“No Fun” in Parenting? I Beg to Differ

I have a “Facebook Friend” (who I’ve barely said 5 words to in real life, but that’s a topic for another day) and he and his spouse have made the decision to not reproduce. Totally cool, that’s their thing, I would never judge them. However, this has apparently become one of the factors that “defines him” and he frequently posts links to articles that I suppose he expects will make the rest of the world never want to have children, thereby re-affirming his own decision.

The latest of these is actually quite interesting. It’s an NPR story on the new book “All Joy and No Fun (The Paradox of Modern Parenthood)” featuring a Fresh Air interview with author Jennifer Senior. If you haven’t already heard it, you can check it out here. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

Are you back? Cool. Now, in the words of Jules from “Pulp Fiction,” allow me to retort.

On the Title of Her Book: “It’s a very economical way of describing, I think, the experience of parenting. It’s a phrase that a friend of mine used almost parenthetically … when he became a new dad. That’s how he described parenthood. He said it was “all joy and no fun.” I think meaning that the highs are great, that there’s something transcendent about the experience itself, but that the day-to-day strains are really, really tough and might interfere with what we might traditionally think of as fun.”

DD Replies: Keep in mind now – I listed to the Fresh Air interview only, and haven’t read the full book (although now that I’m aware of it, I really want to read it). But from what I understand, Ms. Senior is saying that parenthood robs you of the things grown-ups are supposed to think is “fun,” which society has taught us to believe are such things as partying late with friends, watching sports with the guys, taking off at a moment’s notice for some exotic locale, etc. Well, I have one pretty firm belief that I’ll probably say more than once on this blog: If you treat life correctly, it will do the same back to you.

What this means is, put in the time and energy to find the right spouse for you; take your time making the most important decisions of your life and guess what? Marriage will be awesome. Then, put the time and energy into putting yourself in a place where you can support, raise and give yourself emotionally to a child and guess what? Parenthood will rock.

If you screw with that stuff – marry too young, start having kids when you can’t afford them or work too much to be there for them – the great, time-tested traditions of marriage and parenthood will transform themselves from heaven into hell. This year, I spent New Year’s Eve at a kids’ playplace, counting down to twelve…noon. Every child had a noisemaker, a party hat and confetti. As the clock hit 12, two hundred kids counted down, sang songs and danced with their parents. And lemme tell ya: As a guy who spent many New Year’s celebrations before parenthood partying hard, I can honestly say this was way more fun.

On the Role of Parenting: “It’s become much less clear what a parent’s role is. We’re not exactly sure what we do in relation to our kids and that’s very hard, I think. … parents now think that they’re supposed to be shoring up their children’s self-esteem. They think that they’re supposed to be making their children happy now that we regard children as being very precious and valuable and priceless. But if you think about it, that’s a really weird goal. It’s very hard to teach your child to be happy and to be self-confident. It’s not like teaching them how to do math or how to plow a field. Teaching your children happiness is a very vague and elusive idea.”

DD Replies: I would say quite the opposite. If my children want to learn a certain life skill, I’ll happily point them towards the school or class or mentor who can do that. But we, as parents, are blessed with the greatest teaching assignment of all: Showing them how to find joy in life.

There are unemployed people out there every day who nevertheless wake up each morning with a smile across their face and the hope that things are about to change for the better; there are wealthy people who lead miserable lives, fight with everyone who loves them and think the whole world is conspiring against them. I’d much rather have my children grow up to be the former.

Like so much else in life, it’s about baby steps. Today, my son spent the entire day walking like a robot. My daughter blew kisses to the lady cleaning tables at a restaurant.

Today, my kids were happy. Tomorrow, I will do my best to make sure they are happy again. And that’s the way it should be.

On Sleep Deprivation: “In the middle of the night, even though it’s the worst, you’re so tired… some of the most magical things happen in the middle of the night. My kid, at one month, looked directly at me and cooed. It was this recognition like ‘Ooh, you’re my Mom.’ I’d like to think that when I’m dying, I’ll remember that… that is as close as I am going to come to awe.”

DD Replies: I agree, 100 percent. Although I’m still a relatively young parent with two kids under the age of 6, one thing I’ve come to believe is that when you do come across a tough parenting moment, whatever higher power there is out there has a way of shining through. A glance, a giggle, a word of encouragement – kids have this uncanny sixth sense that allows them to remind us of our love for them at the exact moment when we need it most.

And in my humble opinion, such awe-inducing moments…well, if those aren’t fun, I don’t know what is.

