Thursday, May 31, 2007

The fun is over, the fun begins

I am way, way off my stay-at-home dad routine. And a certain NBA team that wasn't supposed to be out of the first round of the playoffs is to blame.

When the playoffs began, I volunteered to work extra on game nights. It'll be fun, right, and it won't last long. Six weeks and 17 games later, my schedule finally gets back to normal, rather than trying to catch up on sleep the next weekday (and subsequently subjecting the boys to more TV than I should) after working until 1 a.m.

So I work Friday and Saturday, then get the next five nights off. Hopefully, I'll get the routine back on track, get out for more walks, start the adventures with the boys again (dinosaur museums are calling us), and get eight hours sleep each night (I'd be happy with even seven).


I'd thought I'd offer a quick explanation on why I'm calling this blog "The 43" -- it's simply my favorite number.

I admit it's an odd favorite number, but it's semi-unique as far as favorite numbers go. There aren't many notable athletes with 43, the only ones I found when I Googled it were Dennis Eckerlsey, Richard Petty and Brad Daugherty. I think I picked it up in high school when a girl I liked lived in a suburb that could be reached by taking Illinois 43 (Harlem, then Waukegan Road for you Chicagoans). The number stuck long after I wised up on the girl.

Anyway, I chose "The 43" because it was a little more non-specific. I debated maybe tying in the stay-at-home dad angle into the title, or some '80s reference, but in the end, liked "The 43" best.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day weekend

Summer, finally.

So far so good. We had a good day, going to Day Out With Thomas -- a Thomas the Tank Engine extravaganza at a nearby historic railroad -- and later hitting the pool, where both boys, especially Eldest, had a lot of fun.

I always liked Memorial Day weekend because it did signal the beginning of summer, though I'm amazed how fast May, generally one of my favorite months, went by. Hopefully June, another favorite month, won't be so zippy. As a kid, I used to like listening to the top 500 rock songs as presented by WLS radio in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, and usually a picnic, barbecue, or trip to Russell's (a rib place in the suburbs). There was invariably a couple days after Memorial Day of school, maybe a week and half, and then the school year ended and summer would be in full swing. Once you got to Memorial Day, the end was in sight.

In more recent years, Wife and I used to take start a vacation around this time (not this year). After a long sports season for me at work, this weekend was the first big break, and it was a great way to start the summer. No big trips or major plans -- in fact, I will end up working three of the four days of the weekend -- but today was such a blast that Wife already declared it's going to be a great summer.

I think she's right.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mild outrage, part II

Another item in a magazine annoyed me again today.

A couple weeks ago in Sports Illustrated, there was a story on how girls' flag football is taking off as a spring high school sport in Florida. In the current issue, there is a letter to the editor from a guy in Oklahoma who writes a reminder to the high school girls forsaking track and softball for flag football, that although flag football might be fun, it won't get them a college scholarship.

I can only imagine that the writer of the letter is a high school track or softball coach who feels threatened that his sport might get gutted if flag football is introduced in football-crazy Oklahoma. Wasn't the point of high school sports to build character, work as a team and, ultimately, have fun? Maybe this isn't a coach, but one of those parents so overinvolved in his child's athletic career who will sue the school district if his daughter doesn't get enough playing time, because it's ruining her chance to get a scholarship and his chance to save some money.

We're trying to find a 3- to 4-year-old soccer league for Eldest in the fall. The first step to his college scholarship, forget any fun he might have. Seriously, it's this sort of attitude that creates, I bet, half of the overbearing sports parents out there, the ones that scream at coaches, referees and coaches and Little League games. Urgghhhhhhhh!

OK, outrage complete.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kid gloves

There was an item in this month's Runner's World on children running, stating kids under 5 shouldn't take up regular running. The reason -- kids that young are still developing their gaits and sustained long-distance running might cause injury problems later. That's fine, but this is what peeved me a little -- the suggestion that toddler runs are OK, little fun races of 50 yards or so.

I'm not trying to dismiss the advice that everyday distance running for kids is a bad idea. But isn't suggesting kids that young stick to 50 yards essentially discouraging kids from being active? There are longer kids runs -- I've seen them up to a kilometer or a mile -- why not let a preschooler try those longer noncompetitive races if they want?

Eldest was in the stroller with us when we did a 5K (slowly) recently, at about the 2-mile mark, we let him out of the stroller, and I ran the rest of the race while Wife and Eldest were going to walk the rest of the way, then run across the finish line. Eldest got so excited that he ran most of the rest of the course, getting high-fives from other runners encouraging a little person having fun. Now, imagine if we stopped him after 50 yards, saying it wasn't healthy for him to run?

