I Try

When they’re young, how do our children see us? When I look at my kids, I am in awe of the love that I feel emanating back from them. When you think about it, we are their world. They look at us for guidance and leadership. They trust that we will never let them down or hurt them in anyway. When I see the love in their eyes, I’m in awe. It’s a feeling that you can actually sense radiating from them. The term “unconditional love” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I have no idea what to call the way that they must see us, but that’s ok. I think a label would only cheapen it anyway.

Every day, I’m amazed by their love. When they wake up in the morning, the first thing they want to do is crawl into our laps and cuddle. When we leave to run some errands, they always want to go with. Even when we have to punish them, they don’t hold a grudge. Within 30 minutes, they are back. They want to play Candy Land with us not because they like the game, but because they want to play with us. They want us to be down on the floor and in their world. As much as we may want them to play by themselves for an hour, all they want is to be next to us.

Think about that for a minute. Think about the love that small person has for you. They don’t love you because of how you look or what you drive. They don’t care about what kind of car you drive or if your hair is grey. They simply love you because you are thier parent. That’s it!

Think about the trust. They don’t care how many mistakes you’ve made. They don’t know how many times you’ve failed over the years. They know, without a doubt, that you will do the right thing. They believe, to their core, that you will take care of them.

Wow… How do you live up to that? How do you even come close to being the person that they think you are? How do you become infallible? How do you pick that child up, look him or her in the eye, and say, “Yes, I am your daddy.” How…

If you’ve read this far thinking that I have the answer, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m just like everybody else. I’ve failed many times. I have made plenty of mistakes. I haven’t always been a good person. I’m as lost as you are. I can only tell you what I do.

I try

I try to be the person that they think I am. I try to be a good enough father to deserve that love that they show. I try to earn that trust that they give me. What else can I do? There’s no magical elixer that will make me a good father. It’s hard work, and it’s often painful.

I still make mistakes all the time. There’s no way that I am the person that they think I am, but I’m trying. I doubt that I will ever become that great, but hopefully, I’m a little bit closer today than I was yesterday. Maybe, I’ll be even closer tomorrow, or maybe there will be a set back. Either way, I have to keep trying.

After all, what else can a guy do….

Changing My Default Setting

Sometimes, I find that I need to change my default setting. I’m not necessarily talking about computer programs or the speed dial on my phone. I’m talking more about my attitude and the way I interact with the kids. Every so often, I’ll find that my default response gets stuck on “NO.”

Sometimes, I can trace the events of the day that led to the situation. Maybe there was a rough day at work. Maybe I didn’t sleep overly well the night before. Maybe the kids had been running me ragged all day, and I just didn’t have anything left. Other times, it’s more of a surprise. Either way, I’ll find myself responding to every question that the kids ask with “NO.”

To be fair, that’s the correct answer for a large percentage of the questions. When Princess comes up and asks if she can jump off her bunkbed into a pile of pillows, the answer should be negative. When she asks me if she can paint, however, the question at least should be considered. Unfortunately, when my response gets stuck, I’ll usually say no before she’s even done asking the question.

There are times when the answer should absolutely be “YES.” I’ve had times where Little Dude asked if he could help me unload the dishwasher and told him no without even thinking. Princess might ask me if she can go read a book, and I’ll say no. Afterwards, I’ll look back and think, “What was that??? I just told my son that he can’t help me do the dishes and my daughter that she can’t read a book. Why on earth would I say that?” Then, I realize that my default response has gotten stuck again.

At that point, I’ll try to stop and reconsider things. I’ll realize that I’m putting the kids into a position where they are bound to get into trouble. If I forbid them from doing anything, they’re going to get bored and find something to do. By eliminating all of their normal options, I’m driving them towards unusual situations. That’s definitely not setting them up for success.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I should have my default setting switched to “YES” either. That can be just as bad. If Little Dude asks me if he can chase the dogs with his toy sword (very much in the realm of possibility), the answer should absolutely be no. If Princess asks if she can color on the wall (also very possible), she should be discouraged.

I need to keep my default response set to “Let me think about it.” That’s fairly safe. Maybe there are times when painting a picture isn’t a good idea. If we have company coming over and don’t want a mess, for example. There may be other times when it’s perfectly acceptable. It might be a little work to get everything set up, but that work may result in a kid that is totally entertained for the next 2 hours. It may actually take me longer to unload the dishwasher with a 3 year old helping me, but there are some valuable lessons contained in that process. It would be absolutely worth the extra time and there would even be some bonding in there.

