Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

You’re Not In It Alone: A Message to Single Parents

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Regular readers of this blog may well know, I raised my son John as a single father. While the memories I have of our time together while he was growing up are special, I know there were as many difficult times as there were wonderful ones.

An article about Kate Middleton, British royalty and mother of (soon-to-be) three, came out on SimpleMost the other day, where she shares this thought on parenting.

“As a mother, just getting used to leaving my own child at the school gates, it is clear to me that it takes a whole community to help raise a child. Whether we are school leavers, teachers, support staff or parents we are all in this together.”  (more…)

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Wackiest Father’s Day Cards!

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With another Father’s Day come and gone (the one day we can get away with just about anything!) I scoured the Internet to find some of the funniest cards families gifted their fathers to say thanks. And boy, did some of them get creative!

“Dad, I thought I’d give you this card in lieu of an awkward hug. You’re welcome.”

awkward-hug

“As far as Dad’s go, I could’ve done a lot worse.”

Card

“Dad, without me today is just another day. You’re welcome.”

youre-welcome

“Happy Father’s Day! I got you a present, but if you want to get technical…technically you bought you a present. By the way, can I borrow $20?”

Card2

“Dad (crossed out Mom), you’ve always been my favorite.”

always-been-my-favorite-fathers-day-card

Did you get a funny Father’s Day card or gift this year? Let me know in the comments below!

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Fathers, You Don’t Play a Role in Your Child’s Life: You Play Many

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Parenting

For much of our history, the roles of a father and mother were clearly defined. The father earns income, provides stability, is the protector of the home and people in it. The mother is the caretaker, the loving parent with a home to run. But those roles have been changing for quite a few years now, and we are now at a pivotal point where both fathers and mothers can choose the kind of roles they feel best suits them as parents, and fathers can be much more involved in the raising of their children than they were expected to be in years passed.

In fact, studies have revealed they should be much more involved with their children. A review of multiple studies found that kids who grew up spending time with their fathers were less likely to have behavioral and psychological problems. They were also more likely to be independent, intelligent and have improved social awareness.

So fathers, being in your child’s life as more than a provider and protector, but also as a loving parent can actually improve their life all around! An LA Times article also concluded that “researchers found that the chances of teen pregnancy and other early sexual experiences were lower for daughters who spent more quality time with their dads.” Dads, I think we can all agree that is good news.

This is all good news, actually, considering the fact that more than 200,000 homes in the US have stay-at-home dads, and there are 1.9 million single fathers in the country. Often, it is a concern that a father won’t be able to fulfill a mother’s role, but these studies show that there really is no such thing as a “role” that either parent plays, and children will benefit from having the role filled, regardless of whether a mother or father is filling it.

So what can we do as parents? We can figure out our strengths. We can spend time playing and loving our children as they grow up. We can fill every role there is, and we can fill them whether or not our partner already is filling them. Both partners can be providers. Both can be caretakers.

Be open-minded toward your approach to parenting, and your child will reap the benefits.

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Your Kid Did What? 4 Reasons Parents Make the Best Writers

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It seems as though in the last decade the number of parent bloggers has skyrocketed, and for good reason. Who doesn’t have a great story of their kid to share, or advice to up-and-coming parents who don’t fully comprehend the craziness, joy, and exhaustion being a parent can bring? And apart from the blog world, there are plenty of parent-turned-authors out there as well (including me!). If you’re a parent who has ever thought about picking up that pen, here are 4 reasons I think you should go for it.

You have a lifetime (and your child’s lifetime) worth of unique experiences to share: Some people don’t want to start their blog or write their book because they think it’s all been said before. But that is not true. Every child says a different funny thing, every person’s background and family life and thoughts are unique to them, and make for a unique story to be told. If you write honestly about your own experiences, you won’t be copying anyone by writing them down.

Writing can be a great way to document your child’s youth: There is so much writing can help you remember about your life than a photograph can. You’ll be able to look back on all sorts of fun memories you and your child share, and they will be able to someday read what you wrote and remember their childhood!

You can see the world through a new (younger) set of eyes: Writing from a child’s perspective can be one of the best things for a parent to do. You’ll have to work that much harder to understand their emotions and thoughts, making you more empathetic as a parent. Whether you’re writing a novel from a child’s P.O.V. or a blog post from their eyes, taking the time to put yourself in their shoes will make you a better writer and parent.

You can share the experience with your child: Basically, it’s another opportunity to bond! Coming up with blog posts together, like an arts & craft DIY or a book review will give you and your child a creative outlet to connect with, and will help them grow their own writing and creative skills. For me, writing my book was all a collaboration with my son, since the main character is one we came up with together when telling bedtime stories. A family who creates together, stays together!

Do you have a parenting blog, or a book you wrote that stemmed out of your parenting experience? Leave the name in the comments below, and we can all share each other’s experiences!

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My Journey from Single Father to Author

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I’m so excited to share with you this week an article I wrote for the Good Men Project! This was my first time writing for them, and I hope to have many more articles to share in the future. Let me know what you think of this one either in the comments, or over on the Good Men Project comments.

Looking forward to hearing from some of you guys. Enjoy!

