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.

6 Secrets to Make Everything Fun For Kids

IMG_8096
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.

 

 

Dad’s Rules for Dressing Girls

Every family divides responsibilities differently.

Nearly every weekday morning, I get the kids dressed before heading to school.

Naturally, I HIGHLY value speed. Mornings are like assembly lines – things are programmed to the second, and any deviation causes, well, a disturbance in the Force.

Bug really doesn’t care what he wears; he’s easy. Sometimes he wants a different shirt than what I pick out. Easy peasy.

Beanie, on the other hand, is much more…opinionated. In everything. Especially what she wears. And she wants to select her outfit every morning. By herself. With no input. In fact, if I suggest an outfit, she usually disqualifies it from consideration.

To help expedite the process, I have created two rules to guide decision-making. (Hers and Mine)

  1. Is it seasonally appropriate? Does it cover all the parts that need to be covered that time of year? (Example: a wool sweater when it’s 90 degrees is a no-go.)
  2. Does it make her happy?

That’s it.

13516714_10154271890320148_6896755290109556117_nNaturally, the clothes that are in her closet and dresser have been vetted by me and The Best Mom. (Well…more like JUST by The Best Mom).

So nothing in there is offensive. Although picking an outfit a size or two too small could create some consternation.

But Rule #2 is the big one for me. If she likes what she’s wearing – it makes her FEEL good and confident. Even if the colors don’t match. Even if there is a little hole in her pants. Even if she wears some of the same outfits twice a week for a year. None of the arguments against doing that hold water for me.

Yes, we get some pretty amazing, Punky Brewster-style outfits. Beanie gets to express her creativity through her clothes safely and effectively.

And just two rules get it done.

My Father’s Day Wish

 

It’s been nearly a week since the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States. A gunman in Orlando opened fire on a nightclub.

Immediately, there were several ways to categorize the event.

Was it a terrorist attack? His parents were immigrants.

Was it a hate crime? It was a gay club.

No matter what the motive, there were some clear facts:

It was a shooting. With a military-style assault firearm.

While I don’t own guns, I’ve been to the gun range countless times. I’m an Eagle Scout and learned how to shoot a rifle when I was younger. Heck, I even had a gun manufacturer as a client many years ago.

I have friends and family that own guns – some for hunting. Some for protection. That’s not my recreation activity or protection of choice, but as long as they are responsible owners, I have no problem with it.

I am not a gun customer. I am not an advocate. But I’m not anti-all-guns-all-the-time, either.

This background is to set up my main point:

Nobody needs an assault rifle. Nobody.

So let’s, as a society, get them off the streets.

I do get the appeal of them. I mean, who doesn’t dream of reenacting the famous “say hello to my little friend” scene from Scarface? I definitely do.

But that’s a fantasy.

What’s real?

Human beings.

Now I have three little humans in my house. And they are getting older and heading to school. And out into the community.

The sad truth is that mass shootings are now commonplace in their life.

Another sad truth? The victims of these shootings are all somebody’s children, no matter how young or old.

I know banning a class of weapons won’t 100% stop all bad people from doing bad things.

But it may stop one. And make things harder for another. And limit the potential damage on another.

 

As a parent, that’s all I need to know.

Because what if the next mass shooter was in my city? My neighborhood? My children’s school?

Get these weapons of destruction – these weapons of war – out of the hands of civilians.

That’s my Father’s Day wish this year.

“I Wish I Didn’t Have A Daddy”

dad and daughter breakfast date
A Daddy-Daughter breakfast = all smiles.

Kids say things to push boundaries. To test word combinations. To see what causes a reaction.

They also struggle to moderate their emotions. Not much falls below the surface.

Especially for our Beanie.

One recent evening, The Best Mom made Beanie’s favorite dinner – ground turkey nachos with peas!

She devoured her first plate and dug into a second helping. Bug, who doesn’t normally love nachos, ate a solid portion. Must have been a great batch!

Within minutes, everything was gone. All the nachos. All the peas. All the ground turkey.

And then this happened:

Beanie: “Daddy, can I please have more nachos?”

Me: “Sweetie, we’re all out of nachos. How about a yogurt if you’re still hungry?”

