Nov 11 2010

Why Househusbands Should Bum More Around The House

Being a househusband has its privileges.

Like being able to tease my kids … a lot!

Now, I realize that teasing your own children is something that all regular, idiot dads do. It’s built into our Dad DNA. We can’t help it. We are compelled to do things that make our kids roll their eyes around in their sockets, make pouting faces, and go “Daa-aad!”

What makes being a househusband and a stay-at-home dad so special for me, however, is that since I am the one who is responsible for getting the kids up and ready for school in the mornings, I get to tease them when they’re most sleepy, vulnerable and prone to irritation. And I get to do it everyday.

Take this morning, for instance.

Corporate Babe was in the shower, getting ready for work. What perfect timing. Knowing she couldn’t hear a thing with all that water splashing down, I crawled out of bed and headed straight for Filosofo’s room.

I entered quietly and looked down at my soporific 11-year old son. The sun was shining brightly through the window, streaming a beam of intense light and heat directly onto his face, yet this did not bother him a bit.

“Come on Fi … time to wake up,” I said gently.

Nothing happened.

“Come on, it’s time to get up,” I spoke a little bit louder. “We’re going to be late for school.”

Filosofo lay there still. Immovable. Unstirring. Sun shining right into his face. How do they do this?

“Oh well … I tried!” I said. I then bent down closer to his ear and burst into song using a special loud, obnoxious and strangulated voice I reserve for moments such as these.

OH BABY, I’M SLEEPING LIKE A LOG,
WHO CARES IF IT’S A SCHOOL DAY MAMA,
DUDE I’M JUST GONNA KEEP ON SLEEPING, RIGHT ON YEAH,
WITH THE SUN SHI-I-I-NING BRIGHTLY ON MY FA-ACE, OH LORD YEAH!

THE SUN SHINING BRI-I-I-I-IGHTLY ON MY FA-ACE …

“Sto-o-op!!” He groans. Groggily annoyed, he turns away from my singing and buries his head under the pillow.

OH BABY, I’M JUST GONNA KEEP SLEEPING LIKE A LOG … YEAH,
COZ NOW MY HEAD IS BURIED IN THE PILLOW AND I’M ALL NICE AND COZY IN THE DARK … OH YEAH,
BUT I REALLY NEED TO PEE, SWEET MAMA … OH HOW I NEED TO PEE,
YEAH I’M BUSTING TO PEE AND I CAN’T HOLD IT IN ANY LONGER … NO SWEET LORD … I GOTTA PEE SO BAD, SO BAD I TELL YA,
PISH, PISH, PISH, OH HOW I WISH I COULD KEEP ON SLEEPING BUT IF I DON’T GET UP RIGHT NOW I’M GONNA WET MY BED … COZ I’M A BUSTIN’ AND I REALLY NEED TO PEE
OH BOY I REALLY NEED TO PEE SO BADLY, PISH, PISH PISH, WHY AM I DREAMING OF WATERFALLS, AND RIVERS, AND OCEAN WAVES, AND GARDEN STATUES PEEING IN FOUNTAINS, AND WHY AM I TURNING ON ALL THE TAPS IN THE HOUSE, AND LOTS OF WATER IS POURING DOWN FROM THE FRONT OF MY PEE-JAMA PANTS, YEAH BABY …

“Oh Daa-aad! You’re so annoying!” Filosofo grunts, finally getting out of bed and heading straight for the toilet to empty his bursting bladder.

One down, two more victims to go.

Corporate Babe is now out of the shower. She didn’t hear me taunting my eldest son, so I switch to a sweet hymn as I walk past her down the corridor towards the room where the two youngest boys are still sleeping, but not for long … he, he!

Oh Boys, How I Adore Thee,
Oh Boys, How I Adore Thee,
You Are The Sweetest Kids Of All,
And We Love Thee

A few minutes later, the kids are all sitting around the kitchen table staring down blankly and silently into their cereal bowls, while Corporate Babe and I are singing and praising their virtues.