5 Ways to Entertain the Kids, Without Spending a Dime

5 Ways to Entertain the Kids, Without Spending a Dime

Every day when you wake up, it’s another opportunity to make a memory with your kids. But rather than dropping a few hundred bucks and hitting an amusement park, sometimes all that is required is a bit of free time, your cell phone tucked away, and full-on engagement with the most important little people in your life.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas for making memories without hurting your wallet:

The beach – If you’re lucky enough to live near one, nothing is better. The ocean is free, sand is free, and you probably already own the sand toys and bikes. Be sure to slather the sunscreen on the kids, then focus on showing them how to build sandcastles, picking them up under the armpits to help them jump waves, or simply digging a big hole and letting them “bury” you. Just make sure you get all the sand out of their clothes before letting them back in the house.

The Hardware Store – Don’t laugh. Today, I took my 2-year-old girl to Lowe’s and let her play in the washer/dryer section – and you’d swear by her reaction that we were at Disney World. To a kid that age, their brains are constantly screaming for input. All they want to do is look, open, explore. So, I simply stood there and opened every washer or dryer that she went up to, let her look inside, push buttons, open drawers and quench that thirst. It was particularly effective because we’re working on articulating words like “open” and “shut” and “help,” so I’d make her say each before I’d assist her. Now, if I could only teach her to separate the whites and colors and add detergent, she might actually be able to start helping around the house.

Walls – Know a nice quiet neighborhood where lots of houses have raised frontlawns with brick or stone walls out front? My kids love getting up on them, balancing like they’re on tightropes, or driving Hot Wheels along them. And the balancing helps with their coordination. So far, I haven’t ever seen any homeowners giving me the stink-eye – and please, if you’re reading this, remember that the next time you see me and my kids playing on your frontlawn, I’m truly appreciative.

Parks – This is an easy “duh” item on the list. I’m very blessed in my neighborhood with many great parks, each distinctive in their own way. But when you get there, don’t just sit on a bench and make phone calls like I see some parents doing. Jump on the slides with them, give them big emphatic pushes, and play lots of tag. No good parent will judge you, so go ahead and make a big ol’ fool of yourself – it’s all in the name of good parenting.

The Mall – Children’s Play Areas. Food courts with free samples. Lots of chairs to sit in, water fountains to throw coins into, and escalators to ride over and over again. What’s not to like? Hit the mall on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, and you’ve got the whole place to yourself. And if Dad can help Mom by playing with the kids while she shops, or vice versa, all the better!

The Importance Of Eating Right

The Importance Of Eating Right

 

Okay, let’s start things out with a few simple declarations:

1) I realize that human beings excel when fed the proper foods, which provide the vitamins, nutrients, proteins and other elements that help their bodies, brains and bones to develop.

2) I also realize that becoming a “Food Nazi” won’t do anybody any good, and could lead to all kinds of body image issues and/or rebellions down the road.

3) I’m trying my best to find the proper balance.

Pictured above is what my 5-year-old eats for breakfast every morning, usually without complaint. A serving of Total cereal, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, a Pediasure and vitamins – 2 multivitamins, 2 DHA Omega-3 gummies. How did I come up with this as my default breakfast? Well, as far as cereals get it’s hard to find one healthier than Total, which provides 100% of so many vitamins and nutrients. Blueberries are pretty much one of the healthiest foods on the planet (and probably the healthiest one you can regularly get a child to eat). Grapes and strawberries speak for themselves, and by the time breakfast is done my son is already well on his way to eating the recommended number of fruits per day.

Although his weight is solid, as a Dad I readily admit that I’m trying to prepare him for his teen years: The bigger and stronger he is, the easier things like sports, not being bullied, etc. will be. Hence the Pediasure, which concerns me a bit with the sugar but ultimately helps him pack on the pounds in a healthy way. And the Omega-3 gummies will hopefully bring a similar developmental boost to his brain.

I’ll admit, it can be a bit of a chore to stay on him to eat it all (I often promise “One more episode of ‘Pocoyo’ if you drink 10 gulps of your milk.”) But when it’s all over and I send him off to school or wherever, it sure does make me feel better about the rest of his day. Even if he gets picky later on, I have the solace of knowing he’s got some good stuff inside him, helping his little body grow and develop. Over the course of the rest of the day, it’s simply a matter of getting some protein into him via chicken or fish, and some veggies (corn, peas and carrots are among his favorites).

I know there are healthier foods, but there are also way worse foods. For now, my son has never had soda, has never had sugary cereal, or Cheetos, Fritos and the like. We have cookies, and the occasional cake pop at Starbucks – but it’s a treat to be given as a reward.

Hopefully, he won’t be the type of kid who someday gets his first taste of freedom and goes on a downward spiral of double-stuffed Oreos, Twinkies and fast food. Instead, I’m hoping that these early years spent eating good, nutritious, simple foods will create a continued hunger for them in the years to come.

What kinds of foods do you guys feed your children? And why?

