|Dean & Matt|
I’m an older parent and like so many others, I was ‘sworn’ in as my son’s primary caretaker with no formal training. There was no Daddy Daycare boot camp, or a nifty handbook to guide me on my way to successful parenting. All I had was a few tips from some of my wife’s female peers, and an occasional general pointer or recommendation from my Mom who had retired her child rearing badge about 45 years ago. I was essentially on my own while my wife worked 60 hour weeks to keep us financially afloat putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. As for my circle of friends, they weren’t much help at all unless I was looking for the winner of the third race at Belmont or interested in recapping Sunday’s NFL games.
The first two and half years have come and gone with much success (as far as I can tell) and my son seems to be thriving as a healthy and happy little man. The truth is I was so overwhelmed with my new role that a lot of the first two years have conveniently been subconsciously condensed into one giant blur. My son was colicky for a large portion and cried more than my wife and I cared to talk about. His sleeping habits were horrific and we had zero assistance from friends and relatives who were simply too busy with their own lives or secretly had a “been there and done that” attitude behind closed doors. They had survived their own child-rearing storm some 15-20 years before we decided to jump off the bench into the game, and simply and understandably had no pity for a crying infant, our sleepless months, or our recoiling whimpers of how much work it was.
Now that we’re 30 something months into the process, I’m at the stage when I’m starting to reflect upon about my own self-evaluation as a stay-at-home Dad. Have I succeeded thus far? Have I missed the mark on a lot of things? Do all the Moms out there have or go through the same self-criticism process? Is it the same or different for them? I must admit there was a defining moment that brought this self-evaluation along. Although we couldn’t really afford it, we decided to register my son into a half-day “learning center” based nursery school a few days per week. Initially, we had some skepticism about the decision – there was the extra financial burden as well as whether he was ready for this milestone of separation. On the positive side, it freed up a couple hours for me to do more laundry, walk on the treadmill, and complete other errands that are usually 10 times harder with little Matt’s help.
Fortunately, although we have had to cut back yet again since my wife is the sole family provider, it’s probably been the best decision we ever made. Matthew loves the 12 hours a week he’s at school and the social interaction has been a wonderful boost for him. He has no siblings and seems to cherish spending other time with kids his age. I’m 100% confident this early school structured atmosphere will help him even further when he’s in a more systematized school down the road. Then, the BIG moment came that changed everything. He brought home his first report card about a week ago. It wasn’t like a real report card, but more of a general 2-year-old “progress report” consisting of a letter grade in Fine & Gross motor skills, Academic, Work habits, Social and emotional Skills, Self-Reliance, and last but not least, Listening and Speaking skills.
BAM! And that’s when it hit me. This wasn’t Matt’s first report card, but my first structured (written) critique as a parent and stay at home Dad. After all, I’d spent the most time with him and his milestones, creativity, shortcomings and development were a reflection of me as a stay at home Dad. Had I passed the test? You be the judge.
Excerpt from progress report: “Matthew is doing very well academically and in other areas of development. He takes interest in his work and is always willing to try a more challenging task. He is also very friendly and is a free-spirited child. Great work.”
About the author
Dean Keppler has been a stay-at-home Dad since April 2010. He’s a licensed real estate agent. In his past life, he was the Director of DRF Press book division for Daily Racing Form and Managing Editor for the American Kennel Club performance-dog publications. He’s written 5 books on horse racing and dogs, and published over 50 articles on horse racing, dogs and tropical fish for Forbes, the New York Times and a variety of other publications.