Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stupid advice I get from college students and how I’d like to respond



I work at a university, and I get a lot of unsolicited advice from college students on how I could be healthier and happier as an adult. It all seems so easy to them, and outwardly, I am always gracious. But deep inside, I want to lay into them about what real life in your 30s with three kids is all about. Here are a few examples.

"All that diet soda is killing you. You’d be a lot happier if you quit."

Somewhere between having kids and buying a minivan, 7 a.m. became sleeping in. Want to know why I drink so much diet soda? Because I’m exhausted from getting up in the night with pukey, boogery, thirsty children. They fight going to bed each night, and get up far too early. They wake me up in the night with poop and pee in their pants. Last time we spoke, you bitched because you only got 7 hours of sleep. Boo hoo. I get that much sleep in two days. I. Need. Caffeine.

"An iPhone 4? You need to update yourself."

Kiss my ass! I don’t have money to spend on phone upgrades and I don’t have time to figure out SnapChat. I know that most of your money goes to looking awesome, staying connected with friends, and getting laid. Good for you. Happy for you. My money goes to paying for insurance, a house payment, and baby food. Sometimes we order pizza, but it’s usually the kind you can get for $5. Listen. Someday you will have to lower your standards. Someday you will realize that it’s been almost a decade since you bought a new album, and unless your clothing has holes in it, you just make it last. You will worry more about your kid and bills than making sure you have the newest phone. That’s adult life. That’s what making family sacrifices looks like. But for know, enjoy your latest’s toy. Keep yourself updated. But please, stop judging 30 something’s for not keeping up with your dumb ass priorities.

"If you cared about your body, you’d switched to an all-natural organic diet."

Here are the problems with your advice. My kids have a huge influence on what I eat, and they eat three things: Dinosaur shaped meat, Mac and Cheese, and the marshmallows from Lucky Charms. None of that is natural or organic. I’ve tried everything short of prying open my kids mouths and shoving good food in. Last time I tried to give my son a burrito, he gave it a terrified look, as if the burrito were a long dark cave… And do you know how much organic and natural food costs? I don’t have money for plants that people cared about. I work in education. I have money for GMO’s. I have money for mass produced food. You know what, you are probably right. But honestly, my nutrition isn’t that big of a deal right now. I’m worried about making ends meet and not listening to my kids bitch every single meal because they don’t like the food.

"You always have white stains on your clothes. Don’t you care about the way you look?"

I always start the day in clean, stain free clothing. But then kids puke on me. Or they wipe boogers on my jeans. Deal with it.

"You should spend more time doing things you enjoy. Stop being a slave to your kids."


My kids are my life. I am not a slave to them. This is a labor of love. I want them in my life. I want them to be happy and successful, and for that to happen, I have to put a lot of things aside. I don’t mind, honestly, because they are worth it.

Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sometimes meltdowns make me feel like a parenting failure



My five-year-old Norah was tasked with cleaning the dinner table. Instead she locked herself in the bathroom and played with the faucet. Once I found her in there, she told me she had a cut on her toe, and she needed to look at it.

“Why is the water on and the door locked,” I asked.

She didn’t answer, so I asked again, and she told me to go away.

She’d had her face painted like a pink and green cat earlier that day while at the farmer’s market, and ever since, she’d been crawling around on all fours, pretending to be a cat. I was sure she was in the bathroom looking at herself in the mirror, probably licking water from the sink.

This was her way of avoiding chores. She did shit like this all the time. I tell her to clean her room, and she hides in her toy box, or she tells me how hungry she is, or that she has a tummy ache, or she simply wanders off, into some room with a lock on the door. I feel this deep urgency to teach my daughter how to pitch in. There are a few reasons for this. One being I want her to take responsibility. I want her to know what it means to get work done. However, living in a small house, in a suburb, makes that challenging.

I was raised on a farm. There was always work to do. Work that took long hours in the hot Utah sun. However, that really isn’t the case with my kids. I don’t have cattle to feed, or fences to mend. I have a messy table and a messy living room and pee on my toilet. All of it needs to be taken care of, but it isn’t clearly needed for survival. A cow will not go hungry if my daughter doesn’t clear the table. When I was a farm kid, I could see that if something didn’t get done, the family might suffer. What I’m trying to say is, it’s difficult to teach my daughter work ethic and responsibility by asking her to clean up a few things around the house that probably seem arbitrary. But it’s all I have, so I make a big deal out of really stupid shit… like clearing the table.

