Monday, May 30, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Some might argue that my boy didn’t need to go to school. He had just turned one year old! We started Jeep in school because I needed more structure to the crests and troughs of the daddy life. He loved being around other children, and my daddy resources were running a little thin. It turned out to be good for both of us. Despite my far-ranging adventures, I needed more kid activities. I needed colleagues. I needed mom friends. I needed good parent modeling. I got all of this and more.
We chose a cooperative pre-school, so I worked a shift each week and attended meetings, work parties, and socials throughout the year. This was great for me. It kept me connected to other parents and gave me experience with other children, many of whom were a stage or two older than the Jeep. It gave me a place to go two mornings a week, and (more importantly) it gave me a day off. One morning a week, Jeep was on his own at the pre-school. He was well cared for, and I never worried about him. He never once cried when I left. Jeep is tough like that. He has a lot of him mom in him.
I often dropped off Jeep and went straight to a nearby golf course. All winter long I played 9 holes at a time, doggedly working on self-improvement and trying to build a handicap. I almost always played alone, walking fast and keeping meticulous scoring. I think I was trying to “get serious” about golf, even as the serious work of my former life was slipping away. I started hitting my driver with force and precision. But the rest of my game went to hell.
There was another piece of news that shook up the Daddy Life that fall. There was indeed a new beginning, and it had started in Linden’s belly late that summer. Perhaps a bit ahead of schedule, but our Ada has turned out to be an overachiever. We were both elated and a little shocked.
Monday, May 23, 2011
If there was a moment of truth for my new career in daddyhood, it happened the winter when Linden returned to work. Suddenly I was faced with long hours of baby time, and I alone set the schedule. Of course I pursued my own ends doggedly, relentlessly. In the winter it was lunch with friends, storytimes, long hikes, and shared naps. This, with the housework and cooking, left me a little bored. That spring when Jude was weaned, we launched into a new level of adventure.
Jeep was both portable and flexible, a perfect companion for my restlessness. I was lucky to have a few friends around with open schedules, and away we went. By May and June, I was taking the boy on far-ranging road trips like Steens Mountain, Wallowa Lake, and points in between. I bought a big tent and we put the crib right inside. Jeep could sleep anywhere, and I was happy to be in motion. These trips, punctuated by family vacations to New York and Florida, made staying at home feel like a lark. It was like I quit my teaching job, and summer vacation never ended.
Looking back, I can’t believe the audacity of these travels. Before Jeep was one year old, we had crossed the country four times by airplane and the state three times by car. As a 6 month old, I pulled him out of the bike trailer to see a baby alligator. At two months old, we hiked him along Crater Lake in the fading dusk. At thirteen months we spent a night in a sleeping bag together when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees. That whole year we spent talking to him, singing to him, dragging him from place to place.
I could see that there was a point on the horizon when Jeep would need more than my company to keep him engaged and challenged by the world. The smartest thing I did that year happened almost by accident. One morning I ran across a notice for a cooperative pre-school with a classroom for one and two year olds. We visited the open house and registered Jeep for the fall.
Next up, Back to School . . .
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I won’t pretend that I haven’t been absent for the past several months. Somewhere in between Christmas and Springtime I stopped writing, and never seemed to get it started again. This is actually one of my patterns. I become recalcitrant in winter, chatty in warmer weather. I am positively INSPIRED by autumn. Do dying leaves equate with rebirth for me? It’s just one of my things.
I looked at the Jeep today, standing next to his mother, and he seemed taller. Granted, she was sitting, but he seemed even taller than she. He’s two-and-a-half for gawdssakes. Where did the time go? For a long while I explained the stay-at-home dad “experiment” as something we were trying out. As if maybe things wouldn’t work, so we would go back to “normal”. That is obviously not happening. I think it is time to recognize – this is pretty much as normal as we’ll ever see again. Nonetheless, next month marks three years since I left my job and never looked back.
This blog is an attempt to come to terms with some of the stages of daddyhood. The Daddy Life has taken on many forms over the past three years, and I need to honor them. I am always working to become the man I want to be, and that means being honest with myself about my successes and failures along the way. If I had any readers, then I would love for them to learn something from my experience.
STAGE ONE: DENIAL
The summer of 2008 was a great summer. I played a lot of golf. I remodeled the nursery. Then we had a baby. Up until Jeep came along, I laughed and played and chased my tail. I was a passable birthing partner and a poor husband. Then the world changed forever that evening when the sun went down on our hospital room.
STAGE TWO: EARLY DADDYHOOD
Jeep came into the world with only minimal help from Dad, but I stepped it up right away. I remember the first little cries that came from my boy late in the night of his birth. We had slept a few hours and Linden was in no shape to respond, so I rose to the call and changed my first diaper. The first of thousands.
Linden had a long maternity leave while we built our partnership and figured out our family. We also had a number of guests, family, and friends who provided a lot of help. This gave me a freedom from responsibility that I generally enjoyed. We both built confidence in our parenting skills. My wife dealt with some intense post-partum depression that fall, and I generally hung in there and tried not to complain about the changes in my life. Of course I loved my boy more than anything, so I focused my energies on him. I give myself high marks for fatherhood during this period, but there were two of us raising one child, so we still had him outnumbered. I began playing guitar during this time, and we took several trips together as a family. I also took over all the cooking in the household. These were minor, but necessary changes to my lifestyle and identity.
I was certainly a useful part of the parenting team, but of course I wasn't nursing the baby. At times I felt like I lacked purpose. We were all ready for some change when Linden returned to work after the holidays. Jeep was around 4 months old.
To be continued . . .