Next time that you’ve had a long day, and you find yourself dismissing every question that your kids ask, try to stop and think for a second. Are you answering no because that’s what the answer should be, or is your default setting stuck again? It might be worth the effort to stop, take a deep breath, and reassess things. I’m not saying that it’s time to start allowing everything, but the night may go a lot smoother if you simply take a second to say, “Let me think about it.” Maybe the answer is still no, but maybe you’ll realize that they are trying to do something completely innocent. Maybe, by answering yes, you’re entire night can get turned around.

The Best Remedy

I had a rough day at work this week. It was one of those days that when my wife asked me if I wanted to talk about it, my response was, “Not in front of the kids.” In the grand scheme of things, it was nothing major, but it upset me nonetheless. I also rode the bus home that day, so I had about an hour or stewing in my own anger before I opened the front door.

I got home and went into the kitchen area to put my lunch container in the sink. My wife was helping our daughter with her homework, so I decided not to bother them at the moment. Instead I went to the living room and sat down on the couch. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Maybe I would read a book. Maybe I would fire up the Playstation. Maybe I would just sit there and stare at the ceiling. Before I could really figure it out, I heard a knock come from the door. This is fairly unusual, so I checked to make sure that the kids were out of the room and then assumed the “chest puffed out, I will protect this house” stance. When I opened the door, however, there was no one there. Then I heard the knock again and realized it was coming from the bathroom which is on the other side of the wall right by the door.

It turns out that my mom was giving my 2 year old son a bath. He heard me come home and wanted to show me something. I walked in, and he flashed me his cloud-clearing smile and asked me to come closer. I knew he was up to something, but I couldn’t resist that smile. I got down on my knees and leaned in close. In that cute way that only 2 year olds can, he completely forgot what he was going to do. He just looked at me with a slightly puzzled look on his face. Then, my mom gave him a clue. “Squirt him with your fish!” The big smile came back, and out of nowhere, he brought a bath toy fish and squirted me full in the face with water.

I pretended that I was astonished by what just happened which brought out the trademark Little Dude giggle. Then, he said, “Daddy, come here closer.”

I told him, “No, you’re just going to squirt me again.”

With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “No, I need tell you somefing.”

I knew what was coming, but I leaned in anyway. Once again, the fish flies out and sprays me right in the face. We played this game a few more times until me and my mom were both pretty soaked. By the time I left the bathroom, I had to go change my shirt and wipe my face off. I did all of this with a smile on my face though.

I was still upset later on when I told my wife about work, and I still had to deal with it the next day, but for a good chunk of time, none of that mattered. Our son had managed to turn my mood around in less than 30 seconds. It’s moments like this that make you realize how awesome it is to be a father. There’s nothing like it, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

A Parenting Success Story

This fatherhood thing is hard. It’s mostly trial and error, and it tends to be more error than trial. You do your best, stay up all night thinking about it, and then try it again the next day. You work hard to do the right thing and raise your kids to be good people. You make a lot of mistakes along the way, but that’s what parenting is all about. Every once in awhile, however, you try something, and it actually works. It’s like taking 12 shots to get to the green and then sinking an 85 foot putt. You just stare at it and wonder how you got everything right this time. It makes all of your hard work worth it. I recently had an 85 foot putt, and I would like to share it with you.

Our son is 2 years old, and he certainly has an attitude to match. Like most 2 year olds, he doesn’t like to hear “no.” He is normally a terrific kid, but he has a scream that can shatter glass and eardrums, and he likes to use it when he doesn’t get his way. He also makes spitting noises when he doesn’t want to listen to you. Because he’s so young, I don’t expect him to be happy when things don’t go his way. He’s not old enough to realize that there are reasons we tell him “no.” I did, however, very much want the screaming and spitting to stop.

We had tried quite a few things with little success. Timeouts don’t work, and it doesn’t make sense to yell at him to stop yelling. If we put him in his room, he’ll just wait until we shut the door and then start playing. That certainly doesn’t seem like much of a punishment, and it’s definitely not reinforcing good behavior.

