Friday, July 30, 2010

Questions, Questions, Why, Why, seriously, Why?

I wish my daughter would ask me why the sky is blue, because I feel like I could answer that. I know I know, questions are a sign of learning, but when the toast is burning, my two year old is crying, and the dog just dropped a turd in every room in the house to punish me for forgetting to walk him, I can't handle the inevitable and impossible "Why is it Tuesday?" from my four year old. "Because it is." I reply in a tone that I should never use with anybody, let alone my precious and sensitive daughter. To which she replies,(in a twist of bitter irony, because I say this to her)"Because isn't an answer Daddy." This situation is a hard one to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it before. I can't think of a more humbling experience, because I do all the wrong things and know they are all the wrong things as I do them. As I am yelling "What do you want?" to my crying two year old, I can almost see myself as the horrible person she sees, and then I tell my four year old "I can't handle all the questions, who cares why it is Tuesday?". Both are now crying while I mumble things like, "Why in the heck can't the stupid dog just poop in one pile like other dogs" And I know in that moment that if the dog were dumb enough to come out of hiding, that I would show my impressionable daughters the absolute wrong way to discipline a dog who makes you clean six different turds all over the house.

Lets not forget the black toast smoking in the toaster oven. "Why is the toast black daddy?"
Here is what I should have said: "Remember what we learned about how heat changes things? Some things get softer when we heat them and others get harder. Bread gets harder and if you leave it on the heat too long, it burns and turns black."

Here is what I actually said:"I burned it."

"Why did you burn the toast daddy?", "Why do we eat toast?", "Does grandma eat toast?", "Why doesn't grandma like toast?", "Why is your face red daddy?", "Why do dogs go potty outside?", "Why do dogs poop?", "Why are you spraying that on the carpet?", "Why does it smell funny?, "Why can't we touch it?", "What does toxic mean?"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Packing Heavy

Why is it so hard to pack? And I don't mean packing for a trip, I mean packing for a trip out with the girls. I always forget something. I have forgotten diapers, wipes, butt medicine(as my daughters call it), extra outfits, shoes, swimming suits(backyard plastic pool at grandma's house), and everything else that is not as important. How is it that my wife never forgets? When my wife packs for a day with the girls I am reminded of a special forces soldier in a war movie who is shoving extra magazines into his vest with authority and loading his weapons with a satisfying cock of his pistol. But when I pack it is more like a thief searching someone's house for something valuable.

Where do you learn this stuff? I don't think my wife has extensive training with this. I first met her our freshman year in high school, so I am pretty sure that she didn't have some secret family before we got married where she learned how to pack for a day with the kids. There are only two logical explanations for this phenomenon. The first is all about stereotypes and excuses. I would like to believe that women just know this stuff instinctively, and that I am excused from my inability to pack. The second makes more sense. I believe that girls are held to a higher standard by their mothers. In many homes, as in mine and my wife's growing up, mothers train their daughters to do these things and let their "boys be boys". I guess its time for us boys to grow up and be responsible for the diapers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fashion Daddy

One of the hardest things about being a dad to two little girls is dressing them. I didn't grow up paying attention to whether patterns go with prints or what colors clash with each other. It is a little bit like fishing for me. When I am fishing, there are many times when I think I have a bite but it turns out to be a twig or something else, and afterwards I feel stupid because I should have known. Because when it really is a bite, there is no question that its a fish. The same thing goes for little girl's clothes--sometimes my logical mind tells me that it must match because the shirt and the pants both have pink in them and they are both from the same store, but I feel unsure. It is only when my wife comes home and sees the outfit that I am sure that I made the wrong choice. She comes in to the usual chorus of yelling "mommys home, mommys home" and she gets mauled and squeezed and there are yelps of pleasure and it is one of moments that all parents live for, but there is the inevitable calming and they give her enough space to breathe and I get the look of kind condescension. Sometimes her nice way of telling me that I screwed up is to ask the girls if they picked out their own clothes, but the message rings clear enough. I failed. Not only do they not go together, but they really don't go together--like she is pained by the idea that her beautiful little girls were out in public looking like a colorblind monkey dressed them. I know I had it right when there is no conversation about their clothes, and I usually know I was right anyway.

