Human waste. Bodily secretions. Discharges. Emissions. Call them what you will, but these are the bane of my existence. My entire life has been spent avoiding these at all costs. First, as a grade school boy, I utterly detested the loogies that my friends would hurl across the playground during recess. Disgusting! I would have nothing to do with the farting contests. Gross! And I would never ever go #2 at school. Ever.
Moving ahead to my college years, and I saw an uptick in my exposure to vomit. But no matter how much I drank or how nauseous I was, my vomit would only be expelled in the privacy of my own room. I felt horrified to let others watch as my waist constricted three sizes smaller and my mouth opened wider than a snake eating a chicken. College also saw an uptick in expulsion of my DNA, especially during interactions with other equally amorous persons, but that particular secretion is beyond the scope of this blog. However, suffice it to say that with the AIDS crisis during my college years, ANY exposure or contact with bodily fluids would blow the anxiety level through the roof. I’m sure that has led to my hyper vigilance in regard to said fluids.
Now here I am, a middle age parent, and with that comes a new set of issues. My bladder insists on feeling like it’s going to explode at the most inopportune times: car rides with the children and no restrooms in sight that can easily be visited with three kids in tow, or just as I’m fiddling with front door key, trying desperately to get it into the keyhole while holding my bladder as well as my one-year old in my arms, and then finally getting in the door but getting beat to the toilet by two toddlers who “really really have to go.”
I’m in a happy monogamous marriage, so the past issues of sharing body fluids are just that – a thing of the past. At 52 and with three kids, we may not see my DNA as frequently as we would like, but this is also beyond the scope today! Puking is also few and far between, since I barely drink alcohol or spend time at bars. Occasionally I’ll eat some bad sushi, but it’s rare.
Ah yes, but now I have the three boys who have given me new fluid experiences. First there’s the pee. I lecture and lecture about aiming when one pees in the toilet, but still I find more urine outside the toilet and on the seat than in the toilet itself. I also plead with them to please please remember to flush after pooping, but still I’m left with a pleasant surprise waiting for me when I enter the bathroom, which is sometimes hours after they’ve made their deposit. It’s gotten to the point where now every time I enter a bathroom I immediately flush FIRST.
Of course, unlike our two older toddlers, our one-year old is nowhere near potty-trained, so I have to deal with the diaper changes that have taught me that poop comes in many varieties of color, amount, consistency, and odor. I’m not fond of any of them. And I’ll do anything not to change a diaper in front of another grown-up. It brings me right back to grade school. And I certainly don’t want to discuss the varieties, amount, etc., with anyone. Sometimes I will get detailed reports from our one and only babysitter after her time with the baby, including the types of secretions, frequency, etc. Please, just tell me everything went well and leave it at that.
Since our one-year old has been fighting a cold and fever for the last three days, I’ve been battling the attack of the fluids. There’s no way he has a mean bone in his body, but I could swear he is trying to infect me with a rhinovirus or two. He has coughed in my face. He has tried to pry my lips open with a snotty finger just for the fun of it. He has pointed his nose right at me and sneezed rainbow-colored secretions. He has thrown up various amounts of milky white vomitus over much of my arms, chest, and clothes. I’ve had to pick his nose (since these said secretions do dry up) and wipe his rear more times than I can count.
Finally I throw in the towel and put up the white flag. I surrender to it. I come to terms with my pending illness. My husband the doctor says to count seven days after one of our boys gets a cold, and that will be when mine will start, and of course he’s right. It comes with the territory. So the boys will start feeling better and I will start feeling worse. And right about then I will roll over and whisper lovingly into my husband’s ear these two words for him: “Start counting.”
I’m thankful for Alen, who over the last ten years has been referred to first as my boyfriend, then lover, partner, domestic partner, better half, and now, thanks to the judicial system, my spouse. Soul mate, man, mate, and partner-in-crime also come to mind, although we have never broken any laws together (well maybe if we were in a state in the deep South.) Alen has the patience of a saint, the brain of an Einstein, and the body of a supermodel, but best of all he is incredibly loving and kind to me. I can’t imagine Thanksgiving (or any other holiday for that matter) without him.
