The Ferris Bueller Approach to Parenting

The daily grind of parenting is absolutely crushing.

Wake them up.

Get them dressed.

Get them fed.

Check their homework is done.

Pack their bags.

Repack their bags because you packed the boy’s stuff in the girl’s bag.

Brush their teeth as they run out the door (hopefully).

Drive them to school or walk them to the bus stop.

Then work all day.

Pick them up from school, a bus stop, or an aftercare program.

Unpack their bags.

Take those muddy shoes off!

Wash hands.

Get a snack.

Work on homework.

Make dinner.

Eat dinner.

Clean up dinner.

Wash lunchboxes.

Fill lunchboxes with dinner leftovers.

Finish homework.

Bath night? Maybe tomorrow?

Brush teeth.

Wipe a tushy or two.

Read a bedtime story.

Tuck them in.

Pretend you aren’t falling asleep on the couch with your laptop open to work and Netflix on the TV.

Crawl to bed.

Lather, rinse, repeat (when was the last time they were bathed!?!?!)

Toss in an extracurricular like a sports practice or a Girl Scout meeting or a school event at least once a week. Oh, and laundry. And folding last week’s laundry that’s still in the basket. And grocery store runs. And maybe a haircut every few months?

I find myself chained to the schedule of getting everything done — because there is JUST. SO. MUCH. TO. DO.

When do we get to enjoy our kids as kids? When can we squeeze fun into that insane schedule?

The answer, as many do, comes from one of the greatest coming-of-age movies ever, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The story revolves around a high school senior playing hookie from classes and having pretty much the best day ever.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – John Hughes, written for Ferris Bueller

Appreciate the now, because if you don’t, those days are over.

35329506_10101823612373119_3928292279944478720_nEach of our three kids, as babies and toddlers, loved when I let them lay down on my shoulder while swaying and singing “Rainbow Connection.” Over and over and over again.

The baby, for months – months – would only go to bed if I carried him to his crib from across the house while beatboxing the baseline to “Tom’s Diner.” And all of them had periods of time where they made me lay down on the uncomfortable floor next to the crib so they could hold my hand while they fell asleep.

It took time – and some nights I hadn’t had dinner or changed out of my work clothes. Others nights, I had a mountain of work to finish and had to race sleep to get it done. Every minute counted!

“One day,” my wife said, “you will miss this.”

And now I do.

And there have been so many other segments of our parenting journey that are just…over. Moving from Washington, DC, to California a few months ago caused a lot of changes to accelerate, too.

I find myself playing that quote from Ferris Bueller in my head when I spend too much time trying to make too much happen with the kids.

Why not be silly outside for a minute before going inside after school; dinner can wait a bit.

Why not have a dance party after dinner? Bath night can be tomorrow.

Why not give the kindergartner all of the snuggles he wants? Pretty soon, he won’t want to even be near us.

Why not get froyo on the way home from school every now and then? Add some extra veggies into a snack.

Why not let the kids wear what they want (within reason) to school? Take a picture that could be blackmail down the road and send them on their way.

These years are brutal. But they can also be so happy.

Take the advice of Ferris Bueller. Don’t miss it.

[Your Turn: How do you slow down and enjoy your kids?]

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Dad carrying baby

On Wearing Babies

You may have seen the story about TV personality Piers Morgan questioning the manhood of actor Daniel Craig (007, himself!) for wearing his infant daughter using a baby carrier. Morgan referred to Craig as “emasculated” in a Tweet.

After seeing the story, I have two main reactions to unpack a bit:

Reaction #1 – There is nothing more human than taking care of your children.

Dad carrying baby
Me in 2011 making three fashion statements at the mall – those sideburns, those shades, my daughter

Parents leave the house…and take their kids with them. [If you leave the kids home alone, they come and take the kids away from you. It’s in the handbook.]

Thinking that being responsible for children is a mothers-only job is beyond antiquated to the point of being offensive to literally everyone. The gender stereotypes of the past are, in many corners of the world, dissipating. Thankfully.

