Children are fearless and that has both it’s pros and cons, but as the dad it’s often our responsibility to encourage our children to explore their fearlessness. By encouraging them, we help build self confidence, and an understanding of what their limitations really are versus the imposed limitations of parents, and society. Children, of course, don’t understand societal limitations but they do process and absorb them. As adults, we understand that sometimes we need to push the limitations but are often afraid to do so. Most children push limitations naturally and as adults we naturally teach our children to live within constraints. Be conscious of the constraints and make sure to give your child the room to push his or her own limits.
Kevin: Tell us a little bit about your kids.
James: I have a four year old and he is, on the blog I call him Primo but his name is really Finn. And he is pretty great. He’s a pretty funny kid. Advanced vocabulary, not exactly advanced physically – that’s sort of coming on later, but the kid can talk. Just tonight at dinner he was asking, he said, “Daddy is that water?”
And I said, “No.”
He said, “Is it a cocktail, Daddy?”
“It is a cocktail, Finn.”
He’s never met a stranger, which has been great and difficult as we’re riding the train and he talks to anybody, whether it’s the thug-looking gangster or the elderly lady with candy. He’s talking to everybody.
And then we have a two year old. On the blog I call him Segundo, which those names come from the movie Big Night. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie, but the two brothers in there were named Primo and Segundo and so I kind of like that. But his name is Henry and he is really advanced physically and a little slower verbally. So it’s kind of interesting seeing that difference. They’re probably 20 months apart, but just as they’re developing you can see them developing quicker in different ways and slower in different ways than each other.
Finn’s in for a bit of trouble. He can still take the two year old, but that’s probably going to last for six or seven more months, and then he’s going to be in trouble.
Kevin: What’s one of your favorite experiences you’ve had with your kids?
James: Really, being home with them I’ve had a lot of experiences with them. I guess some of my favorite experiences have been on the train. Here in Portland, we have one car, but we live a half a block away from the train station and there’s this MAX train that will get you to the zoo or to downtown or wherever. And walking with the boys and getting on the train and getting to interact with people that, we would just normally be anonymous.
You know, you sort of do that thing where you basically just pretend that no one else is there and you sit there and read your book or do whatever on the train, but with a four year old and a two year old that’s not happening. They’re engaging everyone. And I’ve had some really great experiences talking to people that I wouldn’t normally talk to. Like those gangster looking types, they’ve ended up being really sweet and pointing out the best place to go get ice cream downtown which is a place we would have missed out on if Finn didn’t talk to everybody he met.
Kevin: You know, I was actually going to ask you earlier who was more dangerous, the old lady with candy or the gangster looking thugs.
James: Yeah, that old lady was a little more dangerous. A lot of times the older folks don’t have a real filter. They feel like I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m the dad, so mommy must be getting a break while daddy tries to pretend like he can hold down the fort. And so they end up annoying me a little more.
Kevin: Now, do you see that often? And there’s been a lot written about it by a lot of different stay at home dads, but do you get that kind of experience as well?
James: You definitely get those experiences. You know, I would say on the whole most of the people you meet are really supportive and they think it’s great. But you do get a lot of people who, I had one conversation with this neighbor and he was an older neighbor. We had the longest conversation trying to explain to him what I did, that I was a stay at home dad. So he was, “Well, do you work at night?”
“No, I don’t work at night; I’m at home with the kids.”
You know, “So, you’re unemployed.”
“Well, you know I don’t have a job outside the house. Like the stay at home mom, I’m that but with more balls.”
It was like a “Who’s on First” routine. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it and he finally just waved his hand at me and sent me on my way.
Kevin: Now, one of the other things I’ve heard about often is that a lot of moms who are stay at home moms tend to not necessarily look at stay at home dads the same way as they do other stay at home moms. Have you had any of those experiences?
James: When we’re out, there’s a really great music time on Mondays and Thursdays here by our house and there’s this guy who plays guitar and sings songs for the kids. And it’s a lot of stay at home moms there and there’s the group that I call the Urban Mama Mafia. They won’t let the dads inside the inner circle to hear the music. I’ve experienced that with the stay at home moms being a little stand-offish.
Nannies, on the other hand, think stay at home dads are really great. So, when I’m at the coffee shop I’m usually having the conversation with the nannies who are experienced with dads who aren’t involved at all and then the stay at home moms kind of look down on both of us.
You know, one thing – stay at home dads sort of get a lot of credit for being involved dads, but it’s much easier for me. I mean, I’m with my kids all the time and so I’m much more involved than most people think dads are, but it’s an easy sort of classification. I think that that’s true of the working dads, those nine to five dads. They’re much more involved as well, and they’re doing that with less time than I have. I think they’re getting those same interactions and those same great times, but with a lot less time to do it.
And so, I definitely think that dads get a bad rap and there are those annoying commercials of the kid and the dad in the restaurant. As soon as mommy leaves dad doesn’t know what to do. But I don’t think that’s the case for the most part anymore.
Kevin: What’s one of your biggest successes that you’ve had as a parent?
James: We just had an appointment, a well check for Finn our four year old and he just turned four last week. And we hadn’t been able to do any sort of preschool or different things like that, and my wife and I kind of felt like were we keeping him from something, is he not getting this interaction? I mean, we have three kids here and a whole bunch of kids in the neighborhood, so he’s interacting.
But one of the great things, and I wrote about this, how that well check is sort of the new job review for the at-home parent, you know? I’m used to those quarterly or yearly reviews where they measure the metrics and tell you how you’re doing and this well check up for my son was like that for me. And one of the things she said was, “Whatever you’re doing is working because this kid, the only reason he would need preschool is if you needed a break.”
I can’t point to anything that we’re doing, but it was nice to get that feedback, to say not only is it not true that we’re keeping him from doing something, but he’s doing well and he’s excelling and that’s been pretty exciting to hear.