Friday, December 5, 2008

The B Word

This post has been knocking around in my head, and I had to finally write it because I saw a similarly themed post on the Rimbosity blog. He was pointing out the prevalence of comments about "daddy day care" that people make when a dad is out and about with kids. That's on my list of annoying reactions people have when they witness actual fatherhood.

At the top of my list, though, is the B word, babysitting. I mostly hear it from women. They probably mean no harm, but when they talk about their husband watching their kids without them around, they call it babysitting. And it's not. It's parenting. When I think about what I want from a babysitter, the bar is relatively low. I want
  • the kids to be breathing at the end of the night
  • the kids to be in bed if (s)he is watching them through bedtime
  • the house to not be a total and complete wreck
  • no evidence that any visitors I did not know about have been there
When I say parenting, I mean
  • engaging with the child in activities
  • enforcing the rules and a general moral order
  • caring for their needs in a way that prepares them and me for the future (e.g. demanding politeness when they request more food or help with something)
Calling a father's time with his children babysitting diminishes both his efforts and his responsibilities. This is a semantic danger that we should avoid.

Now, about the "Mr. Mom" comments...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Can you help me? I can't help myself?

My two-year-old said that to me this morning as he was struggling to climb into the car in his winter coat. "Tan you hep me? I tan't hep myself." It was so sweet and straightforward. I think many of us need to say that much more often than we do.

As a consultant, my business is based on "Can you help me? I can't help myself." I'm in business because I can say yes sometimes. Other times, my best answer is no. Usually, it's "No, but I know someone who can."

Then there are people who have an addiction and need to say "Can you help me? I can't help myself." If they get to that point, they're ready to benefit from some help and break the cycle.

Or the martyrs on the committee who take on everything, despite the fact that they won't be able to do it all (or any of it) well due to overwhelm. "Can you help me? I can't help myself."

Finally, there are people who buy GM cars. "Can you help me? I can't help myself." Um, nope. Can't help you. Try Congress.

I'm going to try to say it more. Thanks for the inspiration, Teddy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sickout 2

If my work week hadn't been crazy enough, my weekend decided to get into the act. My wife and I went out Saturday evening to celebrate our 13th anniversary, and she hadn't been feeling great in the afternoon. It seemed like a little thing that she could power through, and we had play tickets and a restaurant picked out. By the time I got into the restaurant from parking the car, though, she told me that she might not order anything - well, maybe some soup. I actually perused the menu for a while and got close to deciding on what to order, although the idea of me eating and my wife just sitting there at our anniversary meal seemed pretty odd.

It became clear, though, after a few minutes that she wasn't just full from lunch. She wasn't feeling well at all. When I told her I had no problem getting up and walking out of the place before ordering, she said we probably should. Coats on, apology to the waitress, out into the brisk evening. Ten steps from the restaurant, my poor wife threw up. Then we huddled by a garbage can so she could throw up a little more. Happy anniversary.

I love my wife and am so happy to be celebrating 13 years with her. It was hard to stand there not because our plans had been dashed but because I couldn't do anything for her. There was no fighting the virus, and we just had to wait it out.

Our play tickets can be changed to another night (must do that before it gets away from us), and we sent our sitter home after 45 minutes. We watched a DVD in our pajamas, and I wouldn't trade the evening for anything. I don't say that because I like canceled dates and public vomiting; I say it because I'm so grateful for the state of our relationship 13 years into marriage. We're living the life we choose with our two healthy, (mostly) happy boys.

Quite the first week of the new mode. I won't tempt fate by saying it can't get any crazier than this. I've learned enough this week to keep my mouth shut.

Friday, November 14, 2008

8 Things I like about my Dad

In honor of his 63rd birthday (yesterday, ack), some things I like about my own father.

