Monday, June 22, 2009

The SAHD Truth: Parenting Guides

(Welcome to the first installment of the stay-at-home-dad book I'm writing, titled The SAHD Truth.)

Parenting guides are quite useful. If displayed conspicuously they put off the vibe to visitors that you're interested in the well being of your child. I've found people tend to have a higher opinion of you if they believe this to be true. Plus, you can use the books every year to balance your wobbly Christmas tree stand. Other than that, I've not found parenting books particularly useful, but that's not to say they don't serve a purpose. Allow me to illustrate:

Invariably, new SAHDs will encounter a situation with their now 2 or 3 year old child when the dad will so thoroughly lose it, will reach the end of his rope, will behave in a way he never thought possible, will surprise even himself with his temper, the volume of his yelling, and the ease at which his head spins a full 360 degrees, will open his eyes wider than humanly possible, will spout fire out of his mouth and smoke out of his ears, will behave in such a way that even as this adult temper tantrum is going on he will have an out of body experience where he thinks to himself, "Holy crap, I have completely gone off the rails," and when it's over he'll look around to see if anyone else witnessed his fine display and his now blubbering puddles of what were once his children - but not out of embarrassment, but rather looking for some other parent who no doubt has done the exact same thing at some point to be co-witness to his personal car crash: "Did you see that? I completely lost it."

This is probably how such a scene began: SAHD is packing his kids up for a visit to the grandparents. He has put the girls in pretty dresses and fancy shoes with lacy socks. While the older two walk, he carries the baby and sees that last night's rain has left muddy puddles in the driveway. He sees the girls head for the puddles and thinks about how perfectly white the grandparents keep their carpet.

SAHD: Girls, who can get in their car-seats first?

See what he did there? He tried to get the girls away from the puddles without drawing attention to the puddles. Classic misdirection.

Of course it didn't work.

SAHD (louder): Girls! Don't touch the water. Nana will not like it if you get her house muddy. (True.) She won't give you any treats. (So false SAHD almost laughs saying it.)

Poor SAHD. The kids don't even hear him. They're almost to the puddle.

SAHD (yelling): GIRLS!! STOP!! If you touch that puddle I will take away (insert favorite stuffed animal) and throw it in the garbage!

They stop. They look at SAHD. They consider his words. Then one of them - let's call her Kate - jumps in the puddle.

SAHD (breathing fire and rotating his head 360 degrees): (Embarrasing display of adult temper tantrum)

What does this have to do with parenting guides? If you noticed, SAHD tried three techniques before his personal meltdown. Those techniques came from parenting books. OK, not the one about throwing away a kid's favorite toy, though I'd probably buy such a book if it existed. Such parenting guide techniques give SAHD a little bit of an excuse for his behavior: "I tried what the books said! I tried to be a good parent! And then I clearly gave up trying and just resorted to screaming my head off."

Have you ever watched competitive drag racing? SAHDs are loud, souped up, volatile drag racers at the starting line. The trick is to keep them at the starting line, safe and idling. Drag racing has a giant Christmas tree of lights whose order makes sense only to them (yellow, green, then red?) Think of the first light as the calm warning to the children, like the first technique SAHD used. The next light, 2nd technique. Then a whole bunch of lights come on - 3rd technique. Then a bunch of lights at the bottom come on, the engine roars, flames come out of the tailpipes, tires squeal, the car moves at impossible speeds, gets about halfway down the line, its front raises up into the air, then the whole car does a backflip through the air and falls into an explosion of epic proportions.

That's what parenting is like.

Did I mention I've only seen drag racing on the end of the year specials of the George Michael Sports Machine? I'm sure some drag racers have made it to the finish line without blowing up, but I've never seen evidence of it. Anyway, I guess the moral of the metaphor is if you're getting to the bottom of that long bank of lights, if parenting techniques 1 through 3 haven't worked, go find a nice quiet place to cool down before you explode.

(Where have you gone, George Michael's Sports Machine?)

Working Wife: Why is the baby sucking on your baseball glove?

SAHD: That's what that parenting book told me to do.

Working Wife: It did not. That thing is filthy.

SAHD: Swear to god.

Working Wife: Show me where it says that.

SAHD: Can't. It's holding up the Christmas tree.

Working Wife: Uh-huh. Speaking of the Christmas tree, don't you think it's time to take that down? It's June.

SAHD: I'm taking care of 3 children! I barely have time to go the bathroom!

Working Wife: OK. And how'd you do in your online poker today?

SAHD: Really good!

(Forget the SAHD guide. I need to write the SAHH guide for stay-at-home-husbands. If you haven't already today, go cast a vote for me in the Nickelodeon awards.)


Anonymous said...

Yellow Rhinoceros Lollipop...sorry couldn't resist.

Love to all,

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Hey, you're seriously gaining on Mutha Mae. Way to go!