I’m thankful for my three sons, and not the television show, but the reality that is my life. Now ages 6, 5 and 1 (yes, my life is a math equation), Devin, Dylan & Dustin amaze us in every way possible, every hour of every day. Watching them grow up in front of our eyes to become awesome individuals has been and will continue to be one of the greatest joys of my life. I wish that I can see them and be with them for their entire long lives; alas, the math just doesn’t work out in my favor. That’s why I will live each day to the fullest and enjoy every moment.
I’m thankful for my health and fitness. Yes, at nearly 52 years of age, things don’t work as well as they used to. But I do have my memories. I can remember catching the winning touchdown in Pop Warner. I can remember winning my first triathlon and my first 10K, and any that came after that. I can dream about my solo bicycle ride across the US (5500 miles), my swim race around the island of Key West (12 ½ miles), and my first Hawaii Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I’m not in that kind of shape right now, be it because of lack of desire, lack of time, or lack of sleep, but I’m so thankful that I had the chance to compete at that level and enjoy every bit of that lifestyle. I’m hoping to get back into it some day, but if not, I’m still happy to say remember when.
The rest are miscellaneous thanks that end up allowing me to live a truly blessed life. I’m thankful for my friends, who make me laugh or give me a supportive pat on the back. I’m thankful for manicures, massages, and movies. I’m thankful for the roof over my head and the American soil beneath my feet. I’m thankful that my boys want to cuddle with me and that my parents want to speak to me. I’m thankful for the drivers that let me on the road during traffic, and for the baristas that truly want me to have a great day. And I’m thankful to those that read this blog weekly or when they can, and to those who take a second to send me a comment or note.
Thanks to all. And Happy Thanksgiving!
Over the last five years, my husband and I have gone to almost 250 movies. Every week, thanks to our good – I mean great – friend and surrogate to our two youngest sons, we have enjoyed a date night. We’ve stuck with Saturday night for almost all of them, although in the last two months or so we have been giving Friday night a trial run with moderate to good success.
Some might say we are stuck in a rut, but we don’t see it that way. We still enjoy our standing date, which starts with a meal of some kind. Lots of time we go to a street in Los Angeles that has a wonderful cluster of Asian delights, and we chow down on sushi or Pho food. Or we hit a local Thai place. And occasionally we will do the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that’s located in the same mall as our usual movie pick. The buffet is quantity over quality, so we have to be extra hungry to hit that one.
Next we get a massage. Once a month we will make our Burke Williams appointment (we are members) for the royal treatment. Sad to say, but this is most often our least favorite massage. We just never really found this place worth the expense. Our favorite is a place directly across the street from the movie theater. It’s an open room with a dozen massage tables and about two dozen massage “therapists” who are roaming the vicinity, ready to work at the sound of the voice of a nice woman who is always at the front desk. She seems like the Queen Bee of the place, and they listen to and obey her every word, or at least we think they do. No one in the joint speaks any English.
The massage starts in the sitting position, with your feet soaking in some seriously searing water. They pay special attention to your upper back, neck, and shoulders. Next you switch to the face-up position while they dry off your feet and rub them thoroughly, including all the spaces between all your toes. They work their way up your legs (as best they can since you are completely dressed in date night clothes), and then proceed to stretch your hips and back. Finally you’re face down, at which point they’ll start at the top and work down to your feet, pushing and probing and squeezing as they go. It always ends with some drumming and slapping on your person. Not exactly a happy ending.
Every “therapist” does the same routine, as if the same master has taught him or her. There’s no privacy, the soft music is mediocre at best, and it’s difficult to communicate with these people, but somehow it works for us. We have, over time, found the “therapists” we like the best and we ask for them by name. We are able to call ahead and reserve a time (they have no reservation system to speak of – we noticed our massage times written on a napkin by the phone at the front desk once when we arrived) and everyone is very friendly, although I wish they would eat less garlic and smoke fewer cigarettes between massages. When it’s over we are happy to hand over our $25 each for an hour of a happy relaxing time, plus tip.