When my girls were still attending daycare, I had confirmation that my wife was not the only critic of my dressing skills. She had gone to the extreme measure of picking out their clothes the night before--I thought the move was unnecessary and hid behind the idea that they were little and it didn't matter what they wore. We feed them, shelter them, love them and nurture them--what does it matter what they wear at one and three years old. The first day with mommy picking clothes was a Monday and I happened to bump into the daycare director on the way in. She said, "The girls look really cute today." I cringed at the "today" qualifier. Don't they look really cute everyday? I also felt the twinge of a certain realization. So I said, "Their mom decided to pick out their outfits, because she doesn't think I can". To which she replied, "Smart choice. We can tell when you dress them." Thanks a lot.

Now my wife buys clothes with a clever little trick. They have a swatch of the pattern from the shorts in a cute little picture on the shirt--fool proof. Don't worry, I still put the occasional pattern with a print.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our Choice

Long before we had kids, my wife and I talked about our collective responsibilities when we did have kids. She was in the beginning stages of an accounting career, and I was doing the same in the hopes of a teaching/writing career. Her ambitions were in a field that we knew were going to require very long hours, and mine allowed me the freedom to be home more with the kids that we didn't have yet, so we agreed that if it was at all possible, I would stay home. Well, we did have kids, two beautiful little girls and when my first was born I was an adjunct english instructor at a local university so my limited hours allowed for part-time daycare and I had my first taste of being a stay at home dad. But then I became a full time instructor, and we had our second child and daycare expense grew. It got to the point where it felt like I was working to pay daycare, and you add in all the other little stresses like getting the up in the morning so I could drive forty-five minutes to an eight a.m. class. The straw came in the form of news that my wife's job was relocating to the city and neither of us liked the idea of me being forty-five minutes away and her being an hour away by train in case anything happened to the girls in daycare. So, four years after my first daughter was born, I became a full-time stay at home dad.

This blog will chronicle the mistakes I have made and will make along with the experiences I have had and will have with my girls, my wife, and all the people who have opinions on our choice and my parenting ability. Here is one example of the latter that was one of the reasons I have been wanting to write this blog for a long time.

My oldest was only six months old and I was still able to keep her in the car seat through a whole trip to Target. We walked around the store and I have to admit I enjoyed all the attention of the various women who would smile and coo at her, because of course she is as cute and wonderful as they all said she was. I felt like I was doing it right. I felt like a dad who had it together and all these moms were telling me "good job" and "way to go". So we get in line to check out and lady walks by and grabs my daughter's foot and says "Is daddy watching you today sweetie, is daddy a good babysitter".

Okay, I was slightly offended. When a woman walks her baby through a Target at 11 a.m. on a Friday, does anyone ask the baby if her mommy is "watching her", or call her mom a babysitter? No. But that is not all. I put my things on the belt and swipe my card and the cashier who happens to be a woman in her fifties grabs my daughter's foot again. The second uninvited touch to the most precious person in the world to me threw me a little so I almost didn't notice the offense in her question, which was directed at me. "What a cute baby, do you have a blanket in the car?"

Now I was more than slightly offended. Keep your opinions about how I dress my daughter and keep her warm on a seventy degree day to yourself. Okay it was closer to fifty-five that day and she was a little cold and, yes it was a rookie dad mistake, but still, keep your opinions to yourself and don't assume that I am a second rate parent because of my sex.

I realize that I may sound a little bit like some of the nimrods in the world who cry reverse racism or reverse sexism and believe me--I know that I will always have a lot to learn when it comes to parenting. But the reality is that stay at home parenting is the proud domain of women (rightfully so, I admit that there are many things that my wife still does better than me despite her full time job) I just would like to not feel so alien in all the places that stay at home parents take their kids when everyone else is working.