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Archive for the ‘Fatherhood’ Category

carpentryOur 4-year-old’s been pleading with me lately to help him build a playhouse.

Not a pretend playhouse, mind you, or one made from a miniature-sized kit. He wants the real McCoy. The full-sized, full-featured, structurally sound playhouse. Preferably one in a tree.

I’d love to do it for him, but in my heart of hearts, I know there’s no way. Because, see, I’m no carpenter. I can handle basic woodworking jobs — like, say, gluing a chair back together, or erecting a fort with Lincoln Logs, or building a garage sale sign. Framing work? Fuhgettaboudit.

But he’s convinced that it can happen, because as he’s told me, “You can do it, Daddy. You can make anything.”

He’s seen me work on various odd jobs around the house, change the oil in the car and fix deck boards, so naturally he assumes there’s nothing outside my skillset.

It’s a good facade. I know it won’t last forever. He’ll end up learning what a klutz I really am.

But for now — maybe I should tackle that playhouse job. Maybe he won’t even notice if it doesn’t have a functioning door. Or a floor. Or a structurally sound frame.

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I am missed

One of the biggest benefits of my new shift (2-10 p.m.) is that I can spend a substantial chunk of the first half of my day with the kids. It’s a good time to be with them, because they’re still energetic and open to ideas on how to spend their day.

But one of the biggest drawbacks of my “tweener” schedule is that I end up leaving right in the middle of the day — often just when one activity is transitioning into another (i.e. after lunch, before a trip to the pool).

Nearly every day now, as I’m preparing to leave for work, I’m sent off with tearful hugs and wails of “I’ll miss you, Dad” from our 8-year-old. (Getting nonchalance from our 4-year-old, but that’s just his style. I’m sure he misses me too.)

It’s not good to have to leave at such an awkward time of day, but … it’s nice to be missed.

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I had an exchange with our 8-year-old this week that unintentionally prompted a much deeper reflection.

As many kids do, he was communicating with his younger brother via yelling. I don’t recall the topic, but I grew tired of the high-volume exchange and asked the boys to stop screaming at each other.

“Well, if you didn’t want to hear yelling, you shouldn’t have had kids,” the 8-year-old replied.

Part of that is nonsensical, of course, but he has a point. There are certain things that come with the territory, as it were, when you decide to have children. Many are welcome, of course — the legacy they’ll forge, the sheer joy of their discoveries, the unquenchable love they foster.

But on occasion, there are a few flies in the ointment as well. It’s not a secret that raising kids is no walk in the park. Tempers will flare. Frustrations will surface. Nerves will fray.

On balance, most viable parents would agree that the positives far outweigh the negatives. But it’s still a valid question to ask: Why, exactly, did you have kids? What was our motivation? Did you feel obligated, rushed, or pressured to produce offspring? Was the timing carefully considered? Did you hear a biological clock ticking?

Feel free to comment here, and we’ll get a discussion going. Everyone has their reasons for having kids. I’d love to hear yours.

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(this perfectly symbolizes the path we’ve been on lately)

As I’ve mentioned, there are a number of changes coming in my job, including one that’s pretty significant — a new schedule.

Starting Monday, I’ll be working Monday through Friday, 2-10 p.m. That arrangement has its pluses and minuses, both personally and professionally, but the best parts of it are:

— I’ll be able to see the boys during the day, before I come to work.

— I’ll have Saturdays off, for the first time in eons.

Those are a couple of pretty big positives, so I’m going to focus on them for now.

Adjustments? There’ll be plenty. But in the big picture, I’m ready to roll with them.

Let’s see what the world does with 2-day weekends!

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beesMy parenting revelation for the week (and it’s been a long time coming) …

The kids can actually be useful. They really can work around the house. And depending on the day, and the task, they might actually enjoy it.

It’s like chores, but even better, somehow.

Do they get paid? Sometimes, and certain amounts. Another topic for another day.

But I welcome this new chapter of dad-hood. Now, to avoid the perception of exploitation …

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Had a great time in Dubuque over the weekend, at the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark. It’s our third year there for spring break, so I should have known what to expect.

All I can say is this: I’m getting too old for all this fun. I kept hearing these:

“Just eight more times down the giant slide, Dad.”

“Come on, Dad, keep up.”

“What’s the matter, Dad?”

Fun it is, and the kids had a blast.

But relaxing? I’m guessing we won’t be having any “relaxing” vacations for a while.

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Work-home balance skews

It’s been a rough week at work, as our company tries to slim down for a new, and hopefully more profitable, future.

Many of my co-workers have lost their jobs. Fortunately, I’m not among them (though saying that raises the spectre of survivor’s guilt, which I’m unquestionably still feeling).

I say all this only as a precursor to my point: I’ve been preoccupied with work matters of late, and as a result, my ability to focus on other issues of life has flagged.

It happens to the best of us. But it’s a time to be constantly reminded: My kids, and yours, don’t care what’s happening at our workplace. They REALLY don’t. I know, because when I’ve had the chance to see them, they’ve told me as much.

They want to know what’s for dinner. They want to know if they can watch SpongeBob SquarePants, or play their Nintendo DS, or ride their scooter in the garage, or affix tiny plastic jewels to the toilet paper dispenser.

And they want to know when you’ll be coming home tonight.

Earlier this month, Angie Holmes, a co-worker of mine, wrote a great post on tag-team parenting in her blog, Frumpfighter. She points out that in many cases, only one parent is home to care for their son Sage, because her schedule and that of her husband don’t always mesh. She usually works days, he often works nights. Her question: Does that arrangement really serve Sage well?

It’s a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is clearly no. But when work calls, we often have to answer. In my case, my wife often steps in (and I for her, on occasion), but it’s all too rare that we’re actually parenting in the same place at the same time.

And all the kids know is that Dad isn’t home yet. They’re not sure why, other than he’s still at work. And they miss me. At least I hope they do. There’ll come a day, I’m sure, when they won’t.

Do I have a solution? Certainly not. I’m not the first person, nor will I be the last, to raise the issue. But I’m becoming increasingly aware of it, and pushing for a solution.

I need my kids to remember me as I am at home, not as they imagine I am at work.

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