Nov 29, 2010

Good dad, by the numbers

There's nothing like being accused of being a good dad to make you act like one for awhile. I spent most of today being attentive, self-sacrificing, fun and constructive with the boys. I just counted (usually not a smart thing to do), and it was a full 10 hours of full-on parenting today.

Transport (3.5 hours):
Walked back and forth on snow/ice through a steady rain to the school, usually toting the sled the boys made over the weekend, often with one or both of them on it. Took detours, slid down the scary steep Billy Bonker Breaker Hill, meandered through the forest/ravine path behind our house... played, with no agenda or rules or timetable. Kicked an iceball the whole way on one of the trips, marvelling with Zekiah as it melted smaller and smaller and finally into nothing.

School involvement (1 hour): Stayed for the school assembly where Zekiah just happened to be the brave grade one to represent his class and go first in front of the whole school through the magical advent spiral, lighting the first candle to bring light into the dark season, preparing the way for the birth of the child of light and other such symbolism. Watched as older and older children progressed through the same spiral, seeing the path my own boys will take toward their adolescence. Powerful feeling of an upward spiral circle, deeply appreciating where each boy is right now and where they'll be as the years unravel.

Whenever I get too far into worrying about them growing up and leaving, I just need to meet them in the Now, embrace and celebrate whomever they are right now and trust that each new age and stage will have similar Joys and points of connection.

Work and Play Together (3.5 hours)
Involved the whole family in two good work projects - culling potatoes for the root cellar, and culling 4 chickens to take to the abattoir tomorrow morning (which they'll also get to come to). Coached (and cajoled) Galen's piano practice, lost repeatedly at UNO, built a fire together, cut out and put up paper snowflakes. Bedtime teeth and story and snuggle.

Logistics (2 hours) - Oatmeal breakfast, packed lunch, snacks, dinner. Morning clothes, boots and gloves, dry the wet school clothes.

The numbers would be even higher if I included all the background stuff - dishes, laundry, cleaning, setting up playdates and birthday parties, etc. And all the time that Sarah also put in. But for this musing I wanted to focus on Together Time. 10 hours of direct, hands-on parenting, consciously doing nothing but serving and enjoying my children.

I could list many clever or creative parenting tricks I did today to earn the Good Dad label. But whatever woven-in life lessons, gentle discipline, spontaneous song creation, etc are just what each of us do, building on our strengths and giving what we have to our kids. Beyond or underlying all those tricks is the foundation that made this day, this time of our lives, and this relationship I've built with these boys: Time. Focus. Dedication. Attention. I wasn't going anywhere today, wasn't running to my emails, wasn't trying to shunt them off on friends or each other, and we all knew it. "THE PAPA IS IN" read the sign on the door, and the boys came in and stayed.

10 hours is not, thankfully, a normal day (for those of us blessed with school-age children). I do have work and reno and writing and various other projects that are still on the week's to-do list after this Super Monday. I am tired as only a good day can make one feel. But when I signed on for this stay-at-home dad gig, it was with the understanding that my number one job was being there for and WITH my children. Whether that means 2 or 10 hours, the more I can remember that priority, the closer I'll be to truly giving myself to my family the way I pledged to two and a half years ago.

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