Beware What They Don’t Tell You

It’s always the stuff they don’t tell you about that is the hardest.

Everyone hears about the poopy diapers, the lack of sleep, the teething tantrums and so on but to be honest, those elements of parenting are a breeze, at least in my opinion.

If you ask me, the real challenge to parenting is keeping your cool during the small stressful moments that seem to arise multiple times, every day. It’s the gradual chipping away at your psyche, slowly eroding your ‘calm and cool as a cucumber’ mentality day after day that takes a toll on you and your quest to be the best parent ever who never gets upset or mad about anything and farts cheery rainbows all day long. Ok, that rainbow farting part was a bit bizarre but you get the point. It’s not the knockout punch but the persistent jabs and body shots that will take you out if you’re not prepared.

As a parent, I think we all expect the occasional big blow ups to happen. We’re dealing with little humans after all who are trying to express something to us and when they experience communication barriers, they get frustrated. I get that, I would be frustrated too. Those things I can deal with because I know if I stay calm and try to work it out with her, I’ll eventually decipher the toddler code and put the fire out. If that doesn’t work, I can always substitute one of my many ‘Dad tricks’ where I simply redirect her attention to something else or change the subject in a way that makes her forget about whatever she was asking or telling me about one minute ago. Boom, disaster averted.

The blow ups are easy. It’s the constant whining, the ever-present ‘No!’s, the rapid changing of their mind around EVERYTHING, the refusal to brush their teeth when they’ve done it a thousand times before, the requesting to watch the same eight-minute mind-numbing kids tv show repeatedly, etc. that causes the corner of your eye to twitch. Oh, and don’t get me started on the topic of food. I don’t know if I’m alone on this one but my kid does not stop eating. I mean like, never. She is akin to a dog that will eat until it throws up, devour its own vomit, and then proceed to beg for more food despite the fact that it’s stomach is full and in pain.

Now, before anyone calls children’s aid on us, I should clarify that we’ve never actually let her eat her own tossed cookies but the point is, she doesn’t stop asking for food, even when she’s full to the brim and is saying “Daddy, my tummy huuurts”. That might sound innocent to someone who doesn’t have a kid at home but try hearing “I’m hungry!”, “Dinner time? Dinner now?” and “Eat now Mommy!” at all hours of the day, with little sticky hands pulling at your pants, your shirt, the fridge door, the dishes, and anything else until their request is met. That crap gets on your nerves real quick.

For some, maybe I sound like I’m complaining and overreacting but for my wife and I, our goal was always to do our best to keep our cool, talk to our children like adults and try our best never to lose our temper towards them or even around them whenever possible. When you apply those parameters, dealing with the little nagging elements of daily parenting presents a whole different category of challenges to overcome.

Fortunately for us, we are rocking a two parent household which works wonders when one parent needs to ‘tag out’ before steam starts shooting out of their ears. We seem to work well with each other, recognizing when the other parent is starting to reach their near breaking point and quickly jumping in as relief. We joke that it’s kind of like having two pots of water on a hot stove top and trying to prevent both from bubbling over at the same time. When one gets too hot and starts to boil you lift it off the burner until the water calms down. Then the other pot starts to bubble out of control so you set the first pot down and jump over to the other burner to prevent that pot from spilling. Repeat indefinitely.

At the risk of this blog sounding like a parent rant about the difficulties of the annoying minutia I’ll bring it around full circle to say that the point of this entry is two-fold in nature: 1) I have a new respect and understanding for the parents, especially the stay at home parents, that revel in a big glass of ‘take the edge off’ wine at the end of the day and 2) Since nobody ever tells you what the real challenging stuff is, I’ll be the one to step up and provide a hefty dose of ‘real talk’ by telling you to look out for the little stuff. We’ve all heard the saying ‘It’s the small stuff that counts’ and this is no different.

Let’s face it, every one of us can handle the explosive diarrhea and temper tantrums when we tell our kid not to kick the chihuahua but it’s the seemingly inconsequential little stuff that will catch up to you and kick you straight in the teeth if you’re not ready for it. Don’t sweat the small stuff but don’t overlook it either. You’ve been warned.

DL

 

 

 

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Being the Present Dad

My Dad rarely ever came to my games growing up. In fact, I can probably count them all on one hand. He was always busy with who knows what and maybe just disinterested.

I always envied the friends of mine who’s parents made it to every game.

I even remember giving my Dad numerous shots at ‘picking up the ball’ so to speak by coming straight out and asking him to come to various sporting events and even requesting he come out to the street in front of our house and make me shoot hoops until I hit 100 free throws. His response? “Well, go shoot 100 free throws then”. He missed the point.

This isn’t meant to be my mid-week rant about how I never made the NBA because I didn’t have parents cheering my name at every possible sporting event. Instead, it’s my way of saying thank you to the past so I can do a better job of making my kids’ futures even better. How do I plan on doing that exactly? Simple. By being present.

That’s really all there is to it in my books. Sure, it helps to be loving, encouraging and supportive but all of those should be automatic if you decide to put on the parent hat. But without setting the foundation of just being present as much as humanly possible, the rest doesn’t seem to matter as much.

As I type this, my daughter is only a month past her second birthday and my son isn’t scheduled to be born until the end of the year, but that doesn’t matter, the rule still applies now. Brynlen may not be on any teams with practices, games, away tournaments, etc. but there are still about a million different opportunities for me to present and fully in the moment with her to add to the overall enrichment of her life experiences.

I was one of the few Dads who never missed a Parent and Tot gymnastics class. I leave early for work most days but I always make sure I’m up early enough to wake her up, spend uninterrupted time with her, playing on the floor before I drop her off at daycare. Brynlen has already been to a handful of the weekend bootcamp classes I coach, helping me whip some butts into shape. The point is, I strongly value being there, in the moment with her as much as possible and including her in nearly everything I do and if I do it right, I hope to maintain that practice for as long as I live.

My life growing up was far from one of neglect but I also grew up as a single child to a single parent who was always ‘busy’ doing something else and that stuck with me. My Dad was always into computers and I can’t tell you how many conversations were had with him where I spoke to the side of his head and received only quick glances and one or two word answers because he was more focused on what he was reading or typing to truly listen to me talk about how well I played at my game last night or how my art teacher centred me out in class because I showed serious potential or whatever. Again, I don’t really think this ruined my childhood by any means but it does stand out as a glaring opportunity to do a bit better with my turn at parenting.

So whether it means cutting down on tv time, getting down on the floor more often, staying off my phone when Bryn is talking to me or simply giving her my full attention, body language and all, while she is talking to me – these are all things that I try to be mindful of on a daily basis and feel I should make an effort to optimize whenever possible.

These super simple actions are extremely important to me in regards to building the strongest relationship possible with my kids and providing them with nothing but great memories of a Dad who was always there and always willing to listen or show interest in what they were doing. And when they grow up, you can bet your ass I’ll be the parent at every possible tryout, practice, game, tournament, school trip, bake sale, class play, etc. until I’m told to sit this one out because “You’re embarrassing me Dad!” – because in my mind, that’s what a good Dad does.

Dave

 

‘Dadding’ 101

img_6743.jpgI don’t know what’s more upsetting, the fact that my hair is turning more grey by the day or the fact that it’s falling out shortly after.

Then again, maybe it’s the elevated stress levels, the lack of sleep, the loss of regular routine or the fact that just going out to see a movie with my wife seems like a monumental task, requiring twice the effort to organize and at least one other person to come to our house while we’re away so our offspring doesn’t burn down the house or end up in the ER.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m a Dad. You’ll notice I routinely capitalize the word ‘Dad’ because I think it’s a very special thing to be a parent and I take the role extremely seriously. I also love it more than anything I’ve ever encountered in my life. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a hell of a lot of work, supremely draining in every aspect of the word, and enough to leave you sitting on the floor, nearing tears due to the fact that you don’t know if you can take anymore of it. Oh the joys of parenting.

All too often we hear stories, both good and bad, from the perspective of mothers. We’ve all read or heard about the ‘joys’ of pregnancy, the new and exciting first few months after bringing baby home and the ups and downs of living with a runny-nosed poop factory all the way until that joyous day that they reach ‘adulthood’ and move out to pursue post-secondary education, world travel or just ‘I’m moving out because you guys are SO annoying’-independence.

It seems though, that all of these recounts are given by moms. The tale of the father is very rarely included and if so it’s usually as the role of assistant-to-mom or the all too common deadbeat dad who couldn’t handle the pressure and skipped town only to duck out of child support payments and never to be heard from again.

For those who don’t know me, I will let you know that neither of those descriptions fit me and they never will. I absolutely LOVE being a Dad and since day one I knew that not only would I never take off on my family but more importantly, I was determined to be one of the rare hands-on fathers.

With that said, although I do feel it’s uncommon to hear about people like me who want to be great Dads, I happen to know a handful of other guys who feel the exact same way and are amazing role models to their kids and outstanding figures in their respective families. Because of this, I thought it would be cool to not only share my day to day stories of parenthood but also include the tales from other Dads and ultimately glean a little bit of knowledge and insight from them in regards to what to do and what not to do (after all, we’re ALL taking this responsibility one day at a time and learning along the way).

This blog is dedicated to just that – Dad, and everything it means to be him, because at the end of the day the ultimate goal is to be the very best papa possible and to provide these kids a childhood full of health, happiness and more love than they know what to do with (after all, this is our chance to make good hearted people and improve the world with our successive generation right?).

*Before I conclude this entry, let me say that I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderful woman beside me, enabling me to even have the chance to be a good dad. She is loving, compassionate, creative, funny, smart, intuitive, etc., etc. And the reality of it is, I couldn’t do any of this without her. I say this because while this blog may be dedicated to that of Dad and stories told from his eyes, there is usually another parent (at least in that families that are fortunate enough to have a dual parent set up) that provides a platform for the chance to be great, and they deserve just as much, if not more sometimes, recognition in this journey.

Without further ado, thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy what I have to share. As mentioned above, this is a learning experience for all of us so if I can provide some insight that you feel helps you be a better parent yourself or you feel inclined to share your input to help myself and other readers, even better. You know what they say – “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Dave