Shifting to the Stay-at-Home-Dad Lane
I can barely remember what I said in my letter last December, but I’m here with an update on life and kids and work and recording and kids. If there’s another post after this, I can add “parenting expert” to my bio, right?
What I’ve been thinking about: how life changes in an instant when my kids come home.
I’m in the process of making a transition (if my bank account will allow) from Touring-Sideman Dad to Recording-SoloPerformer-Stay-at-Home Dad for the next few months. I won’t lie: I haven’t missed too much about touring. Sure, Albany, New York and Dayton, Ohio are beautiful at this time of year — but so is my half-acre “sub-suburban” 1950s bungalow.
And the hammock out back. And the basement studio where I spend most days between 9:30 a.m. and 3:50 p.m.
9:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m: This is the window during which I get everything sorted and reset and actually get some work done. On the days I’m not recording, I typically listen to the CBC until about noon and WNYC from noon to 3:00 p.m. And, let me be honest here: I take naps. Some are short and some are long; some are on the couch and others in the hammock. I’ve recently begun taking antidepressant/OCD medication to address a long-rumbling but recently-blossoming brain warp I’d been noticing. So there are many days that I record all day, and after the kids have gone to sleep I get right back at it until late in the evening. But I am a proud supporter of the daily siesta. It’s key to how I survive what I call the “witching hour” of the parenting day. More specifically: the hours between bus and bed.
The moment my older daughter gets off the bus is a telling one. Many days I’m greeted with a hug and a smile, but just as often it’s followed by her tossing her backpack into the ditch and demanding a snack — or to be carried all the way home. My partner Lisa runs the Manx Pub in Ottawa, and she is much more demanding of “please” and “thank you” from our kids, all hours of the day. Me, I suss out the situation on any given day and accept politeness in tone vs. getting into a manners-related Cold War.
So after Beatrice gets off the bus, the next thing that happens is that we head out in our donated 2002 Honda Civic to retrieve her one-year-old sister Ursula. Lately at least, Ursula seems to want to spend the rest of the day until bedtime in my arms. I don’t need to explain to you how four-year-old Beatrice reacts to this partisan activity.
Dinnertime is a little like walking from the batters circle, and to keep with the baseball cliché for a moment, I spent a certain amount of time throwing balls and looking to the bullpen window for the sounds of mama. However – and don’t you dare tell Lisa this – dinner is often easier when I’m on my own. Let’s be frank: little kids like their mamas and crave her attention. She brought them into the world, and even though I made the iTunes playlist for that event (and even feebly tried to put on an LP mid-labour) I’m the happy leader of the B-team. My friend Jenny tells me that kids are much harder on their moms because they have that life connection.
At dinner, I often have it easier. My level of experimentation ranges from trying to new things and failing, to just sticking to the routine and getting in and out of dinnertime with minimal meltdown. And here is a truth you might relate to: there are some days – I wouldn’t say many – when the clock hits 6:00 p.m. and I’m excited to get my kids to bed and hear the sound of silence. At the very least, the reduced decibel level once the younger one gets to bed.
Yes, I did say 6:00 p.m. We have decided that Ursula will go down at 6:30 and Bea at 7:15. How, you ask? Well, until they can actually tell time, they are at the mercy of their parents to announce the end of the day. We’re just going with it.
We also decided a long time ago that while are kid are amazing, so is a glass of wine and Mad Men – or an LP on the stereo. Or even – until today, when we cut the cord – a bad, bad Food Network show.
We have great kids. You probably have great kids. I like my kids more than yours though, because they’re mine and since you probably feel the same, I’ll leave it here.
I’ve spent enough years on stage to know it’s time to scan the audience to see if they’re looking at their watches. So long for now,
June 11, 11:20 a.m.
(Tired and prepping for a short nap before continuing with taxes)