Blake has been working a ridiculous amount lately – like 4 weeks straight, no days off, some were 24-hour days where he slept under his desk. He’s a chef at a college and with a new dining hall and the new school year just started so to say things have been crazy for him at work would be an understatement. So today he had the day off. With so many options for things to do on his day off, what does he do? Volunteers to take the boys to Atlanta for the day so that I could have the day to myself. Bless this man. I spent my day at Hobby Lobby, the hair salon and Publix (3 of my favorite places) and he spent the day at the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park playing in the water fountains. Pirates got into the aquarium today for free, so the boys were dressed for the occasion.
As Blake would say, he was “killin’ daddy daycare” all day. I would have to agree. The boys had fun, and they all returned home safe and sound. However, I did get a phone call to inform me that Brogan had gone missing for about 5 minutes at the aquarium. After alerting security of the runaway child, Blake, who was standing at the front to ensure Brogan did not leave the building, located our little guy. He was still running wild, oblivious to the fact that he had ever gone missing. Luckily, Blake waited until he found him before calling me, so I guess all is well that ends well. In addition to the classic Brogan runaway move, Blake got to deal with a skinned knee, a dirty diaper, getting peed on and extracting a bottle cap from our 15-month olds mouth. He handled it all like a pro and I am very proud! The day did necessitate a stop at the liquor store on their way home to pick up a 6-pack, but I can assure you those cold ones were well deserved.
So thank you honey for having daddy day care today, mommy really needed it!
This may be a shocker, but our three-year-old doesn’t like to do what we say. It’s not just that he doesn’t like what we have to say, or that he doesn’t want to do what we ask of him, the simple fact that it came out of our mouths makes it utterly unappealing. We’ve been observing this behavior pattern for a while. When it first started and was still “cute” we would mess with him and tell him not to do things that we really wanted to do. After a couple rounds of “don’t you play Joe Diffy!” to get him to sing and play his guitar in front of a crowd, my husband and I thought that this was not an act we wanted to encourage. So we backed away from the blatant oppositional requests. But then slowly, and unintentionally, we started agreeing with him on things that he suggested, and guess what… he no longer liked his own ideas! It was like our blessing on an idea was the kiss of death for him, like if mom and dad think this is a good idea, it must be no fun!
As most parents know, getting kids up and out the door in the morning can be a challenge. Some mornings, they just flat refuse to go. So my husband and I began agreeing when he starts up. The exchange goes something like this: Brogan says, “I don’t want to go!” we say, “Ok, then we’ll leave and you can stay here” [slowly walking toward the door] Brogan, “Nooooo!!!” Even something as minor as his snack selection: Brogan, “I want a cookie!” Me, “Great, a cookie sounds good!” Brogan, “No, maybe a banana.” Oh, the mind of a three-year-old.
So we’re trying to manipulate the manipulator without him thinking it’s a game. In some ways I’m trying to give him the independence to make his own decisions, all the while guiding him to make the decisions I think are best. Is this wrong?? Is this what all parents have been doing since the beginning of time, and I’m only now catching on?? As this technique has gained success, I’ve been testing it in scenarios that used to be very trying and it has worked like a charm. At bath time, Brogan tells me he doesn’t want to get out. So what do I do, I take Beckett out, dry him, dress him and tell Brogan he can stay. And what does Brogan do? Change his mind, pretty much instantly. It’s like when he realizes I’m not going to fight him on it, it has lost all of its fun and he might as well comply, because, let’s be real, the bath water is getting cold and he no longer has anyone to play with. “Mommy, I want out too!!”
I can’t decide if our plan is pure genius, or if we’re only days away from it blowing up in our face. One thing I’ve learned from having kids is that just as soon as you’ve settled into a routine, or think you’ve got them mastered, boom! They turn it upside down just to see if you can walk on the ceiling. So I guess we should get ready for the day when he outsmarts us, turns the table and calls our bluff. And then it will be back to the drawing board with the rest of the parent population.
