dad's don't babysit

Dads Don’t Babysit

dads don't babysitSometimes, one parent has to go somewhere. Work. The mall. A doctor.

And that leaves one parent alone with the kids.

You never hear “Mom is babysitting the kids while Dad is out.”

But you do hear “Dad is babysitting while Mom is out.”

It may be the most frustrating, unintentionally demeaning thing I’ve heard as a Dad.

That sentiment leans on an out-dated, damaging misperception that Dads can do professional work like a champ, but turn into a chump when children are around.

Saying that Dads are just “babysitting” completely minimizes their investment in their kids’ lives.

Sure, I babysat when I was a teenager. It was great. Hang out with fun kids. Watch a movie. Eat some pizza. And call the parents when stuff got real. And then have some cash to fund weekend adventures.

But that was a long time ago.

When my wife needs to run an errand…or take a shower…or see a doctor…or travel for work…or visit a friend or family…I parent my children.

Cooking. Cleaning. Bathing. Teaching. Dressing. Transporting. Disinfecting. All of it.

Because I’m a parent 24/7 – when my wife is home and when she is not.

Am I on “Dad Duty” when I’m parenting solo? Absolutely.

But am I babysitting my kids? Never.

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6 Secrets to Make Everything Fun For Kids

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Family Fun Day in Annapolis, MD. We followed the six secrets and everyone had a blast!

A few months ago, another parent asked me a question:

“What are some fun dad/kid activities?”

My response may not have been satisfactory, but it was 100% true:

“Everything…if you package it correctly.”

I come by it naturally.

When I was young, we lived within walking distance of my preschool. Most days, my dad would drive me to and from school. But, on occasion, my mom would walk to pick me up and we’d have “an adventure(!!!)” trekking home down the road, watching the cars whiz by, and even passing through a gas station.

My mom made walking home from preschool into something special.

And that’s what we try to do with our kids, too.

EVERYTHING can be special to kids.

  • Who wants to come to Costco with me? There are yummy treats for you to sample!
  • Bed time is so much more fun when the kids choose how you carry them to their rooms. Giggles Guaranteed.
  • Only doing an activity for a few minutes? Scarcity is special! “Make this the BEST [fill in the blank] ever!”
  • Walks in the woods can be boring. Unless you talk about what you see, hear, and smell. And discuss how going on walks makes you healthy!

Running errands? Going to bed? Doing something fun…but not for long? Getting a family walk in?

These things don’t have to be boring. They can be AWESOME, bonding events…but only if the parents present them that way.

What’s the secret to doing it right? There are actually six of them:

  • Talk about what you are going to do in advance to build anticipation.
  • Make it seem like the most fun thing ever by being excited about it. Model excitement and the kids will follow your lead.
  • Reinforce your excitement while you are on your way/packing.
  • Again, led by example by sharing how much fun YOU are having.
  • Afterwards, ask the kids to identify their favorite parts of the activity. This gets them thinking about what you did positively.
  • Information is power – use what they told you when planning future activities.

One of the things I’ve learned over my first five years as a parent is that kids do have a default setting: to have fun everywhere they go. However, they take cues from others on how to act.

As parents, we have a major responsibility to make our kids’ lives filled with joy and learning and love. It just takes some minimal effort and EVERYTHING can be a fun activity for the entire family.

 

 

Water Balloon Fight!

When a four-year-old lefty and an eight-year-old dog corner you during a backyard water balloon fight, you back off.

Two big reasons:

  1. The dog will eat the balloon. #Bad
  2. Your daughter will cry when you hit her with the balloon. #Bad

The only option? RUN or get wet. I did both.

We used Bunch O Balloons – REALLY easy to fill a lot of balloons at once with a garden hose. They tie themselves! And playing with four kids, 100 balloons lasted an acceptable amount of time, before everyone was ready for snacks.

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Party of Five

IMG_7029There was a time when my wife and I could slip into a quiet restaurant on a Friday evening and enjoy a nice meal.

Put us on the waiting list! We’ll hang at the bar until our table is ready! Awesome!

Now, with three kids, we are a party of five. Without Neve Campbell and Matthew Fox.

Now, we require a minivan to go anywhere.

Now, we are a traveling tornado of loud.

And never was that more on display that a recent trip we took to Nando’s PERI-PERI, one of our favorite restaurants. Our local Nando’s is in a mall; they play loud music – all the signs of a kid-friendly experience.

