A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Playground

The Top 5 Parent Types at the playground. As the great G.I. Joe once said “Knowing is half the battle”!

Advertisements

As a kid, the playground was a challenging environment to navigate.  While the goal was always to have fun, at times it felt like a place you merely tried to survive.  My survival kit came equipped with a few “mic dropping”  jokes, in case I got caught up in a game of ‘The Dozens’, and multiple ways to deflect stupid dares that always seemed to lead to broken bones or that unfathomable cry where you stop breathing for what seemed like minutes.  These dares included hanging upside down on the monkey bars or trying to see who can jump over the holly trees.  My go-to deflection was “I bet I can jump out the swing further than you”.  And last, but definitely not least, avoiding that one kid that loves jumping off the seesaw after dangling you 30 feet in the air and then laughing as you crash to the ground.

Now that I’m a father, I’ve noticed playgrounds have drastically changed.  WithHot sign their fancy little padding, wood chips and plastic slides.  Hell, some of them are indoors and I have yet to see one with wooden seats for the swings (splinters build character)!  Despite all these cosmetic changes, the playground is even more challenging as a parent (some might say terrifying), but the primary game is still survival.  The terrifying part isn’t that damn metal slide that will give you 3rd degree burns, but the other PARENTS!

According to the U.S. Air Force’s handbook on Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), the key to survival is being prepared.  For those parents that are new to the playground scene or the ones that seem to return home socially exhausted every time, let this be your guide.  Below are the top five parent types you’ll encounter at the playground.  As the great G.I. Joe once said “Knowing is half the battle”!

1. The ‘Playground Parent’
This is the parent that managed to pack up the whole house in just one diaper bag.  They have every toy imaginable and unimaginable, like a toy bubble machine. (That’s not a joke I’ve seen one.)  They also have bottled water, three types of juice, and a pantry of snacks.  I call them the Playground Parent because they have perfected trips to the playground and at some point you’ll have to tell your kid to stop asking to play with their kid’s toys or “you can get a snack when we get home”.  At which point your kid looks at you wondering why you came here empty-handed.  However, if you were to ever make a friend at the playground, this is the one.  One day you will forget to bring water or will need a Band-Aid and they will have a bottle for you and a bandage with your kid’s choice of superhero.

2. The ‘Hands-Off Parent’1434_WreckItRalphSlam_50
This is the parent that will cause you to cut your playground day short.  When you begin to develop an ulcer because you have to tolerate an 8-year old running into toddlers in the “2 and under” play area, it is time to go home.  This parent is too busy on their phone or talking to other parents to notice their kid is playing real-life “Wreck it Ralph”.  If this is you, please do us all a favor and look up every now and then.

3. The ‘Talking Parent’
The name is self-explanatory, but be aware, because they will approach you whether you’re watching your kid from the bench or holding them up as they swing across the monkey bars.  The concerning thing with this parent is that no topic is off limit.  Ranging from the color of their kid’s poop that morning,  breastfeeding tips, all the way to how “Nana” can’t watch the kids this weekend because she has a new love interest.  You can always bet that your kid will choose their kid out of all the other kids to play with, meaning you should get ready with to use your auto responses of “oh wow”, “really” and “that’s crazy”.

4. The ‘Voiceover Parent’VentriloquistNYP
While their kid is unable to speak yet, they have no problem playing ventriloquist.  As their kid tries to break free from their hold to walk up the slide, this parent is busy trying to have a full conversation with your kid. “Say hi Timmy. ‘Hi! I am Timmy!’ Ask your friend what his name is, Timmy.  Say ‘What’s your name? Those shoes are cool. Where did you get them?’” This is happening in their best baby voice, of course.  At this point you have to make a decision.  Do you play the game and respond for your kid in your best baby voice, or just walk away?

5. The ‘Comparison Parent’
The conversation always starts with “how old is he”?  It’s a loaded question because they are just going to compare what their kid can do versus what yours is doing.  When your kid is the younger of the two, you may hear “You can do it Billy! He’s younger than you and he’s doing it!” Or “Wow, yours is already walking, huh? Billy is being lazy and refuses to walk!”

Bonus: The ‘Helicopter Parent’ (Me)
Typically, helicopter parents get a bad reputation as being suffocating, but on the playground, it is my survival tactic.  I have no problem running right behind my son on the playground, as my only other option would be to go hang with the other parents and get caught up in small talk.  That’s not an appealing option for a social introvert like myself.  Plus, I used all my words for the day at work.

Follow Me on Instagram and Twitter

Dads Count as Real Help

This is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.

