“I Love You All The Love”

1528556_10152123734075148_564563917_nEvery single day, I tell all of our children the same thing:

I love you all the love.

[As in, all the love that does, has ever, or will ever exist…that’s how much I love you.]

Maybe it’s just a media thing, but how many stories/movies/shows have you seen where the dads can’t mutter “I love you?”

And the fallback response is “they know how I feel.”

Do they, though?

Do kids know how you feel about them if you don’t explicitly tell them?

My hypothesis (driven by no actual science, but by life as a parent of three kids and as a son who heard his dad say he loved him all the time) is that there is no way they can know unless you constantly tell them.

Case in point: Two years ago, my daughter made me watch all three Madagascar movies…about 25 times each, not exaggerating. Now she does not remember them at all. I’ll repeat: she does not remember movies

Us parents, though, we remember what happened two years ago. I will never be able to get certain scenes from those movies out of my head.

As kids grow, they lose their earlier memories and the only reality they know is what is presented to them. By you.

And sometimes it may get cumbersome. Like this recent chat I had with Beanie:

 

Me: Beanie, I love you.

Beanie: DADDY! I know that already. You don’t need to tell me that EVERY DAY!

Me: Yes, I do need to tell you. What if you don’t know?

Beanie: How about this? I’ll tell you the days that I forget that you love me and you can tell me then.

Me: ……………………..I love you.

Beanie: DADDYYYYYY!!!!!!!

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t care. I don’t care how old they get. I don’t care if it embarrasses them in front of their friends. I don’t care if they want nothing to do with me that day.

All I care about is that they know – on each day, no matter what – that their dad loves them.

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The Changing Table Conundrum

IMG_5585Recently, I went out to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant with my wife and kids. A pretty quiet place, with a seafood-heavy menu.

Not too long after we sat down, Beanie had to go potty, so my wife took her to the bathroom, while I hung out with the boys.

A few minutes after the ladies returned, Baby Squish woke up from a little snooze.

He.

Was.

Not.

Happy.

[By the by: Have you ever met a baby that was glad they woke up? Me neither.]

As any parent knows, there are two scenarios that wake up a baby: hunger and diaper.

In this case, it was both. So we started with the more pressing one: the nasty, stinky mess in his pants.

So I picked him up – it was clearly my turn to do a bathroom run – and walked to the restrooms.

I went into the men’s room. Two urinals. One stall. No changing table.

Well, crap.

There I was – in the middle of a bathroom – carrying a soiled, screaming 3-month old, with no place to change him.

The Best Mom and Beanie came in behind me, as Bug had to go potty, too.

“Screw this. Come with me.”

It was badass, in a Terminator kind of way.

She opened the door to the women’s restroom and pushed me in.

So…to recap: There I was – in the middle of a bathroom – carrying a soiled, screaming 3-month old. And this time, I had a place to change him.

[Aside: It was my first trip into a women’s public restroom since I was so jet-lagged and deliriously hungry from a super-delayed flight into Detroit, but that is a story for another day…]

Thankfully, no women came in to use the bathroom while Squish and I were in there, avoiding an awkward situation.

And that left me with one thought:

Who the hell thinks it’s OK to only put changing tables in women’s restrooms?

Why is that allowed?

Who thinks only women should get the pleasure of changing diapers in public places?

This is not OK.

Three reasons:

  1. Moms should not be forced to change every single diaper.
  2. Dads go out and about town alone with non-potty-trained kids all the time.
  3. Some families don’t have female parents.

These reasons lead to one realistic solution: PUT A DAMN CHANGING TABLE IN EVERY PUBLIC BATHROOM.

Look, I’ll go into a women’s restroom for my kids. But it’s awkward for literally everyone involved.

So, public restrooms: be better.

 

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.