It’s All About The Routine

Routine truly is the key to handling a 2 year old. Take bedtime. Usually, a source of stalling, tantrums, coaxing, coercing, and finally, a lot of crying. But when a routine is established, bedtime can actually go fairly easily. Here is the current routine with Thing 2. No detail is too small to repeat every day.

  • Starting at 7pm, put on pajamas
  • Watch either Backyardigans, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or Little Einsteins
  • Tell Thing 2 to stop jumping on the couch…six times
  • 7:30…Get a drink of milk or apple juice. Thing 2 must open and close the refrigerator door by himself or all bets are off
  • Piggy back ride upstairs
  • Brush teeth. First daddy brushes, then his turn. Thing 2 rinses the brush off and puts toothbrush into holder himself or all bets are off
  • Read the same book we’ve read the previous 4 months. Twice.
  • Two “running hugs” where Thing 2 runs across the room at full speed to hug me while saying “CHICKEN!”. I have no idea how this started, but it is very very important to do it every night
  • Thing 2 must turn on his music and turn off the light himself or all bets are off
  • Cover him with a “night-night”. A night-night is one of daddy’s old tee shirts. Thing 2 doesn’t sleep with a blanket, but a blanket has to be in his crib but not touching him
  • Say goodnight

As I said, it’s all about the routine

Help! My Kids Don’t Watch Enough Television

Yes, you read that right. I want my kids to watch more TV. I’d like them to sit, quietly, for about an hour and give SuburbanDaddy a few minutes to rest.

I tried to have “movie time” on both days this weekend. On Saturday I built up the idea of watching Finding Nemo, a movie my kids have seen (at least short sections of it). They already know all the characters thanks to product marketing. We barely got past the previews when Thing 1 started asking for the shark part, and Thing 2 was jumping across the couches. Movie time over.

Sunday I tried again with Toy Story. This time, we set up in the basement. We pulled out the sleeping bag and turned off the lights. Both kids had skipped their naps so they were primed for movie watching. If the amount of time they devote to talking about it is any indication, they love Toy Story. They know all the characters and have seen enough to know what it is about. This time, ten minutes into the movie, after ten minutes of fighting over who sits where, and who gets which pillow, they start wandering off to play with trains.

No problem. They are playing nicely (read: not fighting) so I can turn on the football game instead. Ah, if only it were that easy. Thing 1 and Thing 2 have no interest in watching TV, until they see I have an interest, and then they stop everything else and demand to watch. If only they were interested in football. What would you like to watch? I ask them. Toy Story of course. Everyone gets back into the sleeping bags, lights off, movie back on. The bliss lasts just four minutes this time and we’re back to where we started.

Why won’t my kids watch TV? When I was a kid, TV was a marvel. I was happy to watch whatever I could. And the shows were crappy and had commercials, and I had to wait until they were scheduled to be on. No DVR. No on demand. Just a few channels. No remote. And I still watched!

Sometimes This Parenting Thing Is Easy

Once in a while…and it isn’t very often…I actually think I’ve got this parenting thing under control. I’ll be out with one or more kids, and get an almost out of body experience, where I can see myself and think wow, that guy makes it look so easy.

I had Thing 2 and Thing 3 (toddler and infant) to myself one evening after picking them up at daycare, so I decided rather than go home as usual, we’d stop at a new pizza place for dinner. Thing 3 usually sleeps in his car carrier, and Thing 2 loves to eat.? How hard could it be?
There was a long line to order food. Thing 2 started to wander off. My arm was about to fall off from holding the baby carrier. We ordered a slice of pizza and a sandwich and found an empty table. When I went back to the counter to get the drinks, and Thing 2 couldn’t see me anymore, he started crying and everyone was staring at the dad who looked to be in way over his head. Then Thing 3 woke up and needed a bottle. Why didn’t I just go to McDonald’s drive through?

But then everything seemed to line up perfectly into place. Thing 2 was happily eating his pizza and asking a hundred questions. I was eating my sandwich with one hand, feeding Thing 3 a bottle with the other, and keeping the toddler’s attention at the table, all while watching the Yankee playoff game on the flat screen TV on the wall!

This is where the out of body experience happens, where I can see the same strangers that were glaring at me earlier, now looking in awe at the dad who has it all under control. Or maybe they were looking at the mess of cheese Thing 2 had assembled under his chair and was now stepping on, or the baby spit up running down my shoulder. No matter, at least for a few moments, I was making it look easy.

How To Win A Test Of Wills With A 4 Year Old

It started as a normal Saturday. The usual weekend errands and activities. Then, it was as if all the forces aligned to form the Perfect Storm, or in this case, the Perfect Four Year Old Meltdown.

