The Poop! – The first black tar that comes out of your child is shocking. After that the months are a blur but the amount of poop you’re handling and butt you’re wiping is etched in your brain. The quantity increases exponentially with each increasing size of diaper. When you’re at a 4 and you find a leftover NB on the bottom of the diaper bag that you finally have a free minute to clean out, you wonder how the NB fit on your baby, let alone hold any poop. You try to stay ahead of the tide of poop and be prepared to move up a size before the quantity becomes overwhelming, but it’s futile. When you least expect it (meaning when you have no change of clothes available and you’re in the biggest rush), the poop will find its way out of your toddler’s clothing much like the Blob found its way out of each building that they tried to contain it in. If you haven’t experienced the poop crawling up baby’s back and exiting through its hair and neckline, you haven’t lived!
The Meltdowns! – Your child is having the best day. You haven’t seen him so happy-go-lucky and carefree. He is enjoying every moment of quality time with you, his siblings, and anyone else who we meet along the way. You’re thinking to yourself, “This is so great. I must be doing something right. And I lucked out with such a healthy, normal kid!” Then it happens. You accidentally toss out the wrapper of his granola bar with an eighth of an ounce of unfinished bar still lodged in the unripped end of the wrapper. You didn’t see it in there. You have a brand new bar, with six yummy ounces all waiting to be devoured. But no matter. The ground shakes and the sky falls, as all hell breaks loose. You see the two eyes of your offspring merge into one as the deafening sounds explode and the body goes limp in a pile right in front of you and other horrified spectators. The show goes on for what seems like eternity before the anger turns into a cold shoulder with intermittent shuttering as the emotions wind down. The magic is gone, and all you can do is hope that there will be another day soon when it will return. You walk on eggshells the rest of the day, and breathe a sigh of relief when the bedroom door is closed after the last good night.
The Activities! – Who knew there were so many activities for kids in this world? Maybe it’s because we live in the shadow of a mayor metropolis (Los Angeles) whereas my childhood was in a very rural area (upstate New York), but who has choices like this? Is this normal to have five different activities to choose from for each half of each weekend day? And websites that are geared toward letting parents know what is available (i.e. Red Tricycle). For slow half days you always have the fallbacks like Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, the beach, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Kidspace, the Zoo, or Underwood Farms. Of course that’s if you don’t have a play date planned with your child’s friend, or friend of a friend, or sibling of a friend. Or with one of the above mentioned does not have a fabulous birthday party to which your child is invited. If you have relatives nearby that’s always an intermittent visit. Then there’s always the library! The point is that all these venues and events have been created for the sole purpose of getting you sanely to around eight or nine o’clock at night, where it’s then all up to you to “put down” your child. Personally I’m waiting for someone to devise a “put down” party.
The Love! – I used to hear parents say that they would gladly lose a leg for their child, or even give up their life, and I would kind of chuckle to myself. I like my legs, and I’m in no rush to end my life. But now that I’m almost seven years and three boys into the whole parenting thing, I would throw in a kidney, an eyeball, and a tongue for them. Every day I’m doing things that I would never have imagined myself doing before the boys were here. Scoping out the road as we make our way across the intersection. Putting the texting machine (i.e. my cellphone) in the trunk as I drive the boys around town. Catching a sneezeful of snot in my bare hand so my sniffly older son will not infect my still healthy youngest. But those pale in comparison to the ways that my sons show their love to me. Asking, “Can we snuggle?” as we catch the last bit of TV before bed. Running over and making sure I’m okay when I hit my head on the corner of an opened cabinet door. Yelling, “I love you, Daddy!!!” out the front door as I start on my jog down to the beach, over and over again until I am simply too far away to hear that it’s still happening. It is surprise number 4 that makes surprises 1, 2, and 3 so easy to deal with. I just hope I’m ready for 5, 6, and 7.