I am making their school lunch. Corporate Babe is in the next room ironing her clothes.

“Aren’t these the most wonderful kids ever?” I shout out, loud and proud. Corporate Babe agrees.

“Can I make you a cheese and mouse whiskers sandwich?” I ask Exacto. I know he doesn’t like cheese in his sandwiches.

“Daa-aad!”

Bingo. We’re on for round 2.

“Oh Babe … how can we keep them sweet and wonderful for ever?” I ask my wife when she walks past me buttoning up her shirt. She head over to the kitchen table and gives all the boys morning hugs and kisses.

“They will always be sweet and wonderful” she replies. Destructo snuggles into his Mom, hoping to steal a few more seconds of sleep.

“Just like me, huh?” I ask her. She rolls her eyes and says nothing.

“Oh well … I guess that’s what happens when kids grow up!” I say.

“How about a cheese and butterfly wings sandwich?” I ask Exacto, who is staring blankly at the back of the Coco Pops cereal box.

Exacto snaps momentarily out of whatever daydream he’s been having and completely ignores my menu suggestion.

“What happens when kids grow up?” He asks.

I didn’t say that’s what happens when kids grow up. I said that’s what happens when kids throw up!”

“Daa-aad … you did not say that!” Destructo protests, pulling his head away from his mother’s bosom.

Three out of Three. Gotch’em!

“Say what?” Corporate Babe chimes in.

“I said … that’s what happens when kids blow up!”

“Daa-aad!”

Ha! Now they’re all enrolled in my little taunting game. It’s still early morning and I have barely gotten started.

Corporate Babe leaves the room with her laptop under one arm, and the rest of her clothes draped over the other arm. I watch her bum disappear through the door.

Time to switch tactics and take it up another notch. I start singing softly …

Little scurrying ant,
Carrying that big crumb,
Little scurrying ant,
Don’t fall on your big … la la la!

“Daa-aad!” Destructo blurts out. “You are not allowed to swear!”
“I didn’t swear.”
“You did! You were going to say BUM!”
“I never said BUM! I don’t say the word BUM! I never, ever use words like BUM! Ever!!”
“Daa-aad .. you just said it!”
“No I didn’t say BUM. You said BUM. I don’t say BUM. I don’t even know the word BUM.”
“Daa-aad!”
“What? I … Don’t … Say … The … Word … BUM! It’s rude to say BUM! Now finish eating your Coco Pops! BUM.”
“Daa-aad! You just said it again!”
“What … what did I say?”
“You said BUM.”
“Hey!” I say reproachfully. “Please don’t use the word BUM in this house again! It’s rude to say words like BUM and you shouldn’t say BUM in front of your older brothers. Don’t say BUM in front of them, don’t say BUM in front of MUM, and never say BUM in front of me, because I never, ever say BUM. BUM BUM BUM It’s DUM DUM DUM. Now hurry up and eat your Coco BUMs – I mean Coco Pops, or we’ll be late for BUM … I mean school!”
“Daa-aad!” He is laughing so hard, it’s hard to keep a straight face.

Little scurrying ant,
Carrying that big crumb,
Little scurrying ant,
Don’t fall on your big … la la la!

“Daa-aad!”

And so it goes all the way from the kitchen to the car.

Now we’re in the car, driving to school. Filosofo and Exacto are absorbed reading a book. Destructo is playing with one of his stuffed toys. Probably “Little Lion”, or “Peed On Pork Chop Piggy”.

This is my last chance to squeeze a little more “irk juice” out of the kids. I reach into my pocket and pull out a single little LEGO brick I picked up off the floor as I was walking down the stairs and heading for the car on our way out. Without taking my eyes off the road, I stretch my arm behind me towards the backseat where my youngest son is sitting and humming, and proffer the little plastic brick.