Mijos,

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
Dad’s count as real help!  Parenting is very complex and encompasses a wide range of activities and responsibilities which are split differently depending on the family structure and what simply works best for everyone.  However, it was made evident to me that there are people (I hope a small group) that assume that dads just cannot/will not/should not complete certain tasks.  I understand that men are not typically seen as nurturing, and may cringe at the idea of completing domestic tasks like cleaning and laundry.  But honestly, gender aside, who really enjoys doing these things anyway?(Except your mom, she gets an inexplicable satisfaction from cleaning).  However, this is not about gender roles or men doing “women’s work”.  This is about a man, as a husband and father, and his willingness to do what is necessary for his family.  That mayMammoth include bringing a mastodon back to the cave for food or just changing a diaper.  Simply put, a new breed of modern men exist and are thriving.

Mom, you need HELP!
It all started around Mami’s 36 week pregnancy check-up with Deuce.  The appointment started off very routine with the doctor asking how things were progressing, checking Deuces heart beat and the usual “look under the hood”.  The mood of the check-up changed when the doctor used the dreaded “B” word, BEDREST.  Honestly, after understanding it was strictly precautionary to get as close to the 40 week mark as possible and that Deuce was healthy and thriving, my next emotion was jealousy.  Imagine not going to work, chilling in bed with a bell to ring for someone to address your every need, and endless hours of Netflix and DVR binge watching.  It sounded like a mini vacation to me; except for the whole human growing inside of you thing.

I quickly snapped out of my haze as the doctor began listing activities Mami should avoid while on bedrest.  As the list grew longer with orders like “do not pick up/carry your toddler, no vacuuming and no bending over”, I started a mental list of tasks I would need to take over.  Then came the slap in the face…the doctor finished the list and asked Mami, (as if I wasn’t in the room), “do you have any real help close by, like your mom?”  After glancing over to me with a puzzled look, Mami stated “no, my mom is not close by…”

In my opinion, I was expecting the doctor to turn to me and say “Ok dad, your time to shine!” It didn’t.  She started to explain how Mami could do modified tasks while on bedrest.  The modified task that insulted me the most was cooking.  She highlighted that Mami could season and prepare the food on the counter and cook on the stove top, but I would need to hand her any pots and place the food in the oven because she shouldn’t bend over.  While annoyed, I tried not to take it personal assuming she was under the pretense that women do all the cooking in the home, and this may be a valid concern forEating some pregnant moms.

Not Another One
Let’s fast forward to the delivery room the morning after Deuce’s birth.  As usual, the nurse arrived to check on Mami and Deuce, and after going over a few documents and ensuring that feeding and bowel movements were occurring regularly (for Deuce not Mami), the nurse asked Mami if anyone was in town or close by to help her.  Mami stated that ‘Abuela’ was in town, which prompted the nurse to respond “glad you’ve got some help here”…again…as if I wasn’t in the room.

Obviously every helping hand is welcome when bringing a new baby home, especially when this is the second one and we, as a family, could use all the help we can get from whoever is willing. It takes a village.  But, dads count as help too!  Maybe I’m reading into the nurse’s comments too much given the encounter with the doctor.  And it’s possible that I read too much into the doctor’s comments as well, but either way a dad is part of the family team and not a liability when it comes to domestic responsibilities.

“You ‘gon Learn Today”
As a self-proclaimed SSM, “Self-Sustained Man”, I cannot stress the importance of learning how to complete domestic tasks.  As your father, I never want you to be in a situation where you can’t be of help to your family or to yourself for that matter.  So as my parents taught me, I will transfer that knowledge to you.  Let the record show I am doing this in the spirit of caring, but at times, I know it may seem like punishment when I am making you do chores.  Just remember that one of the best ways to learn is to do.  The following is a list of tasks that will serve you well throughout your life and you can “help” with when you have your own family.

cooking

Cooking:   I learned the basics of cooking from watching your grandparents when I was young, but my love of food is what really got me into cooking.  During the holidays, I would spend time trying to help in the kitchen while asking a lot of questions to your great aunts/uncles and great-grandma as they cooked my favorite dishes.  Whether it was Aunt P’s macaroni and cheese, Aunt L’s dumplings or Grandma’s honey ham, I wanted to recreate those dishes because once a year was not enough.  I didn’t realize until I was older that what I learned growing up can save money, make me feel like I am back home or in a particular place/time, and can even impress the ladies (like Mami and your grandma of course).

Laundry:  This is a big one!  For me, I do laundry for a few reasons, first I don’t want Mami touching my gym clothes. They are usually soaked from sweat and have a smell of…. progress to them.  I personally feel that if she was subject to that encounter every week she would begin to resent me.  Secondly, one time she washed my clothes and she didn’t empty my pockets and there went my wallet…so yea, I just do it.  Doing my own laundry served me well, especially when puberty hit, but that subject is for another day.  Just know, it’s probably better for all involved for you to wash your on clothes and bedding yourself than to subject one of us to it.  Laundry is quite simple, the daunting part is separating everything and putting it away after it’s done in a timely matter.

