Father Knows Best: Father’s Day

It turns out I have the good fortune to write our Father Knows Best post the week after Father's Day.  I wish I could say this was well-planned on my part, but, like most of my parenting, I just sort of stumbled into it.  I wasn't entirely sure what to write about, but then my "kids" (Philosofette) wrote a whole bunch of post-it notes about the things I do for them and posted them all around our apartment.  It made me feel pretty awesome.  I'm going to use a couple of those notes to hit on some of the high points of my parenting.  Since, you know... they're few and far between.

You Clean Up All The Puke

It's true.  Philosofette abhors puke more than the normal person, so I get stuck with this task.  I don't know that there are tasks I specifically avoid though.  This isn't a complaint.  Philosofette handles > her share of other grossness.  How about others out there in the Nation?  Tasks avoided?

You cook yummy food

I am the primary preparer of meals in our house.  It's just my job, complete with all of the shopping and planning.  Philosofette averages somewhere between 1 and 2 dinners a week for prep.  Two thoughts here... First, though it wasn't long ago that cooking was a role largely assigned by gender, it really didn't ever occur to us to try to defy gender stereotypes when we set about dividing our labor.  We're definitely one of those liberal-arts-education-gender-roles-aren't-how-we-do-it families, but there hasn't ever been an overt effort to avoid such roles.  Maybe we've moved past fighting against gender roles and into ignoring them all together?  That's better, right?

Second, and much more importantly, I try to make sure I involve my kids in this process.  Our oldest is almost 4, and he's showing a real interest in cooking.  He helps me prep veggies most evenings, though it's probably more work to fix the messes he's making.  He's recently started setting the table, and we're gonna add clearing it to the list of his chores (which is an exceedingly short list).  I'm curious to hear from others with older kids about chore assignment and what has worked for you, when things happened along those lines, etc.

I also enjoy taking my kids grocery shopping.  We usually go to Cub, who usually have free cookies for kids, so that's a bonus for them.  Sometimes only one of the kids gets to come along, and we treat it as a special occasion, even though it's really just running an errand.  This is something my folks used to do too, and it worked well; I loved going to Menards or Target or wherever when it was just me and Mom/Dad.

You Worry Over Every High-Grade Fever

I complain, and rightly so, about my job with some frequency.  But one very nice thing about it is that my position affords me a lot of flexibility when the kids are sick.  I would say we manage about a 50/50 split on parenting sick children.

You Worry Over Every Low-Grade Fever

So it turns out I might be a worrier... I tend to be quick to look for deeper causes of problems when the kids are running a fever, I tend to watch them more closely than I probably need to, and I tend to generally worry about things that almost always resolve themselves.  This is especially true for my daughter.  She was born with a tethered spinal cord, and needed a spinal surgery when she was less than 3 months old.  The gist of it is that the base of the spinal cord is supposed to hang free, but hers was tied down by a bunch of fatty tissue.  She had a dime-sized bump on her back when she was born, which was extremely fortunate, because it let us figure this out long before any problems actually occurred.  Had we not discovered it her nerves would have stretched as she grew and she could have lost bladder and bowel control, and ultimately even the ability to walk (she would grow progressively  club-footed.).  She also, independent of all this, it seems, happens to frequently be constipated.  I can't tell you how many times I've worried that the constipation was related to the tethered cord (since it can re-tether, though the doctors doubt it will).

I also worry a lot about my kids' social adjustment.  Especially for the oldest.  I'm a oldest child.  I was super naive.  There are countless things from my youth that I look back on and am embarrassed by.  Right now, my son is an incredibly free spirit.  He's happy to dance like no one is watching.  And he frequently does.  In public.  I love it so much.  And then I think back of how naive I was, and how much easier school might have been for me if I'd been better aware of social norms and such, and I find myself wanting that for him too.  And then I feel guilty about it.  Basically, I'm torn between wanting my son to be as innocent as possible for as long as possible, and wanting him to be socially attuned.  Those two things seem to be completely at odds.  At least, they were for me.   Of course, as I typed this, I thought, "screw the social attunement.  He's fantastic the way he is.  No matter that he's awkward enough that my sister wondered aloud that he might have autism (I'm reasonably confident he's not anywhere on the spectrum).  Innocence is the way to go."  So there's that.  Again, hearing from others with older kids would be greatly appreciated here.  Or anyone really... this kind of thing causes me anxiety.

You Teach us about stars, stoplights, and birds

Philosofette is currently in a Masters/Teaching Licensure program.  This has left a lot of time when I'm alone with the kids.  Usually that means feed them, bathe them, play with them for an hour or so, and get them to bed.  That's not really a ton of time, and needing to feed/bathe/put to bed often runs long.  What I've started to do is try to have themed nights, where we fit our meal, bed-time story, listening music, etc. into a theme.  Usually it revolves around whatever I can think to cook that'll fit (for example, stoplight night involved green beans, yellow pineapple, and red ketchup (to go with the hot dogs and french fries we had that night)).  Even though the kids are young enough that they probably won't remember the specific lessons of these nights, I'm hopeful that they'll still take away something from their themed nights with Dad.