Around 5:30pm, Thing 1 got into a scuffle over a toy with his brother, Thing 2. Again, nothing new here. Except this time, after I took the toy away, Thing 1 expressed his anger by peeing in front of me, soaking his pants and creating a puddle on the floor. There were previous incidents where he had “intentional accidents” to get our attention. But he had never been so bold as to look at me while he was doing it! The test of wills had begun.

He was immediately sent to his room to change his clothes and stay there until I finished feeding Thing 3. It was pretty quiet for the next 20 minutes so I was prepared to go up to his room for “the talk”. Getting angry = OK. Peeing on the floor because you are angry = not OK. But when I went into his room, he had pulled all the sheets off his bed, and the mattress was wet. The conversation went like this:

SuburbanDaddy: “What happened to your bed?”
Thing 1: “I took the sheets off because it was wet.”
SuburbanDaddy: “How did it get wet?”
Thing 1: “Somebody poured water on it.”
SuburbanDaddy: “No. You peed on it.”
Thing 1: “No I didn’t. It wasn’t me.”

At not quite 4 years old, this was a nice display of imagination and storytelling, except it was a blatant lie. And, he had just intentionally peed on his own bed. It’s hard to see the silver lining in that one.

Instead of “the talk”, I told him he was to stay in his room until the morning. No dinner. No story time. No television. Thing 1 was NOT happy with this turn of events. He tried to get out of his room, but each time he opened the door, I was standing there to put him back in. This went on for some time. Once he saw this strategy was not working, he stopped opening the door. SuburbanDaddy had won! At last I could eat dinner. Or so I thought…

We heard some loud noises upstairs. Thing 1 had dumped all the books and clothes out of his dresser and closet, and spread them all over his room. SuburbanDaddy was NOT happy with this turn of events. I took the clothes and books and removed them from his room. To prevent him from leaving his room I held the doorknob shut. The kicking and screaming intensified, then calmed down again. Some more strange noises. I opened the door and found he had pulled the mattress and box spring across the room. So, I removed the entire bed from his room. Each time he threw something, I would calmly remove it from the room. Garbage can, night lights, toys, pull ups, you name it.

After two hours of this I realized my son is very, very stubborn. I also realized where he gets it from. After all, SuburbanDaddy was perfectly happy to keep doing this all night, and remove every last item from his bedroom, if necessary, until there was nothing but four walls left.

So how did it end? Who won the test of wills? I’m not sure anyone did, but I’m sure it would still be going on if SuburbanMommy hadn’t intervened. Playing good cop to my bad cop, she was able to get him to calm down and agree to go to sleep. It looked like the night was finally over, but then Thing 1 got really sad.

SuburbanMommy: What’s wrong? Don’t you want to go to sleep?
Thing 1 [on the verge of tears]: I do want to. But I don’t have a bed anymore!

Day vs. Night

Since the arrival of Thing 3 about two months ago, I have developed a bit of a split personality. Day SuburbanDaddy is the guy that gets up around 5am, gets the kids dressed and fed before rushing them off to preschool, then goes to work, followed by a final flurry of dinner-bath-bedtime. Night SuburbanDaddy is the one that comes out once the kids are finally asleep, hopefully by 8:30pm, and enjoys the relative quiet until the cycle repeats starting at 5am.

Day Daddy eats meals in 12 seconds, standing up, over the sink, while Things 1,2,3 are screaming, fighting, crying, or breaking stuff. Night Daddy sips a glass of wine and catches up on the day’s events, while quietly waiting for dinner to cook.

Day Daddy must maintain a steady flow of caffeine while at work to prevent falling asleep with his head on the keyboard. Night Daddy enjoys a bowl of ice cream every night before going to sleep.

Day Daddy is the responsible one. If there were no Night Daddy, Day would go to bed as soon as the kids were asleep, so the next day he wouldn’t be as sleep deprived. But Night Daddy doesn’t care how tired Day Daddy will be the next day. It’s not his problem. Night Daddy wants to enjoy a couple hours of free time. Watch a football game that goes well past midnight. Drink some wine. After all, why should Night Daddy cut short his fun?

Night Daddy has enormous power over Day Daddy’s life. The later Night stays up, and the more he drinks, the harder it is for Day in the morning. The power, though, is completely lopsided. There is almost nothing Day Daddy can do to ruin Night Daddy’s existence.

One way Day Daddy has tried to stop Night Daddy is by giving the kids lots and lots of chocolate after dinner. He figured that the kids wouldn’t go to bed until much later than 8:30, so Night Daddy wouldn’t get his usual time. But the plan backfired. Night Daddy said Screw You Day Daddy, and just stayed up later, causing Day Daddy even more trouble the next day because the kids had half a night’s sleep.

