The slow economy has caused a big pinch for many families. The Steely Family is no different and since one of us is a stay-at-home dad (that’s yours truly) we are dependent on one income. Not to mention, that singular income is a self-employment arrangement that doesn’t provide the same security as a regular paycheck. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid.
So I’ve been scratching the ol’ noggin lately, trying to figure out a way I can make some extra dough to help contribute to the family’s bottom line. I’m not trading in my apron; I want to supplement so that I don’t have to, don’t dare say it, get a J-O-B!
So here’s a list of jobs I’m considering, occupations I feel are a good fit for my unique qualifications.
Here we go:
10. Life Coach: I still can’t figure out what the hell a life coach is, does or who hires them but I figure I’ve been living for 38 years and doing so adequately. It seems like any moron (just check out Twitter) can do this so why not me? Qualifications: I’m already on retainer as the life coach of two little kids so I’ve got plenty of experience.
9. Consultant: What would I consult? I could take your watch and tell you what time it is. That’s gotta be worth something. Qualifications: Are there any?
8. Porn Star: The pay is not great (in fact, it might be the only occupation in which the pay scale tilts in favor of the women) and there are some serious occupational hazards to consider. Nevertheless, the benefits are pretty awesome. Qualifications: Although I can’t recall the last time it happened, I know I’ve had sex at least two times in my life. I mean, how “hard” can it be?
7. Football Color Commentator: I love watching football and have been doing so since I was five and played it from Jr. Pee Wee Pop Warner to high school when it became evident that the UCLA Bruins didn’t need a 145-pound middle linebacker. Qualifications: My wife and mom say I always make insightful comments before the commentator does so that should qualify me.
6. Professional Gambler: All I need is a bank roll. If you’re interested in getting into the “Steely Dad” business, let me know. Qualifications: I’ve been to Vegas many times and have NEVER had to visit a pawn shop.
5. Actor: Contrary to what you might be thinking, this is NOT the same thing as Job #8. This one requires actual Thespian abilities. Qualifications: I was the lead in a sixth-grade play in which I played an actor playing the role of Oedipus Rex. Let the jokes begin.
4. Lactation Consultant: I love boobs and am a HUGE proponent for breast-feeding mothers everywhere. Qualifications: I’ve been to at least 104 breast-feeding support group meetings and this was before I even had a lactating wife.
3. Professional Wrestler: I used to watch the WWF religiously until about the sixth grade. Qualifications: Do I really need any more than that and a few cycles of roids? Oh, and some stretchy pants and granny panties.
2. Oprah’s Replacement: I’ve never been a big fan. In fact, I downright despise the woman and am happy I won’t have to see her mug any longer. Qualifications: I can talk and ask questions and I can also fake-cry and pretend I’m actually interested in what bullshit is spewing from your mouth. And I can also say, “You go girl!”
1. Cult Leader: I’ve always been fascinated by cult leaders. They seem like such losers yet they get so many people to pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. The hours are long but the pay is great. The only problem with this one is that you usually end up dead. Qualifications: When I had long hair, people used to call me Jesus.
Well, that’s it. Send me your leads!]]>
Two years ago today, Mommy was in the operating room and I, dressed in full operating scrubs, was sitting in a long, sterile corridor waiting for the doctor to summon me. The excitement of your arrival was a continuation from the day before, when we witnessed one of the best Super Bowls of all time, the NY Giants besting, until that point, the undefeated New England Patriots on an improbable last-minute drive. It was a harbinger of good things to come.
Although I had been guessing you were a girl from the day we found out Mommy was going to have a baby, as I waited, I had this incredibly clear vision that I was about to meet my baby princess. Suddenly, it dawned on me: what if you were a boy? And even though my gut feeling was undeniable, I had to be prepared. Of course, we could’ve abated our curiosity 20 weeks earlier at the ultrasound appointment but Mommy and Daddy wanted to torture themselves. In any case, it was well worth the wait.
Why were we in the O.R. instead of a nice, cozy birthing room? Good question. Being someone with a penchant for flair, you decided to flip yourself Week 38. Yup, you were in the homestretch and thought, I want to be sunny side up. Mommy was none too pleased.
The waiting was over. show time! I followed the doctor into the operating room where Mommy was waiting, scared to death, but patiently. Although I wanted to be “below the equator” to watch all the action, the doctors preferred I wait by Mommy’s head. Not to be deterred, I still took some peeks over the curtain.
