It’s been awhile since I posted here. More on that in another post entitled ‘Summer Happened’. It’s been a nice hiatus but now it’s good to be back writing…
Up to now, in her brief 6 years on this planet, Maddie has cruised through life incident-free. Many minor “accidents” – a bruised elbow here, a bumped head there, but no real scary “oh my god” moments. We have been lucky.
And yes, many “mis-communications” – mostly with her parents. Frustrating times, these. Her little face will turn red and her feet will stomp all the way to her room, a loud slam as her door shakes in its frame.
Moments of sadness as well, tears welling up in her big, beautiful, brown eyes.
But none of this quite prepared me for what was about to happen.
Upon entering 1st grade Maddie quickly made a friend. They became best friends. They did everything together. Maddie followed her around like a puppy. Since she is one of the youngest in her class, she tends to defer to her older peers. She let her best friend take the driver’s seat in their adventures. Maddie was happy just to tag along. Soon, a playdate was set up. We met her parents and we all clicked. Everything was progressing swimmingly.
And then it happened.
Maddie and her friend were in line participating in a P.E. exercise. Maddie’s friend turned and told her that she smelled and that she should go to the back of the line. Maddie complied, and crumpled inside.
That night during bath time Maddie mentioned what had happened to me. It had taken her by surprise. I could tell she wasn’t sure what to feel. And I wasn’t sure what to feel, either.
Initially, I didn’t realize what a huge, traumatic event in Maddie’s life this really was. I thought, ‘Hmmm, P.E., they don’t really sweat much in 1st grade, do they? How could she smell? Something she ate?’ I failed to grasp the emotional impact.
Then, later that week, during our parent-teacher conference, it came up again. Maddie’s teacher had noticed a change in their relationship and she was sad. She thought it was wonderful that Maddie had confided in me and felt it was a testament to the strength of our bond, our father-daughter connection. I felt two very powerful emotions:
1. PRIDE – I was so elated that Maddie had shared her experience with me. There I was, on the bow of the Titanic, tears in my eyes, screaming, “I”M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!” This was the moment I had been waiting for, the moment that I had worked for these past 6 years, the whole reason I had become a stay-at-home dad in the first place.
2. ANGER – After the shock subsided, I was mad. I wanted to grab Maddie’s little “friend” by the shoulders and shake her: “What the hell is wrong with you, you…bully??!! Do you see what you did to my daughter?!!”
It became an awkward moment for me, every day before and after school, having to face the mother of the “bully”. She is the nicest mom in the world, a wonderful parent, and yet a small part of me was blaming her for what happened to Maddie.
We never found out what exactly happened. We put our collective parenting minds together and tossed around some theories. Maddie’s friend has an older sister…maybe she was transferring some anger or frustration…we don’t know.
Maddie is doing fine now and has made a new friend. All has been forgiven.
We eagerly await with trepidation the next “Incident”.
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Life goes on, yeah
La La, how the life goes on…
Filed under: Engaged, Family, First Grade, Parenting, School | Tagged: at home dad, dad, daddy, daughter, Evolution, friendship, girl, kids, parent, Parenting, SAHD, school, stay-at-home dad | 2 Comments »
I am amazed that anyone who calls themselves a PARENT has the time to read this blog right now. In fact, I can’t even believe I had a free moment to sit down and write it. And I am really astounded that any parent could publish a column, or a book, or do ANYTHING that requires time and planning and thinking. REFLECTION is such a luxury when most of us are just struggling to survive.
I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position where I CAN reflect and muse and ponder, and set down those thoughts in writing, and share it all online. My wife and I have worked hard to create a shared parenting environment to give each of us some space to explore our own interests and goals while fully supporting the other and our children. Her salary supports us. Anything I make is a bonus. We don’t pay for childcare. Without support from family and friends, financially, emotionally, I don’t know how we could do it.