Born in the 60’s and living as a teenager in the mid to late 70’s, my early years seem so much different than anything my sons are sure to experience when they hit their teen years. That’s a good thing because the world has so much more to offer now. Alas, that’s also a bad thing. They have a hyper vigilant father, because in this day and age I know I have to be. There is social media, the Internet, and cell phones to contend with. Predators get their own five-week coverage on CNN, so we learn every scary detail about them. Across the nation gay men and women are enjoying a ride to the land of normalcy as we speak, but with that comes the extremists and religious zealots who will stop at nothing to prove their point, even going as far as to hurt our children.
I’m torn because I want my sons to have a sense of adventure, but I’m afraid that if they do some of things that I myself have done or experienced, my heart will not be able to take it. I’ve gone skydiving, for example, just to check it off my bucket list, but with skydiving the odds seem very much in the jumper’s favor. Nevertheless, I will be horrified the day they tell me they want to try it (and I’m sure that at least one of them will!)
I’ve had other experiences that I couldn’t even fathom happening in this day and age. Like my solo bicycle ride across the US when I was 22. Several months before the summer of 1984 I announced to my parents that I would be bicycling across the nation in order to get to California, which I had recently come to learn was a mecca for both triathlon training and gay life! Who knew? Although my parents were a little nervous to say the least, there was no negotiation or discussion about the rationality or the intelligence of my decision. I was doing it and that was that. I could not imagine anything less than a ton of conversations with plenty of grilling going on with my boys if they were to want to do this trip.
For two months (91 miles per day average), I pedaled west (and then south down the entire Pacific coast), not knowing where I was going to sleep each night until I got there. If it wasn’t a church yard, or school yard, or behind a billboard, or in the woods right off of the beaten path (I had a lightweight tent and sleeping bag with me), then it was in the home of an absolute stranger that invited me in for the evening. I hadn’t watched ‘Nancy Grace’ or ‘America’s Most Wanted’ prior to my trip, so I had no reason to think that anyone had any bad intentions. In other words, I was extremely naïve. That would not be the case with my sons. I would totally load them up with fear.
Another time, when I was a young athletic 15-year old just learning about sensuality and sexuality (I was a late bloomer), my family took the hour-long car ride to New York City to see the big tree at night in Rockefeller Center during Christmas break. We ate at a fairly upscale restaurant right across from the tree, with a beautiful window table so we could see the tree as we dined. It was halfway through the meal when I noticed him. An older guy (30s?) was smiling at me through the window, and then the current of the crowd would take him away. Minutes later he was back, giving me “the look” as he was again swept away. This went on for the remainder of the meal and I could hardly contain myself. When he saw us getting up after settling the bill, he was gone and did not return to the window, despite my every attempt to will him back.
We went close to the tree where a crowd was of course congregating all around, celebrating and meandering as the holiday music played and flurries fell in the freezing cold. I was standing a couple of rows behind my family, just so it wasn’t so obvious that I was searching for my guy with the jean jacket over a white hoodie. All of a sudden I could feel hands come from behind me and slip effortlessly into each of my pockets. I knew right away it was he as he pulled me close to his gymnast body and said, “You are so sexy.” I think I said “You too”, but the music was crazy loud by now and anyway it didn’t matter what I said. I stood there and enjoyed his hands for the next several moments until he was gone, just in time for my parents to say, “Let’s get going” to my siblings and me. I now know how easy it would have been to pull me away to a windowless van waiting down the street.
Overall I think my experiences affected me positively but clearly I dodged some bullets. My parents didn’t have the World Wide Web. They had seven television channels, one of which was extremely fuzzy unless they shook the rabbit ears just right. I will do my best now to stay ahead of the learning curve, be on the lookout for the danger de jour, and talk talk talk to my sons about what lies ahead, and beneath, and above them. Learn from my mistakes, I’ll say, no matter how pleasurable they actually were.
It happens often, and it’s happening right now. Even though I have three boys and all the activities in their lives to orchestrate, there are times when our household is running like a well-oiled machine, humming through life day by day with ease. I have no worries, except wondering how I’m going to spend each moment of each fabulous day.
