Meet the old dog. He’s the guy up there on the right, with the four kids in a booth at an IHOP over the holidays. Old dog isn’t supposed to have any new tricks nor is he supposed to learn anything about what’s happening. It’s the constant issue, the reverse philosophy that so many Moms go through, I suppose. TV sitcoms talk about Dad and he’s the befuddled, confused, lazy guy who’s always just about two or three steps behind the rest of the household.
That, usually, if you watch the sitcoms, includes the kids.
Old dog isn’t supposed to learn nor is he supposed to be authority figure. After all, if you watch commercials there’s always the Dad/husband/boyfriend/significant other standing in the doorway with a surprised look asking how he’s supposed to do those dishes, make that food, clean those clothes, or just get on with daily life. Sometimes it seems as if Old Dog would forget to breathe if there wasn’t that other person – be it his parents, kids or wife/girlfriend – to remind him it was necessary.
I get it. I have known a lot of those Old Dog men. I’ve seen the kids whose dads were at the soccer games shouting and screaming more because they saw the victory of a 9-year-old soccer star as vindication of their own misspent youth.
But I’m not here to rail against Madison Avenue or Hollywood. My own wife, friends, and sphere of influence have never looked at me that way.
Society in general or casual acquaintances…well, we’ll just say that’s a whole other story. I get the “you must be super Dad” or “I don’t know how you do it” a lot. Here’s a secret for you, I don’t know how I do it…but I do it. Not always well. Not always comfortably. I lose my temper with a teenager and fall prey to persistent pestering by twins. I’m nowhere near perfect.
But I’m not that Old Dog.
So here’s the thing: I have learned some lessons along the way the last 3-odd years.
It’s okay to have a mess here and there.
I used to try and clean up everything in those first days. It was a pain in the behind and I never felt like I could keep up. Once in awhile…the papers and dishes can wait until morning. My sanity (and at least a few hours of sleep) were more important.
Don’t throw out the shoe boxes
They take up space, are a pain the neck, and they’re just eating up valuable spots on the shelf. However…the moment I recycle those cardboard boxes a note will come from the school that one or all the kids have to do a diorama or other project. Then I’m scrambling to find something to take the place of a shoe box. It’s worth it for the future peace of mind.
It’s okay to go out to eat once in awhile
Sometimes even just a burger at Johnny Rockets or In ‘N Out is worth its weight in gold. But…on that note…
Homemade treats aren’t near as hard to make as you think
I initially thought that I should make stuff homemade because it was what my Mom did for me. I then realized that if I made homemade cookies or treats my kids were far less hyper than if they ate a bag of M&M’s. (Nothing against M&M’s, they’re great) Somewhere along the way, though, I came to realize that the time it takes to drive to the store, pick up the treats, put them in baggies, whole nine yards…not much less time than making them myself and they taste better.
Losing weight, eating healthy, unfortunately, is a whole change in things
God, I wanted this not to be true. I fought it for at least a couple years. I used to weigh about 50 pounds or more than I do now. That whole “eat less, exercise, change your lifestyle” thing is true. I wish it wasn’t. I hate…hate…hate getting up at 5:30am and running. It’s a pain in my ass to lose weight in it. I do it because I just have to do it. I want to be healthy and I still have a ways to go. That wasn’t enough. Those treats I make up there? Those are for moderation, too, not inhaling a whole pan of cookies at once. I switched from hamburger to ground turkey. We eat red meat once or twice a week, that’s it. We eat smaller portions and we go on walks and to the park. It’s just a change in how we live now and we’re getting used to that.
Music is important
You may not agree, but how many of those stupid Buzzfeed lists stating “Ten Things You Didn’t Know about ’80s hitmakers” or “Ten things you never saw in a Katie Perry Video” or what have you do you have to click on before you realize…your life has a soundtrack. It might get nostalgic and you’re singing Duran Duran songs or it might be rocking and you’re screaming “Whipping Post” with Gregg Allman. Or you might write and record songs. Either way…it’s a way to accentuate your lives. You should love that.
We can’t do all the things we used to do
I used to take the kids to basketball games, we did swimming, cub scouts, guitar lessons . . . we were exhausted, too. When I lost my wife it was more than just a companion or friend or confidant. She was a co-cab-driver and another person who helped to get the activities of the day going. My kids weren’t insanely excited to be part of them, either. I couldn’t take them to practices or lessons when their sister – with a driver’s license – left for college. I found there are other things to make up for all that, though.
You play in the leaves when you’re raking them, even though you have to get out and go rake them again.
You make music and have the kids participate with you. You even make a video now and then.
Do something you all love…together
My kids love the movies. Not all movies, but going to them for stuff they want to see. It’s my splurge for them. That picture was their birthday…and they got to go into the projection booth of the theater for it. (We saw Captain America) Movies we do together, we eat candy (on a rare occasion it’s okay, believe me!) and spend two hours laughing or crying with strangers it’s fine and it’s fun. This one leads to my last point:
We’re Stronger Together than When We’re Apart
This is a simple one we learned early. We may not all be in the same place. I may be at work. My oldest may be at school. But there’s a trick this old dog learned as soon as he became a single parent . . . old . . . dog . . . (maybe that didn’t work as well as I hoped). Together we are mighty. Together we can do amazing, beautiful, wonderful things. That’s not together in a room that’s together, united, a family of people. Our family was broken but it was still working. It’s still good. I may not be able to say what my wife did to cheer up my daughter when she’s feeling down and needs words from her Mom. I can, however, share stories about her Mom and tell her how proud I am and she would be. I can see the woman she’s becoming. We’re stronger together and together we’ve taken on the world and survived.
These are lessons we’ve learned. You might very well learn from them yourself. They’re not easy ones and not particularly comfortable.
Then again, nothing worth doing is ever easy.