Sunday, July 20, 2014

The 12-20 Plan, Part II: What Other Dads Want

Recently I asked a question of a number of dads who do this better than I: Given that one of the joys of parenthood is the ability to teach your children everything you possibly can, what is the one thing you wish you didn't have to teach your children?

I cheated and tried to take seven entire years of life lessons from my children. But I forced the other dads to narrow it down to one thing, if they could. There were some great responses.

A number of dads would give up the potty training stage:

--For example, Lorne Jaffe-- who is killing it while Raising Sienna, says: "I haven't even started potty training Sienna and I'm dreading it. Imagine a newborn just wriggling her way to the toilet, climbing up, going and flushing! No gross diaper changes! No accidents! So much more sleep for us! Plus imagine all the money we would have saved not having to spend it on diapers, Desitin, etc!" 

--Meanwhile, Niel Vuolo, who wins my unofficial Webby vote for Best Name of a Parenting Site with, agrees: "100% potty training. While my daughter is struggling with reading that is something that is easy an enjoyable to teach. While potty training my son has been a huge nightmare. A nightmare that includes lots of poop and laundry for me to do.

Lorne and Niel, I'm with you 100%. But beware, just because you finally teach your children to sit on the potty, it doesn't mean your work is done. At least when the kids are pooping their pants, you can be reasonably assured someone is wiping their butts. Potty training is one thing, but, regrettably, my wife and I came up short in the "wiping one's own butt" training, leaving almost as much cleanup work as before. And while the cost savings on diapers and creams is immeasurable, sometimes it's still fun to say "We need butt paste."

--Meanwhile, Scott Behson from Fathers, Work and Family went for the daily double of "sleeping through the night and pooping in the toilet." Doesn't sound like too much to ask, except we remember our college years, when many of us were sleeping in the toilet and...well...

Most of the other responses also focused on the younger years.

--Michael R. Bryant aka, The Purposeful Pappy"I wish my son was born understanding that his little sister is actually breakable and tackling her hard core is not ok... even if she is laughing after he does it. I don't worry because she is a girl, we are a rough and tumble country family after all, I worry because he outweighs her by twenty pounds!" Not to worry, Michael, this is just a rite of passage. I could spout off a "boys will be boys" line to you, but I bet the girl comes back and gives the boy a run for his money. :-)

-- Mark Jimenez (My Family Did What?) offered a number of items: "Definitely sharing. Little Mark has never been good at sharing. He's also got some anger management issues. Oh, and he also... wait you asked for only one thing, my bad." That's ok, Mark, you're in a safe place. Let it all out! None of my kids share much, either. Particularly the youngest, who the older two recognize as a black hole for all treats. And my middle child threw a shoe across the room when he lost his first game of Skip-Bo, for which he got a timeout that is still in effect indefinitely. Our kids can go to anger management classes together and perhaps Skype the webinar on Sharing.

-- Mike Heenan from over at At Home Dad Matters wants us all to pipe down: "{{{INDOOOR VOICESSSS}}}" What's that, Mike? We can't hear you over the beeping trucks, the blaring fire engines, the toy minivan that plays '70s porn music, and the Curious George episode that's on 56 volume. Please speak up...

      --Spike Zelenka is the Double Trouble Daddy. He says: "As my sons are only 18 months old, I've been lucky that I haven't hit that many obstacles yet, except that one of my twins has yet to master the sippy cup. I know it sounds petty in the grand scheme of things that I could wish for, but it just frustrates me that he knows how to do it (takes a sip or two) but refuses after a few tries because he knows he'll get a bottle eventually. Ugh!" Not sure exactly what to do with this one, Spike, but often when my kids sent the sippy cup back, there was some sort of "blockage" that we pretended to "remove" with a "butter knife" before sending back. Amazingly, this worked like a charm. Not sure if this will help in your case? Also we fed our kids nothing but chocolate milkshakes.