This is not one of those times. Maybe it’s because one parent (my other half) has been travelling for work a lot in an unpredictable pattern. It might be because the boys have passed around a cold virus like a ping-pong ball at the rec center. Or perhaps one might say it’s because we have three boys under 7.
While these might be factors that shake up the schedule, most parents are well aware that this is just how life works. Just when things are running smoothly and you’re getting a handle on your to-do list, getting back to consistent workouts, and actually reading a book, a rogue wave comes along to wash away all your careful planning.
Colds and other illnesses are always a danger. Besides having a miserable child, you have a miserable child who is banned from all their activities (so they are with you nearly 24/7 to infect you) and who is extra clingy (and ready to infect you with a productive cough that has your face as a target.)
The extended family is always a threat to a calm life. Aging parents have more reports of discomfort and pain than a classroom full of kids, and you’re recipient numero uno of those reports. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles have their own lives and troubles, babies and divorces, accidents and arrests, and depending on your relationship with the particular relative, you may feel like you have an extra child or two.
Other things I call administrative in nature can take up a huge chunk of your time and energy, and believe me sometimes these things are the bane of my existence. Finding time to work on these silent killers (silent because they get no press, no pay, and no applause) can be frustrating. This is usually how I find myself spending the hours of 9:00pm to 11:00pm much to the chagrin of my other half, who nevertheless understands that I honestly have no other time in my day to perform the administrative duties. Preparing taxes (heavy on my mind right now), paying bills, and picking out summer activities. Planning vacation, making doctor’s appointments, and buying new clothes for boys who are growing like weeds. Laundry, dishes, and general cleaning. I say general cleaning because forget about getting to more specific cleaning. Weeks have gone by where I’ve noticed a random pile of dirt or a toy in the corner, and I have literally not had a second to pick it up. Sounds utterly crazy, but I know you know what I’m talking about.
Renew a passport. Call a friend. Get a vehicle’s oil changed. File some papers. Buy the monthly anniversary gift. Reorganize the closet in the foyer. After a while the list that constantly loops through my brain becomes a loud numbing buzz, one that paralyzes me and prevents me from doing anything on the list. So I get nothing done that can be characterized as a “project.” Except now I am really really good at making lists. And complaining about the length and difficulty of them to anyone who will listen – which is no one because who listens to an aging parent?
I got the call from my sister about two weeks ago. Would I be able to fly up to their house for Family & Friends Day at my nephew’s elementary school? My nephew has recently joined track and he thought it would be really cool if his ex semi-professional athlete uncle were there for him to show off.
My immediate reaction was no. I looked in the mirror and only saw the shadow of a top age-group athlete. I looked at my to-do list and only saw a never-ending list of things to accomplish by as soon as possible. I looked at my other half and only saw the look of fear in his eyes at the thought of being alone with our three rather rambunctious rascals.
But then I reconsidered. Our youngest son Dustin is turning 16-months old this coming week, and he and I have never been separated for more than an hour or so while I am out for a run or a swim. Our other two sons, Devin and Dylan, are both 6-years olds. Except for a four day trip to Fiji that I won and their two Dads enjoyed alone as their “honeymoon” when they were infants (we left them with the grandparents – one kid per pair of grandparents), they have not spent any time on this earth without their Daddy.
My husband travels a lot for work (all over the country) or for his MBA class (in Indiana), while Daddy is solo at home 24/7, sometimes for up to close to a week. So why not let him experience that joy? I would make things easier for him by putting out sets of clothes for school, giving plenty of instructions, and enlisting the help of our friend/surrogate for the entire duration of my trip. It would be a Thursday night through Sunday night, and she happens to be off work on Fridays through Sunday!
So I approached my better half, and to my pleasant surprise he was supportive in a nervous kind of way. My sister and nephews were over-the-moon excited. And I could barely contain myself, although I took great care not to show it in front of the boys. I began to daydream about sleeping in without the alarm of a crying baby waking me up, taking a shower without wondering if a toddler wax being pummeled to death in the next room, and spending quality time with my nephews (10 and 6) who were growing up way too fast.