Ironing:  There is nothing like a fresh pressed shirt, even if it’s a t-shirt, but it does take a little effort.  While putting it in the dryer and taking it out right after works to get outdryer wrinkles, a method I’ve used since middle school, it just doesn’t give it the clean professional look you get with an iron.  What I have learned though, is that ironing men and kids clothes is a lot easier than Mami’s.  Be thankful that you won’t have those problems because I still don’t know how to iron a dress with all those creases.

Dishes:  I’m going to pull the “you have it easy because back in my day” card.  Growing up your grandpa used to say “I don’t need a (machine) dishwasher, I have 6 of them right here”.  If you don’t get the reference he is referring to me and your uncles.  We got to the point where we used an assembly line with one person washing, another rinsing and the last person drying and putting the dishes away.  It wasn’t until college that I learned how to use a dishwasher.  However, you’ll still have to rinse off the food and give it a quick wash with the sponge and soap before running the dishwasher to sanitize the dishes.

SweepingCleaning:  Cleaning is a broad term, and depending on the room, the tasks change.  In the bathroom you’ll have to scrub the tub/shower, sink, toilet, and don’t forget to wipe the toothpaste splatter off the mirror.  In the bedroom you’ll need to just keep the floor clear of toys and other objects that will cause me pain when walking in the dark.  Also, make sure your clothes are put away because you can’t have a “chair closet” until you’re grown.  Don’t forget to make your bed and don’t worry, hospital corners are only for show and not practical.  Just keep the Living room in order and you’re done.  The dining room and den, well those rooms are just for show per your mom, so just keep them dust free.  Speaking of dusting, all furniture in the rooms will need to be wiped down and the floors will need to be swept and mopped or just vacuumed pending on the floor type.

There are levels to cleaning, but understand if company is coming over, Mami goes intoCleaning sanitation inspection manager mode and will expect a deep clean.  Honestly, my standard for what is considered clean is not to your Mami’s standards.  I don’t think anyone meets her standards, but she will try and teach you, I can assure you of that. Clean to her standard and you’ll be fine.

Sewing:  When I say sewing I am not referring to operating a sewing machine because I don’t have one nor do I know how to use one.  However, your great grandma had one and created awesome patch quilts, but her impact on me is for a different time.  In short, you will need to learn how to use a needle and thread to sew holes, put on buttons, fix a broken zipper or hem pants if you’re feeling adventurous.  As a parent this skill can be used to conduct eye surgery to give sight sewingback to toys or to ensure they don’t lose their internal organs.  To me, sewing is a lost art, but the trick is always being able to thread the needle.

Fully Equipped 
In college, I witnessed firsthand, other kids that couldn’t do for themselves.  Some were unable to do laundry and literally going home every other weekend just so their mom could do it.  During ROTC training, some couldn’t iron their uniform or make their bed to save their life.  While I learned all these tasks for different reasons, whether it was because I liked cooking or because I was forced to scrub a tub, they have all served me well once I was out on my own.  Again, this is not to be seen as “chores” or “punishment”, this is us (no pun intended, but also the name of one of the best shows ever!  Find it. Watch it.  See your life change) fully equipping you with the ability to be self-sustaining men and “Real Help” to your families.

Love you both to “Infinity…and Beyond”
@Outer_space_dad

The FEAR of Fatherhood

My Beloved Osito,

I always had dreams of my future and how my life would turn out.  That future always included having the “perfect” family, like the Cosby Show, and being the fun, enthusiastic, and involved dad.  But, no one ever explained to me the utter FEAR that comes with fatherhood.  For me, the fear came in three distinct stages, the announcement, pregnancy and labor, and your introduction into the world.  With the arrival of your brother, “Deuce”, I had to relive the fear that comes with stages one and two and now I have a double dose of fear for the third stage.

Stage 1: The Announcement – FEAR of being Unprepared
This is the beginning of fatherhood.  For you, the announcement came one fall afternoon.  As I was watching The U’s football game, Mami came in nervous and hesitant.  After asking her to tell me what was wrong a few times, she handed me the pregnancy test and sheepishly said “I think I’m pregnant”.  For Deuce, the announcement was the complete opposite, occurring one June evening.  As we were sitting on the couch I noticed an inexplicable glow encompassing Mami who had just walked into the loft
from taking a shower.  See, I knew that glow. I had seen it before. Add that, and the fact that in hindsight I noticed she had been getting tired earlier than usual I had the pleasure of telling her she was pregnant.  Disclaimer: She completely brushed me off and life went on as usual until she took a test 2 weeks later that proved I was right.

