Saturday, May 12, 2012
May 11th, 2012
Mother’s Day weekend is here. It’s your day to shine as a Dad and husband. Mom might be at the spa for some much needed time away, or at the beach without chasing kids, or on the golf course for a change. This is your weekend to spend time with your children. It’s your day and you’re probably thinking, “What the hell are we going to do?” The answer is simple—organize your day from breakfast-to-bath. This doesn’t mean every minute must be taken up with some sort of craft, activity, game or adventure. Plan for down time, too, because you’ll need it to recover from the running around you’ll be doing.
I have 3 simple steps for a great weekend day, regardless of the holiday:
1. Plan your day before it gets here.
2. Pack for the day.
3. Play! The day is about Us.
1. Easier than you might think. Take ten or fifteen minutes to chart out a full day. Research on the Internet what parks are open, any festivals or museums. What to do is something that is completely dependent upon how many kids you have, time of year, weather, etc.
Always have a contingency plan. This becomes as important as the plans for the day. A contingency plan can alleviate frustration from anything unexpected, like rain, snow or hurricane. What to do is also dependent upon the age and ability of your children. It’s spring now, so yard work is typical, but with a toddler, I say let the weeds grow. Little perpetual motion machines are not going to like hoeing a garden for long. After five minutes, you’ll lose those beautiful annuals to the blade of a master ninja, or, when we were young, Voltron’s blazing sword.
Another great thing about the plan is to find something fun for you. Take them to the driving range. Kids love to hit something. A bucket of balls, two strokes off your game and an hour used up in the day. The point is to find something that you enjoy. Your kids will feed off your happiness. Make that the theme of your day with them, “Happiness!”
2. Rooted in #1. Children, whether they are in school or younger, have coordinated days, where their schedule is as regular as an atomic clock. This maybe hyperbole, but I dare you to miss a snack for kids five years or younger, and the change they undertake from cute cuddly princess into a banshee. Bring a cooler with juice and water, snacks, a change of clothes (even for yourself), sporting equipment (because you’re Dad and you like sports), sanitizer, hand wipes, and other necessities. You get the idea. There is no such thing as over-packing, and all of it can stay in the car while everyone is having fun in the aquarium or wherever it is you are. A first aid kit is always a great thing to have as well. Every kid knows a Band Aide makes all boo-boos feel better. It’s magic, don’t ask.
3. My parents never had a cell phone and my brothers and I turned out just fine, at least I did. Bring your cell phone, but turn it off, power it down, take out the battery, whatever it takes to make you ignore it. You’ll know if your wife is going to call and when. You’ll know if there is anything important still lingering at the office (it should wait). Known fact: The less attention paid to a stupid application on your phone, the greater the interaction will be with your children (cited from the American Board of Common Sense). No fights between siblings as to which one gets to play Angry Birds. Your day is a perfect way to reconnect with them about their life.
I’m not advocating helicopter parenting, hovering over them and compensating for all of the time you’ve had to spend away from them, while at the office or on business trips. And don’t buy your way back into their lives. Their friends don’t, why should you. If one of your children is having a problem with school, then talk to them and catch them off guard. This is a perfect time to address it without the stigma of dinner table gazes. Making a nonchalant remark while hitting golf balls is a great way you can help in a less confrontational environment.
Forget about work, your upcoming week from hell, and the email inbox that is overflowing with three-alarm fires. Engage in reconnecting with your children. Ask them about their lives, and get to know what they like to eat, drink, play or talk about.
Plan, Pack and Play, three things that almost seem too easy, but will make your day that much more special and memorable.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
With more than 6 years of experience, I can say with confidence that I have learned enough tips and tricks to help many of my fellow Dads out there—single or married. Much of what I have learned comes from on-the-job training. Kids don’t come with a manual, like your iPad or 3D TV. I have read a short list of books that have helped me understand a child’s behavior and development. These books are what I would consider foundation and framework, allowing a structure to better understand my children. I believe we can glean from all of the latest information out there to benefit our children. While at the University of Iowa, I took several childhood development and behavior management courses required for teachers, all of which have helped me with my children in their school years.
I’m not bracketed into a single child rearing philosophy or controlled by a single way of taking care of children. Modern American society has a colorful and varied collection of insights into a child’s psychology, from the simple “Reward-Punishment” to the complex “Redirecting Behavior.” There is an over-abundance of material on children and parenting, enough for a lifetime of reading. My hope is to help sort through all of the materiel and help you trust your instincts.
Prior to being a stay-at-home parent, I was in the advertising and marketing industry, working as an Account Executive and Project Manager in several small firms and ending at a Fortune 100 company. My experience with infants was next to nothing, the youngest of three boys, and youngest of my cousins. In my early twenties, I held my two-month-old niece once, then went back to college and didn’t get to see her until she was a toddler. I had never held a baby before. I never changed a diaper, never gave one a bottle, never burped an infant. I quit my marketing job at the Fortune 100 company to take care of my eight-month-old son, while my wife went to work. Homemaker, Stay-At-Home Dad, or some are even call it the CDO (Chief Domestic Officer). We attended Gymboree, library reading time and played—a lot. Then, my daughter was born when my son was two-years-old. An infant and toddler can make your head spin. Dishes, laundry, meals, transportation, enrichment and education are only a few of the things I am responsible for. The most difficult and rewarding occupation I’ve ever had. I managed millions of dollars, projects and businesses, none of them compare to the stress and exhaustion I have experienced. Nearly seven years later, my son is finishing 1st grade and my daughter is going into Kindergarten. And, because this is my resume, I can brag about the fact that I’ve been congratulated, admired and received accolades from my peers (stay-at-home Moms), counselors and pediatricians.
As all stay-at-home Moms know, there are no medals or awards for what we do, no pay raises, and many times there’s no thanks, except for a day in May for them, June for Dads. Sure, you get the occasional smile and hug that brings tears to your eyes, or the occasional pat on the back from a friend. Both are priceless, but in our materialistic society, where money and industry have become our rewards, these moments are becoming more difficult to comprehend or acknowledge. I look forward to the future when my children will reward me with them becoming themselves, happy or heartbroken, successful or struggling, none of it will matter to me because I love them regardless, unconditionally.
This is Dad’s focused. Being a good Dad is not something we are born with, and like everything else in life, we need to work at it, understanding it better will make us successful. If you have questions or concerns, discuss these issues with your spouse or the children’s mother (The Ex). I encourage you to investigate further, exactly what it means to be a father, and when you do, let me know, because I’m still learning a lot.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. The opinions, my opinions, are my own. Please consult your pediatrician, counselor or therapist first before putting into practice any of my opinions. If you have child related medical, physical or behavioral, questions, please consult your pediatrician. If there’s one thing I know, your pediatrician is an excellent resource, so use them.