“Parenthood is easy,” they said. Or, at least that’s what I heard. Okay, well maybe I saw it on television. Alright, fine! Admittedly, I might have developed my expectations for the duties of fatherhood from reruns of “Leave it to Beaver” on Nick at Nite. On the off chance any of you, my unknown but valued comrades, may have made the same mistake, allow me to set you straight. Parenting is Occasionally Stressful, or it can be.
Being a Parent is Like Being a Velcro Wall
You know those inflatable velcro walls you see at fairs? I think that’s a fair assessment of parenthood. Children you know, and sometimes even those you don’t know, line up to throw themselves at you and demand your attention. As it turns out, there’s no union that tells kids you deserve so many breaks of a certain duration during each work day. Empower yourself to recognize when you need a few minutes to step away from things and come back at them with a fresh attitude. Be the change you want to see. Tell everyone this coal miner’s daughter isn’t going to take it anymore. Strike!
Strike that. Maybe don’t strike. The state may consider that dereliction of duty. Don’t force “the man” to get involved. Maybe just take an adult timeout. Except you (fancy grown up that you are) don’t have to sit on a special chair and think of what you’ve done. Quite the opposite — indulge in some mindless or fun activity for a few minutes. Jump on the Internet and read up on news, spend some time downloading games online, do a crossword puzzle or check out Deadspin for a few minutes.
Stop Running With the Bulls
Ever feel like you just can’t win? Bet you never thought that domestic chores could be more terrifying than a bull charging you. And then, there was parenthood. Amazing how your kids can prove you wrong at least once a day (at least, mine can). When you get too worked up over all the dirty dishes that need doing, science project that need supervising and cheer practices that need chauffeuring, you can get overwhelmed and (figuratively) run directly into the nearest wall with your eyes shut tight against reality.
Yoga poses and meditation center yourself and turn your brain off for a little while. If you’ve practiced yoga before, you were probably skeptical at first. Once you realize, however, that you were able to truly clear your mind while practicing you realize the value. If you’re new to yoga, start by going to classes or watching instructional videos. Don’t be afraid of chanting “om” as a part of meditation. Keep this one between you and me and practice in secret. You don’t need the T-shirt to prove you’ve been there, you just need an outlet for all that steam that’s building up.
Say “No” to the Wiggles
Music by the Wiggles, or any other artist designed to cater to kids, is its own stressor. A single buddy of mine told me that kids music is a big practical joke from single guys without kids. I know that CANNOT be true (right?) but sometimes it feels that way. The solution to the Wiggles, et al. is twofold. First, teach your kids what REAL music is. If your kid refuses to enjoy Journey, the Beatles, some of the better hair metal, or anything from the Motown era, you should just give them up for adoption (settle down, I’m only sort of kidding). The point is: if you don’t give them substandard music to begin with, they won’t demand it in the car.
Secondly, did you know listening to 30 minutes of classical music can be equivalent to taking a 10 mg dose of Valium? Well, according to Webmd.com it is. I recently heard that parenting on Valium isn’t ALWAYS advisable. But listening to classical music can’t do any harm to your children. Before you rush out and buy the TimeLife master collection of classical hits, stream services like Pandora or Spotify to see if it works for you. Even playing it quietly in the background instead of some “Yo Gabba Gabba” can significantly improve your quality of life.
There’s No Such Thing as a Stepford Dad
Remember that book about the Stepford wives?
I didn’t think so. What about that movie with Nicole Kidman where she moves to a new town and suddenly gets hot and good at house stuff? Yeah, that’s the one. OK, so apparently that town is real (the movie said it, so it has to be true) and women have the power to just go all supermom whenever they need to. I have yet, however, to find an equivalent for dads. When I’m feeling frustrated about my skill set, I do what my dad did. Put on my plaid flannel shirt, crack an Old Style and talk about the glory days of the Chicago Cubs. Then I realize that the Cubs are the only thing more depressing than not being able to separate laundry correctly.
So, THEN, I do what my mom did. I talk about my feelings. Except I don’t just go around telling anyone that will listen. I put my feelings in a book. Right now it’s called my “feelings book.” I’ve also seen these fancy things online called “journals” but that seems a little high-brow for me. In a few years, I’ll call it “Memoirs of a Mostly Pretty Okay Dad” and I’ll make enough money to buy the Cubs, renovate Wrigley Field and win a World Series.
Your feelings book doesn’t have to be something you do for posterity. It can be as simple as scribbling down the things you’re thinking about and going through and destroying the evidence afterward. Your 3-year-old doesn’t need to find crazy-looking scrawlings about her torturous temper tantrums when she’s 30 — then you’ll have to pay for therapy for her. So just let it go and get it gone.