What’s it like to be a stay-at-home dad? Answer 2: Creative

“May you have an interesting life.” — Chinese (or Irish) blessing (or curse).

We went to our second-string playground the other day, a spot near several pretty Victorian houses that tourists to San Francisco like to photograph.

The sandbox was filled with unfamiliar kids and vacationers, the latter looking pretty relieved that their folks weren’t dragging them to yet another sightseeing stop! Boobaby and I plopped right down just as the kid with the sand toys departed, leaving everyone looking forlorn, so naturally I pointed out in my best teacher voice that there are toy-free sandbox options.


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    The backdrop for today&#8217;s story&#8230;

“Let’s make a pile!” I said, so we made a pile, and then we made a hole, then we buried our hands, then we made bigger holes and sat in them. Before we were done, I’d gathered an entourage of five kids in the inner circle, with five appreciative parents looking on from a distance. It was quite a scene: from Boobaby, 18 months, who displaced small handfuls at a time, all the way up through my new almost-five-year-old friend (she invited me to her birthday party! yay!), who could pile up mountains by getting down on her hands and knees and PUSHING.

As we finally broke up, I overheard her repeat something I’d told her to her mother:

“The hole is the natural enemy of the pile!”

Yeah, I know, I stole it from The Simpsons, but the flabbergasticity on her mom’s face justifies the nab.

“Creative” to me means that when I wake up I have only the vaguest idea of what the day will bring. Although I’ve frequently got no plan, I’ve got plenty of internal standards. To me, each day should be:

  • Educational; Boo should learn something.
  • Physical; there should be a chance to move around.
  • Productive; I should get some housework completed, or else not let the state of our living space decline too precipitously.
  • Social; we should interact with some friends and some strangers.
  • Fun; Boo and I should enjoy ourselves.
  • Funny; Boo should spend at least ten minutes out of every hour laughing uncontrollably at the craziness of life.

And, of course, I add to that all the practical things I need to handle each day — nutrition, safety, sleep, affection. And I want each day to be varied, with some loud times and some quiet, some close-up times and some times we look out at the horizon. Bugs, animals, books, leaves, and clouds must figure in daily.

Kind of a lot to keep in your head, isn’t it?

Before I became an outdoor educator, my jobs mostly allowed for “off” days. You know the kind: where you sit in your office and play solitaire for an hour while your spinning head absorbs calories and caffeine. When I started teaching, and later when I became a parent, I left that safety net behind. Most days, I have no backup, no chance to take a break, and I still expect myself to cover a good portion of my agenda. To me, that’s making a day creative.

To sum up: Being a stay-at-home dad is creative, in both the exciting sense and the exhausting one, so you have to spend time organizing yourself for the challenge.