Beanie: “I WISH I DIDN’T HAVE A DADDY!”

Well..that escalated quickly.

I calmly took her into another room, just the two of us, and had a conversation that
focused on the importance of parents. And that not every kid has two parents to love them and take care of them. And how lucky she is.

Then we discussed the fun things she and I have done together – going to a baseball game, eating ice cream, sneaking out for muffins…the things kids remember.

Beanie felt terrible.

She clearly didn’t mean it.

But she said it.

And it hurt.

A lot.

Like…a lot a lot.

It’s not like a tantrum at bed time. Or being mad that it was time to leave the playground.

“I wish I didn’t have a Daddy.”

She was just trying to get a reaction out of me. And she didn’t get one because I kept it inside.

I didn’t yell. Or get visibly angry. Or cry. I wanted to do all three.

Minutes later, Beanie was sitting in my lap, telling jokes in funny voices, as if nothing happened. We snuggled before bed that night and she told me how much she loved me. All smiles and hugs and kisses.

She had moved on.

 

And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“I wish I didn’t have a Daddy.”

You see, as a parent, you need to balance long-term and short-term memory. We need to remember everything about our kids. Every detail. Every activity. Every day. What they love. What they hate. And how those lists switch places every minute.

And then…you need to learn to push things like this out of your head forever.

A few hours passed and the raw emotion wore off. A few days passed and it was well in the rear-view mirror.

But I still remember that sting. And can only hope that she never uses those words at a time when she actually means it.

 

 

bodily fluid emojis

Bodily Fluid Emojis

The Best Mom and I have a deal: We make each other greeting cards for birthdays and other celebrations whenever possible. We love cards from companies that specialize in the right words, but there is an inherent challenge in writing it yourself.

For my birthday this year, she went above and beyond.

Now that we have three kids, life is messy. And lots of that mess comes from the insides of our children.

We aren’t the people that pretend the mess isn’t there; we are the people that dive into it (not literally, most of the time) and own the mess.

As such, her hand-made birthday card to me featured hand-drawn bodily fluid emojis. It is the sweetest card I’ve ever gotten. And my favorite.

bodily fluid emojis

The Passive Aggressive Calendar

As parents, we take inventory of our kids’ favorite things.

Sure, it’s good to know what they like.

But the real reason is much more practical.

We give them things they like…and when they act poorly, we know exactly which things to take away.

It’s the evil part of parenting, but critical.

“If you don’t clean your room, we’ll take away toy X!” has zero impact if the kid doesn’t like top X, right?

Our daughter, Beanie, has a Disney Princess calendar that hangs on the door to to closet. Each night, she crosses off that day as part of her bedtime ritual.

One recent evening, she was acting horrible. Why? We had no idea. I’m guessing she was over-tired, with a teenage-size tantrum coming out of our four-year-old.

We tried to calm her down, but nothing worked. Not hugging. Not talking. Nothing.

So then we went for the jugular and threatened to take away her calendar.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Bingo. Or so we thought.

Instead of calming down at the prospect of losing her beloved calendar, it only perpetuated the tantrum.

Which left us one option: take the calendar.

So we did. And it wasn’t pretty. Even though we told her she could get it back tomorrow if she was good, the tantrum continued for 20 agonizing minutes before Beanie fell asleep.

In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, she was a different child. Happy. Loving. Not crying or screaming. And apologetic for her behavior the night before.

As I drove her to daycare, I thought about ways to give her calendar back to her that re-enforced the positive behavior.

“#ParentingWin,” I thought to myself.

That evening, when I picked her up, she could not have been more proud of herself.

“#EPICParentingWin!” I thought to myself.

Then she grabbed my wrist and excitedly dragged me over to her cubby.

With the biggest smile on her face, she showed me, with tremendous pride, her latest creation.

“You took my princess calendar away from me, so I made a new calendar all by myself!”

Hanging on the wall was a hand-drawn calendar that looked something like an Escher piece, but, overall, very calendar-ish.

calendar

Bean had created something to replace what we had taken from her. She had passively-aggressively shoved our punishment back in our face.

My instinct was to be REALLY mad. But I took a deep breath and then all I felt…pride.

Instead of crying about her situation, she did something productive and creative about it.

#EpicKidWin

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.