Clockin Out

You know what’s difficult. Having small children, having a loving marriage, feeling fulfilled in yourself, and your path, and supporting your spouse. To be firing on all cylinders is pretty rare, and if you are it feels like you need to immediately pinch yourself to make sure it’s real. My wife and I have recently switched roles almost entirely. For the first 3 years of us being parents, she stayed home with our girls and I worked, now I stay home and she works. As you can imagine there have been some growing pains for all of us. The girls have had to adapt to mama being gone all day, which can be quite the challenge when you don’t have the words to explain the problem. I have had to adjust to being home all day, and not feeling like a failure because I am not working. Finding enjoyment and progress in providing for our children in a very matter of fact way from minute to minute. Cooking and taking naps and cleaning is not easy sh*t for all of those that write things like this off. The development of domestic skills takes work. My wife has had to adjust to waking up early for work despite maybe not sleeping all night due to nursing and all around mothering. She misses the girls dearly but also lives her work. 

One thing that came up the other night in the derailing train that can easily become of the nighttime routine is clocking out. I literally just needed a minute or two. I wasn’t going to explain myself, nor did my wife expect me to. I said I am clocking out and went to do my thing, which happened to be a shower. The beauty of this moment was the ease. So many things with children become these overblown, logistical nightmares. 

I think we all need theses moments, and we should have an agreement that we can take them. We are all playing for the same team here, and the goal is the same. In this case it was get the kids to bed. I needed a minute and took it, which offered me just enough space to breathe and come back with intention and a clear mind. Without this space, it’s easy to get short tempered and less productive. Its important that we as partners raising children work together and this includes creating space for eachother. 

So find a way, is the clocking out if you want. But acknowledge with each other that you both have needs. Call it something, make a agreement. And claim the space that you need. Otherwise this train will derail and everyone suffers in that case. 

 

Danny

Virtue

They say patience is a virtue. Well, the first known recording was in a poem called Piers Plowman written by William Langland between 1360 and 1387. It has similarities to an expression in latin as well. Either way, it appears that the struggles we tangle with have been very common throughout history. It is also one of the seven heavenly virtues. This makes a a lot of sense why it would be so highly regarded when you have children. Yesterday, my virtue list was put to the test. Holy Hell, I wasn’t aware it was possible to talk yourself off the cliff so many times in one day.

Since we moved our family to my parent’s farm, I have been staying home with the girls, and my wife has been working. To say this has been a challenge would be a large understatement. The change of pace is nothing but abrupt. Yes I get to take naps, yes we just hang out all day. No it is not a dream. It is very challenging. I give all the credit to those that stay home and raise children. Work seems like a vacation. Now that I have been on both sides of the fence, the picture is starting to gain some clarity.

With the change of my wife working, our 3 year old is having quite the time. Very simply put, she misses Mama. What I see are legendary freak outs, spitting, blowing snot, endless screaming, and the list goes on. Yesterday, we dropped off Mama at work and went to fill the rig up with gas and wash Betty Blu (thats our sweet van). Then we went to the park for an hour or two. We had a blast swinging, climbing, and chasing birds. I was pretty happy with how our morning was moving along. Papa got a few things done, and the girls had fun. We got home and all I was seeing was yawns and eyes closing. It was time to lay down and have quiet time. For any of you with children, you know timing is so important here. Too early and your colossally screwed, too late and you may as well light your day on fire. I am not sure the exact time window, but its gotta be similar to the chances of winning rigged games at the county fair. Its very small.

We all laid in bed and all was pretty calm. Our 3 year old was a bit weepy which is normal, and the younger one (18 mos) was just laying down relaxing. Then we jumped on the accelerator. I can’t even tell you what happened. The 3 year old started to cry and say she didn’t want to sleep. And as any of you know, when you draw a line, you hold that damn line. Or your kids will walk all over you. I drew the line for quiet time, and I wasn’t budging. The screaming went on for 20 minutes or so, this was high pitch screaming, yelling that she didn’t want to sleep, yelling that she wanted to sleep somewhere else, and yelling general protests.

Then came the active part. This was a nice buffet of kicking, throwing her body around the bed, shaking her head back and forth, standing and yelling, and screaming into the blankets. The general theme here was movement around the bed. Some more violent then others. It was at this point that safety became a concern.

She is allowed to be mad, and she is allowed to express herself. She is not allowed to be unsafe with her body or someone else’s body. It was here I gave her the choice to stop or I was going to hold her body till she would stop and be safe. I counted to 5 with no change in her behavior. I held onto her, much like cradling a child. I told her very calmly that in order for me to let loose, she would need to calm her body. She was able to stop throwing her body around, after she peed all over me. Right now we are 35-40 minutes into a very loud session. I went to grab her new pants, and changed my pants. And this gave us a much needed break. She then struggled to put her undies back on, and this sent her back into a tailspin.