My days as a Stay-At-Home Dad have been filled with so many powerful and transformative moments, I wish I could record them all and share them with friends and family, and someday pass them on to my daughters. We capture what we can through photos, videos, memoirs and the like (like this blog), and recount with knowing smiles the small, hilarious, and touching stories of our children’s mis-adventures, and maybe this is all enough for us to feel satisfied, content that someone else on this planet knows how special they really are, like we do. And yet there is so much more that is not shared, that is not talked or written about, so many moments that we have experienced as parents that have enriched us and made us who we are today. It is all there, I know, sitting in our parenting minds, perhaps never to see the light of day, and maybe that’s ok. What would the world do with all that pain and frustration and sorrow? Surely the world would explode from so much joy, pride, and contentment.
I wonder if these thoughts ever occurred to my parents,and their generation, and those that came before. Maybe they did, but then were they quickly extinguished? Who has time to philosophize when there’s a house to clean or a meal to prepare. Just keep moving and get through the day. No complaints. No excuses. It’s all just part of life. And at the end of the day, the last thing you want to think about is how to be a better parent.
Perhaps when I am older, when my children are older, I will have more time to breathe, and then I can reflect and look back on these days with an easy grin. But will I remember everything? I fear not. I do not trust my aging brain, and I feel that if I do not record it now in some manner, then perhaps it will slip away and be lost forever.
(This is the second part of a series. You can read the first part here.)
And how do I know this, you might ask? How do I really know?
Did a bluejay happily alight upon my shoulder, whistling a tune from Song of the South?
Or perhaps Maddie being home for Spring Break this week is enough reason to give one pause?
Maybe I can attribute it to the itchy feeling I have every time I see piles of stuff in the garage, waiting to be sorted.
All excellent clues to the fact that springtime is definitely upon us.
But no, what really gave it away, what really pronounced it and made it official, was when I brought the girls out into our backyard. Thus began a 2 hour frenzy of play, fueled by weeks upon weeks of being stuck indoors, where every outdoor toy we own was awoken from its’ hibernation. My oh My What a Wonderful Day!!
I’ve been having way too much fun with the “movie trailer” feature in iMovie lately.
They make it SO easy! You can choose from an array of themes, plug in your own text and video clips, and voila! I made this one in under 20 minutes. Enjoy!
Juliet was tired. I think. And she was still nursing a cold.
It was just the two of us, lounging around the house on a rainy day. Maddie was at school, due to be picked up in 45 minutes. I began to strategize my next mission.
As any parent, cook or professional jewel thief will tell you, timing is critical in all operations. It is often the key element between a successful souffle and a flop, or a clean getaway and getting nabbed by the fuzz, or even a harmonious home and all out pandemonium. It helps you when you’re in tune with your kids and you can recognize the signs of fatigue, or hunger, or boredom, so that you can prevent any tantrums or breakdowns. Of course, we know that these outbursts are badly needed sometimes by little ones who need to vent feelings that they do not understand. Hell, let’s face it, I’m the same way. But keeping the drama to a minimum is often important to the mental health of said parent, who is rushing to quell several small emotional emergencies each day.
So where were we? Oh yes, Juliet was lagging. My usual method of strolling her to sleep was out due to the weather. She doesn’t fall asleep this way in less than 30 minutes anyhow, cutting it too close for my liking. I considered my next option. Although she is 14 months of age now, more toddler than baby, we still load her in a pouch from time to time and wear her around the house like some human-kangaroo hybrid, sans the leaping. Add to that a darkened room and a CD entitled Sounds for Silence (“Blended and layered sounds to distract, engage and soothe unsettled babies”) and you’ve got yourself a fine recipe for nodding off. Well, for Juliet anyways. We all know that every baby is different. We became motivated early in on in Juliet’s life to find a way to sooth her on account of the colic. It took us many attempts before we hit on the right combination, a customized made-to-order solution that we were frankly quite proud of, as it has undoubtedly saved us from innumerable hours of moaning and crying. Once again, however, the timing of this procedure came into question. If Juliet was still asleep when we needed to hop into the car, the transfer from pouch to car seat would most certainly wake her, and she would not be happy. I know this to be true.