One of my favorite times in life was carrying my firstborn around in a MOBY Wrap everywhere we went. That sense of closeness and love is irreplaceable. Kids become more and more independent everyday, so the time they rest their head on your chest because they literally can’t do anything else is fleeting.

If a dad doesn’t want to take care of his kids, that’s between him and momma bear – and maybe a judge. So I really don’t care if Piers Morgan carried his kids or not. None of my concern.

But him criticizing a parent for spending time with his child? That’s insulting.

Reaction #2 – Why in the world is anyone questioning anyone else’s masculinity?

This is toxic.

Questioning the manhood of another man is more than just poisonous, it’s pointless.

I know men who are straight and men who are gay. Men who hunt and men who are vegans. Men who drive electric cars and men who drive monster trucks. Men who cook and men who are best served making reservations. Men who have tattoos and men who wear jewelry. Men who find serenity in Time Square and men who find peace in the wilderness. Men who love sports and men who don’t. Artists. Blacksmiths. Journalists. Business Owners. Executives. Interns. Contractors. Yoga masters. Broadcasters. Bankers. Lawyers. Chefs. Athletes. Teachers. Home brewers. Consultants. Conservatives. Liberals.

Some are more like Jeremiah Johnson and some are more like RuPaul. All of them are men.

This is not a man-power point. It’s that men come in all shapes, sizes, and any other criteria you could consider. And that’s awesome.

Let’s leave comparing someone to a one-dimensional definition of masculinity in the past. We are better than that.


Wear your baby. Or don’t.

That is between you and your family.

I’m glad Piers Morgan called attention to the picture of Daniel Craig with his daughter. Now all dads – and moms – can see an on-screen hero playing his coolest and most important role ever: Dad.

 

 

 

The Unspoken Truth About Parents

There is a universal unspoken truth about parents. We are all just barely keeping it together. And “It” is “our shit.”

Our lives are governed by unreliable, unstable, wholly-reliant third-parties that are learning to be people.

We are buried by the minute-by-minute decisions and the overwhelming responsibility of guiding them to be – at worst – decent human beings.

We are conflicted about if our choices put them – or keep them – on the right path to being successful, well-adjusted, healthy adults.

black and white person feeling smiling
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

[And sometimes this manifests with us breaking down at the grocery store because we can’t decided the acceptable percentage of fat in ground turkey meat. Not that I’ve done that before…]

We obsess over which TV shows are good for them to watch while we cook dinner in the other room. And then second-guess if we got too-much or too-little fat in the turkey meat. And do the kids like their pasta al dente? Will they eat it if it’s too soft? Did they get the flu shot?

Plus, we can’t (but sometimes do) forget homework, play-dates, school events, class fundraisers, sports, youth groups.

And behavior. Are the kids playing well together? Or do they tease and taunt and terrorize each other the second you turn your back?

On top of that full-time job, we juggle our own personal and professional aspirations here, too. Work, hobbies, friends, travel.

And cleaning, cooking, shopping for clothes, deciding on Halloween costumes, decorating for the holidays, trying to find the pencil sharpener…the list goes on.

Then we have our own health and wellness – sleep, diet, exercise.

Maybe we want to watch a TV show or two. Maybe we don’t want to fall asleep sitting upright on the couch while watching.

Parents are like web browsers with 100 tabs open at once. 

Our shared reality is that we are all fighting the fight. We are all juggling countless decisions – some big, some small – that compound on each other.

And somehow, even though we are all living the same ridiculousness, we do everything we can to project to everyone how easy our life is.

Honestly, some days, it’s easy…and some days, we’re “Travelling Shitstorm, party of five!”

The trick is to laugh through the ridiculousness. And when you see other parents deep in the muck in public – screaming baby, stinky diaper, kids running off in different directions, didn’t bring the right snacks – go easy on them, because that could be you dealing with that mess.

And it probably will be.

Sorry.

Stay strong.