The time came for my trip, and for the first half of it I was enjoying it immensely. It was great to see my sister and brother-in-law, my nephews, their basketball games, my parents (who recently moved from Arizona to live near my sister), and my ex-classmate from Physical Therapy school that lives near my sister
But I found myself daydreaming and wondering what the boys were up to. I would peruse their pictures on my iPhone and start tearing up. And I began to long for my partner of almost 10 years. I hadn’t anticipated just how much I would miss him too. My cup was overflowing, or whatever the expression was. I was anxious to get home.
I got some text pictures from my family, and did talk via Face Time, but I was happy to get on the plane to return to Santa Monica. I would be taking a taxi directly to our favorite massage place to start our date night (which was delayed for one day due to my absence), and I would be seeing the boys the next morning when I would wake them up for school and get to hear them beg to stay in bed for just one more minute. And life will be in full swing again, just the way I love it.
By John Jericiau
At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.
This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)
The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.
For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.
Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.
Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.
When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.
Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.
Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.
Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.
It looks like my partying days are over. This weekend my neighbors, who also have a son in my oldest son’s first grade class, celebrated a 40th birthday. We’ve gotten close to them since we carpool to the school with them, they are both runners, and they are just fun awesome people.
We quickly accepted the invite to the surprise party, which was planned as more of an event than a party. A stretch limo would pick us up at our house at 7pm. Five pairs of strangers (to us) would meet at our house just before 7, and I would get some help stocking the limo with the neighbor’s booze that I had stashed in my refrigerator for safe keeping the night before. Beer, vodka, champagne – you name it. I laughed to myself as I thought about the three margaritas I have consumed in the last year, and how I am such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, and my husband only slightly less of a lightweight.
Our neighbor was indeed surprised as we picked her and her husband up at what she thought was just going to be early dinner at a beachfront hotel. Most of us had already begun the celebration with champagne. Surely I can handle a glass of champagne. Immediately I felt the sensation of alcohol coursing through my veins, and almost immediately I saw my husband with a crooked smile across his face. I sensed trouble brewing.
The thirty-minute ride to downtown was half screaming and half getting to know each other, with the requisite disco music blasting in the background. The other partygoers ended up being really really nice people. Almost all the couples had children right around the ages of our three sons, and a number of iPhones were whipped out throughout the night with pictures and videos to share.
The night was somewhat of an A-list club crawl, as the limousine dropped us off and picked us back up from three different hip clubs. The first was Perch, an “elevated resting place” on the 15th floor of a downtown skyscraper. It’s website calls it “a French inspired rooftop bistro that offers unobstructed views of Downtown Los Angeles that makes it feel as though you are floating at the skyline.” Checking IDs at the door, I could swear that I saw the bouncer chuckling to himself as he saw the year of my birth. I put some swagger in my walk as I moved through the door, and everyone headed directly for the bar. Since this place was pretty much a bar on a roof, I chose to gaze at the views as Alen got me something I might like (it was sweet, so I did).
Next we hit Ebanos Crossing, a “revelry of sexiness and culture” where, according to the website, “within our walls you will enjoy an award winning artisanal cocktail program coupled with delectable, vibrant cuisine, where the cultures of the journey are reflected all around you.” It was loud, it was dark, it was crowded, and worst of all it was closed. Yes, closed, but somehow someone in the party had connections and we were let in to a Black Eyed Peas party. Many drinks were ordered, and I knew by this time that I needed to cut myself off at two drinks, and I needed to gently cut my husband off as well. I just needed to find my husband, who at some point simply disappeared from our group of tables. I hit the restroom, and then searched far and wide for him, Will I. Am, or Fergie. I finally found Alen dancing a nondescript dance in the middle of the dance floor with two of Will I. Am’s most voluptuous groupies. I returned to our tables to give him time to work off the alcohol and minimize the hangover that I was sure was going to crush him the next day.
We made a quick swing through The Standard, a boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown LA with a rooftop pool and plenty of eye candy. In my younger days I would sunbathe poolside with friends. Now I was just praying for something to eat, but it was not meant to be, as the limo clock was ticking and we had to be home by 1am.
We arrived in front of my house fifteen minutes early, so we sat in front of my house blasting the music in the limo and having our last celebratory shots. I was imagining my head on my pillow just a few feet away from the limo, where I was being forced to fill and refill my glass. Luckily nobody was noticing me as I dumped my drinks out over and over again, raising my empty glass in the air and singing happy birthday just one more time.
It’s fun to meet new people, especially other parents who have great stories about their family and are very supportive of mine. It’s fun to take a limo around Los Angeles, to places you’d never pick on your own to go. I don’t need the alcohol to have a good time, but I do need better hearing to converse with loud music and more energy to make it past 1am. Oh, and a handful of Advil for my husband.
This week is my middle son’s 6th birthday. For the next four months I will have two 6-year olds in the house until my oldest turns 7 in May, which means the time of year has arrived when I will be explaining to strangers why I have two 6-year olds but they are not twins. I actually start by telling the stranger that they are indeed twins, even though my oldest is African-American and my middle son is the blonde surfer type. Perplexed looks follow.
I have just started to notice a distinct change in my soon-to-be 6-year old boy. He is starting to control his emotions, thankfully. Oh, he still has his occasional meltdowns, but even with those he is able to bring himself out of it faster. He is starting to try new foods, although in his life he has yet to try a slice of bread.
He is in love with Lego, which may not raise an eyebrow in your home but in ours is definitely noteworthy. Let’s just say that Dylan’s taste of toys has evolved. It started with matchbox cars, trucks and soccer until he turned about 2 years old. Then for these last 4 years it’s been anything pink and purple that is girlish in nature. It’s been dressing up like a princess at home, with tiara and high heels and tutu. It wasn’t every day, but it could have been. We supported him with as much of the accouterments as possible, searching Ross and Marshall’s sales rack for dresses and oversized shirts, yet cringing when he’d suggest wearing the outfit outside of the house. He has outright refused gifts that are too boyish, and will not partake in roughhousing with other boys in his class. He has a full collection of My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and every Disney Princess. He was very attached to his baby Tweet-Tweet (he chose that name), a life-sized baby that he can dress up and keep in the bassinette we put next to his bed for her. He also loves his Smurfs collection, which is a bit puzzling, but then again blue IS the warmest color.
All this has given my husband worry lines. He is 100% sure that Dylan is gay. I on the other hand am 100% sure that he is not. Either way, of course, we love our son. It’s just that life is a little (or a lot) tougher being gay (first hand experience here!). Some of the world hates you and your family – even wants you dead – without ever having met you. You have to struggle just to be treated equally in your own country. We want to give our son every advantage in life, but being gay is not always an advantage. I’m sure that however things turn out, he will be a confident, happy individual that is able to protect himself (luckily he is the biggest kindergartener in his school.)
But as I’ve said his tastes are evolving. He hasn’t touched Tweet-Tweet in months. He no longer dresses up, but he still likes it if his clothes or shoes have a decent percentage of pink on them. He is focusing on his Lego skills, although for right now it must be from the Lego Friends collection (generally for girls.) He absolutely knows that all of this pinkness is frowned upon by many of his male schoolmates, and my husband insists that his “evolving” is actually him suppressing his real desires and tendencies in order to conform with his normal male counterparts now that he is in big boy school.
I’m excited to see how it all turns out. Dylan is a beautiful, caring boy with a heart of gold, but I know he wishes it were pink. And that’s okay with me. Happy Birthday, my son!