After being fed and feeling calm, it’s time for the movie. We always get a large popcorn and large Diet Coke to share. We always sprinkle on some Nacho Cheese seasoning that’s available, and we always use the bathroom just before heading in to the reserved stadium seating. We will always use the bathroom on the way out of the theater (due to the large Diet Coke), at which time I will stand in a stall and always check in to Facebook and give my one sentence review of that week’s movie. My man will always be waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish posting, and upon my departure from the bathroom will always ask, “So what did you think”? Always. We will always buy some ice cream on the way home, and we will always always enjoy the rest of the night.
This is our time to reconnect, get romantic, and be alone, without our beautiful boys. I love returning home late at night and peeking in on the boys, marveling at just how beautiful they look as they lay there sleeping. I’ll usually cover them in their blankets (do all kids toss off their blankets at night?), kiss them good night, and thank my lucky stars that I have date night every week. With a special guy, that is.
As happy an occasion as it is, the first birthday of your last baby is also filled with lots of sorrow and nostalgia. Of course I’m glad that we’ve made it through the first 365 days relatively unscathed, although his forehead has had more than his fair share of bruises now that he is cruising around the floor at a respectable pace.
I mean, I want him to develop normally, hitting all the milestones right on time with all the hoopla that comes along with them.
But as cliché as it sounds, it all goes so darn fast, and even faster when it’s your last time through the racecourse. As an example, I cannot believe my son is already in size 4 diapers. He went from N to 4 in the blink of an eye. At least I learned, and this took me three children to learn, to move up faster in diaper size than you think you need to, because before you know it the bodily waste is squirting out the sides and up the back at the worst possible time, like when you are in a rush or when you are far from home and forgot any change of clothes. I also now know that, except for maybe your first purchase of a larger diaper size, stick to small amounts (i.e. don’t buy the huge warehouse-size boxes) so you don’t get caught half way through your supply of diapers that are now too small but you use anyway because these rectangular absorbent things are expensive.
I’m also crying in my pillow about the loss of the use of formula. It says right on it “0 – 12 months” which couldn’t be much clearer. Stop using it! However, I’m stretching out my last couple of cans under the guise of “the transition”, which is the period of time where I feed him formula with increasing amounts of fat-free cow’s milk mixed in. I refuse to throw out even one scoop of this “gold powder”, which costs twice as much as anything I personally eat. And besides the money, I’m really going to miss the convenience of the powder. I just need water, which I always carry, and the powder, and he is fed. In just a few days it’s going to take a LOT more planning. And I know he is going to be a big eater. He has been watching his two older brothers devour food for a whole year, and the little food we have already fed him (a little bite here, a little nibble there) has been no problem for him.
The cute clothes are another thing. Even though I tried to weed out his brothers’ hand-me-downs, there were still some clothes that I never got to even try on him! The hand-me-downs I did get to use allowed me to relive the first years of my older sons – I could picture them in the Gap shirt and the cute overalls as if it were yesterday. Now I have a friend who is pregnant with her third son, so like a conveyor belt the clothes are going from my washer/dryer directly to her storage room, with little more than a tear or two from me.
Have you ever watched a parade, and then at the end of the parade the sanitation workers and the street sweepers are right on its tail, cleaning up to erase any sign that a parade (and the thousands of spectators) had just come by? Our house is starting to feel this way, and I can’t say I’m happy about it. Then again, just the other day my spouse made this statement as we watched our one-year old giggle and clap to music: “The three beautiful boys we have made it easy to imagine having a fourth one.”
Anyone have any newborn hand-me-downs?