Finally, after some manipulations and maneuvers, the doctor lifted up your tiny, beautiful body in all its glory. And although I knew it as soon as I saw you, Doctor B announced, “It’s a girl!” Involuntarily, my hands went to the top of my head and the tears flowed in a deluge of pure, overwhelming joy. I couldn’t believe I was blessed again, this time with a perfect baby girl. My princess.
So today we celebrate a truly special day, one that I will always cherish and remember for all of time. Happy birthday, Ivria Ruth, I love you forever and always.
PS Enjoy the homemade Foofa cake! Yo Gabba Gabba!]]>
Let’s face it, men: the parenting blog genre is a woman’s world. Moms have been at it longer than we have so they are organized, networked and supportive of each other (for the most part). It’s that sisterhood gene we lack. So they get a lion’s share of all the groovy free products and advertising bucks. But we can’t complain. Just like when the ladies had to break the proverbial glass ceiling when they entered the workforce, we too must pay our dues.
But I bring good news, my brothers! An industry insider recently declared to me that 2010 will be the “Year of the Dad Blog”! There are many signs that she may be on to something.
In addition to more dad sites garnering the attention of advertisers and PR agencies, many mom sites are opening their doors to dads. It turns out that moms love to read a man’s perspective, especially when it comes from one to whom they are not married. Who knew?
And apparently the lovely ladies over at the incredibly informative website, ModernMom.com think I have what it takes to hang with the girls as they have invited me to join the ranks of their gifted and talented writers as a featured blogger.
I know what you’re asking: why Steely Dad? I am neither gifted nor talented and what I have to say barely passes as “insightful.”
Truth be told, I have no idea. Perhaps they felt pity for me; perhaps it has something to do with the assumption that as a stay-at-home dad I must be deeply in touch with my feminine side. Maybe they received some nastygram from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to add a daddy or face a Senate hearing. I haven’t a clue. The answer is unknown but to G-d and the crack staff at ModernMom and I doubt either party is gonna say much.
In any case, feel free to check out my ModernMom blog at http://www.modernmom.com/blogs/steely-dad/.
Hope to hear from you all soon!]]>
Not too long ago I published a post entitled, “So You Want to be a Stay-At-Home Dad?” as a reference guide to dads who are becoming stay-at-home dads (SAHD) either by choice or by circumstance. Feel free to forward it to dads that are currently, or are becoming, SAHDs.
However, in order to strike some balance between the sexes, I thought I’d provide what I consider some “suggestions” to moms who encounter our unique breed: the stay-at-home dad. (The irony of my unsolicited advice is not lost on me. See rule #4.)
Although the advice is developed from my own personal experiences as a SAHD, it certainly can apply to all types of dads.
Feel free to comment and keep the conversation going:
1. Treat us like your mom pals. No, I don’t mean share feminine hygiene tips with us. I mean put us on the same level with your other mom associates. Like it or not, we’re pretty much like you. We are parents who strive to be good parents to our children. Do we goof it from time to time? Absolutely, but in all honesty, we probably don’t goof it as often as you think. Dare I say it? We probably goof it as often as you.
Parenthood is man’s glass ceiling. Be kind and remember when you had to break through yours.
2. We are not morons (at least not all the time). Contrary to the stereotypes you may see on television and in commercials, we are capable, talented and sometimes exceptional parents. Some of us can use other kitchen appliances besides the microwave. Many of us actually know that kids need to eat when they’re hungry. Others know how to put a kid in a car seat. Yes, I know it’s crazy. I’m not saying I know how to do any of these things; I’m just saying there are apparently some stay-at-home dads that do. Give us some props when we rock it.
3. Don’t judge us. Men generally parent and care for kids differently from women. A small example in my family is that my wife will not leave the house without at least three bags full of stuff to cover any possible emergency. She has tons of extra diapers, enough food for our family to survive for a week should we get stranded in our highly populated suburban neighborhood as well as small surgical instruments should they be necessary. I, on the other hand, like to travel lite, very lite. I stuff an extra diaper in my pocket and a couple of food items. (I realize this contradicts advice item #4 in my “So You Want to be a Stay-At-Home Dad” post but, hey, I’m a professional.) Just because we parent differently doesn’t mean we’re doing it incorrectly. We have a different style and approach so refrain from the judgmental looks and condescending tone. Save that junk for the other moms that don’t meet your high standards.
Men and women have strengths and weaknesses and in an ideal world, we balance each other out. Remember, just as we can learn from you, perhaps you may also learn from us.