So last night, after putting Brogan to bed, Blake tells me he has an idea. He smirks and gives me a look that means you’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but… he wants to take the boys camping in our backyard. My first question was if he just saw the Folgers commercial, to which he answered uh, no. Much to his surprise, I actually thought it was a great idea and I knew Brogan would love it! I immediately recused myself from participation (not that I’m sure I was even invited), since I really enjoy sleeping in my bed and was looking at this outing as a chance for a night off.
Now, you must know, we are not campers. I haven’t been camping since I was in college, and in the eight years that Blake and I have been together, he has not been camping either. We don’t have any of the gear (well, minus one sleeping bag that we acquired somewhere along the way). So this adventure was going to require a purchase or two (or three). Blake starts spouting off the things he’ll need to get – a tent, sleeping bags for the boys, stuff for smores, firewood and an air mattress (to which I gave him “the look” and told him he was inspiring a blog post!). Let me give you a little insight into Blake’s track history with big ideas. He gets really excited about an idea, and before I know it, he has jumped in with both feet and is typically spending too much money at Home Depot. Like the one time he called me at work and said, “hey, let’s start a garden”, and I said “sure”. And I got home to discover Blake had bought a tiller, already tilled up a 30’ x 15’ section of our backyard, fenced it with chicken wire and had the seeds of a dozen different veggies ready for us to plant. No lie. You have to admire his enthusiasm and motivation! Love him. So, in comparison, this short list for a fun time with our sons got my stamp of approval.
The big camping adventure was tonight. Blake got home from work, put up the tent, started a fire and we hung out roasting marshmallows and making smores. So much fun. Couldn’t quite relax, as my very clumsy little boys kept getting a little too close to the fire for my comfort, but all in all such a nice family night. Blake wanted to try having both boys sleep outside, but Beckett was having none of the tent! So this adventure will just be Brogan and daddy’s. Aside from one text to bring out a drink, it’s been pretty quiet out there. Not sure if they’ll make it all night, but I know regardless of if they do, Brogan will never forget it… and probably ask his dad to do it again every weekend. That little guy has a great memory and no shame in bugging the you-know-what out of someone. So glad we’ve established that daddy sleeps in tents, and mommy doesn’t.
Oh, and I’m happy to report that Blake opted out of the air mattress purchase (“the look” works everymost of the time).
We’re facing the age-old parenting dilemma – how do you effectively punish your children? How do you strike that balance between teaching them boundaries, respect and the difference between right and wrong, but at the same time, not make your home a no-fun zone where you are the dictator? Theoretically, we know what we’re supposed to do. You’ve got to be firm and consistent. Be loving and nurturing. We’ve been taught to count bad behavior – we’ve read 123 Magic – we’ve actually got the book and the DVD. But philosophical guidance does you no good when you are toe-to-toe with a three-year-old, and you are unwilling to let him win. It is the execution of these principles in the real world that is the hardest.
So the trend in our home is Brogan is pretty consistently disobedient. He is in trouble just about every night for one or more (or all) of the following: talking back, not listening, playing with his food, not getting ready for bath, splashing the bathwater, pushing his brother, taking his brother’s toys, crying, whining, screaming, not picking up his toys, not wanting to go to bed, and the list goes on. Typical three-year-old antics. So what do we do about it? We’ve tried counting to three leading to a time-out. The problem with this is that you can’t always do a time-out. If we’re in the car, it’s not feasible. If we’ve just gotten in the bath (and it’s just me and him and Beckett), it’s not feasible. If we just sat down for dinner, it’s not feasible (we’ve tried sending him to time-out during dinner, and this is a sure fire way to ensure he will not eat his dinner). So what are the other options? Taking things away! Brilliant! So we do this – we take his guitars, the stuffed animals on his bed, his tractor Youtube videos, doing fun things (park, pool) etc., etc. This bothers him more than time-out, so we feel like we’re making progress, except… the behavior doesn’t change. Ever. We keep going through the same routine, and he keeps misbehaving. He knows he’s doing it. He shows remorse. But it’s almost like he’s unable to stop the behavior pattern. And so here is my dilemma – are we setting him up for failure when we know he can’t behave? Is it wrong to say, “if you’re a good boy and pick up your toys, we can go to the pool” if, based on past behavior, I’m pretty certain he can’t complete the task at hand? Obviously there are those things that are never acceptable (hitting, for example), but are there some things that we need to let go of? Or do we ride him hard until one day (he may be 16), it just clicks and he listens? One of my biggest fears as a parent is contributing to the “wossification of America” by raising an entitled child who has been babied, has had excuses made for him and sheltered from natural consequences all his life. But I also don’t want to make all fun experiences contingent on him, at three, being obedient. How do you remain consistent without punishing for every indiscretion?
