Friday, December 14, 2012


I was going to make a post today, sharing my thoughts on the media's representation of fathers. In light of today's news, however, I think it probably best if postpone that in favor of admonishing dads and parents to love their kids and to squeeze and hug them everyday.

I wish I had some thought provoking or sublime prose that could mend or make sense of the shootings in Connecticut. I am at a loss for words and my heart aches.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Discipline is one of those topics every parent has to deal with. Its not an easy one either. Everyone has a different history with discipline, even among siblings. I am the youngest of six kids and was disciplined very differently than my older brothers and sisters. Even like-minded people will disagree on how to correct a child's misbehavior.

Parents usually come to a consensus, but often, the duty of exacting discipline falls to the fathers, especially if he is the one with the kids all day. Even for working dads, moms will often wait to discipline, or at least use their employed husbands to threaten, their kids. "When your father gets home we're going to have a little chat!" I've been in homes where, when the father gets home from work, the first thing out of mom;s mouth is something like, "YOUR daughter has been so naughty today. She did _____ and _____." It falls then upon the exhausted father to try and correct those behaviors that happened hours earlier. It is the humble opinion of this writer, that this is just unfair.

Its unfair to the child. To the kid, 6:00 is the scary time. Its when daddy gets home and who knows if mommy has a laundry list of mistakes they made throughout the day for which they will be punished. This makes for a confusing relationship between the child and they're father - a strange mixer of "Yay! Daddy's home!" and fear. Its also unfair to the Dad. It puts the burden of disciplining all on their shoulders and it fills the short time (from getting home from work, til bedtime) with unpleasantness when they'd rather be enjoying their family. Sounds like having an at-home dad is the solution! Well, not really. While we do tend to get more time with our kids, and can make immediate corrections so misbehaviors don't mount up, the burden of discipline still falls to us.

Like working dads, when moms get home, they too want a pleasant, happy time with their kids and are consequently often unwilling to correct their kids even if they're home. When my wife gets home I typically leave the kids and my wife up to their own devices. She's missed them all day and wants to spend time with them, and frankly, I'm happy to have a break and have a little me time. Now, not to brag or anything but I'm good. From the years of dealing with my kids I've got them figured out fairly well. I know just how to calm them down when they're having fits, cheer them up when they're sad, help them be reasonable when they're being unreasonable, etc.. I've put in the time. When my wife gets home though, I don't want to do those things anymore. I want her to take a turn. Often though, I'll hear my wife, trying to deal with an unruly child. I try my best to tune this out. "Give her a chance. She'll handle this", I say to myself. After a few minutes my wife, clearly annoyed, will call me from upstairs, "Brett, would you come up here and handle this." Then I resentfully have to go up there and deal with whichever kid is being bratty.

Now, I'm not disparaging my wife. She's an amazing mother that has a wonderful connection with our kids. I simply have had to deal with our kid's behavior more and thus its often easier for her to call on me rather than go through the same learning curve as me. Sometimes I'm just as much to blame. Rather than have my peace disturbed, I'll go fix whatever problem, when I should have just let her handle it in her own way. Luckily, as our kids are maturing, this is becoming less and less of an issue.

Now, there are some huge generalizations here. Sometimes, as with my parents, the mom is the disciplinarian, but it seems its always one or the other doesn't it. I don't really have any profound or sublime insight as to how to deal with this issue. And even if I did, people and families are so varied it probably wouldn't have worked for anyone else anyway. There probably isn't a solution, and maybe that's okay. Perhaps problems like these are there just to instill in us respect for our spouse's differences and the importance of communicating with each other.


-Brother Brett

Monday, September 24, 2012


Saturday is chore day. Thats the way it’s always been. When I was young we always devoted time to do chores each week. Growing up in a family of six kids there were always chores to be done. I remember my mother explaining, that if you are a part of a family you should be expected to contribute. So, every Saturday all of us kids would engaged in tasks around the house. The tasks changed sometimes depending on the needs of the household. My mom would decide what had to be done and delegate jobs to us kids. During the Summers I remember doing a lot of painting and weeding as my folks worked on the house and garden. I also have memories of splitting and stacking wood. Then there was the usual routine inside. For some reason, I remember being the one who always seemed to pull dusting detail, although my brother Brett may disagree as he also had time behind the can of Pledge. All of the chores us kids did each week was for the good of the family.

I’m thinking that a lot of you readers out there probably had a similar situation. It’s good for children to learn to pull together as a family. Working in the home teaches teamwork and the ability to contribute to the greater good of the household. One reason I think Saturday had an impact on me, was the fact that no family member ever received monetary compensation for working around the home. All of the labor was done to benefit the family and house.

This expectation from my parents created an environment in which us kids appreciated the house, and each other much more than if we had no expectation to contribute. The family even had better relationships as the work in the house made life better for all of us. Lets be honest... who doesn’t love a clean and organized home. So, I want my children to have this same environment that I had growing up.

This however, is easier said than done. I really appreciate how my parents were able to create the “Saturday program” and institute it in a family of six kids. I only have three children, and getting them motivated for chores can be difficult. I tend to be a routine guy. If I do something on a schedule every week, than I am more likely to keep going. So, I am using this method for chores.

Every week on Saturday, I spend time cleaning bathrooms with my daughter. This is a very important chore as I have two sons with questionable aim. For me this chore gets top priority. So my daughter and me have been getting into the groove cleaning. We have been doing this for quite  some time now, and she is getting pretty good with the task. She is responsible for the toilets and bathtubs. Even though she is only seven years old, she has become skilled with the scrub brush and Comet. I love to see her thin arm holding the scrubber scouring the surfaces clean. She has developed a good work ethic which makes me proud. I have noticed that on many occasions my daughter is the one who reminds me that its time for us to clean. When this happens, I know that I am on the right track.

Now I have started a routine that someday, soon hopefully, my daughter will be able to do all by herself. Infact, she will be able to train her little brother on how to clean this area. All of this service is for the good of the house and its occupants. It’s like my mother said, “If you’re part of the family you should be expected to contribute.” No one gets paid for the service, but the payoff is great. My children have an opportunity to learn how to work for the family and respect the space in which they live. They inturn treat the house and all of their belongings much better. They understand that they are responsible for their belongings, and need to keep them put away. There are many important lessons that come from Saturday.

The trick is starting the routine. If you can do this, the hard part is over. All you have to do is keeping it moving. I look forward to getting my other two boys on the Saturday program. Its been great for my daughter and me. If anyone out there has a good ideas on how to start routines like this please tell.

-Brother Jared

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Think of the Children

This will be a departure from my typical subject matter, though it still pertains to kids. It is a topic that every parent has to think and make decisions about, decisions that affect our children. Its education. This has become especially prevalent in my mind with the school year beginning and with the Chicago teacher's strike becoming such a news topic.

First a little background. Like most of you, I went to public schools and had some great and some mediocre school teachers. The best school teacher I had happened to be my mom. She was an incredibly gifted elementary school teacher who in her long career taught every grade from Kindergarten to Eighth. She was a Reading Specialist, with a Master's degree and in that capacity was able to help a lot of kids that under normal circumstances would have been left by the wayside. My father was a college professor, equally gifted. I'm jealous of his students. I never had a professor that was able to draw in young adults the way he could. I have siblings that teach. Jared's wife is a 5th grade teacher and just completed her master's degree (congratulations, Jill!). I have always been surrounded by teachers.

So, like you, I was taught. The difference is that when school was over I went home to a house full of teachers. I was able to observe the conversations, frustrations and the satisfaction that comes with their career. I was also privy to their motivation. Over the years I discovered why all these lovely people in my life decided to become teachers. More than any other reason people become teachers, particularly elementary school teachers, is that they truly love children and they sincerely want to make a difference in their lives.

