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The eternal opposites

Learned something interesting the other day. There are numerous opposites that come into play when you’re a stay-at-home dad to an increasingly stubborn and energetic two-year-old boy. Being a standard (well, not quite standard but rather, extraordinarily talented and bright and witty) two-year-old boy, he likes to test me from time to time. I can see his mischievous grin as he deliberately disobeys my umpteenth order to NOT TOUCH THE DRAWERS CONTAINING THE SPICES – OR ELSE THERE WILL BE A TIME-OUT!

And do you want a time-out? I ask him. He’ll of course say “No!”, back up a little, and then after a minute or so, move towards the spice drawer again.

It’s at this point where I feel my blood start to simmer. It’s not at boiling point, but I’m hardly the model of Buddhist monk chilling, especially if this has been happening several times in the span of 20 minutes when I’m trying to follow Bobby Flay’s recipe for flounder fish and wanting it to be a good meal.

So what happens? I realize that it’s both very, very hard and very, very easy to maintain my composure. It’s also very, very hard and very, very easy to lose my temper and just take him to his time-out corner and yell in his face

Yell in his face? Yes, I admit it. I’ve done it, several times. Often it seems to have the desired effect because nothing up to that point seems to have worked. So bang – “DO NOT TOUCH THE SPICE DRAWER! GET OFF THE TABLE! NOW! DO NOT HIT PEOPLE IN THIS HOUSE! BLYAAARAAARGGGGGH!” And finally he will calm down, and become a cute little angel and attempt to hug me in an apologetic gesture.

And again, I find it very, very easy and very, very hard to calm down. Such is the challenge of parenthood. These opposites. It’s so easy to be a parent because it’s in the instincts, but it’s also so fucking hard. It’s so easy to be cool, calm and collected because how could I in my right mind ever lose my temper at a fantastically awesome two-year-old boy – let alone my son? But it’s also so easy to just lose my temper and explode, because he knows how to push my buttons and likes to get a rise out of me. Is it on purpose? Sure, probably some of it is. Is it just because this is the way he is and it annoys the heck out of me? Yes, of course. Is it because he’s simply two years old and likes to explore, learn and do all these things that he shouldn’t do? Yes, absolutely. It’s a combination of all these things.

Hard? Easy? Yes, and everything in between. It’s truly a clash of opposites. The eternal opposites linger on in the life of being a parent.

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Messy messy messy

Being a stay-at-home dad has its many challenges. A lot of people who stay home with a little kid will list off the many drawbacks on their fingers: loneliness, lack of intelligent conversation, isolation from the outside world, maddening negotiations with the child, constant supervision, etc., etc., etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s been awesome being a SAHD. I have the opportunity to watch my son grow day by day, learning new things as he goes along – such as this morning when he was being whisked away by X to his daycare and shouting “Window! Window! Window!” while pointing at the windows on his treasured Thomas trains. She had texted me from the road asking if I did indeed teach him that word, and honestly, I do not remember. I probably did. But it’s really neat to see him learn stuff from me and learn it so vividly, like super glue and such.

Back to the topic at hand. I suppose one of the major challenges of being a SAHD is cleaning up. Constantly cleaning up. I’m serious. Laundry almost every single day. Picking up toys every hour. Sweeping up the kitchen floor which is just covered in crumbs, food scraps. dried bits of playdough, and all kinds of other stuff. When you sweep you’re just in disbelief at how much can collect there in a neat little circle around the boy’s child seat every day. Yes, I sweep – I SWEEP – almost every day. Because it’s necessary.

Toys, too. Now, X and I were never the ones who go buying toys every single day or every single week for our little toddler. But we have indeed amassed a nice little collection of throw-away toys – hand-me-downs from coworkers, gifts from families and friends, and a fantastic set of Thomas the Tank Engine train cars which YY absolutely loves. All of these, with crayons, paper, playdough stuff, stickers, chalk, etc., etc., etc., all collect on the floor in three separate rooms – the kitchen, the living room and the TV room. It’s just crazy how quickly it gets messy here, and he’s only just turned two.

I don’t say this to bitch and whine, but rather, to remark on the amazing challenges posed in being a parent to a young’un. Mostly, it’s just to bring to mind the fact that a 30-pound, two-year-old boy can really indeed make that much of an impact in your life, not just socially, emotionally, spiritually or else – but physically as well.

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Challenges

It’s crazy. Difficult to be a poppa sometimes. Honestly, if you are a person like myself where you have a mild temper – sometimes as tight as piano wires – you’re going to find it a challenge to be a stay-at-home poppa to a little boy who likes to cry and wail and scream every five minutes throughout the day.

More so, he’s stubborn as an ox. Just like his dad and his mom. Everything seems to be a challenge now – diaper changes, clothes, bathtime, sometimes even dinner and lunch is a battle. We have our strategies for each of them though – when he’s eating we have the phone in front of him playing various cartoons including Thomas the Tank Engine, Curious George, Edewcate songs, and so on, and that keeps him occupied while we quickly shove the food into his mouth via spoon. That’s not a very healthy setup, but certainly healthier than letting him starve.

Diapers and clothes are another thing though. There’s no way to keep him “busy” or “occupied” in doing so. I must manhandle the little guy, holding him down in a valiant effort of jiu-jitsu, keeping him pinned down under one arm while somehow smearing diaper rash cream on his bum and then getting that diaper on him while simultaneously trying to push his hands away as he struggles to push off the diaper.

I talked with a guy who lived in southern Africa, he told me about the monkeys and how you could play with them. And interesting challenge with monkeys is that when they grab onto something and you want to take it away from them, the advantage they have is that they have four hands -
really, their feet are like hands as well – while you only have two hands. You can only do so much to push their hands away or pry the thing out of their hands while holding them at bay.

So, eventually, you feel like giving up. It’s kind of like that with the boy. But giving up is not an option. Not because I must assert myself in the face of authority, but rather, because, hey man, he’s gotta have his diapers on. The alternative is poop on the floor or pee in the rug. Big Lebowski jokes aside, I can’t have him peeing on our rug. So, diapers, on they go whether he likes it or not.

Ditto, clothes. Again a massive battle. When I get on one pants leg, he’s kicking so much that he eventually frees that leg when I’m getting the OTHER pants leg on. That stuff is enough to drive me batshit.

But in the end, once he’s finally down and sleeping, I’m kicking back and watching The Wire or Supernatural, with all the exhaustion, all the frustration, sometimes anger, and bewilderment at how much energy it takes to take care of a two-year-old, I don’t feel any kind of lasting bad energy towards the little guy. Maybe it’s Buddhist of me – in fact, my wife said I’m a saint and destined to go to heaven the way I’m so patient with him – but really, how can I ever be mad at that lovely little boy? It’s not his fault he’s like that. He’s learning as much as we are. He’s scared and frustrated just like us. He’s tired of being inside all the freakin’ time with this monstrously long winter we’re having right now. But in the end, we both just get up to a new day and troop along. That’s what we’re all about. We are family. We take care of one another. Even when it’s a challenge.