4. Please keep your pie hole shut. We realize your infinite wisdom in all matters concerning children but please refrain from ever, and I mean EVER, offering unsolicited advice. Unless you’re REALLY hot, like purposely-get-into-a-fender-bender-just-to-talk-to-you hot, we don’t want to hear it. It’s annoying, rude and more often than not, unhelpful. We don’t want to be told that four-year-olds shouldn’t play with pyrotechnics. It’s none of your damn business.
5. Want to train something? Try a dog. Don’t act offended. You know you’ve shared conversations with your girlfriends about how your hubby’s mother didn’t train him correctly and that you’re still working on him. I’ve heard it all in the Den of Yentas. Let me set the record straight. Your hubby might not have the stones to tell you but I do. Contrary to what you’ve been told, we are incorrigible, bad-habit-loving animals that are incapable of being trained. All attempts to do so will only end up with the same disappointing results as trying to teach a pig to sing. Accept it and move on. Love us despite our manly flaws. By so doing you will find your nirvana.
Along the same line, I just read an article in some parenting rag that passes as a magazine entitled, “End the Chore Wars: A No-Nag Guide to Getting HIM to Help” (emphasis added). The article sites surveys that demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm from men when it comes to helping with family chores. In it, women share first-hand accounts of how they do all the work around the house. It implies, in not so subtle tones, that men are slobs. Let me share with you my own personal experience with cleanliness. After cleaning out the interior of our family truck (yes, Steely Wife and I share one vehicle) it was clear that the “girls” side (where my wife and daughter sit) was exceptionally more squalid than the “boys” side (where my son and I sit). And I cleaned the entire car all by myself without any assistance or direction from my wife. Woe is me! Now, how do I get Steely Wife to help ME with the chores?
Well, that’s my list, at least for now. Like my previous post for SAHDs, this is far from a complete work. Want to add to the convo? Leave a comment and share the love.]]>
Normally I don’t follow too much celebrity gossip but I readily admit that the recent Tiger Woods headlines have caught and sustained my attention. So long ADD!
I respect Tiger Woods as an athlete. If there was one autograph I’d actually make an effort to obtain, it would be Tiger’s. As a golf enthusiast, I understand the true breadth and depth of his talent. But to marvel at Tiger’s talent is only half the story. What separates the World’s Best Golfer is his unbending work ethic. Tiger’s religious devotion to practice and training is well documented. Perhaps there are other tour players who possess more raw talent but none exist who compete with Tiger’s work regimen.
Tiger is also unique in that throughout his career he has enjoyed a high level of celebrity combined with a commensurate level of privacy. Before recent stories of infidelity, Tiger’s name was nary mentioned in tabloids. His image was squeaky clean and seemingly unimpeachable. It is this image, even more than his golfing acumen, that has afforded Tiger his life of luxury. Each year, on average, Tiger earns between $10-$12 million in golf winnings. Comparatively, he makes approximately $110 million in endorsements. Of all the incredible athletes to grace the field of play, Tiger will be the first to hit the billion dollar mark (if he hasn’t already). That’s how valuable Tiger is as a brand.
So the recent headlines are a concern for Tiger. However, in my opinion as a lowly stay-at-home dad who doesn’t have the capacity to understand the high-stakes game of athletic endorsements, it should be the least of Tiger’s concerns. Although he may lose some endorsements, they will eventually be replaced and his image and bank account healed. What may not be so easily repaired is the trust of his two little kids. I’m not sure how the man looks his kids in the eye. How does he go about repairing the relationship with his children? PR professionals and lawyers can’t help with this image crisis. Insofar as I know, press releases and spokespersons do not work all that well with kids. Winning more majors will ingratiate Tiger to golf fans but will do little in the way of rebuilding the trust his children so richly deserve. I think we as a society make the mistake of believing these kids will be fine because they live in a multi-million dollar mansion but kids are kids and they have feelings and emotions that need to be respected regardless of their lot in life.
Tiger Woods is an amazing athlete; as a daddy, he leaves much to be desired. The embarrassment and shame he has brought to his family are, on some level, irreparable. However, the cliché that men only think with their dicks and that this is typical of men is unfair to those of us who take the vow of fidelity seriously. Likewise, no self-respecting woman who married for love would want to be lumped in the “gold digger” category. Articles on “How to Tell if Your Man is Cheating” should read “spouse,” as philandering is not the sole province of men.
But is it really all that surprising? No. What’s surprising is the time it’s taken for the veil to be lifted. I’ve followed Tiger’s career since before he became a professional and the fact that he seemed impervious to controversy for so many years only suggested that it was a matter of when not if some mud would soil his pristine image. It was difficult for me to believe that he was as saintly as his image suggested. Call me stupid but in my infinite naiveté I believe that everyone has flaws and weaknesses and it was only a matter of time before Tiger’s were revealed.
