This morning as I was dropping you off at school, you wanted to go over to your friend Avery’s daddy and ask him if Avery could hang out with us this Saturday for the free puppet show at the Nashville Library.
He was delighted you asked, as was Avery. His response: “That sounds like fun. Well, let me check with the ‘schedule keeper’ in our house, Avery’s Mommy, and we’ll let you know tomorrow.”
A few minutes later, you asked your friend Madison’s daddy the same thing. His response: “Yeah, we’d like to do that. Let me check with the person in our household who handles our schedule and we’ll see.”
Earlier this week, I was texting my friend Dave about going to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier on opening night.
Before texting me back, you guessed it… he checked with the “schedule keeper.”
I never in my life thought I’d be so happy about getting a new dishwasher.
One of the assumed roles as the modern dad and father, I have found, is that he takes care of cleaning up all the dishes.
Actually, it would be a foreign concept for me to think that I, as a modern-day American dad, could still be considered a “good husband and father” if I didn’t take care of the dishes everyday he’s…
Or at least some similiar equivalent time-consuming household chore, like laundry or cooking.
At least, that’s my version of reality. I’ve yet to speak to, or even hear of, or watch a stand-up comedian on Netflix (like Tom Papa or Don Friesen), who is a husband and father who is in a “happy household” who doesn’t do the dishes (or an equivalent chore) pretty much on a daily basis.
In all the confusion these days of what roles a modern dad is supposed to assume, “dish duty” is a given for me personally. It’s a way I know I can easily help out our family.
With that being said, our dishwasher has been broken since September.
That means for over 5 months now, I have been washing, and drying, all of our dishes by hand.
And we use a lot of dishes at our house.
Because we have a plant-based diet, Mommy uses the food processor and I often use the juicer, on top of all our normal dishes and utensils.
This is the first time since September that I will have at least 30 more minutes more of “free time” each night that I will be able to use to get more work done… because, we bought a new dishwasher! (During the cheap time of the month, of course.)
My experience as a parent equates free time with work… from other household chores to career enchancing opportunities; but if I’m lucky, catching up with friends.
So yeah, this is a big deal! We now have a working dishwasher!
This is like Christmas.
Saturday when the delivery man came to our house in his big white truck, you were eager to talk to him. Actually, you started with a song:
“I said a hip hop… and you don’t stop.”
This is because Mommy and I finally saw the hilarious Brian Williams/Lester Holt version of Rapper’s Delight:
So you were eager to teach the dishwasher installer guy your new song that you’ve been hearing your parents do all week long.
He was impressed.
You went on to tell him about, and show him, your new 1972 Rachero lowrider Hot Wheel car from Kroger. And as you can see from these pictures, you also had some questions for him as you observed from just a few feet away:
“What’s under there?”
And… “Where are you taking our old dishwasher?”
Talking to strangers isn’t always a bad thing. If I’m there with you, it’s okay.
The thing is, I’m pretty big on talking to strangers, so I’m sure you’re picking up that habit from me.
Disclaimer: Contains potentially confusing viewpoints that may be exclusive to the male mindset.
The main reason I feel anxious about the thought of having another child is not the financial aspect, or even the fact we only have a 2 bedroom townhouse; it’s knowing that I would be placed in that frustrating position again of not knowing what to do on a daily basis.
Sure, I’d know more of what I was doing the 2nd time around, but it would also be on top of taking care of you too; though you demand less attention than you did when you were a baby.
To see me in my worst element is to see me in a high pressure, reoccurring situation where I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. For me, that was the first 15 months of your life; back when you wouldn’t let me take care of you without Mommy being in the same room.
Therefore, I couldn’t feel like I was leading our family, and it made me feel horrible about myself.
Just to be clear, I don’t mind high pressure at all. In fact, I like the challenge of it; given that I’ve been well trained on the subject.
It’s no secret: I find my self-worth not in how others see me, but in how I see myself. If I don’t feel in control, or at least that I know what my role is, I sort of feel worthless.
