Tag Archives: marraige

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.

 

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.

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.