Monday, April 26, 2010

Nobody's Perfect

The Human-Blur that is my son at the moment.

Lest I’ve portrayed myself as an infallible father in some of my blog posts, I need to open up a bit.

Parenting my four year old right now is a pain.

My son is in a near perpetual hyper-annoying state right now, where he is commanding and defiant—bellicose and belligerent. His favourite pastime at the moment is trying to get his way all the time.

I know this is a natural stage for kids. They explore their limits and test your boundaries. Sometimes it’s even funny when he’s looking incredibly stern and proclaiming things like, “No daddy, it’s not your choice!” and “I’m going to count to nineteen!” As I listen to him, I wonder, “Is that really how I sound?”

There are other times, however, when the constant conflict is plain exasperating. Everything—from getting dressed to going to bed—is a battle. Sometimes, I can’t win for losing. The other day he was barking at me to help him put on his socks. After calmly getting him to change his tone and say “please” I sat him on my lap and started putting on his socks.

“No, let me do it!” he snarled.

“Connor, you just asked me to…”

“WAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!” he shouted while throwing his head back.

My inner monologue at moments like these  (at least the part I can write without being investigated by social services) go something like this: “What am I doing wrong? I’ve tried everything. I’ve had the patience of Job, and I’ve been short and firm. I’ve given him a long leash, and I’ve shortened it. I’ve been polite, and I’ve laid down the law. I’ve given him choices, and I’ve taken them away. Maybe I’ve just totally screwed him up with a total lack of consistency.”

In short, I beat myself up. I’ve been blessed with a happy, healthy son who has largely been a dream to parent and now he’s the Tasmanian devil on steroids. Surely, it has to be my fault.

Then the other morning, after stand-offs over teeth brushing, face wiping and turning off the TV (all punctuated with great “harrumphs”) I thought we were headed for another conflict over putting on his shoes. Instead, as I was bent over about to tie up his laces, he put his hand on my back and said, “You know daddy, even when I’m grumpy with you, I still love you.”

“Me too,” I said choking back the instant tears. “Always.”

Now maybe my son has just learned that the word “love” will make his dad melt on the spot, but I like to think at moments like that, maybe I’m not doing such a bad job after all.

Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack as a parent from time to time. While it is essential to want to take responsibility and raise a healthy child, sometimes your kids can just be little shits—just like we can. And that’s OK.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dads, Sharpen Your Pencils!

When I worked at CBC radio, I had the chance to meet a lot of creative people. One such person was Cori Howard, who among many talents, is a terrific writer and writing teacher.

By complete fluke, my wife ended up taking one of Cori’s workshops—“The Momoir Project”.  In this class, women were given the chance to write about children, childbirth, husbands, partners, fear, pain, misery, joy and the myriad of other emotions that come with being a mother. Many women who have taken Cori’s class have wound up getting published themselves.

I’m really excited to announce that Cori is having her first ever “Dadoir” workshop. (I told her she should do a Harlequin Romance class and call it the “Boudoir Project.”)

As Cori writes, “Yes, it’s true. For the first time ever, and much to my surprise, we are hosting the first-ever Dadoir workshop. I’ve been asked many times over the years if I would do something for dads, but I never thought it would work to have a woman, like me, teaching men how to write. To have a woman, like me, asking men to divulge all the personal and juicy details of their marital, sexual and emotional lives. So when Dan McKinney, a professor at the UBC Journalism School and internationally-acclaimed documentary filmmaker, offered to lead it, how could I resist?”

Evidently, she couldn’t. It's on Sunday, May 23, from7 to 10 pm at the Simply French Cafe, at 10th and Alma.
On a personal note, I’ve found that blogging about being a dad has brought me even closer to my wife and kids. Writing about fatherhood has really made me think about fatherhood. It has been a great way to deepen, and become more aware of my feelings (sorry men, I used the “f” word”).

If you live in the Vancouver area and you want to sign up, click here.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Super Birthday!

I had my 41st birthday over the weekend. It beat the hell out of my 40th, if only for the simple fact that I wasn’t in the hospital getting shot up with meds due to severe back spasms.

