Category Archives: Dad to Dad

Prepare now for Daylight Saving Time

On March 8th that semi-annual tradition of changing the clocks and royal screwing up our kids sleep patterns returns once again.

I will not be kicked in the ass by the time police this time around. I will not suffer endless struggles and fights with my kids to get them to bed at 8pm when their biological clock says it is only 7.

I will not put up with 2 weeks of hell as sleep deprived maniacs wreck vengeance on our sacred Mommy-Daddy evening time.

No, this year, we are being proactive and we have begun the transition.

We’re lucky. At 5 and 2 they don’t know how to tell time yet. And we are taking full advantage. Each night, bath begins a few minutes earlier than the night before. Sure, on March 7th they will go to bed at 7 o’clock, but on March 8th when we jump ahead one hour and 7 o’clock becomes 8, it should be seamless for our kids circadian clocks.

Well, that’s the theory anyway. Here’s hoping. In parent life, as you know all too well, things rarely work out as you plan. But we’re still going to give it a shot. If it works, wonderful. If not, well then,  there is always November 1st, when the insanity begins anew.

Flickr Image: Robot Clock by Jek in the Box under Creative Commons license.

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Man Twitters His Vasectomy

Kev Leitch is web developer, dad to 3, husband to 1, and an active Twitter user. Some may say a bit too active as last month,  Kev tweeted his vasectomy, live while it was happening.

Now, in some respects you kinda have to go whoa, that’s a line we don’t need to cross. But on the other hand, and from an educational standpoint, here is some firsthand experience from someone who has gone through it. For example, if you didn’t read tweets like:

‘let’s get out of here before anything else goes wrong’ jokes doc as he stitches Mr Righty. Ha ha ha

then you might be unexpectedly caught off guard when your medical team casually crack  a joke mid procedure. Or, as way my experience, begin to talk about how you are his last case before catching a flight to Mexico for his vacation. Dude, you have a laser and my testicles in your right hand – get back in the game! Every time my wife feels slightly nauseous I worry that my surgeon was already mentally lying on the beach in Cancun when he performed the procedure. But I digress…

Kev, here’s hoping that “Mr. Righty” is feeling better. Remember, frozen peas are your friend.

Dadventure now on Twitter

I’ve been playing with a dadventure Twitter account for the past few days. If you use Twitter and want to follow me here I am.

If you have no idea what Twitter is, it’s a microblogging service to send out short bursts (140 characters or less) of information to a network. In my other life I use Twitter quite a bit and find it is a really useful tool for quickly sharing information that often doesn’t fit in to a full length blog post.

This too shall pass

While I am not sure I would have refered to it as “Death Valley”,  John Boynton’s post Is My Marriage Solid? over at Dad-o-matic has been resonating with me since reading it last week.

In a nutshell, Boynton says that as we move through life a significant energy shift takes place for us Daddy types. As we age, our energy decreases – and as someone who has fallen asleep on more than one occasion reading bedtime stories to the kids I can personally attest to this – while at the same time the demands for that energy increase, usually in the form of young kids and increased job demands as we enter our prime wage earning years. When you have an increased demand for a decreasing product, something has got to give and what usually gives is our primary relationship with our spouse. It’s not that we fall out of love, but rather the relationship undergoes a major transformation in the middle years of our lives.

There are times when I get frustrated at not having enough time with my wife to be able to do all those things that first brought us together. But I hold out hope that someday that life will ease it’s way back. It will probably never be the same as it once was, but I suspect I will be okay with that because something richer will be there to take the place of that early love. Our relationship will be deeper knowing that together we survived this incredibly chaotic, roller coaster ride called parenthood.

In the words of Lou Reed, it’s the beginning of a great adventure; an adventure I am not on alone. And once I arrive at the next way-point, I know my partner will be right there with me ready to step off into the next great adventure.

Lighten up!

The Babycenter article I blogged about the other day about cultivating a sense of humor in your kids has got me thinking about adding levity into our lives.

I suspect that, like many other parents, my wife and I take the responsibility of raising our kids a little too seriously. We are both worriers, so much so that I think we occasionally lose the plot and don’t trust our instincts as much as we should.

Certainly, having small children is taxing, hard work, and some days it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed with the responsibility of shaping a life. I constantly worry that I might do or say the wrong thing and somehow damage my kids. I’ve always thought that taking care of a kids physical needs: feeding, changing diapers, cuddling, all that kind of stuff, is way easier and less intimidating than cultivating and nurturing an emotionally healthy kid. It’s pretty cut and dry. Kid hungry = feed kid. Dirty diaper = change it. No problem.

I need to lighten up, and apparently I am not the only one. Mary Morgan, the wife of noted Child Development expert and author Dr. Benjamin Spock (Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care: 8th Edition), has recently spoken out that parents today take parenting far too seriously. Says Morgan:

What we’ve done with experts in parenting is to tell people that they don’t know anything, and they have to rely on somebody that’s done this and done that. We undermine some of the greatest wisdom we’ve had handed to us: what we know intuitively. I’m not saying that the experts are wrong. I just think that this attitude has weakened the self-confidence of parents.