I was left with my third and final option – driving her to sleep, old school style. Well, old school to me anyways. This was my method of choice during Maddie’s early years – a slow, winding drive through the nearby hills. It usually happened on the tail end of running some errands. As we approached our street I would glance back to check on her status. If she appeared sleepy I would just keep going, zooming by our neighborhood. If not sleepy, then home it was. This all worked fine until she began to recognize our street, becoming highly distraught when I would just blow on by.
These thoughts came to me like a dream as I loaded Juliet into the car. All of this felt so familiar, yet it was different now. Different car, different child, different me. Definitely different child. While Maddie had succumbed easily to the lulling movement of the auto, Juliet has been curiously resistant to the magic. In fact, she HATES the car seat. We have taken her on a few long road trips and she has successfully fought off sleep every time, with a mighty will and exhausting bouts of back arching and crying.
So it is with some trepidation that I set off on down the road. I whistled nervously.
“OK Juliet, here we go!” I flashed a half-hearted smile. She looked back suspiciously.
As we began to wind our way past farms with open fields, I turned on the heat and the CD player. Sounds for Silence began to play, tunes that shall evermore be ingrained in my mind. Whenever I hear it now I instantly go into a trance, its hypnotic allure too powerful for the likes of me. I haven’t fallen asleep at the wheel yet, but it is awfully relaxing. And when the whole family is riding along, well, look out. It’s non stop excitement as we all begin to nod off in unison. Under these conditions, and given our wacky sensibility, we have dubbed our vehicle The Wombmobile.
After about a mile I checked on Juliet. Her eyes were closing! And with 5 minutes to go until the Maddie Pickup. Yes! I turned the car around and headed back. Cows and horses turned their heads as we passed, wondering, no doubt, about the jubilant driver and the odd sounds emanating from this speeding vehicle. I pulled up to Maddie’s school and parked just outside the gate. She emerged with her classmates a minute later. I went to meet her and led her back to the car. Soon we were home.
Just another successful parenting mission. I love it when a plan comes together. (cue A-Team music)
Unbeknownst to her, my sister has played an ENORMOUS part in the raising of our daughters. Even though my younger sibling lives a mere two states away, she is here, every day, almost every hour, in the parenting choices I make for Maddie. Or, in this case, the parenting choices I DON’T MAKE.
Now I love my sister, don’t get me wrong. And if she reads this then feelings will probably be hurt. But I have to be honest here, to her and, most importantly, to myself, because it affects how I raise my daughters.
There was a time, growing up, when I was super close to my sister. We were best of friends. Then along came high school and we went our separate ways. Looking back, it’s surprising we were so close for so long, because our personalities are essentially at polar opposites. She is a social butterfly, friendly, open, expressing any and every emotion. I am more quiet and cautious. If she were a raging firestorm, I would be a calm lake.
And so I became a straight-A student and a member of the marching band (read: geek), while she started to smoke and hang out at the 7-11 across the street (read: party girl). And our lives would continue this way, more or less, for the next 20 years. Now we are both married with children.
My sister was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We’re not sure when it developed, but it may explain her past behavior. My grandmother may have had it, too. It can be hereditary. For awhile, I have been thinking about all of this whenever I look at my own daughters. Is this their fate as well?
Every family has their black sheep. In mine, it’s my sister. She has become the “identified patient“. We all have our issues – we just like to focus on HERS (maybe because she’s the “baby” of the family). She has tried counseling and support groups, but nothing seems to stick. Everyone in my family has put a lot of time and effort into trying to help. I have to be careful, because I can become so involved that I will use all of my energy trying to solve this gordian knot, leaving nothing for my own family. Because of this, I have called my sister less often. We have become somewhat estranged.
And so, for a time, whenever Maddie would show the slightest hint of a behavior that reminded me of my sister, I would flinch in fear. I would panic. I would curse the gods for their cruel taunting.
We all have our own destinies, our paths to walk. I try not to compare my sister’s life with my own and simply accept it for what it is, neither good nor bad. I try not to judge. Maddie has her own path as well, and as I gain more confidence as a parent, I am learning to trust her, and hope she trusts me. Together we can overcome any difficulties in life. If we are truly engaged and aware, what more can one ask?
My sister celebrated her birthday recently. I called and wished her well. I asked her to promise me she would think of this day whenever she felt down, and to know that there are people in this world who care for her a great deal. And then I played with Maddie, laughing easily, hopeful of what the future may bring.
Keeping up with all the new parenting blogs and books out there can be a full-time job in itself!
Here are a few that I’ve found recently and enjoyed…
And finally, a Daddy/Daughter clip from YouTube. This was sent to me as an obvious marketing ploy, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. The little girl reminds me A LOT of my own daughter. And I think their version is MUCH BETTER than the original! See what you think…
As one of my New Year’s Resolutions I intend to write more on this blog. That’s the idea, anyways. We’ll see how it pans out. And hopefully a few golden nuggets will emerge. This all started as a way to practice writing, to hopefully improve, and to experiment with different themes and styles. Above all, it has been an exercise to help me FINISH something. A blog, I thought. Perfect. Keep it short and sweet. Now if I can only increase the number of posts, and market myself a little more…
A big thank you to all of my readers out there. Your comments and feedback are very much appreciated, and motivate me to write more and mo’ better. That’s what it’s all about, for me, to make that connection.
2011 begins with me returning to the Stay-At-Home Dad fold. After working part-time for awhile in an after school program, I called it quits. Too overwhelming. I worked with kindergartners all day, and when I returned home to my lovely family, I was too stressed out to appreciate them, instead berating them for not doing what I asked. (cue Rodney Dangerfield: “No respect, I tell ya’, no respect!”)
Initially, I was extremely excited to be standing in the grand foyer of our school system, where a gentle indoctrination occurs. However, after a few months of resolving playground battles, mishaps, and misunderstandings, and declaring for the 30th time that only one snack would be issued per child, no matter how much they begged and pleaded, I reluctantly let go of my lofty ideals and became resigned to the fact that this was not a teaching job, per se, but a serious management position.
I tried in my own small way to liven things up. I drew custom mazes for them. I played cool music. I discovered that kindergartners make the BEST magic show audience. They are completely amazed at anything you do. And this is what kept me coming back for more. They are so sweet, so innocent, so wonderful, so refreshing. They empowered me, just as my own daughter has (who is, coincidentally, now in kindergarten).
And so I take a few lessons away with me from this experience, the main one being that ”After school” is not the same as “During school”. My hats off to all of the kindergarten teachers out there, nurturing and warm, and to all teachers out there in general. Teaching is hard work. It’s like giving presentations on a variety of topics, non-stop, for 5-6 hours. You got to work the room. And teachers still don’t get the respect in this country that they should, as in other countries, and this is often reflected in their pay.
But people who work in After School programs are real heroes as well. For many of these children, the after school staff are with the children just as long as the teachers, and often more than the parents, at half the salary. They are extremely important in the development of a child’s character. They guide them, inspire them, give them direction, teach them discipline, and deserve more recognition from the world.
So there you have it. I wish you all a fruitful 2011! Gung Hay Fat Choy!
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 14 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 35 posts. There were 29 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.
The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 45 views. The most popular post that day was Through The Looking Glass: Part III.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were rebeldad.com, http://www.seekingmylife.com, networkedblogs.com, blogger.com, and eastbaydads.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for through the looking glass, looking glass, alice through the looking glass, dadda, and through the looking-glass.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Through The Looking Glass: Part III November 2009
about March 2008
Toy Story September 2010
Dad Books January 2010
resources April 2008