After having a great sleep in and a yummy breakfast, we spent a sunny Vancouver spring afternoon at one of my favourite childhood (and adult) places, Stanley Park. We had a great picnic and I opened my gifts. My 4 year old gave me a pillow case with hearts that he had sewn (you can imagine my response) while my wife gave me a DVD of the Superfriends (from season 1—1973—without those lame wonder twins.) This has to be my all-time favourite Saturday morning cartoon and my 4 year old was as eager as I to watch it.

We then went to “How to Train Your Dragon.” I don’t know which was more fun—watching the movie, or watching my suddenly Elton-John look alike son in his 3-D glasses, mouth agape, taking in the movie.

After we got home, we had a yummy dinner, some cake, and then…the Superfriends! I was totally taken back to my childhood. I could remember things just before they happened, and was floored that my aging memory was suddenly so vibrant.

The next day, I was doing a little yard work, including over-seeding some bare patches on the lawn. As usual, Connor was there, rake and gardening tools in hand. It was a beautiful spring day—not hot—but one where you felt like summer isn’t that far off. I got the sprinkler out to water the new seed. Before I could even turn it on, my son was jumping up and down shouting, “Let’s run through the sprinkler, Daddy!” I was about to say, ‘It’s a bit too cold, Connor” when I looked at his giddy, beaming face. How could I deflate that?

“Alright,” I said. “You turn on the hose.”

“Woo-hoo!” he shouted.

We spent the next ten minutes running and laughing until we were both looking like a couple of drowned rats.

This was truly a weekend of letting my son do what kids do best—giving us an excuse to act like kids and to embrace play. I used to joke with people before I became a dad that I needed to have kids so I could have a legitimate excuse to watch Sesame Street again.

Our kids give us permission—actually, they entice us—to experience the light heartedness and pure joy of play.

Jump at it, any chance you can.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What's up, Chuck?

Warning! This post contains graphic descriptions of the stomach flu!

A few days ago, my 4 year old walked through the front door complaining of a tummy ache. His words belied his actions as he had pranced up the stairs, and according to my wife, had just had a fabulous swimming lesson. He got two words out of his mouth before he let the barf fly. I scooped him up by the underarms and got him to the toilet just in time for round two.

While my wife bravely cleaned up the pool of vomit by the front door (just one of the many benefits of being married to a woman with no sense of smell) I rubbed my son’s back as he heaved away over the toilet. When the retching subsided, I stripped off his soiled clothes and got him into the tub.

As we all do, my son rebounded somewhat after the barfing episode, and I was crossing my fingers that this was a one-time puke. We got out of the tub, put on some jammies and crawled into the guest room bed. In no time, he was asleep, even though it was only late afternoon. A few minutes later he surprised both of us by throwing up in his sleep. Between the heaves, he was wailing from both the horrid sensation of vomiting and the fear and surprise of being awakened so violently. This pattern of barf-sleep-barf played itself out every 45 minutes or so until about two in the morning. After each round of barfing, he would snuggle up to me and seek comfort in my hair strokes and back rubs. I was all too glad to do it, and like all parents in this situation, felt awful that I couldn’t do more.

At around 3:30 after an hour and a half of barfless sleep, he woke up. “Daddy,” he croaked, “I’m so thirsty.”

I gave him an ounce of diluted apple juice to see if it would stay down. It did. Twenty minutes later I gave him another ounce. Success! After another 20 minutes, I let him finish off the glass.

As he settled back down into bed and snuggled up to me again, he looked like a broken prize fighter, splayed face down on the canvas. As if reaching for the ropes, his little hand moved upward and found my face.

“I love you so much, Daddy,” he mumbled, before his hand fell to the pillow and he was down for the count.

There was a time and a place when being where I was and doing what I was doing would have been “woman’s work”. Some families might still adhere to that old model, but I think it is a safe bet to say that they are in the minority.

The point I want to make here is, had this been a time when tending to a sick child was mom’s job, I would have missed out on that heartwarming exchange with my beloved son. A lot of families still have arrangements where, for example, bath time is dad time and story time is mom time. I would urge you not to fall into those routines. Firstly, you are potentially creating a troubling situation with your child if mom always does a certain task and then, for some reason, can’t make it. Secondly, there are magical moments to be had with your children, even amidst the seemingly most menial or even unpleasant moments.