By John Jericiau
My spouse and I are coming up on ten awesome years together. We marked the calendar from our first date together: June 11th, 2004. Most of our hetero friends start the clock as of the date of their wedding, but since we weren’t afforded that opportunity until June 21st, 2008 (during a small window when California said we could before putting a stop to all but the first 18,000 gay couples who got hitched), we include the four years prior to our marriage in our calculations. For us I wouldn’t really call it a wedding, since as of yet we have not blurted the “’til death do us part” speech to each other in front of 200 of our closest friends and family at a fabulous venue as we stand ankle-deep in sand on a beautiful tropical beach. Instead I dragged him to the Los Angeles County Clerk’s office in beautiful downtown Norwalk, CA the night before his birthday with our two oldest sons, signed some legal documents, kissed on the lips in front of someone representing religion, and then continued on our way to Newport Beach to enjoy the night in a ritzy hotel.
The almost 10 years have been a whirlwind adventure to say the least. Starting a business together, more job responsibilities for him, the title of stay-at-home dad for me, and another son later, we’re about to start on the second decade of our relationship. It’s mind-boggling. It’s hard to believe. And it’s better than ever.
We have our moments, don’t get me wrong. A lot of them. At times I wonder if two men can actually cohabitate. But that’s the minority of the time. Most of the time it works, and I think it’s because we complement each other.
I say complement, not compliment, although for sure the one with an ‘i’ has helped us through some tough patches as well (do you know how sexy you look when you’re screaming at me?) What I’m really referring to is complement with an ‘e’, which in the dictionary means:
Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
For us, it’s how the cool, detached man is attracted to the warm, outgoing one. It’s how the disciplined one admires the free spirit. The smart one is in awe of the even smarter one.
We even work well in the parenting department. Not so much as good cop/bad cop, but rather one of us is softer, more inclined to cuddle, and more freely says to the boys “I love you” just because, and uses “don’t worry, everything will work out” for almost any other reason. The other imparts wisdom and shares the tools needed to navigate this great big scary world. In sickness, one of us barely flinches until an offspring has over a 103-degree temperature or has bright red blood spurting out of a major artery. The other worries about the effect of our iPhones on their development, and seriously considers homeschooling a viable option for our boys (I can’t imagine it, although it sounds like it’s working for many families.)
Bottom line is it’s working. We are growing as people, as parents, and as a couple. And I cannot wait to report back in ten more years, because deep in my heart I know that everything will work out. I love you, babe.
It wasn’t until 3:11pm this afternoon when I plopped into a chair behind a booth at my boys’ school fundraising carnival that I realized that it was the first time I had sat down all day. Up since a 6am nudge in my bed as my middle son crawled under the covers, interrupting a perfectly good dream with lots of REM, I’ve been going and going and going. But it’s Saturday, so what do I expect?
My spouse was missing the annual Halloween Carnival as he filled his head with spreadsheets and expense reports at his almost brand new MBA curriculum halfway across the country. Hence the empty spot in my bed in which my middle son could invade. I hold no grudges against my husband whatsoever. I encouraged him to go for yet another advanced degree. I really truly am super proud of him. But it does leave me alone with our three boys at times. I’d go ahead and miss a carnival here and there, if I could. But I can’t. As the room parent (think teacher’s pet) for my kindergartener’s class, and an active parent for my first grade class, it is my duty (along with many other parents) to make sure that this event goes off without a hitch. Our childrens’ futures depend on it – or at least their music and art classes.
We had prepared since the beginning of the school year for this day, or at least it feels like it. Emails, signups, meetings, and more emails. The PTA royalty would send me the information and ask me to forward it to the parents in my class, “but add your own spin on it, something that complements your personality.” I PUT IT ALL IN CAPS.
The carnival started at 10am, and we wanted to get there early, but a last minute birthday party invitation thwarted our plans. The invitation wasn’t actually sent last minute – I just accepted it last minute. A Mad Science birthday party trumps the start of any carnival. We even had to bag the weekly gymnastics class in the park across the street due to the triple schedule conflict that we faced. Even the calendar of my iPhone didn’t know how to deal with the three events. Life is one big constant exercise in prioritizing.
