In February of 2015, I unexpectedly found myself in a new role as stay-at-home-dad. After being in vocational ministry for over 10 years, I suddenly was left without the title “pastor” (more on that in a later post). My wife Leila works as a registered nurse in the oncology department at one of our local hospitals and during this season, she has become the primary financial provider for our family. As a husband and as a man, it stings to write that last sentence. I’ll be posting a follow-up blog on our roles as husbands and providers and how it has affected me during this season.
Nevertheless, I am home with my feisty two-year old baby girl and tender-hearted 4-year old boy almost every day of the week. My dad-friends are constantly asking what I do all day and how in the world I keep them entertained, especially in Portland, Oregon where it rains 9 months out of the year.
Here are four ways I manage to survive while mom is away:
Your Local Library
No. I don’t take my kids to the library to read books. Why? Because my kids are the ones playing “Hide-and-Go-Scream” throughout the place. I do, however, take my kids to the library in order to use the countless resources that they offer. As a tax payer, you are able to sign-up for a free library card, and in most cases, have access to a plethora of freebies. In my county, the libraries offer what is called a “cultural pass”. This pass allows you entry in to some of the city’s most kid-friendly places. I have taken my little ones to the zoo, the aquarium, the waterslides, the children’s museum and some garden that had flowers everywhere (wasn’t nearly as fun as the waterslides). Along with the cultural passes, most libraries offer free DVD rentals, children’s classes, and story times that can be a huge relief for dads who are home alone with the kids all day.
The Pet Store
If you miss out on the library’s cultural passes, or are too cheap to take your kids to the zoo, you may want to try hitting up your local pet store. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken my kids to the pet store and pretended it was the zoo.
I recently did a photoshoot for a mom that gave me this idea, and I have been indebted to her ever since. She suggested that I let the kids bounce around on an air mattress during the rainy days. I immediately went home and dug out some old deflated mattresses that I had stored in the garage. I blew them up and watched as my kids wore themselves out for hours. As an added bonus you can incorporate games with the air mattresses. I used a pool noodle to act as a ‘high-jump’ pole and let the kids see how high they could fly over it and onto the mattress.
I feel like as a dad I am constantly saying “no”. Or more accurately, “NO!”. It frustrates them, and at times, it even frustrates me how often that word comes out of my mouth. Sometimes I like to say “yes” to the crazy things, just to freak them out a little. As an example, the other day it was absolutely pouring rain non-stop (welcome to Oregon). I could tell the kids were getting restless while mom was away at work, so I decided to dress them up and take them on a walk. We went to the school behind our house and looked for the biggest muddy puddles we could find. For almost two hours I played with the kids as they got drenched in dirty water and covered in mud. I honestly haven’t seen them laugh like that in a long time.
Bottom Line (don't miss this!)
At the end of the day, what really keeps your kid’s entertained is your attention. You will be amazed at how much they will engage in something if you are there fully engaged with them. My little girl will count rocks quietly if I am there and present with her. My boy will sit in his room and play hot wheels if I am on my stomach racing with him. You don’t need to be super creative, but you do need to be super engaged.