At this location, the host assigns you to a numbered table, which is tied to your food order. [Remember this.]

It was no surprise when they put us, all five us plus Auntie Loo-Loo, in a big corner in the back of the restaurant. Right next to the bathrooms, which I greatly appreciated.

Sitting at the the table next to us was an elderly woman. Her dining companion was ordering food when we arrived – complete with baby asleep in the large red stroller, son dripping wet after swim lessons, daughter whining about….who knows what.

“Oh, heck no!” the woman said.

She then proceeded to get up, unfold her metal walker, and slowly cross the restaurant to get a new table, as far away from us as humanly possible. Table number, be damned!

An elderly woman who has trouble walking basically ran away from us. And ruined the restaurants seating system in the process.

Look – some people may be embarrassed by this.

Luckily, we aren’t those people.

I know what my family is right now. We’re loud. We fill up a room. We’re awesome.

We’re also not for everyone.

“Daddy! I’m Pooping In My Pants Right Now!”

The following story is 100% true.

I’m aware that if my son goes to therapy at any point in his life, this story will come up. Well, not the story itself, but the fact that I am sharing this publicly. I can live with that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Everyday when we pick Bean and Bug up from daycare, we have a routine. It starts in Bug’s classroom.IMG_2983

  1. Quick hug – yay!
  2. Gather art projects to take home
  3. Grab bag of carrots from the mini-fridge
  4. Bug goes potty
  5. Go to Bean’s class and start from Step 1.

Like clockwork.

Step 4 is the most critical, because if something goes wrong, Daddy has to clean the car seat. And Daddy does not like cleaning the car seat.

Over the past, say, two months, as Bug has put the finishing touches on potty training, Step 4 becomes more contextual. When was the last time he went potty? Does he think he can wait until we get home?

So that brings us to today.

Here’s the transcript.

Bug: DADDY!!!! [See Step 1]

Me: Hi! How was your day?

Bug: Good! I have pictures! [Points to cubby; See Step 2]

Me: They are amazing! I’ll hold them. Go get your carrots!

Bug: [Goes to get carrots; See Step 3]

Me: OK, let’s go potty.

Bug: I don’t have to go potty…

Me: Can you try?

Bug: No…I don’t have to go potty!

Me: Can you please try?

Bug: NO!

Teacher: He just went potty 15 minutes ago.

Me: OK. Can you make it until we get home?

Bug: YES!

Me: Alright. Let’s go get Hava! [See Step 5]

[30 seconds later, we are down the hall in Hava’s classroom]

Beanie: Daddy!!! [See Step 1]

Bug: I have to go potty!

Me: Are you kidding me? OK, Beanie, hurry up – we have to go back to Bug’s room.

Bug: I HAVE TO GO POTTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: Let’s go! Everyone! Let’s go!

[5 seconds later, we are back in Bug’s classroom]

Bug: DADDY! I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS RIGHT NOW!

Me: [to myself] F—! S—! F—! S—!

Bug: I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS! IT’S COMING!!!

Me: Sit on the potty!

Bug: NO! I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS!

Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! GET ON THE POTTY NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bug: NO! I’M POOPING IN MY PANTS RIGHT NOW!

[I pull his pants down. There is no poop. I repeat. No. Poop.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Moral of the story: Don’t believe three-year-olds who claim to be pooping their pants. Unless they are pooping their pants. Then you believe them.

Makes total sense.

Reflecting On My Paternity Leave

IMG_2694Four weeks ago, we had a perfect, beautiful baby boy.

And since that moment, a lot has happened.

We introduced Squishi to his siblings.

We realized how damn hard paternity leave actually is.

And, apparently, we doomed our baby to a terrible life.

With my paternity leave coming to a close in just a few hours as I write this, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back on the past four weeks.