Then, I decided to try something slightly different. Every time he would scream or spit, I picked him up and carried him into his bedroom. I laid him down in his bed and then shut the door while I stayed in the room. I sat down on the floor and simply stared at the wall. Since I stayed in the room, he wasn’t able to get up and play. If he got out of bed, I picked him up and laid him back down.

Once he realized that he couldn’t get out of bed, he started with his normal reactions. He would scream at the top of his lungs and make spitting noises at me. I just kept staring straight ahead. I didn’t flinch or acknowledge his actions in anyway. At first, he would keep going for 5-10 minutes. I would sit there during the entire time and just look at the wall. I always made sure that I could see him in my peripheral vision in case he tried to kick the wall or hurt himself in any way.

After a while, he realized that screaming and spitting wasn’t going to get him what he wanted. He stopped, and immediately said, “I’m sorry, daddy.” As soon as he said that, I picked him up and gave him a huge hug and explained the situation to him. If he screamed or spit at anyone else, I also ask him to go apologize to that person.

This process went on for a couple weeks. Every time we played the game, it would get a little shorter. 5-10 minutes of screaming turned into 1-2 minutes and an apology. That turned into 30 seconds. Pretty soon, he would say that he was sorry as soon as I laid him down. Next, he started apologizing as soon as I picked him up. Once he realized that screaming or spitting wasn’t going to get any reaction from me, good or bad, he changed his behavior.

Over the past week or so, there have actually been numerous instances where he normally would have turned and unleashed his voice. You can actually see the thought process take place in his eyes. Instead of screaming or spitting, he just turns and walks away. He’s still not happy with the situation, but he’s doing a better job of expressing himself.

Did I just turn our son into a fully functioning member of society? Absolutely not. It was a small victory though. It’s made me realize that maybe I can do this fatherhood thing after all. It certainly wasn’t the most fun experience, but it worked. Now, if I could just get our daughter to listen to us…

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Sometimes, in order to be a good parent, you have to step outside your comfort zone. What works best for you may not actually be the best solution for the little ones, and in the grand scheme of things, their needs trump yours. You have to adapt and overcome. Mealtimes in our house are a good example of this.

We decided early on that we were going to place a high value on family meals. We always try to sit around the dinner table and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a good way to make sure that we’re connected with each other for at least part of the day, and it’s also helps teach the kids good manners. Every once in a while, we will order pizza and then sit in the living room while watching a movie, but we try to reserve that for special occasions and rewards.

We also want everyone to eat their meal. In order to facilitate this, we try to limit snacks throughout the day. That way the kids are hungry when meals roll around, and they eat what we put on their plate.

This works fine with our daughter. She’s always been big for her age and a healthy eater. As long as she likes the food (and there’s very few things that she doesn’t like), she will sit down for dinner and eat like a champ. Since she is our older child, we have become very comfortable with this routine over the years, and it works great.

Our son, on the other hand, is different. In some ways, he’s the polar opposite of his sister. While she has always hovered around the 95th percentile as far as height and weight, he dropped off the bottom of the chart when he was about 9 months old and has never been able to get back on it. He’s perfectly healthy in every way, but he’s just small. He also doesn’t eat as well as his sister. He’s more of a grazer than anything else. He doesn’t like to sit down and eat a lot at one time. He would much rather just keep eating small amounts throughout the day.

Obviously, this doesn’t fit into our plan very well. We’re very reluctant to give him a snack at 4:30 when dinner is only an hour away? How is he going to eat his meal if he’s been shoving trail mix in his mouth all day. Therefore, we just maintained the norm. For him, however, hunger doesn’t have much to do with his desire to eat. He could be starving, and he still wouldn’t eat everything on his plate at dinner. Since he’s such an active child, some days became a battle to ensure that calories in were greater than calories out.

Last November, my mother moved in with us. As I knew from growing up, she’s not against snacking throughout the day, and family meals are great, but they’re not a necessity. She doesn’t mind giving Little Dude a cup of raisins 45 minutes before lunch or giving him a cheese stick whenever he asks for one. At first, this made my wife and I fairly uncomfortable. In fact, I’m still not sure that we’re completely cool with it, but it appears to be working.

November was also the last time that we measured Little Dude against the wall. In the 3 months since then, he has grown about an inch and a half. That’s a huge leap for him, and it marks the largest growth spurt since he was born.