I'm not begrudging the need to keep our kids safe and healthy, I just think we've come to a time where it goes overboard. Runner's World's advice is similar to advice I've seen in parents magazines that kids under 3 should stay off playground equipment (slides and such). Littlest has already gone down a park slide, under close supervision (me holding him as he slid down), before age 1, Eldest has climbed things at parks I can't fathom a 3-year-old climbing. And though I don't want them to get hurt, and there are obviously limits to what I'll let them do (I have warned Eldest not to try sliding down the pole, it's for older kids, and he hasn't), I am not going to be so overprotective that I'm denying my kids to be, well, kids.

A long time ago, I saw a newspaper editorial lamenting the removal of playground equipment deemed to lawsuit-dangerous. The editorial stated that part of being a kid was the chance you'd break an arm simply playing. Of course, I don't want my kids to get hurt, but I know the odds are good they will suffer a concussion, fracture or cut necessitating stitches at least once before they turn 18, more likely 12.

With adequate supervision, plenty of encouragment and a little faith, parents should be able to come to a reasonable decision to let their kids try something a little out of their age bracket. Yes, they will fail sometimes, and they might get hurt. But that's part of growing up. Some schools have banned tag at recess because someone might get hurt. I wish our society wasn't so litigious that schools have to worry about lawsuits, but what are we teaching our kids when we deny them the chance to actively play? Especially when childhood obesity is such a problem?

Eldest will want to try that pole one day, and I'll help him, probably nervously hold my breath when he tries it on his own for the first time. And when he wants to run a long distance again, I'm going to let him, and not worry about his gait. Denying him that fun is simply unhealthy, and I just don't mean for his body, but also for his mind.


To my surprise, I played It with eldest today. The surprise was he even knew the game. He must have learned it at his pre-preschool. We were playing outside, playing catch (I introduced him to the concept of diving on a loose fumble, I hope he doesn't try it on his little brother) and all of a sudden, he says "You're It," then ran off laughing. I'm waiting to see if he surprises me by offering to play chess tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dad 2.0

I am a stay-at-home dad.

It's been about four months now since we made the big change. Though I still work part-time a couple nights a week, I am home every day, all day, with my two boys. I had been doing that before, just working five nights too -- I used to refer myself as a second-shift dad. It became too much, even before child No. 2 was born, and that, along with several other reasons, is why I racheted back.

The transition has been all right. Not yet complete -- I'm still trying to get routines down, avoid going to bed too late on my more nights off (and not feeling the need for a nap the next day) and getting the laundry done more often. Nevertheless, it's been a good move for me and my family.

Another goal for this blog is to chronicle my days and experiences as an SAHD. Even if I had kept working full-time, I had contemplated blogging just to write down my experiences as a dad. The kids are growing up faster than I can fathom -- Littlest just turned 1 today. Blogging won't slow that down, but at least it will give me an additional record of what it was like.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Leading off

Yes, I am now a blogger.

I've been trying to write more, and I even restarted a daily journal. It fell flat. I'd either be too tired after work to write or get too busy with other things on my night off. Same old me, start up some writing project, get too sidetracked to continue.

So my solution was to start this blog. Yes, I might get sidetracked on this too, but I'm oddly optimistic. Here's why: With a journal, there's a pressure to update every day (in the past, I've updated days after, trying to recollect a past day, writing a play-by-play rather than what I was thinking that day) that doesn't quite exist with a blog. Yes, it's nice to update a blog as much as possible, but I doubt I'll feel guilty if I don't (unlike a journal, in which the guilt for not updating can keep building until you just give up).

Besides, I'm not looking to journal here so much as to write. No fiction, not here anyway, but just writing. For several months, I've had notebooks conveniently available, in the car, at work, in the stroller, whenever I get an urge to just start writing. I want this blog to be another notebook, but hopefully, a primary outlet to be creative. Yes, some posts will be more journal-esque, describing and reflecting upon the events of the day. But others will not, and will reflect everything I was writing on my own, ranging from deep, thoughtful exposition to silly nostalgia.

Since I dropped down to part-time, one of my goals was to write more -- more than I ever had before. When I told my sister of my plans to work less at the newspaper, she said something I haven't forgotten, something that resonated with my decision: "When you were younger, you never said you wanted to grow up to be an editor." Though the desire to write more wasn't in the top three on the list of reasons we chose to scale back my work schedule, it was on the list. Maybe this blog will help me better realize that goal. Maybe it won't, but I'm going to give it a shot.