Teachers are misrepresented. They are often characterized as individuals that took the job as an easy way to have benefits, and summers off. All you need is a teaching certificate, right? School only lasts 6 or so hours, so the time commitment must be low. If I were ever made King of the Universe I would end these misconceptions. Nothing about being a teacher is easy. Yes, you need to be certified, but that doesn't guarantee you a job. Most spend years substitute teaching before they can find an actual full time teaching position. Once you have a teaching job you have to continue your education or risk loosing said certification. Teachers are at school well before any kids, stay way later and even after they get home are often grading papers or writing report cards.

Then there is pay. I have a hard time writing this without getting angry. Let me just say that I find it ironic that for several years my school lunches were paid for, because my parent's income was so low they couldn't afford to feed me lunch. The money that paid for my "free lunch" came from the same place that paid my mother's substandard salary. As for benefits like medical insurance... I hope Jared will one day write a post touching on this. Let me just say, it's not enough.

Teachers suffer the substandard pay, the grueling hours, and perhaps worst of all, misrepresentation all because of the reward - being able to affect the most important resource we have in a positive way.

In following the teacher's strike in Chicago, I am often angered by some of the attitudes of the parents. Granted, working parents of 320,000 kids have been inconvenienced. Finding a safe place for kids to be during the day is a challenge when you're working and day-cares, churches, etc are already overcrowded. Often, these parents get angry with the teachers, feeling that they're being greedy or something. And ultimately, when interviewed they always say, "they need to think of the children." Really? What they're really saying is "think of me," because they no longer have a FREE service that picks up their kids from their doorstep, drives them to a safe place watched over by certified, educated people, who develop their children's minds and bodies, often making up for parent's short comings, all day long and return them back home - all at no cost.

"...think of the children."

Are you serious? Who else do you think they're thinking of? Themselves? That certainly isn't the case or they wouldn't have become teachers in the first place! When teachers strike its in behalf of YOUR KIDS. Teachers become teachers knowing full well that the pay is going to be garbage and conditions not always ideal. To them that is a given. So you know when they start complaining, its not out of avarice, its because something is affecting their reward - their ability to be a positive force in your child's educational development.

-Brother Brett

Monday, September 10, 2012

School Times

I like the first day of school. Actually I love the first day of that I don’t attend school. I love to watch my children get excited about the first day back. They are eager to wear their new cloths. They have backpacks full of school supplies. I love how they are up early the morning of the eventful day. My children seem to almost prepare themselves as my wife and I give orders to eat breakfast and find certain articles of clothing. As the children finish their preparation, they almost instinctively line-up at the door. They look nice with their new clothes, wearing the backpacks full of paper and writing utensils.

My oldest of the three, will be in fourth grade this year. My daughter who is the middle child, is going to second grade. The youngest, my little boy, will be attending kindergarten. The older two know mostly of what to expect. They seem eager to get back to seeing their schoolmates and working with their new teachers. They know that there will be a change in their schedule. The youngest is a little more cautious of what will be happening. He still doesn’t seem stressed out by his new academic adventure, however he knows its going to be a major routine change. I think that change is good. Getting used to change can be good especially for young children.

You see, the first time kindergartners go to school they have a half day in which the parents also attend. It’s a sort of breaking in day, or a time to ease your child into the public school arena. It’s interesting to see all the different types of parents with their children on this day in this school setting. Some children refuse to leave their parents side. These children usually need major coaxing from parents and teachers to participate with the class or sit at a desk even with the parent present in the classroom. Others have no problem in separating from their mom or dad and immediately begin interacting with the teacher and fellow students. The children that I saw that day ran the gamut from super shy to being overbearing.

I am very proud of my little guy as I didn’t need to pry his arms in a death grip from off of my leg to get him to sit with the others, nor did I have to tell him to keep his hands to himself and listen to the teacher. My little son made it very easy for me as all I had to do was stand there with the other parents, and listen. He would occasionally look over at me and wave, but that was pretty much my involvement on this day.

Still there were other parents who were trying to gain control over their kids who at this point just want to leave. I felt bad for the little ones who saw this as a frightening and traumatic time. In their little minds escape was the only solution, since the mom or dad wouldn’t take them away. Some parents used this school day as an opportunity to celebrate this change. I was very impressed by this group as I think they have the right mind set. They were very prepared and had good words of encouragement. They usually had cameras and were constantly taking pictures. Their children were very excited and seemed eager to pass through this celebration of change. I found this to be a great time for both the parent and the young kindergartner. I unfortunately can't say that I am that good. I just find myself lucky as my little guy seems fine with the situation. I guess he figures it’s what is supposed to happen. Still, it would have been better for me, if not him, if I would have used this time for more praise and encouragement.

I think taking advantage of these situations in this way make it better for the child as it will certainly make future milestones easier. As parents we have the opportunity to make change a good thing or something that is bad. The kids will look to us in how we see change.

-Brother Jared

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


First of all, I humbly apologize for the lack of posts recently. I feel like I should rewrite the header to say "weakly" instead of "weekly". Summers seem to be busier than the school year and I have found myself fully caught up in it. I will redouble my efforts. As consolation, the only thing I can offer is another post.

I have said before that one of the things that has really interested me is the ways in which men's parenting styles differ from that of women. I think why this has interested me so much is that these differences really become apparent when you're an at home dad.

There is a fascinating study done at Yale University by Dr. Kyle Pruett and Dr. Michael Lamb that focused specifically on how moms and dads operate around small children. What I love about this study is that it offers no indication of who does parenting better, simply that when men are presented with a particular situation, we interact slightly differently with our children to achieve the same result. A basic example would be something akin to when a child needs to be picked up moms will hold their baby facing them, dads, however, will more likely hold the baby facing out. The result is the same - the baby gets picked up. Dads just get there slightly differently. Here you can find a nice concise summation of the study's findings.

One of the most interesting observations of this study to me is that motherhood is initiated biologically at delivery, but for men, fatherhood is mostly social, not biological, and consequently our initiation as fathers is personal and varied. What does this mean? I read that as we really have to learn to like our kids, whereas with moms its pretty immediate. 

Consider the birth of my oldest son. Getting him out of the womb was a bit of a chore. He wasn't coming out very fast and the sensors screwed into the top of his scalp indicated he wasn't doing too well, so they brought out the doctor's version of a shop-vac and sucked him out. Once he was out he was fine-- 10 fingers, 10 toes, healthy weight, etc. They then plopped him down on my wife's chest and started wiping him down. The moment they did so my wife started bawling, completely overjoyed to finally have him in her arms. Now, I was happy too, but I was happy for completely different reasons. I was happy mostly that my wife was okay, that she was finally through this painful experience. I was happy that delivery was finally over with. I was happy that our son was alive and healthy. I, however, was not going to cuddle with it. I use the word "it" because that's what he was to me. It was all wet covered in slime and blood. It's color was all wrong. Its body didn't look like the plump little darlings in all the parenting magazines. He was kinda skinny looking and the vacuum they used to suck him out had made his head kinda oblong - he reminded me of the creatures in Aliens. There was no way I was going to pick that thing up, and I certainly wasn't going to snuggle with it.

"Do you want to cut the umbilical cord?" 

The doctor asked me this rhetorically as she was handing me some surgical shears from one of her hands and in the other hand she had... stuff. I politely refused. Good golly, those came out of my wife's innards! Those were organs! Did she really expect me to start snipping into what were, up until very recently, my wife's guts? Gross.

"Isn't he beautiful?"

This is the question posed by my tear streaked wife that had just endured hours of labor and 9 months of pregnancy. I answered the only way I knew I could.

I lied in a small voice, "yeah." I smiled. I was happy, just not like her.

Now I love my children every bit as much as their mother does. And, by way of reassurance, I wasn't nearly as freaked out at the birth of our daughter (I even cut the umbilical cord!). But it does illustrate this difference. Being a mother was instantaneous for my wife. I had to learn if I could even be a father. Clearly there are parenting skills that we all must learn. That's not what I'm talking about here. Its the emotional bond that connects us to our kids. A relationship, that fathers don't innately have at birth, and its different for all dads. I've known dads that have been initiated into this relationship almost as fast as their wives, and I've known dads that didn't until their kids could throw a ball.