While the boys were fixated on the slime-making scientist at the party, I had my almost one-year old in my arms feeding him different solids that are age-appropriate, and he was doing really well. Bits of strawberry, pieces of watermelon, and some crackers. He was doing really well – I thought so anyway, as did the moms in the room who would as usual keep one eye trained on me to follow what I was doing. “I’ve got this”, I thought. I decided to try the smallest piece of broccoli, and that’s when it all unraveled. After a couple of gags, my son proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach onto the floor, table, and each of us, and I immediately thought this would cause a delay in our rush to the carnival. I ran us to the restroom and managed to rid us both of the vomitus that was on us. Back at the party, I cleaned up the floor where I had been standing, and got us back on schedule.
Finally at the carnival, it really was a beautiful day and an awesome event. Due to the hard work put in by many in the weeks prior to the event, it practically ran itself. This carnival has been going on since at least the ‘70s, and they’ve got it down to a science. And due to the location of this public school in a community of affluence, lots of entertainment types and lots of paparazzi littered the area.
The boys had a fabulous time, using up every one of the $100 worth of tickets I purchased for the rides and attractions at the carnival. But Daddy was getting tired. Really tired. So when I plopped on the above-mentioned chair at 3:11pm in the afternoon, no one was surprised when I blurted out THANK YOU JESUS. That’s just who I am.
This parenting gig is incredible. As a stay-at-home dad, my life is filled with so many milestones and memories and happiness and joy. Each day our three boys amaze us with new words and deep thoughts and unconditional love. The experiences that my husband and I are sharing are at times so profound that they bring us closer and closer together as the fabulous years go by. We are getting close to hitting ten of those fabulous years.
With all that being said, it’s time to set the record straight. Parts of this job really suck. And I’m not talking about the obvious. Not the poop you find on your forearm after a diaper change. Not the sleep deprivation that comes with the newborn months. No, I’m talking about the less obvious ones. The ones that parents from past generations don’t speak about, but would chuckle knowingly when they are brought up in conversation by new parents. Here are four of these unspeakables, in no particular order.
The boys might be at the park with Papa, or sound asleep in their beds in the dead of the night, but no matter. It’s always the same. Right around the time that I have started letting the water run through my hair after the shampoo, the screams of pain start. The cries for help commence. The sounds of muffled suffocation sear through the air. I used to turn off the water and listen, but I have learned that it’s just a curse. My mind is playing tricks on me. I stick my head out of the shower and listen to the silence for a second of two before returning to my asylum that used to be so enjoyable and relaxing but now is nothing but a quick soaping and a rushed rinse.
Dining in restaurants
We might as well take the meal money and flush it down the toilet; it’s almost the same as trying to eat out. We’ve tried toys and crayons and iPads and iPhones, but inevitably an individual of short stature will scream bloody hell about the shape of his pancake or the inequality of fries on his plate compared to his brother. Forget about reading the Sunday paper or glancing at email. Others demand your full attention. Even eating your meal becomes a challenge and a balancing act, as without fail someone will want to sit on your lap just as your piping hot food arrives. I’ve gotten used to eating cold eggs.
These three hours used to be good times. Working out at the gym after work, catching up with friends at an impromptu meal, or even just sitting and watching some mindless Jeopardy or Entertainment Tonight while digesting my pasta with my feet up on the coffee table. Now they have become a frantic three hours of homework, meal preparation for boys of starkly different tastes and meal requirements, baths, reading, and then finally pleading for everyone to stay in bed and go to sleep. We don’t even try to feed ourselves until at least 9:30pm, if we have still have the energy to raise a utensil to our mouth.
Three boys, two men, and a friend/surrogate who spends half her time at our house – we all make a lot of dirty laundry, I get it. And throw in washing sheets (some more frequently due to bedwetting), the throw rugs that surround our toilets (boys have bad aim), and the uniforms from twice-weekly swim lessons, twice-weekly basketball, twice-weekly gymnastics, and a weekly Crossfit class – and we’ve got an always-running washer/dryer. Each day as the laundry finishes drying it gets piled on my bed as high as the ceiling fan, and each night I have to stand there and fold it, sort it into piles by owner, and restock it in the appropriate location. If I don’t get to the restocking part due to time constraints or a boy or two waking up unexpectedly for water or a pee or a cry, then the sorted clothes have to wait. They quickly start to pile up on our dresser until they teeter-totter and finally collapse, necessitating a refold.
As bad as these things sound, it’s really a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise our sons and get them ready to go out in the world on their own. And before they start making their own families, I will be sure and let them in on these good times. Or maybe not. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.
One of the perks of being the parent of young kids is making new friends. It all comes at such a good time too. Once you start having kids, in a natural and gradual way the friends you had in your single, childless years start fading away. I’m not bitter about it, although there are some friends from years gone by that I would love to reconnect with. But I don’t blame them. A new parent’s world is so child-centric that anything else is very secondary, and friends can sense the changes. Six years ago, when I was caring for my 8-month old son when my second son was born, I was lucky to find my phone let alone use it. When I wasn’t cleaning bottoms I was cleaning bottles or floors or laundry. And when I wasn’t doing that I was napping. There was little time for anything else, especially something like chatting on the phone for hours on end with a friend.
Unfortunately, like a garden that gets no water, friends that didn’t hear from me just wilted away. Those relationships suffered. They didn’t understand that I what I really could’ve used was some help – something as simple as their company – at that stressful and challenging time. But again, I don’t blame anybody. They were as clueless as I was before I was a parent myself. I didn’t know that new parents were so sleep-deprived, or so hungry for even a few minutes of time alone.
Friendships and their importance to me have changed as I have gone through life. In elementary, grade school, and even college, I placed so much pressure on myself to have everyone like me that it was quite obsessive. Deep, meaningful relationships suffered as I spread myself way too thin. Class president here, this club there. A sport’s team here, a volunteer group there. Hang out with the jocks, and then turn around and mix it up with the brainiacs. Way too much! Even my romantic relationships suffered, as evidenced by the fact that my college sweetheart nearly married me, a closeted gay guy! I never let anyone get to know the real me, which is sad because the real me was/is a really cool guy.
As I was bicycling across the country by myself between college and the rest of my life, I decided that some things were really going to have to change. I needed to come out, of course, but also I needed to shrink my circle of friends down from hundreds to a manageable handful. Moving across the country helped with that, and so did announcing that “Yep, I’m gay!” at my high school reunion. That caused more shrinking than a cold swimming pool! Sixty days alone while cycling an average of 91 miles per day really gets your wheels turning. I made the decision to try to make a handful or fewer friends. I think I succeeded. Granted, quite an abundance of those “friends” turned into a romantic interlude of various durations (varying from one night to three years), but over the years I did have a few who became just friends, and really good ones at that.
But like I said, having three boys in tow is like an incredibly effective bug repellent – it keeps everyone away. No one has any idea what to do with you. For example, when is the last time that friends without kids met at a park? So quite naturally, fellow parents become your new friends, since you’re all in the same boat. And the timing couldn’t be better. Your old friends are gone, and you are just clawing your way out of the isolation period (i.e. the newborn months). Slowly, you start connecting. A fellow parent at a pre-toddler music class here, someone else at your neighborhood park there. This is all well and good, but you hit pay dirt once your kids enter elementary school.
Play dates, birthday parties, picnics, and more!
Field trips, after school activities, and sports teams galore!
That’s where I am now – weeding through the literally hundreds of parents available to find those few who are going to make it through the long haul. I already have a few who have made it a couple of years since preschool, but because we have dispersed to different elementary schools, I’m sure that, like me, they can feel the pressure to let go and focus exclusively on our own schools for companionship and friendship. We’re fighting hard to make it work. Newer friendships are blossoming too, and I’m meeting some really nice parents that I’m trying to do fun things with. I just hope our kids can get along as well as we do.
When you have kids, I think you become even more sappy and sentimental than your ordinary sappy and sentimental self. I’ve been touched lately, at times to the point of crying, and here are some examples.
• When my son’s kindergarten teacher holds his face in her hands, looks in his eyes, and tells him how proud she is of the way he is trying to do his best in class, and how well he treats his classmates.
