Archive for the ‘Daddy Days’ Category
Since the birth of Olivia (close to 9 now), there has always been one whole day during the week that I carve out of my work schedule to spend with the kids. This day is what my family calls “daddy day”.
In the past, we would plan the daddy day in advance. A special craft or new adventurous park or kiddie events around town or whatever fun activities we could dream up. One time a week, this was easy to prepare for, but now, every single weekday for two year old Sophie and three days a week for four year old Elizabeth are “daddy days.”
Officially, for the past six months, I am, “Work At Home Dad,” although ninety nine percent of the work I do is of the domestic variety. Originally, I figured on spending a few hours every afternoon working via computer doing viral marketing. (Imagine a sunny image of me, hacking on my laptop by a widow, steam from a freshly poured cup of tea rises and drifts as the afternoon passes and all my projects are completed ahead of schedule). The reality is, an extra forty five minutes at the most while the little ones are napping is all that I can scrape together for building a “work at home” business empire.
Pay Attention: Staying home with the children is not easy! (Every working parent who has a “stay at home” partner must know this). We have a basic daily/weekly routine which is a good game plan but there is a tinge of monotony even with all the many little surprises that occur while tailing little people from dawn to dusk. This observation and confession may be a bit to digest, I’ll break it down.
The “stay at home” routine (in a nutshell): Wake up, make coffee and prepare breakfast for all the kids. (Kim departs for work before anyone else wakes up). After a quick meal, I assist all four girls in preparing themselves for the day. Teeth, hair, face, clothes, fill backpacks and whatever myriad of preparations may surface. My two oldest can handle this all on their own, however occasionally a spot check is necessary and I will have to remind them to spend more time on personal hygiene or sometimes I’ll have to make a wardrobe adjustment which usually will hurt someone’s feelings. “Sweetie, you need leggings under ‘that’ skirt.” Or “We handed ‘that’ down to your little sister because it doesn’t fit you anymore. Please find something from your closet.” I’m positive my kids think the definition of “inappropriate” means “daddy says I look horrible in this!” If this makes me a bad dad, (in my childrens opinion). So be it.
Weather permitting, we all walk Olivia and Hailey to the elementary school. Our home is seven or eight lots down the street and they only complain about the short jaunt when the temperature is near freezing (any colder and we drive) but it is a perfect little warm up for the kids to get their bodies and minds ready for the day.
After we get Olivia and Hailey to school, then Elizabeth, Sophie and I soldier at a good pace to get to our next destination. What that destination may be depends on what day it is.
Stay with me reader, my points will be made regarding the difficulties in staying at home with kids. Read on.
Monday: Sophie and I will take Elizabeth to preschool. Her school is at a community center which we have a family membership to and perfect because I can drop Elizabeth off for PreSchool and then take Sophie to the staffed Play-Room while I get an hour of gym time. Afterwards, Sophie and I return home for snack, play, lunch, more play, a story time and nap. During nap time, (M-F), I normally prepare food for upcoming meals, fold a load of laundry, clean the kitchen (using the word clean loosely), make phone calls, check emails, look at anything work related and slack on that while I play an online game for thirty minutes. If I hustle the entire morning/afternoon, fighting for every extra second, I end up with a forty-five minute recess before the rest of the crew starts arriving home from school and work.
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays: Both Elizabeth and Sophie are with me all day. After taking Olivia and Hailey to school our “daddy day” adventures begin. Tuesday is usually the day we go on “field trips,” (zoo, museums, butterfly house or wherever that has a hint of educational value). Thursday is typically errand day if needed (markets or shops) and Friday is “whatever” day, (indoor pool, parks or play dates).
Wednesday: Sophie and I are together all day. We have comfortably gotten into the habit of frequenting the public library for a fun morning story time consisting of a few short readings, mixed in with a craft, some singing, some dancing and… it’s free. We also restock a steady supply of fresh books for everyone’s perusal. Then we head home for snack, play, lunch, more play another quick book reading and then nap.
Of course this is template of what a typical week looks like and things do mix it up a bit depending on the weather and or other factors (illness or whatever). We have a routine but keep it loose and it seems to work.