Every dad is different and I don't want to disparage any parent who hasn't found his calling as a father. However, I will say this: my relationship as a father to my children is the single most profound connection that I have and almost as important to me as my relationship with my wife. And just like my marriage, my relationship as my children's father takes work. If you feel you're lacking in this area, get your hands dirty - literally. Do the diaper changes, the midnight feedings, staying up with them when they're sick, all the awful things that we hate to do as parents, and often try to pawn off on our partners. You have to work at your marriage because you vowed that you'd treasure that relationship for better or worse "in sickness and health", and it takes work to be able to do that. Marriages start great, and then you have problems to work through. For dad's kids are similar, but opposite. Its starts as a whole mess of problems, and then if you get through it, its a whole mess of awesome.

So ladies, be patient. This relationship might take a bit. And fellas, get crackin'.

-Brother Brett

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Man kids are bratty. Self serving, lazy - no work ethic at all. They have amazing education, at no cost to them. They consume a delicious never-ending supply of food, for free. They expect to have name-brand clothes, they're own rooms in capacious houses, their own cars. All this and most can't be bothered to work a minimum wage paying job, or heaven forbid a job that requires manual labor.

Right about now I sound like the curmudgeon who complains about "kids these days," and who had to walk to ten miles to school uphill, both ways, in the snow. I realize that lazy teenagers have always been around. In fact, I remember my own grandfather complaining about my ability to work. Every generation has the propensity to be critical of the next. The situation really becomes a problem, I think, when when there is a change in economic standing.

I'll use myself as an example. My parents had humble wages. My father was a musician, my mom a teacher. There were 4 brothers, 2 sisters and at one point a foster child. So that makes 9 people, all living under the same roof. By roof I mean 3 bedroom apartment. When it came to budgeting there wasn't a whole lot of excess, but my folks made it work and we were happy. I never thought of us as poor.

To compensate for the small budget we all pitched in. We had chores. There was no dishwasher - we were the dishwashers. We shared rooms. I remember having the 4 boys all sleeping in the same bedroom. We worked. Most of us had some way of getting spending money (what's an allowance?) like paper routes, or berry picking in the summer. From the age of 12 or younger we were all required to have at least a summer job. If you didn't have a real job by the time you were 16, you spent your days looking for one. Most of the money we earned we saved, because this was going to pay college tuition. We shared everything. There is a 12 year gap between me (the youngest) and my oldest brother, and I specifically remember "inheriting" some of his clothes. I didn't have toys - we had toys. The 1966 Beetle which was to be my first car, was shared between my brother and myself - and the only reason we had it to begin with is because my brother built the engine for it.

Now I loved my upbringing. I never felt deprived or over worked. I don't want to give the false impression that I had some sort of hard life. I have a very loving and close family and I have fond memories of my young life. Indeed, it wasn't until I had a family of my own that I realized what an amazing feat my parents had pulled off. My "impoverished" upbringing was my normal. We didn't expect to be given anything because our "normal" dictated that if you wanted something you worked to get it.

My wife had a similar upbringing and consequently hearty work ethics. Partially due to our ability to work, we are financially better off that my parents were at the same age. This has enabled us to have certain comforts that I didn't even know existed when I was a kid: a house in which everyone has their own room, a color TV, a computer, video games, a dishwasher, two cars. We are happy that we are able to extend these comforts to our children. Here's the problem though. This life of comfort and ease has become my children's normal. Whereas, we expected to earn our comfort, our kids expect comfort. I think that's why a little bit inside of me dies when ever I hear my kids say, "There's nothing to do," when its a beautiful sunny day outside, or when they complain when I ask them to take out the garbage or unload the dishwasher. I can see them in my mind becoming the teenager that complains about the phone their parents bought them or the car they're made to drive.

Don't think for a second that I'm going to toss the dishwasher, or that I'm going to force my kids to sleep in the same room, but it seems some kind of balance must be found. On one hand I want my kids to have fun and be comfortable, but at the same time I don't want to do them the disservice of limiting their development by handing them everything they could need or want on a silver platter. I'd like to think that my kids have it better than I did, but do they really? Whats more important - the comfort of having something done for you or learning the value of that comfort? There is a saying that I constantly hear echoing around in my skull and it has greatly impacted the way I parent:

"We work so hard to give our children the things we never had, that we forget to give them the things we had."

-Brother Brett

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Camera-dads. You know who I'm talking about. They are the guys that go out and buy a digital camcorder the day they find out that their spouses are pregnant, and upgrade the camera every year from that moment on. These are the guys that are more worried about documenting their first born crowning than comforting their immobile wives who have endured hours of labor.

Well, I never wanted to be this dad. In fact, I was so against this type of dad that I didn't even like taking still photos. If there was a camera involved I left it up to my wife. "We should bring a camera!" she would say. "If you want to bring a camera, you're going to have to deal with it." I would have no part in it. Don't get me wrong, I want to have the pictures and the videos, but not appearing as a camera-dad took priority over actually having these images. I wasn't opposed to pictures being taken either, I just didn't want to be the guy holding the camera - the camera-dad.

Over the years, we have acquired a standard library of photos and videos. Maybe not as much as some but not a small amount either. A week or two ago our family started browsing through old photos and videos that we had taken during our marriage. We stumbled onto this:

Now to most of you this video isn't very interesting. Sure she's cute and all, but the subject matter is fairly mundane and the camera work is, uh, not professional. This video to me is heart breaking. It absolutely kills me every time I watch it. My little girl. That moment is forever gone. It kills me that I will never see her that small or hear her speak in that manner. That little girl does not exist anymore.

I discovered, perhaps too late, that it isn't the extraordinary things that are important. The ordinary moments in life are the ones we long to remember. I would trade mountains of photos and videos of sunsets over Central American beaches or images of stained glass from European cathedrals for one good video of my kids coming home from preschool. And yet, the times we remember to take out our cameras is not when our kids are explaining the thing they just made out of Legos or when they're playing in the backyard. No, we take out our cameras usually to photograph something that has already been immortalized by countless other people who are probably far better photographers and is usually available as a postcard.

They say you should live without regrets. Whether this is true or not, I have regrets. My desire not to look like a camera-dad - my vanity - has robbed me of countless moments. Priceless moments of an ordinary life that I don't even remember. They are simply gone, as if they never happened in the first place. There are no postcards of these moments. My regret is that I have not been, in some small way, a camera-dad. The problem now is, I don't know how. For 12 years I have trained myself not to pull out my phone and take a crappy, untrained, photo to save whatever moment is about to pass by, on its way to being forgotten. I am getting better, and perhaps I can take solace in the fact that at least I have some videos and photos, and that, maybe, someone will learn from my mistakes.

-Brother Brett

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dad's Day

I would like to give praise to all of you awesome fathers out there. Dads who go the extra mile in raising their children are cool people. Guys who spend that extra time helping with homework or making sure their kids are prepared for school in the morning; dads who go the extra mile teaching their child how to play the guitar or how to make that difficult bank shot in pool; fathers that are actively involved with their kids sporting events or artistic endeavors, all cool. Dads who are home with the kids performing tasks such as feeding, diaper changing, and toilet training.... very cool.

I’m not saying that I am an amazing father, but I have had the opportunity to be around many amazing dads. I have had the good fortune to learn lessons from my father and my three other brothers who are all good in the dad department. So, I am thankful for the resources.

