In the Valley of Dudes: Stay At Home Dad Tells All

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Being a stay at home dad is weird. People ask me all the time what it’s like to stay home with my kids while my wife contributes to the Gross National Product every day, and the best way I can describe it is, “weird.” Not because I’m a man and she’s a woman—that’s not the weird part. The truth is, I know lots of stay at home dads. (We call ourselves SAHD’s. Pronounced “sad.”) I live in the “Valley of Dudes” where women work and men cook and change diapers. We all have beards, rarely wear closed-toed shoes, and find good excuses to get together and drink beers in the afternoon. Suck it, dudes with jobs!

There’s nothing weird about that. What’s weird, is hanging out with two five year old kids all day, everyday. Let me explain.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…A lot like being a camp counselor. I spend a lot of time teaching my kids how to ride their bikes or swim. For most of our activities, the kids need to wear protective helmets. In the afternoons, I try to keep them from launching frogs off of homemade catapults.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Being surprised and a little ashamed by how much you like watching My Little Ponies.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Having your pockets full of rocks, flowers and half eaten cookies. All the fucking time.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Writing angry letters to McDonalds because they put these huge damned holes in the top of their milkshake lids that are five times bigger than they should be. Why McDonalds? Why such big holes? So my kids can more easily paint the interior of my mini van with their strawberry milkshakes?

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Convincing yourself that your kids are old enough to watch The Goonies so that you can spend a Tuesday afternoon watching The Goonies.

…It’s having a bubble wrap dance party. Step 1) put a bunch of bubble wrap on the floor. Step 2) Play Madonna.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Catching your kids in the midst of doing something diabolical, like, say, walking out on the back deck with a chair, a bucket full of water and some rope. And they won’t give you a straight answer as to what exactly they’re going to do with the chair, rope and bucket of water. They just keep telling you not to worry. “It’s healthy.” You will thwart similar diabolical plans at least seven times a day.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Calling out for your daughter 13 times a day, only to find her dancing and singing in front of a mirror. Every. Single. Time.

…It’s spending the morning throwing paper airplanes into a laundry basket. While wearing bunny ears.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Making three separate meals every night because one kid thinks she’s a vegetarian, the other is on a strict Paleo diet, and your wife will only eat food that’s orange.

…It’s creating elaborate sticker charts that reinforce “good” behavior but really, are just designed to make your life easier. Get daddy a beer from the fridge—get a sticker. Walk on daddy’s back—get a sticker. Mow the lawn but tell mommy that daddy mowed the lawn—get a sticker.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Riding your daughter’s pink scooter through the neighborhood all by yourself, so she can ride that same scooter home from school. Like a boss. Then googling “adult scooters” while you wait for your kids to get out of school because you had so much fun riding the pink scooter, but you’re a grown ass man, so you think you should have a scooter that’s suitable for a grown ass man. Something with skulls on it or naked lady mud flaps.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Getting a manicure on rain days while reading comic books and drinking a beer. #glitterfingers.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…Trying to figure out if I should get frustrated or be proud when my daughter signs her name for a school paper but gets distracted mid signature and spends five minutes turning the “i” into a pony.

Being a stay at home dad is…

…finding new places to hide the glitter glue, which is the bane of my existence. How do they keep finding the damn glitter glue?

Being a stay at home dad is NOT…

…a job. Don’t let anyone tell you taking care of the kids all day is a job. That’s bullshit. As far as I can tell, people get paid for jobs. I receive no monetary compensation for my hours of toil. Will I get a gold watch when my kids go to college? What’s the pension like? Do I get two weeks off every year? Hell no. Being a stay at home dad is work, but it’s not a job.

 

 

 

 

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Democracy in Action

Last Friday, we decided to take the kids to vote in this little thing called the Presidential Election. Typically, I like to vote on Election Day—hamming it up with the volunteers and seeing all the old people dressed to the nines to practice their constitutional right makes me fall in love with Democracy all over again. But standing in an hour-long line with two bored preschoolers is enough to make anyone hate democracy, so we decided to vote early. The line was short and the kids were really excited to witness democracy in action. I was actually surprised at how enthusiastic they were when I told them we were going to vote. They jumped up and down and clapped. It took me a good 15 minutes to realize they thought I was saying we were going to go “boat,” not “vote.” Their enthusiasm waned when we got to the polling center and there was no water or boats.

