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Monthly Archives: June 2012
By Gregory Keer
Ten years ago, I was getting woozy as I stared at the proof pages of a magazine I was editing. It was 4am. I had phoned my wife five times that night, promising to come home soon with each call. I really did love the work I was doing, but not seeing my kids for the whole day left me feeling empty.
The worst of the calls involved hearing my newborn wailing in the background as my then four-year-old got on the line to say, “You’re not even going to cuddle with us tonight?
I had been prepared for missing an occasional night with my kids. I wasn’t equipped to miss the three I was absent for in that week alone. In just a few days, I had broken most of the important rules I set for myself as a father.
It took me a while to change my ways (and eventually get a different job). Not to sound too much like an infomercial, but I did it by coming up with “5 Commandments” that led me – and can help you — to the promised land of involved fatherhood.
1. You Shall Keep Your Promises to Your Kids
Too often, we worry that our employers or clients will fire us if we don’t put them first when they ask for more of our time than we expect. Even more often, we think that we can make it up to our kids for the occasions we break a promise to be home at a certain time or take them out to play catch. That thinking is wrong. The reality is that the employer or client usually won’t fire you if you set limits (often they respect you more). Your kids, on the other hand, will lose faith in you if it happens too often.
My youngest son used to hover around my home-office, waiting to play with me at my work cut-off time. After a run of days doing that, he stopped waiting and went to his room to play alone. When I was ready for him, he told me, “Daddy, I want privacy. Shut the door.” That hurt. So, now, I try to put work on hold and play with him, rather than miss my opportunities.
Keep your promise to your kid and you won’t regret it. You can always catch up with the client after bedtime or schedule another time to follow up. Use technology (emails and faxes) to work overtime for us and help keep our kids happy.
2. You Shall Not Beat Yourself Up
We can do all the right things and still seem to “fail” with our kids (like when we come home with a great Chinese food and our kids say they no longer like Chinese food). Children don’t give us grades or raises. So there really is no consequence for small mistakes other than their grumpiness. Roll with the punches. If you yell at them or come home late, don’t write yourself off for long. Get back on track because you’ll get a lot of extra chances.
I go through periods where I raise my voice to my kids too often at night. I feel awful, but I do it because I’m out of control. Rather than not deal with them and their frustrating bedtime ways, I work on my expectations and approaches, tinkering every night. I also accept small victories — I’m happy for the nights I don’t yell and even happier for the nights they do almost everything I ask.
3. You Shall Establish a Rhythm
If you don’t jog regularly, your muscles forget what they’re supposed to do and bark back in pain. Similarly, if you don’t keep up regular parenting activities, it’s hard to build much strength in the relationships with your children. Give yourself a few assignments per day that involve helping your kids and you will get in their daily rhythm. Strive to have moments with them morning, noon, and night.
Try serving breakfast each day or every other day, driving them to or from school regularly, and reading to them or checking their homework each night. If you leave before the kids go to school, put a note in their lunch or call them from work before they go. You can even email or text your older kids each afternoon, just to check in. Phone calls and emails do not replace being there, but they can certainly keep you more in the loop than if you disappear from their lives for the day.
4. You Shall Hug a Lot
Men are notoriously stereotyped as undemonstrative. That’s often correct. If you are this way, consider the cliché of a hug a day. Kids need touch for security and love. Getting a hug — maybe more than one and throw a couple of kisses in there, too — means so much to a child in a cold world. You are their reliable source for validation, so give it.
Here’s a simple idea: when you can’t think of anything to say or do with your child — whatever they’re age — give your child a hug. They may sometimes push you away — as my 10-year-old sometimes does, especially around his friends — but what counts is that they know what you mean and it means the world.
5. You Shall Take Time Off
Quality time is what matters. Being focused on nothing but your kids for more than a couple of hours allows you to know them in a well-rounded fashion. So take a vacation, at least two solid weeks a year. And take occasional days off, maybe even once a month. When my buddy Sang had his first child, he was working crazy hours and was stressed out over the fact that he couldn’t see his kid during the day except on weekends. I suggested he take one day off each month or every two months. I also recommended he run home for lunch once a week or twice a month. In the scheme of things, it’s not much time from work and — now that he does it — it means a lot to him to be with his child just a little more.
Honestly, it remains a challenge for me to follow these “commandments” to the letter, but it does help me to stay focused on some rules I truly believe in. Try some of these ideas our and/or make up some of your own. The important thing to remember is that there is no higher authority than your own fatherly voice that says the time you spend with your children is precious enough to set in stone.
