Tag Archives: boys

The Most Important Job

I still haven’t figured out how to answer the question.

When we meet someone for the first time, one of the initial questions of the getting-to-know-you phase is this: What do you do?

By that, we’re asking what the other person does for a living. What is their job? Strangely, we, as a society, tend to define people by what they do, rather than what they enjoy, or who they are. While I’m sure there’s another whole post in this somewhere, I’m more focused this time around on what the answer to that question really is when it’s directed at me or people like me.

See, as might have been obvious sometime in the last six years, I’m a stay-at-home dad. For the past 14 years, I stayed home being the principal caregiver to our three boys while my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Bringing Home The Bacon Etc., worked outside the house.

For us, it wasn’t even a question what would be happening when we had kids. We both believed that kids would benefit from having a parent at home. She’s a doctor, which meant her first paycheck as the lowliest of doctors (an intern) was far more than what I was making at the top of my pay grade as an information specialist for the state of Florida. Yeah, no question I was staying home.

Now, I’m pretty cool with the idea of a woman making more money than I do. Just like it doesn’t matter that she beats me at H.O.R.S.E. every time we play. (Of course, in a real one-on-one game, I thrash her without hesitation.) She’s just a better set shooter than I am. I’ve been beaten by girls in races and never worried but for one thing: A person was faster than me. The gender of the victor didn’t matter. Same thing here.

But, apparently, it does matter to some people.

When I’m meeting people for the first time and I tell them that I’m a stay-at-home dad, I get responses that vary in the specifics, but all contain the same condescension.

“Oh, that’s so wonderful.”

“You’re so lucky to stay at home.”

“That’s such a hard job and so important.”

“I don’t know how you do it.”

And, worst of all, “Good for you. You should be proud of that.”

It’s a good thing none of these people are playing poker for a living, or are actors, because, dudes, they just can’t pull it off. In their eyes, in the tone of their voice, in the way they subtly lean back away from me as if they’re afraid stay-at-home-itis is catching. . .

In their eyes, there’s something deeply wrong with what I’ve done for the past 14 years. In their eyes, it’s easy to read what they’re thinking: “Thank God it’s not me.”

I realize that moms in my position also are getting something similar from other women. Staying at home, either for a man or a woman, can be a controversial choice to some people.

Men, I think, might get it a bit worse. Because we’re supposed to be the breadwinners, the ones who work outside the house. I’ve even been asked, “Doesn’t it bother you being the woman?” and “Does she let you wear shoes and leave the kitchen?”

Okay, yes, those were extreme examples and they might have said they were kidding, but there is that old saying about there being more truth in jest.

Over the years, just to avoid arguments in a pleasant setting, I’ve begun telling people I work from home instead of stay home. And, yes, that won’t be a problem much longer as I’m moving back into the outside work force as Hyper Lad grows older.

But, still, shouldn’t staying at home — whether because of a money issue or that you’re just more at ease taking care of kids — be a valid choice for any person, male or female?

There were a (very) few times in the beginning when I felt resentful that I wasn’t working every day at a newspaper, which had been my dream. But then I would look on my napping sons, or hear them laugh, and realize it’s possible to have more than one dream, to find and follow a new dream.

A man or woman choosing to stay at home to rear a child is a valid choice, dudes and dudettes. Respect that.

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Electronic Babysitter

The future is a strange and wonderful place and I love living here.

I gotta say, though, dudes, I’m sort of glad that I’ve already done my child rearing and did it a bit earlier when there wasn’t all this futuretech around to tempt me and the little dudes.

This subject came to occupy a bit too much of my brain lately when I started noticing a bunch of commercials and suchlike designed to sell parents on the idea of either loaning a tablet to a little dude or buying one for her to have all her own dudette self.

Let me get one thing out of the way first. I am no Luddite. I don’t automatically reject new technology as dangerous or evil. I’m not the type to say that the way we did it when I was a kid was good enough and that’s the way it should always be done. I mean, if you’ve been around here more than 17 seconds or so, I’m pretty sure you’ll understand when I say I’m a technological neophile of the first order.

(Admittedly, I’m not a neophile across the board, as my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Frustrated That I’m Not Willing To Paint Over The Appalling Mural In Our Bathroom, will happily attest at full volume given half the chance.)

Technology here in the future is a wonderful thing. I love having my smart phone. I love having my iPad mini and all the rest of the little tech goodies I carry around each day or lust for in my heart.

But little dudes, though. . . That’s a tough one. I mean, when Sarcasmo and Zippy the Monkey Boy were very young, I used to alternate weekend days to get up early with them. (Sadly, Sarcasmo was the type to awaken at zerosixhundred no matter how late he went to bed.) Both their mom and I would stagger into the boys’ room, get them out of bed, feed them and then pop in a Winnie the Pooh video, drop to the couch and pass right out for as long as they’d let us.

And that was when there was nothing interactive to hold the interest of the little dudes. These days, there’s slates that will talk back to the kids, encourage them, call them by name. I can see how this could be very difficult to put down. I also can see how a lot of parents would find it so much easier to simply hand over a slate to their kid and let ’em rip, giving the parent more time to 1) sleep or 2) work.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has already issued warnings that young dudes and dudettes shouldn’t have very much screen time, especially when they’re in the deuce and under crowd.

The problem as I see it is that these tablets are so darn convenient. The little dudes love them and will become immersed with the flip of a button. And there’s just enough of the good sort of app out there that many parents will feel comfortable letting their little dudette have hours and hours on the slate screen.

From personal experience, I know that — even when you keep a sharp eye on your young dudes and their computer/tablet/screen time — the determined young dude will find ways to indulge curiosity and desire. And do it for far more time than is conceivably good for him or her.

So, yeah.

Despite the convenience, despite the quiet time it gives us as parents, consider shutting down the screen. For instance, I just yesterday purchased a pair of stilts. Mostly because I intend to show Hyper Lad that it is possible to have fun without pushing a button or shooting someone with paint balls.

Yeah, it’s probably too late for my young dudes, but I feel like it’s something I have to do. Maybe it’s not too late to change some habits in yours.

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Atomic Batteries To Power, Engage Hyper Speed

Happy birthday, Hyper Lad!

Today’s the big day for him, the day he moves deeper into the teens. Even though he’s only been a teenager for a year, he’s already moving well along the Path To Puberty! His voice keeps cracking every time he speaks, mostly trending deeper and deeper, but still hilariously high on occasion.

He’s learned to sleep late. Well, later.

For the first twelve years of his life, Hyper Lad would get up with the sun so he could get out and get moving. He didn’t want to miss anything. He figured all the really great stuff was happening only after he’d been asleep for a while. He wasn’t wrong. Still, it was annoying to want to sleep late, but find a somewhat bored Hyper Lad shaking my shoulder and wondering if I wanted to go do something now that it was light.

That was, however, for the first twelve years of his life. I kid you dudes not, but the first day that he was thirteen, his first day as a teenager, he slept until noon. He’s been like that ever since, for the past year. Not sure why he suddenly decided it would be fun to get dynamited out of bed by an increasingly irate father every single morning, but he did. And, of course, like every other new teen, he’s now advocating for a much later bedtime.

So far, he’s had it pretty easy. But he’s about to run into the bedtime buzz saw that his older brother, Zippy the College Boy, did. Zippy the Monkey Boy loved to sleep late and would constantly slip back to bed on school mornings and have to be yelled out of bed. Constantly. And he would constantly say he was too old to have a bed time. Constantly. And I got to tell him the same thing over and over and over: If you can’t get up on time, on your own, then you’re probably too tired so you’re going to bed early.

Eventually, after more than a year and a half, Zippy the Monkey Boy finally got the message and, for his senior year, actually got up on his own the entire time. Except for one or two accidental overslept mornings. Now it’s Hyper Lad’s turn.

Won’t that be fun?

I’m not really looking forward to this seemingly inevitable confrontation. For some reason, he and I have always had a relatively easygoing relationship. He’s done what he’s supposed to do, I haven’t had to yell. I’ve let him get away with with a few things when it wasn’t all that important. It’s worked out rather well.

Not this sleep thing, though. I can feel this one is going to lead to some harsh feelings, dudes.

I just have to remember, this is the little dude who I dragged from his womb. I was the first person to see him, standing between his mother’s knees, my own shaking; gowned and gloved and realizing that I was nowhere near prepared for what was about to happen.

But it worked. I pulled him free, smiled into his shocked face, wiped a bit of the gunk away and then handed him to his mother. Mine was the first face he saw. Poor little dude. At least the rest of his life couldn’t help but go up from there.

Things certainly have changed since then. For one thing, he likes to go out and shoot people on his birthday now, as opposed to playing with toy trucks in the back yard. By that, I mean he has gone to paint ball for the last two birthdays. I always get shot at close ranger during those events. Small price to pay, I guess.

One other thing that’s changed lately is that we can’t actually call his birthday buddy today. He was born on the same day as my maternal grandmother. They were birthday buddies and it always tickled his great-grandmother to share that special day. Now that she’s passed, the day belongs to Hyper Lad alone. Sensitive young dude that he is, he always lets me and my dad know that he misses talking to that great lady on her birthday.

So, yeah, there are bound to be some changes and some conflicts as Hyper Lad moves deeper into the teen years. But, all in all, he’s a pretty spectacularly good kid. It’s going to be worth the effort. He’s going to be worth the effort.

Happy birthday, Hyper Lad. Here’s to you. We’ll cheer as you rocket into the future.

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