Tag Archives: homeschooling

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.

 

Lighthouse Nomination

the-lighthouse-award1

One of my favorite blogs, Highchairs and Headaches, recently nominated me for the Lighthouse Award which is given to blogs that inspire. I am honored not because I feel like such an honor is due to me, but rather because I like Jeannine’s blog so much for her honest, humorous, and sometimes sarcastic take on parenting. One of my favorite posts by her is titled Cuteness Overload and I will think a lot less of you if you don’t like it as much as I did, which is a ton.

Having said that, inspiration is a squirrely thing. I am unsure how exactly the things I say inspire but I will avoid the rabbit hole of self doubt and simply say thanks to all who care to read the things I say. We all like to be liked.

The Lighthouse Rules state:

  • Display the Award Certificate
  • Write a post with a link back to the blogger that nominated you (I hope it works. I am a cyber ignoramus)
  • Nominate other bloggers and inform them
  • Share three ways you like to help others
  • Have fun (This last one is a little cheesy but I will go with it)

So here are the three ways I help other people:

  1. I have dedicated my entire existence to three ungrateful, constantly hungry, noisy, and occasionally smelly people. I’m not saying I’m Gandhi, but that’s mainly because I’m not from India.
  2. The other day I made fresh French bread for someone’s birthday. You know who you are, and I rock because of it.
  3. When my daughter failed her math test as I was writing this and started to cry, I consoled her. And then I made her take it again.

Here are some other awesome blogs that I follow and due henceforth nominate:

Frank’s Place

Looking Glasses

Bemuzin

Check these out!

I understand that the accompanying photo with my last blog entry may offend some, but it made me laugh so much I just had to add it. It was, contrary to this award, not intended to inspire you.

 

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…

On Why You and I Are the Perfect Parent

Steve's Phone 029

I am ready to receive the hate mail. I don’t mind the nasty comments. Being great at something does bring out the jealousy of others so I am prepared for the onslaught; bring it on. I can’t help it and I’m tired of hiding it so here it is: I’m the perfect parent.

I know it’s a little hard to hear. We are all trying so hard to attain it and to finally find someone who has reached such lofty levels is hard to bear. But there’s good news. The good news is that you are too.

How did I finally attain the nirvana of parenting? How is it that I have come to such an elevated status you ask? I started to read the posts of all the other parents out there who are trying really hard to get it right and I found that I am just like they are, or you are, and therefore I must have reached the highest level a parent can reach; the level of someone who cares to try. Since this is the highest level that I have ever seen any human being attain, it must be human perfection.

Yes, I know, the little voice creeps up and says “Yes, sometimes I do a great job, but not always.” We already know that people! It’s not possible to always do a great job. That is not what defines perfection as a parent. Perfection as a parent is to love your kids and do everything in your ability to pass that love onto and into them in a way that they have the best chance of understanding

Idealistic perfection is a figment of our imagination. It is unattainable. Unattainable. Unattainable. It does not exist.

I have finally grown tired of the daily grind of guilt and inadequacy when it comes to parenting. The only thing that feeling guilty has ever done for me is make me feel guilty. That’s it. It hasn’t made me a better person. On the contrary, the feelings of guilt and inadequacy have made me a worse parent by muddling the moments I spend with my kids. It clouds my true joy and makes me grumpy.

We are loving our children and they feel loved. That is what’s happening. We are doing great and awesome things with our kids. We look at them and listen to them when they speak. We hold them and comfort them when they are upset. We counsel our children when they are confused about how to negotiate a relationship with a friend and we have the wisdom to tell them something of real value. We consider their physical health and well being and stay up all night just to watch them breath. We protect them from harm as best as any parent can and ask them questions that will lead them to a better understanding of their own safety. We watch out for their latent talents and hidden gifts and drive their butts all over town to lessons and book clubs and sporting events so that they might find the joy in who they are as much as we do. And we do all of these things and dozens more every day. Every day! For years on end.

Come on people, we’re perfect parents!

Other People’s Children are Adorable

Last night we had some good friends over for dinner. Before they had even had the chance to close the door my five year old boy bounces out of his chair at the dinner table and runs into his arms laughing and screaming and shouting “Yah!”. I mean, common, that is about the best welcome you could ask for. I felt bad that his wife didn’t get the same welcome only because she entered our house second and I considered for a moment imitating my son’s response with her, but I was afraid it might end in an awkward embrace. So I passed on that. My son continued to climb on him and giggle and laugh and be cute. Well, cute to them. To me, it wasn’t so cute.

When we have people over for dinner, depending on what I am making, I sometimes have the kids eat first. Since this night was Thai curries that tend to the spicier side of life, I had my two youngest dine early so my oldest and the adults could eat together. So when they walked in and he jumped out of his chair, the only thing that went through my mind was the fact that I had just told him to sit down and eat. Not cute. And when I reminded him to eat his dinner he promptly ignored me and giggled and tossed his curly haired head back in a laugh. No. Not cute.

Some other friends of mine have a four year old girl and twin boys under two. They all have blonde hair and blue eyes and are always smartly dressed for church. I was at their house for dinner awhile ago and walked in to have all three of the kids want me to play with them. How adorable! They would laugh and giggle and hand me trains to play with and come up to me with their arms raised in the air like they were worshipping me, or that’s how I like to imagine it at least. Maybe they were wanting to be held, but I just let them stand there. Anyways, they were so adorable. To me. To their parents they were people who needed to be put to bed. Not cute.

Yesterday my five year old was drawing pictures. He has just developed the ability to appropriately configure people to have bodies and eyes and hands instead of the pumpkin people he normally draws. While I was conducting school with my daughter, he was out at the kitchen table composing various pictures. The picture below is of a fireman. I love the happy face, the two toned fireman’s hat, the hose, and the little fire he is putting out. Very cute.

Steve's Phone 062

Cute.

The next picture he drew was of a man driving a truck. I asked him why he chose to draw such a random subject and he replied that he thought I should get a job. He thought that I should be a UPS driver so I could get more money and buy more unspecified stuff. I replied that my job is to take care of my kids. I then let my guard down and asked him if he thought I was good at my job.

Steve's Phone 061

Not cute. Ok, a little cute.

“No.” he replied. “You need a real job.”

Not cute.

At the zoo the other day other people’s adorable kids are running around being amazed by all the animals. Small fingers pointed in amazement, cute baby noises, eyes wide with amazement. My kids on the other hand are misbehaving by not listening to my commands to stay by my side and to stop running. Isn’t it adorable how excited those children are to see the giraffe? Oh, look at the little one running to see the lions! Ah, the baby is yawning….isn’t that cute! My kids on the other hand need to stop trying to touch the tiger by climbing over the wall. I’m glad they’re excited but they need to relax a little. And, oh, your yawning? Ya, get your butt to bed earlier tonight. Not cute.

I try to stand back from my children on occasion and see the cuteness. The way they giggle and play with each other. Their small fingers and wide eyes. They are cute. They are also work, a lot of work. I think panda bears are cute too but I bet if I had to clean up panda bear poop all the time I wouldn’t think they were that cute. I bet if I did get a real job I might think my kids are as cute as other peoples kids, but then I would miss them because of their enhanced cuteness. What am I to do? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it involves delivering boxes.

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