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Several weeks, a few dozen photos and four thousand words later, we’ve finally made it—the Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad 2017 wrap-up, filled with stories aplenty of 365 days spent in my not-so-orthodox life.
After wrapping the year up on a quiet note (because two sick children under five will do that to you), I still felt it necessary to do this. These year-to-year changeovers offer a lot of perspective for me—with so much happening all the time, I often forget what I had for breakfast, so I write everything down. And if the height of the pile on my desk is any sign, 2017 was quite the year. But it’s also the time where I’m the most transparent, looking back objectively at everything I’ve done and celebrating successes, owning up to failures, hoping all the while that I’m somehow growing from the process.
But yeah—let’s do this as we did in 2016: look at the year in excruciating detail, figuring out what’s worth taking with me into 2018 versus what just don’t feel part of my world anymore.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me present—the 31 things I did well in 2017! Let’s get it!
I didn’t know it then, but before my eldest started junior kindergarten this September, life was simple. Taking an extra eight months away from the office after her mat leave to be with the boys (and because two kids in Toronto daycare is really expensive), Sarah took the boys on various adventures as they grew. I mean, it obviously wasn’t perfect—I’m not entirely sure how Sarah finished those twenty months with her sanity intact—but for the most part, we were in control. We taught them what we wanted, chose what stimuli affected them, and saw them grow in the world we created for them.
But what we hadn’t considered was a new factor just over the horizon—something we couldn’t control that’d affect our son in entirely new ways.
I love reading. I’ve always been reading. As long as I can remember I’ve been reading! My penchant for stories defined me from my earliest days—I devoured tales faster than my Mom could get ’em from the Mississauga Library! I don’t even know what my life would look like if it weren’t for reading—it’s part of just about everything I do. Business case writing. Blogging. Even the spelling bees I’d win when I was eight. Reading’s proved essential to my growth, and I have no plans for my children to do without it, either.
But I should count us lucky. There’re thousands of Canadian kids growing up without a reading culture in their lives. And I get it—parents are too busy. Too tired. And it definitely doesn’t help that thousands of Canadian children don’t even have a book in their homes! Reading’s key to unlocking a child’s potential—if you rob them of reading, who knows what opportunities they’ll miss?
Knowing it’s far better to be part of the solution since being part of the problem hurts us all, McDonald’s Canada introduced an excellent way to get books into the hands of children who might not have them otherwise!
When diono dropped a line to gauge my interest in reviewing the diono radian rXT and the related products, I didn’t quite know how I’d approach it.
See, the car seat is the natural nemesis of the new parent. The straps are never tight enough, babies never enjoy being in them as long as you need, and installing them requires strength paralleled only by world-class weightlifters. You never get it quite right on the first try and forever find yourself adjusting ’til your kids outgrow them.
But they’re necessary!
Sure, we somehow survived an era where simply shoving your kids into the back seat was an acceptable practice, but we’re also the same species who once smoked cigarettes in delivery rooms. And treated blood disorders with leeches. Heck, we once thought sugary soda was the key to losing weight. Just because we often do things one way doesn’t mean we can’t do it better, so we must continually expect more from the things we use, and yes—that means our car seats too.
I’ll look back at this in the future and laugh, but I have a stubborn toddler refusing to do away with diapers. We’ve tried it all—using a sticker chart to reward every #2; promising every Paw Patrol toy under the sun if only he’d learn to use the toilet… even jealousy by putting his baby brother on the potty for some elimination communication, but nothing’s quite stuck.
But we can’t just give up—diapers aren’t a good look for kindergarten kids, so we’ve got just under a year to help him say the magic words:
“I’m ready for underwear!”
See, the transition from infancy to childhood need not be so difficult—parenting in 2016 offers so many options, and Pampers takes full advantage of this with their brand-new Easy Ups training pants—the better way to underwear!
What’s struck me so far as I write these year-end wrap-ups is that I’m dealing with the list of a maniac. At 100 items, that’s 3.65 days to get each item done, or 8,760 hours.
But if I sleep 6 hours a night, that’s suddenly 6,570 hours.
And with a 40-hour work week (not including my 3 weeks of vacation), that brings us down to 4,610.
Put in a couple of hours per day to eat, shower and other essentials and you’re suddenly down to 3,880 hours, or a mere 161 days worth of time (or perhaps, a mere 8 hours per weekday, with the hope that the weekends don’t find themselves suddenly overloaded) to do 100 things. And that’s, of course, on top of going out with friends, being a good family man, and perhaps finding time to do things that were never on the list in the first place.