Post originally appeared on goodmenproject.com here

When my son John was born, I didn’t expect to become a stay-at-home father. I didn’t know any other dads who stayed at home to take care of their kids most of the time. I didn’t grow up with a stay-at-home father, and the concept of being a man who changed his job description from a solid 9-5 to being a single homemaker was not something I ever envisioned.

But then John came around, my wife and I soon divorced, and there I was with full-custody of a young boy who needed someone to stay home and look after him. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just entered the greatest time of my life.

As a stay-at-home father, I felt like two different people. Half of the time I spent with John I felt like a kid again. John and I did everything together, went everywhere together, and were about as inseparable as any two friends can be. During the summers we drove through forty-eight states and five Canadian provinces.  We participated in all kinds of father-son activities: little league football, basketball, and baseball, as well as boxing, golf, boating, camping . . . the sky was the limit, and I loved seeing the smile on that boy’s face when he got lost in doing something he loved.

John got his first puppy, a St. Bernard he named Henry, and we loved him so much that I began breeding St. Bernards. Most of the memories I have of John’s youth are of our adventures, his laughter, and the feeling that I was getting to experience life through a child’s eyes for a second time. But the reality of being a stay-at-home father and raising a child by myself wasn’t always idyllic.

There was the time I arrived to pick him up at the movies when he was ten, and the theatre he had gone in was dark and deserted. He was nowhere to be found. When I finally got hold of security, we turned the lights on and found him sunk down in one of the seats, asleep and quite unaware of the panic he had caused.

There was the time when his kindergarten French teacher told me John probably had a learning disability because he was having trouble in her class. Now he speaks ten languages and has an M.A. from Edinburgh University with honors in Russian and German—and wouldn’t I love to tell all this to that teacher!

There were the six years of piano lessons that were like ripping out my fingernails just to get him to practice, until we finally threw in the towel.

There was trying to be both mother and father, parent and friend, teacher and student. I had no examples to follow, no comrade to turn to on the hard days, no office to escape to when watching Sesame Street for the hundredth time made me think I might actually be going crazy.

But those hard days are nothing compared to the good stuff.

Sitting side-by-side on cross-country trips, lots of sports honors, tons of academic awards, a year in Germany and learning German, but best of all, reading stories at night before John went to sleep. In fact, being a stay-at-home father led me to my current occupation as a children’s book author.

Night-Buddies-Go-Sky-HighIt was essential to me that John be exposed to literature and the pleasure of reading from Day One, so I stocked up on children’s stories, from Grimm, Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, and Roald Dahl, eventually to the likes of Dickens and Victor Hugo. But one night when he was about seven, I suggested that he ought to create his own bedtime companion to keep him company while he slept—from there, the main character of my children’s series, Night Buddies, was created.

Many nights John and I made up stories involving him and this bedtime companion, a red crocodile named Crosley, until Crosley became another member of our little family. John always held onto his love for reading, and when he grew up and started traveling the world, creating new adventures for himself, I turned my memories of the little guy I once looked after, and his goofy buddy Crosley, into a book series that I would be able to hold in my hands. Because in all honesty, being a stay-at-home father was the best job I’ve ever had—I don’t want to forget a thing about it. And given the chance, I would do it all over again.

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It’s Okay to Ask for Help as a Single Parent

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Parenting

There’s this secret a lot of single parents hold inside of them. A secret they think sometimes they might be judged for, that society would look down on them for, that their children won’t forgive them for. It’s a secret I used to hold inside of me while I was raising my son, by myself for the most part. It’s a secret with consequences I am going to reveal as myths, right here, right now.

The secret is that sometimes as a single parent you just need help.

I don’t know at what point in time parenting started to be thought of as a one-man job. Moms parent, dads go to work; dads parent, moms go to work; if you’re a single parent, you somehow work and parent and figure out how to do that all on your own. But you chose to be a parent, which means you must be prepared to go at it by yourself, right?

Wrong. Why is it acceptable for you to have an assistant or intern at your job, but bringing in a babysitter or live-in nanny means you just aren’t parenting well enough? Society might be more accepting of this way of parenting now, but it still doesn’t erase the guilt I know many of us feel—the guilt that we aren’t giving our children our all, or that we are somehow failing by reaching a point where we have to ask for the help we know we need. That guilt is a tricky little sucker who carries the weight of “unworthy” on his shoulders and plants it in our brains.

I am unworthy of help because I volunteered to be a father. I am unworthy of help because I can work from home. I am unworthy of help because my child needs me to be there. These are all sentences I have told myself before. These are all sentences that hold no truth.

It is okay to accept help as a single parent. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t there for your child, or that you aren’t parenting well enough. Sometimes it actually means you are parenting better, because with help, nothing slips through the cracks of your son’s or daughter’s childhood. They will always have the help and support they need, always have someone taking care of them, and not your half-attention when you’re trying to work and earn a living to support your family and raise them at the same time.

Throw away your guilt when you enlist family, friends, or professionals to help your raise your children. It takes a village to raise a person to be their absolute best, and you’re doing the best you can.

Have you ever felt the guilt of asking for help as a single parent? Share your story with me in the comments!