Along with the shock and the joy of expectancy that comes with the announcement, the FEAR of being unprepared is not far behind.  For me, I feared being unprepared financially, to an extent, but honestly my biggest fear was my maturity level.  You hear stories (and they are true) of the financial burden that comes with having kids, and I knew we were not in a place where I felt comfortable to do more than just meet the needs of having a child.  My plan was to be a D.I.N.K (Dual Income No Kids) for several years before children came into the plan.  As Announcmenta D.I.N.K, my goal was to be debt free, (95% of my debt comes from my school loans), followed by building wealth and then preparing for kids.  However, things did not go as planned and while I still have the same goals, the schedule has shifted slightly.  While managing this fear, I chose to change my lifestyle dramatically and with that my priorities changed.  Since money always goes to your priorities first, things freed up in the budget.  And while some things I enjoyed have been cut out, I honestly don’t miss them because I have us.

Maturity was a completely different battle that I couldn’t figure out with spreadsheets and formulas because it was completely mental.  Prior to both of you, I would constantly have thoughts like “I am not really an adult”, “it feels like I left college yesterday” and “why is the cashier calling me sir, I can’t be more than 4 years older”.  Following your births, those thoughts along with the fact that I’m now supposed to raise and be responsible for a helpless human being…you may understand my fear.  While no switch has ever flipped that I am aware of, each day, I simply try my best, read what I can, listen to the doctors and do what we believe is best for you both.  However, it has been beyond refreshing to realize that I can run around the house in my underwear with you in your diaper yelling and mimicking my every move at the age of 29 without fear of being judged (except by your Mami) because I’m “playing with my kids”.

Stage 2: Pregnancy and Labor – FEAR of Helplessness 
This stage of fatherhood is very hands off and feeling helpless for 9 months is an indescribable FEAR.  Between the 37th and 40th week of pregnancy, there was not much I could do directly for you, but by making Mami comfortable, I knew I was helping…I think.  This phase was very difficult because while the reality of fatherhood becomes real upon hearing your heartbeat, seeing the ultrasounds, and watching Mami’s belly grow, there was nothing else I could do to make sure everything was going as planned.  During the day, to help ease the fear and feel part of the process, I studied like I was trying to be valedictorian in our lamaze class subsequently acing all the quizzes.  At doctor’s visits, I always had a list of questions and just tried to remind Mami of all the questions she had because “pregnancy brain” is real.  However, at night was when FEAR would peak.  Some nights were sleepless, but sleep or not, thoughts of all the things that could go wrong during pregnancy and labor crept into my mind.

Labor was more intense than the pregnancy, whether it lasted 3 days (you) or 3 hours (“Deuce”).  Watching the sheer pain that Mami was in and only being able to offer ice chips or suggest a position change, gave me an overwhelming helpless feeling.  And, as she pushed, I offered what felt like empty words of encouragement like “just a few more minutes” and “one more good push”.  As I watched you guys come out, instantly, I counted limbs and appendages and wondered if the purple hue was normal. Specifically, during your birth Osito, your purple appearance had me speechless as the doctor guided you out and stated that the umbilical cord was around your neck.  His calmness didn’t help ease my fears of the worst because I was sure you weren’t getting enough oxygen.  It turns out, 1/3 of babies are born with the umbilical cord around their neck and some doctors don’t even mention it during the labor.

Stage 3: Introduction to the World – FEAR of the unknown. 
The fear in this stage is difficult to categorize, so we will call it the FEAR of the unknown.  I can’t count the number of times I check to see if you’re breathing by watching your chest rise and fall on the baby monitor or by blowing softly in your face while you’re in my arms to make sure you twitch.  While part of my fear has to do with innate behaviors like will you choke on food because I don’t know how you learned to chew and swallow or complications like the risk of putting tubes in your ears, the biggest area of concern is how you will successfully navigate this harsh world and making sure I teach you everything I know to help you do it better than me.  Reading and watching articles and videos on social media of kids getting bullied or an encounter with the police that goes tragically wrong, I find myself analyzing the situations like a case study.  My hope is that I can learn something, anything that I can teach you both to ensure you always come home.  What I have concluded to from my own experiences is that this fear is difficult to overcome, just being a father, but there is an added layer of complexity being a black dad raising his sons to be men.  My fear is that I may miss something and the worst happens to you because of it.

Osito and Duece

Coping Mechanism: 
As the cliché goes, I have a good understanding what my parents must have gone through raising me and your uncles and yet you’re not even old enough to leave the house, drive nor are you even ready for kindergarten for that matter.  I also understand why my parents and grandparents spent so much time praying for us.  Once you’ve done everything you can whether that be by making spreadsheets, reading and making up case studies, you have to turn it over to Jesus and know that he is your help and trust that all things work out for the good of those that trust him.  While fear is a natural human response, I encourage you both to not let it control you and prevent you from living the life that was planned for you before you were a twinkle in my eye. Despite all of this, you guys bring me so much joy with just a simple smile and I will never let fear stop me from being the best father possible.

Love you to “Infinity…and Beyond”

@Outer_space_dad