Am I disappointed? No. Why? Because unlike many, my heroes are not famous people. When I was younger, I had heroes who were athletes but they always fell short of my expectations. I learned that heroes are not superhuman; they’re people just like the rest of us but who you believe are somehow better than yourself. Eventually it occurred to me that belief in myself was the best policy. It seems to me that heroes do alright when others believe they are God; it’s when they start to believe it themselves that they fall from grace.
There has been much commented about Tiger’s right to privacy. Does Tiger have a right to privacy? Sure he does just as I have a right to all the amenities and privileges that Tiger enjoys. I’m not talking about money; I’m talking about access. Yet, even though I have a right to access and Tiger has a right to privacy, the reality is that it’s unlikely either one of us will come to enjoy these rights. You see privacy and fame come at a price. Tiger has to remember his fame affords him access to things we common folk covet, like court-side basketball tickets. With fame comes complimentary champagne, clothes and cars (and, in many cases, women). If Tiger desires privacy, then he must give up the seductive benefits of fame. I have privacy because I don’t have access; celebrities don’t have privacy because they do. Privacy and fame are valued commodities on different sides of the spectrum and unfortunately for Tiger, they are mutually exclusive. Tiger is now learning the simple truth that fame is not a resource that can be turned off when it’s inconvenient to be well known. Quite frankly it’s insulting when celebrities only pull the “privacy” card when the proverbial poop hits the fan. I’ve never seen a celebrity asking for privacy when walking down the red carpet or receiving an invitation to the White House.
To Tiger I say, you’re the best golfer in the world. Your job now is to become the best daddy. Understand that your place in golf history is secured; your place in the hearts of your children is not. You have a supposed crack team of consultants helping with your legal and public relations issues (even though I would say their advice has been bush league). These are the same individuals who remind you of your greatness, a gallery of sycophants who only tell you “yes.” But I’m here to tell you “no,” that what you’ve done to your kids is NOT cool. However, all is not lost. If you want solid advice on your paternal obligations, I have an entire database of quality men who elevate the title of “dad.” Give me a call and I’ll put you in touch.
This post is part of a Dad Bloggers Project over at Dad-Blogs. Click on over to check out other dad’s perspectives on Tiger Woods.]]>
I’ve never written a product review before but when my buddy PJ over at the blog Real Men Drive Mini Vans asked if I’d like to do one for the new Land’s End SnowSystem Jacket, I thought it might be a fun project. As this will be my second Chicago winter experience, it occurred to me that adding a real jacket to my winter clothing arsenal would be a solid idea. You see, last year I survived the brutal Chi-town cold with nothing more than a thin wool sweater (that I used to wear playing golf on “cool” San Diego mornings) and a down vest. Brrrrrrrr!
To be honest with you, I’m not a “jacket” guy; I’m one of those morons who actually enjoys the cold, thus the reason for my scant seasonal ensemble. (Last winter I wore shorts until my legs took on the same shade of brilliant white as the snow, which was around late December.) My wife says that I was a bear in a former life and perhaps she’s right (I also like to eat raw fish and berries). In other words, it would have to be a pretty special jacket for me to want to wear it. With my family’s impending road trip, I wanted to put the SnowSystem jacket through its paces. After wearing it for more than a month, I have to admit, the SnowSystem may have succeeded in converting me to a jacket guy.
The SnowSystem jacket is all about versatility and can be your go-to garment for any chilly or downright cold occasion. No need to purchase one lighter jacket for cool, crisp fall mornings and another for really cold winter days. This jacket has you covered as it’s designed to be worn in three different modes: outer shell only (chilly), inner liner only (cold) or with the inner liner and outer shell combo (freezing).
The “outer” jacket, if you will, is a waterproof, breathable shell made with AquaCheck® laminate. What does that all mean? Well, according to Land’s End, it means you’ll stay dry without sweating from the inside. All I can tell you is that I wore it in a driving rain while shoveling, yes shoveling, the millions of fall leaves off the driveway (this is one of my stay-at-home dad duties). The shirt I was wearing under the shell stayed dry as a bone. My pants, well, that’s a different story. The outer shell also has pit vents in case you’re like me and need to remove the excess heat that builds up inside jackets especially during strenuous activities like skiing, boarding and/or evading the Abominable Snowman. The shell also has a zip-off/snap-close powder skirt for those fresh pow-pow runs on the double blacks. Although I didn’t have a chance to try it out for this specific purpose, the design is much like any you would find in a standard ski/snowboard jacket. The hood has a welded visor and can easily be rolled up inside the hood pocket, which is very cool.