But Day Daddy has a new plan. He’s going to start slacking off at work, and let so much work pile up, that Night Daddy will be forced to spend his evenings working instead of enjoying a few hours to himself. Take that, Night Daddy!

How It’s Different The Third Time

Suburban Daddy became a daddy for the third time! (which is why you haven’t heard from me in a while). The birth of #3 is different than the first, and I’ve made some observations along the way.

Compared to #1 and its associated worries (see previous post), the birth of #3 is almost non-eventful. That isn’t to say that the birth of a child is not a big deal. But the whole process is rather matter-of-fact. With the first, you have no idea what life will be like once baby arrives. The birth is the big event that consumes everyone’s attention. You don’t give much thought to the days and months following. With #3, the birth process is a little inconvenience you must get through before getting on with your life, like sitting in traffic on the way to work. This time, as we were heading to the hospital at 11am, I remember thinking Hopefully the baby will be born by dinner so I don’t have to eat hospital food again, and I can get to bed at a decent hour. (He wasn’t born until 11:16pm and I ate dinner from a vending machine).

When we left the hospital with #1, we had the brand new car seat (which we couldn’t figure out how to use), brand new “going home” baby outfit, and we took dozens of pictures with the nurses as my wife was wheeled out in a wheel chair. This time, on the way up the elevator, I dumped crumbs and dirt out of the car seat which had been stuck in the seat since #2 used it over a year ago. There was no time for pictures because I was chasing my other kids through the hospital, and they kept barging into other new moms’ rooms on the maternity floor, first time parents who had no idea what was in store for them.

The first week home is much different too. As a first time parent, the first week home was torture. Learning how to diaper, feed, dress, and bathe a newborn. The seemingly non-stop crying (mostly the baby’s). This third time, the first week home was almost a vacation. I had a week off from work. The older kids were in preschool all day. We could go anywhere with a newborn and he just slept. Nice restaurants, peaceful meals. I played my best round of golf in five years, and bought a new car.

Of course, it hasn’t been all roses. I haven’t had more than two continuous hours of sleep in weeks. Chasing after two preschoolers on weekends is even tougher with a newborn in hand. And I won’t even go into what happens when a kid needs to go potty NOW but you are busy feeding a newborn. But, to all those first timers out there, struggling to get through those first weeks and months, take heart, it will get better the next time.

My Son The Exhibitionist

Social norms and vanity are not developed yet in preschoolers. They’ll happily eat ice cream and get chocolate all over their face. Or talk to you with a booger hanging out of their nose, without being self conscious.

Yesterday, my son, being very independent, announced he was going upstairs to put on his pajamas. Great, I thought. It was a little early for bed, but it’ll save time later, right? After ten minutes I went to see what was taking so long because I didn’t hear any noise (quiet is usually a sure sign of trouble). There he was, playing quietly and reading a book. Oh, and he was buck naked. Very matter of fact, he just didn’t feel like wearing clothes. It turns out it isn’t easy to explain to a preschooler why he needs to wear clothes. Hopefully, I won’t have to explain it to the strangers at the mall when he decides to strip down there.

Superhuman Parents

We’ve all heard the stories where parents perform amazing physical feats, bordering on the superhuman, when their child is in need. For instance, the mother who lifts a car to get her baby out. I had my own superhuman experience this weekend, and while maybe not as impressive as lifting a car, it was still extraordinary by Suburban Daddy standards.

Suburban Mommy and I took took the boys (a.k.a. Thing 1 and Thing 2) to the park to fly kites. We bought them months ago and were waiting for some warm weather to try them out. Thing 1, never having flown a kite before, instantly took to it and before long had his Spiderman kite at full height.

After a while, the inevitable happened. He lost hold of the string and the kite took off on its own. It began drifting away in the steady breeze, drifting over a baseball field. It was well into the outfield when I realized it was headed over the home run fence, which, if it reached, the kite would be lost forever. I had to catch that kite!!!

At that point, Suburban Daddy took on almost superhuman powers. Seeing that the gate to the baseball field was locked, I scaled the huge, four foot fence in a split second, and made an all out sprint for the dangling string, hovering just off the ground and headed over the home run wall. I knew I would get just one chance to make a diving grab at the string. I ran as fast as I could (running itself is a superhuman feat these days for me), but it wasn’t enough, and the kite went over the fence.

Luckily, the string got caught on the fence, so all I had to do was walk over and pull it off. All the superhuman climbing and running was unnecessary. In my son’s eyes, Daddy saved the day. In the eyes of any bystanders (hopefully there weren’t any), I was the idiot who climbed a fence and ran across a field to save a $1.99 toy.