It just shows you that your way isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. While we enforced the family meals and limited snacks with the best intentions, it wasn’t working for Little Dude. It took Military Gramma moving in with us to break us from our comfort zone and find a better solution. Sometimes, you just have adjust your way of thinking if you’re going to be the best father that you can.

Why Do They Like Me?

There are times when I honestly can’t figure out why my kids like me. Sometimes, when I reflect back on the day, it seems like all I did was tell them what to do and then punish them if it wasn’t done. When I try to look at myself through their eyes, all I see is a 15 foot tall, yelling monster. When I think about that, it’s impossible to like myself, much less see how anyone else could.

I hate punishing the kids, but I don’t shy away from it. I would love to be their best friend. Since I’m in the Navy and tend to spend large chunks of time away from home, I would love to be the “fun parent.” I would love to just let things slide, so everyone would be happy all the time when I am home. The problem is that I’m not their friend. I’m their father, and I have responsibilities. If I were to ignore those responsibilities, it would be horribly unfair to my wife in the short-term and the kids in the future.

We have rules in our house, and they are in place for a reason. If you break those rules, there are consequences. In our house, rule breakers are sentenced to time-outs and loss of privileges. In some cases, I have to raise my voice. My voice was genetically engineered for ships’ engine rooms. It’s deep, it’s loud, and it carries. I will sometimes scare myself when I yell. If I were to hear my voice coming from somebody that towered over me, I would legitimately be terrified. I have to assume that the kids are, and it breaks my heart.

Sometimes, I’m probably too strict with the rules. There are instances where I could let things slide, and no harm would be done. Sometimes, I get too worked up about small infractions. This is especially true when I’m dealing with my son who knows just how to push my buttons and isn’t afraid to do it. Sometimes, I feel like a tyrant that rules through fear. How could the kids look at that and feel any sort of positive emotion.

Despite all of this, the kids don’t just like me, they love me. They don’t just love me, they absolutely adore me. I look into their eyes, and I see a form of worship that I could never deserve. When I get home from work, they are actually ecstatic to see me. I can’t leave the house in the morning without giving each of them at least 25 hugs and kisses. When they get hurt, they come to me to be comforted. It defies logic.

I’ve discussed this with my wife before. When I told her that I don’t understand why they like me, her answer was simply, “You’re their daddy,” but it has to be something more than that. That reason just isn’t enough for me. There has to be something more. I do play with them. I get on the floor and let them crawl all over me. I read them books when I have the energy and watch movies with them when I don’t. When I stack all of these things up against the sight of me raising my voice, however, it just doesn’t level out. The scales have to still be tipped towards horrifying tyrant.

I’ve thought about this conundrum from every possible angle. Surely, there has to be some clue that will unravel this entire mystery. There has to be an undiscovered fundamental law of the universe that would explain the situation. As I continue to ponder it, there’s only one possible explanation. My wife is right. They really do love me simply because I am their daddy.

That’s an incredibly humbling thought. They love me, unconditionally, for no other reason than I am their father. That is an amazing responsibility. How can anyone possibly live up to that? When I look into those eyes, and I see that love, all I can think is, “I don’t deserve it.”

It just reinforces what I already knew. Fatherhood is one of the most sacred duties on the planet. I probably don’t deserve that adoration that they give me, and maybe I never will. I’m certainly going to try though. When faced with unreal expectations, the only course of action is to try to achieve them. When you realize that your children love you without question, you have to try to be the best father you can and try to earn that love. Unfortunately, part of that is enforcing the rules. Part of that is telling them they’ve done something wrong and teaching them to not do it anymore. Part of that is raising your voice and then questioning yourself long after everyone else has gone to bed.

Living up to that level of love is impossible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Let the Kids Help

My biggest shortcoming as a Naval officer is definitely my ability (or lack thereof) to delegate. I would much rather just do the job myself and make sure it’s done correctly than take the time to train someone else and then check their work afterwards. This is something that I try to work on, but (as with anything worth doing), it’s not easy. As I gain rank and responsibility, however, it’s going to become critical for my sanity.

