Saturday, September 27, 2008
The day our son arrived, ten years ago, was the day I started living for another. I now had someone completely dependent upon me and my choices. From then on, choices I made for myself may have not always been the best choices for my son. I had now been changed to a different person. Or better yet, I had been improved into a better person.
Being a Dad for the first time involved a lot of on the job training. Our son taught me how to feed, bathe and change a baby. As he grew, he presented more tests and challenges for me. He dared me to keep in shape by chasing him around the house. He tested my patience endlessly and taught me to anticipate how messy a situation could become based on my choices of food. When he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at two and half years old, I experienced a complete attitude overhaul. Asperger's is a form of Autism that causes kids to struggle with social cues, peer relationships and certain sensory challenges.
This diagnosis changed the way I thought of my son. But don't misunderstand me, I didn't change any important goals I had for him. I still expected him to be successful and give his best effort. I still wanted him to live up to his full potential. He was still the great, loving miracle we always had. The only thing that changed was how I saw myself as his Dad. I still gave him tools to accomplish his goals, I just had to learn how to use a different set of tools. I was required to see things from his perspective and adjust my parenting accordingly.
When our son turned four years old, I was comfortable in my abilities and talents to bring up a happy, successful son.
Then his sister came into the picture. She lived by a completely different playbook from her brother. Where he was a good sleeper and napper, she was up all day and night. Things that worked well for him, she would have none of. My confidence as a parent dropped to zero. Time for another learning curve.
My daughter started her Dad lessons almost immediately. Our son must have known early on that I was new to Daddying, in that he was much more patient and content with my efforts. My daughter knew that I had had four years to get ready for her and she wasn't going to wait a second longer for anything she needed. Time get a bigger toolbox.
I continued my parenting school through the next few years. My son was attending grade school and my daughter was in preschool. I had to learn how much freedom and independence to give them and balance it with the right amount of protection. I had to learn not to compare and measure my kids against other kids their age. I am not in competition with other Dads. My kids are competing against themselves. And I am there to support them and be their biggest cheerleader.
Right now, my kids are my investment in myself. It's like I went to the self-improvement section of the bookstore and came out with two self-help aids. In order to get the most out of them, I have to learn how to use them correctly. Luckily, part of their job is to teach their operators how to handle them. Just let them teach you. A Dad has to get down on their level and see the world from their perspective. Only then can he truly understand what it means to be a Dad. My toolbox is constantly being revised. New tools added and old ones retired. Dad training is lifelong and gruelling. But a more rewarding upgrade, you will never find.
Thanks, Grandma Peg, for all the pies and so much more.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
On Sunday, the family finally made it to the apple orchard. We went to the same one as last year. Everything was pretty much the same. The kids and I picked and sampled apples while Lady Di picked three pints of raspberries. After picking raspberries, Lady Di's forearms looked like she had been fighting a chicken. Raspberry bushes are mean.
Monday, September 15, 2008
A Whoopee Cushion and Noise Putty. Can you see the connection? The Noise Putty's container is in the shape of a toilet and when you press down on it with your thumbs, it makes a farting noise. And the Whoopee Cushion should explain itself.
What prouder moment could a father have than when his precious innocents learn the value of money, bartering and supply and demand by buying flatulence novelties.
At least these are toys the kids are actually getting some use out of. Now every night at bedtime, SP blows up her poo cushion and places it under her covers for her unsuspecting parents to sit on when it is story time.
And I forgot to mention that N1S's Noise Putty glows in the dark. So he can have gaseous fun day or night.
The novelty is actually already starting to wear off. I haven't heard any offensive noises from the kids rooms for a while now. No artificial noises anyway. But, Gramma is visiting this weekend, so they may make a comeback.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This nip in the air also signals a change in the wardrobe. Pretty soon the shorts and sandals will be replaced with sweat pants and snow boots. In the between time, I've started the clothing rotation by digging out my very best flannel items. When the temp shows signs of getting chilly but not yet sub-arctic, there is nothing more comfortable than flannel.
As you know, if you live in Minnesota, wearing flannel from Labor Day to Memorial Day is the law. But even if I lived anywhere else in the world, my flannel would follow me. Because besides the high fashion value, flannel is just plain comfortable. Nothing is more cozy feeling than flannel.
So you can see why my excitement level was so high while digging in my dresser. Here is an example of what I am talking about.
The one on the right is my all purpose pair of flannel pants. I wear these when relaxing in front of the TV or outside if I have any showing off to do for the neighbors. The pair on the left I reserve for more formal affairs. Those are worn on Sundays only during the Vikings football game. I need to wear them for good luck for the team. Whenever I don't wear them, the Vikings lose to Green Bay. They've also found ways to lose to other teams regardless of my pant choice, but once you pick a team, you have to follow them no matter how terrible. Plus, a team loss while wearing flannel pants doesn't sting as much.
I am troubled slightly by the fact that I know I had three pair of flannel pants last year and I can only find two of them this year. I'll have to remember to ask Lady Di about that. Or better yet, I'll have to make a shopping trip to Fleet Farm and update my collection with the latest plaid patterns. Lady Di doesn't always share or understand my fondness for flannel, but I know she will eventually learn to embrace plaid.
Flannel doesn't have to stop with pants either. I have a full array of coordinating, colorful flannel shirts to go with the pants. Sometimes I can get the plaid pattern in the shirt to line up perfectly with the pants, causing the ideal camouflage for Lutheran potlucks.
Here's a picture of one of my flannel ensembles from a couple of Februaries ago. Notice, it must have been snowing on a Sunday.
So after a hard day at work, or when the kids run me ragged, I know I can unwind and let my flannel absorb all of the tension from the day. So make sure you always have at least one article of flannel, preferable plaid, in your closet at all times. A roaring fire in the fireplace just isn't entirely cozy without flannel.
Once the weather starts to go polar with talk of wind chill and frostbite, then it will be time start digging for another Minnesota necessity, thermal underwear.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
"Good morning, Sweet Pea, what would you like for breakfast?", I asked.