Unless you’ve somehow bought yourself the luxury of unlimited time, a list of 100 goals is best achieved when attainable. You can’t be everywhere at once or do everything at once — sometimes we need humility and a reminder that there’s simply only one of us!
It’s what we do with that one that makes all the difference.
So let’s chalk this up to a learning experience. Let’s figure out what really matters, what’d be nice to do, and what’d be inane to expect with a wife and kid at home, needing me to play my role as a father.
The Dad is the unsung hero of parenting, and it’s easy to see why. They don’t grow babies inside of them for 40 weeks. They don’t breastfeed or have the same degree of parental instinct as mothers do. In many parenting situations I’ve seen, the role of the Dad is ambiguous. Secondary to the mother. Perhaps a pale shadow of motherhood, expected to do her same function, but perhaps with a slightly masculine twist to it.
Our memories are shorter now than they’ve ever been (thanks, technology!) — there’s a lot about my Dad I remember from my later years, but much of my childhood is a blur. And in a family with both parents working to make ends meet, what I do remember is lots of time in my Grandma’s basement, watching TV or horsing around with my brother until my parents come home to resume the parental segment of their lives, tired or not.
I have a wealth of social cues on what it means to be a Dad — so then, why do I feel woefully unqualified to carry it out?
Ask anyone I know, and they’ll tell you that at times I’m totally an overgrown kid. I let my imagination run away with me, I rarely let myself by limited by the concerns that most adults focus on, and believe that life isn’t worth living if it isn’t kept interesting. It’s hard to get me to sit still if you haven’t given me a task to focus on, and I rather do things until I’m totally wiped out than waste a single moment sleeping.
I don’t wanna grow up — but we don’t stay young forever.
With a congregation of about 150-200. Black, White, young, old, rich, poor — we cover multiple spectra.
Every year, we go up to the Muskoka, ON area for a church retreat — a weekend dedicated to worship, togetherness, and maybe most important — rest.
I’ve been 4 or 5 times now, and while I’ve enjoyed it every time, I don’t know whether “restful” is something I’d call it from my experience.
But that could have something to do with my unexpected role as a makeshift babysitter for the church.
Misadventures in Makeshift Babysitting
It’s been going on for too long to remember when it started, but for some years now, I’ve served the role of an unofficial mascot for the kids at church. While I’m not ready to have kids of my own (though to hear most fathers tell it, who ever is?), I have a huge soft spot for kids. If a child in a stroller waves at me or says “Hi”, I go into instant smiley-face happy mode and do the same back.
Oh God. I’m channelling my mother. Ugh!
Anyway, for the reasons I stated at the beginning, children seem drawn to me. I play their games. I speak to them like equals and not dismiss their ideas. I never underestimate them, as kids are capable of more than you could imagine. And so, out of just about anyone in the church, I’m the one they flock to after the Sunday services.
But after an hour of being chased and pulled around the sanctuary; poked prodded and jumped on; and generally fulfilling my role as a walking, talking jungle gym — I’m exhausted.
There’s another guy who helps out — here’s 14 or 15, and I wish I had his energy. But here I am in a body that’s been well-used these past few decades, and I’ll admit — it needs its rest!
But if I’m in need of a nap after an hour… imagine how I’d be after a weekend???
A Time For Rest
Apparently, I haven’t quite grasped the meaning of the word “retreat” yet.
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3. a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy: The library was his retreat.
5. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.
Thinking about my retreat experience and the fact that I’m horrible at finding rest leads me to a question — when’s the last time you had some time to yourself?
I mean really had some time to yourself — spent some time being by yourself and doing what you want to do with your time?
I’d bet that few of us get the opportunity. So many of our lives get filled with so many responsibilities, questions, worries, woes and other such complications that we get very little time to do what we want to do.
That’s part of what I think retreats are for, but somewhere along the line I forget this and keep doing what I always do. Play the role of the jungle gym. Stay up late having conversations with just about everybody. Essentially, do anything but rest.
I Know This is Supposed to Teach Me Something…
There’s a lesson here to learn. One might be that maybe I am ready to have kids and I just don’t know it. Maybe it’s that life is about balance and we aren’t forced to take on every role that’s thrust forward at us. But for me, I think the most important lesson is probably this:
It’s okay to rest. Go get some.
How about you, readers? Are you overachievers? Do you have kids and knew when you were ready to have some? Think I’m totally off-base? Drop a comment. Let me know. And I’ll let you know if I think you’re wrong 😉
Until next time,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands: