while his hair is still matted to one side of his head. He is sitting on the floor with a cup of coffee playing a game of Candyland and trying to teach the baby to crawl. The notes for your meeting are running through your head and you can hear the sound of the beginning of a long days worth of texts and emails hitting your phone. As you leave out the door with a breakfast bar everyone who can walk scrambles to the door for a goodbye kiss and a tug at your skirt. Your husband shuffles everyone back in the house with his coffee in one hand and the baby in another and waves goodbye through the window. This isn’t his day off or a brief spate of unemployment. This is everyday because you’re the one that works.

Whether this scenario works for you as a woman probably depends upon a couple of things. The first thing is the quality of relationship you have with your husband. I’m going to guess that it is important to you that your husband is working towards something. And not just anything, but something the two of you mutually value like, the care of your children, the laundry, the house cleaning, and (let’s throw this in for kicks) all of the cooking. If he is the one to stay home, then it is vital to you that he works towards the good of the family. He should, day to day, contribute to the overall health and success of what the two of you have created.

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The second part of this picture are your own personal motivations outside of the home. Do you want to work? Really? Are you sure? You, like my wife, are probably very good at what you do and that is why as a family you even have the choice to live on one salary. Being good at what you do, there should be a good deal of satisfaction and pride in your work. But, you won’t be home as much. You’re going to miss your kids. And socially, as a mother, people will wonder why you’re the one to work. Don’t you want to see your kids?

Whether it is the husband or wife who works both people need to feel the other one is working towards the common goal. That is fundamental to any marriage and every family whether one person works or both work. It is the glue that keeps the bond of trust together. I have known other couples that tried to have the father stay home. Some of them didn’t work and it didn’t work for this reason. If you as the working mother walk in from a long day at the office and the house is a mess, the laundry is not done, and MacDonald’s is on the dinner table I’m going to guess that happy is not going to be your first emotion.

If you saw some of the meals I cook my wife you would understand our arrangement. I want to impress her. I want her to walk into a house that is clean and peaceful. I want our weekends to be free of errands to run and chores to complete. I want to have taken care of all the shopping, doctors appointments, and school needs. I want her to be able to brag about me so that she can feel proud of who she married in front of her friends. I want to work as hard as she does at creating our life together because, at the heart of it, I’m so grateful to be the one who is home.

So, what do you think?

I Spy With My Little Eye…

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The other day I was out of the house with my three children. We were playing “I Spy”, the rules of which are a little fuzzy to my three year old, when I spotted a man with a stroller. Beck said “I see something white in the sky” and I guessed, for the fourth time in a row, “cloud” and again won the game. My attention once again my own I watched this guy walk down the street going seemingly no where in a hurry. He was just out for a walk. And he wasn’t pushing a toddler stroller, it was an honest to goodness infant stroller. A real baby. I immediately wondered what was wrong with this guy. What was this man doing in the middle of the week in the middle of the day walking a baby? Did he have a fight with his wife and he walked out? Was he lost? It just wasn’t right.

I would have to be unconscious in order to not see the unbelievable irony. I was a man in the middle of the day in the middle of the week out with my three young children, one of which was a baby. The only real difference was that he was walking and I was in a mini van, and in the battle for who looked less domesticated (an important male competition), I lost that battle.

I was shopping in one the humungous grocery stores the other day. Normally, I am the only male with children in the store. In the middle of the day, senior citizens rule these shopping centers. They are everywhere you go. Next comes women with children and then the rest of the world–people who if they are not single are at least enviably alone. I had never, until this day, seen a father shopping with his children at 11am on a Thursday. On this day, not only did I see such a sight, but I saw two fathers and they were each out with there three children. Yes, three. Just like me. I was shocked. After getting over the peculiarity of the day I found myself actually sizing these guys up; could these men really keep these kids in line without totally losing it? Surely these men were so domestically whipped by their wives that she was probably at home in a Mumu waiting for him to bring back the Bonbons. I was actually suspicious of the abilities of both of these men, who by all observable criterion were doing a fine job, to take care of their children.

Even I, a stay at home dad for ten years, are somewhat suspicious of stay at home dads. It’s just not traditionally manly. Or let’s just drop the traditionally part; It’s just not manly. Men can be husbands and fathers in our culture and remain the attractive sex symbols all men want to be. But when they are the primary care giver? Ya, sexy isn’t what comes to my mind either.

And yet…my marriage seems to work as do the marriages of thousands, well maybe hundreds, of stay at home dads. We have chosen a different way to live from the majority of society and there are real consequences to that decision. Consequences that make their way even into my own duplicitous mind. I wasn’t raised this way either. I have departed, for some very good reasons, from the culture in which I was raised.

Now it’s my turn: I spy something that doesn’t quite fit in, that is not necessarily wrong but isn’t completely right either, and is a total conversation stopper at dinner parties. Can you guess what it is