Once I finally got Norah out of the bathroom, she took her sweet time cleaning. Then she insisted on having music because it “Makes her work faster,” something I didn’t know was possible. She seems to have two gears. Slow and lost. Once I got her the iPad so she could listen, she spent a significant amount of the time making sure the song playing was “cute.”

After 30 minutes of reminding her to get to work, I set a timer.

“You have 10 minutes to finish that table. If it’s not done by the time this sucker beeps, I am going to take away your play dresses.”

She gave me a blank look that almost seemed comical because of her cat face paint.
“Doesn’t that bother you?” I said. “You don’t seem to be working any faster.”

Norah place on hand on her hip and said, “It bothers me. But I’m not going to show you that because I don’t want you to know.” She raised her eyebrows.

It’s these little glimpses into teen life that makes me realize that my daughter is going to be a huge pain in the ass. I have no idea how to fix that.

“You are going to really show me that you care when that timer goes off and the table isn’t done.”

Once again, a blank stare.

She kept meandering, and part of me wanted to reminder her. I wanted to nag her. I wanted to make sure she got the table done because I hate punishing her. I hate it more than anything. I want her to do the right thing without me having to be the enforcer. I just want to tell me kids what to do, and have them do it. Show up, do your chores, and then play games. It’s not that hard. But that isn’t the case. Kids fight every step of everything for very stupid and petty reasons. Why clean up the table and help out the family, when you can dick around the bathroom sink for no reason? Why do what your parents ask the first time, when you can drag your feet until they are flaming pissed and start yelling? Everything is about testing boundaries.

Punishment has to be one of the crappiest parts of being a parent.

“That’s the timer,” I said.  “You’re not done.”

I walked into Norah’s room, and she chased after me saying, “Just don’t take my night dresses.”

Norah has a lot of dresses. Some of them light up, some of them have sparkles and fluffy curly things that I don’t understand. Those are just for play. Then there are her nightgowns that look like princess play dresses. She sleeps in one almost every night, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, those nightgowns were very important to her. I thought about the snarky thing she said earlier about not wanting me to know that my punishment bothered her. And as petty as it sounds, I wanted to know that my punishment was having an impact, so I took the nightgowns.

And once I had them in my hand, she started to cry. She clung to my leg, tears smearing her painted whiskers, asking me to give her princess nightgowns back.

I looked down at her crying, holding the dresses up and out of her reach, and I felt like an asshole.  There is something about making a little girl cry that is so punishing to a parent. But I stuck to my guns, and once Norah realized that I wasn’t going to budge, she ran into her room and slammed the door.

I sat out in the living room for a while. I told myself it was to make sure Norah calmed down, but it was really to let myself calm down. I took time to think about what I was doing, and wonder if all of this was worth it. I felt like the bad guy. I always do in situations like this. I wonder if I am taking things too far. Was a messy table worth making my daughter cry? I didn’t know. In the long run, I just wanted her to be the kind of person that could do what is asked of her, quickly, and without complaint, because that is a hug part of being successful in life.  I know that. But I struggle with how to teach it to my daughter.

I went into her room, ready to give her a very fatherly and rewarding talk, but once I looked at her smeared face paint, and watery eyes, I didn’t know what to say. So I asked her a question that I hated when I was a child. “Do you know why I sent you to your room?”

“Because I didn’t clean the table,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I sent you to your room for not listening to me. I want you so badly to understand how to do things that are asked of you because it’s a big deal later in life. It’s crazy, Norah. Little things become big things. And something little, like not cleaning the table when you are asked, can lead to not doing big things that your boss asks you when you grow up and get a job. I don’t know if all this means anything to you right now, but it will someday. I want you to become something amazing because I know that you can. Do you get what I’m saying?”

Norah let out a deep breath and said, “Yes, dad! Can I just go to bed now?”

Then she rolled her eyes, so I wiped the paint off her face, and put her to bed.

I went to bed frustrated, knowing that I would have to have this same fight again. And I would struggle to explain this simple rule of life, do what you are asked, to my daughter again. I will struggle with how to say it. And she will probably still not get it. This cycle will continue, because so much of parenting is about repetition. I just hope that someday, she gets it.


Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.   
  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Parenting is a nasty job




I was sitting on the lip of my son’s bed, tucking him in, when I heard my wife scream. I could tell from the pitch, that she wasn’t scared, but rather grossed out. Parents say they can tell if a child is really hurt or just faking it by the way they cry. Well… after being married to my wife for nearly 11 years, I can tell when she is screaming because of a spider, or when she thinks she’s heard an intruder, or when… say… our one-year-old pukes all over her. Sadly, this scream was the latter.

