Category Archives: Father Knows Best

Father Knows Best — The End

It’s been fun over the years reading about WGOM citizens as they started having kids and going over the joy and frustration of parenthood. I’ve had a lot of “yup, I remember that” as I go through FKB posts and other discussion threads. I smiled knowingly when Stick would be amazed at how fast Louisa was adding to her vocabulary or SoCal’s son Trey would have another good day out at the ballfield or someone would wonder about birthday parties and how to handle misbehavior. I lived those years too with all those same, and not so same, joys and frustrations. Given that, I beg of you to not take this the wrong way when I say: I’m done with parenthood.

Oh, I still love my kids and want to see then do well and will undoubtedly provide guidance when it's needed, but my kids are 22 and 24. I’ve been at this for nearly a quarter century and frankly it's time they make their own decisions, pay their own bills, fight their own fights. Sure, it hasn’t helped that I’ve been a single parent for over three years now with not even an Ex to help out but I also believe that it’s time for me to shuffle off into the corner and let the kids figure it out on their own. They’re old enough and and I'm not sure I have a whole lot to add.

Luckily, I have two great kids and in the past few months they have officially launched. Frances has been in Milwaukee for a couple of years now but recently moved to Chicago and got a real salaried job in the HR department of Guaranteed Rate Mortgage. So no more rent payments, supplemental deposits, or health care benefits from me. Charlie graduated in May and moved back home in August but he also recently got a job with a real nice salary. He’s going to stick around the house for a little bit and who knows, maybe I can get him to pitch in on groceries every once and while.

Parenthood is a great blessing and while there will never be a day that I’m not a dad, it’s also nice to retire from the day-to-day burdens of being the all-decision maker, the responsible party, the fixer-upper. I can still play those roles, but now it’s only in a limited, or emergency basis. Right now, you may be in the midst of full-on parenthood and can’t even imagine that the end is out there or that you will even welcome it. I’m here to tell you (and I bet Twayn, Runner, and brianS can also attest) that there will be a day when you will gladly handle over the reins. I bet your kids will grab them lustily, looking forward to the day when they can make their mark as a parent.

Now get off my lawn you snot nosed punks!

August 31, 2017 Coffee From The Can (Alternate Reality Cuppa feat. FKB)

Did First grade(!) orientation last night for Kernel. Her reading "tested" at a level behind where she finished Kindergarten, but her new teacher indicated that was a median level for the grade. My wife was still annoyed that Kernel had slipped ... I don't think she understands summer break. Or maybe that's why I'm still paying off student loans while someone paid for her school?

Whatever, man.

Father Knows Best – College

My oldest starts her junior year in two weeks. As of a couple years ago, she had said she wanted to go to a small college in a small town within 4 hours of the Twin Cities. Easy! We were already down to under a dozen schools.

Well, since she started attending high school, she's decided she doesn't want to go to a college that isn't much bigger than her high school. Now she really isn't sure what she wants.

The more I learn about college, the more frustrating it gets. Each school has a net price calculator but it isn't easy to find on their website. And you need to go to each school to find that net price. As far as I know, there isn't a website where you can put in the student's information and it splits out the cost of dozens of schools. Why not? Why not have even more transparency in the cost? The college board has the net price calculator of over 200 schools but you still have to enter information one school at a time.

One other thing that isn't real clear - does it even matter which school she chooses? There can be a huge difference in price but is there really a huge difference in outcomes? Articles like this say it doesn't really matter. I know that it does matter for some specific areas - finance, consulting, some technology areas, etc., but I see a lot of people taking on huge debt that would be better served just getting a degree in the most affordable way.

It will be an interesting couple years. And then we'll start again with the freshman.

FKB – Father Knows Sh!t

I've been hanging around this place since comment #3 or something as a snot-nosed, know-it-all 17 year old. Now I'm 31, married, and have a 4 month old (offically yesterday) at home (a home I "own" no less, after 10 years of vagabondery), and something resembling the beginning of a career. I'm not sure I ever really believed I'd end up here (or that I would want to), and I wouldn't be surprised if any of you said you'd thought the same along the way.
Continue reading FKB – Father Knows Sh!t

I’ll Probably Forget the Card

My dad isn't one to say, "I love you." I'm sure he's said those words to me at some point in my life, but he's from southwestern Minnesota and he's just not the type of person you'd ever describe as "effusive." There was a time when I thought love was supposed to be expressed verbally, but with Father's Day fast approaching, it occurs to me that what I appreciate most about my father is how he expresses his love in the ways that are true to who he is.

Very few of you have met my dad, but he's a character. An introverted physicist, he doesn't have hobbies in the usual sense of the word--unless you count having a perfect memory for the birthdays of everyone he's ever known. He doesn't golf, he typically read books, he doesn't follow any sports. So what does he do in his retirement? He follows the stock market, plans trips for himself and my mom (and anyone else in the family who is looking for a good deal on a flight), and he takes care of those around him.

I joined a softball team the summer after third grade, and the day I got my own glove, my dad and I went to the backyard to play catch. On his first throw, he beaned me in the face, giving me a bloody nose. So much for playing catch! But my non-sports-fan dad came to every game I played and he turned out to be a great scorekeeper.

I didn't always have the coolest toys or the trendiest clothes when I was growing up and we rarely went out to eat, but thanks to good investments in the stock market, when the time came for me to go to college, there was money saved to pay for it. College was also the first time I did my own laundry . . . because my dad had always done it. He would sometimes rigidly insist on doing things "his way" rather than teaching my sister and I how to learn a skill, but hey, at least we always had clean clothes!

Fast forward to Wednesday of this week, which might best be summed up as a series of unfortunate events. Everything is all right now, but as I was driving the jalapeño to the ER shortly before 6:00 in the morning, it was clear that the day would be rocky. Mr. NaCl had a commitment in the evening, and once I got the good news that the jalapeño was going to be fine, it occurred to me that I might have trouble handling the boys on my own that evening. So I called my parents. Both of them were more than willing drop everything to come over and occupy the peperoncino so that I could focus on getting the exhausted jalapeño to bed early enough to avoid a total meltdown. What could have been a disaster of an evening went off without a hitch.

I'm terrible at getting gifts--or even remembering to pick up a card--for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the like. But maybe that's okay. My dad doesn't need to tell me he loves me for me to know it, and with or without a card on Sunday, I bet he knows I love him too. (Actually, if I do remember a card, he'd prefer if I get the cheapest one in the store. He can't stand the thought of anyone spending $3 or even more on a card.)

There are so many kinds of fathers--and mothers--in the world, and none are without flaws. But here's to finding ways to appreciate the fathers in our lives for the things they're best at . . . whatever those things may be.

FKB: Lack of Progress

We're about two months into the great potty training adventure and . . . there are about 10 stickers total on our progress chart. The first weekend, as expected, had one success and many accidents. The second weekend had several more successes, and we thought he would be ready to take it to school and keep working at it. Instead, he had an absolute meltdown that Monday at school, so we backed off a little bit. Then we went to Germany and his grandmother, who promised to keep at it, ... did not keep at it. Since then, we've had a few successes at school and a stray one at home. He's willing to patiently sit on the training potty and read books for extended periods of time, but nothing happens.

So we bribe successes with stickers, M&Ms, and the ultimate reward of ice cream if he ever fills up his chart. We also make a really big deal any time there is a success to support him. Any other ideas?

FKB: Whistle Down the Wind

I don't often miss work, but I was out of the office for a couple of hours last month. It was March 17th, which to some might be St. Patrick's Day, but which to me is my grandfathers' birthday. Yes, both maternal & paternal; neither Papa or Gramps descended from remotely Irish stock.

I was late to work because I had gone in to see the doctor. Not my doctor, who was booked for nearly a month out, but a nurse practitioner working at the same clinic, but who I had never seen before. I was there not because I was called in for labs or an annual exam, but because I needed to know if I needed to start planning for dying.

Since January I'd had some impingement in my right armpit. I first noticed it when I kept pulling at the sleeves of my shirts & sweaters, trying to stop what felt like binding under my arm. It took me a little while to give up on the idea that it was my clothes, or because I didn't fit them anymore, that was causing the problem. I scratched my head for a day or two.

Then I noticed that I had lost some range of motion, and that it felt like there was something in my armpit that was limiting my movement. I couldn't put my finger on what it might be, and examining my axilla just reminded me that I had to look up the technical name for "armpit." The anatomy that lay underneath was mostly a mystery, save for one very worrying set of organs. I puzzled on the motion problem for a couple more weeks. When my forearm started hurting below the elbow, I knew I had to do something.

The first thing I did was tell Mrs. Hayes that I needed to see the doc, and why. Then I told her what was scaring me – the sensation that there was something, possibly swollen, in my armpit that was causing some problems with my arm. And that my paternal grandmother had died of lymphoma at 61. I didn't need to remind Mrs. Hayes that cancer claimed Pops at 52, or that one of Pops' sons, my half-brother, is a leukemia survivor. So I made the an appointment with a stranger possessing a medical license to find out if I was dying.

Her answer was pretty definitive. She could not find any sign that my lymph nodes were inflamed in a way that might be causing the impingement. No signs of lymphoma, she said. She prescribed self-directed PT, figuring I had strained some connective tissues and was experiencing referred problems in my forearm as a result of compensating. She observed I had a toddler at home who I likely lifted with improper technique a few times too many. I didn't need her to tell me I had a kid at home, because that kid was the thing I was most afraid of losing.

Later, in an unguarded moment, I told my bosses about my "scare." (Does it really count as a scare? I dunno, but I can tell you I was more scared than I've been in a long time.) One of them told me the story of a serious car accident she'd survived. A bystander observed to her, after it was evident she'd escaped without a scratch, that it was "probably a birthday of sorts" for her. Indeed.

What do you do when life reminds you that the endless treadmill of waking up, getting out the door, working, commuting, daycare pick-up, supper, and evening chores will end one day, possibly abruptly? What do you do when you are reminded that your time with the people you care most about is running out at a mostly imperceptible rate? What do you do to make sure that the treadmill and other distractions don't steal special moments that you can't get back or replace? I thought a lot about these questions while I was waiting to find out if arriving at some concrete answers was a matter of urgent necessity.

Thankfully, I am not in immediate danger. The genetic IEDs inside my body are, at least for now, armed but un-detonated. Still, I could be hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. I could swallow a fly. I could get shot by a man in Reno. (This last seems somewhat avoidable.) But I realize I haven't done a good enough job about thinking who in my life (apart from my wife) I would want to entrust with the most precious person I've ever met if I'm not going to be around. I need to find an answer to that question while I'm still around to answer it myself.

Some questions for the new or recent parents out there: If you're a new or recent parent, how much planning for the worst have you done? What did you find helpful or comforting in that process?

For the seasoned parents/parents of adult children: How did your planning change as your children grew up? How are you planning now?

For all: How did you interrupt the treadmill of everyday life to enjoy the fleeting moments of being with your kids? What would you do over again? What do you want to change about what you're doing now?

FKB: Father of the Freakin’ Year

I've made some pretty boneheaded parenting moves over the last month.

First: I left the baby sleeping on the bed while I went downstairs to get breakfast for the other kids. She seemed completely out. Of course she woke up a short time later, and didn't make a sound until she fell onto the floor. I think she probably had a mild concussion, given the way she was acting for the first half hour or so after the fall. I had a thing scheduled at work and I made plans to take her to the doctor after I got back from it, but she was back to her old self by the time I got home. Still, it was kind of horrifying.

Second: It took me more than a month to really respond to Aquinas' complaints of bullying before I took action. And it seems like that action was much needed, and has gone a long way towards correcting the problem (thank goodness for the fact that they're first graders, and still open to being good kids instead of blaming the one who told on them). My fear of ruffling feathers was too strong and my kid paid the price.

Third: And yet, in communicating about this issue, I may have inadvertently sent some signals that didn't exactly endear us or my kid to the teacher. I'm not quite sure why we can accurately observe that one kid is faster or stronger than a different one, but we can't observe that one is smarter than another? (I didn't straight up say anything like that, but I fear some unintended implications were taken (look, the class isn't particularly rigorous, and there is some classic "things are going too slow for him" stuff going on (I don't say this to brag about Aquinas, only to observe that this class is moving really slow. Halfway through the year and he's still doing math work that he did at this point in Kindergarten.)(also, he's absolutely going to keep getting 90% on everything you teach, no matter the difficulty, let's not act like 100% is needed to move on...))).

Fourth: Here's the biggie... I forgot my kid. I usually pick up Aquinas from school. If I can't, I arrange for him to take the bus to daycare. Well, I had a hearing out of town and... I forgot. So he walked to my office, per usual, only I wasn't there and the door was locked. So he started walking to the daycare, which is about a mile out of town. On the way there someone - a stranger to him (and us, but not other relatives) - stopped and offered a ride. He happily accepted because, as he put it, "he was tired of walking." The stranger brought him right to daycare (and apparently has done the same for other kids), so in a way it's a "no harm, no foul" situation. Except that my kid accepted a ride from a stranger. So... big time foul.

Anyway, I'm working at this parent thing. This morning I built a huge pillow barrier around the baby as she slept on the bed, and still went up and checked on her just about every other minute, and caught her just as she was waking up 6 minutes into me leaving her there... And I remembered to have Aquinas take the bus when I was gone on Tuesday. And I bribed him, so he got 100% on his spelling test last week. Maybe by the time they leave home I'll feel like I'm on the right track.

Father Knows Best: Boredom

Things have been rough lately, mostly because at least two people at any given time have been sick in this household--sometimes all four of us--since at least Thanksgiving. It's exhausting. But at least it's fairly simple to figure out what you need to do to get through each day. I think about when Henry was a baby. I was tired constantly; some days I could barely keep my eyes open. But while I was by no means confident in what I was doing, I knew pretty much every decision was around eating, pooping, or sleeping. Not that complex.

I'm not nearly as exhausted these days, which I won't complain about. But I'm more frequently being faced with probably the hardest part about being a parent so far, which is boredom. That sounds harsh, but I don't know how else to explain that agonizing feeling when Henry wants to read the same book 12 times in a row, or play the same game (in the wrong way, of course) for an hour straight (and I only barely tolerated it the first time because he was being adorable), or the same routine day after day after day because with his autism it takes tremendous effort to talk him into deviating from original plans. I've learned that sometimes the only way to get him to do something I want to do is to just do it without asking, which works okay if we're going to a new park, but usually not well when it's playing with a new toy.

I know that in six or seven years he might barely ever want to play with me at all. He certainly won't want to hang on my leg or beg me to pay attention to him. Nor will he say, "I love you Daddy," genuinely but with an ulterior motive of getting a cookie. So I want to enjoy every second. But too many nights I just can't wait until he goes to bed so I can do something interesting. And I feel horrible about it.

So, what advice say you guys? How do you keep focused and interested in toddler time night after night after night?

Father Knows Best: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

The terrible twos have come a few months early!

Now, normally, this is actually not that bad a thing. As long as he's happy and content, watching him run around like a hellion and play toys and body slam his giant plush BB-8 is actually a joy to behold.

I'm just wondering how well that energy is going to work when we have to contain it for three hours on a plane.

Continue reading Father Knows Best: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet