I have five tax deductions, all boys. They are currently ages 9, 12, 13, 16 and 19. I still can’t believe I have a 19-year-old. If any of you need the right answer to a question, just ask him. He knows everything!
I once called my mom and shared with her how my son not only thinks he’s right all the time, but also tells me how I’m wrong all the time.
She replied, “You were exactly the same way at that age.”
I said, “What? Wrong again!”
Anyway, I have an amazing wife. Marrying Sarah was the best decision she’s ever made for me. Last week, she left for a three-day missions trip. I forget the name of the destination, but it had the word “spa” in it, so I’m not really certain what Sarah is working on. In the meantime, I’m at home with our five noisemakers.
How’s it going? Well, I’ll just say that the first night saw me taking the living room curtains out to the trash, and things haven’t improved much since. By the way, don’t ever let your 16-year-old spin around the room on one of those toy hoverboards while holding a bowl of Beef-A-Roni. You may lose a nice curtain, and perhaps a couch cushion if its already been flipped over from the last time you were in charge.
Anyway, as I got to the trash can, I met a neighbor who’d just become a dad. He was walking around the neighborhood aimlessly. We’re good friends so I said hello to him.
He said, “Hey Jim.”
“It’s Bob,” I replied.
OK, so we’re not great friends.
This new dad asked me how I handle five kids. He was shocked by all the crying, eating, pooping and spitting up. I asked if the baby did any of that stuff, too. He just glared.
“The smell, Bob!” he cried. “How do you get that smell out of the house?”
With five boys, I’ve had some experience getting smells out of the house. And that night out by my trash can got me thinking. Over the two decades of my parenting experience, I’ve been piling up plenty of wisdom and survival tactics. It’s time I pass on some tips for you new dads out there.
Keep expectations realistic
When babies first arrive, they are not pink and cuddly looking. They are goopy! Be prepared. My first son looked like a Veggie Tale character dipped in motor oil. Whatever you do, do not yell “It’s a . . . its a grub worm!” This is especially true if you’re recording the birth. The line will come back to haunt you at parties.
Babies bring with them smells, messes and noise. Be prepared for it all. Get plenty of sleep before the big day and invest in a sturdy trash can. You’ll be using it a lot.
Don’t rush mobility
Every parent seems to want to get their baby to be mobile as quick as possible — and then regrets it right away. Be patient. Don’t teach your little ones to crawl or walk too early.
It really is a blessing to set a kid down for a moment and know he’ll stay put. The second he starts crawling, the real parenting begins. So don’t rush to the next stage. Enjoy each stage of parenting, because they all have their own greatness.
There will soon come a time when your baby cries at 2:38 a.m. We had the rule that the first parent awake has to go check to make sure things are OK. Start snoring now, or learn to fake it, so when that magic call of the night comes, you’ll be convincing enough to persuade your better half to get out of bed.
No, not really. It’s better to talk with your wife and assign certain jobs — and nights for those jobs — to make those challenging parenting moments easier. Come up with a game plan based on your strengths and weaknesses. And be ready to improvise when the plans go awry. They will go awry.
Buy an extra washing machine
Babies, toddlers and young boys have the capacity to mess up every blanket, diaper, church outfit and delicate household item within a 30 foot radius. You will constantly be washing something. I was once holding my son Zander with one arm while putting clean clothes into a drawer with the other. He turned and puked into the drawer. In bowling terms, he got a turkey.
Babies and toddlers have about as much control of their bodies as I do with an Xbox controller. Stock up on patience, love and laundry detergent, knowing that messes will happen but are easily cleaned up.
Make Dad dinners great again
As your kids grow, nutrition is very important. When Mom is away on her missions trip and I’m in charge, it only takes three dinners of hot dogs before my boys start to complain. Have a plan in place when it’s time to switch it up. “Thursday Corn Dog Nights” have become a favorite in the Smiley household. And of course there’s the great blessing known as the Domino’s Pizza app. Don’t neglect the gifts God has given you.
I’ve discovered that having a week of meals planned out ahead of time removes a lot of the dinnertime stress. Create a little meal calendar, remembering the basics of healthy choices, and then write up a list and go shopping. It’s good to have a few backup meals in mind, too.
Remember your exit strategy
Good parenting means gradually preparing kids for the day they leave home for good. I’ve taught all my boys how to wash clothes and clean the dishes. And they can do it all at once since we have a large swimming pool.
I got this tip from my parents, who understood their job was to work themselves out of a job. When I got to college, I knew how to take care of myself. I knew what to eat, how to do laundry, change the oil in my car and many other basic life skills. What a blessing that was. After two months at college, I recognized that my parents had raised me right, and I would’ve thanked them if they would’ve told me where they moved after I left.
Give your children age-appropriate chores as they grow. Your goal is to make them independent, not dependent on you.
Enjoy the journey
Spend time with your kids. That’s what they really want. Play with them and make memories. We play kickball or baseball in our yard after school with neighborhood kids. Sadly, I’m the only adult out there. I watch other dads get home from their real jobs. They wave but never come over to play. So when I’m fetching our baseball, I’ll crawl through the window and over the broken glass, find the ball and then invite that dad to join us. (I won’t repeat their responses here.)
Spend time with your kids. Enjoy journeying through life with them, and you’ll pick up everything else along the way.
Now if you will excuse me, the hot dogs are ready.
Bob Smiley is a comedian, author and speaker.