Do you do anything else besides stay at home with the kids? That question was posed to me recently, and my quick reply “Oh, if you only knew” didn’t do justice to the facts. I am Dad to three boys and proud of it. I just wonder if the world (especially the people of the world who are not stay-at-home-parents) has any idea what goes on in my life on a daily basis. I play so many different roles in a single day that it would be difficult for me to devise a job description. I think that’s why it was so much easier in the pre-children days, when I arrived at work at 8 am, worked my eight hours as a physical therapist, and left at 4 pm. Then from 4 pm all the way until 8am the next morning, for a grand total of 16 hours, I did not even have to think about my job. That sounds almost ludicrous now that I’m 6 ½ years into my present 24/7 stint as stay-at-home Dad. And to focus on one job for the entire 8 hour workday sounds so cush compared to the many hats I have to wear in a typical day. Here are some that come to mind.
Chauffer – Commuting to school, and transporting the boys to their many activities & play dates, all while fielding questions, breaking up fights, feeding snacks, and avoiding oncoming traffic, all without the pleasure of screaming and cursing at the awful Los Angeles drivers.
Cook – It’s important to keep an ongoing dialogue going in your head about what the next meal is going to consist of, unless you want your kids to eat pizza or pasta again. Preparing the food takes some thought too, like how each child likes his nuggets or how chocolaty he likes his milk.
Dishwasher – I have the benefit of the actual appliance, but it’s pure drudgery to wake up each morning to a full dishwasher that needs to be emptied, with a keen eye on the dishes and utensils that don’t make the cut and need to be washed by hand because the oatmeal had hardened and became one with the bowl.
Launderer – Thankfully we live in modern times and passing laundry from the hamper to the washing machine and then the dryer is not the worst thing. But I’m begging the innovators of tomorrow to come up with a third machine to fold the laundry.
Housekeeper – Who knew that floors get dirty so quickly? Do my boys purposely fill their pockets and hems with sand in order to dump them onto my sofa and their beds? Walls need wiping down where hands lean for support, and with young boys with bad aims, the toilet and everything within a 12 inch radius of it needs a good cleaning. Plus the seat. Plus the lid. Plus the trash can next to the toilet.
Shopper – I keep a running list on my iPhone of food needs, but without fail I’m always low on milk. Forget getting a dog, kids, we’re getting a cow as our next pet. There’s also household supplies, school supplies, clothes, plus presents for each and every birthday party.
Event Planner – Going places, whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, requires forethought and planning, and that’s on me too. I need to secure plane tickets, accommodations, do the packing, and then the dreaded unpacking upon returning. Local activities involve scanning the newspapers, checking the internet (Red Tricycle), or relying on the network of friendly parents for suggestions.
Teacher – Whether it’s quizzing the kids, helping them with their homework, or reading to them in the library or bedtime, everything becomes a teachable moment.
Disciplinarian – Boys will be boys, but they do get out of hand and need to be disciplined. Currently, the threat of taking away something that they fancy seems to be doing the trick. Previously, yelling seemed to be the discipline du jour, but that just did not feel right to Daddy, so he put that in his back pocket for extreme situations. Believe me, that pocket gets open a lot.
Doctor – I hurt here. I itch there. I can’t poop. My bones hurt. My teeth hurt. I swallowed a tooth. I’m not hungry. I’m so hungry. I’m so tired. I can’t sleep. I’m sad. I’m nervous.
Fashion Designer – You want your child looking presentable. I try to make sure things match, midriffs are not exposed, and that there are no holes in their clothes. Beyond that I don’t particularly worry about impressing anyone with my child’s attire. They’ll be plenty of time for that in high school.
Accountant – Paying the bills, the gardener, and the taxman is a full time job in itself, but I’m left to try to fit it all in my free time.
Husband – Oh yeah, I am someone’s partner. Someone who requires attention, sex, and most of the other things on this list. Thankfully mine helps me with some of the other things on this list too, so it kind of evens out.
Coach – Being an athlete myself, I’m inclined to get involved in their physical fitness and athletic endeavors such as karate, swimming, running, gymnastics and basketball. They need instruction (above and beyond what their team coach gives) but most of all they need encouragement.
And there’s more. Entertainer, mediator, handyman, IT guy, fact finder, and magician … the list goes on and on. I’m proud to be wearing all these hats, but I’m most proud just being called Dad.
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.