As I watch the news at night I am amazed at the stories of violence involving our young people. I see a nine year old bringing a gun to school and shooting another student. Children witnessing domestic violence in the home. Youngsters being sexualy abused. I see stories of children being taken from parents into state custody. And then there is the Steve Powell case. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, just watch the news for five minutes. He was just sentenced to 30 months for child voyeurism and and for the possession of child pornography. Steve’s son is the famous Josh Powell who was being investigated for the disappearance of his wife Susan. That was until Josh killed himself and his two young boys in Washington state in April this year.

I wonder what Josh’s upbringing was like. Did his dad Steve somehow influence him into evil? It’s difficult not to imagine that there is some connection there. For good or bad, parents have tremendous power over their children. This is why I feel so lucky to have the father that I have.

Let's take a moment and thank those awesome fathers out there. Without great dads the world would be in a lot of hurt. So, thank you cool dads! Have a great Father’s day!

-Brother Jared

Friday, June 1, 2012


I've harped on men about their misconceptions and emasculating notions about at-home dads. I have noticed that I seem to side with moms in much of my writing. Apparently, moms are without blemish. Well, I have a bone to pick with some of you. Many of you live under the delusion that not being able gestate a child inside your body precludes men from being competent caretakers. Others just assume that just because their husbands are absent fathers, all husbands tend to be unskilled and uninterested parents. Now I hope that the number of those who that feel that way are few. Unfortunately, I have encountered enough of you with these misconceptions to want to write about it.

I am going to use a recent vacation my family went on to illustrate these points. We were staying at a bungalow by the beach in Costa Rica. This lovely little spot shared a pool with the neighboring bungalows. We often gathered around the pool in the mornings or evenings and would have a generally pleasant time. We were neighbored by two families. Each of these families had a toddler and a baby. We were relieved by this because, even though our kids were older (5 and 8) we didn't want to be the only ones there with kids. The fathers of these two families had come from separate countries to Costa Rica in order to surf. I can't fault them for that, but I did find it somewhat insensitive that they would leave their wives in a foreign country alone all day tending to 2 very young children.

One morning by the pool as the kids were busy splashing about, I could tell that one of the moms was feeling a bit dejected as her husband was already gone. We started talking about our kids, as you tend to do when you have them. At one point in the conversation she loosed a tirade of feelings about the inadequacies of fathers as parents and how they leave all the work for the mothers. She directed these comments at me. I was a little embarrassed and laughed it off, saying (maybe a bit smugly) that all dads probably weren't like that. She assured me that they were.

Later she was talking to my wife while I was napping. She asked for advise regarding some parenting matter. My wife didn't feel comfortable answering the question and coolly said, "I don't know. You should ask Brett." She wondered why and my wife told her what my employment status was. This mom apologized to me later that day.

On this same vacation I encountered another mom. She had a small baby and was pregnant with her second child. My wife and I were sitting next to each other while she was playing in the pool with her baby. Again having older kids, she had some up-bringing questions that were directed at us. Normally when these kinds of questions arise my wife lets me field them, so I started answering her question as best as I could. About halfway through my sentence she started glaring at me. It became obvious that she had directed the question not at us, but at her (my wife). I felt as if I had interrupted some special sacred connection that she felt was shared only between mothers.

Child rearing isn't a club which requires a uterus as a membership card. Me writing this isn't going to keep people from feeling that way. Nor will it prevent people from being sanctimonious, or will it stop people from being insensitive. Nothing will change. There are terrible fathers out there. Some are great. There are husbands out there that, despite loving their kids, have no interest in raising them. Some dads are just okay... not great, just okay. I acknowledge this. For as many different kinds of fathers there are, however, there are as many kinds of mothers. I suppose the reason I write stuff like this is, not only is it cathartic, but its also my backwards way of praising those of you that are making the effort to be great. For those that are breaking molds and making my job, either directly or indirectly easier, I salute you!

-Brother Brett

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Bug's Life

My youngest child who is five now, loves bugs. He has always loved bugs. He loves them so much that he has no reservations about touching or holding them. In the past my wife and I have had to tell him to put things down. When he was three, he came to us proudly holding a slimy slug. After he started placing the slug near his mouth, his mother and I had to institute a no slug policy. I want to teach him to think before he touches stuff, besides bugs are disgusting and I’m a bit of a germaphobe. He won’t go near spiders, thank goodness. He’s ok with that as he informed me the other day that spiders are not insects, they are infact arachnids which are much different. So, it isn’t uncommon to find my little guy coming the yard looking for unique and interesting insects. I must say he is getting pretty good at it.

To fuel my son’s interest in creepy crawlies, he made a bug catcher at preschool. It’s actually pretty cool. It’s nothing more than a small cage to put bugs in, but its construction was well done. After school that day the little guy wasted no time in procuring a small black beetle to inhabit the newly made cell. My son’s intention was to take good care of the beetle. He told me that the beetle was his good friend. Later I noticed that the beetles house had all sorts of grass furnishings to make it feel welcome. Days went by and he still had his friend. At times my son would take the beetle out of his cage to play with him. I would warn by telling my son that I didn't want a bug on the loose in the house. The bug tamer boy turned out to be quite responsible. The beetle was always placed in the cage and looked after. At night before I go to bed, I check on my sleeping children to make sure they are still tucked in. And every night my dedicated son always has the little bug catcher and its occupant next to him at the head of his bead.

A couple of weeks ago my little son and I were watching a speaker on TED talks. This speaker was demonstrating various kinds of bugs. As the presentation continued, the bug expert showed how insects should be used as food. He informed us on the bug’s excellent nutrition and vitamin content. He pointed out that bug sustainability surpases that of standard forms of food resourses. It was a very interesting presentation to which he concluded by eating a small sample of bugs. This presentation would have a surprising effect on both my son and me.

Yesterday, I was working on a project in my garage. This is a pretty common thing for me to do. So I naturally have my youngest with me. It was a nice day outside, so the large door was open to enjoy the sun and to let my guy out to play. He usually colors the driveway with chalk art and goes insect hunting. Pretty normal day.

Then I hear him say, “daddy, I found some ants!” At this point I’m only halfway listening, but there was no alarm in his statement. I just made the usual fatherly “uh huh” noise and kept working. Then he said something about “taste”. Again there was no alarm in his voice, and I was busy concentrating on something else. A minute later I hear him say something about “tasting good”. I had my hands full so I just responded with some kind of low acknowledgement. This went on for about twenty minutes. As my focus lessened on what my hands were trying to accomplish, my mind started to wonder about what adventure my very tactile son was involved with. “Hey little buddy” I exclaimed! “What are you doing?” I could see the blond hair of my son as he stood up from the driveway. He quickly skipped over to where I was standing, just inside the garage door. He said proudly, “I found some ants and I’m eating them!” I wasn’t sure if I should believe him or just go along with the joke. So I said, “oh ya, what do they taste like?” He then informed me that they tasted like broccoli. My curiosity grew steadily as the “joke” took another step forward into concern. So as any good father would do, I responded with the very juvenile but reliable playground ploy of, “why don’t you show me.” My son then turned excitedly and said, “ok daddy.” Now the joke was turning into some sick kind of dare.

My five year old son walked over to a crack in the cement where scores of tiny ants appeared to be running around. He then reached down grabbed an ant with his tweezer like fingers and placed the insect in his mouth and began chewing. I watched in unbelief as my boy began digesting this creature. I wasn’t sure how to feel. Should I be proud or concerned? Maybe I should freak out and wash my son’s mouth out with soap. A whole myriad of thoughts rushed over me as how I should act. I was at a definite intersection in how I could handle this.

Then I remembered the guy on TED talks. Maybe this could be a good learning tool. So, I told my son to catch another ant. As he began wrangling the insect, I walked over the the feeding ground and crouched down to watch. He soon found another victim and held it up to my face. At this time, the experience was not some kind of dare, although it could be categorized as sick. It was in actuality a special kind of moment between father and son. I opened my mouth trying not to think about what was going to happen. With quick fingers my little boy rolled the ant into my mouth. I could tell he had some experience doing this as he knew how to be fast enough as to keep the ant from escaping the jaws of death. I bit down fast to put the bug out of its misery and to begin mine.