-   --Nick Downey, the Dad with a Blog-- never to be confused with the Dog With a Blog -- has had trouble sleeping since, like, forever: "I never knew teaching the kids how to sleep would be such a challenge. If I didn't have to teach this essential life skill, I just... well I don't know, I am too sleep deprived to have any clue how far I could have gotten." Again, I'm not much help here. At the very least, I can offer that if your child behaves really well in a dentist's office, he may get something to help him sleep in his own bed. Otherwise, I can't help you. Run the vacuum all night?

    --Nick Edwards, who does his thing over at had a very practical, potentially lucrative idea: "I wish my kid was born with a mastery of the stock market." Excellent idea, Nick, I don't think it's too much to ask our newborns, who spend 22 hours a day lying on their butts, to be opening up their own 529s and working on our IRAs. Like they have anything better to do.

    --Aaron Yavelberg sleeps on the edge. (He must have been sleeping in my bed.) A sports fan, Aaron went this direction: "I would have said potty training too but Lorne beat me to it. I'm pretty comfortable with everything else so I'll say I wish I didn't have to teach my son that his true allegiances are to the Chicago sports teams, as opposed to New York, where we live. Although the truth is, I just don't want him to be a Knicks or a Yankees fan. Knicks because I worry about his sanity and Yankees because I worry about his soul." This is excellent parenting, in my opinion. You have free reign over who you root for and who you nudge your child's allegiances to. Sure, they may grow up to like a different team, either through classmates, sheer obstinacy, or the allure of the local media. (Talk about Sleeping on the Edge). Chances are, if you get in front if them on this important topic, you'll have your kids for life. Quick side note: On the day of the 2010 AFC championship, we dressed our 7-month-old son in a Troy Polamalu jersey and took him to the grocery store, where a guy saw the shirt and whispered to his wife, "That's disgusting." Of course he meant "disgustingly cute" since we live in Northern Delaware, Philadelphia Eagles country, where all the fans are nothing but class. We dedicated the win to that guy. Moving on...

    --Mike Julianelle is Dad And Buried. From the grave he offers, "How to please a woman, so he can tell me!!!" Come on, Mike, we're not miracle workers. 

    --But Mike, along with Aaron Gouveia at Daddy Files, both hit on a subject that many, many parents struggle with: Self-confidence. "Because I haven't learned it yet," Aaron says. Mike adds,"In all seriousness, Aaron nailed it: self-confidence is the right answer. Self-confidence is the most important thing a person can have. It's both a suit of armor and the secret to success. But while there are surely ways to imbue it, it's not quite a teachable skill."

       I agree, and it will never be a teachable skill like driving, sports, or music. But it lays the groundwork for those things. And of course, the reverse is also true. Enrolling your child in as many activities at a young age as you can afford to, monetarily, on your calendar, but also on their calendar, will serve only to increase your odds of raising confident, not cocky, teens and adults. Kids will let you know, too, if burnout is a concern. When we asked our daughter if she wants to learn how to ice skate, she said, "I already do three things; I don't want to do four." Fair enough!

      Don't limit yourself to structured activities. Nothing scheduled for today? Go find a state park or a historical landmark. Or a zoo. Studies have shown that simply increasing the number of experiences your children have at a young age will increase intelligence. Intelligence! If they made a pill that increased intelligence, people would line up out the door of the pharmacy. Nobody is jamming the Delaware Museum of Natural History, however. Get out, get your kids seeing things they've never seen before. Blow their minds. They'll be able to handle it. They'll process it. They'll remember it. 

      Also, as they say to the guys in the NFL who perform obnoxious end-zone celebrations, "Act like you've been there before." I suffer from lack of self-confidence every day. But my kids don't know that. Or they're very good at not pointing it out, which is absolutely false. They point everything out! Speak with confidence to them, when you're teaching them, when you're disciplining them, when you're joking around with them. They learn from the cues they get from us. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Tell them they can do it, whatever "it" is.  

      Finally, keep doing what you're doing, gents. Just the fact that you've got something down for the Internet to see, seems like you're all on the right track.

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