Guys (well, most guys) don’t wear purses. Instead, we have pockets and the SnowSystem comes with many. I love the MP3 player pocket that has a port for your ear bud cord. This prevents any annoying entanglements and will be utilized often, especially when the fluff starts to fall and I have to bring out the snowblower. There are also mesh pockets for whatever you deem mesh-worthy.
Let’s move on to the inner jacket. Land’s End claims that it’s made from DriOff-treated polyester with the company’s exclusive PolarThin insulation for warmth. What the hell that all means I haven’t a clue but I can attest to the fact that this jacket keeps you warm without the bulk. Personally I hate the Michelin Man-look that is common with many winter jackets but the SnowSystem has a low profile that keeps you looking svelte. I had my wife, who is the complete opposite of me, meaning she wears a coat unless it’s 90 or above, wear the inner jacket during four cold evenings in the Nevada desert. Although ideally she would’ve worn it under a full-length sable, she was warm enough.
During our road trip, we spent several days in the Rocky Mountain town of Denver. The day before our arrival, Denver got dumped with two feet of white powder. I wore both jackets separately (for me the temp never justified the combo) and was very comfortable in both instances. When I experimented with the inner/outer jacket combo I started to sweat like a liar on the witness stand so I wouldn’t be surprised if the -10° to 15° Fahrenheit window Land’s End claims is accurate.
Now for brass tax. The jacket retails for $169.50 which I realize in this economy can cause some sticker shock. However, let’s put it into perspective. You’re really getting three jackets in one that could certainly serve all of your outerwear needs, including as your boarding and/or skiing jacket. Also, I took a look at comparable jackets from name-brand competitors and you’re looking at spending another $100 or more. Bottom line, the Land’s End SnowSystem is a solid jacket that won’t disappoint and could actually impress. If you’re in the market for a new jacket I wouldn’t make the final purchase without giving this one a look.
FREE SHIPPING (Offer ends Nov. 16 at 11:59 PM CST): Use promo code EXTRA10 and Pin# 9209 during checkout for free shipping.
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION]]>
At 9 PM Central on Thursday, Oct. 29, the Steely Family embarked on an ambitious adventure that most parents dare not even mention. What am I talking about? The Family Road Trip.
So far, the trip has been pretty eventful, complete with overnight stays in Wal-Mart parking lots and dances with crazy drivers. During one stretch through Kansas, we were greeted with a noisome odor. Being that we were in rural Kansas, I assumed it was produced by bovine manure. However, this particular scent had that distinctive “human” quality. I took a quick peek in the backseat at Steely Daughter and was stricken by absolute fear at the site of my beautiful daughter covered in poop after having a colossal blowout! She had it all over her hands so this emergency required swift, evasive and direct intervention. Needless to say, we will be one pair of pants short on our return trip.
This incident, along with some others, required me to take pause and ask the question: why do (sane) people go on road trips? More specifically, why do parents go on road trips with their kids? This trip has been different from all previous road trips. What happened to the romance of the road I recall, the road I knew intimately when Steely Wife and I camped across this great nation for our honeymoon (we subsequently enjoyed an Alaskan cruise but our camping adventure was our REAL honeymoon). The road I engage today is a distant relative of the one I once knew. The victim of an evolutionary defect that robbed it of its soul? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is me who had undergone the metamorphosis. Perhaps my psyche no longer requires the challenge of rugged survival on the road, but instead relishes in the creature comforts of the Four Seasons (or even the Sleazy 8, which is just as good as the Four Seasons after a sleepless night in a Wal-Mart parking lot).
The reason we go on road trips is for the opportunity such adventures provide for self-introspection and self-discovery. On the road, our souls are baptized by the wind and the endless stretch of asphalt that leads to the horizon of our dreams. Of course, at this stage in my life, I feel confident I can obtain the same soul-searching revelations with a warm bed and a plasma TV.
In any case, this stay-at-home dad wants to provide his loyal readers with a veritable “real time” experience of this unique adventure. Thus, I’m going to provide a kind of play-by-play narrative, including all the gory details, at Twitter (and maybe Facebook). So follow me: steely_dad for exclusive updates. Missed what’s already happened? You can read previous tweets on my Twitter homepage. And, in a Steely Dad first, I’m also going to attempt to provide ALL updates utilizing nothing more than my mobile communication device. Enjoy!]]>
When people find out that I’m a stay-at-home dad (SAHD), I usually receive one of two different reactions.
