The Reassuring Signs of Kneeholes
The dress code I’m expected to follow as a teacher is your standard, no fun, shirt and tie with nice pants and dress shoes. But if you catch me at home after work, you’re nearly guaranteed to find me in my after school uniform. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, I run upstairs and ditch the button-up shirt, the tie, and the pants and come racing down the steps in my dress socks, jeans, and undershirt.
Now I really feel like I’m home.
I coach after school for most of the year, so I usually get home around 5:00. If I’m not coaching, I get home a couple of hours sooner. Either way, I try to start making dinner as soon as I can. It’s what I’ve always done when I got home from work, but things changed a bit when we threw twins into the equation.
When I walk in the door now, I’m greeted by my wife, who has been with our babies all day. I’m reminded to wash my hands, rather than make myself a drink. She has never dumped the babies on me as soon as I walked in, she just wants me to pitch in before doing anything else that could wait a little while. When I tried to get dinner going, she told me that she could start dinner instead, while I sat with the kids. This was tough for me because I do the cooking in the house. I didn’t like the way she cut onions, or anything else she did, in terms of meal preparation, so this wasn’t an easy change to make.
After being at work all day, I suppose I should have had more of a desire to sit on the floor next those little babies, but I wanted to take care of dinner first. I love dinner. Doesn’t a delicious hot meal take precedence over everything else?
Like the other changes in my habits that I had to make when we had kids, this was not a quick fix. It was not an easy fix, either. Please don’t mess with my old habits.
Once our little boy and girl could sit up, then babble, then crawl, they became more like real people to me, and I realized that I wanted to sit on the floor with them, rather than start dinner immediately. I would even let Mom make dinner or pump in peace and quiet.
Before I knew it, I was racing to change into my after school uniform so I could meet the kids in the playroom to pick up from where we left off yesterday. Griffin was learning animal sounds like a champ, and I like to think it was all my doing. Our daughter, Scout, was the master at picking up any object, holding it to her ear, and saying something that sounded like “hello?”, obviously a skill she picked up from her mother.
I was more than just an observer of their playtime. I was an active participant, who happened to enjoy cleaning up behind them and restoring order to the playroom. I tried my hardest to stay off my phone, with the exception of sending especially cute photos of them to Mama in the other room. I was so excited when they grabbed books and sat in my lap for a story. When I found out they liked to build, or more accurately, knock down, wooden block towers, I would make them as quickly as they could destroy them.
Obviously, I was providing some prime entertainment. Much more than some stinking TV. I mean, I can be pretty engaging when I don’t mind making a fool of myself.
Before I knew it, I found rips in the knees of my jeans. I was pretty annoyed because I have like five pairs of identical jeans, just because I love them so much. They’re my go-to jeans and I wear them for all occasions.
I realized that the culprit for my ripped jeans was all that crawling around I’d been doing over the past year or so. Had I been sitting on the couch watching them play or watching them in front of the TV, I would have no holes in my jeans. But I probably wouldn’t have a son with an amazing sense of humor and a cheeky daughter with all kinds of silly mannerisms.
Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re doing things right as a dad.
I don’t receive a report card with a grade for my paternal instinct. There’s not a quarterly review of my performance, with detailed feedback and suggestions for improvement. It’s no one’s fault, but sometimes there’s a shortage of positive feedback. Sometimes our roles are diminished to the one who gets them riled up before bed or the one who would rather flip through the channels on TV, instead of flipping through the pages of a book with the kids. Often times, we’re only told what we need to do, after we don’t do it.
So listen up, dads: If your jeans are ripping, you’re doing something right. Keep it up!