1. He can (and does) talk to anybody. This was embarrassing as a kid. Now, I find it endearing. An expression of my dad's deep-rooted egalitarianism is that he will speak to anyone he encounters, anywhere, anytime.
2. He loves Jesus. Probably should have been number 1.
3. He loves my mom. My land are they ever mushy. I wouldn't have it any other way.
4. When I was in middle school, playing hoops in the park between my dad's office and our house, he'd sometimes see us on his way home. When he did, if he could, he'd stop, take off his dress shoes and play basketball with us in his work clothes and socks.
5. He reads and loves books.
6. He can chatter at a baseball/softball game like no one else I've met. I took him to a grad school summer league softball game, not quite remembering this fact. He chattered the whole game, from the outfield. Excerpt from when his team is on offense: "Come on, now, ducks on the pond, ducks on the pond, little bingo."
7. The walk away. You aren't familiar? The walk away can help in negotiations for negotiable-price items. The seller names a price you don't like. Courteously say something like "Thank you, friend" and walk away. The price will drop quickly. It was an integral part of the Christmas tree purchase tradition in our family.
8. He's fond of grand, generous gestures. One of his love languages is the shockingly large check to a child or grandchild. The sums have been saved from his allowance and odd non-salary income-generating activities (like collecting 5 cent deposit cans while on vacation in Maine).

9 Things I like about my 2-year-old

Back a few months ago when my Teddy was mobile but not yet verbal, I loved the kid, but some days he was hard to like. With speech, his little personality has emerged, and it's time to enumerate some of the things I like about him.

1. He cleans up, sometimes without prompting. Give him a basket or bucket to fill with the toys that belong in it, and he will not stop until it's full. Today, I couldn't feed him lunch until he'd finished filling the train basket.
2. Perhaps an adjunct to number 1, he loves putting laundry down the laundry chute. He picks up giant piles of dirty clothes (relative to his 30-inch stature) and methodically throws them into the dark tunnel. This can be a problem when there's a garment that happens to be laying about that we don't want in the laundry.
3. He talks to strangers. Obviously, a trait that must be monitored, but what I mean is that, although he sometimes gets shy, his shyness doesn't cripple him. He'll make conversation with adults and other kids in situations that he considers safe.
4. He can throw. For someone not quite two and a half, he throws remarkably straight and hard. His 6-year-old brother, a gifted hitter, could never pitch to me. Teddy already can.
5. He can catch. It's going to be a long winter, and the nerf football in the living room will pass more father and son time because this son can catch a ball.
6. He makes marvelous faces. Those who chart human emotion should come to my house and bring a camera. From the eyebrows to the electric grin, Teddy lets the world know how he feels through his facial features.
7. Put him on the changing table and tell him to lay down for a diaper change, and he does it. Enough said.
8. He takes medicine like a champ. No whining. No spills.
9. When I sing to him before nap or bedtime, he nestles his head down on my shoulder and rests there until the song ends. Then he puckers up and gives me a kiss. He goes to sleep occasionally talking to himself and almost never crying.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm beginning to think the universe doesn't want me to do this part-time work/part-time dad thing. First, the frigid weather on my first day at the bus stop. Now, my two-year-old, who is never sick, gets sick on a day that he should be at child care and I should be in the office. It's ironic in my first week of this. All in all, no big deal. I'll do a meeting by phone this afternoon. I got into the work network remotely and did one time-sensitive task. I got to have cuddly little guy on my lap this morning. I think it's a reminder to be flexible in all things. I'm gonna roll with the punches.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chilly Reception

Just wanted to point out an irony that greeted my first day as the parent doing morning bus stop drop off. To back up a step, my wife was off work for two months between jobs before our transition. This was planned in advance.

What was unexpected was that her last week at home with the kids full time, the first week of November, was unseasonably warm in Pittsburgh. It was sunny and 70 degrees every day. The afternoon bus stop pickup was often followed by a trip to the park to soak in the gorgeous weather.

My first morning at the bus top: 39 degrees, stiff wind, 25 degrees with the wind chill. The bus was a good 15 minutes late. Brrr. Welcome to my new life. It hadn't hit me until that morning that my wife got two hot to warmish months, and I take over just as winter sets in.

Tomorrow I have a meeting that might keep me from being at the bus stop on time in the afternoon. I called a friend to be my backup plan. He's another stay-at-home dad. The tribe is coming through for me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First Day of a Transition

Yesterday was the first day of a transition for me from full-time worker who sees his two sons on evenings and weekends to a part-time worker with primary parenting responsibility. I won't be quite a stay-at-home because I'm still going to work 20 hours a week. Most likely, I'm going to be a not-so-great employee and a not-so-great dad. Hopefully, though, I and everyone else in my family will be more sane because a parent will be putting the first grader on the bus and taking the toddler to child care. Likewise, I'll be able to grocery shop and do laundry and pay bills during the weekdays, leaving more evening and weekend time for family togetherness, downtime and dates for me and my wife.

My goal is to post a few times a week. We'll see how that goes.