The first is an overly-effusive and sometimes disingenuous diatribe about how wonderful it is that I stay home with the kids, and how progressive I am and all that crap. For those of you who do this in an effort to be complimentary, you’re not. Please just save your breath. Fortunately for me, I do not live my life for your approval. I must add, however, that sometimes people are sincere in their praise. Believe me, I, and the rest of we SAHDs, can tell the difference.
The other reaction I get is “Oh, that’s nice.” ‘Nuff said about that one.
Everyone has a personal reason why they become a stay-at-home dad, just as people have different reasons for becoming doctors, attorneys, fire fighters, garbage picker-uppers and crack whores. If you’d like a personal account of my reasons for becoming a SAHD, read this post.
Some men become SAHDs, not because they want to, but out of necessity. The economy has contracted and with it many male-dominated industries have shrunk. Check out this recent story. Many families have reevaluated their financial circumstances, deciding that Dad should stay home to care for the kids. I bet that at least some of these men who, after recognizing the bond they’ve created with their kids, decide to stay at home with the kids even after job opportunities present themselves. Other men make the conscious decision to be the primary caretaker of their children because by so doing they feel more fulfilled. These men wish to develop and nurture a different type of relationship with their children than compared with the “traditional role” dads.
Whatever the case, the transition to becoming a stay-at-home dad can be daunting if one is not fully prepared. In this post, I’d like to provide some practical advice to help with the transition from breadwinner to bread-maker.
1. Understand that you will be surrounded by morons. What do I mean? You’re going to meet people who either disapprove of your role as a SAHD or are condescending about it. My advice? Ignore them or, if you’re particularly perturbed, hurl an insult like, “I hope your kids inherit your open-mindedness.”
2. You’ll meet moms who, by the virtue of the fact that they have a vagina, believe they are better at caring for children than you. Again, ignoring them is the path of least resistance but is certainly not as fun as slipping in a left-handed compliment. I recall an incident when my nine-month old daughter started to cry for food when she saw another baby being given a bottle. My kid wasn’t crying for more than five seconds when the mom of the other baby said, “You need to feed your child when she’s hungry.” Mind you, this “wonderful, caring” mother had one child compared to my two; that she had been a stay-at-home parent for all of a few months compared to my years of such experience and her baby’s mouth was infested with the worst case of thrush I’d ever seen, yet she still felt compelled to share this sage advice with me. I responded sarcastically with, “What? Really? You actually have to feed your children? I didn’t know that. I thought they lived by pooping and crying. Why thank you for opening my eyes. I would’ve never known.” The weird part? Most of the other mothers didn’t, as far as I could determine, thought her comments were inappropriate.
Whatever you decide, know that you need not compare your ability as a father to anyone. You are a good dad and it does not matter what others might think. Who gives a rat’s ass what they think? Can the comments and rude looks be hurtful? Sure they can but don’t let them get to you. Parenting is the one job in which comparison to your peers is a fruitless path. Plus, I find that those parents who try to take a holier-than-thou approach are usually deeply insecure about their own parenting style.
3. Listen and observe. Parenting, like golf, can never be mastered. It is an ever-changing and evolving medium that requires adaptable skills. You can always learn something new so it’s best to watch and listen to other parents who have similar parenting styles and philosophies. Ask for advice and most are more than willing to answer your questions.
Will you get unsolicited advice? Absolutely and you can take it or leave it. It’s not unusual for me to receive unsolicited advice from people who don’t have kids or their kids are in their 30s. Consider the source.
4. Be prepared. This might seem like a no-brainer but have all the essential items to cover most emergencies. A well-equipped diaper bag can help you eliminate stressful situations that fall under the “not-if-but-when” category. What’s my top emergency for which to be prepared? Hands down, “The Blowout.” Just make certain you have more than enough diapers and wipes. A couple of plastic groceries bags can be helpful in order to isolate soiled clothes. Also, make sure you have plenty of snacks, bottles/sippy cups, hand sanitizer, etc. It’s amazing how food can be such an effective distraction. My wife likes to bribe our offspring with lollipops in order to maintain her sanity during times of extreme stress. I rarely resort to such tactics as I have developed “The Look,” which is also quite nice to have in one’s arsenal. My father-in-law once gave me “The Look” and I haven’t quite been the same ever since. Mind you, The Look is not effective with babies and really small children as they are not at all impacted by your evil eye. Nevertheless, do as you see fit.