 

 

 

The Pains (and Secret Pleasures) Of Business Travel

The Pains (and Secret Pleasures) Of Business Travel

If you have to travel for work from time to time, it’s hard to be a parent. Or maybe it’s not. Let’s discuss….

This week, I had to fly to Portland for a few days. And within moments of kissing the kids on top of their little heads and saying goodbye, it began: I arrived at the airport, went to get myself a Starbucks, and there was a woman pushing a little girl in a stroller who was about the same age as my kids.

That’s the worst thing about business travel when you’re a parent: You see another child being cute, having a moment with their parent, and your mind starts to race.

I miss my kids. I bet they’re doing something similarly adorable right now. And I’m missing it. What if the plane crashes, then I’ll never see them again. I’m a lousy parent.

Of course, all of that is ridiculous. Your plane isn’t going to crash. Your kids have plenty of other adorable things left in the tank, and you’ll be able to see many when you get back. And in actuality, it’s probably better for them to deal with the adversity of not having Mom or Dad around for a few days, because you won’t always be there to hold their hands, pack their lunch and make sure the correct shoes are on the right feet. And that’s what parenting is really supposed to be – preparing them for what’s ahead.

Once you get on the plane, a very different emotion begins to take hold. A secretive, guilty emotion that you’d be wise to never mention to your kids (and especially to your spouse): It’s nice to be away from kiddieland for a few days.

Wait a minute – I can put on my headphones and listen to music without a tiny hand sliding up the volume switch or tugging at my shirt to ask for a snack? I can watch a movie on my iPad that is loud, violent and ridden with f-bombs, and no one is going to interrupt me just as John McClane is about to jump off Nakatomi Plaza? I can be alone with my thoughts, stare out the window and let my mind run wild? I can…I can sleep?

And then when you’re out-and-about, even the monotony of living out of a suitcase can be…well, refreshing. Sleeping in a big bed, all by yourself, with no tiny feet kicking you in the face at 3am. Watching the morning shows without keeping one finger on the remote in case Matt and Savannah veer into a darker news segment. Going to a grown-up restaurant with your co-workers and not needing to ask for a table that accommodates “3 and a high chair.”

Of course, life on the road pales in comparison with the life you and your spouse have created at home – you’ve built a residence that has the bed you like best, all your preferred food and furniture and so many memories of happy moments with the people who love you most in the world. But from time to time, it sure is nice to get away for a few days. And if done right, you return home not only with big hugs and kisses for your family, but also a refreshed desire to be the best parent you can be.

Viewing a Miscarriage Through the Eyes of a Father

It’s the single worst word I could have heard today: Miscarriage.

To have your wife say it to you, in the middle of an otherwise sunny, beautiful day, is like being punched in the gut by a 600-pound gorilla. Appropriately enough, as the husband all I could muster up was a response also comprised of one word: How?

It doesn’t matter, however. Things like this, things like cancer and earthquakes, offer no “how,” but make us use that word when we really mean “why.”

Why, when my wife and I have loved our children and treated them so well, would we be denied a third one? Why would that tiny little seed spring life but stop there?

So, the wife and I did the only thing we could: Focus our attention on the two little blessings we have, not on the one we’ve lost.

Still, it’s hard not to look at their faces and be reminded that for now, another isn’t on the way. Both of us had just gotten into the mindset for it: Whispering name possibilities to each other, rubbing her tummy – I even got my wife’s old maternity clothes out of the garage in anticipation. I’m just thankful we didn’t tell anybody.

So, what do we do now? What can we do? When life knocks you down, you get back up.

We’re going to do everything we can to get pregnant again. Maybe we’ll adopt. But my wife and I love being parents, and we both feel like we have more love to share.

One of the Best Days in Any Parents’ Life

One of the Best Days in Any Parents' Life

Well, I guess this parenting blog is good luck, because we’ve been up and running for less than a week and…well…

Yesterday, in the middle of the day, my wife called me into our bedroom and dropped a bomb on me. On the wall where we normally have pictures of our kids hanging up, she had hung a canvas that simply read “Baby #3.” We had been trying for a few weeks, and – bam! – we’re pregnant again!

I was completely floored, especially because baby #2 (Soon-to-be-2-year-old girl Lima Bean) took so long to conceive. Like, nearly a year. And I guess there’s just this natural tendency to assume that as you get older, each pregnancy will be slightly harder to achieve. But to quote George Costanza…

 

Wow, what an amazing moment between a husband and wife. Our lives are about to once again change forever. She’s been working so hard, taking her prenatal vitamins and drinking her decaf coffee and taking such good care of her body to prep for the voyage ahead.

Now of course, we’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve had a miscarriage before, and nothing can be assumed until the baby is safely in our hands and we’re able to kiss and hug the little one. But for now…well…it sure is fun to start discussing baby names.