As my daughter gets older (she’s going on seven), she has less use for me in certain instances, such as doing her hair (the three-horned unicorn look I invented was quite forward-thinking, I thought) and fashion (cheetah print stretch pants and horizontal multi-colored striped blouse tells the world to look at your inner beauty). Today, however, my daughter really needed a Daddy. She was getting ready for school and freaked out because she couldn’t find a uniform skirt in her dresser to wear – she only had pants and she absolutely couldn’t wear pants, oh no, it had to be a skirt. I calmly walked into her room and started to soothe her. I realized that the reason she couldn’t find a skirt is because they were all in the laundry hamper so I went to the hamper, stuck my hand in and fished around to find one of her skirts. I demonstrated the sniff check that indicates whether a given article of clothing is ‘clean enough.’ I smiled as I tossed the skirt to her and told her to get continue getting ready. I suppose that one day her instincts will kick in and she’ll unlearn this very valuable lesson and that’s okay, today it was just what she needed.
My two boys, being close in age, have a lot of clothes that look interchangeable, with only a slight difference in size. This means that they regularly wear each others’ clothes and my older boy will come out in high-water pants while my younger son has pants that drop around his ankles because he’s not wide enough to hold them up. The only time this becomes an issue is when the mix up happens with their underpants. It’s not a big deal for my younger son, but when my five-year-old comes out in 3T briefs, I start to worry. Now that they mostly dress themselves, I don’t discover anything until bedtime, or when my older boy’s eyes start bulging out of his head. That’s when I do a quick clothing label check and then suggest that he and I go back to the dresser and maybe pick something that would help him breathe better.
My kids were watching a children’s show about incredible animal skills. They got to the elephant and were explaining that the elephant can actually use the tip of its nose to pinch and pick up things – “what a great feature, to be able to use its nose as a hand !”
Big deal, I think. My kids have been blurring the line between hand and nose for years…
Before having kids, a good morning was one where I would leisurely read the newspaper, watching the sun come up over the city skyline and mountains in the background, sipping a hot cup of coffee.
Now, a good morning is one during which I manage to get all three kids out the door without swearing.
I don’t believe my three year old is unique in that he has zero filter and no control over the volume of his voice. This can quite regularly lead to awkward conversations in public places. Today, however, I found an instance where this wasn’t the case.
Two of us were out for lunch at a pizza place and he had to go to the bathroom. This place has two separate unisex bathrooms so we get the key and go into one of them. I help my son go pee and get him set up with soap, water, and a paper towel at the sink and then it’s my turn. As I’m standing there doing my business, he looks over at me and says in his not-so-sotto-voce, “Daddy, your penis is HUGE!!!!”
Ya, I can’t really complain about that one.
While I never would have made the cover of GQ, I did take pride in dressing sharply for both work and social events whenever appropriate. Polishing my shoes and pressing my shirts were as enjoyable as the finished result.
Today as I sort and fold laundry, I realize how far I’ve drifted from my previous life. I have separate categories for “exercise t-shirts,” daily wear t-shirts,” and “dressy t-shirts.”
Our parenting style evolved significantly from the time of our first child to the time of our third child. We were not only more relaxed but also more distracted as we now had three kids who are much more mobile and active. One great example of the drastic difference is how the toilet training process went.
When our daughter was learning, we organized playdates with other girls the same age and we had a baby sitter to help as all three girls would line up to take scheduled potty breaks together. We had star charts and videos and books and pretty purple princess pull-ups for a total immersion into the process.
In contrast, recently my wife and I were in the kitchen trying to get dinner ready when we see our third child walking naked down the hall with something in his hands. Out of morbid curiosity, we stop what we’re doing to follow him. He walks into the bathroom and we realize that he’s been carrying is his portable plastic potty. He puts it down on the floor, opens the toilet seat, picks up the plastic potty and dumps his pee and poo into the toilet and flushes it. He then goes to the sink to wash his hands and then he takes his step stool over to the pantry to get himself a treat.
As he goes back to play, we realize that our child has potty trained himself without us and the only thought that goes through our heads is whether or not we should make him put some clothes on.
So I’m having a bad evening – a little tired and cranky – and, sure, the kids are doing stuff they shouldn’t be but I’m crabbing at them more than their behavior deserves. Come dinnertime, I’m in a truly foul mood and in the process of getting a cup of water for my middle boy, I accidentally knock it over and spill it all over the counter and down to the floor. It’s entirely my mistake , I’m angry with myself, and it shows on my face. My son sees the look on my face and without a second thought, he puts on his biggest smile and says, “It’s okay Daddy, accidents happen.”
My anger fades and is quickly replaced with such a feeling of pride in my son. Sometimes I feel I’ve been blessed with beautiful kids in spite of myself.
My wife is out of town for a several day training class. It’s only an hour away and the kids were really missing Mommy so I took them after school to visit her during her break. It made for a great way to spend the afternoon/evening since if we came directly home after school, I’d have three grumpy kids to deal with all evening whereas with our excursion, I had three slightly less grumpy kids to deal with for only an hour before bed.
On our way home from our visit, I thought it would be nice to take the kids out to dinner in a restaurant instead of chicken nuggets from a drive through, which, for all its convenience, is something I’d prefer to minimize. We ended up in a truck stop at a Shari’s restaurant. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shari’s, it’s similar in style to a Big Boy or Denny’s. What made this meal special is that it’s the first time I took all three kids by myself to a sit down restaurant. Well, I can’t remember ever taking them out by myself to a sit-down restaurant, which means it could have happened but my mind blocked out the horror either as a coping mechanism or by electro-shock and/or chemical intervention. Regardless, it was all new to me this time.
I don’t know how long it took me to realize it, but somewhere during the hour-long process, I realized that it was not only not unpleasant, but it was actually fun. As my guys grow older, they have the patience to sit longer, are able to entertain themselves by talking to each other and to me, and occupy their mind with crayons and reading materials.
I sat back and watched as my three kids colored on their kid menus, showed their drawings to each other, talked about their day. Every moment when I observe a milestone in their childhoods, it is a time of immense pride with a touch of sadness. The pride comes from watching my children grow into the people they were meant to become; the sadness from leaving behind another wonderful phase in my babies’ lives.
I hope my kids always enjoy each others’ company as they do now. Maybe in twenty years they’ll still be meeting for the occasional dinner date and if I’m lucky, I could join them one time. At some point during the meal, I’ll just have to sit back quietly, watch them together, and remember this day.
A few nights ago was the Parent’s Back to School night. It is a night when parents can visit their kids’ classroom and meet the teacher to learn about what goes on in the class.
In my daughter’s first grade class, I sat at her desk and listened as the teacher guided us through their day and had a chance to look through her writing journal, math journal, etc. In one of her journals, I decided to write her a note so I flipped to an empty page a few days ahead of where she was in the journal and wrote,
“Dear Lilliana, I love you. -Daddy”
After I wrote it, I started second-guessing myself. My daughter has recently decided that she doesn’t want me walking in with her to her classroom since she’s too big now so maybe she’ll be embarrassed and irritated that I wrote in her school journal.
Later in the week, I got my answer in Lil’s homework binder. This binder has a notebook in it in which she writes down her homework assignment. I help her with her homework and then sign the page for her to take back to school. As the kids were changing out of their school clothes, I opened her binder to see what we had to do this evening. Here’s what was written:
“Math packet due tomorrow
Read 20 minutes
i love you because you are the best family ever. love, lilliana”