5. Kids cry. That’s right. Kids cry. Many have also become quite handy with the Fake Cry, an offshoot of its annoying cousin, Constant Whine. An experienced parent can quickly differentiate between the two in a way non-parents simply cannot. Some children genuinely cry a lot (those who have survived a baby with colic can attest here) and when they do, it can be unnerving when all efforts to placate the apoplectic child are unsuccessful. Don’t fret and don’t get frustrated. Just do your best and remember everyone has been there before. It does not indicate your failure as a father (a meth addiction would do so but not a crying child). This happened to me once when at the bowling alley, my daughter fell and hit her head on a fiberglass bowling ramp. I fetched some ice and was applying it to the injury, which only made her more upset. I knew she needed the ice but she was making quite a fuss. A woman came over to offer her assistance. Sometimes people, and for me it’s been exclusively women, who offer help or advice. Some are sincere in helping and others do so because they probably think you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. It’s a case-by-case issue so respond accordingly. In this case, I felt the woman was genuinely trying to help so I politely declined.
6. Have fun. This is perhaps the most important piece of advice I have to share and it’s one I need to remind myself of from time to time. Above all else, remember that spending time with your kids should be fun. Instead of going to an office, you get to go to the zoo or a museum or a baseball game. Yea, there are trade-offs that aren’t so fun, like changing diapers or sporting the Seattle grunge look 24/7 but for the most part, spending quality time with your kids is fun and should be so. Remember that this time is as fleeting as it is precious. Before you know it, all those requests for playing games and doing things together will be made by you. Remember, Harry Chapin’s melancholic little ditty “Cats In The Cradle”? But in the same way, it’s also important to make and take some time out for yourself. No, I’m not talking bubble baths and mani/pedis (unless you’re into that sort of thing, in which case you probably need not the advice offered in this post). I’m talking about doing something you like to do: read, watch TV, catch up on our fantasy football stats, whatever it is, do it. Why? Because kids can be very demanding and if you don’t take time out to recharge your batteries, you’ll soon lose all energy and motivation. So don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself; in reality, you’re actually doing your kids a favor.
This list is far from a complete one and I know there are many stay-at-home dads and parents who have their own pearls of wisdom to share. Please feel free to add to the discussion in the “comments” section to this post.
I realize some of you have been following the story of baby Emma, the 13-month old daughter of our close friends Sophie and Tyler Crew, who has been in the hospital on life-support for more than two weeks in what doctors are calling a Shaken Baby Syndrome incident. Well, I’m happy to report that doctors have removed Emma’s ventilator. Although doctors are cautiously optimistic, this is indeed a very good sign.
Sincere thanks to everyone who has been sending prayers, well-wishes and financial support to Emma and the Crew Family. I want to encourage you to keep them coming! Although the family has seen a ray of sunshine, there is still a very long path to traverse. Know that your kindness and generosity, many of you complete strangers, has made all the difference.
I have a favor to ask of you. Yes, I’m aware that it’s rather presumptuous of me to make any requests in light of my prolonged absence, but a favor I ask of you nonetheless.
You might be saying to yourself, “You schmuck! You abandon us, your faithful and loyal readers, for weeks on end and now you want to ask a favor? You’re a stay-at-home dad for cying out loud! You should have time to write a stupid blog at least once a week!” and you’re right. All I can say is mea culpa. For whatever reason, the inspiration hasn’t been there as of late and I don’t want to offend your fertile minds by simply writing drivel that’s worse than the usual drivel you’ve come to expect from Steely Dad. Yea, doing so might help with SEO and page ranks but I think it’s safe to say those elements hardly provide me motivation.
The favor I’d like to ask of you is to stop reading this post right now. WAIT! Before you do, because I know just how happy you are to oblige, please follow these very important instructions: GO HUG YOUR KID(S). I mean REALLY hug them. Tell them how much you love them, how special they are to you. No, don’t lie. I want you to hug them and kiss them and hold them tight and let all that love in your heart spill forth. Don’t be afraid; you can’t spoil a kid with love. For those of us parents with younger kids, we don’t appreciate the brevity of these early years. Parents with older children are often cursed with the wisdom that kids just grow up way too quickly. Never again squander another opportunity to let your kids know how much you love and adore them.