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My Journey as a Stay-at-Home Father

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2551102678_6d67d15547_o

When my son, John, was born, I didn’t embark to be a stay-at-home father. I didn’t know any other dads who stayed at home to take care of their kids full-time, I didn’t grow up with a stay-at-home father, and the concept of being a man who changed his job description from a solid 9-5 to being a full-time homemaker was not something I ever envisioned. But then John came around, my wife and I soon divorced, and there I was with full-custody of a young boy who needed someone to stay home and look after him. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just entered some of the greatest years of my life.

As a stay-at-home father, I felt like two different people. Half of the time I spent with John I felt like a kid again myself. John and I did everything together, went everywhere together, and were about as inseparable as any two friends can be. During the summers we drove through forty-nine states and five Canadian provinces.  We participated in all kinds of father-son activities: football, basketball, baseball, boxing, golf, boating, camping . . . the sky was the limit, and I loved seeing the smile on that boy’s face when he got lost in doing something he loved. John got his first puppy, a St. Bernard he named Henry, and we loved him so much that I began breeding St. Bernard’s. In most of the memories I have of John’s youth, I remember our adventures, his laughter, and the feeling that I was getting to experience life through a child’s eyes for a second time. But the reality of being a stay-at-home father and raising a child by myself wasn’t always so picturesque.

Me and my now grown son, John.

Me and my now grown son, John.

There was the time I forgot to pick him up from the movie theater when he was ten, and when I finally arrived the theater was pitch black and he was nowhere to be found. When I finally got ahold of security, we found him sunk down in one of the seats, asleep and unaware of the panic he struck in me. There was the time when his kindergarten teacher told me John must have a learning disability because he was having trouble with his French lessons, and I almost believed her. Now my son speaks ten languages and holds an M.A. from Edinburgh University—and wouldn’t I love to mail his degree over to that teacher. There were the six years of piano lessons that felt like ripping out fingernails just to get him to practice until we finally threw in the towel. There was trying to be both mother and father, parent and friend, teacher and student. I had no examples to follow, no comrade to turn to on the hard days, no office to escape to when watching Sesame Street for the hundredth time made me think I might actually be going crazy.

But those hard days are incomparable to the victories, both big and small. Getting him to sit at the piano for an hour without complaint, sitting side-by-side on a cross-country road trip, and best of all, reading books and creating stories together every night before John went to bed. In fact, being a stay-at-home father led me to my current occupation as a children’s book author. It was always very important to me that John be exposed to literature and the pleasure of reading from a very young age so I stocked up at the library every week with children’s stories, from Roald Dahl up to Dickens and Victor Hugo. But one night when he was about seven, I suggested to him that he should create his own bedtime companion to keep him company while he slept—from there, the main character of my children’s series, Night Buddies, was created. Every night John and I made up stories about him and his bedtime companion, a red crocodile named Crosley, until that character became another member of our little family. John always held onto his love for reading, and when he grew up and started traveling around the world creating new adventures for himself, I turned my memories of the little boy I once spent every day of my life looking after and our bedtime stories into a book that I would be able to keep forever. Because in all honesty, being a stay-at-home father was the best job I’ve ever held, and given the choice I would always choose to do it all over again.

 

 

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Taking a Time-Out: Why Fathers Need to Value Their Personal Time

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It’s time to admit it to yourself . . . you need a break.

Frustrated_man_at_a_desk_(cropped)

But why is it so hard for men, fathers in particular, to vocalize their need to step back for a bit and spend some time—whether it be a day, or even an hour—focusing on rejuvenating themselves with some personal time? And I don’t mean time to drop your kid off at daycare to spend working, writing (if your work is writing), or taking care of bills and housework, but actual time to relax and refresh.

Writing a book, being a single parent, and making a living for one’s family is enough to burn out the Energizer bunny, and yet when put in that position some men don’t feel comfortable admitting they need some time off. Stay-at-home fatherhood is still not widely recognized as acceptable in our society, and it’s taken for granted that men should be able to work and parent simultaneously, with no complaint. There are all kinds of studies out there showing how working mothers are affected by the stress of mothering and working full-time, but I’ve found none that accurately do the same for working fathers.

Well, as a single father who also worked full-time, I can tell you that getting burned out is something that happens overwhelmingly and often when you don’t fit personal time into your schedule. It’s time we stand up for ourselves, even if that just means unapologetically taking care of ourselves.

When you feel close to your breaking point, it is a favor to yourself, your child, and your work to get away for a time, go see a movie by yourself, go fishing, zone out to your favorite Netflix show . . . anything that allows you to rest your brain, rest your body, and feel refreshed enough to go back and conquer your very hectic schedule with patience and grace. I found that for me, personally, finding time to read every day, even if it’s only for an hour or so, helps me focus on the other pieces of my schedule more clearly.

My point is, don’t be afraid of calling time-out—you’ll be better off for it.

Do you ever struggle trying to balance all the areas of your life? What’s your favorite “time-out” activity? Let me know in the comments below!

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Children's Museum of Alamance County
217 South Main Street
Graham, NC 27253
Phone: 336-228-7997
Reading begins at 3 pm


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