Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Of course you can play with me, Daddy"

A simple sentence isn't it?

The more I think about my son saying that to me when ever I ask, I wonder how often I pass on the opportunity to play in order to clean, do dishes, send emails, or any other chore that is waiting for me.

I'm not sure about you, but I often forget that my children are just that. . . children. They love me for who I am unconditionally, no matter how many poor decisions I make. A kind word and they glow. A harsh word or loud voice will send my youngest children hiding behind my chair. Some nights, like last night, had the whole gambit of emotions. We rough housed, played games and sang songs, but we also had our emotional break down. . .

Our family has been sick off on and on for the last week and after battling it for the last week, I finally showed symptoms of it the last couple days. By the time I arrived home from work last night, I was physically and emotionally drained. I found a nice quiet home and decided to sit in a chair and my eldest daughter snuggled up beside me and it was pleasant.

Then I had the daily debrief and found that the day had been less than pleasant and that their was now an activity ban until behaviors have improved. Shocking news to me and I had been played by my daughter! She just wanted my comfort to hide from her mom! The frustration rose in me and as my wife and daughter argued about the events of the day which culminated in my daughter crying, storming out of the room, and slamming every door as she stomped to her bedroom.

In my head, I had two options at this point. Resolve the issue by screaming like a mad man or nail my daughters door shut permanently. Since I didn't want to damage the wood in the house, I decided to select the first. I yelled, preached about respect and how rude she was, and scared all of our kids by sounding like a mad man. As soon as I stopped, I wiped my hands clean asked my son to light saber and my wife was my daughters salvation. Simple.

Simply moronic.

I had the opportunity to play mediator and set learning examples. I could have been a voice of reason and a source for comfort to the entire family. Instead, I played the heavy. Why? I wasn't there during any part of the day. I didn't witness any interactions. I didn't witness any choices being made. Instead of turning the day into a teaching moment, I chose to play the Judge. It wasn't about me... I made it about me for no reason. My daughter looked to me for comfort, instead I turned into a beast.

I also modeled poor behavior that all three of our children learned. I yelled that she wasn't respctful . True enough, she wasn't. . . but I wasn't either. I instead left a permanent lesson stating "Do as I say, not as I do" that all of my children will remember. How can I, as an adult, justify my yelling and chasing after her? Should I fool myself in trying to justify it by saying I am correcting bad behavior by using bad behavior? Parenting is hard and tricky. We all want our kids to be stellar people and to have opportunities we never had. But I often find myself trying to force it on them rather than letting them grow into it and letting them live in the moment.

I need to remember that my children are just that. . . children. I forget that quite often. I am always preaching about "the real world" or "if I did that at work". ..

I need to make the daily decision to "Get over it". They don't need to grow up. They don't need to get ready for the "real world". They need to live, sing, play and to love life.

Me? I need to relax and learn to play nicely. I'll start by asking my children, they always find time for me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stay at Home Parents = Having it Easy?

My daily weekday ritual is simple.
Alarm goes off at 5:30 am, shower, dress, grab lunch and be driving by 6 am.
Drive for 45 minutes listening to an audio book, work till 4 pm, leave work, drive home for 45 minutes, dinner, family time, kids in bed by 8 pm, I'm in bed by 10pm. Simple, efficient and known.

I do have to admit that I often think how nice it would be to sleep in or stay home with the family. How nice it would be to not have to worry about the office and live the care free life that my wife and children lead. The world of playgroups, parties, game playing, music lessons, story time, math clubs. shopping adventures and chess clubs sounds like paradise!! Doesn't it? How lucky to be the parent and children!!! I want on board!

I can hear all of you stay at home parents and don't you worry. Every time the jealousy bug starts, a healthy dose of reality comes crashing down.

On Monday piano lessons were canceled because our middle child was having a breakdown and our youngest was screaming for bananas for over an hour. When I happened to call my wife she was at the grocery store to buy said bananas and learned the grocery shopping expedition was taking over three hours.

On Tuesday my wife had to cancel her yoga because the children were getting sick and when I arrived home the center our family room was covered in play dough. Literally. My wife was cleaning  and organizing four of our bookshelves in the family room and let them play with the play dough, so she could clean and get some work done.

Today (Wednesday) my wife after staying up most the night cleaning mucus and making sure the three of them could breathe and cleaning up vomit,is packing up our three children to bring them to the Pediatricians. She will spend the rest of the day caring for them, cleaning up after them, canceling all activities for the next couple days and trying to make the best of the situation.

Having been around when events are canceled, I know that trying to keep all three calm while breaking the news to them is difficult to say the least.

So what is my point?

It really isn't as easy as I'd like to think it is. Being able to be the stay at home parent certainly is priceless, but not nearly all the fun and games we'd like to pretend it is. Raising children is an art and requires the right person, a lot of hard work, and a whole lot more effort. Going to the office everyday I have the title of IT Director. It may be tiresome at times, but it doesn't compare to being the stay at home parent. My wife plays the roles of daycare, educator, nurse, personal assistant, farmer, chef, cleaning services, peapod, taxi, accountant, coach, tutor, psychologist, and playmate. Her title?? Mom.