Now that you’re well beyond the age of 15 months, in fact, days away from being double that, my frustrating days of flat-out not knowing what to do in regards to being a dad are mostly a thing of the past; back in the year 2011.
As for modern day life, I know my role now; every minute of the day, and I love it!
In addition to being your official chauffeur, bedtime singer, protector from monsters… I also am the official dishwasher, bathroom cleaner, garbage man, vacuumer, relationship mediator, and the parent juggling two jobs outside of home life.
Every night, after our family eats dinner, I know that once Mommy takes you upstairs for your bath, I am going to immediately start washing and drying all the dishes, then wipe off the counter, and vacuum; just in time to go upstairs and sing your final bedtime song.
While it would be really nice to just chill out after dinner instead of doing housework, I don’t even mind. The reason: Because it sure beats the heck out of those first 15 months when I didn’t know my role.
As your dad, who is wired to fix problems and lead others, it’s very challenging for me to… I’m trying to think of a way to say this without using the PG version slang word…
I like to be driving the motorcycle, not riding in the sidecar.
(Watch the movie Garden State, when you’re older, to fully understand the reference. “Sidecars are for…”.)
What I am saying is that right now, I don’t feel like I’m riding in the sidecar. I feel like our life is predictable enough now where I don’t taste the chaos in the air anymore.
I love having this peace in my head; not dwelling on my inabilities to successfully figure out what exactly I’m supposed to do every single second. I love knowing what to do.
Ah, if and when the time comes for a 2nd child, I fear losing that again.
In this economy, it’s no secret that you should make yourself more valuable by learning new skills. The idea is to make yourself the go-to person for certain exclusive things.
I translate this same concept to the home life.
As the dad, one of my main exclusive roles is putting our son to sleep for all his naps and bedtimes. Without me, bedtime is not a simple event. It’s a long, drawn-out, nerve-racking experience.
Another thing I’m exclusively good at is transporting our son to and from daycare, being the mediator between his daycare teachers and my wife, and challenging our son both physically and kinetically during playtime.
While my wife and I share many duties, it’s really important to me that I do certain exclusive things.
This Christmas, I am planning on buying a foldable extendable ladder and a drill set. I want to increase my handyman skill set ASAP.
But wait, there’s more…
As the title infers, I also want an iron and an ironing board. Here’s my masculine reason why:
For my day job, where I am basically the Employee Relations Specialist, I assume the role of HR in the office. In other words, it’s very important that I present myself as very professional… above reproach.
I’ve always been the guy to wear ties and jackets to work anyway, even though I’m pretty much the only one who does. But now I feel that’s not good enough, in my own mind.
That’s because my clothes are a little on the wrinkled side.
I could easily convert a few of my “Sloppy Saturday” shirts, like the one I’m wearing in these pictures where I was made into a “Mummy” at my son’s daycare Open House over the weekend, into “Tidy Tuesday” shirts if they were simply ironed.
That’s not to put down by wife in any way. I can vouch for the fact that with all she does for our family, she definitely doesn’t have the time to iron, too.
Regardless, we don’t own an iron and an ironing board.
Even if we did, I want this job. I want ironing to be my thing in our household.
Call me a classic 1950′s American man, but I think men ought to care enough about their appearance not to represent themselves as slobs. There should be no shame in taking extra time to look handsome.
I’m thinking right now of those Men’s Wearhouse commercials: “You’re gonna like the way you look.”
As a non-metrosexual, I want to be like a former military guy who takes pride in his appearance enough to still iron his clothes like he had to when he was in the service.
Yes, I think it will be pretty cool to not only iron my own clothes for work, but to iron my wife’s clothes, and eventually, our son’s.
It’s pretty masculine if you ask me. I’m not turning into a “Mummy.” Instead, I’m manning up… once I get my iron and ironing board, that is.
The main way to be honest is to refrain from lying. The other way is to refrain from hiding your true thoughts and feelings. The latter is so much harder than the former.
Something I’ve never been good at, nor cared to improve, is the ability to use the #1 traditional American greeting: “Hi, how are you doing?”
