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The many jobs of fatherhood

Being a parent is like having 108 different jobs. At any given time during the week, I am employed as a chef, day planner, janitor, teacher, doctor, dungeon keeper, financial planner, or food-that-fell-on-the-floor-keeper-awayer, just to name a few.

The caveat is once you’ve mastered one task, most of the time it quickly becomes obsolete while a host of new jobs is thrust upon you. Have you finally mastered bottle feeding? Congrats — your child is now eating solids. Has changing diapers finally become tolerable? Too bad, because it’s time to switch to underpants and start potty-training.

I’m convinced that half of second children are the direct result of parents who don’t want to let these skills atrophy, so it becomes necessary to have another baby.

Some jobs are obviously better than others. For example, psychiatry with a 3-year-old often involves explaining for the 10th time in an evening that there is no screen time after dinner. This edict has been in place for many moons, yet after-dinner conversations in my home are always about redirecting my son away from the television. Inevitably he breaks down in anguish as if this were the first time he’s ever heard of this rule.

But these conversations typically lead to one of my favorite jobs as a father: gym teacher.

The next step after the “you can’t watch TV” conversation is to redirect my son toward an activity that will take his mind away from cartoons and video games, and that often leads to some pretty inventive games around the house.

Playing games with a young child can be great because they don’t care about rules or regulations — they’re just going to break them anyway. And the particular game doesn’t matter, as long as it is fun, interactive and has a variety of moving parts. So being a gym teacher basically involves reusing toys around the house in new ways to create fun, new activities.

Most recently, my wife and I took our boy to a round of miniature golf on Saturday. It was his first experience playing putt-putt golf and he enjoyed every minute of it.

His form is atrocious — holding the putter in front of him while he swings it between his legs before bringing it forward — but he was happily bouncing between holes, encroaching on the pair of college kids playing in front of us as he was eager to see what the next set of obstacles would be.

The next day, we attempted to duplicate this experience as a means to distract him from the video games. I set up a putting green inside the house by creating a simple barrier of blocks around a carpet with a plastic cup at the end.

Arthur gravitated toward the new activity, insisting that his mother and I each take a turn at the hole after he had finished. Meanwhile, I was busy trying to set up new holes as quickly as possible to keep his attention. The gym teacher in me was spurred to create better hole designs with more obstacles and different routes to take. I got about four holes in before I ran out of blocks.

The whole activity only lasted about a half hour, but it succeeded on multiple fronts.

1. We successfully helped The Boy forget about televisions, video games, computers and iPods.

2. We developed a new rainy-day game.

Once we ran out of new holes to play, Arthur wanted to try playing outside, so we put on our shoes and went out front to play some more.

There, my wife took over the role as gym teacher while I changed jobs to landscaper and mowed the lawn.

Mission accomplished.



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