• When I see a Mom from school (who reads my blogs!) standing in the checkout line at Costco, and I sneak up behind her and jokingly ask her in a disguised voice if I can cut in line because I’m in a big rush. Without hesitation, and without yet seeing that it is I, she sings a cheerful “of course” and starts to selflessly step aside.
• When before going upstairs my guy kisses me good night, and I mean really kisses me, as if we will never see each other again, or as if it’s the first time we’ve ever kissed. Take your pick.
• When I overhear my oldest son, with his friend in the back seat of our minivan, say to his friend “My Dad is the fastest runner in the world. Isn’t that awesome!”
• When my nearly 11-month old son rolls onto his back and smiles from ear to ear when he sees me enter his room
• When our friend/surrogate, driving home with me after a particularly challenging excursion with the boys where my parenting skills were put to the test, tells me that she would do anything to carry one more child for us “because you’re that good of a dad”.
Isn’t life great?
Six weeks into the school year, and our boys have changed. A bit for the better, and two bits for the worse.
First the better. Writing has improved. Interest in math has increased exponentially. They’re trying to read road signs and store signs and zodiac signs. They’re constantly asking interesting questions, such as how many bones are in the human body (212), how many countries are there in the world (196), and what happens after we die (I have no idea.)
Now for the worse. We’ve endured more meltdowns in these six weeks than the number in the previous five or six years combined. It’s been hell getting them to sleep. We’ve been hit, punched, slapped, and kicked. We’ve been told we should move out, shut up, and go away. With an attitude more like a teenager, we’ve heard “whatever” to our face and “jerk” behind our back. They’ve refused to eat at times, and have argued with each other more than play with each other. When the above is not happening, these two boys are the most loving, caring boys you could imagine.
So what’s going on? They’re at the greatest (public) elementary school we can imagine. They have plenty of fun, rewarding extracurricular activities such as Top Chef, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, and jazz dance to name a few. They’re making plenty of friends in the classroom and on the playground. They adore their teachers.
After one particularly brutal evening after a long school day, I cozied up on the sofa with the boys and a book after their dinner and bath, just as we normally did many school nights. But this night it was time to try to get to the bottom of this nightmare. I had my suspicions, so I was ready with my question.
“Guys, you know that I have had to talk to you a lot lately about your behavior. Do you think that sometimes you are very hungry and that’s why you can’t control your emotions?”
“Oh yes, Daddy!” they chimed. “We’ve been hungry!”
“Well, I’m going to make you guys a promise. When you finish school, or gymnastics, or swim workout, or whatever you’re doing that day, I’m going to have a nice healthy snack ready for you on your booster seat – some fruit, something to drink, maybe some yogurt. I love you both so much, and I don’t want you to be so hungry that you act badly toward Daddy and Papa. I don’t want you to be that hungry! What do you think of that idea?”
“Oh Daddy, that sounds so yummy! We are so sorry for acting badly. We just need food. We promise we’ll be better!”
Had I found the solution? Was the answer right in front of me all this time, and I just needed to validate my sons’ feelings and then listen to them and treat them respectfully? I polled other parents/friends, and they too have experienced similar BIG feelings from their kid(s). They, like me, had their doubts about their child’s eating (or lack there of) during the school day, and did observe that their own brood seemed famished, fatigued, and full of emotion. I shared with them the result of my ‘sit-down’ with my boys, and I could see the hope in the parents’ eyes as I did.
I went for groceries and stocked up on fun, nutritional, tasty snacks, fruit, and drinks for my promised packet of post-activity palatables. The boys would hop in the minivan and proceed to consume nearly everything, at which time they would genuinely thank me with all their hearts. I felt good about how this all played out. I really need to listen to my kids better, because they want to be good boys and I want to be a good dad.
It’s been two weeks since “the talk.” My husband has started on his long journey to an advanced MBA degree. Homework has ramped up in intensity, and my sons are losing teeth and gaining height as they hit a growth spurt. Emotions have been running super high, and I’ve never heard so much uncontrollable sobbing in my life! But I have learned from previous mistakes, that’s for sure. This time I took action immediately.
I’m really enjoying the snack I pack for myself everyday!