“Hey … you want to play with some LEGO?”

“Daa-aad! That’s just one piece of LEGO. You can’t do anything with it!”

“Of course you can! You can build lots and lots of amazing things with just one single LEGO brick. Spaceships, castles with drawbridges and crocodile infested moats, Quantum Drive Transmogrificators …”

“Daa-aad! You can’t do any of those things!”

“Now boys … have I ever told you about how when I was a kid, we were so poor, that all I ever had to play with was just two little small potatoes? I would spend hours and hours playing with those two little small potatoes, making all kinds of the most amazing and incredible things you can’t even imagine. And that was just two little potatoes.  Now … If only I had had a single little LEGO brick like this one to combine with the potatoes …”

“DAA-AAD! S-T-O-O-O-OP!!”

A long time ago, one of the mothers at my kids’ school suggested we carpool and take turns driving our children. Less than two weeks later, all three of my kids complained about the arrangement. They said they really missed not having me drive them to school in the mornings, even if my jokes were really bad and I was so annoying. I was deeply touched.

Being a househusband does have its privileges.

The Lazy Househusband

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Jun 07 2009

The Parenting Puzzle – Harder To Solve Than A Rubik’s Cube

Published by under Parenting

It’s interesting to observe how differently children perceive the parent who goes to work versus the parent who stays at home to look after them. I’m sure there’s studies and research done on this subject, but I’m not really interested in any of that academic stuff. All I’m really concerned about, is that as my kids grow older, they won’t forget some of the things that have made me such a legend in their eyes while they are still small, young children like they are now.

For example, all my kids know that when I was in my early teens, not only did I become the local region’s “Macadamia Nut Cracking Champion”, I was also photographed for the local community paper for my ability to solve a Rubik’s cube in under 30 seconds.

Regarding the Rubik’s cube, I never told them that I had somehow come across the formulas for solving the cube, written them all down on a piece of paper that I carried everywhere around with me, and that I had then continually practiced and learned these formulas until I could solve the cube without giving it a single moment’s thought. Admitting to my kids that the solution to the puzzle didn’t just come to me because I was such a mathematical teenage genius would probably tarnish my “hero” status. I fear I would be known as a “cheat” and, right now, my kids firmly believe that cheats are bad guys and that all bad guys inevitably go to jail, so I couldn’t possibly inflict this kind of mental torment, pain and anguish upon their innocent and beautiful little minds.

But, as we all know, everything that goes around eventually comes back around to bite you hard on the bum (I’m sure there are academic studies and research done on this subject too, which I’m also not interested in knowing about!).

Not too long ago, Corporate Babe and I decided to take a short family holiday during the kids’ school holidays. My wife booked us a small rental cabin in the mountains – a 6-hour drive south of where we live. We had to fit this break in between her flying off to Singapore for a 3-day company event, and her then having to be back at work about a week later for another important company presentation.

The night before Corporate Babe was due to arrive back from Singapore, I packed the car up with everything we would need for the trip (including, of course, Destructo’s back-pack filled with all of his most treasured stuffed toys!) and got all the kids into bed. We needed to get up early the next morning and swing past the airport to collect Corporate Babe when she arrived at 7:00 am, and then just keep driving down towards our rental cabin in the mountains.

As we all got into the car and started driving out in the morning, the kids pointed out the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen. We arrived at the airport almost an hour later and picked up my wife, who had already cleared customs and was waiting outside the arrivals area. As soon as she got in the car, all the kids wanted to know was what kind of presents she had brought back for them. Knowing that our car was going to be filled to the brim with stuff when she arrived from her trip, she had wisely only brought them back a couple of very small gifts.

Each of the kids was given a small Rubik’s cube on a key chain. Corporate Babe had also purchased a Rubik’s cube for herself, but this one was different. It only had 2×2 squares to solve on each face, instead of the normal 3×3. My wife confessed that she had purchased it for the long plane ride home because she thought it would be a much easier puzzle to solve than the normal version of the cube, but that it had indeed proved to be just as difficult as the regular Rubik’s cube (which only goes to show that you can’t cut corners on a Rubik’s Cube that’s only made of corners – ha ha!).

My eldest son, Filosofo, who was already busy at work trying to rearrange his puzzle back to its original starting configuration, reminded everyone in the car of my reputation as a Rubik’s teen prodigy, and that if anyone needed the cube to be solved, they should just give it to me when we got to a set of red traffic lights and that I would have the puzzle completely solved for them before the lights turned green again, because, as he pointed out, it takes more than 30 seconds for the average set of traffic lights to change colors.

Corporate Babe must have noticed how uncomfortable I looked as Filosofo reminded the family of my legendary prowess when it came to solving the Rubik’s Cube. Thankfully, she intervened on my behalf and quickly made everyone aware that “Daddy hasn’t solved a cube in almost 30 years, so he may just be a little rusty!”

Exacto, my middle child, decided he was going to trust no one with his cube and declared to everyone present in the vehicle that he was never going to mess up his cube and that no one should touch it.

Destructo was already getting very frustrated with the fact that after only 4 seconds of playing with the cube he couldn’t even get one face of his puzzle to be all the same color again.

After about 3 minutes into our 6-hour long trip, the kids had already all but given up on trying to solve their cubes and were now asking us when we were going to arrive at the cabin.

Corporate Babe was too engrossed in her “dumbed-down” version of the Rubik’s cube to answer, so I told the kids that the “golden rule” of the trip was that they were not allowed under any circumstances to ask “how long” before we got to the cabin.

Of course, this was the worst thing I could have said. Destructo simply ignored the rule – not only did he start driving us nuts for the next several hours by moaning about how long the trip was taking, but he also invented several new “Golden Rules” along the way which he accused his brothers of transgressing (“Daaad … my brothers have just broken the Golden Rule – they’re annoying me / they’re teasing me / they’re looking at me / they’re touching me / they’re looking out my window! etc …” The other two just kept figuring out different ways of asking us how soon we were going to get there without actually using those precise words. Filosofo achieved this by continually subtracting the distance from where we currently were to where we would ultimately end up and dividing the result by my average driving speed (“We are now only 540 kilometers away from the cabin. Dad … if you increase your speed from 100 kms p/hr to 270 kms per hour, we can be at the cabin in exactly two hours time!”). Exacto took the legally safe approach (“Dad, I know I can’t ask how long it’s going to take us to get to the cabin because I don’t want to break the “Golden Rule”, but am I allowed to ask if we are going to get there before night time?”)

Before the trip, Corporate Babe and I had briefly discussed whether or not we should have purchased a small portable DVD player to keep the children quiet and occupied during the long drive down to the mountains. In the end, we both agreed that we would not succumb to our normal obsessive tendencies of staying connected to the Internet 24×7, or avoid being fully present to the kids during our trip by delegating parental duties to electronic nannies like DVD movies. Hence, no laptops, internet access or DVDs were allowed for the week we were going to be away.

Not having DVDs in the car was a mistake. Kids today are not interested at spending hours sitting in a vehicle looking at trees and beautiful scenery, unless, of course, they have access to some form of noisy, controlling device that allows them to press buttons and explode those trees and everything else that can jump out at them from the scenery. We were thus condemned to a long trip of suffering through our kids moans and complaints that the trip was either very long, very boring, or very long and very boring.

None of this seemed to matter to my wife, however, who sat through most of the trip completely engrossed in trying to solve her Rubik’s cube.

Eventually the kids grew tired of annoying each other. This all happened just as we arrived at the cabin.

We then began to enjoy our vacation and had a wonderful and relaxing time. We even experienced a freak early snow fall on the third and fourth days of our stay, and all the kids went wild with their first experience of snow.

Without access to the internet, I soon found myself becoming completely engrossed in trying to solve those infernal Rubik’s cubes. The fact that I could actually get at least two or three faces of the puzzle solved helped boost my reputation as a mathematical “genius”, and helped to convince the kids that I was indeed only “rusty” through lack of practice.

About five days into our holiday, the kids and I were sitting in the car while Corporate Babe shopped at a local supermarket for supplies. I was working on the cube. Exacto suddenly become visibly upset in the back seat. I looked around and saw him in tears holding up a messed up Rubik’s cube. Filosofo’s face had gone completely white. My eldest son had taken his brother’s cube, and had been teasing him by turning the cube a couple of times so that the pieces looked messed up, then reversing his moves to restore the puzzle to its original look. After doing this a couple of times, however, Filosofo had truly messed up the cube and could not restore it back.

Even though I could see that Filosofo was genuinely remorseful of what he had done to his brother’s cube, I couldn’t help reacting in anger. I got very upset with my son and began yelling at him. This made Filosofo start to sob very loudly. Seeing his oldest brother sobbing remorsefully and his older brother crying unconsolably, my little one joined in as well. I sat inside the car with three kids crying loudly in the back seat.

Still fuming, I picked up the cube I had been working on previously and just sat there angrily twisting the pieces of the cube around and around, wishing my wife would hurry up and return from the shops so I could just drive the hell out of there.

And then, in the middle of all of this emotional family turmoil, with the anger and tears flowing out of everyone inside the vehicle, all of the puzzle pieces suddenly came together.

I had solved the Rubik’s cube!

I had truly solved it! And all without resorting to cheating or remembering any of the complex mathematical formulas for twisting the pieces around that I had once memorized as a teenager, which had then given me my fleeting notoriety at school and landed my picture in the local paper.

But this was not an appropriate moment for reveling in personal jubilation. Looking at the solved puzzle in the palm of my hand did help me to calm down, however. I quietly put the cube away, then turned around and began to apologize to my son for having yelled at him and for making him feel worse than he had made himself feel by going against his brother’s wishes.

I then waited quietly in the car until my wife returned from shopping and we were back on the road and everything had blown over and things had returned to normal, before triumphantly producing the cube from the side pocket of the car and showing everyone that I had once again proved my ability at solving the notorious Rubik’s Cube puzzle.

Maybe because of what had happened earlier in the car, I did not get the hero’s welcome I had anticipated I would get from my family. There was no lasting moment of glory to savor, no chorused outburst of cheers of joy and elation from my wife and kids in unison, no congratulatory slaps on the back or confetti and ticker-tape streaming down from the skies … just a barely perceptible grunt from my wife and a quick look at the cube from 3 little pairs of eyes in the backseat. Filosofo further diminished the impact of my accomplishment by saying that the cube I solved was only the 2×2 squared one and not the 3×3 cube.

I drove back to the cabin that day feeling a little crestfallen and pondering on the little virtues and calamities that can either turn a dad into a real hero in his children’s eyes, or a villainous monster. Yelling at your kids is certainly not one of those little heroic virtues.

As always, there were some important lessons for me to learn from this experience. Parenting in a way, is an infinitely more difficult, challenging and complex puzzle than a Rubik’s cube. It requires us to constantly twist around lost of different parts trying to make everything work and come together on all sides. And if we do indeed get to finally solve the puzzle, whatever feeling of pride and accomplishment we experience lasts only for the briefest of instances. The moment we begin to play with it, we risk messing everything up again.

I wonder how much less of a hero I will seem to my kids in a few years time, when they finally discover that all I had to do to win the Macadamia Nut cracking championship event some twenty-eight odd years ago, was to simply be the first to crack enough nuts with a hammer to get ten unbroken macadamias out of their shells. Definitely not a hard accomplishment for a nutter like myself!

The Lazy Househusband

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Oct 19 2008

Househusband Axiom #1 – Quantity Time Is Quality Time

Filosofo, my 9 year old and the eldest of my three boys always tries to engage in deep, meaningful conversation with me in the morning, when I am in the kitchen busily juggling the tasks of making them breakfast, preparing their school meals and getting them ready for school.

It always starts out the same way …

“Dad?” He’ll ask with a mouth full of bread and peanut butter while I’m chopping up a cucumber for Exacto (my 6 year old, who eats vegetables and fruit, but not cheese, salami or eggs, unlike Destructo, the four-year old, who eats everything in his lunch box, including the eggs I’m boiling in the stove while toasting the bagel for Filosofo, who likes toasted bagel with cream cheese and salami sticks but won’t eat vegetables or eggs).

“What?” I ask tentatively, bracing myself for what I know is about to come.

“There’s just one thing I don’t understand …” he says, throwing me the bait.

“What’s that?” I bite and he’s got me now … hook, line and sinker. Here we go …

“How come if you travel for twenty years into space beyond the orbit of Pluto then come back to Earth, you’ll only have aged 40 years but everyone else will have been dead on this planet for over 700 years?”

“Son, please eat your breakfast. We’ve talked about this before … eat your breakfast, brush your teeth and wash your face, get dressed for school and then, when we’re in the car, you can ask me anything you like, ok?”

“Ok!” He goes back to eating his breakfast while I glance at the kitchen clock and then frantically try to get their school lunches finished and packed. We have less than 20 minutes before we have to leave the house to get to the school in time and all the boys are still in their pyjamas. Filosofo is silently pondering the problems of the universe, Destructo is staring blankly at the corn cracker that’s still untouched on his breakfast plate, and Exacto is eating his bowl of cereal, but one grain at a time.

15 minutes later, I’m yelling at the boys in the bathroom to stop mucking about, finish brushing their teeth and start getting dressed.

Somehow everything comes together and 5 minutes later we’re all in the car, reversing out of the driveway on our way to school. And today’s only Monday!

Filosofo does not forget. He never forgets. And neither do I. As soon as we are in the car and moving, he asks me the question again.

“Dad?”

“Okay … let’s see then. You are wondering why the astronaut will only have aged about 40 years, but everyone on Earth will have been long dead when he or she comes back …”

For the next ten to fifteen minutes (that’s how long it takes to drive the kids to school), we discuss the problem. I call him on a technical issue and we end up discussing Ptolomy’s theory of concentric circles versus elliptical orbits, the curved nature of space and time due to the effect of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“So Einstein is real?” Exacto cuts in.

“Yes, he is real. Einstein was one of the greatest geniuses of our time. He revolutionized mathematics and physics, and he is your mommy’s favorite mad scientist.”

“So did he really have screws on his face?”

I don’t understand what Exacto means, but Filosofo gets it straight away.

“That’s not Einstein … you’re thinking of Frankenstein! And the screws are in his neck, not on his face!”

At last, the time-space debate comes to an end, just as we arrive at school, relatively on time and straight into a parking space.

After dropping the boys off at school, wishing them a great day and kissing them good bye, I drive out of the school car park and turn on the radio to catch the 9:00 am news.

As I was driving home, I heard that a new research conducted at a leading Australian University has found that most fathers spend less than one minute a day alone with their children during weekdays. The research also found that, although most fathers will spend a little more time with their children on weekends, what they actually spend their time on is “play” activities, not “maintenance” tasks like feeding them, getting them ready for school, etc …

I guess that as a househusband, I really am very blessed. I spend hours every day with my children, not minutes. Even though looking after my boys full time can be fairly exhausting (I’m usually zoned out by 8:00 pm and my wife then has to take over), I really am grateful that the kids and I are spending all of this time together. As all parents know, kids grow too fast and this is something we’ll never be able to get back. There is no greater privilege or treasure than spending time with your children.

The Lazy Househusband

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