Parenting Hacks: Learn From My Mistakes

We have a wonderful bedtime routine going right now. Edie and I and her other dad (I am Papa and he is Dad) all get into her bed after she tends to her oral hygiene and any waste management needs. We read. We laugh. Sometimes there are tears, depending on how tired she is (ok, sometimes I am the one crying). Usually she wants to say the Lord’s Prayer/ Our Father. I sit in a chair and Daddy lays on the floor for a bit as she drifts off while I sing.

Tonight we read a book that was given to Edie as a birthday gift from a friend. If you don’t have it you should order it right now. Here, it is:

It’s wonderful in it’s discussion about feelings and all the various ways that a heart can feel and why. Beautifully written and conversation inducing. Edie started asking us questions tonight as we were reading it. She wanted us to give instances when we felt certain ways: happy, sad, scared, shy, etc. She shared her examples as well and it was a really thoughtful moment and glimpse into her emotional development.

One of the things she asked me was what made me sad. I told her that as a parent the thing that can make me sad is when I feel I have made a mistake or acted harshly as a parent. I don’t think she totally understood what I was getting at. I do want her to know that I recognize my mistakes and shortcomings as a parent, and as a human. I also think that her understanding of such topics happens incrementally and often gradually, so it’s ok to talk about things that are still slightly out of reach intellectually.

So it made me think that perhaps I could share a few of my mistakes I have made along the way. When I was a brand new parent I was always interested in hearing from parents about the mistakes they had made. It helped me to feel capable of parenting, even as a flawed person,and also to look for ways to avoid the same errors. I share this as a way of sharing with other parents. A way to say that you are capable, flaws and all, and maybe a way to help you to avoid some of the same mistakes I make. I am usually my own biggest critic and I’m sure like some of you feel that I’m often making more mistakes than not. So, the list is long but I’ll share the top three.

My Top Three Parenting Goofs

1. Lacking Patience

I absolutely hate myself when I am not patient with Edith. This is a mistake I make as she has gotten older. I have to remind myself that she is not trying to “push my buttons”. She is a tiny awesome human learning to navigate feelings and desires in a world where she is trying to slowly assert some level of autonomy.

I find that when I slow down and explain things calmly and kindly she is more apt to listen and respond reasonably. I find the same to be true of having a negative or biting tone with her. I don’t like when anyone speaks to Edith in a condescending or negative tone. Even when frustrated, it’s important to stay kind. As I like to remind myself, my voice becomes her inner voice. Patience and kindness go along way. In doing so I am teaching her to be patient and kind to herself and others.

2. Buying Too Much Stuff

I love to shop. I try really hard to be green and consider the environment in everything that I do. I must say though, when it comes to shopping, I struggle. I like the feeling I get when shopping. I like pretty things. I like clothes and shoes. I even like going to the mall some times. And Target, oh Target how I love thee. I try and follow a spending plan. I also buy a lot second hand, particularly furniture and decor. I have gone through seasons of buying way too many clothes and clothes that were too expensive for a little person. Recently we got rid of our toy room and got rid of some things. Edie toys now all fit in her room and that feels a little less excessive.

I also have stopped buying too many clothes, well ok, maybe I am still working on this one. However, I do buy less expensive things. We are obsessed with Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT Primary. Their clothes are adorable, soft, practical, and reasonable reasonable reasonable. Follow the link and get a great little discount and no shipping fees.

3. Spending Too Much Time On My Phone

This is such a tricky tricky one. Edie doesn’t watch tv ( see Set Free From TV) and is quite low tech. However, I do look at mine way too much. I mean I am trying to do this blogging thing and that requires some phone time. However, we all know that we are hooked and that is what the makers of the technology want. We also now know that kids feel neglected by grown ups looking at their phones when we should be focusing our attention and gaze toward them. Edie recently has been trying to turn the internet off so that no one can have access to their phones. Ugh. Lesson learned. Hopefully. There is a sign at a local establishment nearby that warns parents “Stay off your phone and give your kids the attention they deserve.” I don’t want Edith to be addicted so I have to work on my own addiction as well.

Maybe I will make this a regular topic here on the blog. Would you mind sharing one of your parenting mistakes? I would be very curious to hear what you think you suck at! Just kidding. I think it helps us all to feel more human and less awful when we know we aren’t in this alone. So, chin up parent. We can learn from our mistakes and each other’s. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go as my screen time minutes are a bit high for today. Edie is always watching.

The Reason I Stay: The Life of a Stay-at-Home Dad

Our daughter, Edith, just turned four. It really is crazy and incredible and I can hardly believe that it has been four years already. As I have mentioned in other posts, this is the final Spring and Summer before she starts school in the Fall. We are so very excited that she will be attending a Waldorf School. (More posts about that in the future). However, I am sad too, because it will be the end of a portion of my life with Edith that I have been very fond of: the stay-at-home-dad years.

I feel so very lucky that we were able to figure out how to make it work for me to stay at home. Being a dad (Papa actually) that stays home brings it’s own awkward moments and plenty of moms giving unsolicited advice. We still have a very pervasive attitude in our culture that men are merely babysitters and aren’t fully capable of parenting. I have wonderful and smart friends and none of them have ever “momsplained” anything to me, but plenty of strangers have:

“Put that girls hat on!”

“Giving mommy a break?”

“Do you have the day off today daddy?”

“Shouldn’t you be working?”

“You are doing a good job, daddy, how great that you are helping out!”

Gag. Gag. Gag. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Dads are parents too. This is doubly true of folks lucky enough to have two of them. Mostly we laugh these off but sometimes and on some days it can get to you at least a little bit.

I always get very excited when I run into another dad who stays at home. In fact if you are reading this and you are one please message me. We should definitely be friends. I’m not sure if stay-at-home-moms get the same line of questioning but I do get asked to sort of justify my choice to be at home. So, I thought I would share the reasons we chose for me to stay home. I say “we” because clearly I have the best husband on the planet and we make our decisions together. Usually. Unless it’s about how to spend $200 a week at Target. That’s all on me.

So here are the reasons I stay home.

1. I wanted to parent more than anything

I waited until I was almost 40 to be a parent. For a large part of my life I didn’t even think being a gay parent was an option. I want to be the best parent I can be. For me, this means spending as much time as possible with Edie in her formative years. I want to set the pace of the day for her and be there when she reaches milestones. I liked being a teacher and making money but nothing at all compares to the responsibility and reward of being a parent every single day.

2. She is my only child

Perhaps if we had started earlier, or if adoption wasn’t so darn expensive, or if having multiple children wasn’t so expensive then we would have had more than one. As it stands though she is my only child and most likely always will be. (Unless I get pregnant naturally). I literally can’t believe that my time as stay-at-home Papa is getting remotely close to ending. I have learned so much about myself, the world, and my husband during this time. I also feel like I’m just now getting ok at this parenting thing. Like many of you I feel like I suck most of the time. However, I give it my all because she is my all.

3. I want Edie to love herself

This is my absolute top goal as a parent. I want Edie to love herself and to love others. It’s also part of why we are raising Edith in a faith community. I want to be here to show her how to speak kindly to herself and others. I want to be there to help her navigate racism as best I can and to help her love herself so much that she can stand brave and tall in the face of injustice. I want to be there to help her build her confidence and to find her voice. Again, I mess up almost every single day and as a white man I am still learning, but we are determined that she love herself.

4. I stay home so Edie knows we will always be there

I should make sure that you know that I didn’t love my job as a teacher. So, quitting a job you don’t like is never too difficult. I should also say that though my husband works a full time job as an attorney he too makes tons of sacrifices. He rushes home on the 5 pm train to insure he sees Edie for at least an hour every evening and he is at her beck and call all weekend. We make sacrifices of our time to be with her because we want her to know that she is our priority and that we will always be there. This is certainly not to say that working parents do not do this. I am not judging anyone’s choices at all. I’m simply explaining our choice!

5. Who wouldn’t want to play all day?

Of course there are tough times. Most of the time by Friday I’m so tired and just want a moment or two to myself. However, I basically get to play all day and spend a large chunk of time outdoors. What’s not to love? Today, for example, we made pancakes, we did some chores, played with baby dolls, painted, went to the library, read, danced, did gymnastics in the family room, colored, played in the yard, walked the dog, and drew before bed.

Perhaps you are a stay-at-home parent as well and can relate to some of these. Maybe you are thinking about taking the leap into the land of parenting from home every day. I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences. Also, if you are a fellow stay-at-home-dad message me! We can start a club.

What are your thoughts on staying home to parent?

Birthday Basics: Picking Gifts For A Four-Year-Old Girl

Edie will be four in less than two weeks. It seems quite impossible. The old saying that “the days are long but the years are short” is so completely true. Today is a Friday and usually by Friday I feel pretty bad about my stay-at-home parenting skills. I’ve lost my cool a few times and let Edie push my buttons a bit today as only an almost four-year-old can do. I think she must have asked me several times , “Are you mad, sad, or frustrated?” When my answer was simply “Yes.” Her response was “Don’t be Papa.”

It is so strange to watch your child grow from a docile lump into this person with will and opinions. That will and those opinions are often at odds with my own and a struggle ensues. I love the person she is becoming, however, and mostly I just have to learn to let her have power when appropriate and to pick my old proverbial battles.

At 4, I feel like I can begin to describe who she is as a person and while I know some of those will change, it’s still fun and fascinating. The thing is, I really like her. I feel so lucky to be her Papa and as I get to know her more I like who she is becoming.

Edie, or Edith, as she now prefers, is observant. She is quiet and often serious as she observes every single detail in her surroundings and remembers everything. Edith is kind. I have seen her offer kids a hand of help when no one is watching. I have seen her face true concerned when she sees someone else who is upset. Edith is expressive. She loves creating and dancing and painting and singing. I can’t wait to see what she creates as she ages. Edith is funny. This one is important in our family. She loves to laugh and make others laugh she will gladly fall down to get a smile from someone. Edith is perfect. I know that some parents disagree with saying that to their kids, but I tell her that almost every day. She will hear the opposite plenty in her life so I want her to know she is exactly who she should be and that she is enough.

Ok, I’ll stop gushing now. Edie is adored and she is loved. We will celebrate her with a simple party at home. Some brunch (hello…gay dads) and some cake with a gymnast design on it per her directions. We will have a few games and some face painting. Here are a few of the gifts she’s getting. Check them out for the fourish year old in your life.

(This post contains some affiliate links. This means I might get compensated at no cost to you)

1. We are big Waldorf Education fans. We hope that Edie will attend a Waldorf in the future. She learned about candle dipping at a Waldorf event and she loved it. She is getting this nice kit from one of my favorite shops, Bella Luna Toys. Check them out!

2. Edie loves taking pictures and clearly we think she’s brilliant so she’s getting a camera. This one is a good deal and is waterproof, too. A bonus for beach visits and rainy days!

3. Obviously, Edie is getting dresses from Primary. These are so cute and only $14 right now. Annnnddddd they are so soft and wash perfectly. Want to buy cute spring looks at 20% off and free shipping?? Well, here you go…
Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT

4. Ok, one more from our faves at Bella Luna. This adorable little Loom is the perfect starter model. Low commitment and low price until we see if she enjoys its. Bella Luna also has great dolls and some wonderful wooden toys as well.

5. I mentioned the face paint we will be doing at the party. It’s comes from a shop we have mentioned before, Ecokids, from our favorite state of Maine. Edie is also getting a few art supplies from them. We love their paint and their finger paint as well.

These picks are simple and hopefully help to encourage Edie to be her true self. We look forward to celebrating her and loving her more every day. We also look forward to when the tantrums stop. They do stop right?

Happy Spring. Happy Birthday, Edith Daring. You are loved.

Lent With a Four Year Old: Radical Self Love

Edie and I went to a great Children’s Service to celebrate Ash Wednesday this evening. Before I went I was hesitant because with my dad’s dying I feel I’ve had enough mortality reminders. However, it’s important to me for Edie to have a spiritual practice and we haven’t been to church in a few weeks.

So we went and it was just right. Being part of a Liturgical church means you do the same rituals and prayers over and over again. I find this comforting and reassuring. I also find that each time I participate I experience or learn something new.

This year I need Lent to be about self care, self love, and radical self acceptance. This was the message that resonated with me this evening. Maybe it will resonate with you and your family too.