First of all, ants do not taste like broccoli. I have found their taste to be a bit sour and mostly tart. The tiny bug was surprisingly crunchy. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. But mostly I enjoyed the moment between my son and me. I acted differently in this situation than I normally would have. It was definitely worth it. The look on my son’s face in this sharing moment was priceless.

-Brother Jared  

Friday, May 11, 2012


I'm no expert. When my oldest was still quite young we hired an expert to teach us some tools to help us raise her. It was a tremendous help to my wife and I and the lessons we learned from this expert have stuck with us through all these years. I thought I'd jot down some of these guidelines on how to handle your little ones. Perhaps you can benefit as we have.

1. Respect for you (the parents) as leaders of the family is key. If they don't see you as being in charge it leaves them confused and they will act out in trying to understand boundaries.

2. Fear is not respect.

3. Corrections in behavior need to happen immediately and consistently.

4. When correcting, it is not enough to point out what is bad/wrong; you have to show them what is correct.

5. Praise for good behavior works better than disciplining bad behaviors.

6. Never discipline good behaviors.

7. Never reward bad behaviors.

8. They are constantly learning state. Everything you do with them will be observed and will modify their behavior either directly or indirectly.

Now, most of you seasoned parents will regard this list as statement of the obvious. To me, however, they were tremendously helpful. By always having these guidelines in the back of my mind I've been able to deal with my children in much more consciously and in ways that I feel are much more healthy for my kids. Don't get me wrong. I am by no means the perfect parent, but I am getting better as I learn to implement these guidelines.

I guess I should tell you who this expert is. She is a dog trainer. Oh, and when I mentioned my "oldest", I was referring to my dog. Yes, these are guidelines for dog training. As we were being taught how to train our dog I had this moment when I realized that the basic rules would apply to children as well. It just might be crazy enough to work. So far, so good.

As time has passed, I've met couples who have had the most obedient and well trained dogs, but their kids were complete brats. I've always thought in those moments that their kids would be happier and more well adjusted if their parents would only use some of their training knowledge. Some of you may be incensed, thinking that I treat my kids like dogs. No, I don't swat them on the nose with a newspaper, nor do I have them crate trained (hey! there's an idea!). These are guidelines, not hard-fast rules. Don't think of it as treating your kids like dogs - think of it more like treating your dogs the way you should be treating your kids. But what do I know? I'm no expert. To be honest, though, I don't think there is such a thing.

-Brother Brett

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crossing Eden

As my three children grow, I have to keep up with how I relate to them. It’s amazing the things my children will say. Sometimes they sound like they’re all grown up. I find this common now with my 7 year old daughter. Her grown up statements crack me up sometimes. Other times I don’t know how I should feel. It’s just kind of strange. It’s not just what she says, it’s how she says it. The tone, the emphasys, all sound as if she were 20. I hope others out there can relate to what i’m experiencing. You see, when this happens it’s almost as if I am able to see for a split second,  who my little daughter will grow to be.

The reason these small experiences stick in my mind, is that I do not want my situation to change with my daughter. I will always be there for her. And my job as a father is to be her teacher and protector. As she gets older I have to adjust how I manage those tasks. I know what you’re thinking, she’s only 7, don’t be silly! And you are probably correct in thinking this. The thing is, my daughter is way different than my two boys who are 5 and 9. I see her growing up much quicker than the other two. I’ve always heard that girls mature much faster than boys, and this seems true for my family. Now I have to treat the girl differently in some ways, than the boys.

I think in all families each child has their own sort of relationship with parents, especially when you cross gender lines. Having said that, in day to day life I am very accustomed to placing the children in one group and my wife and me in the other group. This makes things simple. And I love things that are simple. If something goes wrong, it's the fault of the parents or the children did something bad. Simple. My daughter on the other hand does not share my “simple” belief. It seems, at almost every turn these days, she uses her new found maturity to point this out. You see, I think she wants to be in her own group. I can appreciate the fact that she has always been a bit headstrong (she gets that from her mom), but now she is making my simple world much more complicated. My cute little daughter has now grown much more accustomed to challenge parental decisions even at her benefit. The word “brat” might come into your mind about now. But it’s not a brat thing. Brat I can handle. I know how to fix that. It’s something else of which I can’t put my finger on. Is this a normal behavioral benchmark along the way to adulthood? Or should I intervene in some way to prevent something bad for my daughter.

I have family members and friends who have had great challenge with their kids when they grew to be teenagers. I acknowledge that some of this is quite normal as teenie boppers seem to think they know everything, but some of it has also been extreme. Parents of these families have spoken to me with warnings and information on what to expect with teen aged children. Some of the stories that I hear scare the crap out of me to be honest. What will I do to keep my kids from going down that road? What can I do to help my daughter who is already striving for independence to stay on a path that will provide security. Maybe it’s an over protective dad thing to over worry about his daughter. There are different ways to look at it. However, i’m not sure being over protective or over concerned is always a bad thing.

For now I am going to be patient and show my little girl lots of love and encouragement. I will not support bad behavior or condone bratieness. I have no problem crossing my daughter to teach her respect. At the same time I will let her know that I will be there for her during any of life's stages, she may be going through. I just need to remember to stick to the basics and continue to be fair, firm, and consistent as I do with all my children. It seems that when I forget to focus on basic principles, my fatherly powers are at a much lower level. Children know when you aren’t being fair, firm or consistent and they will be quick to call you out on it. Especially the consistent part. Being consistent is the hard part when you have several children at home who seem to be growing up so fast. Something I was taught by my parents, is the importance of getting things right with children when they are young.

I remember learning that the young years of a child’s life will speak volumes when compared to their adult life. If children do not understand basic social morals such as respect and civility before they are 10 years old, it is much more difficult to handle them when they are teenagers. This can sometimes lead them into trouble after they become adults. I think about this all the time, especially now that my daughter seems to be branching out. So, I will be patient and stick to the basics. This will have to work for me for now. And besides I love simplicity. And who knows, with a little luck my daughter will turn out just fine. Ya, this whole rant is probably just an overprotective dad thing. Right? After all, she’s only 7.  

-Brother Jared

Friday, April 27, 2012

Get a Job

I appreciate all your advise. I really do. But I am not unemployed. This is not a transitional period for me. This is my career. This is a choice I made. The choice I'm referring to is the choice I made to be my kids full time primary caregiver - an at-home dad.

There is something about this choice that doesn't sit well with some people, at least subconsciously. The reason I say this is because people are constantly giving me career advise. And by people I mean EVERYONE. Acquaintances will say, "So what do you plan on doing once your kids are all in school?" (As if once they're in school they don't need parents anymore.) Closer friends and family are more likely to be more forward and tell me what career path I should take. "Brett, you're so good at ______. You should totally do _______." Everything from going back to my previous career, to going back to school, to sales, academia - you name it - has all been recommended as a career choice for me.

I get so much of this advise that at the beginning I felt guilty. Should I really be finding something else to do? I stressed out about this until my sage of a wife told me to just concentrate on what I am doing now. You don't do your best at a job when you know that you'll be quitting soon. Now, I realize that most of the people that say stuff like this love me and it is out of love that they offer such advise. I recognize that. I also don't think it's a bad idea to plan for the future and have skills and training that will lead to a job out of the home. Someday, in the future, I'll be doing something else. But, when this advise comes so often and readily, though, I find it quite telling.

Since making this choice of being an at-home dad I have been much more aware of how people not only talk to me, but how they talk to moms as well. You don't ask a mom what she plans on doing after her kids are in school. Its almost taboo. She is a mother, and that is enough. With a man, though, it's almost as if, even in this day and age, the consensus is that no man in his right mind would consciously choose to be a full time parent. If they do, it must mean that they lost they're job, or that they decided to change careers, or are just plain lazy and therefore need help in finding direction. That's when the advice starts rolling in. And like I said before everyone seems to have this sort of advise for me. Ironically, moms are just as likely to do this as anyone else.

Let me be clear (and I think I share this sentiment with most at-home dad's out there). Being a full time parent IS my career. I chose this. I find more joy and fulfillment in doing this than anything I had ever done in my life previously (more perhaps than even you at your desk job). I am busy. In fact, now my kids are in school and I have not felt that, somehow, I have more free time. There is no void. I don't feel like I am missing or missing out on anything. My job is important. My family is in a better place because I am home. I am happy.

-Brother Brett

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tastes Great

My purpose in being here on this earth is the same for everyone else. Speaking stereotypically as a parent, I’m here to prepare my offspring to live successfully on this world. I would hope that all parents feel this way. Seeing how almost everything on this planet in some way or another prepares their progeny for life, I would hope that we all understand this  important part of existence. To me, understanding this “purpose” has lead me to be a better dad.

What gets me is the myriad of ways people “prepare” their children for life in the real world. I believe there is a balance in how we do this with our our kids. I couldn't believe what i was seeing when actor Alicia Silverstone appeared on the internet recently chewing her 10 month old’s cereal and then spitting the food into the poor little guy’s mouth. Is Ms. Silverstone an incredible super mom, or is she out of her mind? I’m sure people will be debating Alicia’s parental decisions for some time now, but my thought is this... Are we as parents doing too much for our children? Is it possible to over protect, or over care for children? Can a parent do too much for their child as to harm or damage the person in preparation for “real life”?

To me the short answer is yes. I think it is possible to over care for children. I think the technical term is “spoil”. Don’t get me wrong here, I think the best thing for kids is to show them lots of love. Children need to know that they are important to the family, and that they matter in everything parents do. However, I think chewing your children’s food isn’t the best way to show them love and respect. I let my kids chew their own food. Children learn best I think when they experience things themselves. Children are going to fall when they learn to walk. Later they will fall more as they ride bikes, and play games and sports.  Heck, I still fall when I ride my bike!

Another thing parents do in caring for their little ones, is protecting them from being wrong. I see this a lot. If the child doesn't get something right, you can watch the mom or dad  quickly intervene and use distraction techniques so the child won't be upset at their mistake. I say let the kid be wrong. Its OK to be wrong. That's how humans are programed to learn when they are young. Instead, it’s popular to take this great learning tool away in the name of care and protection for children. This behavior comes full circle when the child learns that he or she should never be wrong. Then the parents are in a situation in which they become full time servants to an ever needing child. Children in these situations usually have to be the center of attention and in need of constant praise. The sad thing about this is the naive parents who are now enablers of the child’s misdirected behavior. I guess spoiling children is the new way to raise children.

I was amazed at the term “spoiled child syndrome”. This is an actual condition being used for people who grew up spoiled. It turns out that you can harm your kids ability to become “normal”. I recently read a great article written by a family and child therapist, Helene Rothschild. In her article she wrote:

”... I noticed that the clients who were spoiled had a very difficult time in their lives. They had inadequate people and coping skills. Unfortunately, without that being their intent, the parents did not prepare them for life. Generally speaking, I found them to be emotionally weak and lacking self confidence; especially if their parent or parents gave them all they needed and wanted even in their adult life. They were not taught to be considerate of others and did not understand what was wrong and how to fix the problem.”

I think Dads are good in this area. Generally we are thought of as the tougher and less hovering part of the parental team. Moms seem to get the credit for being the softer more nurturing component. So lets use our dad skills and let the kids have some time to be on their own with the opportunities to really learn and experience things even at the risk of the children being wrong. Its OK. Let the child freak out a little. It will be fine. Even adults need to freak every once in awhile. The important thing is that children are given opportunities to learn. After all, that’s what we are here to do. Oh, ya, no more chewing your kid’s food for them.

-Brother Jared

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Mister Dad is the moniker by which Jared and I decided this blog should be called. We chose this name very deliberately. "Mr. Mom" is by far a more common term used to denote an at-home dad, so naturally when we had to come up with a name for this little project "Mr. Mom" was one of the first names to come to mind. It was quickly crossed off the list, however. We decided against it for several reasons, the main reason being this: I hate the term "Mr. Mom."

"Mr. Mom" is a decent film, but it is a lousy descriptor for what I, and most other at-home dads, do/are. This term is merely a witty way of saying "male mother", and is about as inappropriate as "Mrs. Dad" is for working mothers. The root of why I detest this title so much is simply that I am not a mom. I didn't give birth. I don't "mother" my children. I don't raise my kids the same way their mother would, nor do they respond to me like they do their mother. By calling me "mom" not only are you devaluing what it means to be a father, you are also doing mothers a disservice by taking their title from them.

The fact that proves I am not a mother has in the past actually been a source tension in our family. I think other at-home dads can attest to this. It's not easy for most women to let the fathers of their children stay home raise the kids. It takes a tremendous amount of faith on their part to walk away from their children (which they developed over nine miserable/magical months and gave birth to) on a daily basis in the hopes that we men will not only not screw it up but that we'll actually do a good job rearing them. This "tension" stems from the simple fact that we fathers don't do things the same way that they would and this worries them to no end. This difference can drive both parties involved nuts until you come to the realization that, regardless of methodology, the kids are fine - in fact they're thriving.

Remember school, when you were required to call your teachers "Mr."or "Mrs."? This was enforced because by using the title "Mister" you were showing respect.  For some reason all the respect seems sucked from the word when you put "mom" behind it. Put "dad" behind it, though, and it retains some of its presence. If someone calls you "dad" you can respond with, "That's MISTER dad to you, fella!" Respect.

Seriously though, think of all the titles given to people in this world: sir, duke, doctor, king, master, emperor, etc. None of these titles have the potential to be as great as that of "Mother" and "Father." Think about it. Would you ever say "Queen Earth"? No. Why? Because the title "queen" doesn't bear the majesty that "Mother" does. "Mother Earth" commands far more respect. Probably the best example comes out of Christianity. God is referred to by individuals and organizations, in scripture and in prayer, all around the world as "Heavenly Father" or "God, the Father". We have bestowed the title of "Father" on deity because it is one of the greatest titles in our language.

In my mind, "dad" is synonymous "father" only with added meaning. It implies a certain intimacy or closeness with your offspring that the term "father" somehow lacks. After all, any fertile male has the potential of being a "Father", but it takes a loving father who is dedicated to his kids to be a dad.

So Mister Dad, may seem like a clever-ish derivation of "Mr. Mom" but its more than that. Its a name that plays with the idea of respect, combined with title of a dedicated father; one that, in a round about way, is akin to deity. And really, to our kids, that's what we are - gods. That is really how they see us. Perhaps that's the key to being a good parent - acting some of the time, the way our children believe we behave all the time.

-Brother Brett

Friday, April 6, 2012

Modern Family

Lately I have been thinking about how the American family has changed. It seems that the average family has incredible needs. A thirst for activity and connectivity that is totally foreign from how I grew up. What comes first, the needs of the family or the excess of a family’s fiscal value? Its funny how the poor American family life can include the children all having cell phones, X-Box game systems and of course, hi speed internet. Don’t get me wrong here, because I can’t live without hi speed internet! Maybe it doesn't matter which came first. Should the question be, where is all that money coming from?

Today's parents work their butts off to provide for the family. In fact, it is now common for both parents to be working at the same time to satisfy the needs of the house. The “dual income family” as its known. According to many websites that I have visited, and articles I’ve read on the subject, including one in the New York Times, four out of five households are dual income families. In fact, from what I understand, 71% of all American mothers who have children under the age of 18 are working. As parents, we all want to be good providers. However, in our haste to be great providers, who will be home with the kids? In a society of parents who do almost nothing but work, what will the new/ modern family be like? I hope the cell phones, X-Box games, and internet are worth it seeing as those things will be responsible for raising children. Maybe the children’s phones of the future will have some sort of “parental app” on them.

