Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Moving the Goalposts

When I first started as a stay-at-home dad, I set a goal of having an outing with the Boy every day. This would serve twin purposes: to generate stimuli promoting his development, and to make me feel that I was getting the utmost from my time away from work.

But after the long outing of yesterday, I decided to stay in today. I sensed that the Boy was tired, and the house needed some picking up after xmas. We had the place pretty well cleaned up for entertaining, so I thought I would try to keep it that way. And there's always laundry. (In reality, this included two long dog walks with the Boy in the carrier and a car trip downtown to pick up the Monkey Mama from her massage appointment. But that's mostly staying in.)

I was rewarded with successes on two fronts. First, the Boy took two large (2 oz.) feedings of solid food. And second, the Boy took two naps, including a 90-minute slumber. The amounts of solid food and sleep were approximately double what I have been able to facillitate since the Monkey Mama went back to work. Since solid foods and establishing a sleep schedule are the most important challenges I am working on right now, I felt gratified and validated in my choices.

Also gratifying was the amount of work I could accomplish around the house during his naps. It's not as though I was able to enjoy any of my many hobbies in that time; but keeping the household together is more challenging than I might have thought.

The presumption behind the philosophy of an outing a day is that the Boy needs stimuli to develop. What I am learning is that when the world is new, there are more than enough stimuli. He develops on every dog walk, through every overheard phone conversation, with every glimpse of something new. In fact, it's often more important to protect him from stimuli. Turning down the noise when the background sound gets too loud. Darkening the room when he gets tired. Calming him with food when hunger beckons. Supplying dry, comfortable cotton whenever he is wet.

So the goals that I want to achieve are changing. It's no longer a matter of dragging the Boy to museums (although some great interior spaces are sure to provoke his thoughts). I am learning to understand what the Boy needs and wants. I am learning his likes and dislikes, and his patterns of wakefullness and slumber. I am learning when razzing his belly makes him giggle, and when it makes him cry.

I think that these are the reasons why I am a stay-at-home dad, and I didn't even know it.


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