I walked into the living room to find my beautiful wife spackled with toddler puke. Aspen, the one-year-old, was crying, puke down her striped elephant pajamas. It was on the glider, and the carpet, and suddenly I was struck with fear. I know that I should have felt sorry for my wife. I should have felt compassion for her situation. And part of me, I’m sure did feel that way. But that was not the emotion that rose to the top. What really freaked me out was the fact that I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to have to clean up the puke.

I know what you are thinking, “Stop bitching, Clint. You didn’t get puked on.” And I know… I get it. I don’t expect your sympathy. But what I will say is that there are certain things that turn a person’s stomach. For me… it’s puke. Cleaning up puke makes me puke. In fact, just writing this essay is making me a little ill. Usually, when the kids puke, Mel handles it because she knows that I will just end up puking. At first, this was a source of tension in our marriage. She saw it as me passing the buck. We had to have a few long discussions about what it means for me to clean up puke. How I gag, and get watery-eyed. I can’t handle it.

But with it being late, nearly 10 p.m., and Mel and the baby soiled, I knew I’d have to step it up or never get to bed.

So much of parenting comes down to stepping it up. It comes down to swallowing your bile during a messy incident. It means being faced with something really gross, and having to clean it up, without complaint. No one is going to clean it up for you. And as Mel took the baby into the laundry room to strip her down, I looked at the puke dripping down the chair, into the crevices, and onto the carpet, and gathered my strength.

I got out our Bissell spot cleaner, filled it with water and cleanser, and took a deep breath. I was about to start when I turned around to see Mel standing in the kitchen, naked, holding a naked toddler. “I’m getting in the tub with Aspen. Thanks for handling this. Try not to puke.”

She was naked, so I felt obligated to be confident. I winked. “I got this,” I said. But in reality, I was scared.

“Yeah…” she said, suspiciously. “If you puke, don’t puke on the chair.”

She went into the bathroom, and I started cleaning.

I was surprised by how much there was. I was surprised by how much of it ended up falling between the cushion and the armrest, and how difficult it was to clean. I was grateful that the chair was microfiber, because it made things come up easier. And in all this, I didn’t gag once. I went into some paternal mindset. I looked at the whole situations as a duty, a job, a responsibility. There was some switch that flipped in my head. I was able to make it happen, somehow. And by the time it was all said and done, and the puke was clean, and towels were down in the chair, I felt like I’d turned some corner in my parenting. I felt like I’d discovered some inner strength, a super power perhaps, that made it possible for me, to finally, clean up puke.

I didn’t know if it was because of my strong sense of duty to my family and children that I was able to overcome the one thing about parenting, kid puke, that I couldn’t stomach, or if it was because I’d become so war hardened to gross kid situations, that I no longer had a problem with puke, but what I do know is that I felt like I’d really overcome a deep fear. I was handling something that I always avoided without issue. And the funny thing is, I had no idea that being able to handle kid puke without getting sick to my stomach would make me feel empowered as a parent.

I was emptying the spot cleaner in the toilet when Mel came in, her hair wet, holding Aspen.

“Did you puke?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “I was, surprisingly, fine.”

She gave me a high five. I thought about the irony of sharing a high five over cleaning kid puke. But at the time, it seemed warranted. It felt like a real accomplishment. Like I’d conquered some demon.


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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.   
   



Friday, June 26, 2015

10 Crazy things I’ve said to my toddler



I have a one-year-old daughter named Aspen. She is sweet and wonderful, but the funny thing about a toddler is they tend to do some really odd things. Sometimes I feel like she’s a car without a steering wheel and a brick on the gas pedal. I have to always keep one eye on the little stinker, and I’ve ended up saying some really crazy things while caring for her. Here are a few examples.

“Get your lollipop off of the toilet!”

“Stop laughing at me while I’m naked.”

“Ugh! Get the plunger out of your mouth.”

“Pooping in the tub isn’t cool, okay? Not cool.”

“Stop biting me! You’re like an animal!”

“Where are your socks? WHERE ARE YOUR SOCKS!!!???”

“If you don’t stop sticking your hand in your poop, I swear I’ll abandon you in the woods.”

“Listen. I love you. But pulling my pants down at Wal-Mart isn’t okay.”

“Sit down! You are going to fall out of the cart and bust your head open and everyone will blame me!”


“You are really lucky that I like you. Now take a nap.”


Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America,The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post,Scary MommyThe Good Men ProjectFast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.