Because even as a young kid, I have questioned the practicality and sincerity of that extremely personal question which acquaintances use to greet each other with. I remember when I started pre-school (in 1985), asking my parents how I was supposed to answer that question. They told me to say, “Just fine. How are you doing?”
So that’s how I would respond to being asked how I was doing. By the time I got to Middle School, I got so lazy at it that I just began simply answering with a mumbled “Doing good, doing good.” Conveniently for me, I learned that people were so used to having the questioned returned on them, that they assumed I was saying, “Doing good, and you?”
And at age 30, that’s still what happens to me on a daily basis.
I just can’t take something seriously if I find it to be anything less than sincere. Sure, I’m definitely over-analyzing our traditional American greeting. But to me, I feel that most of the time, we’re not actually asking the other person how they are doing. Why?
Because I’ve observed that so much of the time when people ask me how I’m doing, they don’t even look me in the eyes, and they just keeping walking past me as they say it.
For me to honestly answer that question, the person asking it A) has to be someone I know well and be able to be vulnerable enough to tell them how I am really feeling and B) has to show me with their body language that they actually care about the answer.
Am I being too honest by admitting that when I ask someone how they are doing, after they have just asked me the same question, that nine times out of ten I’m not really concerned with their answer? The exception is if the other person was being so open with me that their answer was anything different than perfectly positive: If the other person is admitting they are having a tough day or that something interesting (good or bad) was going on in their lives, I would jump on the chance to explore what’s going on in their lives.
Why? Because when it comes to relating to people, I am action-based, not emotion-based.
I understood this concept much more clearly when I spent the summer of 2003 (and 2004) in Thailand teaching at a Christian school. As I was immersed in Thai culture, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was hardly ever asked by the Thai people how I was doing. Instead, they asked me what I was doing, what I did earlier that day, or what I would be doing later that day. If I was holding a bag of snacks I had just bought from the store, they would reach for my bag, asking about my recent purchases. For that reason alone, I felt so at home and so connected with the Thai people. It felt so natural and real.
My belief and history with starting conversations is that if I start talking to someone by asking a personal question that intrudes on their emotions, unless they really know me, they will put up their guard and give me a generic answer.
So instead, whenever I greet a person, it is never with an emotional question. I always ask a question based on that person’s daily activities or make a positive observation based on their appearance.
Or if I can’t think of something to say, I’ll propose this one: “What was the most unique thing that has happened to you so far today?” I love to engage people in thought. I can’t handle talking about the weather.
I want real human connections with the people in my life.
It’s important to me to be as honest as I can be to people, without being inappropriately revealing. It’s a fact that as a man, I would be foolish to “wear my heart on my sleeve.” I learned very quickly after entering the work force not to reveal my insecurities and emotions to my coworkers. Because I observed that the men I respected in the work place kept their personal life private. I also noticed that women in the office who acted more like men, who suppressed emotional urges, were more likely to be successful.
So what does all this have to do with parenting and being a husband? After all, that is what this blog is all about.
Here’s how. Men are often known for hiding the way they really feel. They are known for holding in their emotions. Why do they do that?
The vulnerable answer is that we men are expected to be strong and in control. Expression of emotions and admittance of feelings compromises that image. And the truth is, the perception that we are in control is just as important as being in control, a lot of the time. That’s undeniably important for men to live by in the work place.
But not at home. Men must be able to separate the two versions of themselves: the work version vs. the home version.
While I may spend most of my day time hours turning off my emotions in the office, when I get home, it’s important for me to express how I feel to my wife. I must remind myself to flip the switch back to “home life” from “work life.” I know that it’s important for her to know what’s going on inside of my head. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes there’s just nothing really floating around in my head- just a blank screen.
I only get vulnerable about my emotions and insecurities with those who I am really close to. The rest get random conversation starters from me. But it’s those random conversation starters that can help build actual relationships. And that’s the reason I don’t ask people how they are doing. Instead, as they tiredly hold a warm mug, they unexpectedly hear from me, “What flavor coffee creamer did you go with today?” I’d rather start in the middle of a conversation than a stage prop beginning.