I know this would be the message of Sophie and Tyler Crew, dear friends of the Steely Family, if they could speak to you right now. I know they would love nothing more than to be able to hug their beautiful baby girl, 13-month old Emma, right this very moment. I know they would do anything to be able to hold her, to touch her, to smell her sweet and familiar scent that only they recognize. I know they would do anything to be able to hear Emma’s silly giggle and to tickle her to hear it over and over again. Even big sister Ava would love to share her toys with Emma. But they cannot, at least not right now, for their precious little Emma is in a crucial fight for her fragile life after being victimized in what doctors have described as a Shaken Baby Syndrome incident.
Sophie and Tyler are living a parent’s worst nightmare. Sometime after dropping off Emma at daycare, they received a call from the facility that something happened to Emma. At that seminal moment, at that singular second in time, their comfortable world was eternally shattered. And even if all prayers are answered, even if the miracle of all miracles happens, nothing for the Crew Family will ever be the same again, not EVER.
After hearing this tragic story, I wondered how anyone could do something like this to a little baby, an innocent child who is not able to defend itself . How could someone turn into such a monster? It seems unfathomable, unimaginable and demonic. And you know what, it is all of these things but apparently it doesn’t take much to turn into such a monster. A brief yet uncontrollable fit of anger coupled with several violent shakes in a few seconds is all it takes to steal the life of a child. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 children in the United States are injured or killed by being shaken each year.
No gun, no blunt instrument, no poison was used. In fact, the person probably started off with good intentions of trying to comfort a crying child. But when nothing they tried worked, the person transformed from caregiver to monster. Hands, an inability to control impulses and the law of physics that would leave adults unscathed but literally shakes the breath out of those much smaller than us were the only weapons used in this case. We’ve all been frustrated with our kids, when they don’t listen, when they cry incessantly and inconsolably for unending hours, and we’ve wished it to go away, quickly, so we can get back to sleep, get back to work or get back to whatever it was we were doing. The only thing the Crew Family wants to get back to is a normal life.
Sophie and Tyler sit vigil by Emma’s side, where they have remained since this nightmare took on a momentum that far exceeds their tolerance. Three hundred and sixty hours have passed since the last time they saw their happy, healthy Emma. Think of all the hugs they would’ve shared had it not been for a person’s, a stranger’s, rage.
Mom and Dad, sitting on either side of Emma, read her favorite books, sing her favorite songs, looking, waiting, wishing, hoping for anything that resembles life. A sign, a twitch, a movement, a response, a sound, anything. How do you hold on to hope when doctors say to let go of it? How do you manage expectations when doctors tell you not to have any? I don’t know how but I do know that Sophie and Tyler and Ava have not given up on Emma, have not lost hope and have not abandoned expectations. Emma knows this too, and she can feel the love and support and she hears our prayers and she has responded by moving one of her arms and one of her legs. She has opened her eyes. These are small but meaningful signs that nuture the seed of hope. Remember, all mighty oaks start out as tiny acorns. Let me tell you, this little girl has more fight in her than any, save her family, knew she had in her heart. She’s not giving up and she wants to let us know not to give up on her, that she’s going to keep on fighting.
Emma doesn’t understand what losing this fight would mean to her parents, to her sister, to her grandparents. She doesn’t know the grief that would descend upon an entire community of people who love and adore her. Yet out of nothing more than sheer life instinct, the genetic code that resolves us to take another breath when doing so presents greater challenge than not taking one, this little girl fights on.
It’s easy to think something like this will never happen to us and when we don’t personally know the people struggling with a tragedy such as this, it’s even easier to take comfort in the emotional distance that frees us from any reminder of the grief being experienced by those hit hardest. But don’t forget; instead, think of little Emma struggling for the very existence we take for granted.
I’d like to make one last request. I am asking for everyone reading this story to pray for little Emma Crew. Organize prayer services at your church, synagogue or other place of worship. If you’re not comfortable with prayer, then please send your positive thoughts Emma’s way. If praying is fine and dandy but you feel moved to do something more “tangible” the family would be most grateful for any financial contributions. Obviously, both Sophie and Tyler have taken an indefinite leave of absence from their respective jobs (Sophie is a school teacher and Tyler works in construction) since Emma’s hospitalization. I know we’d all like to lessen the burden that was thrust upon this family by minimizing financial stresses in order that they may focus their energies on little baby Emma. Donations, in any amount, can be made at the Crew Family blog by clicking on the “Donate” button. I hope you will contribute out of a desire, rather than an obligation, to help.
If you’re a blogger, have a Facebook, Twitter or any other social media account, please feel free to post this wherever compassionate eyes may read it.
Thanking you in advance,
Todd (AKA Steely Dad)