Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughts about NBC's "Guys With Kids"

Lots of new shows have been rolling out this fall, but one that has particularly caught my eye is "Guys With Kids". Coincidentally enough it's a show about guys...with kids (shocker, I know, right?). Being a guy...with kids...myself, I wanted to give it a whirl and see what it was like, hopeful to get some good fodder for the blog.

The series premiere was last night, so I sat ready to see how these guys...with kids...acted.

I don't know if you watched it, too, but I definitely was left wanting more. Oh, there were guys. But this opening episode really revolved around guys...with wives. There wasn't nearly as much about fatherhood as I'd hoped there would be. The promos I've seen on TV and online had some clips about how these guys interacted with their kids, but none of those were part of the episode that I watched last night.

So, in lieu of giving thoughts about what I actually saw, I started thinking about what I would like to see on a show about guys...with kids.

These dads experience success
Far too often, the dad plays the comic foil to the much more sensitive and together mom who seems to have the answer for everything. She is Mary Poppins while he does everything but blow up the house in a 30-minute time period. These guys gave hints that we're not looking at the next Al Bundy or Homer Simpson, so I'm hopeful.

They legitimately invest in their kids' lives
I can't even count the number of times sitcom fathers look at their kids as a means to an end. They need their offspring to cover up a gaffe, or make them look good in front of a neighbor they want to impress. Forgive me for waxing poetic about the days of "The Cosby Show," where Cliff would discipline his kids and take the time to tell them why and make sure they knew he loved them. I miss that.

Other dads can learn what to do, not just what not to do
I understand that I'm watching a sitcom, and not something on the Discovery Channel, but it would be nice to be able to look at these guys and think, "Huh, I never thought of that. That's good stuff." Quality TV, regardless of genre, always has some kind of wisdom to impart to its audience, whether it's through laughter or seriousness. I'd love to see these dads have some wisdom to impart that help dads become better.

What qualities am I missing? What else would you like to see from this show, or other shows about dads?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Away We Go

I've been traveling this week.

This is the best view I've had of my family this week
I don't know about you, but I don't do well without my family. As much as I love my job, it's tough to be away from them when I'm on the road recruiting.

I guess what I struggle with is how to be a good husband and a good father when I'm away. I'm not gone for long stretches at a time (a few days at a time), but as I mentioned in an earlier post, the first three months are crucial in being present for a child's development. Moreover, parenting is obviously much easier when you're actually able to be present while doing it.

So I continue to try and find that balance. I'd love to have some ideas, though, on how to strike a better one.

What are some ways you've found to stay connected when you can't be there?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Breaking Unknown Rules

I never should have done it.

You don't want to see the picture of the explosion, I promise
I fell victim to one of the oldest tricks in the book - putting milk in “the princess cup.”

It started off like any other normal morning, except that my wife was going out for the day and I was playing stay-at-home daddy. Breakfast began innocently enough, fixing toast and giving my two-year-old something to drink. Like any good parent, I wanted to give her a glass of milk to start the day. But she wanted to drink from her princess cup, a new non sippy cup that she loved because it makes her feel like a big girl. No problem, I thought, I’ll just put the milk in the princess cup. Innocently (and now, in hindsight, I know quite foolishly), I put the princess cup full of milk on her tray. Within seconds, my kitchen was a war zone, and my precious redhead had become the Enola Gay.

Whoever coined the phrase, “there’s no use crying over spilt milk,” had obviously never been in a situation like this one. I turned to my wife, who by this time had come down the stairs to see what all the ruckus was about, and asked, “is it a cardinal sin to put milk in the princess cup??” She looked at me and gave me “the smile.” You know that smile, dads. It’s the one that sitcom wives give to their husbands when they’ve done something everyone watching at home knows they shouldn’t have done, but they did it anyway. It’s that smile that says, “oh, you silly husband. Why did you ever do that?” It’s encouraging and humbling all at the same time.

So we brought out the Swiffer, and after a quick tutorial to yours truly, the kitchen had returned to its pre-catastrophic state.

This really comes down to routine, and this is where I think dads are apt to make some of our biggest missteps. For those of us who do the normal 9-5, we step back into our families, not having a clue what has changed and what has stayed the same. My wife, God bless her, sees these routines change daily and doesn’t think much of it. But it’s almost like we need a presidential-style briefing early Saturday morning: developments on speech, new rules that have been set down, allowances that have come about since last weekend. 

Short of a board-room sit-down, however, it’s tough to know everything that needs to happen. And it’s rather unrealistic to have my wife go back through every day and recollect it all. So I think the best we as dads can do is pay attention as best as we can while we’re home. That still won’t catch everything, so when those blow-ups happen (not “if,” but “when”), you just get out the Swiffer and move on. As frustrating as it might be to feel out of the loop, we need to keep engaging, adapt, and keep going. 

Just please, whatever you do, keep the milk out of the princess cup.

Do your kids have their own versions of a princess cup?
What routines have you unknowingly "violated?"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Blog Community

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I want this blog to be a place where dads can learn from each other and be an encouragement. To that end, I'd love to hear about some of the other daddy blogs that you're reading that are helpful. I know there's a shortage of them, which is one of the main reasons I started writing, but I know that there are some out there.