If you have meticulously read through this post up to this point then you can begin to understand and digest how staying at home with the kids may get a tiny bit repetitive and tiresome. So, why? Why is staying at home with the kids monotonous? We do plenty of activities. We get out. We have fun. So why all the ho-hum humdrum? Couple reasons. One difficulty is… It is… a bit… socially isolating. Life becomes solitary with no work friends or peers to chat with and mostly talking to children all day everyday. Loneliness? Not exactly, however the lack of adult conversation and contact is desolate. Yes, I do get out sans-kids a few evenings during the week, I play hockey, I do yoga classes and I get to the gym routinely which helps a bit to break the tedium of endless nonstop kidspeak.
One more conflicting observation and a big hurdle to get over while staying at home with the kids; it is a difficult job and it is stressful work. As much as I would like to claim to the contrary, stay at home parenting is a wearisome, non-stop, wage-less job but the ultimate payoff is not monetary rather a vast wealth in strong family ties and a deep transparent connection to my children which is something that money can’t buy and more then enough to make my life enjoyable.
Each Tuesday during April, Olivia, Hailey and I attended a ‘Mommy and Me’ class at our school district’s early childhood center. Yoga Animal Antics. Too young for the class, Elizabeth Rose sat this one out and luckily my mom was available to watch her.
Each class started off with an animal search and rescue operation. The kids blindly pulled a picture of a missing stuffed animal out of a box and then became responsible for rescuing that “lost” animal. Once all the hidden animals had been found, the class circled-up for songs, introductions and animal education. All the kids got the green light to go wild mimicking sounds and movements of the animals that they had recovered.
It was then time to do animal impersonations by means of yoga stretches. Each child picked a card that showed an animal and how imitate that animal with a yoga pose. Everyone got a turn leading the class with his or her pose. Cat stretches, down dogs, crab walks and fluttering butterflies, to name a few. The best part of this activity was right at the end, the instructor handed out mini rubber ducks, the kind used for duck races and then we were instructed to lie on our backs and place the duck on our tummies. We had to make the duck go up and down by breathing deeply. Ok, so we were doing shavasan and within seconds of placing the little duck race duck on my stomach I would momentarily fall asleep.
Any parent child class would not be complete without a craft activity and this class was no different. The motif of craft time was wild animals and the favorite had to have been “pigs in the mud,” a couple little people farm pigs tracking chocolate pudding over butcher paper. The class ended with a parachute games and lastly a goodbye song.
I enjoy these classes because, it is less planning for me on daddy days, it is good to get out of the house (before the kiddos destroy it) and we usually learn something new. Olivia, Hailey and I have frequented many of these ‘Mommy and Me’ classes in the past and always have a good experience in doing so. But there is one thing missing from these kinds of classes; the dads. Four years of parent child classes that we have been to only one other dad has been in attendance and he showed with his wife. Note that those were classes during week days.
These parent and child interaction classes aren’t called “Mommy and Me” anymore. A step in the right direction for a dad who likes to attend such classes and wishes not to feel ostracized by a motley group of alpha mommies. It is hard enough breaking the ice to a room full of glaring women that are wondering what a man is doing with his children in the middle of the work week at mid day committed to a parent child class. Most of the moms are welcoming and warm to the idea of an involved dad in their mist. But there is inevitably a small percent of leery women believing their must be an arterial motive to my presence and these are the ladies that exude the air of exclusion. I don’t let them detour me.
Stay at home dad this past Tuesday with Olivia, Hailey and Elizabeth Rose lesson learned:
Setting up the tone, “Daddy Days Are Here Again” to the song “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Olivia has a superb new addition to her morning routine, journaling. From the kitchen table she sketches in a spiral bound Strawberry Shortcake branded notebook, supplying me with a brief dictation of the journal entry, currently a narrative mermaid epic, I hastily inscribe a sentence or two. She enjoys creating pictures and appreciates the short bit of time we spend discussing the drawings on a mature level that Hailey either understands and is uninterested or she doesn’t yet comprehend the abstraction. Hailey’s Care Bear note book occasionally gets used and she will scrawl prolific ‘scribble scrabble’ a dub from her big sister. The scribble scrabble is fresh and expressive. I write copy pertaining to Hailey’s Star, or Snakes, or Fish, or Whales and once I received no expletive, instead artistic silence.