I know there is no right answer. It’s a shame you can’t just reason with them. Sit them down and say, “Hey, here’s the deal. If you do what I say and don’t throw a fit, don’t whine and don’t hit, you won’t have to go straight to bed. You can keep your stuffed animals and we’ll even go to the pool tomorrow!” and their response be “Thank you mommy for explaining it! That makes perfect sense! Of course I’ll be good!” Oh, if it were only that easy. But it’s not. So as parents, without a rulebook, or a handbook, or an instruction manual, we must figure out what in the heck will work for our kids – hoping that we find this magic potion before they’re grown and we’ve screwed them up. And the unfortunate fact is that we may never get it right. In the end, they are unique individuals with personalities; each with a different set of circumstances and needs. I guess all we can do is try our best to solve the riddle, to break the code, to guess the winning numbers. So I’m hopeful, yet realistic, about the prospect of getting this right. But I’m hoping the odds are in my favor.
Let me preface this post with a couple of statements. This is not meant to belittle the role of dads, or to say that dads don’t pull their weight. This is not a rant post or me complaining about all that I have to do. I am sure there are families where my theory does not apply. It is simply an observation of the roles within my home, as well as many of my friends’. But here goes. I realized soon after the birth of my first son that there is a distinct difference in the roles of moms and dads. Sure there are the stereotypical ones about moms being more nurturing and dads being more disciplinary, but this goes deeper.
They say raising kids is a full-time job. I think it’s more than that – to me, it’s like running a company. Your household is like a business, and it takes a similar amount of effort and maintenance to keep it running. And just like with any company, there has to be someone in charge – someone who takes ownership of the process and whose responsibility it is that everything is done. And that is the role of a mom. Sure the big decisions are made together, and the ultimate success of the household depends on teamwork, but the moms are the ones that keep the ship sailing.
My husband is an awesome father. He has been very involved with our boys from day one – I think he actually changed more diapers than me in the first couple of months with our first. We would take turns getting up in the middle of the night; when there was only one, he did all the baths. He has totally been a hands-on dad. But his role is more of a participant – he looks to me for what to do and when to do it. I pick what they’ll wear – he dresses them. I decide what they’ll eat and he feeds them. I set their routine, and he follows it to a tee; I make sure we have diapers on hand and he changes them. I go to bed at night thinking about what they need for the sitter’s the next day, but he gets them ready and out the door. I’m thinking about their next doctor’s appointment, but he will take time off work when they are sick. I worry that we’ll run out of milk – well, never mind, I do all the grocery shopping too :).
So what it boils down to is that most moms don’t do everything, they are just responsible for everything. They steer the ship. They worry about it all. They take the micro-management approach, feeling that if they aren’t involved it won’t get done. But here’s the thing. While it can be exhausting to carry this weight on our shoulders, would moms really want it any other way? I wouldn’t. If the roles were reversed, I would go crazy. Now this may have something to do with my Type A personality, but mostly I think moms are just wired to take charge of running their family. It’s not fair. It’s not equal. It’s just the reality.