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'Homedaddy rules'

Father of two says parents need to relax, enjoy their kids

Father of two says parents need to relax, enjoy their kids

November 28, 2003|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Picture this: You plan a picnic on the beach with your 3-year-old and her grandparents.

(I know it's winter, but think sand, salt water and waves.)

A storm is brewing, the wind is blowing, the temperature has dropped, but you still go to the beach.

After all, that was the plan.

On the way to the beach, your toddler decides that this was not a good plan. She screams, she throws a fit and begs to go back home.

You know the grandparents are watching your response. You don't want to be seen as a weak parent by giving in to your daughter's tantrum, but you know deep down that your daughter's right.

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This was a NOT a good idea.

What do you do?

Humorist and parenting author Todd Pinsky likes to share this story about his family's poorly timed picnic as an example of how parental pride and an unwillingness to change plans can get in the way of what's best for a family.

"I reached the point where I said, 'Let's go back to the house and have lunch in the living room,'" said Pinsky, author of "Homedaddy: Little White Lies and Other Tales From the Crib."

His relatives thought he was giving up control as a parent.

"You just let her run everything," they said.

He held his tongue but thought, "What kind of a person needs to score a public victory over a 3-year-old?"

Sometimes when a child misbehaves it is the parent's fault. With a little more planning, a little less rushing and a lot more flexibility, parents would have to face a lot fewer tantrums.

But too many times parents are overly concerned about their reputation, worried about what others will think of them, Pinsky said. They also often don't like to change "the plan."

It happens all the time at parks and other public places. A child falls while doing something he was told not to do. The parent runs over and says, "I told you not to do that!"

"What matters is the original plan that they had locked into their brain," Pinsky said.

An injury may translate into being late to the next appointment, or to requiring that you leave the park, mall, library before you had planned.

"It hasn't even sunk in yet that the child is hurt," Pinsky said.

When a parent responds this way, he's sending a message that "My plans are more important than your plans."

In conversation, Pinsky's more philosopher than comic, but his written word tickles the funny bone.

Here's an example of Pinsky's prose from his column "Pediatrician Expedition":

"There are many advantages to having a second baby, such as providing a companion for Alpha Child, doubling your mileage on toys and clothing, and knowing that your children will have a basic working knowledge of fisticuffs by the time they enter grammar school. The major downside is that you spend more time at the pediatrician's office."

When his wife, Julia, became pregnant with their first child, they thought they would be able to afford a nanny because they both were working. That was the first rude awakening the parents-to-be encountered. Since they couldn't afford a nanny and other day-care options didn't appeal to them, they decided one of them needed to stay home. Her income was higher than his, and since he wasn't thrilled with his job in television production, he decided to become the primary caregiver for their children.

His decision was applauded by other parents, and also provided lots of fodder for his writing career.

"All of a sudden, I was a hero," said Pinsky, whose parenting column has appeared in several newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News.

Because he wasn't fond of the terms "Mr. Mom" or "Stay-at-Home-Dad," he held a contest among readers to name his column. Homedaddy was the winner.

Pinsky lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., with his wife, Julia, and their two young daughters, Emma, 5 1/2, and Stella, who will be 3 in December.

He'd like parents to relax and enjoy their kids.

"The single rule of thumb is the more time spent directly with your children, the better," Pinsky said. "That doesn't mean driving them somewhere on vacation or letting them sit with you while you watch a ballgame. It's paying sincere attention to your child.

"Show them they are just as important as you think you are."

To read a sample of Pinsky's work or for more information on his book, check out his Web site at www.homedaddy.net.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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