Self Care

This is such a buzzword these days and as with all buzzwords this one can seem hollow and cliche. In a spiritual sense, self care is one that requires an investment of time and often patience. This Lent we are committed to taking care of ourselves by attending services, and being fully present for each other. It means that as a family we allow each other the time to do things that are nourishing: exercise, napping, meditation, running. We will take care of ourselves and we give each other space and time to do so as well.

Self Love

I want so desperately for Edie to love herself. This is always my top priority. In part, this is because this is one of my own struggles. In a Spiritual sense in the Christian Church we are reminded in Lent that we are claimed by God in our Baptism and that we are enough simply because of that. We are literally made of stardust. We are everything we need to be. We are beloved. This was what I explained to Edie tonight.

The cross on our forehead was a reminder not just of our mortality but that we are connected with the Earth and every person and thing that was ever alive. We are dust! (Said with enthusiasm and excitement and without somber dread). We don’t have to try and be anything that we are not. We are loved. In loving ourselves we do a better job of loving others, of forgiving others, of being grounded and connected with everyone and everything we meet.

Self Acceptance

Traditionally Lent is a time of sacrifice, confession, renewal, and reimagining. When we accept ourselves and teach our children to do so we accept that we are not perfect. We are enough but we all have things we can work on: being more kind, working harder for social justice, speaking up more about racism, welcoming transgender folks to our communities more, demanding healthcare for all, saving our planet from the effects of climate change. This Lent we should work at overcoming all of these “sins”.

However, we must accept that we are human. Our children are humans. Our spouses or partners are humans too. Everyone we come in contact with is. We accept and forgive others as we accept and forgive ourselves. Lent is a time to let our best and most authentic self feel love and acceptance even as we strive to improve.

This Lent I want to deepen my connection with my husband and Edie. I want to ground myself and feel connected to all life in the universe: past and present. I want to accept others for who they are. This Lent I want to make more room for love. This Lent I want Edie to know what it means to be accepted exactly for who she is and to love herself and everyone else a little bit more because of it.

Don’t Touch My Hair

As February is Black History Month we thought we would share some of Edie and her dads’ book recommendations appropriate to the month (and every month,really). Of course we are all about representation and the importance of all kids seeing themselves reflected in authentic, realistic, and diverse ways. We want Edie to read books about people that look like her and our family. We also want her to see all the choices and options that she has to be authentic and happy!

It is just as important for white kids and white parents to be reading books early on that expose white kids to diversity and kids of color, particularly if they are not around much difference in real life. White parents should be having conversations with white kids about inclusion and issues that kids of color can face. So, these recommendations are not just for black, brown, and multiracial families. They are for all families! In fact, as a white parent myself, I would say the onus is on us to work on issues of inclusion and racism. It is up to us to raise kids that are, well, not racist.

If your kid’s library is not diverse then please let us suggest some places to start. Then, use these books to help you start to have conversations with your little one about race, inclusion, diversity, and inclusion. It is indeed up to us to bring these topics up and not pretend they do not exist. Children pick up on our silence about topics and this silence can create more racism, homophobia, and other bad behavior.

Buy some new books!

Here are some of our recommendations:
1. This is one of our new favorites. The author also has a great Instagram feed. It deals with teaching kids to stand up for themselves when people touch their hair without permission. As any parent of a kid of color, or person of color can tell you: this is unfortunately a valuable skill. I have had to literally pull a few hands out of Edie’s hair.

2. It’s always great to have a book with multiple people highlighted. The illustrations are also wonderful in this book. Finally, it’s all women!! #girlpower

3. Great title right? Another one with super illustrations and a wonderful message. This one lays the self love on thick. And that is a message that all kids need: particularly kids of color.

4. This book, about an important and familiar man, teaches kids the importance of words and using your voice to stand up against injustice. A well written and emotional tribute as well as an inspiration for parent and child, alike.

5. More strong women of color? Yes, please. Many of you have seen the movie. This is a great children’s version of the inspiring story.

I could go on and on, but not this time. I would love to hear some of your favorites!

If you are looking for some discussion with your child after try very open ended questions:

1. What did you notice in this story?

2. How does it feel to be treated badly?

3. What can we do to make sure everyone is included?

Happy Reading! Now, go diversify your library!