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?

What do you do all day? Scheduling a Successful Day As a Stay-At-Home-Parent

I decided I really needed to start this entry by sharing a picture of an activity that was unscheduled. One of the things I have learned, actually a skill I transferred to parenting from my teaching career, is the ability to recognize opportunities that present themselves to experience unplanned joy. This picture of Edie playing in my grandmother’s flooded backyard with her cousin captures a perfect example of such joy. Being open to opportunities to laugh, get dirty, and try something new are essential for young kids and their caregivers alike.

Having said that, I also know the importance of a routine and some planning. I think this can be one thing that parents struggle with. It can be especially tricky for stay-at-home parents. There are definitely those days, particularly during the cold winter months, where the time where Edie and I are home alone can feel like an eternity. As has been said by many parents, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Here are just a few things that I have found helpful along the way to keep Edie engaged and learning, and to keep me sane and learning too.

Make a Physical Calendar

Particularly as kids age I think a consistent routine and set activities can be helpful. We have an old chalkboard that is in our kitchen. On one side it has the full month and any regularly schedule activities. My husband and I can also use this place to remind each other of any events that we are attending or appointments to remember.

On the other side we have a simple checklist. Edie and I create this every day and she has choice and a voice, something that is exceptionally important for her and all three year olds. She helps me figure out the day of the week and the weather. Some times she adds drawings. It helps her with number sense and to learn the days of the week and months.

I have considered an hourly schedule and I might do that as she ages and gets closer to school ( I’m not crying you are!) For now, though, the list works and keeps us both accountable. It gives her something to check off after dinner each night.

Go Do Something Everyday

If you can, then you should join the YMCA. It’s been a lifesaver for us. We have regularly schedule swimming as well as gymnastics class. Most Y’s have a babysitting service too if you are into that and need a minute or a workout yourself. Go to your local museum.

We are lucky to have the Peabody Essex Museum nearby. They have a wonderful pre-school hour each week as well as many other opportunities for young children and families. Don’t forget your library. When I first started staying at home I did not get out enough with Edie. Yes, we went to the beach every day and took walks but I mean organized activities with other kids. I think it not only helps with their development but is a great way to meet other parents too.

Some days it’s just grocery store and dry cleaners while other days (too many days if you ask my husband) it is running to Target or our favorite Thrift Shops. Just get out!

Creativity and Pre-Academic Skills Focus

Take time every single day to make something with your little one. Some of my favorite moments are painting and drawing with Edie. We also love utilizing our massive sea glass collection in a variety of ways. A little glue and some string or paper goes a long way. Of course painting is one of Edith’s favorites. Check out Ecokids for a wonderful line of paints, clay, crayons and more. You will not be disappointed.

Edie has been very into letters, writing, reading, and numbers lately. When we go to Target we almost always buy something like this Workbook. I am definitely against pushing literacy too early. In fact as a former teacher I could devote an entire blog to that topic alone. However, if that is an interest your child has then go for it. They even make cute paint by number workbooks that help with all sorts of skills.

Include Little Ones In Household Jobs

Little ones love to be a part of household tasks like cleaning, cooking, organizing, shopping, pet care, etc. There are also lots of reasons why chores are important and beneficial. Here is a great article from the New York Times highlighting some reasons why.

One way that I love to include Edie is dinner prep. Getting her involved has made dinner prep so much easier and less stressful and since we are tv free (see blogSet Free From TV) , she is engaged and not bored while I’m cooking. We bought these great knives that she is quite good with and we have fun cooking together.
. Edie also helps with laundry, dishes, and feeding the dog as well as dusting and floors. I had to let go of some of my control freak overly clean tendencies but that’s ok. Mostly.

Go Outside

Buying clothes to help you enjoy the outdoors in every weather condition is very important. Not only is the fresh air good for you and your little ones’ mental health and physical health, it can make a day much more fun and interesting. We are lucky enough to live a few blocks from the ocean and we go there in all seasons. Yes, the summer is still our favorite but there is something to do and explore all year long.

Let me know what you think? What tips am I missing? Don’t be afraid to schedule as little or as much as works for you and your family. Remember that consistency and clear expectations make our kids feel safe and secure, but don’t be afraid to seize moments of adventure! Go play!

Spring Springing

This morning Edie saw a robin at our bird feeder as well as some bluejays. We also noticed larger quantity and variety of birds than we have seen in months. Also exciting is that we noticed that there were the beginnings of buds on some of the same trees holding those feeders.

Some snow is expected in a few days, but February is about half way over and even in dark and dreary New England, spring is on the way. In the following weeks my almost 4 year old, Edie and I will pick out our seeds from Baker Heirloom Seeds. Just looking at their catalog and the colors can make you happy and hopeful.

One of the other exciting things about Spring prep is that you get to start picking out some brighter colors to wear. Well, at least Edie does. I pretty much stick with blue and gray all year long except for some Nantucket Red thrown in for good measure in the warmer months. In fact, even today Edie wore a bright pink cardigan to church that had a warmth that promised spring was on the way.