When I see this information, I see the end of an era. Soon there won’t be anyone at home for the kids. Day care will be a booming business, and a norm in how children will be raised. I’m not trying to be all doom and gloom here. I can't see the future, so who knows. All I can do is look at the information we have now. So then, who is raising our children?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are around 5.6 million stay at home dads. This number has been on the rise for decades. In fact, the number of stay at home dads has doubled since the mid nineteen nineties. In 2007 approximately 2.7% of the nation's stay at home parents were dads. In Canada the trend is so strong that the government has passed legislation providing benefits for fathers. I know that the number of stay at home dads are still small when compared to stay at home moms.  However, The fact that the dads are staying home to me is a good trend. It shows that there are people out there who put child rearing first. In a world destined for the norm of the “dual income family”, it’s nice to see a growing trend of people who want to raise their children themselves.

The trend is uplifting and fascinating at the same time. See what ABC news has to say about it.

-Brother Jared

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's in Your Shoes?

I have written a little about the perspective changing power of parenting. As soon as our first child emerges from the womb we see and think of many things in a new light. Foremost among these is... poop. In an instance poop goes from a revolting, taboo subject to something that demands inquiry, study and discussion. Especially in the early years, poop and poop related matters become the center of most discussions between parents. Diaper changes, blow-outs, consistency, frequency, amount, potty training successes/failures - all of these become valid topics of discussion for all parents. This is perfectly normal. Granted, these conversations should probably not be had at the dinner table over a steaming bowl of chili. But for those not in the know, even this can happen as poop becomes a severe preoccupation with moms and dads, particularly those that are at home with the kids all day long.

For the stay-at-home parent, poop occupies a large chunk of your energy. Even if your not dealing with poop directly, it is mentally ever present. Will this food constipate my child? How easily will these new clothes come off my kid for diaper changes? Which ointment should I get for diaper rash? Do we need more air-freshener? Should I wait to go to the store until after the next diaper change? Should I get some stronger laundry detergent?  If your child is crying, more often than not, the first thought is, "do they need a diaper change?" For babies that breast feed, poop is even more important because the only way you can tell if they are actually eating is if they are pooping. There is a saying - you can only be sure of a few things: death and taxes. I would amend that - you can only be sure of a few things: death, taxes and poop.

I don't know if this is common knowledge, but every parent has a poop story. Some of them are more horrific than others. When my most horrific poop story happened to me I really felt like this stuff only happens to me. I found that as I started sharing my poop stories to other parents they would share their stories. As gross as this sounds, it was actually quite nice knowing that poop is a burden every parent has to bear. This wasn't just happening to me. This is the norm. So, for your edification, I present my poop story...

My son at roughly 2 years, in the later potty training stages, fell into a vicious poop hardening cycle. He had a difficult time defecating once, due to firm stools, and so he decided that he just wasn't going to poop again. This of course made him more constipated, which made defecating more painful. This hardened his resolve not to poop as well as his feces. I tried administering enemas, but this was equally, if not more, unpleasant. Suddenly, our bright and cheerful bathroom was becoming dank, unpleasant dungeon, and slowly I was un-potty training my child. After over a week with no bowel movements, I had to concede that I couldn't handle this problem on my own.

Frazzled, I packed up my son and took him to our most excellent doctor. She calmed me saying that this wasn't all that uncommon (You see?! If only more parents had shared their poop stories!). She prescribed a laxative and told us that this we should use it to flush him out and then continue to use it in smaller doses to keep his stools soft so that we could continue with the potty training in a more pleasant fashion. I was expecting his prescription to come in a little bottle - you know, like Pepto Bismal. What we got was a jug... more akin to Drain-O. I had to think back to the words my doctor said when I had asked "What if he still refuses to poop?" She paused and calmly said, "He won't have a choice." I can't be sure, but I recall the corners of her mouth curling up ever so slightly.

Days passed and nothing happened despite our vigilant administration of his medication. Then one day my son was in the backyard playing. I was tiding up the house, keeping an eye on him through the open sliding glass back door. "Dad!" he called to me. I could see him standing quite stiff like he was frozen.

"What is it, buddy?" I answered.

"There is poop in my shoes."

Now, we have a large dog, so when he said this I just assumed this was his 2 year old way of telling me he'd stepped in dog crap. Seeing that this event, whatever it was, had immobilized him, I went out to investigate. No doubt you have guessed that he was speaking quite literally, and it was indeed his own poop in his shoes, but how exactly does poop get into shoes? The answer is simply, it goes there when it has nowhere left to go.

I would briefly like to preform a small thought exercise with you. Imagine two weeks of food - that's three meals, plus snacks, a day for at least 14 days. For those of you not mathematically inclined, that"s 42 meals. Now imagine blending all that food and cramming it all into a pair of size 2T pants. This will help you mentally visualize what I walked out to that afternoon. It looked like MacBeth's witches were trying boil my son in an overflowing trouser shaped cauldron filled with poo. Both pant legs were stuffed to brimming with a slurry that resembled freshly mixed beige concrete. So much so, that the feces had no where to go but out the top and out of the bottom, and into his shoes.

This is one of the ways in which parenting builds character. I can hear my inner dialogue now. He is your responsibility. There is no getting out of this. No one is going to clean this up for you. It needs to be done and YOU are the one that has to do it. And I did. I went out there and using my thumbs and forefingers I peeled his poo filled pants off of him like a giant brown banana, hosed him down (and his clothes) and put him in a hot bath to be vigorously scrubbed.

Some of you will never experience anything this bad, some of you have had worse happen (at least I was at home!), and some of you have experiences yet to come! As gross as they are, these experiences make us better parents if for no other reason than they show us how dedicated we can be as parents and what we're willing to do for our kids. And for all you kid-less folks, be patient with us dads and moms and all of our poo-talk. It is, for good or bad, a major part of our lives.

-Brother Brett

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Parental Performance

How well would you rate yourself as a father. How well would you rate yourself as a parent? Lets be honest here. Is there something you could do better? I sometimes wonder if I'm doing this dad thing right. I'm not saying that I leave my kids in the car while at the mall, but is there a philosophy or method that I haven't thought of yet?

I remember how I felt after my son was born. It was a feeling of helplessness. He was our first and there were no instructions in how to raise him. There are plenty of books and people to tell you in a general sense how to raise a family, but there isnt a mechanism in how to handle the specific person you just brought into the world. After my second child was born I didn't feel helpless. After all, how different is it to have two children over just one child? It took a little longer with the second one, but then it hit me. I felt helpless again. I found that the second child, this time a girl was totally different than the first. Again no instructions. My experience has shown me that the helpless feelings soon leave as you are busy dealing with the new life forms you have in your house; so much so that I now have three children. But that’s for another day. As for me now, I don’t feel helpless. I just wonder if i'm on the right track in raising my family. Being a dad can be a real rollercoaster ride sometimes.

I find it fascinating how people interact with their children both inside the home in private, and outside the house in public settings. I think by nature I'm a people watcher. Whenever I am out at a restaurant, it's interesting to watch how the mom or dad keeps their child from misbehaving, or calms a tantruming child down while waiting for the check. You can feel the patience, or fear, or even rage sometimes with the parents in these situations. Sometimes it seems parents do little if nothing when children are running amok inside the dining room. I myself have been the parent in the restaurant trying to gain control of a child. It’s embarrassing and stressful knowing that you have an audience who will watch and see how well you perform. Is this how I gauge my parenting prowess? Are these the moments when I need to rate myself as a father?