On one hand, there is a certain irony that Morgan speaks of there being an avalanche of information for parents when she and her husband are partly responsible for that avalanche. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care was one of the first mass media publications to address parenting. Yet, I can’t help but think she is right. Sometimes, there is so much information available to us that it is easy to “shut down” and feel more than slightly apprehensive about how we raise our kids. It seems that for each parental piece of advice there is an equal and opposite parental theory that is just as compelling.

Damn you, information age and your promise of infinite knowledge! Give me the good old days when I could live in ignorance about the long term health implications of too much television and let my kids sit for hours at a time in front of violent Bugs Bunny cartoons while stuffing their face with enriched Cocoa Puffs!

I guess the point of this rant is that I need to lighten up and realize I know more than I think I do. I need to stop worrying about always doing the right thing and accept that I will make mistakes. No one is, or can be, perfect. And those who strive for it are doomed to fail. I need to trust my instincts and realize that my kids will be fine in the end. As Dr. Spock himself says, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

My favorite Dad memory

Just ahead of Fathers Day this weekend, I wanted to post a tribute to my Dad. This is one of my favorite memories of my Dad.

The moment happens in the days pre-internet. Days when the fountain of family knowledge wasn’t a computer in the corner but the encyclopedia, vast volumes of information stored in 20+ odd books sold to my parents by some traveling salesman who passed through our small town.

As a 9 year old, I loved those books. I would spend hours flipping through them reading about the most obscure of topics. Jai-Alai what’s that? Coelacanth? Oh that is cool. They opened up the world to me and I contribute my Cliff Clavin Trivial Pursuit skills to the many hours I spent reading our encyclopedias.

In those days, full colour photos had to be printed on special paper, so all the colour photos would tend to be grouped together on special insert pages. One of these special photo inserts was 3 pages of colour photos devoted to classic and significant cars throughout the years.

One winter night, my Dad and I were sitting around the kitchen table and, as usual, I was reading an encyclopedia I had snagged at random from the set. It was the encyclopedia with the car photos. My Dad, being a bit of an old car buff, shuffled over beside me and asked what I was looking at. I showed him the photos. He pointed at one and said, “your Grandpa had this one. It had a push button transmission. Oh, and this car here has suicide doors.”

“What’s a suicide door?”

“A door that opens backwards.”

“What’s this car, Dad?”

And off we went. For the rest of the night, Dad and I sat at the kitchen table, me pointing at photos of cars in the encyclopedia and Dad telling me everything he knew about them.

And that is it. My Dad and me, sitting at the kitchen table talking about cars. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. But as the years have gone by, that memory and the significance of that time has stuck with me. It was my Dad spending time with me, passionately engaged with me.

It’s a moment that illustrates the primary rule of parenting – make time to be with your kids. Nothing we do as parents will have as much impact on our kids than the simple fact that we choose to spend our time with them. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. Just be there for them during those seemingly insignificant moments of the day.

I wish I could know what moments my kids will remember from their childhood, but, of course, I can’t. I don’t know what moments they will pick to remember when they are 40 and have kids of their own. But I do hope they will have a vast collection to choose from. And because of that, I hope they too will realize just how important it is to make the time to spend with their kids.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Fathers Day.

Rewarding good is easier than punishing bad

Recently my wife emailed me an article that said preschoolers respond well to charts and stickers as a means of positive reinforcement, so we’ve been giving it a try for the past 2 weeks and it seems to be paying off.

We have set up a simple system where The Girl gets a sticker when she does certain tasks. Full cooperation with her nightly routine (getting in and out of the bath, putting her pj’s on and brushing her teeth) earns her a sticker. Sleeping through the night in her own bed gets a sticker. If she does come down to our bed, crawling in quietly without waking anyone up also gets her a sticker. Fully cooperating with her morning routine (eating breakfast, picking clothes, getting dressed, etc.) also earns a sticker. Once she gets 10 stickers she gets a reward.

So far, we’ve done 2 rewards (a new bed for one of her dolls and a trip to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone). What we are planning to do for the rewards is write a bunch of them down on pieces of paper and stick them in a jar. Rewards run the gammut from the small like a package of gum or buying a piece of candy out of the vending machine after her swimming lessons, to medium rewards like getting a new book from the bookstore, to large like getting a new toy. To save our pocketbook (and to lower the risk of her expecting a big toy everytime she gets 10 stickers), we have way more small rewards than big. In fact, the buy a new toy is really the only big one. When she gets 10 stickers she can pick one from the jar.

It’s really amazing how much more cooperation we get with a bit of sugar than having to constantly bang our head against the wall and engage in a battle of wills to get the simple routine things done.

Bribery? Maybe so. But for the past 2 weeks we have had peace and cooperation in our house. And we have been laughing a heck of a lot more with each other than we had been in the previous month. And that, for all of us, is the real reward.

“When your child is the least loveable, he needs the most love.”

I love reading Dad blogs. It may sound obvious, but I don’t know how many times I have found like minded people struggling with, or who have struggled through, the same issues I am dealing with. This week, two blog posts really hit home for me.

We have been having such a struggle with The Girl lately. Everyday seems to end up in tears for someone in this family, and she is usually the unlucky recipient. Both Mom and I have been short with her, and our tempers flair pretty easily.

