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The Unapologetic Geek

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13 Things I Learned in 2013 - Page 3 (Parenting)

This year, I'm going to separate the lessons I learned into three categories: personal, political, and parenting. I know a lot of my readers tend to tune in for different reasons, which is fine. I don't expect everybody who is interested in my libertarian rants against climate policy to be just as interested in my review of Assassin's Creed III. This way, if you aren't interested in my politics, just skip page two. If you're sick of hearing me talk about being a parent, don't bother with the last page. Don't say I never did anything for you, dear reader.

My Dad Wasn't Completely Crazy

Mr. Mom
Michael Keaton is onto something; I've gotta get a chainsaw

Growing up, those two hours or so between dinner and bedtime were a special time for my family. We'd curl up on the couches and recliners, turn on the TV, and watch movies, play trivia games involving the TV (six degrees of Kevin Bacon and "what else is that guy in?" were particular favorites), and more. What always baffled me, though, was my father. He'd get himself a soda or something, get comfortable, sit through the first two or three minutes of whatever movie or television show we put on, and then he'd remember some chore he had to do, would get up, and wouldn't sit down again until our family couch potato time was nearly over. I often tried to figure out how he could be so busy doing simple things like walking the dog or taking out the trash; in my naïveté, I thought these things weren't terribly time-consuming. Why couldn't he just chill out and have fun with the rest of us? Fast-forward to today. Even though I stay home all day most days, cleaning and tackling my daily to-do lists, the simple chores are never done. As my son's bedtime approaches and my wife curls up on the couch to watch TV or read a book or something, I'm busy doing a never-ending series of little things--dishes, picking up toys and dirty laundry, filling the humidifiers, getting bathtime ready, brushing my teeth, taking my pills and Metamucil (because yes, I'm an old man already), putting the leftovers away, etc., etc. No one task is overly tedious or difficult, but if I don't stay on top of them, it's like the apocalypse around here. Sure, my wife will pick up and try to compensate for whatever I miss, but holy crap, nightly chores are a Sisyphean task! I understand now, Dad.

It's Not the Weather; It's the Kids

A gaggle of kids
Pictured: more diseases than all the petri dishes in all the land put together

I had a high school science teacher try to convince me that disease doesn't actually spread any better in the cold than in the heat, that the weather, on its own, isn't responsible for cold and flu season. I didn't believe her until 2013. Summer equals fewer diseases, not because of what temperature it is outside, but because kids aren't going to school. A school has more festering illnesses floating around than the entire CDC has under lock and key. This is good for building their immune systems, of course, but when they come home with a slight runny nose or mild fever, it's only a matter of time before the parents come down with the plague, which they then spread to grocery stores, coworkers, etc. Winter is the worst, because that's when those bacteria-infested virus sponges are forced to go home for a couple of weeks, stay inside, and rub their snot all over their family members. So I now know how to end all sickness: quarantine all the children all the time. Don't touch them, ever!

A Set Bedtime is a Fool's Dream

Bedtime Battle
Mama Bear knows

"Bedtime" around here is 8:00. That's when Tommy is supposed to be in bed. As young parents, my wife and I believed that this meant that he'd be asleep at 8:00, 8:30 at the latest. Stop laughing, fellow parents! For those of you who don't have children, "bedtime" is a rough estimate for the start of a nightly battle that could last for hours. Children, when they reach a certain age, simply do not believe in bedtime, and they will resist every effort you make to give them one. As this is the end of the day, they know--they know--that you are at your most exhausted and thus are the most willing to do whatever it takes to end the fighting, the whining, and the crying. They will also be tired, though they'll never admit that, but unlike adults who slow down when they're tired, children paradoxically get more manic, more crazy, and more cunning. Plus, because bedtime follows bathtime, they also tend to be naked and slippery. Perhaps I'm a horrible human being for admitting it, but if I had access to a tranquilizer gun, I'd probably use it at least twice a week, and I know other parents feel the same way.

Preschool is a (Ridiculously Expensive) Godsend

enroll now
Planning on having a kid in twenty years? Better start saving for preschool.

My wife and I made the decision well before we had our son that I'd do the stay-at-home Dad thing and she'd be the working mom and primary breadwinner. Doing the math, we figured I could work, but nearly all the money I'd make would be spent on daycare. Frankly, we believed it would be better for me to be there as my son grew up rather than handing him off to some glorified toddler pen. I do not regret this decision--I'd make it again in half a heartbeat--but combined with our later decision to stop at one child, there is one pretty significant downside: a lack of early socialization. In 2013, he reached the age where we knew we had to do more for his social development than just a couple swim classes and toddler gyms. It was time for preschool. With my son going to preschool for several hours every day, I know he's getting plenty of stimulation and education in a social environment that will prepare him for kindergarden, and I have time to devote to a writing career that has been developing at a snail's pace during his early years. (Sidebar: be sure to keep your eyes open for Paradox, coming to Kindle and other e-books late this year!) On the other hand, JESUS CHRIST, it's expensive! Seriously, it makes daycare look like a friggin' bargain.

Snow Days are Stupid

An old man shovelling snow
"Dag nabbit, ya blastid kids, stop being so happy about this!"

The other major downside to preschool is that my short love affair with snow has come to an end. Snow, rather than signalling a natural beauty I was deprived of as a kid growing up in Central Florida, now means I'm going to be stuck inside with a hyped-up little boy, unable to write or do my chores. As recently as last year, if I woke up and saw snow falling, I'd get giddy and cheerful first thing in the morning (a miracle, as I am definitely not a morning person). But now? If I see snow when I wake up, I curse the unfeeling God who decided to ruin my carefully laid plans for the day. I love my son and have fun with him, but it's straight-up exhausting doing an entire day by myself, and I can't fall back on things like playgrounds or kicking the soccer ball around because it's an arctic tundra out there!

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-e. magill 1/15/2014

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