But we pressed on, determined to teach our kids why America is the greatest country in the world (because after a year of attack ads, scandals, predictions, and crazy punditry from Fox News, we get to release all of our pent up energy by filling out a tiny bubble on a scantron, casting our vote for the person we think should spend the next four years steering our great nation into what will likely be an End Of Days scenario, if the aforementioned crazy Fox pundits are correct. Oh, and by the way kids, your vote doesn’t really matter unless you live in Ohio). But I digress. Back to democracy.

I spent some time trying to explain to the kids how everyone in the country gets to cast their vote for elected officials. “Sort of like when I ask you what TV show you want to watch,” I explained. The metaphor fell flat because typically, I discount their votes for Barbie and just put on Phineas and Ferb because Phineas and Ferb is awesome and Barbie is not awesome.

The kids may not have a firm grasp of the democratic process, or understand what the President of the United States does, but they know how to doodle on pieces of paper. And that’s exactly what they did. They each took a ballot and drew shapes, scribbled their name, created elaborate treasure maps with volcanoes and crocodiles and mountains. My daughter spent a lot of time circling the face of Mitt Romney, which, I have to admit, made me a little nervous. It would be a hilarious cosmic joke if my wife and I turned out two little Alex P. Keatons.

In the end, wisdom prevailed. When I asked my son who he’s voting for, he said, “Cooper,” and wrote his big “C” on the ballot before turning it in. (Who among us hasn’t resisted the urge to write in your own name on that presidential ballot?). For a moment, I was in a daze, imagining a world where my 3.5-year old son Cooper was President. Imagine if you will, an America that follows the whims of an easily distracted preschooler (Insert George W. Bush joke here).

As for my daughter, when I asked her who she wants to be President of the United States, she told me straight up: Christmas Lights.

A house divided. But at least they voted.

Lie to Me: Five Lies I’m Proud of Telling My Kids

Parents lie to their children. That’s a fact of life. Some do it better than others, but we all do it. Could you imagine a world where parents were honest with their kids?

“Actually, Timmy, there’s a really, really good chance that you won’t be an astronaut. Considering your complete inability to understand long division, you’re probably going to sell cars when you grow up. Now let’s talk about Santa Claus.”

So we lie. Mostly about the little things. My parents were great at it. The most famous lie my parents ever told their kids happened during a move from Georgia to Texas. My parents told their kids that it was against the law to transport a dog across state lines.

Brilliant. The dog was a pain in the ass, they didn’t want to take him along. I understand this now, and it serves as inspiration for my own suite of lies that I rely on to get through the day.

The key to a good lie, is to lay the blame on a third party. For instance, let’s say you want your kid to wear a jacket. Tell him it’s an order from his pediatrician. “Dr. Love (our pediatrician) says you have to wear a jacket when it’s below 50 degrees. I’m sorry, son, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

We lay a lot of shit on Dr. Love. “Dr. Love says I’m not allowed to carry you on walks anymore. You have to walk on your own. I know, I think it sucks too. We should talk to Dr. Love about it the next time we see him.”

“Dr. Love says you’re big enough now to open the fridge and get daddy a beer…”

You see where I’m going with this. So, here are five lies I’m okay with telling my children.

1. Elmo is sad because you didn’t take a nap. (Simple, effective…no kid wants to disappoint Elmo. You can use that love to your advantage.)

2. Princesses always pick up their toys after they’re done playing. (I’ve never met a princess, but something tells me they don’t spend a lot of time cleaning up after themselves.)

3. Every time you flick the lights on and off, a fairy dies. (Harsh? Sure. But do my kids constantly flick the lights on and off, anymore? No.)

4. We have to leave this park right now, because there are killer bees. (This one works, but it comes with consequences. My kids are really scared of bees now.)

5. Mommy and daddy have a work meeting, that’s why we have to get a babysitter. (There is no work meeting. Mommy and daddy just need three hours of peace and quiet and a meal that doesn’t include french fries. Okay, even that was a lie. We’re totally ordering the french fries.)

So, parents, what are the best lies you tell your children? Or, what lies did your parents tell you as a kid?