I sincerely wished that this fault only extended towards my career. Unfortunately, it seems to apply to the kids as well. If I can get the dishes done in 15 minutes, why should I let the kids help when I usually end up redoing their work and it takes me twice as long? If I’m cleaning up the back yard, do you realize how much time I will have to spend cleaning them afterwards? When they help vacuum, they inevitably get in the way or run over the dog. It just seems to be more trouble than it’s actually worth. Of course, it seems that way because I don’t actually realize what that worth is. There are three great reasons to let the kids help out around the house.

The first reason is that they actually want to help. How refreshing is that? They want to help you unload the washing machine and put together the new bookcase. I have to imagine that this particular attitude isn’t going to last forever. It’s probably a good idea to take advantage of it while we can.

The second reason is that it does teach them how to do things. Maybe loading the dishwasher isn’t necessarily the most crucial life skill, but it’s certainly something that will come in handy. It’s much better to teach them these things when they actually want to learn.

The third reason is that if they’re helping you, they’re not doing something that they shouldn’t. They are right there beside you the entire time. If they’re helping you get the cord out of the vacuum because they managed to run it over for the third time, they’re definitely not trying to break into your medicine chest.

I’ll use the one instance where I actually succeed with this subject as an example. The favorite meal in our house is when I make chicken fried steaks. Since we don’t eat red meat, I use pork cutlets, and everyone loves it. This is the meal that our daughter actually requests for her birthday. Making the meal has turned into a family affair where both kids get to help.

There’s three stages to the breading process. First, the cutlet is coated with flour. Then, it’s dropped in an egg wash. Finally, it is coated with a flour/corn meal/seasoning mixture. We set up a sort of assembly line process. Our son (2 y/o) will take the meat and put it in the flour, flipping it to make sure that both sides are coated. He’ll then drop it in the egg wash. From there, our daughter (5 y/o) will take the pork and coat it in the final mixture. I’ll then take it and start cooking it up.

Does this process take about twice as long as it would if I did it by myself? Absolutely. You have to be pretty watchful since there’s raw pork and eggs involved, and cleaning 18 layers of flour, corn meal, and paprika of their hands is always a challenge. It’s worth it though. The kids have a great time. They are helping out, and they’re learning a little bit about cooking. Best of all, they are exactly where I can see them, and they’re not doing something crazy like trying to complete the perfect bunk bed swan dive. It’s a lot of fun, and as an added bonus, they actually like dinner more because they helped to make it.

If only I could make myself be this patient and understanding with everything else.

My Secret Weapon

Being a parent is exhausting whether you’re a single, stay-at-home/work-at-home, or working parent. As one of the latter, I’m usually tired before I get home. I’m normally awake around 5:15 and out the door by 6:00. I’m currently on shore duty, and while my current job isn’t necessarily difficult, it is still taxing in it’s own ways. I drive to work about half the time which involves about an hour round-trip on the San Diego freeways. The rest of the time, I ride the bus which is much more relaxing, but takes about twice as long. I’m normally fairly tired by the time I get home.

Most days, I get a second wind as I walk through the door. Whether it’s from the joy of seeing the kids, or their ridiculous amount of energy rubs off on me, I’ll usually feel pretty rejuvenated for about an hour or so. Of course, adults aren’t built to operate at the levels of a 2 year old, so I quickly wear back down. This is when I am sometimes forced to break out my secret fatherhood weapon.

Before, I go into this, I need to make sure that every reader has gone through a thorough background check. This weapon can’t be taken lightly, and it comes with great responsibility? Background checks complete? Then, let’s go.

This is a weapon that is so powerful and so brilliant in its simplicity that it should be illegal in 49 states (nothing is illegal in Nevada). It has the ability to turn a situation where the kids are going crazy and you have no control into a situation where the kids are still going crazy but you have a slight amount of control. For those of you without kids, that probably doesn’t seem like much of a change, but ask the nearest parent, and you’ll realize how valuable that can be.

My secret weapon is incredibly simple. There is no assembly required and no moving parts. It’s incredibly inexpensive. In fact, it’s absolutely free. There are only 3 pieces required. You need to have at least 1 child with energy levels that could power a small island, 1 exhausted father that can no longer keep up, and 1 relatively soft surface.

