Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Stay-at-home dads: what to do with your man-gifts...

So your loved ones were torn on what to give you for Christmas. Should they get you something particularly masculine but doomed to collect dust on the shelves or should they risk emasculating you by giving you something you might actually use on a day to day basis, like cookbooks, or days-of-the-week pajamas, or earplugs (props to those who gave me beer for Christmas.) Most people will avoid any chance of insulting us stay-at-home dads so many of us find ourselves with gifts we won’t be able to use until our children give us a moment’s peace. I’m here to help you find uses for your man-gifts.

Tool Belt – The best SAHD man-gift possible. This gem can be used for dads with babies (bottle, pacifier, wipes, diapers, burp cloth, rattle, air freshener, tongs) or older kids (crayons, boxes of raisins, first aid kit, change of underwear, baggie of legos, sunscreen, juice cup.)

Chainsaw – Since it is used outside, the chainsaw carries the added bonus in that your neighbors will think you actually get manly work done outside, when in fact you are probably carving your way through your kids’ most annoying toys. Baby’s First High Pitched Scream Bot? History. Speak and Spell and Whistle and Chirp and Beep and Flash and Cause Seizures? Slag.

Fishing Pole – An idea from the St. Louis Magic House: Attach a magnet to the end of your fishing line and place small metallic objects in your back yard for you and your child to cast to and “catch.”

DeWalt Heavy-Duty 12 Inch Double-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw – Who are you kidding? You don’t even know what this is.

Golf Clubs – 3 words: Dog poop relocation.

Plasma Television – Unless you want your toddler to use his new hammer on it or your teenager (or you?) to risk losing her grip on her Wii-mote you better keep this in its box or just return it altogether.

Random gadgets – Kids are easily hypnotized by anything small, flashy, and beepy. Keep your new random gadget (I got an idog) handy for when one of them is acting up in a public place. Turn it on, show the child, and back slowly to where you want the child to go. He or she would follow the gadget off a cliff.

Home Depot Gift Card – This is a tough one because you will be tempted not to insult and emasculate yourself, and probably walk away with the Home Depot equivalent of racing stripes on a car, cool and manly but ultimately useless. Some useful purchases for us SAHDs range from sand for the kids’ sandbox to materials for a new toy chest.

Your ideas?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Well, she is two...

As we’ve watched Clara jump and spin her way through her third year Megan and I have found ourselves saying “well, she is two” quite often, though depending on the circumstances the phrase has several possible meanings. The most common usage is a reminder to ourselves that we should not expect her to behave older than she is. When she hoards her toys so Kate can’t play with them, or removes all of her clothes and diaper in her crib in the morning, or grabs breakable things and proceeds to accidentally break them, we try to teach her not to do those things, but to wish her more mindful and more mature is to wish her into a different kid, one who isn’t two years old – and I don’t want Clara any different.

Me: I wish Clara wouldn’t make so much noise when Kate’s sleeping.
Megan: Well, she is two…

Megan: Does Clara have to take that lamb everywhere she goes?
Me: Well, she is two…

Understanding the fact that she is two and will have two-year-old problems is easy – living with it can at times be near impossible. I can put up with occasional tantrums and broken knickknacks but Clara’s jealousy of my attention has led to aggression towards Kate, which manifests itself in hitting and pushing. I’m fine with letting a kid be a kid, but when Kate bears the brunt of Clara’s misplaced aggression, things have to change. We’ve been able to address the hitting and pushing separately, but Clara will have to outgrow the jealousy on her own. She even crawls on the floor and talks incomprehensively to get the attention we give Kate. “Clara,” I find myself saying, “You are two…”

It as at such times we find ourselves saying the phrase in the opposite way we usually do, saying in effect that Clara is old enough to do what we are expecting of her. Recently, I was skeptical that she was ready for potty training, at which Megan replied, “Well, she is two…,” meaning she is plenty old enough. Turns out Megan was right, and Clara has been coming along in her training.

Me: I’m thinking of signing up Clara for a ballet class.
Megan: You really think she’s old enough for that?
Me: Well, she is two…

But what’s lost in all this worrying about whether she is too old or too young for our expectations is what she is, at this moment in time, just right for. She is two. Her world gets bigger every day and she has the wide eyes to prove it. Her imagination is developing and she can tell us about things in her hands that aren’t really there, except in her mind. She wants to put on her boots to go walking in the snow, but not to throw snowballs or make snow angels – just to walk, to feel the snow crunch under her feet as she makes endless laps around Nana and Papa’s house. She wants to drive around at night and ooh and ah over the Christmas lights, “Wow! Look at that!” She wants to dance silly dances to any music. She wants to put on Mommy’s shoes and clip clop around the room. She wants to go to school. She wants to slide down slides and drive plastic cars. And who can blame her? She is two.