A full summer with three boys. I’m going to have a drink.
– Mother overheard by PracticalDad on the first day of school
You’ll love them and you’re willing to die for them. But understand that the more time spent with them, the more likely that you’ll need a break from them.
Children are many things, but you don’t often hear the reality about them either. The large majority are born as egocentric narcissists and you are charged with the task of helping them grow into something better. It isn’t easy and it’s only been in the past several years that TV shows like Supernanny and Nanny911 have brought the lowlights of screaming, misbehaving children to the screen. Granted, these are culled from the worst for your viewing pleasure but there’s a truth in there that sitcoms and other shows don’t discuss. Raising children isn’t easy – they can be petulant and random, testing their boundaries on a daily basis – and even the best parents can lose their temper.
Which is why you should have a place of your own, a mancave. Even Superman had a Fortress of Solitude, a place to go when he tired of having to deal with another falling airplane or Lex Luthor for the umpteenth time. And it occasionally appears as though the kids are trying to push your buttons as frequently as Luthor did with Superman.
There was an article several years ago about the decline and coming demise of the average guy’s den. There were fewer and fewer guys with their own retreat rooms, places where they could go to get away from the noise and fracas. These places might look cruddy and dingy, but they reflected the inner guy. My father’s retreat was a dank basement workbench that smelled of smoke and discouraged childhood attendance. But with more men stepping up and pitching in, these retreats are fading as the guy sticks more closely to the main living area, decorated by the mate and strewn with the debris of childhood run amok. One of the few exceptions is Brian, the father of Youngest’s friend, who tells his son that he’ll be in the mancave watching sports on the big screen.
And with the slow demise of the den, the need for another refuge rises.
So what can you do when the kids have pressed you to the limit? How do you get a break?
- Banish them to their individual rooms for a period of time. Letting them stay together only asks for further trouble as they pick and annoy one another, further driving you to the breaking point. And don’t guilty about it since a temporary Dad’s time-out is infinitely better than the alternatives.
- Pop in a DVD acceptable to the kids and head to your room or some other place in the house. Electronics will usually keep them in thrall to the Pixel God long enough that you get the break you need.
- Schedule a regular time for a get-away from the kids. It can be a night that the mate or a sitter takes the kids while you pursue what interests you. Poker, pool, bowling or a good book.
- It’s counter-intuitive, but let them invite other kids over to play. Children don’t want to cannibalize playmates as much as siblings, so having someone else to hold their attention can buy you the time you need. Understand however, that you are now binding yourself to maintain control of your emotions and actions.
- Incorporate a regular time into the kids’ schedule for quiet, whether it’s listening to music, quiet play or reading/looking at stories. That’s why I truly miss the naps that the kids took daily.
So there are alternatives when you don’t have a mancave available like Brian. But I still gotta get me one of those.