So here goes…some notes from four very full weeks of paternity leave:

  • Health
    • Days I Planned To Work Out: All of Them
    • Days I Actually Worked Out: None of Them
    • Sodas Consumed: Zero
      • Seriously, I picked the worst time ever to give up soda. Good for health, but ROUGH on life with a newborn.
  • Late Night Cravings
    • Boxes of Batman Cereal Consumed: One
      • The Superman cereal was caramel-flavored. Pass.
    • Industrial Sized Bags of Kettle Corn Consumed: One
    • McFlurries Consumed: One
    • Bags of Target’s Monster Mix Consumed: I Plead the Fifth.
  • Sleep
    • Nights Spent On Hospital Couch: Two
    • Most Consecutive Hours of Sleep: Four (3 times…I think)
    • Times I Slept So Hard My Face Hurt: Ten
  • Bodily Fluids
    • Average Minutes After Putting On A Clean Shirt Before Amzi Spit-Up On It: 0.32
    • Times Amzi Peed on Me: Seven
    • Times Amzi Spit-Up In My Mouth: Just Once. Thankfully.
  • Daycare Commute
    • Hours Spent Doing Daycare Drop-Off/Pick-Up: ~ 1.75/day
    • Songs My Older Kids Now Know From Me Driving Them To School For A Month:
      • “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms
      • “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
    • Songs I Now Know From Driving Them To School For a Month:
      • “Cake By The Ocean” by DNCE
        • That’s gotta mean something filthy, right?
      • Justin Bieber’s entire album
        • Shockingly good!
  • TV
    • Seasons of House of Cards Watched: One
    • The Price is Right Conclusion: Drew Carey is better than I expected, but no Bob Barker
    • Daytime Talk Shows: Ugh…
    • Favorite Middle-of-the-Night TV Shows:
      • Robot Chicken
        • 12-minute episodes for the win
      • Caribbean Life
      • Nothing But Trailers
        • 60 minutes of movie previews…a 3am treat!
  • Home Improvement
    • Trips to Home Depot: Three
    • New Sink Faucets Purchased: Three
    • New Sink Faucets Installed: Zero
    • Flowers Planted in Front Yard: 27
    • Solar Panels: Thinking About Them
  • Baby Snuggles
    • All the time. Hours and hours each day. Perfection.

I got to stay home for full four weeks with my wife, my newborn, my two older babies, and my dog. What else could a guy ask for?

I’m sad to leave my wife home “alone.” It’s been great to spend so much time together – not just in the middle of the night for diaper changes. We’ve had sushi date nights (with Squish). We’ve gone to fun lunches (with Squish). We’ve even worked on a lot of these blog posts together (with Squish). It’s been phenomenal.

In addition to my wife and baby, I had so much fun with Beanie and Bug. Instead of rushing from home to school to home, we got to take our time and enjoy the journey. Sleep in a bit. Take the long road. Snag some muffins for breakfast. Skip school for family fun every now and then. Without the stress of being on time in the morning or going to bed at night, we had FUN together.

On the other hand, going back to work is exciting. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my team and clients. I’ve missed the daily action of my career and feel motivated to jump back in.

To sum it all up: Four weeks went by. My family size increased. I barely slept. And I’ve never been happier.

 

 

 

Prince and Kids: Music is Immortal

Prince_at_Coachella_001When the news broke yesterday that music legend Prince had suddenly passed away, the last thing I thought about was my kids.

I thought about growing up in the 1980s, listening to his music on the radio every day. I rewatched his magical Super Bowl halftime show performance.

I looked back on Dec. 31, 1999, celebrating New Year’s with friends, really unsure if “oops, party’s over…out of time” was going to happen.

To be honest, I also debated the slotting of 80’s music superstar deaths: Prince. Michael Jackson. Whitney Houston. [Prince’s was the most shocking. Whitney’s was the saddest. Michael’s was the most tragic.]

Several radio stations started playing tributes to the Purple One all afternoon. Thankfully, I had to be in the car, so I got to flip around the channels and hear his greatest hits and heartfelt tributes from fans and DJs.

Prince was iconic. But not really an artist we frequently played around the kids. Or so we thought.

*********

After picking my daughter up from school and strapping her into her car seat, I turned the radio on so she could at least hear some of Prince’s songs. I wasn’t going to talk about death. The car ride home is nowhere near long enough to broach that topic and this was not the situation to discuss it.

“Kiss,” probably my second-favorite Prince song (behind “When Doves Cry”) began playing.

“I know that song!” my four-year-old screamed out. “It’s from the penguin movie!”

Of course she knew that song. I had completely forgotten that “Kiss” was featured in the opening medley in Happy Feet. We watched that movie at least a dozen times.

Check out the scene here:


My daughter being familiar with this song is another reminder that music is immortal.

Prince created such an amazing song that it made a little girl ridiculously happy to hear on the radio 30 years later.

The song is bigger than the artist, which is what makes the artist so special.

Prince lives on because his music will.

That’s a pretty amazing legacy.

Photo Credit: Micahmedia at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons