Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Dream I've Had

Waiting for the Red

I'm a bit of an aggressive cyclist. On my short commute to work, I run a few stop signs at quieter intersections and have been known to run the occasional signal.  Shhh, don't tell anyone.  In a seemingly contradictory way, I see some precautionary measures as aggressive as well.  I regularly take the lane to establish my position so I don't get cut off or doored.  But no matter how I ride to work, I'm always in a hurry.  I'm seldom in a hurry because I'm late; I just like to go fast. But at a fundamental level I'm impatient and wish I could apparate to work, saving my approximately 15 minutes a day. Impatience permeates my life.  I get frustrated waiting for the microwave to heat water for a cup of tea.  I come by impatience honesty, inheriting it from my father who pays premium money for television so he doesn't have to watch commercials.  If he ever learned to use a DVR I think he'd be a much happier man. 

Fortunately, I've mellowed since having children.  I'm a much more patient than I was at eighteen or twenty-eight.  And I'm glad.   I admit that there is little chance I won't give the gift of impatience to my children.  I hope they get my wife's much slower pace.  She gets everything done that needs to get done, she gets where she needs to go, and she is exponentially less likely to have a heart attack because it takes two small boys an extra 10 minutes to get into our van. 

But mellowing for a high-strung-Virgo-yippie-dog of a father happens much too slowly.  And when I do slow down, I realize how much I appreciate it.

So I've stopped running red lights.  It gives me time to look around and catch my breath.  It forces me to slow down and smell the lilacs.  It's also safer.  But it's not easy.  I've had a lifetime of developing my skills at impatience.  I also love the feeling of flying on my bike -- it's a remnant of my former life I occasionally long for and may write about soon. 

So I've stopped running red lights.  I hope some of this slowing translates to the rest of my life.  That way when I'm playing in the yard with the boys, I'll be playing in the yard with the boys instead of thinking about all the yard or school work I need to be doing. I'm stopping at red lights.  I'm hopeful.  I'm hopeful for my children who need a present father patient enough to allow them to be themselves and arrive on their time, not mine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Shoes as Brakes

Apparently, a coaster brake and a hand brake aren’t the brakes my son wants to use with his bike.  

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Father Pushed to the Edge

When I discussed the title of this blog with my wife, she didn't like the description of my being pushed to the edge.  She got the joke I was making of being pushed to the edge of the bed, but she didn't like the implication of the more metaphorical meaning of being pushed to the edge.  Though she didn't say it, I assume she meant that she didn't like the implication or believe that I was being pushed to the edge my parenting ability, patience, or sanity.  Somehow our children were too trying.  There are moments when the first two are probably true, but no more than other parents.  So why did I choose that description (besides I think it's a funny and have a bad sense of humor)?

First the funny part of the description.  We co-sleep with our youngest, so there is always at least three in the adult bed.  But most nights, sometime after midnight or one a.m., one of the twins, M. comes into bed and wants to snuggle with me.  He wants to share a pillow and covers.  It's very cute.  And because he is having some challenges adjusting to losing so much attention, as most children with new siblings do, I don't want to tell him that, "Yes, in addition to having to give up so much time and losing some priority status to your brother during the day, we're going to make you sleep somewhere else while your new brother snuggles all night with us."  So, we let him come to bed with us. 

This is going somewhere, I swear. If you know anything about children in adult beds, they manage sleep sideways, take all the covers and pillows, and make funny noises and movements when they sleep, and want to cuddle all at the same time.  It's either adorable or maddening.  In our case, it's both.    So, every night, I'm pushed to the edge of our bed, literally, as I try and create space for myself to sleep.  Fortunately we sidecarred a crib with intent of our youngest sleeping in it.  He doesn't.  I do.  Well, more acurately I often end up half in the bed and half in the crib.  On rare occasion, I end up nearly totally in the crib (as much as I can fit), and M. follows me right in.  That is the story of the origin of the description on this blog.  If you've made this far, please read a little further. 