LifeofDad.com is a fatherhood site that not only creates community for dads online but also makes us laugh out loud with its take on modern parenting. The videos created by site founder and stand-up comedian Tom Riles and filmmaker-educator David Guest are seriously funny and true, especially the popular Dad-Chelor Party. This month, Tom is doing a “30 Dads, 30 Days” tour of male parenting types for the month of Father’s Day. I’m one of those dads, so check out my interview and let me know your own thoughts as a dad by posting your comments here.
Reviewed by Gregory Keer
In this Father’s Day edition of the FMR: Quick Picks, I lead off with a dad from Southern California, Jeremy Toback, who has a new CD with his musical partner, Renee Stahl. Renee & Jeremy harmonize beautifully on A Little Love as they perform acoustic versions of a lovingly selected collection of classic songs, ranging from pop chestnuts such as ”Daydream Believer’ and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” to alt-rock stand-outs like ”Shiny Happy People” and “Give it Away.” Yes, this is one that grown-ups can listen to without the kids as well as use to give kids a lesson about great songs and wonderful interpretations.
Last year’s featured review for June was a Recess Monkey offering. Here they are again with In Tents, proving that these Seattle singer-educators are both prolific and amazingly consistent in making fantastic music. Sixteen tracks juggle and fly through the air of a circus theme through songs such as the title track, “Odditorium,” “Carousel,” “The Dancin’ Bear,” and “Crystal Ball.” I really don’t know how these guys can be so clever in music and lyrics with a new CD every year, but I don’t care as long as my kids and me are having a great time.
The Okee Dokee Brothers are a duo that have earned a non-stop litany of accolodes for their bluegrass music for kids. It is so very well deserved, but you can decide for yourself by listening to Can You Canoe: A Mississippi Adventure Album. The recording is the result of a month-long canoe trip taken by the “brothers,” Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, who were inspired to write such songs as “Haul Away Joe,” “The Bullfrog Opera,” “King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O,” and “Small and Simple” (featuring Elizabeth Mitchell).
A few other treats worth mentioning for Father’s Day gifts are: Songs in the Shade of the Flamboyant Tree, a marvelous French-produced book-and-CD package of French Creole llullabies and Nursery Rhymes; the latest from Caspar Babypants, Hot Dog (filled with witty songs by one of my favorite kindie music makers); and Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, a CD of songs by Broadway composers and performers made to benefit breast cancer research, support, and education.
Reviewed by Gregory Keer
If you ask most children, watching Mom or Dad get down with their funky selves when inspired by really danceable music is either hysterically funny or frightfully embarrassing. Well, the kids will have to deal with it once you spin this spirited new album by the Sugar Free Allstars. In fact, the youngsters will probably teach us a few moves as they party with the mix of R&B, rock, and jazz (among other styles) on All on a Sunday Afternoon.
Based in Oklahoma City, the duo of Chris “Boom” Wiser (on lead vocals, keyboards, saxes, etc.) and Rob “Dr. Rock” Martin (backing vocals and percussion) have infused their third family recording with enough brightness to light a street on a hot August night. Sparking much of the music is their love of Motown and Memphis soul as is evidenced by their “Gotta Get Up” track about starting the day, featuring Jack Forman of Recess Monkey and Shawana Kemp of Shine and the Moonbeams. “Sunday Afternoon,” includes help from Trout Fishing in America as it runs a bluesy thread through this ode to unstructured family time. A hard-driving beat (augmented by percussionist Marty Beller) and brass blasts propel “Put ‘Em Away,” which encourages kids to clean up after themselves. “Ready to Give Up Teddy” has a ‘70s groove going in this tune about moving on from a comforting stuffed animal.
Inventiveness abounds on the album as the Sugar Free pair employs onomatopoeia on “Hiccup” to explain the science of a hiccup and raises the roof with gospel on “99 Questions” to teach the truth about the value of being inquisitive to learn anything in life. Even a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Stay Up Late” feels fresh with Chris Wiser’s fatherly phrasing.
While I would never accuse these Allstars of being sugary, “Very Best Friend” is a mid-tempo song about being buddies that hits the heart. Whether it’s the heart or the feet that are affected by this recording, it is one that should be playing in your house or car this Father’s Day and beyond.
www.sugarfreeallstars.com- $12.99 (CD)/$9.99 (Digital) – Ages 2 to 11