There is only 1 real instruction for how to operate the weapon. Take the 1 exhausted father and put him in a horizontal position on the relatively soft surface. The rest will take care of itself. Now, some of you are probably saying, “Hang on, I take naps all the time, and it doesn’t solve anything. It just makes my significant other upset and the kids continue on as they always were.” Well, there’s a slight twist, and it does not involve you actually taking a nap (as tempting as it may be). The kicker is that the relatively soft surface needs to be on the floor in an area where the kids like to play. I call my secret weapon the “Simplylieonthefloor-inator” (I watch way too much Phineas and Ferb), and here’s how it works.

Step 1: You lie down on the floor.

Step 2: The kid(s) notice that you are comfortably resting on the floor.

Step 3: The kid(s) decide that this will not stand.

Step 4: The kid(s) begin playing in your immediate vicinity, and in most cases, directly on top of you.

This may not seem worthy of true “-inator” status, but think about it. You are doing absolutely nothing. You can even think about it as pacing yourself or replenishing your tank. In the mean time, you know exactly where the kids are and what they are doing because it is happening directly on your spine. Trust me when I say that there is no way kids can resist a parent lying on the floor. It’s like a snot magnet. They will show up every time. You are also bonding with your kids in a wierd, twisted way. Are you actually talking to them? Not necessarily, although you’re always welcome to. You are, however, connecting with them because you’re at their level and in their vicinity. You are expending absolutely zero calories, but your kids are loving it. They are climbing all over one of their heroes. How is that not awesome?

Now, there are a few guidelines that you should follow when using this weapon. First, I cannot stress “relatively soft surface” enough. When flying toddler butt meets exhausted dad head, you don’t want your cranium supported by granite tiles. It might quickly sour you on the Simplylieonthefloor-inator.

Location is also important. When deciding on your relatively soft surface, you want to go through a mental check list. Is the surface soft (Seriously! Make sure it’s soft!)? Check! Will the kids be able to find me and safely play in the area? Check! Is it clear of any hazardous objects like dirty laundry and litter boxes? Check!

Be advised that a small pain threshold is also recommended. Knees will meet ears, elbows will meet spleens, and feet will meet…basically everything. Personally, I like to lie on my stomach because it covers most of the really vulnerable spots. If you work it out right, it can also be beneficial for your health. Do you have back problems? This can turn into a horribly uncoordinated and pretty inefficient massage. That’s better than nothing.

One of the problems with this weapon is that it is so secret even I forget to use it. I’ll come home exhausted and decide that putting a movie on is the best option. In general, I’m not against TV, and I think it provides valuable bonding experiences of its own, but for my money, the Simplylieonthefloor-inator is far superior.

In all seriousness, simply lying on the floor is one of the best things that you can do as a father. The kids absolutely love it, and you are able to bond with them. There have been times where I have gotten down there and not moved at all. There have been other times where my energy has magically returned, and I turned into a horsey. There was also one time where I chose my spot poorly and picked a location where our barely house-trained dog had an accident that we didn’t know about, but hopefully, that won’t be a problem for you.

In closing, there’s a phrase that I used to use pretty often but have forgotten about lately that pretty much sums up my parenting strategy. When all else fails, simply lie on the floor.

Friend vs. Parent

I hate disciplining our kids. I absolutely despise having to yell at them, and it normally ruins my entire night. I’ll kick myself for letting the situation get that far, and I’ll lie awake at night questioning my methods. If you ever heard your parents say, “This is hurting me more than it’s hurting you,” you probably thought, “Yeah right.” It turns out that they were telling the truth the entire time.

I would much rather just let them have their way. I would rather say, “Sure, they might not be listening, but they sure are having fun climbing over the back of the sofa.” Instead of fighting them to go to bed every night, I’d like to just let them stay up until they fell asleep watching movies. When they ask me if they can watch an entire Phineas and Ferb marathon, I would love to say yes. These are all things that I want to do because it would make the kids happy, which makes them smile. Every parent just wants to see their kid smile. If I were a good friend to them, that’s what I would do.

Alas, I’m not their friend. I’m their father. While those two roles are allowed to intersect at certain points, they are not the same thing. While I love making my kids happy and granting their wishes, those are not my primary responsibilities. More than anything else, my job is to help ensure that they become good human beings and, in some extreme cases, simply survive the day.

Climbing over the back of the couch is awesome fun, and to be honest, I would love to join them. Our floors are granite, however, and in the battle of granite and skull, those tiles are going to win every time. They need to be told to stop.

