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?