Thursday, February 23, 2017

Do We Lack Time, or Control?

We started Daddy & Me class this week with an interesting question: What would you do with 10-15 extra minutes?

My first response was another question: Do I answer what I should do, or what I would do?  That got me thinking more about what the question was really asking...

Responses were predictable.  Play video games.  Take a nap.  Get caught up on chores.  I answered that I would read.  Like I said, predictable.  But we got to the second to last dad in class, and he answered, "I don't really know how to distinguish "extra" time.  I'm a SAHD.  All I have is time.  Time is my only commodity."  I've been thinking about his answer ever since.

I'm still totally stoked on my kid.  She is fucking awesome.  She eats well.  She's happy.  She almost always takes a good nap in the afternoon.  She goes down at 7:30 and sleeps until at least 6:30, and if I don't feel like getting her up until 7:00, she chills quietly in her crib.  She's just rad, so most days, I'm with this dad - I have a ton of time.  I have time in the morning before I get her up.  If I need time, she entertains herself well.  I have time while she naps.  I have time after she goes down at night.  I have time.  But on "bad" days, why does it feel like I don't?  What's different on those days when she's not feeling 100% and needs more attention, or when she takes an unusually short nap?

I'm still fleshing this out in my head, but I think what's different is my perception of control.  On days when she's "normal," I know what to expect.  I can expect her to give me time in the morning, or to entertain herself while I cook breakfast, or to take a good nap so I can relax or accomplish something.  Because her behavior conforms to my expectations, I feel like I'm in control of her behavior, and thus, our life.  On bad days, there's nothing really bad.  It's just that her behavior isn't conforming to my expectations, which makes me feel like I'm not in control, and when we don't feel like we're in control, it means we are no longer in control of our priorities, and that, I think, is what the question is really about.  The question is not about extra time.  I think the question is about control.  We're not really talking about what we would do with extra time, we're talking about what we would do with time over which we are totally free to prioritize.

As a parent who knows I have control issues, this seems like something I should keep in mind on those "bad" days.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why I Dress Up For Daddy & Me Class

Like everybody, I have three or four levels of formality in my wardrobe, from my PJs to a nice suit.  Most days, I wear what I think of as "relaxed casual" - jeans and a t-shirt of some kind.  I also have "dad formal" which involves things like chinos and shirts with buttons.  I mostly like how I look regardless of which level of formality an event requires, and in these days of "athleisure" wear, I really could leave the house wearing my PJs and it wouldn't draw any stares.

The Toddler and I go to a class every Wednesday morning, and I noted this morning a trend.  Rather than my usual relaxed casual, I always dress dad formal for class.  It's not because the event demands it - these are all SAHDs, and attire in the class runs the range from dad formal to PJs.  So I wondered this morning why I always make sure I'm dressed well, shaved, and combed for class.

I've always thought of myself as an underachiever.  I did well in high school, got a good score on the ACT, did really well at a college where that wasn't so hard, and convinced myself that that was evidence I was destined for greatness at something.  It turns out my 4.0 GPA in college was my peak; I've never achieved anything like that success (success being defined as being better than my peers) since then, and depending on where I was in life, it's really, really bothered me.  What happened?

I've thought about it.  I've written about it.  I've come to very few conclusions.  But I do know that when The Wife got pregnant, and I knew I would be both a father and SAHD, I told people how excited I was, because I felt like I would be better at being a father and a dad than I'd been at any of the stupid shit jobs that had occupied my time since college.  I really thought of, and still think of, fatherhood as my calling.

Now I think (worry?) that I view fatherhood as a way to redeem myself, and I think (worry?) that I look my best for class because I've defined success as being better than my peers and I want to be the best, most-put-together dad in class (which is impossible, because Stylish Dad is way put together).  It's a competition, and I want to win at being dad.  I'm pretty sure that's not healthy.