I know they don’t want to go to bed. They’re young enough that everything is new and exciting, and they don’t want to miss any of it. I understand, and I’m sorry that it makes them sad (or, in my son’s case, mad). If we stayed up until midnight playing Candy Land, they would eventually fall asleep on their own anyway, so what’s the issue? They need to sleep. It helps them grow, and the body needs time to repair and recharge itself. Therefore, the nightly struggle has to take place.

I’m always fighting the war when it comes to parent vs. friend. There is a fine line that you have to walk. Your kids have to understand that you will keep them on the right track when it comes to right and wrong and add discipline as necessary. On the flipside, they need to know that they can talk to you about anything. It’s a balancing act that circus performers would be proud of.

As with most things, the easy way isn’t necessarily the best way. It’s easy to let your kids play in the trash and chase each other with forks. It’s hard to make them stop. It’s difficult to discipline, and it’s incredibly difficult to enforce the same rules consistently.

The bottom line is that being a parent is one of the most sacred duties that exists. We are shaping the futures of actual human beings and not taking that responsibility seriously can have drastic results. As much as my kids want me to be their best friend, they need me to be their father.

The Revolution Grows

I’m Military Dad, and I have officially joined the Revolution. I have written guest posts here before, and I have now been asked to become a full contributor on this incredibly valuable site. It’s an amazing honor and quite humbling for a blogger as small time as myself to digitally work alongside such huge names in this field like The DaddyYo Dude, NewYorkDad, DaDa Rocks, and the rest of the distinguished cast here. It’s a special kind of awesomeness, and I am grateful.

I think it’s important to establish what Dad Revolution means to me. There are a lot of group blogs out there that deal with fatherhood, and they’re all great. They are all slightly different in what they stress, and there is an amazing group of bloggers that keep them populated. When I read the articles on Dad Revolution, there is one central concept that always stands out and speaks to me personally: do the right thing when it comes to fatherhood.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always obvious. Being a good father is as much about sacrifice, pain, and fear as it is about hugs and kisses. There is no map, and there are no road signs. You take the advice that you can get, and then you try to apply it to your special set of circumstances. If it doesn’t work, you make it up and hope it doesn’t explode in your face. This is true whether you’re a married dad, divorced dad, stay-at-home dad, work-at-home dad, gay dad, adoptive dad, or whatever your case may be. Every family is different. This is a fact that makes parenting incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding all at the same time. There are times when you will question your methods late into the night, and there are days where you will fall asleep instantly with a smile on your face. Whatever the case is, as long as you get up the next morning and try again, you are doing the right thing. You are trying to raise your children to be kind, couragous, and just all around awesome. 

Are we going to make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. When that happens, are we going to dust ourselves off and try again? You better believe it. Quitting is easy. Disappearing is easy. Letting someone else take care of it is easy. Parenting is hard. Caring for sick kids is hard. Putting aside your own desires to make things better for your children is hard. With all that in mind, why do we do it? We do it because we are dads, we love our kids more than life itself, and it’s the right thing to do.

Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir to a certain extent. The fact that you are reading this post means that you believe in what I just said enough to search for it, or you’ve been here before and liked the message enough to return. This brings me to the second core concept of this site that appealled to me: caring.

You’re reading this because you care. We blog because we care. Sure, maybe the message is mostly falling on the ears of believers. Does that make it any less potent? Of course not. Horrible fathers are in the news every day. They give the rest of us (the huge majority) a bad name. It’s time to spread the word about good fathers and great dads. It’s time to make our voices heard and ensure that we are counted fairly. We are doing the right thing, we care, and we should be known.

Join the Revolution. Read our posts and maybe even submit one of your own. Search through the other great daddy blogs out there and read what they have to say. Most of all, continue to do what brought you to this site in the first place. Do the right thing and care. Being a dad isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

Doing The Right Thing

This family is bigger than just me, and my desires have to be prioritized against everything else. When the scales tip away from me, it’s time to make sacrifices. There will be other days to do what I want. The books aren’t going anywhere and our DVD collection will stay put. I might be able to lie on the floor with the kids tomorrow, but tonight calls for me to sit on the couch with the wife instead. To me, that’s what doing the right thing means.

One of the central concepts behind the Dad Revolution website is doing the right thing as a father. Let me tell you about a fairly common scenario that helps demonstrate what this means to me.

