It’s that time of the year. The Olympic torch is out, Ryan Lochte is making stupid mistakes that don’t nearly start international incidents, Usain Bolt is racing cars… barefoot, and the sport that takes the spotlight is football. That aside, we hold a Superbowl in the house almost daily. Kids vs. Parents. Right now the two teams are pretty evenly matched. With one kid, the sport is all about double coverage. The weak defense quickly improves and the youth has to build cunning to keep up with the parents. With the addition of a second child, the coverage now becomes man on. The occasional carry of a red drink to the carpet gives up an occasional score, but the parent team can clean that up. The game changes significantly with the third child. The scheme changes from man on to zone, and now parents are split between multiples. Adding more to the mix only increases the stress of the zone coverage. This can lead to rapid saturation. In that case, the best course of action is try and recruit from the other team, or at least get one of them to spill the playbook before each play. That’s your best defense.
If nothing else, getting married is about traditions. Something old, something new, yada yada. We all know it. Did he just yada yada something borrowed something blue? Yes he did. I digress. Whether holidays, or losing teeth, or whatever, there are traditions involved. When you get married, you have to find a way to accommodate those traditions between you and your spouse. How do you prep for Santa? How do you deal with lost teeth? Church? Dinner? The wedding is the first test of this. For me, I established that I am the boss because she does what she tells me to do. Christmas is probably the biggest annual point where this comes to light. When you open presents, hand the stockings, how long the tree is up. Each family seems to have a different take. How old do you tell your kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the truth about Kwanza, or the Tooth Fairy? Some of this eventually happens on it’s own. My philosophy growing up was as long as they kept delivering, I was going to keep believing. Either way, this is something that needs to be established so you can seem credible as the kids separate you and interrogate you for details about how the next mythical being is supposed to interact with them. The other solution is my personal technique when cornered like this, “That’s nice dear, go ask your mother.”
In the absence of family living close, finding childcare that my wife approves of is nearly impossible. The first attempt at daycare for our oldest resulted in frustration for the care provider. The provider said she could not sooth him. My wife stressed the whole time, and after figuring for the cost of childcare vs. time available it was better she stay home. We’re not about to pay someone else to screw up our kids. We can do that perfectly well ourselves. As a result, my wife stays home with the kids. The main problem with that is she feels the compulsion to entertain them. That shouldn’t be her primary focus. As she cares for them, she should be helping them grow and become more independent. Now that our youngest can talk some, we had one date where we left the kids with a hired babysitter. The kids had fun, and they were well behaved. Maybe we need to do it more often. The problem is, after being gone for dinner, my wife had the strong urge to go home and be with the kids. It was a nice hour at least. Maybe now that the grandparents are retired, we can finally get some good, cheap child care.
My wife told me that there’s an article that she agrees with that she shouldn’t tell me “thank you” for doing daddy duties. Now we have articles that articulate actively not modeling the behavior we want out of our children. That’s how I interpret it at least. I changed a diaper. It was a messy one. She asked me if I wanted a thank you for it for what she does regularly. The answer is “No, but it would be nice.” I know I don’t change them often, but I’m also doing all kinds of other daddy things. I’ll do home maintenance, yard work, and general earning of income to support our lifestyle. Should I start not thanking my wife for “mommy” things? No thank yous for cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taking care of the kids? This road can go both ways. Let’s be polite and model the right behavior for our kids. I am invested in the kids, so I like spending time with them, but diapers are not my forte. For that, it’s along the lines of breaking things, fixing things, and cooking dead things over fire. In the daddy department, with young children I am an X-man. I have the uncanny ability to have them go from mildly unhappy with me to everyone crying and asking for mommy in about 30 seconds. That’s a big part of why I don’t delve too deep into those waters. I’m just saying I’ll help. I’ll do things, but I’m just asking for a little thank you every once in a while.
“I’m not joking around.” This is a phrase uttered by many a parent. It usually means that the children have been wearing away at the parental sanity all day, and the parent doesn’t have many resources left. Far too often it’s an empty promise and ultimately serves to undermine parental discipline. It may work a couple times, but once the “I’m not joking around” gives way to no action, the child can now call the parent’s bluff. I’m a proponent of starting young. You count to three, then either spank, or take away the object that is most important. They may cry, but if they learn when they’re young you’ll follow through with your threat on small threats, you can make them appropriate when they’re older. The key at all ages is to make sure that the threat is 1. actionable, 2. legal, and 3. you’re willing to carry it out. That way counting to two can often have the effect you desire, but getting to three will immediately enact the threat. Threatening to take away Christmas, or to drive all the way back to Hoboken when you’re almost to Disney Land won’t cut it, unless you’re a meaner dad than I. It’s also key that both parents stand united on this one. To give them the object is to pit the parents against each other, leading to bigger problems. Stand united, stand strong, and don’t make me count to three.
I grew up mowing my dad’s lawn. It was hot work, and because it rained a lot, it had to be done on a weekly basis. Now that I have my own lawn, I don’t mind… as much. It’s still hot, but nobody else is going to do it, and even at the meager rates my dad paid me, I’d still rather do it myself now. I can use the tan and a workout. My wife’s parents always had the perfect yard. They have green thumbs and huge flowers. That’s what she’s used to. The problem comes when I worked all week, and she wants to spend the entire weekend in the yard. In my mind, that’s when I want to look for a nice condo. I want to own the yard, I don’t want it to own me. Mowing is a constant requirement, though when it’s drier, we can wait a little longer between mowing. Edging is the major point of contention. The guy that came up with edging should be drug into the streets then shipped to Abu Dhabi. The electric ones can’t get a long enough cord to reach all around the yard, and the gas ones are an arm and leg. Not to mention, they’re all awkward to store and look like rejects from a junk yard brand new. I’ll weed eat every once in a while, but my wife gets so uptight about the edging, Until someone makes a decent battery powered edger, I’ll let her do that.
She was raised in the south. I was raised in the south. We live in the south. Our children were born in desserts. Yes it’s hot in the summer. You don’t have to say it every day between June and September. I can’t do a damn thing about it. We have a house. The house has air conditioning and has fans. Please stop complaining about it to me. My wife tends to move immediately to hyperbole when it comes to the weather. “It’s a million degrees and my face is going to melt off.” I just bite my tongue. I feel like responding with the “back in my day” routine, but that’s only going to get me in more trouble. The biggest thing is that I like the town where we live, and I have a job here. If she wanted to get me a job somewhere else more appealing, I won’t fight it, but for now we’re staying here. We just have to get used to the temperature being close to 100 F much of the summer and pray for rain and a cold front. I wish I drank more at times. At moments like this I would pour something over ice, sit on the back porch, get eaten by mosquitoes and just let her go on while I drift into oblivion. Until then, it’s humid, and yes, it’s hot out there.