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?

The Meat We Eat

If it were up to Edie, my four-year-old, we would eat meat every single night. She likes it all and always has: fish and fowl, pork and steak, bacon or sausages. However, we know that part of our job as parents is to make sure she has a healthy start and that includes healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, that means meat is not an every day option. Sorry, Edith.

(This post contains some affiliate links. That’s means I might be compensated at no cost to you.)

We think a lot about what we eat as I’m sure many of you do. When we had Edie this became particularly important for us. We want Edie to be kind, healthy, and compassionate. As her parents we want her to take care of herself and be as healthy as possible. From the beginning we have tried to give her a variety of foods and the best quality that we can afford. My husband made all of her baby food and we still swear by our amazing Baby Bullet.

Baby bullet
If you have a baby go buy one now!

Not long ago we started thinking a lot about the meat we eat. We decided to eat only local and more sustainable meat. Further, we wanted to eat less meat in general. As I mentioned in a previous post, Papa’s Picks: Basic Suppers To Eat Every Week, we eat the same basic meals with variations every week. We only eat meat once or twice a week and fish once or twice as well. We found an amazing service that suits all of our needs as a family.

Walden Local Meats !

These folks are working hard to support New England and New York small farmers that raise sustainable meat on small farms. In their own words they are “reinvigorating our local agricultural economy” supporting producers of meat that is real and not factory produced! If you haven’t eaten this way, you can’t imagine the difference. It is spectacular. Meat feels more like a treat now. The flavors and quality are delicious. AND you get to feel good about the sustainability and animal welfare. Win!

Let me explain a bit about how it works.

Each month we receive a delivery on our doorstep with frozen meat packed meticulously in a cooler. For those of you following along, you know I love a good subscription service. It saves time and delivery makes it easy. (Heck, we even have our Toilet Paper delivered.) You get to decide how much you want each month. We get 10 pounds of meat. It includes a little bit of everything: steaks in many varieties, lamb chops, ground beef, bacon, chicken thighs, sausages galore. Hungry yet? You can also add on a variety of things. We always add eggs and butter, because eggs and butter. The best.

Every month you can also choose different specials that are available. This might be a ham for Easter or a nice leg of Lamb. One of the things we have founds most delicious and exciting is the addition of fish to our monthly delivery. Same principals applied to the fish: local, fresh, sustainable, and delicious. Even though we live on the water in New England it has become increasingly more difficulty to find fresh local fish. This option is so delicious that we just increased how much we are getting each month. Healthier, and yummy.

Is it affordable?

Yeah it is. We use this as our only meat source for the month. That means we do not buy any other meat at the super market. Quite frankly, after eating humanely raised local meat, it’s hard to eat the other stuff again. This reduces our weekly shopping total each week drastically. Plus, Walden has a variety of options as well. Something in most price ranges.

If you live in New England I really can’t say enough about them. Check them out. If you live in any of these places you are eligible for this amazingness:

If you don’t in these places, you should move here. Orrrrr I invite you to look into ways to switch up your food consumption? How can you eat food that is more compassionate, local, and sustainable? I would love to hear you thoughts!

If you do live in these places you can sign up here! Let me know what you think!

The Dad and Daughter Road-Trip Survival Guide

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Edie and Papa recently made a road trip. It was a substantial one. About 13 hours each way. In fact as I begin to write this we are at yet another hotel and still have about 6 hours to go tomorrow depending on how many times Edie has to pee.

I’ve never been a driving person. If my husband is with us it is always his task to be the driver. Always has been. He is steady and reliable in all things. This trip though was just Edie and I. Flying was so expensive and we needed to get to my dad’s memorial service. So, I decided that driving would be a good distraction from grief. It was!

My mom was kind enough to make the first leg with us and that was a huge help. It mainly meant that Nana sat in the back with Edie and kept her entertained, including through crazy heavy thunder snow in the mountains of Pennsylvania. On the way back though it was just the two of us. Here are a few pointers to help you survive. Edie is almost four so some of these could be modified based on age.

Some affiliate links included for which I might be compensated at no cost to you

Papa’s Picks for the Perfect Road Trip

1. Break the Rules

No, I am not encouraging you to speed or text and drive. There are plenty of folks doing that. I’m talking about breaking some of the parenting rules that you follow. As I’ve said, we are a pretty low tech family (Set Free From TV.)However, in the car Edie gets to use the phone. She watches some videos, she takes pictures, and she looks at the Target app as she loves to “window shop”. I don’t allow games on my phone. I don’t know want her to know they exist as it is a slippery slope. She doesn’t have it the entire time, but off and on for a good portion. It’s a novelty and it keeps her from going nuts. And my phone is full of super cute selfies afterward.

Same rule applies to food. A road trip means basically non-stop grazing. We do take apples and carrots and peepers, as well as nuts and raisins. But we also eat some chips and yesterday she had her first pop-tart. “It’s amazing”, she said. She knows these foods are just for special occasions and we keep them to that. Today, she was back to the straight and narrow and had a variety of fruits and veggies.

2. Make Sure You Have Good Music

I look forward to the days when I get to pick my own music again. I did sneak in some Indigo Girls for a bit when she was phone distracted. For now though we mostly have one rotation of all the cds from Music Together Class. If you have never take a class from them and you have a little one you should definitely do so. They are wonderful and I actually enjoy all the music too. We did try some podcasts this trip and to be honest, Edie just wasn’t that into them. I’d be curious to hear any more recommendations for other podcasts to try and if you’ve had success with any of them.

3. Pee Outside Once: Preferably in the Snow

At one point in rural Pennsylvania, Edith really had to go. She could not wait. At first, I admit to being miffed. However, once I pulled over and found a spot where she could squat, her giggle made it worth it. She kept asking to do it again and thought it was basically the coolest thing ever. I think this tip could go under breaking the rules, but I decided it needed to stand alone. So, be spontaneous and super cool. Pullover and pee outside.

4. Bring Good Books and Toys

It’s always a good idea to buy a few new things to entertain on a plane or car trip. It’s novel and can be a great distraction. We always pack coloring books and markers as well as some letter practice. This trip we introduced the game “I spy…”. Always a hit particularly at this age when rules are just a suggestion anyway. We also brought along an Etch A Sketch. This classic will probably now reside in our car permanently as an easy and creative distraction.
Finally, bring along some good books. You can use your latest books from your Lillypost subscription. If someone can’t read to your little one they can spend the time exploring the books, or have them make up stories based on pictures!

5. Always Pick A Hotel With Breakfast and Pool

This time we stayed at two different Fairfield Inns and they were great. They had healthy and not as healthy breakfast options. (Even meatless breakfast sausages). Their facilities were clean and the staff very friendly and engaging with kids. The pools were new and perfect size. It gave Edie a chance to play and get some exercise and we had chances to chat and relax. Having breakfast and pool onsite made us both more relaxed and made the stay more fun. Now, to get used to not having waffles every single morning. Man, I live waffles.

These tips are not rocket science, obviously. I think the most important thing about a long car trip with little ones is to be flexible and to be patient. It can be boring and physically restrictive for children. So, make it as exciting as possible. Further, it’s a good time to slow down the pace of life. Point out the cows in the pasture. Talk about where lightening comes from. Eat a pop tart. Sing loudly. Laugh until it hurts. Enjoy the time spent in close proximity with each other. Did I mention eat a pop tart?