Saturday, August 29, 2015

The 14 Comedies My Kids Need To Watch to "Get Me"

One cool thing about my kids growing up is that the older ones are finally ready to appreciate the finer things in life, like the many ridiculous and essential comedies that shaped their dad’s strange view of the world and sense of humor.  

Recently I sat down with my eldest for a movie night, after convincing her she just had to watch Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. It was touch and go. She laughed at first, but fell asleep halfway through, right about when Sir Robin’s minstrels meet their fate (Yay!). We tried again a few nights later, and she made it to the end. She professed to love it. I figured she was humoring her old man.
A few days later I cut myself slicing vegetables, and she told me it was just a flesh wound. I laughed and smiled deep within – while I bandaged my finger.
Finally, I had someone else in my house who knew the answer to the age old question: What is the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
I realized, watching that movie was about more than simple father-child bonding – it was showing her a bit of who I am and why, and it was adding her to a secret world of quotes and quips of which only my siblings and select friends are members.
It got me thinking about the many movies my kids need to watch to truly “get me” -- me, as in their dad. Not all of these movies are appropriate yet. But here’s the list, anyway. It’s likely a similar list to that of many other dads of my vintage:
1.       Monty Python’s Quest For the Holy Grail

2.       Monty Python’s Life Of Brian

3.       Airplane

4.       National Lampoon’s Vacation

5.       Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

6.       Steve Martin’s The Jerk

7.       The Three Amigos

When they’re a little older

8.       Sixteen Candles

9.       Naked Gun

10.       Blazing Saddles

11.       This is Spinal Tap (you knew it had to be 11)

12.       Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

13.       Mel Brooks: History of the World Part I

14.       Austin Powers

I’ve decided to make these movies a requirement of graduation from my house. So before any of them go off to college and out into the cruel and funny world, they have to watch all these fine films. Preferably with me. If not, they will be suspended over a pool of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. … Or, ill-tempered sea bass, depending on what’s available.

What comedies would make your list?



Monday, August 17, 2015

The Heartbreaking Good Fortune of Returning to Work

This is a note to all the husbands (and wives and partners) of a parent who spent a few years at home, working or just parenting, while looking after the kiddos, only to return to an office job once those children grew. Please support them. Because, it’s a heartbreaking transition returning to work.

I know, because I just did it. And it’s hard. Really hard.

Our family’s story is a bit unique, as everyone’s is, I guess. For the past five years, since just before our fourth child and only son was born, I’ve worked from home as a consultant, freelance writer and adjunct professor. The work went through ebbs and flows, making me extremely busy at times and not terribly busy other times. My wife’s work-from-home job (I know, two work-from-homers is not exactly normal) was far more structured, requiring her to be at her desk or on conference calls all the darn time. Meaning that, for the past five years, I’ve been the parent of record.

A random and typical photo of my kids,
representing the last five years -- and the future.
I’ve been the one in our house at home watching after the kids when they’re not at school, making bag lunches in the morning, grocery shopping in the afternoon, playing in the yard after school, and preparing dinner way too late, pretty much everything but the laundry – which is a whole other story -- and working as close to full-time as possible myself, fitting my career in on the fringes of life. When I wasn’t working or tending to kids, I was usually driving them places: to pre-school, to playdates, to parks, to day camp, to birthday parties, to soccer practice. If they had someplace to go, Dad’s was usually driving – sometimes while on a conference call of my own.

I remember one time pacing in the front parking lot of a Chuck-E-Cheese, on a particularly tense conference call, while one of my daughters, her friends and all the other parents in attendance partook in the festivities. They probably thought I was a jerk, but I was just trying to balance my career and my family. And, for the last five years, I’d been able to do that while mostly being at home. Not too far from my kids.

It wasn’t always that way.

During the first seven years of our child-rearing experiment (our oldest daughter was born 12 years ago) I was the part-time parent; A weekend warrior. I worked 40-, 50-, 60-hour weeks well away from home, and fit in the parenting around the fringes, usually seeing our growing number of kids during their awful bedtimes or on the weekends that always felt too short.

Back then, it was my wife who bore the primary parenting responsibility, while balancing work and family from her home office. She was the one who made all the tough transitions, from full-time worker, to maternity leave, to part-time worker, to maternity leave, to contract worker, etc.

The pain in her transitions is something I never thought of when I was the one working an office job full-time. I imagine, most working spouses of homebound parents likely don’t think about the transitions either. If anything, we’re a little jealous of the whole arrangement.

But I can tell you, the transitions are hard. It’s truly painful to go from a stay-at-home mom, or stay-at-home dad, or a work-at-home-parent back to a nine-to-fiver. It’s hard to think that your time at home with the little ones is really over. It’s hard to watch your little baby turn five, and know that those years went by in a blink. It’s hard to think that all those hours, days, months, and years, where you sat on park benches and on a practice sideline, begrudging being around your children all the dang time, that those times are now over. And you’re back at the water cooler. Commuting. Working all day. And living for weekends that are simply too short.

Here’s a confession: the morning that marked my return to the office routine, I sat down after my shower on the closed toilet in our bathroom, with a towel, a t-shirt, and a toothbrush, and I cried.

Me. A grown man. A grizzled veteran dad. I cried. Heck, I bawled. The end of this era hit me. My time at home was over.

I thought about that fact that some of my kids didn’t remember the days when I wasn’t around. And I knew some of them might not remember the days when I was.

Yep. I cried.

(By the way, If my current boss reads this part, I don’t want them to mistake that sadness for regret about this new job. In truth, I am grateful, both for the chance to work from home for the past five years and for the opportunity to return to the workplace.)

I know I am lucky. Lucky I have these wonderful kids and a wife who still professes to love me. Lucky to have a good job when so many others – moms and dads – struggle to get back into the workplace.

But I do regret that time has traveled past me so fast, that my children have grown so quickly, and that I can’t seem to slow this world down no matter what drastic steps I take to do so.

To everyone who is at home with the kids, parenting full-time or working from home, I say, find a way to appreciate what you do have: Time. Time with your kids. It is the most precious thing we have.

And, to everyone who lives with someone who made the sacrifice of staying home for the kids' formative years, only to return to the work routine, know that it is harder than it looks. So, support them. 

Many moms (and dads) who've done it already know this: but it is a heartbreaking good fortune, returning to work.
No parent should underestimate how hard and fortunate it is.

Like the article?  Here's others you may enjoy. Learning Lessons from a Little Boy, Tip of the Hat to Single Parents, and Thanks to My Backup, and New Year, Few Expectations.