How else am I pushed to the edge?  What less literal meaning is there to the blog description?  Though there are times I feel pushed to the edge by my family, parents who claim otherwise are either lying or. . .well. . . I should say are highly unusual.  So why am I pushed to the edge?  I'm pushed to the edge of my comfort zone -- founded on beliefs and expectations borne of observation, mass media, and armchair parenting -- by what I've read and learned from less-well known, but often more reputable sources.  I often feel the weight of society pushing against some of the decisions my family has made about parenting. I know some of the ideas I will examine here will probably offend some readers.  Coming to these conclusions has not been easy for me, and I can imagine some of the topics here or my beliefs may offend some.  So, I simply ask readers to have an open mind and realize that there are different ways to raise a family, and that, if I can get gushy for a minute, the prime ingredient is unconditional love.  All things sprout from there. 

So, I've been pushed to the edge.  By my own doing and by society.  Let's see if I can work my way back.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

3 Boys and a Garage

I've given up. I pride myself on being a somewhat successful handyman, trying to fix most home problems myself. I tackle plumbing or electrical problems. I paint (though I loathe it), and I landscape. I've helped roof a friend's house. If Home Depot carries the supplies, I'm willing to try it. It's easy to explain my do-it-yourself nature. It's genetic. My dad fixed nearly everything around our house. He taught me much of what I know about home repair and nearly all I know about auto repair. In fact, I had to do much of our family's car maintenance and repair before I was allowed to drive the vehicles. That experience has saved me in more than one situation in which I had to McGyver-like fix a car to get me and my friends home. I've also used this knowledge to impress my wife by answering Car Talk calls correctly. Beyond these skills, and more importantly, my father gave me the gift of confidence to try repair projects.

The gray lining of this silver cloud of ability and experience is that I believe I should do these repairs myself. I have a strong puritanical push against hiring people for work I can do myself. Despite how much I hate mowing the lawn and challenging it is for me to make time to do it, I still won't hire a company to do it, and do it much better than I can. I've spent hours repairing plumbing problems that ultimately would have been cheaper to simply have called someone. I still have spare parts from trips to the hardware store I never returned. And I always feel inadequate when I do call a repairman, compelled to talk to the repairman as a means to demonstrate my prowess with repairs -- I'm not just some soft-handed academic who has never worked a day in his life.

But now that I have three small boys, it's nearly impossible to make a half-dozen trips to Home Depot and Lowe's for parts and advice. I can't simply drag power tools around the yard or house, cutting lumber or firing nails at will. Fixing a wall outlet or changing a water filter have gone from a 5-minute job to a 3-hour one. Sometimes it's more fun and sometimes it's maddening. Still, I've done most of the repairs I can around the house (except change the oil in our vehicles, which is actually cheaper at our dealership than what I can change it for, and I'd don't have used motor oil around my house for small children to get into).

It was a major blow to my repair ego when I broke down and decided to hire a repairman to replace our garage door. He's coming on Monday to give us a firm estimate, but barring some dramatic change, I know we'll hire him. With the help of a friend, I could do it. I know I could. As a friend says, "It would be easy." And it would. But many of my friends have small children and can't afford the time, and neither can I. So I will pay someone to do something I know I could do myself. I want to say it's a sign of adulthood, but I know my father would have done it himself at my age. Of course, for him, his son would have been a perfect helper, literally running with excitement to get him tools as he worked. My boys are too young, instead wanting to take tools and use them to "repair" things around the house or garage. Last summer they managed to completely disassemble their bikes.

I try to console myself by saying that lots of people hire other for these jobs. I'm helping a family business stay afloat. I have told my wife on more than once that if we can solve a problem by throwing money at it, it's worth doing. This is one of those cases. I tell myself that this phase will pass. I will be able to do more of these repairs once the boys are a little older. But I just can't get it to sit right with me. I want to do this job. It just isn't going to happen. My lawn is too long, I need to do other home repairs, and I want to spend quality time with my family.

So I'm going to pay someone to do something I could do myself. And I'm just going to have to deal with it. So it goes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Welcome to The Family Bed

The impetus for starting this blog is a creative nonfiction course I am teaching this spring. The blog assignment for me and my students is to pick a topic for the blog and write at least two entries of 300 words per week. Though I blog elsewhere, my blog tends to lack the focus necessary for successful blogging. So, this blog will have that focus. As you might suspect, this blog is about my family, more specifically, I will write about my experiences with fatherhood and how reality does or doesn't match my expectations of what fatherhood would be like. As part of examining my experience, I intend to explore how some of our parenting practices don't align with popularly held beliefs.

Welcome to The Family Bed.