For those who spend a lot of their day with kids, I bet there are a few things you keep to yourself.
Whether it is how you parent, what you slack off on or even what you feed (or don’t feed) the kids.
Now that I am home again all day with the boys, I have had to adjust to that life. While a one-year old and a four-year old are very different, I have been lucky to find a handful of activities they like to do together while I clean, cook or take a two-minute sanity break.
It’s one of the perks of having two kids right?
They can entertain themselves. Louis C.K. commented on having two kids in an article and said “Your first kid’s going to have a playmate, and an enemy, and all kinds of stuff that you don’t have to be anymore. It’s way better to be a referee than one of the boxers!” It is the truth.
I have always loved being a friend to our oldest son, but I know that I will never have the same relationship as he will have with his little brother. I am dad. I am the referee. I am their when they need stuff.
The one major thing I have done that has helped the day, is I have started to let the boys work stuff out on their own. Whether it be sharing, having personal space, what is being eaten and finally, wrestling.
Since moving to our temporary home in Toronto, Harrison’s room has a mattress on the floor for a bed. Don’t worry, he loves it.
But it has also turned into a wrestling ring that is only missing a guy with a mic introducing the combatants. Almost daily, usually before getting dressed, the boys have a throw down. Normally you would think that a four-year old and a one-year old would not be able to do this.
But there is really only a 10 pound difference and the younger one is much stronger. Poor Harrison actually gets it handed to him. It used to get on my nerves as I kept expecting one of them to get hurt.
I would referee and get in the way and I think it actually pissed them off. They wanted to go at it for fun. So I finally gave in. Now I go and take care of stuff and listen. I listen to the laughter, the complaining, the thuds on the floor and most importantly, I listen to them working out their issues.
It helps that Harrison talks and expresses his displeasure, but Charlie talks in his way and 100% knows when he is in the wrong.
The only time I step in and throw the dad tone at them is when they are on a path to bad things. You can tell. The laughing and silliness reaches critical mass and your parenting senses can feel an injury coming. But other than that (or a scream) I stay clear. I get a lot done actually. Laundry now gets folded. I get to brush my teeth. I get to plan dinner and I get to just watch them be silly boys.
Letting them work things out for themselves seems to actually be working. Who knew parenting sometimes meant taking a step back from parenting. I mean, I am still in the house and still the boss, but they are learning to sort issues out on their own.
Charlie of course will come running to dad when something goes wrong. I hope that never stops. He runs in crying and wants a hug. I ask Harrison for the play-by-play of what happened. He tells me, we discuss and move on.
There is no point in putting so much fear into them, that they won’t talk about it.
There has only been one time to date where I had to unleash the scary father tone that all of us know so well. They voice the neighbours probably heard. But it worked. It stuck. And if you use it only when absolutely necessary, it will remain a powerful weapon.
I still remember the tone my dad would reach when he was beyond mad with my sister and I. It works.
That only came out because they had ignored me too many times on playing nice. I am not interested in a trip to the hospital. That would take away any chance of free time for me while they nap.
The days are getting easier. The boys are playing together much better. I think I might be winning the battle. Sadly, just when I get to the finish line, those two will shake up the rules and work together to torment me. I know it’s coming. But the journey is a lot of fun.
One and four will turn to three and seven and ten and 13. I only hope our boys play together, love each other and continue to have this amazing brother relationship their whole life. I still get to be dad and I will always be here to referee.
I would not have it any other way.