It should be the easiest thing in the world for me to do. As an at-home dad, you’d think all I did was hang out with my kid, right? Yes and no. It’s complicated.
While my 2-year-old son comes first, I do work. Real estate doesn’t sell itself (well, kinda, but that’s not the point). I also oversee events, social media and more for the Anchorage Dads Group; I’m on the board of a nonprofit, and I have to jam in time for my wife as well. Life is busy.
My son, and his associated care, consumes a lot of time and takes priority over everything during the day. Everything revolves around his eating and sleeping schedule. Even a lot of my work is about him.
However, on a Monday morning, I found myself where I am frequently — rushing. Rushing to get breakfast made; rushing to get the kid fed, cleaned and dressed; rushing to get lunch packed and us on the road in an hour or less. This is our routine almost every weekday.
“Am I really taking all this time we have together, filling it with hustle and bustle, fighting to get him into the car seat, and relegating my role from father to that of chauffeur and chef?” I wondered.
“Am I missing out on developing his mind in favor of imprinting upon him that getting everything done in the morning as fast as you can is the most important thing?”
“Am I going to regret not taking one measly morning or two a week to stay at home with him, cook a complicated and involved breakfast, read together, and maybe listen to music with him?”
Good parenting beyond what the books say
I’m doing so many things right. Excellently good, in fact.
My professional education and experience has made me fairly knowledgeable about the philosophies of parenting. My kid NEVER get processed food. Never gets sugary food or drinks. His first two birthday “cakes” were a banana with a candle in it. He is on the cusp reading already. At age 2! He can draw several letters. He can count to 20. He gets basic mathematics teaching at least once a week. He can hit a ball pitched to him AND run to first base, dribble a soccer ball down the field to score a goal, and shoot a hoop with good form. He has a solid group of friends (with great dads) he looks forward to seeing frequently.
My role in all this has been the hustling chauffeur, chef and coach/instructor. Simple and basic “play time” is missing. It’s hard to remember the last time we had just regular ol’ horseplay. His “unstructured play time,” as prescribed by professionals, is by himself while I do my work.
My mom made a comment on her last visit to the effect of “ages 2 to 5 are the best ages because that’s when kids are the most fun.” Really? Where’s my fun with him? It’s hard to remember the last time. He has fun scheduled all the time, but I’m a secondary part of it. What’s our “thing,” other than me bundling him up and shoving him into a car seat to go to the next thing on our list?
Evening reading time and play is primarily saved for his mom and their time of the day.
Seeing a picture of me just a year ago, where I was lifting him upside down by his legs, really got me missing a less busy life. It made me regret over-scheduling ourselves.
Such an easy solution is within my ability – cancel unimportant things. I can make everything necessary fit, but I need to shut down those activities that aren’t important so I can just be present.
Back to what’s “our” thing. I’m going to make “our thing” exercise. Just a couple days ago he surprisingly did push-ups, squats and leg lifts with me. We followed that up with the introduction to premium wrestling moves: body slams, DDTs, powerslams, and then the Boston Crab (very lightly!).
Maybe I’ll throw learning into “our thing”? Get him fully reading at age 3? Adding and subtracting at age 4? He can already count to 20, maybe we can hit 50 this year? He can recognize the word “cat,” maybe I can get him to write his name?
All it’s going to take from me is to slow down, and focus on spending time — our time — together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Jenks, a married at-home father of one boy, is the organizer of our Anchorage Dads Group in Alaska.