This is the precipitous chapter of the session. She began to spit, and blow her nose in between screams. Mind you this entire time, I am laying in the bed next to her little sister who is still not sleeping, nor has she cried one time. Keeping yourself and the other child calm during a crazy freakout will burn your candle all the way down 10x over. At this point 45 minutes has gone by. She said that she wanted to sleep in her little sister’s bed. At this point I was willing to give a little, saying that she could live up to her side of the bargain. If she would calm down and sleep, I was willing to let her sleep there. I made this very clear, and helped her get in her sister’s bed. She yelled a bit, and cried a bit, and then finally fell asleep. Then her sister began to scream. She fortunately had a very short-lived crying spell.

This was the better part of an hour. From 11ish to noon yesterday, we battled. At about 2pm, my 3 year old woke up. We very calmly talked about what happened. Talking through actions and how this makes people feel is very important. As an adult, my hardest struggle is to let it go. Understanding that she is trying to deal with inner frustration, and she doesn’t have many tools to use, yet. It really has nothing to do with me. It really just comes down to change, and her missing her mom.

The rest of the day went pretty well, despite a few hiccups. We played outside, and petted the animals. Then we went to pick up Mama. I thought we were in the clear. Shit, was I wrong. She got in the car and the hurricane showed up again. This time it was yelling and kicking and telling me which way to drive. She didn’t want to go home, she only wanted to go to the flower shop where my wife works. Clearly we found the issue. All the way home she was screaming. She hit herself, and coughed and carried on. We eventually stopped and my wife walked home with her. Living in a small town was key here. This individual time has been huge. As she has gotten older, the implicit competition with her sister has been bubbling beneath the surface. The older one is jealous of the attention the younger one gets. So time away has been so helpful. My wife strapped on the carrier, buckled her in, and her body immediately lost tension and her spirits heightened.

People have been having children since, well the beginning. The battles are the same. The virtues are the same as well. Understanding your purpose, and your role as a parent is huge. We are here to protect our children, and empower them to live fulfilling lives. We are here to direct them, and reveal to them the tools that will help them navigate their emotions. Understanding where you stand is vital to your approach in parenting.

So patience is said to be a virtue. I would whole heartily agree. Losing your sanity is a slippery slope. It takes no time to lose your head and get wrapped up in the emotion. It takes all the intention and gumption you can muster to stay stapled down to that line your holding, with calmness while holding boundaries. You just need to decide where you draw this line. Value the higher things. Value the virtues. Patience my friend is quite the chase.

Yogurt Slingin’

Our youngest is 18 months old, and only wants to eat by herself 90% of the time. This 90% encompasses 100% of her eating time with me. She will eat for her mother or grammy, but just laughs and doddles away from me when I try to feed her. It is most definitely a game to her, and she thinks its hilarious. I don’t think its funny really at all, although sometimes I laugh cause she’s so damn cute.

The battle that is really going on here is a battle of control. She wants to be completely in control of everything. Obviously this can’t happen for many reasons. So we must give them a little slack and see what they do with it. Yogurt is likely the worst kind of slack to give. She is able to eat yogurt on her own with a spoon, a vertical spoon that is. This has proven to be a very effective way to dollop yogurt all over the floor, her clothes, the furniture, the unassuming sleeping dog. Just about everything under about 2 feet tall is fair game for this little monster. Here is my battle. I know she wants yogurt, and her only chance at eating any is if she is in control. I just don’t want to clean up the whole house from 1 cup of yogurt. The slack I am giving is the cup of yogurt, and the damage rendered every time is previously stated. I have tried to sit her in plenty of places and feed her. I have also tried to feed her helicopter style in which I follow her around, or the other case where she aimlessly circles and drops in now and again for a bite. Any way you slice it, the yogurt is not all going in the child. In fact most of it will be slung all willynilly about the house. Is is bad that this drives me nuts?

Psyching yourself up for breakfast shouldn’t be a thing. But it is here, that the beginning battles of the day are housed. Hangry children I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And as the minutes in the morning pass, each momentary decision walks the edge of the cliff with treachery. What do they feel like today? Do we even have anything they will eat? Can we just have a breakfast buffet in our house? The conversation is simple. Feed your children, and do so such that they have nutritious choices. Easier said than done.

Control ends up being the biggest perpetrator of issues with our little ones. They are learning about their little worlds, and learning about relationships. They are learning to navigate these bodies and these voices. We as parents have to remember this. Its so easy to just jump into a battle with them. Realizing that they don’t always have the tools to understand things like we do is a huge help. The take a breath approach has helped a ton in these instances.