On my desk at work, I have an electronic picture frame that continuously cycles through family photos. Every snapshot features my wife, daughter, son, or some combination of the three. I normally eat my lunch at my desk, and I’ll spend that time watching the pictures slide by.

A lot of the pictures have specific memories attached to them. There’s a picture where I’m running through a sprinkler in our back yard with our daughter when we lived in Monterey. In the picture, it looks like we’re having a great time, but my memory says, “Wow, she really hated that.” There’s another where my son had fallen asleep in my lap while I was working on my thesis one day. The picture shows a perfect example of a father working while holding his son. In reality, I had to pee so bad that I was in physical pain.

There are even more pictures, however, where there are no memories whatsoever attached to them. These are all a few years old, involve our daughter, and took place at my wife’s parents’ house. They were taken during my third deployment. I’ve deployed twice since my daughter was born, but there weren’t many pictures from the first one. My wife stayed in Virginia, worked full time, and took care of her at night. There just wasn’t much time for photography. That was tough enough that during the next deployment (they were only separated by a couple months), she decided to quit her job and move back to Kansas City with her parents in order to have more support around her. It was a terrific decision, and it allowed her to concentrate more on one of her true loves: photography.

As a result, there are a ton of pictures from that time, and they feature pretty heavily on my electronic frame’s rotation. Every time I see one of the pictures, it’s bitter sweet. My thoughts usually go along the same lines. “My daughter is so beautiful…I wish I would have been there.” Then I immediately start looking at the clock to see how long it is until I can go home. I start imagining all the things that I’m going to do with the kids because I need to enjoy my time with them now. “I’ll walk through the door, change out of my uniform, and then read them a book. After that, I’ll just lie on the floor for awhile and let them crawl on me. Maybe after dinner, we’ll snuggle down on the couch and watch The Emperor’s New Groove. I build up the ideal evening in my head and hurry through the rest of my day. I’ll fight the famous San Diego traffic on the way home anticipating those awesome hugs when I walk through the door. I’ll pull into the driveway, unlock
the door, and…

I can hear our son crying from his bedroom, our daughter is sound asleep, and my wife is sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. As soon as I walk through the door, I get the “Your children…” look. Both kids are terrific by themselves, but they haven’t quite figured out how to play together yet. These sessions almost always end in screams and tears. When that happens, naps, timeouts, and early bedtimes are the normal prescription. I’ll get the story of events, and it will become pretty obvious that the evening I had envisioned is in definite jeopardy.

What’s the right thing to do here? I know what I want to do. I want to go to their bedrooms, pick them both up, give them both hugs, and then play the night away. Maybe I could convince my wife that the punishment is excessive, and get her to relent. I could tell her, “Come on, it’ll be ok, let’s just watch a movie with them.” There are a number of things I could do that would preserve the evening that I had been envisioning all day.

The problem is that absolutely none of those things are fair to my wife or to the kids in the long run. If I go in and start playing with the kids, I’m immediately undermining my wife. I’m teaching the kids that they can do whatever they want during the day because everything will be fine once daddy gets home. That’s immensely unfair to my wife not good for the kids’ future development.

Therefore, I do the right thing. I swallow my disappointment, help my wife enforce the punishment, and sit down beside her on the couch to let her know that I support her. It’s not the easy thing to do, and it’s not what I want to do, but the right thing rarely is. This family is bigger than just me, and my desires have to be prioritized against everything else. When the scales tip away from me, it’s time to make sacrifices. There will be other days to do what I want. The books aren’t going anywhere and our DVD collection will stay put. I might be able to lie on the floor with the kids tomorrow, but tonight calls for me to sit on the couch with the wife instead. To me, that’s what doing the right thing means.

Military Dad

Twitter: @militarydadblog
Website: http://militarydadblog.com

Bio: Military Dad is the proud parent of 2 and husband of 1. He’s spent the last 13 years in the Navy where they keep promoting him despite his best efforts. He is currently enjoying a terrific shore duty with his family. In his free time, he likes tormenting his wife and kids. He loves sharing his experiences as a father and a sailor on his blog: http://militarydadblog.com. Feel free to stop by and take a look.

 

**We are proud to welcome Military Dad as a new contributor to DadRevolution as the site seeks to grow once again. Please take a moment to welcome him to the revolution!**