I'm currently working on one for Friday night... We're going with a "sun" theme, given that it's the solstice.  Feel free to offer ideas.

Right.  Well.  Those are the highlights.  Nothing so outstanding, but a few of the things my family let me know they appreciated this Father's Day.  Oh.  And I got binoculars for my growing bird-watching habit.  Which my son is quickly adopting too.  How about you other dads in the Nation... how was your Father's Day?

41 thoughts on “Father Knows Best: Father’s Day”

  1. great write-up, phil.

    I try to make sure I involve my kids in this process.
    we recently moved Pete to a montessori program. having worked briefly in one, i'm a fan of how much self-reliance they try to impart. Pete's not quite at the age where he can assist fully in things like cooking, but we try to include him as much as possible in various tasks. our next plan is to complete re-organize his play area in an attempt to simply and codify it to make clean-up, and the attention to doing so an easier task.

    Maybe we’ve moved past fighting against gender roles and into ignoring them all together
    yeah, the lines are very fuzzy in our house. at the very least, i'd say there's really no task that jane or i do exclusively.

    how was your Father’s Day?
    heh. we went strawberry picking on saturday (jane's idea). one of the guys at the farm asked something to the effect of, "so, you do this today, and tomorrow is your day, right?" i told him you'd think it works like that...

    1. How old is Pete?

      Please feel free to share any of your re-organization of the play area plans... This is an area we could definitely use some help.

      1. Pete's just about to turn 2. our plan is to set it up more like a montessori class room. toys/activities are organized into various containers (bins, tubs, what have you) and arranged on shelves. children are encouraged to "work" (it's not playing in montessori, it's "working") with one activity at a time and then, when finished, but everything back in to the container and return it to its place. something like this:

        Organizing and Rotating Toys

        Toys should be kept in the area where the family lives, not only in the child's room. Removable parts such as puzzles, stacking toys, stringing beads, are the most satisfying and interesting to a child, but they can be the most frustrating to parents who are trying to keep track of all of these small parts. Toy boxes make the problem worse because a child cannot find what he wants, and pieces get scattered and lost.

        Having order in the environment creates a feeling of security in the child, and trust in the environment. Baskets, trays, small boxes neatly arranged on low shelves can be very helpful in creating this order. Limiting the number of toys available at any one moment is also important. If the adult carefully and continually puts the pieces of puzzles and toys back in the basket in front of the child, she will eventually imitate and join in the activity. Sometimes the "putting away" into baskets is the most enjoyable part of play at this age.

        If you watch a child you will see which toys he plays with most and which ones just get dropped and forgotten. Try to keep only as many toys available to the child as can be kept neat, and uncrowded, in baskets on a shelf.

        In our family we have kept the rest in boxes in the garage, rotating them every month or so in the first years, but keeping the favorite toys always available.

        honestly, we currently have no system whatsoever, and the chaos and messes that creates annoy me. this seems like a system that would benefit everybody.

        1. If the adult carefully and continually puts the pieces of puzzles and toys back in the basket in front of the child, she will eventually imitate and join in the activity. Sometimes the “putting away” into baskets is the most enjoyable part of play at this age.

          I'll just say that that hasn't been my experience.

          1. yeah, i'm not predicting a high success rate. at the very least, we're definitely simplifying as much as possible. there were just so many toys he's not playing with or barely playing with that were all over the place. if we can enact some sort of system, any adherence to it will be a small victory.

            1. It'd be nice to do something similar, but I would also predict a low liklihood of success. My wife said she was trying to clean the house today, so I told her I hoped the Trinket didn't take that as a challenge. I was informed that she was being helpful by drawing on herself with a pen. A cow, I believe.

            2. Well, I'll be interested to hear how it goes. The wife and I both tend to hold onto things too long. So, whether it's nature or nurture, my kids are not good at getting rid of stuff they don't really play with any longer and therefore we have a ton of stuff in our house and it isn't very organized. I know. I just moved it all into our new house.

      2. Secondy second on being a Montessori fan. The blog How We Montessori, written by an Australian mom, has a lot of interesting ideas for implementing Montessori principles at home, including both organization and activities. I'll confess that some of the ideas can seem a little hard core or OCD, but it's interesting stuff all the same.

    2. We were looking at enrolling the Trinket in a Montesorri program, but decided we just couldn't really afford it. We're probably going to do it next year when she's a little older and will benefit more from it.

      1. we were already dropping a bank on a regular chain day care facility. it was only slightly more expensive (though a bit more inconvenient) to move him to the place he is now, but i am muuuuch more comfortable with this program and facility.

  2. Let's see . . . on Father's Day Mr. NaCl spent a bunch of time with my parents painting the baby's room. Then he cooked dinner. And then he got sick and didn't eat any dinner. I was kind enough not to go into labor that day/night thus allowing him to recover. That's totally a great gift, right? (Things are getting down to the wire over here.)

    Regarding worrying, Mr. NaCl is the worrier-in-chief in our household. Especially when it comes to sickness/injury, but also for most other things.

  3. She also, independent of all this, it seems, happens to frequently be constipated.

    If it makes you feel any better, the Trinket is basically constantly constipated without having any of the spinal issues. We think it might be a dairy thing, but really have no idea. Its frustrating, and she's clearly uncomfortable when she has to try to "go", so hopefully it gets better soon.

    1. It does help to hear about similar experiences.

      Rock hard poops? Doesn't go for a week, then goes frequently for a day or two and/or really intensely for 15-20 minutes with a very large byproduct? Stinks even more than it should? That's our version...

      1. Pretty much everything but stinking more than it should is what we've experienced.

    2. Trey had problems with constipation and someone suggested we cut out the apple juice. The problem stopped immediately after that (he was unable to go for days and then would have accidents). We switched to other kinds of juice, just no apple juice straight up. After a couple years, we allowed him to have apple juice on a trial basis and had no problems.

  4. How was your Father’s Day?
    I got breakfast in bed and two hours by myself in the garden. My wife bought the six of us matching "The Moustache Made Me Do It" T-shirts and we all wore those out to my parents' place. Pretty great day.

    Gender roles
    We generally follow traditional gender roles, but mainly that's just the way our preferences line up. My wife likes to cook and I like to mow the grass. I also change diapers and she picks up dog poop in the yard from time to time, but she does most of the diapers and I get most of the dog's crap. Both are pretty gross. If someone in our house pukes, my wife will take care of the kid while I handle clean up and immediate laundry.

    I also worry a lot about my kids’ social adjustment.
    My son was the loudest kid in the church choir when he was around four. The congregation could hear my son over all of the other kids singing and it was pretty fun to see. Then he became more self-aware, for lack of a better word, and the loud singing ended abruptly. Now, he doesn't want to be on stage in front of a bunch of grown ups. I'd say enjoy it while it lasts because it might be fleeting.

  5. You Teach us about stars, stoplights, and birds

    Because my mind is a sticky trap for worthless information, I tend to share trivia about wildlife, movies, computers, the Twins...whatever else comes up during the day. I figure Runner daughter is free to filter out whatever she wants to. Same thing applies with the K/1st graders in "my" choir, or showing the neighbor kids Venus transiting the sun, and God knows the kids at band camp were fascinated to learn about the various insects -- the "grosser" the better. Knowledge is free, and you never know what it will be that sparks a life-long interest.

    1. I'm largely the same. And I absolutely love when they pick up on something... nothing feels better. When he was 2, my kid started saying "bio-luminescence" because I taught him about the fireflies we saw outside. Then we watched Planet Earth and he saw glow worms and started saying the word when he saw them. That application of concept was one of the high points of my life.

  6. Lucy and Miss SBG came up to ND to see me over Father's Day. Miss SBG gave me a handmade card that had a handmade envelope on which she wrote, "You are going to like this so much." She was right.

  7. for Father's Day, I enjoyed my coffee and newspaper, then got in a good workout, then went with the Boy to see IM3 (stuff blowed up real good!), then came home to supervise the Boy in grilling a tri-tip roast for dinner, along with black beans, roasted peppers, a green salad, and a nice bottle or two. And then NBA hoops on the telly! A good day.

  8. This was my first Father's Day as a single father. I was kind of dreading it, but we had a good day. Picnic with my Dad, Mom, sister, and of course the two boys. We spent the afternoon alternating between playing ball and sitting in the shade. Very nice.

  9. This seems like the right spot to mention that the newest little Pepper has arrived! The little guy is 7 pounds 8 ounces and 19 inches long. We're all doing well.

    It's perhaps appropriate that the Twins game played a small role in the drama. I called Mr. NaCl to come pick me up at work, and he got stuck in the traffic for yesterday's game. He saw a couple cops on the sidewalk and almost asked for a police escort just to get up First Avenue (see above re: worrying). Fortunately we made it to the hospital with 40 minutes to spare.

    1. And you haven't even missed any of your Spookymilk Survivor cheerleading duties! See, you could have played!111!!!11

      Congratulations, Pepper. (You might have to put this in the CoC for some folks to see it)

    2. Congrats to you and the fam! Can't wait to see a photo of the lil pepper in a crib.

    3. Congrats!

      The "making it with 40 minutes to spare" thing sounds familiar... for our last one we went in for an induction, found out the baby was already on the way, and an extremely short time later had our daughter. If we'd have waited until Philosofette felt contractions we would have been on the news for a highway birth.

      Glad you made it!

      1. Wow. I wish it was that easy for us. For Junior, we went in for induction and two days later she had a C-Section because his head was too big. For Trey, she just went ahead and had another C-Section.

      2. If we’d have waited until Philosofette felt contractions we would have been on the news for a highway birth.

        I may have mentioned before, but I was, in fact, a highwayman. Born in the front seat of the car on the way to the hospital in Fremont, NE.

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