I find that the biggest issue I have is the walking into a mess situation. If I know a spill is imminent, and I go ahead and give them the thing to spill, am I just adding to my own nightmare? The answer is “NO”. I had to tell myself this over and over again. Because  I have been cleaning up messes for years from this exact situation. The focus of this whole interaction is on their progress, its not on my cleaning, or my mental state. We all learn by doing, when it is appropriate for them to understand the orientation of a spoon, and the dolloping of yogurt, they will. We as parents, most importantly I as a parent, need to understand and be patient with them learning. We need to give them enough slack to learn. We need to grant them the freedom to fail. They need to have the latitude to live their lives and learn. They also need the support to understand why things happen. This is not for us to lay out for them. We are passengers on this train. Not that we don’t have a say, or that we have to sit idle, but we need to empower our children to claim their space in life. We need to empower our children to manage themselves. We just need to empower our children. So, as I will be doing, keep your mouth shut and just clean up the yogurt pops.

Danny

Shame on ME

I have really been trying to get some time to myself lately. For me this is waking up early before the girls get up and squeeze in some fitness and then also some reading of some sort to get my mind rolling. This has been a huge help for me since I am taking the role of staying home and keeping the hooligans safe during the day, while my wife is out hunting down the bacon.

The other day I came upon a short blog on shaming. I was shocked at all of the different applications and situations that this applies too. I was also shocked at how often things that I do could be construed as shaming. In my mind they are constructive and helpful, but in my girls minds they may not come across that way.

All day, and each day since, I have been all over myself trying to reroute how I do things to be conscious of this. The example that sticks out in my mind is the shoe dilemma we revisit every day. My 3 year old wants to put her shoes on, which is amazing. But, this typically means that we spend a decent amount of time in the shoeing process, and this can be something that can blow way out of proportion and make us late. This is a minor frustration, but very avoidable with a few minutes head start. The next hiccup is guaranteed. She always puts her shoes on backwards. My tendency of course is to tell her, and interrupt her actions with my supposed “correct” actions. This is where I was going way off.

I realized that I was rewarding her self motivated effort, which is a huge positive, with negative feedback, and telling her she did it wrong. This my friends is no bueno. We try to get our kids to think for themselves, and learn from their decisions, and then we immediately jump all over their decision making and do things for them. Well atleast this is what I had done in the past on countless occasions. Well this time was different. I simply just let go of my obsession with shoes being on the “correct” feet, and just praised her for putting her shoes on. After all if they don’t feel good on her feet, she will notice and switch them. Then we can have the conversation about which shoe goes where.

The goal is understanding and learning. Learning is best done by observation and then trial and error. That is why kids do things 100 times in a row. They practice and practice and practice. It’s ok for them to fail. We and I need to just step out of their way and let them learn. Let them tinker. Maybe watch them, and realize how we as adults lack imagination. Don’t stifle your children. Dammit don’t shame your children. If they take initiative, praise them and lead them. I found out that I unknowingly was shaming, and I was appalled at myself. But you know what, I am learning too. Consider that a different conversation. Mistakes are ok. In fact making mistakes is fantastic. It ensures that you are learning. Be open to change, it’s surely coming.

F*ck the Mold

What do you picture when you picture a dad with kids? What does that man do? What does he look like? How does he behave when he is around his family? What are his hobbies? Does he have facial hair? Does he drive a minivan?

Over the past 3 months we have moved our family away from the coast. We did this in an RV and made one hell of a trip out of it. We landed on my parents farm in Kansas, and are starting over. We threw it all on the line in the name of quality and family and boy, was this a great move. I have never seen my girls so happy. Busy schedules along with the hustle and bustle of a town like LA were just not for us, anymore. We felt people were stressed and just didn’t care for one another, and this really began to weigh on us. I noticed that the stress was starting to show up in our girls. Our tired became their tired. Our stress became their freak outs. Our struggles became their regressions. We all were suffering. We just had to take the time and look at how we were living. No money at the end of every month was terrible to live with. Those rent checks began to cut like a knife. By the end, we couldn’t leave sunny California fast enough.

Throughout the first 3 years of being parents, I worked and Raff stayed home with the girls. I always felt guilty for this, but due to the need for Mama, this is how we did it. We repeatedly discussed the route we were going to take, but this didn't make it easier. We found that this time spent away each day, was very hard to reconcile. I was out with people all day, and Raff was home with the girls. All she wanted to do was have a break, all I wanted to do was have some energy when I got home. The rubber really met the road in the evenings. Everyone was tired as hell. We all needed to bathe and eat, and we needed to spend some quality time together. Evenings usually looked more like freak outs and dinners huddled on the floor around a communal bowl. I would’t trade these years for anything, and I wouldn’t change them either. They were just quite the experience, our experience.

Having small children wears you out, and this really isn’t a shocker. But having your head on straight, and communicating with your lady can make a huge difference. Who works? Is it simply a money conversation? Or does quality of life matter more than money? I can tell you that there is not one answer to this question, and it's easy to get into emotional, heated conversations. We have definitely had our share of these.

We decided in our move that Raff would look for jobs, and I would take some time home with the girls. WOW, what a change! This is gonna take some serious re-wiring. I still panic when it's time for food. I panic when it's time for me to feed myself. Now, add two wildcard curtain climbers and I am a fish way the hell outta water. Changing diapers and naps are easy. These have never been a big problem for me. Activities? I am also quite challenged in this department. I also don’t do very well when our 3 year old is an a**hole. Damn, that girl is mouthy. All of these challenges, while personally and professionally, I feel the looming sense of standing still. When you have 2 mobile children to look after, you can’t get shit accomplished. I shouldn’t complain, I have very well mannered and sweet children. I just want you to have a picture of what goes down.

There is a real safe space to working, it is a huge outlet. You get to talk with adults, you get to feel some independence, you get to go to the bathroom by yourself. When you are corralling the beasts, it's full on, all the time. They want you to run and jump, and push the swing, and play with blocks, and play dress up, and everything else all the time, and they never want to put things away. I thought I had a real accurate picture of what my wife was dealing with, but that has become increasingly more clear and more daunting and today is day 7 of full time Daddery. Thank the good Lord for naps. I have been having some luck syncing them up lately, so Papa gets a rest too.

I am ok with all of the change, but I still care about the things I want to do. I still want to do "man" things, like build stuff, and tinker around the farm. I refuse to trade my beard in for a laundry basket. Choosing to stay home with your children is a very valuable and challenging proposition. It will test you in ways that your not ready for. It will make you grow in ways that you cannot imagine. You know whats really cool about staying home with your kids? There are only a few years that you can do this. When they start school, its over Pops, you missed your chance. Establish bonds. Be there for them. Lay the groundwork for some epic humans to build their lives. You know what you have the rest of your damn life to do? Work. You can always work. Put yourself to the side a bit, or just have the forethought to understand that you have a higher purpose, than your own wants and desires.

This pursuit of switching who stays home with the kids, takes constant shifting. I need to accomplish things for just me, or my psyche plummets. Literally half a day goes by and I haven’t had some time, it's like a time bomb starts ticking. Currently, I get up early and get in some fitness. I come from a place professionally where all I did was fitness for a long time. I needed some space from this setup for a while, and I happily took it. Now, fitness is just my personal time. Some days its a run, some days its burpees. I don’t want it to be my business any more. This is very new to me. I need time professionally to find myself again. It's like starting a whole new relationship. I also need some personal time, this can be a variety of things. Building things is always at the top of my list. I have always loved laborious tasks, so the farm is my haven. Remodeling our RV, working with the alpacas, horses, and goats, all fit the bill. These are all things that need to be fit in my week, or I am terrible at the most important role. Being a husband and father are where I soar. But having these other pieces in place allows me to be fully immersed and at peace.

Yes, it is important that you do the things that make you feel fulfilled. But, don’t kid yourself, your most important role is right in front of you. There is no need to hide, or divert. You know. All of the times I am happiest and feeling like I am the man I aspire to be, is when I have time for me, so I am present for them. Break the F*ckin Mold. Fatherhood is what you make it. There is no defining occupation, there is no look, there is no way to be. If you have to wake up early to squeeze time in for you so you can be your best, for them, do it. If there was a thing to aspire to its Present Fatherhood. An engaged father is a father that inspires his children. Lighting the fire of inspiration in your kids should be something we are given awards for. Our future is our children.

 

Danny Lesslie

Sanity

Sanity, Dear Lord does it seem out of reach many times as a father. Managing kids, work, relationships, schedules, finances, personal responsibilities, goals, trying to sleep and have a litttle fun on top, it’s easy to fall behind. There are literally months upon months that I can think of when my eyes open in the morning, I am already down on myself because of progress, or what feels like everything has come to a standstill. 

Personal care has become huge for me, and I am not talking about massages and pedicures. If you know me you know that these are not my speed. I am talking about listening to the things I need from day to day. The things that make me feel on point. 

One day I was on a flight and it all started to click. I was listening to the stewardesses talk through how to use the oxygen masks. You know the part where they tell you to put on yours first and then help those around you. If you read between the lines, they are telling you that it matters that you have oxygen, it matters that you are capable, it matters that you are able to help others. And this paralleled my life directly, and provided a much needed window into a dilemma I was caught up in. 

It became apparent to me what was missing from my days. I didn’t give myself time, just for me. When we had 1 daughter this conversation was a bit easier to make a case for. We were able to manage time easier, even though we didn’t know it in the moment. Now with 2, and I would assume this gets increasingly challenging with more, you have to start making some larger edits in your calendar for this to happen. As you keep adding humans, I believe it to be that much more important for dad and mom to have their heads on straight. 

When I began to give myself some time, I immediately noticed that I felt better about my progress. Progress might not be the best word. I felt much better about where I was. I felt much better about where we were as a family. I was more mild mannered with the girls. I was more interested in..... well everything. You could say the blade just feels sharper when you give yourself time. What a discovery! It may sound simpleton of me to say this, but its easy to get lost with children. Its easy to not know which way is up. I mean I forgot to pee one time. Can’t tell you how that happens, the urge to pee doesn’t just go away. 

Over some months or maybe a year and some trial and error of how to make this schedule work, I came to a pretty workable routine. There have been 3 things for me that do nothing but improve my sense of well-being, and are worth “Gold." The first of these things is Silence. I need time in silence. I have done breathing exercises, meditation, cycling, just sitting in the dark, and combinations. Any and all of these just allow my body and mind to feel one. I get up at 3 am most mornings and this is first on my list. It is dark and quiet most mornings, and you can catch me cashing in on some serious “Gold” time. The days when I do this, I feel like a man on a mission, I feel like a man in control. The days I miss, I feel extremely reactive and behind the ball.  

The second one for me is Sip. It’s important to me and my soul to have hot coffee in the morning. It’s more than just a drink. It breathes life into this tired body. It is a source of joy for me every morning that I cannot explain. Just me and my coffee. We have moments 7 Days a week. Most days I try to have 2 before I see or hear anyone else. These times are also “Gold” for me. Just a little dose of ME time, does wonders for my sanity.  

The third one on the list is Sweat. I must sweat in the morning. I used to sweat in the middle of the day and his is overrated. The victory that you claim sweating in the early morning misty darkness is a majestic. I have changed the method to the madness over the years. Lately I have been riding my bike to and from work about 30 min each way, and this my friends is “Gold” for me. Everyone laughs at my Gold helmet that I wear on my bike. But that Gold helmet is much more than the coolest helmet on the road. It’s my Gold! It’s me out there fighting the good fight. That is my time, at at this juncture of my life, I am literally trading sleep for quality me time. Every time it is time well spent, even when its raining. Sweat for me is more than just the commute. I head straight to the gym to lift, and this makes me feel alive. Nothing is harder in the day than putting a cold barbell on your back at 4 in the morning. Perspective arrives in droves. Make yourself struggle early in the day, and you my friend have just won the day. 

There are plenty of things that have helped me along the way with the girls. But I am here to tell you that caring for yourself, even if that means 5 minutes of breathing, or grabbing a cup of coffee will do wonders for your sanity. Don’t underestimate the power of a calm mind, and a body that feels alive. Don’t underestimate the result of encouraging Mama to take the same time. Go out of your way to help her do what she needs. Relationships are about support. Support Mama. There are things that she needs as well. Hopefully you 2 are a unit as far as raising your children go. But each person is very much still an individual, its crazy to think different. Support each other, Make sure each individual gets their time, and this journey may just be much more enjoyable. 

 

Danny Lesslie

Being "Tough" Enough to Be Vulnerable

Male vulnerability seems to be a pretty hot topic lately, especially when kids come into the picture. You see growing up as a man, there is a definite pressure to be tough. Men are supposed to be tough and women are supposed to be loving and nurturing. This is just how it seems to be growing up in the US. I personally believe there are two sides to this coin. Life has its times to be tough, and it has its times to be loving and nurturing, what is, I believe unfair here is the gender bias. Women have times where they need to be tough, and men have their times to be loving and vulnerable. 

As a grown man, there are plenty of situations that I have encountered that require this “tough” we talk about. There are also a plethora of opportunities for vulnerability. I as many other men were raised to take advantage of the “tough” ones and maybe not always the “vulnerable” ones. Somewhere in my mid twenties I began to value the vulnerable side a bit more. For me this changed the game. Getting married and having children definitely opens up this gateway further. And to be honest I am thrilled. Being plugged in emotionally is a big bonus in your relationships. Well I feel that it is. But its not an easy spot to be. Part of the deal is the exposure, being hurt is an option, and its available. But really what other choice is there, to not make yourself available. To just exist on your own little tough island. Sounds pretty terrible to me. 

Rue crushed me the other night. She is 2 and a half, and is in one of these phases now where she wants her mom when she is tired. She wants her to hold her, she wants her to put her to sleep, and she wants her to help her. Dad is a very distant second place. I am beginning to think she would pick just about anyone before she would pick me. On the contrary, this couldn’t be further from the truth when she is not tired. She loves her papa. 

Our bedtime routine starts out with Mama nursing Ace, and Papa giving Rue a bath and brushing her teeth. When we get to the bedroom we switch, and I put Ace (11 months) to sleep, and Mama puts Rue to sleep. Two nights ago, in pretty regular fashion lately, Ace could not fall asleep and she wanted Mama. She has been teething for 4 or 5 months now so its been fairly challenging keeping her asleep. So Rue is stuck with yours truly. And she was effin pissed. Screaming pissed. She had been whining and screaming for about 3 hours at this point. We were all pretty damn over each other. Everyone was tired, and had short fuses. Rue is screaming things like “No Papa” as I lay next to her in her bed quietly. Eventually the flurry of screaming subsided for a bit with a well placed binky, when she pulled her binky out and uttered words I would be thrilled if I never heard again. She said “I don’t love you papa.” 

The thud of these words was so deep in my heart, I almost lost my breath. Now, I realize this is not true, and she was out of her mind when she said this. If you didn’t know overtired children do all kinds of crazy things. But let me tell you about the burn of this. I still get pukey when I think about it. Vulnerable is an understatement in this case. I felt like I wanted to run out of the room, right through the wall. Sleep deprived, still a bit congested from being sick the past week, frustrated as hell with our children, hungry for dinner, and she drops this fucking bomb on me. Wow, hit a guy while he is down. I was crushed. And then she put her binky back in her mouth and fell asleep and just left me there in dark silence to deal with those vicious words. 

I didn’t say anything about this until the next day. I just sat on how it made me feel. I felt so exposed, so vulnerable, so hurt, and at the same time still hopelessly in love with my girl. Its quite a dilemma. I have always known my vulnerability was there, and sometimes I have spent years trying to get away from it. Children are plugged right in. They have access at all times.

Being a father is such a gift. Such a gift that is wrought with challenges and growth. As men we need to embrace our vulnerability, we need to embrace our feelings, and know ourselves. We need to be loving and we need to be tough. Our children depend on our leadership into these dark corners of our being. They have a lengthy journey ahead of them, and direction we must provide. Implicit in our role as fathers is work on ourselves. We must reach into those dark corners and understand our part in our journey. And moreover we must understand our role in their journey, and how our experiences shape our actions. And how our actions shape their learning. 

Children have to learn, well everything. They will learn what joy is, they will also learn sadness, they will learn anger, regret, and disappointment. They will learn these things from someone. They will learn how to communicate about what they are feeling as well. They will learn how to express themselves in all of these states. How do you deal with these things? Could you talk yourself through these feelings? Its really weird talking to a small child about navigating what they are feeling, and helping them to make sense of it. Especially when you are the brunt of the other side. This is a beauty of parenting for sure. Its also a really big damn challenge. A lot of adulting happening over here. 

As fathers we need to show our vulnerability. Our children need providers and protectors, but they also dearly need to be loved and they need to be nurtured. Step up to the plate in the vulnerability department and I think you will be very happy with the result. Being plugged in with your family truly is a very freeing experience. The switch over from the rigors of the outside world to the innocence of the world of a child is sometimes a pretty challenging transition. Dealing with traffic and road rage on the way home after a long day, and then walking into your front door to smiling faces is a pretty drastic environment change. Sometimes I imagine walking through a car wash right as I open the door to the house. It helps me visualize the transition. 

Be available emotionally for your kids. Be available emotionally for your wife. Be vulnerable in your life. I am not too worried about your ability to be tough, we men have a knack for being pretty solid in this department. We need men that are emotionally connected. We need men that are tough enough to be vulnerable. 

No Papa Do Work

Changes are the enemy when you have little kids. They are sultans of routine. If they know the rules, and they know who is there, and they have the things they need, usually keeping the day pretty even keel is fairly attainable. It’s when changes start coming that stuff gets weird. The shitty part for us adults is that we know change is a constant in this life. This whole existence is about change. There is no day that is the same as the one before. 

We have recently been through a lot of changes in our household. There has been nothing earthshaking, well at least to the adults. My wife has gone back to work, which is hugely fulfilling for her, and I honestly could not be happier for her. But this means the girls don’t spend as much time with mama. I take it as a bonus, because I get to spend more time with them, but they still see it as change. We now use a nanny each day, which puts another person in the mix. This is quite the luxury for us, and to be honest really good for the girls, but it is still a definite adjustment.  

When you have small kids 3 and under logic is not a part of interaction. It is starting to be sometimes, but when sleep is running low, hunger is banging down the door, or something is out of place, logic was gone hours ago. With 2 of them, this basically makes up 92% of the day. You can see where this goes, and it goes there faster than you can blink most times. Diversion tactics begin to become implicit to existence. How do I take this little forsaken mind to another place quickly? How do I divert from this intense tantrum to blue skies and marshmallows. Not literally marshmallows, unless they work, wink wink. 

They just get locked into the frustration part, and they have no outlet for this. So logically they scream, cry, throw things, bite things, and many more glorious behaviors. To stay out of the emotion of these situations when you are sleep deprived, late for your day, and frustrated is unquestionably what embodies sainthood. Getting caught up in the emotional tornado that is whirling out of control is so easy its terrifying. I can assure you nothing good comes of this. There is a definite teaching moment here if this happens, and it is no doubt, a look in the mirror moment. Look at yourself, and get your Sh*t together. Your job is to lead them, to show them how to work through things. Some days it feels impossible, and I hate to say this is more often than not in the beginning when everyone is learning. Its a relief to know, that children get over things very quickly. Now see if you can. Don’t hold grudges against your 2 year old. 

During this employment rotation, we went on a fantastic week long vacation to my parents farm. The girls could not have been more at home, and more free. Then we flew back to LA. A man had a seizure 2 rows up from us on the plane. He survived thanks to a medic on the plane, thank the Good Lord. Then we landed at LAX to 4 billion people, with 2 sleepy kids. Huge change. This sent them over the edge for about a week. Our job at this point was to reestablish routine, and go about our days as if everything was cool. THIS EFFIN SUCKS is all I could think for about a week after. People may tell you having kids is the greatest, and it definitely is. But don’t you forget. The sun is only so bright, because the night is so dark. These emotions they express are the exploding contrary of the polar opposite. 

It was about 4 days or so into this week after the trip, that we were all just cooked. We hadn’t really slept normally in days. We were all short tempered. Routine was a joke. Eating was a joke. Sleep was a joke. Attitudes were in the damn drain. We were pretty much striking out on all cylinders. This is when she said it. My oldest said “No Papa do work.” (Translation: Papa don’t go to work.) I almost died. She basically just stomped on my soul. We had just spent a week with them and to see their faces, and the joy in their every moment was breathtaking. Now we were back to our lives. We work, and thats just how it is. Kids don’t know vacation, they don’t know the work week, they don’t know about time, they don’t know about money, they don’t know about space, they don’t know about meetings. All they know is us. And thats all they want all the time. 

So I find myself lost. I find myself searching. I find myself unsettled with this whole experience. I don’t have a lesson from all of this for you. I am not sure if I can even come to a conclusion about this experience, but I can tell you I think about it, and it is like a needle is pricking my soul. It is gushy in there, my girls go right there all the time. They know how to find the part of me that is pure and vulnerable. All I can tell you is that I want more of that. I am not sure how much of this is available in our lives, but I can tell you I am gonna pursue it with vicious hunger. I am going to chase this connection down for as long as I can. I figure what a better way than to spend your time seeking this connection with your wife and  kids. After all, the only thing that is truly priceless is time. Yours and mine is expiring by the day. Seek connection, find the greatest wealth any of us will ever know. 

Family is where its at.

Dad Movement Monday : Sit to Squat (Baby Assist)

Dad Movement Monday : Sit to Squat (Baby Assist)

Hip Mobility, Hip Mobility, Hip Mobility. The longer I am in the fitness world, the more I appreciate hip mobility. If there was one thing I would say that is lacking the most in men and dads for that matter it is hip mobility. Spending time on the floor with your children is such a joy. I find myself on the floor with them all of the time instead of the couch/bed/alternatives. Letting your lack of flexibility literally inhibit your experience with your children is pretty serious business, as far as quality of life goes.

 

 

Take it in the Teeth

Take it in the Teeth

Recently, I have been spending a lot more time with my girls, as Mama has gone back to work. Managing the erratic movements of two small children can become quite cumbersome at some points. Our oldest is 2 going on 27, so walking and talking are pretty commonplace. Its a trip what she is actually capable of. She constantly is doing things that we miss as parents, an great example is her closing the gates behind us when we forget. She actually is quite the team player until she gets hungry or tired, which is pretty much like her papa.

The Pearl Divers

The Pearl Divers

Three years have gone by. Our family has grown in an exponential way. We have two beautiful daughters that fill our lives. I am eternally thankful and indescribably blessed in this life. I have never been filled with more love and gratitude. I cannot tell you that this journey has been easy, nor do I ever expect it to be. During these years, my wife and I decided I would be the one to work, and she would raise the girls. This has been quite the challenge in many ways. 

Dad Movement Monday: Sledge Hammer Strike

Dad Movement Monday: Sledge Hammer Strike

I am gonna use my man Eka as an example on this one. What you see in the video below is a beautifully executed sledge hammer strike. I am not going to go as far as to say that using a sledgehammer is only a male thing, because it is not. But it is a skill that I believe every man should have in his tool belt. It ranks right up there with changing a tire, baiting a hook, and building a fire. There are just certain things as humans we should know, survival type things.

Growth and Progress

Growth and Progress

Linear movement is not life. Life is about growth. Growth happens in all directions. Blinders are all too familiar to those that are in pursuit of something, but don’t let those blinders hinder your growth as a person. I have been exponentially guilty of holding myself to a course to my fault. I have been guilty of evaluating my success on single metrics, while ignoring wild success in plenty of other areas in my life. Let me be the first to admit my gross underestimation of the things that actually matter. 

The Shaking Reality

The Shaking Reality

Step outside of your day to day. Step out of changing diapers, and rocking children to sleep, and reading books, and cleaning up after a crazy toddler, and your tiredness that is thick as a dense fog. Step outside of this. Think. Take a moment or a couple and think. Do your actions follow your beliefs? Do your actions really exist as more than just reactions. We as parents need to be prepared. By prepared, I am not referring to knowing how this parenthood thing will go, or knowing everything about raising kids. I am referring to knowing your own direction, and your own values. Know who you are and what you are aiming for. Know the path that you want to walk this child of yours on. Have a picture in your mind broader than your current frame of vision. 

Dad Movement Monday : 3 for 3

Dad Movement Monday : 3 for 3

The morning is always the worst. Getting out of bed on little sleep pretty much always insures some cracks and aches. I definitely had this present before our new roommates (children) came on the scene. But now, there are many days I find myself literally crawling out of bed to my phone across the room. I am slowly regressing to the life of a toddler. Crawling is now a daily practice. At some point, I settled myself with the aches, and just decided that it was time to find a solution. Because these aches are staying around. 

Time is of the essence for me in the morning. If there is one thing that can completely derail me from square one, it is being late. I need enough time in the morning. I need to be able to make a cup of coffee and let my body wake up. Any thing that happens is pretty essential to my functioning if I am going to adopt it. I head straight to the gym to work out, so my body needs to be awake. I need blood flow. This is not unique to me. Movement requires blood flow. If you plan on moving your body today, you would definitely benefit from some blood flow. 

The Puker

The Puker

Having 2 kids is a challenging situation. Hell, having 1 kid is a pretty challenging situation. 2 just lets you know further more that you are not in any form of control, even though you may think you are. You see, when you have 1 child and something goes wrong, you have 2 adults capable of finding solutions. Even if 1 of the adults is gone, the other is fully capable of dealing with whatever may arise. Now when you have 2 kids and something goes wrong, you are outgunned and on your heels. Immediately when something happens with one, you have to secure the other, you immediately need more hands. 

Dad Movement Monday : Banded March

Dad Movement Monday : Banded March

This is crazy. I started doing these Dad Movement Mondays a while back hoping to reach some dads out there, and give them some ideas. I received a message awhile back with a request. The request was an exercise that would relate to your kids hanging on your legs. How could we as dads train for this intensely labored walk? How could we make our Dadlife easier? How can we make our bodies better, for the direct benefit of our children’s experience? 

Well here you go my friend. If there was a way to torture yourself the banded walk would be right up there. As you will notice in the video, the bands are anchored to arms that come off the squat rack. Make sure the anchor point is steady because the tension you are about to apply is pretty great. Once you have a band/bands anchored to the floor, grab a belt, and some sort of strap to attach you to the belt and not cut it. I found some Husky storage straps at Home Depot that work fantastic. They come with an attached carabiner that make it really easy. 

Dad Movement Monday : Farmers Carry

Dad Movement Monday : Farmers Carry

Maybe one of the simplest movements to practice, and for sure the most overlooked. You are only as strong as your grip. And fatherhood will most definitely test this. Pick up something heavy, and walk as far as you can. Then repeat. The faster you go the easier this is, to a certain extent of course. I can’t honestly tell you that running with your bodyweight in each hand is helpful to the cause, but for sure slowly creeping along like a jungle cat stalking prey will not rank highly eitherTime under tension is your best friend and your worst enemy. Its amazing the shapes the rest of your body will make whilst your grip begins to fail. Shoulders roll forward, facial expressions become epic, you may walk up on the balls of your feet, seemingly trying to imitate a preying mantis. Grip is so deeply connected to all of our tissues, and this movement will expose this relationship. 

Is that juice?

Is that juice?

So yesterday I took the girls out to a local spot I frequent. I will leave the name out for what will soon be an obvious reason. Shameful hilarity is a good way to describe what went down. When I drop into a place with both girls, it is rare to find a seat. On this day the seat was open. After leaving the cash register with our handful of goodies, we very thankfully sat down on a open couch. Ace was sleeping in her car seat, which is always a gift, and Rue was clutching her prized kitty cat. She was fast on my heals asking to open the snacks we had purchased.