So which ones have you come across? Which ones are you reading? Or if you're writing one, let us know that for sure!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Band of Brothers

Remind me never to do that again.

I climbed the Manitou Incline on Monday. For those of you who don't know what that is, basically, it's a staircase right up the side of a mountain that amounts to a climb of almost 2,000 ft, which, when you're already 6,500 ft up, is pretty high. But I like to call it, simply, "Satan's Laughing Place."

Now, I know I'm definitely not the most fit guy out there. I readily admit that. I've got a six-pack, it's just in a foam cooler. But I've done things that require a solid amount of physical fitness before, and I've held my own. This, however, was a totally different story. Let's just say that no one looked at me and was jealous for how well I was handling myself.

The only reason I made it to the top was because I went with some guys who encouraged me at key points along the way. I let them go ahead pretty early on so they could at least break a sweat, but they definitely didn't leave me behind. And after over an hour of climbing, as I was nearing the top but every step was more than laborious, one of them who had already summited came back down to where I was to take the last twenty steps with me. Without these guys, I know I wouldn't have made it. If I had been climbing by myself, I would have turned back before the climb even got that steep. Having those guys climb with me was crucial to me being able to successfully get to the top of the Incline.

You didn't want to see our Incline picture...
We need the same kind of community around as dads, don't we? Other guys around us who can encourage us, cheer us on, and even come get us when we get stuck in this climb of parenthood? And not all of us in this picture to the left are dads, but we're committed to keeping each other moving forward, even if our paces are different speeds, and so many times that transcends life stages.

We aren't meant to do this alone, guys. If you don't have men around you that are continually pointing you toward what it means to be a better father and husband, start looking for some. I know as guys it can be tough to admit that we need help, but it's important to your wife. It's important to your kids. Get some guys that speak openly and honestly to you, who don't always pat you on the back and tell you you're doing a great job, because sometimes we're not. Find some that are maybe a few steps ahead of you, who can help you steer clear of some of the pitfalls and missteps that they've taken. And definitely make sure that you have those guys who are encouragers every step of the way, who can remind you of the summit when things get tough, because we all need those.

Just make sure they don't trick you into doing the Incline with them...

Do you have guys around you that serve this purpose in your life? How have you seen them as helpful?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Via "Staycation" of 2012

Guys, you're gonna thank me for this, I promise.

The students for the fall semester at the Focus Leadership Institute arrive today, so my wife and I decided that I would take some time off to spend with the family before the term kicks off. Trying to save some money, we decided that a "staycation" was a much better idea than trying to make last-minute hotel reservations, toting the kids and all their accoutrements somewhere, and paying for food for practically every meal.

As a teacher, my wife instantly went into "planning mode" as soon as the overall plan was settled upon. What she came up with was a six-day schedule with activities, crafts, books, movies, and even snacks that all revolved around a daily theme. And I have decided to share all of it with you, for one reason and one reason only...

Husband points.

We all know we need them, and we all know how hard it is to get them. And if you're like me, when your wife turns to you and says, "what should we do?" your mind instantly goes blank, and any good idea you might have had enters a black hole, never to be seen again. And that's just for date nights. Trying to plan an activity for your family where everyone has fun and you don't have to touch the college fund to pay for it is like living in a swing state and trying to avoid political commercials. So when you are asked such a question, now you will have an answer, and the husband points will rain down on you like manna from heaven.

So here you go - a blow-by-blow schedule of our staycation. And if you don't live in Colorado Springs, don't worry. Most of these are doable (with a tweak or two, perhaps) where you live.

Day 1 - Fitness Day
AM Activity - rock climbing wall. City Rock was where we went, and had a wall totally appropriate for our two and a half year old.
PM Activity - Park with frisbee, football, soccer ball
Snack - Cliff Bars
Craft - Fitness brag book: we took pictures of Caylah doing different activities - swimming, jumping, climbing, etc - and glued them onto construction paper (one per activity), which was then all tied together to make a book.

Day 2 - Nature Day
AM Activity - Nature Center with morning grasshopper experience
PM Activity - Nature walk at the library
Snack - gummy worms, ants on a log
Craft - Butterfly baggie
Books - On My Leaf, The Very Lonely Firefly
Movie - "Creatures - Kids in the Garden"

Day 3 - Animal Day
AM Activity - Zoo
PM Activity - Feed ducks at local lake
Snack - Animal crackers
Craft - Giraffe Tube
Movie - "The Lion King"

Day 4 - Water, Water Everywhere
AM Activity - Pool: our YMCA in El Paso County had a number of pools in the area. Check out yours.
PM Activity - Denver Aquarium
Snack - Goldfish
Craft - Homemade Aquarium
Book - Ten Little Fish, Poke A Dot: Who's in the Ocean?

Day 5 - Things That Go
AM Activity - Pikes Peak Cog Railway
PM Activity - Colorado Springs Balloon Classic
Snack - Cookie Cars
Craft - Block Towers
Books - Go-Go Baby, Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo
Movie - Thomas and Friends, "Hooray for Thomas"

Day 6 - Fun and Games
AM Activity - Arcade in Manitou Springs
PM Activity - It'z
Book - Players in Pigtails
Movie - AthleticBaby All-Star

And now, I'm exhausted. If you have any questions about any of this, let me know!

What kind of activities have you done with your family that are really fun, as well as inexpensive?