During a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese we discussed the dreary rainy morning. I suggested we go to our community center to make use of the dues we pay and visit the indoor pool. Hailey jumped on the idea and Olivia half heartedly agreed. Free swim wasn’t until noon, so after cleaning up from meal number one of the day, Elizabeth Rose ended up in her crib for nap number one of the day, then it was game time. Hungry Hungry Hippos, Fishing Around, Little (or Littlest) Pet Shop, Hi Ho Cherry O’, Melisa and Doug’s Magnetic Dress Up Princess, honestly, I opted-out on that last one, preparing three backpacks for the pool instead.
At noon the clouds had blown over and the spring sun worked to burn off the dampness. I was feeding Elizabeth Rose bottle number two of the day and Olivia and Hailey were finishing up meal number three of the day. (They snacked on granola shortly after breakfast). Anticipating our departure for the pool, they were bouncing all over the place, so I sent them to their room to prepare for swimming. Elizabeth Rose had me temporarily immobilized which meant I had to verbally remind them that if they wanted to go to the pool they needed to, “put on swimsuits and get dressed. Socks and Crocks.” Fifteen minutes later, Elizabeth Rose belched out a deep baritone that a horn three times her size would not be able to register. All the little ducky’s in a row and we were out the door.
Twenty minutes later, Olivia and Hailey are disrobing in the locker room.
Me: “Hailey? Did you forget to put your swimsuit on?” She had stripped down to her Hello Kitty’s.
Me: “Olivia?” She had one arm out of her jacket. “Did you put your swim suit on?”
Olivia: “Ohhh… Daaadeee…”
Hailey: “Daddy! You got my swimsuit?!”
Me: “No Hailey. I don’t”
Hailey: “You put them in my bag!? [backpack]”
Both Olivia and Hailey: “You packed the bag!” I usually stuff my green gym bag with all our swim gear, this time I chose to force them to be a bit more responsible and self sufficient, relying on their back packs. Truthfully, I needed one more hand and one less encumbrance while shuffling Elizabeth Rose around.
Hailey’s distress could be heard throughout the lock room. So close to the pool, the chlorine vapors wafted in, to mix with her cries. I reasoned her out of the emotional furry relatively swiftly by telling her that I knew she wanted to go swimming and that I understood her dissatisfaction. I was on the verge of promising that we could swiftly retrieve their suits and return faster than superman spinning the earth backwards. But I didn’t
Hailey: “We coming back Daddy?”
Me: “No Hailey. We will miss swim.” Hailey did not like my answer and started breaking down again.
Me: “We can do something else” I wasn’t sure what. Pause.
Olivia: “The park?”
Me: “Yes! good idea Sweetie” I had a hunch she may have wanted this. She made a reference to the park during meal number one.
Hailey: “I want to go swimming!”
Me: “Hailey. We can’t do a thing hanging around in this locker room.” That reasoned with her just enough.
Olivia: “C’mon Hailey, we can go to the park. Daddy said.” One of Olivia strengths is in helping her own cause. I was eager to ally and the timing was brilliant.
Me: “What park Hailey?”
Hailey: “I want to go swimming!”
Me: “Well Honey, we have to get to the car before we can do anything, please get dressed, we will talk about it on the way to the car.”
It took Hailey a few minutes to collect herself; Olivia, Elizabeth and I were patient. We slowly made our way out of the building, a preschooler’s walk of shame, across the parking lot to my vehicle and in that time Hailey had agreed with the change in plans.
The park consumed the remainder of the afternoon. Elizabeth Rose napped (number three if you count the ten minute car ride to the park), tucked in the Bjorn. Hailey forgot about swimming as soon as her feet hit the spongy play surface running wild filling her body with fresh spring air. Olivia made friends with a couple of kids in the sand pit, coordinating a dinosaur bone excavation. Obviously those are merely the highlights. They played hard for a good three hours.
Disappointments are tough to sort through especially when under fire. What if I had caved to Hailey’s demands by bending to the will of my children? Would I have been a hero, (retrieving the forgotten swimsuits), rescuing them from misfortune? Or would I be enabling irresponsibility? Explaining to Kim the missed swim opportunity situation at the dinner table that night both Olivia and Hailey (meal number five) said they forgot to put their suits on.
You are currently browsing the archives for the Daddy Days category.