I won’t dwell on the details, but suffice to say she is going through some stuff. Probably not unlike most of the stuff a 3 1/2 year old with a new sibling goes through, but we can’t help to think that she is more sensitive to the world around her, and as a result her reactions to things are more intense.

I was so happy to read I have highly sensitive Okapis at Two Okapis. So much of that piece sounds like us right now, and he helped give our sensitive child theory some context as part of the piece deals with some research and theories about highly sensitive people.

High sensitivity really comes from a highly attuned nervous system. The best example I read was that when an average child walks into a room they see the room, the people and maybe the furniture. But when a highly sensitive child walks into the same room, they notice the people, the room and the furniture, but they also notice the details of the room, the mood of the room, the mood and feelings of all of the people and it can be overwhelming. It is why they might be afraid of large groups or feel “shy.” It is likely they are not shy as much as overwhelmed by all of the stimuli they have been receiving.

That is The Girl.

One recent concrete example of this perceptiveness happened last weekend. We went to watch her cousin play rugby and, somehow through all the scrums and flying body parts, from high atop the viewing stands, The Girl notices one of the girls on the field wearing a yellow Lance Armstrong bracelet. It took me a few moments to find it. I couldn’t see anything. Somehow she managed to zoom in on this minute detail. She is like that and, like Two Okapis, I sometimes forget that. The Girl experiences life at a higher level of detail than most and that in itself has to be overwhelming. I need to cut her some more slack.

The second post was from Paul Abra over the the Island Parent blog, who reminded me that:

On occasion we, as parents, find ourselves exasperated with the behaviour of our sons or daughters. During a temper tantrum in a store or being mean to a sibling. Whatever the situation, however “rotten” the behaviour, we must somehow overcome our frustration or anger and show our unconditional love for the child. Often when we’re dealing with difficult children, they and we lose the sight of the fact that we love them.

Too true. Thanks Dad bloggers. You guys really help me keep it all in perspective.

We interupt this blog for a juice break

Looks like my plea for more free swag to review paid off!

Dan at TrueBlue Blueberry Juice fired off some free samples to us. We got it, chilled it up and slurped it back in a couple of days. Verdict from all of us? Super yummy.

One of the blend varieties Dan sent us was a Blueberry/Blackberry blend that was a real hit. We’re Blackberry pickers, and spend a few days each August picking and freezing the berries. My wife’s hoarding tendencies actually turn her into a bit of a crack the whip berry bitch each August, but I digress. Getting the blackberry blend was a nice bonus.

My wife is kicking around a summer cocktail idea with it…vodka, crushed ice and the blackberry/blueberry juice. She calls it a Black n’ Blue. There are a few recipes on their website that look quite tasty, including this Blueberry Savoury Vinaigrette that would be great on a summer salad.

The only downside is that the juice has added sugar – cane sugar, mind you, but still added sugar. We’ve been very careful about giving sugar fruit juices to the girl. At 3, she has enough manic energy without having to give an extra dose of sugar in her drinks. But we cut her juice with water, so that helps.

If you want to try it, you can download a $1 off coupon from their website.

Now, I’m just hoping someone from DIRECTV reads this, realizes I can give them a free plug to 12 readers and decides to send me a demo of this so I can watch these guys while sitting on the beach. With a Black n’ Blue in my hand, natch.

Books, books, everywhere the books

Dad blogs are becoming the place for publishers to promote the new wave of Dad books that seem to be cropping up these days like spring tulips. I’m not complaining, send em on in (and any other free stuff you product promoters happen to have lying around). I only wish I had the time to actually read this stuff.

I, like Daddy Forever, am the proud owner of a new promo copy of Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life by Jim Lindberg of Pennywise. Really, when you are a punk and have lived the full punk life, what could be more punk to your circle of conformity rejecting anarchist friends than, uh, settling down and having kids.

Also sent to me recently is Fat, Forty, Fired, a book that has been nicely reviewed by Ben Murphy at The Father Life (who also did an interview with the author Nigel Marsh).

To round out the trilogy of promo books is the unfortunately titled The Dangerous Book for Boys. This is a very interesting book that, as a young lad, would have kept me occupied for hours with it’s how to instructions on creating invisible ink, knot tying, and building a tree house.

However, I have a real beef with book (here’s were the unfortunate title part comes in). As the father of a daughter, I can’t help but feel defensive that this book is so obvious in it’s “boys only” stance. I realize that book publishers have to come up with a catchy title to engage their target audience immediately, but girls can’t build tree forts, tie knots and delve into the finer points of baseball trivia?

Mind you, the subject matter of the book hearkens back to a bygone era when young scalawags whiled away a lazy afternoon building rafts and floating down the ol’ Mississip’ while using their secret decoder rings to decipher Navajo code, so it shouldn’t surprise me that the sign on this fort clearly says “No Girls Allowed!”

While we are on the subject of books, my good friend Paul Abra at the Island Parent blog has recommended a couple of fine books for parents dealing with teens. If you are a parent of a teen and navigating the murky waters of risky behaviour, check out his recommendations.