To me parenting is a moving target. Just when you think you have it figured out, things move on ya. Over and over again I take aim only to lose site of the target. It’s amazing to see the different tactics and techniques that people utilize in rearing children, especially Mr. dads. So if you are a stay at home dad or a single father, or a dad of a traditional family, now is your chance to weigh in on all subjects pertaining to the life of a dad. Even you chicks out there are welcome to stir the pot. The important thing here is that we will all have a chance to learn a few things about being parents and “Mr. dads”.

Speaking of rating dads, watch this guy with his great instincts. Some of us might need some help.

-Brother Jared

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Double Standards

Men really are strange creatures. As one of them, it has been interesting to see how my attitudes and emotions have evolved over the years due to my career as a full time dad. Perhaps more interesting to me is how other men initially react when they find out what I do. From my experience so far, reactions fall into one of two categories. Maybe its just that I have been doing this dad thing too long, but I find these reactions odd.

The first reaction type usually comes from guys that are married with kids. This how the conversation usually goes:

"So, what do you do, Brett?"

"I'm a stay-at-home dad."

"Really?! Good for you, man. There's NO WAY I could ever do that!"

Initially this sounds very complementary. To me, though, it's weird for several different reasons. My first thoughts are whether he likes being with his family or not. Are your kids so bratty that you can't imagine spending more than a weekend with them? (If so you may need to consider spending more time with them...) Are those strangers in neighboring cubicles that much better company? The reason this is strange to me is because the longer I do this dad thing, the more I realize that my kids are my favorite people, and there is no one I'd rather spend my time with. Now, I'm firm believer that getting out every once and a while is a good thing. I relish my "guy's night out" or even catching a movie by myself. If, however, I had to choose one group of people to hang out with for the rest of my life, it certainly wouldn't be the people I used to work with - it would be my wife and kids.

There is another thing about this that puzzles me and it has to do with attitudes toward women. When was the last time this sort of shock and awe was expressed to a woman that stays home and raises a family? Is this sort of amazement expressed to their own wives? Their mothers? Somehow, I doubt it.

The second reaction usually comes from single guys or married men with no kids.

"So, what do you do, Brett?"

"I'm a stay-at-home dad."

"Lucky! Must be nice to hang out at home all day."

I'm sorry, but did you just call me "lazy"? That's certainly how it comes across. Do you really think I spend all day in my boxers playing Call of Duty? This used to really irritate me. I've realized now that this reaction is really just an expression of ignorance as to what it takes to raise a family, rather than an attempt at being demeaning. Now I find it more funny than offensive. What's even more interesting is that they feel safe saying this to me. Would they ever dare say that to a woman? Again, what does this say about their attitudes towards women in the same position as me?

Perhaps its because I'm a guy that other men find themselves with their defenses down, inserting their feet into their respective mouths. Maybe the shock of finding a man doing what I do causes them to say the first thing that comes into their heads. I'm a man, and as such I'm sure I've said some pretty stupid things. Maybe we're just wired that way. Either way, I think the world would be better off if we actually thought about what we're going to say before we say it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Transitions for Dad

Most boys won't say that they want to be a homemaker when they grow up. In fact, at least for my generation, it was never even considered an option. For the vast majority of at-home dads this career is one that usually starts out of necessity. For my wife and me it started as basic economics. My wife made more money than I did. It was further cemented after an incident at our church; a woman running a daycare killed a small boy in her care - both were members of our congregation. We really believed that no one, other than ourselves, should be raising our child.

Being a modern man I accepted this new calling of primary care giver with enthusiasm. I had visions of playing ball in the back yard, building Lego's together, watching his face when he learned that Vader is actually Luke's father. It was going to be fun all day, every day. And surely I would still be able to work now and then on days my wife had off.

It turns out, like many other things in life, that raising my son wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. The problem was I didn't have an 8 year old that I could play, build and watch Star Wars with - I had a baby. Instead of spending all day every day having fun, I was dealing with blow-outs, spit up, feeding, figuring out why he was crying for no apparent reason, trying to get him to sleep, trying (and failing) to do an endless amount of house work, doing errands like shopping while simultaneously dealing with blow-outs, spit up, feeding, and figuring out why he was crying. Well, at least I could work on those precious days off. That too was a false notion and soon the work dried up.

We're raised with the notion that women take care of the kids and men earn money. As such our entire youth is built on our plans for the future. What classes you take in high school, your grades, what crappy job to get to save for college, what you decide your major should be, is all based on the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Having all these years of preparation and indoctrination magically erased by choosing to stay at home is for men psychologically jarring. This problem is uniquely paternal. Being a primary care giver is hard work, woman or man. The difference is that most women are more mentally prepared, as being an at-home mom has always been a possibility for them. Unfortunately, the possibility of being an at-home dad is a consideration that is rarely realized by men.

For me the first year was the hardest. Subconsciously, I started resenting my wife and even my child because they had somehow stolen the future that I had been working for years to build. But of course we're men so we don't express these feelings, in fact I didn't at first really understand why this was so hard for me. Now I wouldn't change what I do for any salary. What changed?

Often attitudes change with our perceptions. My perceptions changed when I one day had an epiphany. I came to a realization: I AM GOOD AT THIS. This is a job that requires training, intuition, and skills and I was starting to master them. My wife needed me to show her how to best hold a bottle, calm him when he was upset, get him to sleep, etc.. I was needed in this role. I wasn't just some full time babysitter. I was the one with the skills needed not just to bring up a child but to make our lives livable. Nothing feels as empowering as a dad as when your child, upset and crying, comes running into your arms, right past mom. Those are the moments when you know that what you're doing is right - when you know what you're doing is important.

-Brother Brett

Transitions for Dad II

When we think of “dad” in the classic sense of the definition, How many of us imagine a tired old grumpy guy who is always over worked and underpaid. He usually gets home in the evening, dirty and tired. He walks Through the door, throws his lunchbox down on the table and flops down on the worn sofa chair with a low sounding but sharpish groan. Sensing that no one has affirmed his arrival he calls out in a rusty voice, “ I”m home!” In this scenario the “dad” has a wife who takes care of the three children, maintains the house, and always has meals ready at the proper times. Even if this isn’t how you might see “dad”, usually its something like this. After all, isn’t this how its supposed to be?

Is it a bad thing that I’m not a grumpy guy who comes home to a “Leave It To Beaver” house? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not bagging on guys who have that life style. More power to them. In fact, if it weren't for these guys we wouldn't be here commenting on the “Mr. Dad” phenomenon. For me its been a slow transition to be a house husband. It has taken a lot of time, baby steps and training for me to adjust to being home. The fact that you never have to punch a time card is a little weird at first. I have had to learn that there isn't a time card as there isn’t a time off. The nice thing about coming home from work is that you don't have to take work home. That's a subject all on it own.

After all this time I am still learning how to adjust to my job. I have had to learn how to respond to my wife differently as she has me. There is a new sort of ebb and flow that must be respected if you are going to make this thing work. One has to respect the new pressure of bringing home the bacon of which the wife now has. I have to make sure that I am pulling my weight and keeping things running at home. So there is plenty of pressure to go around.

The interesting thing to appreciate about this transition is that everyone in the house has had to change as well. My wife and children have had to adjust to me playing a different role. Mother is now the overworked and under appreciated person. The children now have to relearn who knows what, and where to go for certain resources. These things alone caused me much guilt and anxiety. As a husband and father I feel it is my duty to bring stability and peace into the home. This change causes a few waves that can capsize how things are done in the family. My experience is that things get easier as the family settles into the new situation. It does take some time. My children are now used to the routine and schedule that I give them. My wife has been able to build a good career and I do wish her much success.

From time to time I do feel as if I need to get out there and be the primary bread winner. It’s a wonderful thing to provide security and stability to your family. Funny how life changes what you think, to the reality that is. Right now my role is caring for my children. The best way to provide for my family is by being there for them at any time. Its really fun helping out with home work and discussing issues that arise with school or friends. I find it pretty cool that I can provide for my family in this way. We all have unique situations. Its about being creative in how you provide for you family.

-Brother Jared