Here are some colors and styles we are excited about for spring!

1. When we first had a girl we said absolutely no pink. We didn’t want her to be a princess-imitating gender-norm-loving girl who overly obsessed with body and image and all things traditional used to keep women and girls down. But, we have softened. We still want her to smash the patriarchy but she can wear some soft pink while doing so. We bought this shirt this week because I just love a kid in an oxford or button up. Too cute. There are several colors available but the pink is adorable! Thanks, Target.

2. If you have never shopped at Primary then follow the link and start now. Lots of logo free, basic, good quality, comfortable basics for all genders. This is the first year they have offered raincoats and they are perfect. I love a Classic Yellow Raincoat , but they have several colors to choose from. Buy it a size up and you might just get two years out of it! Maybe…

3. You guys know how we love love love head wraps and turbans. Spring means we get to update fabrics and add bright colors again. Please take a look at this one here from our absolute favorites at Dillon Joy . It’s everything! Go ahead and buy it now because they will sell out!

4. Finally, everyone needs good quality shoes for Spring that will keep you warm and dry. Edie and I wear our rain boots to the beach everyday when we are looking for sea glass and other treasure. My mom always says you should never buy cheap shoes. And I always listen to my mother. You really can’t go wrong with classic Hunter boots. They are well made and are a spring classic.
We could go on and on, but we won’t. These are just a few things to help us lean into Spring a little bit. What things are you excited about this Spring? Let us know! Let’s keep hope alive.

A Bald Man Does Hair

Whether biological or adoptive parents none of us can really be totally prepared for all the changes that happen when we are lucky enough to have a baby. When I look back over the last 3 and a half years I’m astounded at how different life is as a parent and all the things that I have learned. I can change a diaper, make a booboo feel better, carry another human while walking the dog and carrying groceries, and I am pretty good at doing hair.

As a white middle aged bald man (wow, that’s depressing to write) my hair care routine for years has involved some clippers and that’s about it. No product necessary, not even shampoo, just the same bar of soap I use everywhere else. Admittedly, one of my trivial fears about having a daughter was that of hair care. Yes, those fears pale in comparison to the fears that she will face being treated as a second class citizen, unequal pay, victimization, etc., but a fear nonetheless. Having a girl of color made this an even more challenging feat as my husband and I are both white. But here we are loving our perfect girl and learning every step of the way how to do that. We make mistakes just like we do with everything else almost every single day but I am determined to get this one right and work hard at doing so.

We want Edie to love herself. No small feat I know, particularly for a girl of color with two gay dads living in a world where racism, sexism, and homophobia are still rampant and viciously alive. This is part of the reason why I am a bit obsessed with Edie’s clothes, wanting her always to put her “best foot forward” for herself. I want her to be determined, confident, and brave. She already asks for straight long hair. This breaks my heart. We tell her every single day that her hair is perfect and that she is gorgeous and exactly right. We show her other people, famous and ordinary, with hair similar to hers. We hope that this sticks. We tell her she is in charge of her body when random white ladies tru and touch her hair and we show her how how to say, “No, don’t touch me.” We hope that this sticks too.

We read books to her where people with hair similar to hers are characters and hair care similar to hers is discussed. (White parents of white kids you should read these to your kids too. Here is a great one: https://www.amazon.com/Emis-Curly-Coily-Cotton-Candy/dp/1503144941 If we all do this, it’ll really stick!

I won’t get in to hair routine too much with you. There are others that are far better at that than me, and I have learned from them and other women of color in our lives. https://www.today.com/parents/white-moms-black-hair-blogs-teach-adoptive-interracial-families-care-2D79488068Women and men of color all have different hair textures, needs, and routines just like all white and other people do. I will say that moisture if key for Edie and we make up for the money saved on my hair care needs by investing in plenty of product for her. She is worth it.

Our very favorite products are all from Miss Jessie’s . Everything. The smells are delicious and the quality is not to be beat.

We are also OBSESSED with this awesome mother and her handmade turbans: https://dillonjoy.com. Try one out! Perfect for a day when letting your hair rest or recover or just feeling like you don’t want to do your hair. Turns a mess into glam in no time. Edie doesn’t love hats at all and is often freezing because of that. However, she adores these turbans and keeps them on all day. Plus she looks so glamorous in them. The shop owner is so sweet and responsive and you can get a nice discount as a first time buyer.

I’m a middle-aged white guy (God, I really have to stop saying that) and I do hair. I wash, and condition, and co-wash (https://www.devacurl.com/blog/co-washing-101/). And I love it. I love it because it’s an experience that I’ve never really had with someone who looks different from me who is also my daughter. I love it because it’s intimate and relaxing and a time for bonding (and usually YouTube gymnastics videos). I love it because it slows down time and the day for a minute. Mostly though, I love it because it’s a time when my growing brown daughter sits on my lap and I can whisper, “You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are exactly as you should be.”

And then I pray that it sticks.