They’re an excuse to get together, drink some fine wines and chat about the hottest new titles in the world of literature. While Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is not exactly a hot new title, and the jury is still out if it can truly be called “literature”, it does have something going for it that other books do not: I’m practically giving it away to book clubs.
But please be warned – this offer is for legitimate book clubs only, and by “legitimate” I mean any club that falls into the following three categories that I read about on HuffPost:
a) Category 1 – Read it or die.
b) Category 2 – Read it, then drink it.
c) Category 3 – Read it, don’t read it… who cares? We’re really only here for the booze.
Like I said right of the top of this blog, I’ve already given you an “out” if you really don’t want to read my book, but really want to go to your book club. But hey, as long as you buy it, what do I care what happens after that? Speaking of what actually happens at book clubs, allow me to describe the five types of people you’ll encounter at your little booky gabfest, courtesy of a funny article I read on litreactor.com:
a) So, what did everyone think of the book?
b) I only read the first 25 pages, so don’t spoil anything for me.
c) Ugh, god, enough talk about the book. Here are pictures from my vacation.
d) I didn’t get the book because it didn’t come in at the library, and I’m not going to buy it on Kindle for $5.99? Ridiculous!
e) I’m really only interested in talking about the ending. So…
All kidding aside, Dad@Home is sure to be a hit with your book club. It’s 40,000 words that should really take less than four hours to plow through on a Saturday afternoon. In this masterwork of non-fiction, I bear my soul, I talk about my insecurities, I tell you all about my incredible wife, and I describe the unbreakable bond I’ve forged with my kids. I promise that after you finish reading it, you will either:
a) Secretly want to marry me.
b) Very publicly propose marriage to me.
c) Tell others to try marrying me.
Just think of it. You can spend the entire evening debating which one of your book club members loves me more… and why. And if you think I’m being sexist, assuming that all book clubs are exclusively populated with members of the fairer sex, you would be sorely mistaken. I firmly believe any man who reads my book will also want to marry me… no matter which side he bats for.
Wow! That’s some bold and brash talk for a book that’s currently sitting at #277,859 in Amazon’s best seller rankings, but trust me, it will be worth it. Your book club will read it, love it, discuss it at length, then start a campaign demanding I write a sequel. So, now that I’ve sold you on why every book club on planet earth should choose Dad@Home, here’s how you can get your hands on the multiple copies required for your get-together.
If you go to Amazon, you’ll find my paperback on sale for $9.99 US or $12.65 CAN. You are more than welcome to buy a whole bunch for your book club… OR, you can contact me directly and I’ll sell you Dad@Home for just $4.99 each! It doesn’t matter if you want to pay in US or Canadian dollars, the price is still the same… $4.99! For those hard of reading, I’ll repeat that one more time. $4.99!
There will be a shipping and handling fee for all orders within North America, but with the low, low price I’m offering you’d be a FOOL not to take advantage of this once-in-a-millennium offer. However, before you leap out of your chair to contact me, there are some ground rules.
Rule #1: if you contact me and order only one book, I’ll assume you don’t really have a book club, and you’re simply trying to save BIG on Dad@Home. Scammers need not apply! I can sniff out a scammer from a mile away. We all know there’s no such thing as a book club for ONE. Well, if there is… then I feel really bad for that sad little club and I apologize profusely. But, you’re still not getting the book club price. (Sorry.)
So, let’s set the minimum order at three books.
Rule #2: if you contact me and order one hundred books, that will also raise some red flags. I’d be very surprised if there’s a book club that has a hundred committed members who all cram into a two bedroom bungalow once a month. Who would want to host that gargantuan get-together? And what about all of that wine? I’d go bankrupt keeping everyone well lubricated. I’m assuming any super-large order would come from someone desperate to cash in on the worldwide phenomenon that is Dad@Home… someone who would simply resell my book for twice the price! Not on my watch. Again, scammers need not apply!
So, let’s set the maximum order at twenty books.
There are almost too many ways to contact me. For starters, try clicking on the contact me link at the top of the page! You can also email me directly at email@example.com. Or, if you found this link to my blog on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Google+, simply send me a direct message from any of those social media platforms and I’ll get right back to you. Payment will be easy! Just send me an interac e-mail transfer, or pay me through PayPal. If you live in Calgary, you could even pay me in person with several rolls of quarters.
Good luck and Godspeed with your decision to add Dad@Home to your prestigious book club reading list. You won’t regret it.
Oh, and one more thing. If you want to buy the Kindle version, it’s only three or four bucks… so there’s no special book club deal. It’s already dirt cheap.
I’m sorry, but I don’t trust parents who claim they are actually doing a bang up job raising their kids. Anyone who thinks they have all of the answers or feels they are simply “killing it” when it comes to prepping little humans to become productive adult members of society is either completely delusional or a big, fat liar suffering from a fairly common condition known as pants on fire.
The fact is, parenting can be the most rewarding job on the planet, but it can also be the toughest job… because screwing up means you’ve disappointed one or more of those little humans who you’ve been charged with caring for. Trust me, I’ve disappointed plenty of people in my day (just ask my wife!) but nothing beats that sinking feeling when you’ve let your kids down.
When something bad happens and it’s my fault, I will own up to it, ask for forgiveness and hope I get a chance for redemption. It’s a bold new concept I’m trying to instill into my offspring, with admittedly limited success.
I now have two kids in junior high, so I am all too familiar with the annoying phrase: “How is that MY fault?” It amazes me to no end how literally nothing they do can realistically be considered… their doing.
This has probably been the biggest source of friction between us as they both enter their edgy teen phase and I enter my cranky old man phase. That’s why when I make a bonehead move that negatively affects the lives of my kids, I always try to show them that I’m sorry, and explain how I’m going to fix the mess I made. Very recently, I made two very unforced errors within a week of each other. Because I believe in equal opportunity, I made sure both of my kids felt the wrath of my misdeeds.
Bonehead move #1:
My past struggles with doing the laundry have been well documented, so I won’t rehash my issues all over again… but for those interested in how I really feel about one of my primary household duties, click here.
But I digress. Lately, I’ve been trying to teach the kids how to use the washer and dryer, help me out with this mundane chore and thus earn more monthly allowance. Last week, I asked my son Daniel to round up his soiled school uniform and put it straight into the washing machine, as I was about to start a new load of laundry. He complied, and I fired up the machine. Almost immediately, I heard a small “thump” as the load of clothes made its first rotation. I half-heartedly peered into the glass of the front-loading machine, but didn’t think much of it. Just a few minutes later, I was still puttering around upstairs when I walked by the laundry room again and sure enough, there was the thump. Once again, I thought to myself: “Ah, it’s probably nothing.”
I regret to inform you all… it was something.
About fifteen minutes into the wash cycle, I overheard Daniel and Abby arguing. From my room I could hear them yammering on and on, both claiming to be right about something dumb so I finally yelled at them from across the house: “one of you just Google it on your phone already!” That was my attempt to help settle the issue without actually having to leave my room.
That’s when I heard the primal scream, and that’s when it hit me.
Dear god. I immediately knew what that mysterious thumping sound was in the washing machine! Daniel and I ran from opposite ends of the top floor of our house, arriving simultaneously in the laundry room situated right in the middle. We looked at each other with wide, wild eyes.
Daniel’s new iPhone was IN THE WASHING MACHINE!
Oh the humanity! I immediately shut down the machine, frantically threw out the soapy, sopping wet clothes from the washer, flopped them onto the floor and found his phone sloshing around near the bottom of the pile. Oh thank god, it was still working! I knew from past experiences what to do and what not to do with a waterlogged phone. My struggles with dropping iPhones into oceans have been well documented, so I won’t rehash my issues all over again… but for those interested in what happened, click here.
But I digress. The first thing we had to do was back this bad boy up on iTunes… like not now, but right now! Daniel was moaning and writhing around on the floor like he had been shot, but I kept telling him to stay calm, apply pressure to his imaginary wound, and he would surely survive this ordeal. It seemed like it took an eternity for the iTunes software to rev up, and we both held our collective breath as I plugged the phone into the computer. Would it sync? We waited, we watched, we waited some more… and… whew! Success! I was relieved we managed to back it up, as a few hours later the phone was toast, with multiple cracks and water completely clouding the touch screen. Not even the famous rice trick could save it.
While Daniel was very upset with himself for depositing his new phone directly into a washing machine, I made it very clear I was not upset at all, and promised him I would make it right. If I had only checked on the thump immediately, I could have pulled out the phone before it was damaged… and THEN I would have made a point to take Daniel to task for being so careless! I would have taken his phone away from him for a few days as punishment for his actions. But, with my overwhelming guilt over being so damn lazy, I only had one option. I simply had to apologize to my son, hope for forgiveness and fix the mess I made. Within a few days, my son had a new iPhone, completely restored to its former glory. I was happy to put the incident behind me, because little did I know that I was about to make another dumb mistake.
Bonehead move #2:
Before we dive right into my second screw-up within a week, let’s set the stage. When it comes to volunteering at our kids’ school, I’ve always prided myself on being pretty “on top of things”. Over the last ten years, I’ve driven countless kids to swimming lessons and field trips, flipped pancakes, assembled playground equipment, quizzed students on their times tables, listened to struggling young readers try to get through their first chapter books and even helped coach junior high basketball. In the past couple of years, Abby’s class has had several taco-in-a-bag potluck lunches and I’ve always been one of two parents to provide the ground beef. When I got the email from the school about the latest lunch, I promptly added my ground beef commitment to my phone’s iCalendar. I can be forgetful, so I added not one but TWO reminders for the morning I was to cook up some beef and drive it to school.
So, the fateful day arrived and I was already back at home after morning school drop-off. I was sipping my coffee, staring out the window at a drizzly, cold landscape and I was thinking that my daily jog/walk to the river did not look particularly appealing. My mind turned to our new exercise machine that I had barely touched since we bought it six months ago. I thought to myself, “this will be the day I go to town on the treadclimber”… and go to town I did. I left my phone on the kitchen counter and made my way down to the basement, where I set the machine to its highest incline setting, ramped up the speed and sweated-out a very invigorating 45-minute workout. After a lengthy, refreshing shower I made my way back to the kitchen and started thinking about what I wanted for lunch. I was feeling pretty good about myself, then I noticed my phone buzzing on the kitchen counter with a new message. It was 11:20 and Abby had just sent me text in all caps.
“DAD! WHERE IS THE BEEF?”
For a split second, I actually found Abby’s message funny as I remembered that old Wendy’s advertisement with the little old lady bemoaning the small amount of beef in her hamburger. Ha! Where’s the beef! I remember that… ah that’s funny… and then my stupid grin slowly morphed into a gaping mouth, my eyes widened and that’s when it hit me.
“Dear god! I FORGOT TO MAKE THE GROUND BEEF!”
I immediately called Abby’s cell phone and I was about to ask her if the other parent had brought so much ground beef that it wouldn’t matter that I forgot to make mine. But, before I could get the words out, she yelped:
“Dad! We are already running out of meat! When will you be here?”
Dammit! There was no way in hell I could buy raw ground beef at Safeway, fry it up at home and drive it to Abby’s school. That would take minimum 45 minutes to an hour! Gah! My mind was spinning but I knew I had totally screwed up (again) and somehow I had to make it right. I asked her if arriving in 20 minutes with more beef was still OK, or was that too late? She paused for a moment to ask her teacher, and I had my answer: because it was raining, they were going to stay indoors for the entire noon break and if I could get there in 20 minutes, they could still make their taco-in-a-bag potluck lunch work.
I told Abby I’d call her from the road when I was close to the school. Then, I grabbed a large plastic Tupperware container, sprinted out the door, jumped into my Subaru and drove off like a bat out of hell. I had a plan, and by god, I was going to make it work. I immediately got on my iPhone and demanded that Siri call the nearest Mucho Burrito. She politely complied and within seconds I was talking into my hands-free bluetooth speaker with an employee of the Mexican fast food chain. I quickly blurted out:
“Hi there! I’m on my way to you right now. Can I buy just a whole bunch of ground beef? Just ground beef?”
Her answer made me want to scream: “Sorry, but we don’t have any ground beef…”
Before I could utter a “What in the hell are you talking about!”, she finished her sentence:
“We actually serve shredded beef at Mucho Burrito”.
Relieved, I breathlessly replied: “Great! See you in five minutes!” and hung up the phone before she could respond. Beef was beef. Shredded would have to do.
The drive there was nerve-wracking, as I seemed to miss every traffic light and somehow got stuck behind cars that were inexplicably traveling at the posted legal speed limit. How dare these people slow me up with their perfectly reasonable driving habits! I pounded my fist on my steering wheel with each missed light and I cursed every law-abiding citizen around me.
Finally, I arrived and I know the woman behind the counter immediately figured out who I was. Who else would dash into a Mucho Burrito with wide, wild eyes, carrying empty Tupperware? I asked if I could fill the container about half the way up with shredded beef but she seemed momentarily confused by my request. She wasn’t sure how to fill my order, so she asked the manager for assistance. I grew more anxious as the “beef conference” dragged on. I noticed a third Mucho Burrito employee move closer to the meeting of the meat minds, and I wanted to shout out: “Step back bro! Let the manager deal with this! These are the hard decisions he’s trained to make!”
My right foot was now tapping furiously, and I almost stepped in to say: “Listen, I’ll pay whatever you want!” Thankfully, the manager made an executive order to charge me two bucks per “scoop” of shredded beef. It took eight scoops to fill the container half way up. When I paid my sixteen dollars, I thought to myself: “Geez, I probably would have paid a hundred bucks for this stupid beef!”
I dashed out as quickly as I dashed in, and hit the road. The route to the school was much faster, with only two traffic lights to deal with. I hit them both perfectly and celebrated with fist pumps. YES! I was absolutely flying now, zipping in and out of the two lanes, speeding, and passing cars at will. Then my phone rang again. It was Abby.
“Dad! It’s been 20 minutes! WHERE ARE YOU?”
I was actually on the home stretch, so I instructed her to wait for me in the parking lot, as I was almost there. We made the shredded beef exchange in record time, and I watched Abby dart back into the school. I looked at my watch. 22 minutes. Whew!
It took 22 minutes from the time I hung up the phone in my kitchen to the critical completed shredded beef delivery at school. Taco-in-a-bag potluck lunch was miraculously salvaged. I was more than relieved as I slumped back into my car seat for a few minutes… letting the stress of the ordeal slowly evaporate. Did I screw up? You bet I did. Was my daughter totally pissed at me? Absolutely. When I asked at after-school pickup if it had all worked out in the end, she replied with a very terse “it was fine”. I also asked if her classmates were mad at me, and she said: “No! I was the one calling you dumb and they were actually defending you!” I’m glad some of those girls had my back. I guess it pays to be their assistant basketball coach.
In the end I apologized, was forgiven… but most importantly, I fixed the mess I made.
So, what can I take away from this week of misadventures? Am I the “worst dad ever”? No, I don’t think so. However, I have come to the conclusion that while I’m not a bad dad per se, I’m definitely a lazy dad and a forgetful dad… and that lethal combination most certainly led to a couple of bonehead moves that wreaked havoc on our household. That being said, I have learned my lesson and have introduced two new personal directives that I swear to faithfully follow from this day forward to ensure this never happens again.
NEVER ignore a thumping sound in your washing machine.
I bet dollars to donuts most of you remember a certain Staples television commercial featuring the cheerful Andy Williams Christmas carol: “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”. Of course you do! The TV spot has been running during every back to school season for over two decades.
But, if you’ve been living under a rock for twenty years, or are simply a youngster who has no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll provide you with the Cliffs Notes. A positively gleeful dad is dancing, or rather PRANCING through the aisles of Staples. He’s filling his shopping cart with back to school supplies while the most “wonderful” soundtrack punctuates his joyful jaunt through the store. Meanwhile, his two clinically depressed, nearly catatonic kids slowly trudge behind him, hit by the crushing realization that their coveted summer vacation is almost over. (Oh geez, I just realized that young people may not know what Cliffs Notes are either, but I digress.)
It’s not only funny, but it’s a very memorable ad, and for many years it perfectly encapsulated my own feelings of elation, relief and triumph after I survived another summer with two very demanding kids constantly underfoot. You see, as a stay-at-home parent, I truly believe those first few years with toddlers and crawling babies squirming between your legs are the years where we really earn our keep. When I’m having a particularly lazy day, I’ll think back on those first five years of craziness, and I’ll say to myself: “self, don’t sweat it. Don’t feel guilty, you’ve earned this.”
So, when both of my kids finally reached the golden age of six-years-old, it really felt like a gift from God. Hallelujah! Abby and Daniel were at school, five days a week, from 8:30AM to 3:30PM. It finally felt like I had regained some semblance of my OLD life – you know, when you could run errands without carrying a kid on your hip, when you could visit a friend without bringing extra diapers with you, when you could go grocery shopping without having to referee a shoving match taking place inside the cart, or simply go for a coffee and just read the newspaper for twenty minutes… uninterrupted.
Of course, 3:30 pick-up at school always seemed to come WAY too quickly, and my life would go back to normal, with my primary caregiving responsibilities once again taking centre stage. That’s why summer vacation was always a time I never really looked forward to. Yes, we would always take a couple of weeks for a fun family getaway, and with Lianne off work, it was always a special treat for me to have both of us on full-time parent duty. But, after that all-too-brief respite was over, it was back to the grind… a grind that I was no longer accustomed to after the precious ten-month break school provided me.
As any parent knows, when kids are young, they still like to get up early… WAY too early. They don’t care that it’s summer. They also want food. They also get bored. They also need sunlight and fresh air once and a while. Let’s face it; Abby and Daniel were totally cramping my style. They were completely squashing my newfound freedom!
Summers were always filled with exhausting trips to amusement parks, the science centre, the zoo, water parks, pools and sporting events. My kids wanted to do stuff! Always so much stuff! Why did they always want me to take them somewhere fun? Dammit, I wanted my 8:30AM to 3:30PM “Greg Time” back in the worst possible way! I needed it! I missed it! My body ached for it! But alas, summer time was not a time for lazy lattes and stress-free shopping. Summer time was a chance for the kids to have fun and go nuts in the absence of rigid school rules.
While I am exaggerating my aversion to actual parenting just a tad for “entertainment” purposes, I could totally relate to the dad in that famous Staples commercial. He was simply giddy with the thought of punting his kids out of the house and back to school for another ten months. I think that’s why the TV ad struck such a chord with me for so many years.
However, I have to admit… this year is different.
Starting today, both of my kids are now in junior high, and I gotta be honest: there is no feeling of elation, no feeling of relief and most certainly no feeling of triumph. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m actually going to miss them. You see, these kids of mine have been sleeping in until almost noon every day and they can usually make their own breakfast/lunch. They both express very little interest when I ask them if they want to go on a bike ride, or walk with me to the coffee shop, or go to the mall for a few hours.
I guess they have better things to do than constantly hang out with their dear old dad. There are YouTube videos to create, Xbox games to play and friends to text with. While the three of us did manage a couple fun outings this summer, most of their vacation days have been spent in their respective rooms, doing their own thing.
That’s why spending the day with my kids at an amusement park a couple of days ago brought back a flood of memories. It’s funny, but all of a sudden I don’t seem to remember our summer trips to the science centre, the zoo, water parks, pools and sporting events being all that exhausting.
At the time, I felt like the kids constantly begged me, bugged me and harassed me to do fun stuff with them, but now… I ultimately see it in a very different light. They weren’t tormenting me, they were counting on me to do fun stuff with them. And dammit, do fun stuff we did, summer after summer after summer.
Looking back, one might even say those summers spent with my kids could be described as the most wonderful time of the year.
OK, I’ll admit it. When it comes to maintaining this blog, I’ve been acting exceedingly and deliberately lazy since my last post.
I guess that’s not all that surprising, as my most recent entry of Dad@Home coincided with the beginning of summer, and a decidedly slower pace for most stay-at-home parents.
One might think that would leave me with more time to write my blog, but to be honest, I find that any downtime simply breeds an unquenchable desire for even more downtime. After a very hectic school year with the kids, rife with all manner of extracurricular stuff like swimming, piano, volleyball, debate, basketball, hockey, soccer and then even more basketball… this Dad@Home needed a break. And by break, I mean a break from everything, including writing.
The last time you heard from me was over five-and-a-half weeks ago, but today finds me very relaxed, sitting on a dock, looking out at beautiful Lake Memphremagog in southern Quebec, and it got me thinking: “maybe it’s time I get off my fat ass and write something”.
So, here it goes… although you’ll have to excuse me if my fat ass remains firmly planted on this deck chair, overlooking picturesque Lake Memphremagog.
We are officially two weeks into our three-week tour of La Belle Province, and I must say, we are loving every minute of Quebec.
We landed in Montreal, but almost immediately made our way to the provincial capital of Quebec City. We stayed in the old city, inside the old walls and yes, it really does feel like the closest thing to Europe we have here in North America. Established in 1608, Quebec is indeed the oldest city on the continent and it is chalk full of tourists come summer time. The cobbled streets are packed with people, and we could definitely hear a lot of English being spoken. One of our tour guides begged us to please venture outside the “safety” of the old walls, or as he calls it, the tourist trap. He wants visitors to see the rest of the city and indeed the entire province, as much of the central touristy area of Quebec City is feeling more and more like a manufactured main street you might find at a Disney resort. But, that being said, it is still very charming and fun to explore.
We knew that staying in old Quebec City would be a safe haven for us English speakers. And, because we were saving Montreal (and it’s rather substantial Anglophone population) until the end of our trip, there would be a very large portion of our vacation where our obvious shortcomings speaking French could potentially become a serious issue.
So, has our lacklustre grasp of the French language been a big deal? Absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why. One of our tour guides in Quebec City stressed that all the Québécois people are looking for is a little effort to speak the local language. So, we have all tried to kick off every conversation with a “Bonjour! Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?”
We have found that asking a Quebecer if he or she can speak English (in the most polite way possible) has yielded great results. They usually respond with “a little bit”, and then proceed to display a very solid grasp of the English language. Even when the chasm between the two sides was wide, they would usually find a way to bridge the gap and we have been very grateful for that.
I have to take a few minutes of your time to poke fun at my older brother, Mark. We are traveling with his family for the entire vacation, and he has developed a slightly annoying habit of speaking in a French accent when encountering a Quebecois whose English is less than perfect. For example, instead of simply saying “We are from Calgary, Alberta” in his normal voice, he will sound something like this:
“Weee AAAAAAre from CAL-gah-REEEEE, AAAAL-ber-TAAAAAH!”
Am I exaggerating his accent just a tad? Absolutely, but he refuses to stop, no matter how much I make fun of him. He seems to think people from Quebec will somehow understand English better if they hear it in a familiar French accent. Personally, I think it kinda-sorta comes off like mild mockery, but what do I know? Maybe he’s 100% correct! Nobody we’ve met seems to mind when he does it, so perhaps I’m just making something out of nothing.
Anyhoooo, after leaving the so-called tourist trap of Quebec City, we have tasted fancy jams on the Isle D’Orleans, zip-lined across Montmorency Falls, biked across Isle Aux Codres, dipped our toes into the cold waters of the St. Lawrence near Saint-Irene, went whale watching in Tadoussac, toured a decommissioned submarine in Rimouski, paddled various boats at a lake resort called Domaine Valga, hiked around rocky Bic National Park, visited the very educational Grosse Isle and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site, and finally ended up here… at gorgeous Lake Memphremagog near the Vermont border.
This part of the holiday is what we call “the vacation within the vacation”. After busting a move up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway, we have abandoned our hectic schedule to set up shop for a full week at a spacious lake house with all of the amenities. There are more bedrooms than we actually need, three, count ’em, three showers, a great dock, ample deck chairs, crystal-clear-warm-water, canoes and kayaks, and get this: a dry sauna. That was an unexpected bonus. We’ve been here for three days, and I’ve been feeling very relaxed. So relaxed that I finally decided to get off my twice-aforementioned fat ass and write something.
So, with three more full days of the “vacation within the vacation” to go, I’m looking forward to more sleeping in, more swimming, more booze and plenty more time in that sweet sauna before we hit the road for Montreal and begin the final, hectic leg of our Quebec adventure.
A week from now, we will be back in Calgary. That means a trip back to reality and the sinking realization that we are about three weeks away from the beginning of another crazy school year, complete with all of the kid stuff that comes with it… swimming, piano, volleyball, debate, basketball, hockey, soccer and then even more basketball,
And, oh yeah… I almost forgot. I also get to morph back into the international internet phenomenon known as Dad@Home once again.
It would seem a bloggers work is never done, (unless he’s on vacation.)
I’ve been a stay-at-home Dad for over thirteen years. When I started this gig, the year was 2004 and I was certain I would soon witness the beginning of a seismic shift in parenting roles. Well, the year is now 2017 and from where I sit, the golden age of the stay-at-home Dad feels like it may never arrive.
Are there more of us taking on the role of primary caregiver each and every year? Absolutely, but we are still a very small minority. Sometimes, I see a misleading headline that catches my eye: “The number of stay-at-home Dads in the U.S. has doubled in only five years.” That actually sounds very impressive until you read the rest of the story and the actual percentage moved from 2.5% to 5%. Yes, the number has indeed doubled, but no, it’s not exactly the seismic shift that I’m looking for.
My wife was recently at a conference about diversity in the workforce, and the topic of parental leave came up. One woman bemoaned the fact that very few men are taking advantage of using at least a portion of the one-year government-mandated parental leave. When a man at the conference announced that he actually took four months off from work to stay home and take kids, he received a huge ovation.
My question is, why are people still reacting this way when a man announces he’s going to take care of children full-time? Why is it still such a big deal? Why does the idea of a man staying home to be primary caregiver seem so extraordinary? Why haven’t attitudes about child rearing roles dramatically changed in the last thirteen years?
Another story from that conference may shed some light. There was a CEO who spoke up about men taking parental leave, and mentioned that he was initially “on the fence” about allowing it at his company. He was concerned the man taking the leave wouldn’t actually be parenting… rather he would be “off golfing somewhere”. Really? He actually thought a new father was planning to use his parental leave as some kind of scam, some ingenious way to take a four-month paid vacation. Would anyone ever think that of a woman taking maternity leave? Of course not, because taking care of kids has historically been the job of the mother.
Over the years, I have heard the phrase “semi-retired” to describe my current job description more than once. The most recent time it came up was while I was at a hockey game few years ago and it got me thinking. If a guy stays at home, there is a perception that he must be living on easy street. So much so, the term “semi-retired” is routinely tossed around. Now, think about this. Have you ever heard a stay-at-home mom described that way? I certainly haven’t and I wouldn’t dream of trying it. As a mini-social experiment, I dare anyone reading this to try it just once. Just blurt this out to the next stay-at-home mom you meet:
“Hey, how does it feel to be semi-retired?” Then, get back to me and tell me exactly what happened next. I have a feeling it would not end well.
So, what is the solution? How do we change these outdated attitudes? How do we achieve a dramatic shift in child rearing roles? Will we ever see a 50/50 split between men and women staying home? Unlike the days of yesteryear, modern fathers can indeed change a diaper, feed their kids and get them ready for bed. But, ask if they want to do it full time and you’ll get very few takers.
This is unfortunate, because if there ever was a time for men to leave the workforce and join the battle on the home front, that time is NOW. I have a theory that men actually have an easier time than women when it comes to being the primary caregiver, and it has nothing to do with competence or effort. Rather, it has everything to do with the lower expectations society has of men’s ability to pull it off. If simply announcing you took four months off to take care of kids gets you a robust round of applause from complete strangers, imagine the response you’ll get for doing it full-time, for over a decade!
Trust me, a man doing the exact same job that a woman has been doing very well for decades, centuries, hell – EONS is still, somehow, inexplicably, a big deal.
Unfortunately, until it seems “normal” for a man to stay home with children, that seismic shift I’ve been waiting for… that golden age, will simply have to wait. I only hope it’s not another thirteen years before I see it.
Oh, and before I forget, Happy Father’s Day to all of the Dads out there! Parenting is the greatest joy in life and we all deserve to be recognized for helping transform our tiny humans into the next generation.
(If you have any interest in downloading and sharing a press release promoting my book Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated this Fathers Day weekend, please click below.)
Let me start off my admitting that launching this blog wasn’t my idea. I didn’t really want to do it.
It was actually my former literary agent’s suggestion, as I happened to have a publisher from California “tentatively interested” in offering me a book deal. They wanted to see if I could increase my online platform, and show the world I could help push sales of my masterpiece of non-fiction: Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated. Well, my efforts to showcase my online presence obviously didn’t set the world on fire because a couple of months later, the book deal fell through, and all I had to show for it was this silly little blog. Now what was I supposed to do? For a brief moment in time, I considered shutting down this website, but a funny thing happened: as the weeks turned into months, I found that I actually enjoyed writing, maintaining and promoting this silly little blog. So, while I was definitely reluctant to start this “web-log”, I now finally feel like I’ve become a real-life blogger. I’m sorry folks, but now you are stuck with me.
So, after a full year of sharing my stories, what… (if anything) have I learned?
Well, right off the bat I’ve learned it’s very difficult to keep the momentum and excitement of the initial blog launch going for very long. It all started off with a very big BANG! Dad@Home was unleashed on the internet in mid-April 2016 with a post called: “If I can do it…” To date, that inaugural post has almost 500 views. To put that into perspective, my twelve least viewed posts over the past twelve months have fewer clicks than that one big debut story.
I was over the moon with my initial readership, and I cashed in on my early success by faithfully posting new stories about once a week. While they never quite grabbed the really big numbers of my launch, they were still pretty, pretty good. My next couple of posts snagged a couple hundred views a pop, and I thought that I was off to the races.
I had researched how to host a successful blog, and one of the biggest recommendations I saw over and over again was to keep diligently posting stuff every week, or watch your readership fall off a cliff. Well, I didn’t really take that advice to heart, and I took a few weeks off from updating the blog. I figured, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I soon found out. After averaging almost 300 views of my first few posts, my next blog story petered out at just under 50 views.
I was stunned! After a three-week break, I was already yesterday’s news! While I found the steep decline in online traffic both disheartening and frustrating, I never stopped posting my stories. I figured that I had a small base of readers who were expecting new material, so I happily kept the faith.
While I never regained that early momentum, I have had a few posts that somehow broke through the slide in readership and managed to resonate with the people. The story of our family trip to Ireland was quite popular, the heartbreaking story of losing our family pet was also well received and when I finally put Dad@Home on sale through Amazon, my readers really stepped up and helped get the message out by clicking on my post and sharing it.
Because the main reason of this blog is to increase the profile of my book, I figured people wouldn’t mind if I repeatedly used it to push sales. With over 250 views, my second most popular post of all time has been “Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is now available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com!” I took this as a sign that people would always click on any new info about my book and how to buy it.
I could not have been more wrong.
The following are my least popular posts, OF ALL TIME:
Dad@Home on paperback now 30% off? Insane! But hold the phone, there’s more? Kindle version now 40% off? Unbelievable! – 16 views
Hey Goodreads users! Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway for Dad@Home! – 14 views
Wow! So many NEW ways to purchase Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated! – 11 views
Ouch! The tribe has definitely spoken.
On one hand, the stories that described the process of writing and publishing my book, or even the one featuring my first and only book review were actually well received, getting 90-100 views each. On the other hand, the posts that were 100% advertisements for Dad@Home were shunned like the plague, garnering only 11-16 views. All I can say to that is, “message received”. I will definitely ease off on the hard sell, and simply write more about my life and times as a stay-at-home Dad, just like I did last week with “It’s time to come clean…”
Maybe, just maybe, a better strategy to sell more books is to write engaging stories, and hope any new readers will like what they see and click on the link to purchase my book. I can accurately track my book sales down to the day, and I must tell you… those bottom three posts OF ALL TIME did jack-squat to increase orders of Dad@Home.
There are plenty of other reasons why I enjoy hosting this blog. I like having the ability to track how many hits my website is getting, find out where my readers are coming from and figure out how they are finding their way to Dad@Home.
Now right off the bat, I must stress that compared to many blogs out there, the traffic I’m generating is not overly impressive. After a year of operation, I’m at roughly 3000 hits. Is that good, bad or ugly? Reliable stats on what makes a successful blog are not easy to find on the internets, but from what I can gather, my website numbers would be on the lower end of the spectrum. So, it is what it is… but I’m still hoping I can find new readers and continue to expand my reach.
And speaking of “my reach”, what I find most fascinating is seeing where in the world people have been viewing my blog! A vast majority of clicks are coming from predominantly English speaking countries (98% to be exact) but after that, the list looks like the General Assembly of the United Nations. I’ve got representation from every continent on Earth except Antarctica. Not too shabby! Hello Luxembourg! Who the hell is reading my blog in Luxembourg?
Another stat that my wordpress blog keeps track of is referrers, specifically which websites are driving traffic to Dad@Home. Not surprisingly, almost all of it comes from social media, with 85% of it from the almighty Facebook. LinkedIn is next at 6%, followed by 3% from Twitter and a meager 1% from Instagram. On a slightly more serious note, only 4% of all traffic comes from search engines and that is something I’d like to see improve as my blog becomes more established. When people type in “stay-at-home dad” into the Google machine, I’d love “Dad@Home” to be near the top of the list! Anyhooo, the remaining one per cent of referrers is a mish-mash of websites that have contributed a grand total of 14 trips to check out Dad@Home.
So, after twenty-five posts and a full year of writing this blog, all I can say is please keep reading it, please keep sharing it, and please comment if you have any feedback, questions or suggestions as to what I should tackle next.
And remember, I promise I’ll stop boring you with posts that only advertise my book. Instead, I’ll keep trying to engage and entertain those of you who have graciously chosen to follow my exploits. Thank you for your continued support.
Oh, and just one more thing. If you would please buy my book, that would also be great.
When people grill me about what’s it’s really like being a stay-at-home Dad, a whole lot of them ask about my “household responsibilities”, and how I handle them. While I do get a lot of interest in my culinary skills, I’d say the most frequent queries pertain to my housekeeping expertise. It seems a lot of people (mostly women) really want to know: “Do I really do ALL of the cleaning?”
Well, yes and no.
YES, for the past thirteen and a half years I’ve been charged with the task of making sure our home looks semi-presentable to the outside world. But, NO, I don’t do it all by myself and I probably never will.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that my hard-working, bacon-bringing, pantsuit-wearing wife is washing dishes and dusting furniture after a long week of financially providing for our family of four humans and two felines, you would be sadly mistaken. It’s not that she’s some lazy, good-for-nothing spouse who deliberately throws banana peels on the floor and waits for me to pick them up… no sir! That’s not it at all.
Rather, I’ve always asked her to let me handle the household stuff, and I often rebuke her for “trying to be a hero” when she tries to unpack the dishwasher. She works hard enough at the office, and I say she doesn’t have to work at home as well. The home front is my domain, for better or for worse, and if I can’t handle keeping this house “clean-ish”, cook (or re-heat) meals and complete laundry in a semi-timely fashion, then what the hell am I really good for?
That being said, I did just mention that I don’t do all of the cleaning, so that begs the question: “Just WHO the heck is helping me?” Is it my good-for-nothing teen/tween kid combo? No way, Jose! Abby and Daniel are certainly capable of minor household tasks, but are otherwise domestically useless. The real housekeeping superheroes in our home for the past thirteen-plus years have been the middle-aged husband and wife team of Henry and Linda, the cleaners we hired after I became a stay-at-home Dad way, Way, WAY back in 2004.
I’m not sure if Lianne felt really sorry for me when I first took the gig or felt I simply didn’t have what it takes to keep our home from being overrun with filth and grime. Either way, when she went back to work after six months of maternity leave, we immediately hired housecleaners. You see, before we had kids the unenviable task of cleaning toilets, washing floors and vacuuming carpets was something we equally shared and equally despised. We resented the hours of cleaning that ate away at our precious weekend free time, and vowed to someday hire housecleaners. With a new baby in the home, and yours truly now in charge of all household and domestic duties… it was a no-brainer. We needed help. Rather, I needed help.
For the first few months, we tried a couple of the big chain cleaning companies, but we weren’t very impressed with the service. Then, through some friends of ours, we heard of this Vietnamese husband and wife team who were looking for more clients, and we snapped them up to come by twice a month. They were infinitely better than anyone else we tried, and after all of these years, they are still with us.
In those first few crazy months of being home alone with baby Abby, having them come in a couple times a month to scrub down the house was a godsend for me. But, we quickly learned that it simply wasn’t enough, so we upped our Henry and Linda quotient to three times a month, and then ultimately… four. Funny story: when we asked them to start coming once a week, they initially told us they couldn’t do it, as their schedule was jam-packed. Then, all of a sudden they had an opening.
We were pretty, pretty pleased, but soon felt pretty, pretty guilty after hearing that the friends who recommended Henry and Linda to us were unceremoniously dumped as clients! When they told us: “Hey, did you know that Henry and Linda just fired us!”, Lianne and I both looked at the floor, shuffled our feet, nervously twiddled our thumbs and said: “Oh, really… wow, that’s just… wow.” I guess the story isn’t THAT funny for our friends, the friends who told us about their great housecleaners, the great housecleaners who we then stole from right under their noses. But I digress.
Over their many years of service, Henry and Linda have seen a lot of changes in our household and have witnessed our family grow from one baby to two. They’ve always shown a keen interest in both of our kids but they were especially over the moon when Daniel was born. They let us know more than once just how important it was to have a son! It’s not that they don’t like Abby. Far from it! But, I think they totally subscribe to the popular opinion found in many countries on the other side of the Pacific that birthing a SON is paramount. They honestly seemed a little perplexed when we told them that we would have been just as happy to have two girls.
Not only have they watched our kids get bigger and bigger, they have also seen our homes get bigger and bigger. They’ve been with us in all three… with each incarnation increasing in size and thus, becoming more time-consuming to clean! We went from 1600 square feet, to 1900, to our current 2600. I actually had to force them to take a raise when we moved into our newest home, as they offered to keep us at the same rate. That’s just the kind of people they are. Good people.
They were impressed and very interested when we travelled not once, but twice to Vietnam to visit my brother Mark and his family. While they were keen to hear all about our adventures in their former homeland, I got the sense they were a bit confused with some of the souvenirs we came home with. As you probably know, Vietnam is still a communist country (albeit one with a free-market economy.) Anyhooo, there are shops that specialize in selling “kitchy” Vietnam war-era propaganda memorabilia. We thought these old posters were super-cool and we brought a bunch of them home and had them framed up.
One day, Henry specifically asked me about the posters. I got the feeling that he thought it was profoundly odd we had pictures hanging in our bedroom that boldly proclaimed in Vietnamese: “VICTORY WILL DEFINITELY BE OURS! HEADING DOWN THE GLORIOUS COMMUNIST ROAD! and LONG LIVE THE VIETNAMESE LABOUR PARTY!”
I have no any idea why Henry and Linda left Vietnam, and I don’t have a clue if they supported or hated the ruling Vietnamese Labour Party. To this day, I’m not sure if he finds the posters offensive, or just plain weird. All I know is that I had a very hard time explaining to Henry what kitchy meant. The fact that English isn’t his first language made the exchange that much more complicated.
Despite any consternation they may or may not have over our decorating choices, we all think Henry and Linda are great, as they’ve definitely become a part of our extended family. I’m not sure how many more years they want to keep working, so I am already dreading the inevitable day when they retire from the cleaning biz. Over the past thirteen years, I have come to rely on them immensely. I know exactly what to expect from them and they know exactly what to expect from me. Every Thursday, in the morning hours before their 1:00 PM arrival, I do a thorough PRE-CLEAN of the entire house, and I know for a fact they appreciate it.
Some of you might be scratching your heads, asking what’s the point of hiring cleaners if you have to do a PRE-CLEAN? It’s simple, really. I don’t want them straightening couch pillows, books and magazines, picking up cat toys or laundry off the floor, making beds, packing a dishwasher or tidying up bathroom countertops. No, no, no… that’s the stuff I can do. That’s the stuff I don’t actually mind doing, It’s the DEEP CLEANING I want them to do! It’s the cleaning of toilet bowls and sinks, the washing of hardwood, the vacuuming of floors, the dusting of furniture, the cleaning of mirrors and stovetops. That’s the stuff that drove Lianne and I to tears back in the day.
In fact, if you were to walk into our home just minutes before Henry and Linda arrive, a casual observer might think the place had just been cleaned. Only on closer inspection would that same casual observer conclude the place was in desperate need of a clean… a deep clean!
Over the past decade, the pre-clean has become much less of a Herculean task. When the kids were small, they would leave behind a tornado swath of destruction in their wake. And, me being a bit of a lazy slob, I would leave their mess to stew… for a day, maybe two? Maybe more? And because the kids were small and incapable of doing much in the way of cleaning, sometimes getting the house in order before the arrival of Henry and Linda was a huge, annoying, soul-sucking task. These days, the kids are in charge of pre-cleaning their rooms and any mess they make in the basement. That leaves me to deal with primarily the main floor. I manage to keep it looking straightened up and relatively decent for a majority of the week, but minor messes sometimes require a judgment call.
For instance, if the kids drop copious amounts of toast crumbs under their chairs near the kitchen island at breakfast, do I sweep it up? Maybe. If it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, I say: “absolutely NOT!” If the clean team is one to two days away… (maybe even three), I say… just leave it. That’s why we have cleaners. If my pot on the stove sputters and spurts sauce on the stovetop, hardening instantly, and it’s only two days away from the clean team… just LEAVE it. Dammit, THAT’S why we have cleaners! If I drop a glass bowl and it shatters into a million pieces all over on the kitchen floor, and it’s still six days away from the clean team, I think about it for a second, and ultimately decide that requiring everyone to wear shoes in the house for almost a week may be too much to ask… so I DON’T leave it. I’ll reluctantly clean it up.
And let’s not forget that Henry and Linda sometimes go on vacation, and that means I get to handle the unenviable task of DEEP CLEANING the entire house. Oh, the humanity! After week one of their holidays, the house receives a pretty darned good clean. After week two, my effort level drops significantly. If they are still gone by week three, I am forced to prioritize. Do the kids really need a clean toilet? Nope, but I do. Am I going to scrub that bathtub ring of grime off the kids tub? Nope, but I’ll clean our master bedroom shower. Prioritizing can be surprisingly easy sometimes.
The only cleaning-related area that I feel could still use some real improvement is washing dishes. Every day the dishwasher is packed and unpacked, but the “old-style dishwasher”, a.k.a. yours truly, sometimes leaves the dirty dinner pots and pans in the sink… unwashed.
So, how do I justify my laziness? Let’s go back to that fictional casual observer we talked about earlier. When I actually get around to washing the dishes, I leave them to drip dry on the left hand side of the sink. If the dirty dishes are sitting in the left hand side of the sink and really don’t look that dirty, the casual observer may think they are clean and are simply drip-drying. So, why bother washing them this very instant? WHY? In the immortal words of the great Mahatma Gandhi: “Who cares? And another thing, SO WHAT!”
I admit it. Just like the great Mahatma Gandhi, I too sometimes leave dirty dishes in the sink. I can almost hear the gasps from all of the neat freaks out there and for that, I’m sorry. Like I said, I still need to work on my dishwashing skills.
So, there you have it folks. I have finally come clean about… cleaning. If you ever drop by for a visit, please swing by around Thursday at 3:00 PM. That’s when Henry and Linda have just left and our house looks it’s absolute best. And for god’s sake, never drop by on a Wednesday evening! That’s about twelve hours before I even think about starting my pre-clean and there’s a good chance you’ll be treated to a household even a casual observer would say is a complete and utter shambles.
I know exactly what’s been holding you back. I finally get it! No need to keep hammering me over the head, people. Trust me, I can take a hint.
The price of my “newish” book, Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, was simply too damn high. Well, I’ve taken care of that… BIG TIME. It’s true, it was priced at a rather decadent $13.99 US… but now, it can be yours for the low, low price of just $9.99 US. Wow! Is that a savings of 30%? Yes! Well, almost. I think it’s just under 29%, but who cares, so what!
How do we do it? How can we afford to offer this once-in-a-lifetime deal? One word: VOLUME! And by “volume”, I mean: IF I SHOUT LOUD ENOUGH AND LONG ENOUGH ABOUT DROPPING THE PRICE, MAYBE MORE PEOPLE WILL BUY MY BOOK!
And don’t even get me started about the Kindle version. It was a bloated $4.99 US. Well not anymore, neighbour. Feast your eyes on this incredibly legit 40% off price drop. You can now upload Dad@Home on to your fancy Kindle for a super-slim $2.99 US.
Am I off my rocker? Am I off my meds? Am I coming remotely close to breaking even on this book? Yes and Yes and No, but don’t worry about it, potential customer! All you need worry about is the HUGE savings I’m passing on to YOU!
For those of you who have been hemming and hawing about coughing up the dough for my book, but were waiting to see if I dropped the price, I only have one thing to say to you:
“Well played. You win.”
OK, that’s two things, but you get the picture.
For those of you who bought my book at full freight, I thank you. You will always mean slightly more to me than those who bought my book at the new low, low price of $9.99 US (paperback) and $2.99 (Kindle).
But please don’t let the possibility of less affection directed toward you deter you in any way from making this purchase. Remember pals, I’ve got your back. You may recall I launched my book just in time for Christmas to allow you guys to buy it as a special gift for yourself, and another copy as a weird, “head-scratcher” of a gift for your office Secret Santa… or for your weird Aunt who is hard to buy for. YOU’RE WELCOME.
And, this time, I’ve timed my huge sale so it’s just in time for… um… Spring Break? Yeah, let’s go with that.
Spring Break! The perfect time to read a book. The perfect time to BUY a book.
Getting someone in the media biz to give a damn about a self-published book certainly has been an uphill battle, but I have been faithfully submitting Dad@Home to various websites that review “independent” releases. Well, here’s the first one… and hopefully, it’s not the last.
“Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated by Gregory J. Tysowski is a kind of “Mr. Mom” for the current generation, a time when stay-at-home fathers are becoming more and more common. Tysowski’s wife was working as a high-powered, and well-paid, lawyer, so it was decided when their first child was born that Tysowski would stay at home. The purpose of Dad@Home is not only to share his own experience, but to also show how stay-at-home fatherhood is completely normal. It’s difficult, to be sure, but so is parenting for anyone.
The book is full of amusing stories, and the common trials and stay-at-home dad must face, including some that are completely surprising and unexpected. Tysowski covers every possible insecurity and difficulty, many of which are entirely unique to dads. He is candid about the doubts and struggles he has with this new arrangement – but much of this has to do with how stay-at-home dads are perceived, rather than how he perceives himself. The great strength in the book is that his stories are at once personal and universal.
There may be a bit too much about the pregnancy and birth to start the book- after all, that is not the focus of this book and what makes it unique. What Tysowski could have done instead was begin the book with some stories about being a stay-at-home dad, and then rewound to the beginning. Overall, Tysowski is an engaging narrator of his experiences, and thoroughly reliable, as he has truly walked the walk.
At some point, stay-at-home dads will be completely normalized, and books like Dad@Home will be instrumental in making this the case. For anyone who’s a stay-at-home dad, or for a couple looking into the prospects of such an arrangement, Tysowski is an empathetic and informative voice. As he says, it’s not a “how to” book, but it is still plenty instructive.”
Lysa Grant, Self-Publishing Review, February 20th, 2017.
If you want to check out the original link, click HERE to see my review in all of it’s original glory. While you’re there, why don’t you dive into a few other book reviews? You never know what kind of hidden gems you may find off the beaten path of traditionally published authors!
Us “do-it-yourselfers” need all the help we can get!
And speaking of helping out, if you still haven’t bought my book yet, then here’s your chance! I’m 99% positive that anyone who has read this semi-glowing review probably can’t wait to click HEREto order one or more copies of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated.
Family pets. They can be a source of great joy, immense frustration and inevitably… incredible pain and sorrow. Anyone who owns a dog or a cat knows this. And hey, even people who have a hamster, lizard or budgie know exactly what I’m talking about. I know pets are not people, but it never ceases to amaze me how incredibly easy it is to get attached, to get emotionally invested and to feel like they are a true and integral part of your family. Pets, or CATS in our case, have been a near constant in our household for the better part of twenty years and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Lianne and I are cat lovers. After getting married, we decided to have some cats before we had some kids. They were our furry “practice” offspring, and they ruled the roost for almost seven years before Abby and Daniel arrived on the scene. Ivy (our first born) loved us dearly but didn’t like most other people, and shunned both of our kids from day one. The younger, friendlier (and fatter) Sammy, was easy-peasy and liked everyone, including our human offspring.
However, Abby and Daniel were never really attached to those cats. They didn’t love them the way Lianne and I did. They didn’t play with them, they didn’t take care of them, and they didn’t really need them in their lives. Just like Donald Trump is #NotMyPresident, Sammy and Ivy simply weren’t their cats. #NotMyCats.
What they wanted, what they really needed was KITTENS! As soon as they could walk and talk, they hounded us to get them their own cats to love. We would always respond that we had two cats already, and we wouldn’t be adding any more furry friends to the family until our senior felines finally “ran out of lives”.
Their response was always comical, if not slightly morbid:
“But WHEN are Sammy and Ivy going to die???”
It seemed they simply couldn’t wait for the pet version of the grim reaper to come knocking on our door to take our four-legged practice kids to the cat afterlife. And then, after several years of deflecting the issue, it finally happened. About five years ago, the health of our lovable, bowling ball shaped Sammy-boy started going south. He was the first to go. Then Ivy, our beautiful soft-coated girl who nearly reached the ripe old age of seventeen, suffered kidney failure and left us the following year. Ironically, about twelve months earlier, she finally decided it was OK for Abby and Daniel to pet her.
Were the kids upset? Sure, but they were both still fairly young, and their sorrow wasn’t the kind that ripped your heart out. They shed a few tears for their part-time cat companions and even hosted a couple of very classy memorial services in our living room. Lianne and I obviously took their departures much harder, and when the kids pounced on the opportunity to ask for replacements ASAP, we actually pushed back.
After sixteen-and-a-half years of planned pet parenthood, Lianne and I needed a break.
You must all be thinking: “I get it. Surely this is the ‘Tale of Two Kitties’ referenced in the headline of today’s blog. Great story, Greg!”
Well, actually… no. Sorry, but you’ll have to keep reading to get there.
Over a year had passed without the pitter-patter of furry feet in our home, but after Abby and Daniel’s “Give us Cats or give us Death!” campaign really ramped up, we finally relented. In the summer of 2014, we adopted two kittens… a brother and sister combo from the Humane Society. “Sasha and Duff” were abandoned three-month old bundles of fuzziness and finally Abby and Daniel had furry babies they could call their own! Daniel claimed Duff, and Sasha was scooped up by Abby. Once again, we were a family of six and happy days were here again.
And so, for the next two-and-a-half years we all enjoyed watching the “twins” grow up and grow into very different personalities. Sweet Sasha was smaller, slightly squatter and loved to lick and “groom” us as a sign of her ample affection. She was usually shy with strangers, enjoyed sitting in the sun under our lilac bush outside, and was a bit of a scaredy cat. Duff was handsome, outgoing, athletic, a successful hunter of small animals and could seemingly leap tall buildings in a single bound. However, he reserved most of his affection and attention for one person: his good buddy Daniel. When it came time to call Duff to come inside for the night, I would yell his name from the back deck… and then, nothing. I would enlist Daniel’s help and sure enough, handsome Duff comes trotting home in about 90 seconds.
Now, you must have it all figured out, thinking: “Surely this is the ‘Tale of Two Kitties’ referenced in the headline of today’s blog. I get it! Two stories about two generations of family cats. Great story, Greg! Bravo!”
Again… sorry, but no. Bear with me friends, and I promise I’ll get there.
This is where the story becomes difficult to write, where the lump in my throat forms and the “Tale of Two Kitties” actually begins. About ten days ago, we started what we thought was a very regular day… but noticed that our handsome Duff looked very lethargic. He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t eating and he was throwing up every few hours like clockwork. I hoped maybe he ate a rotting animal or had some kind of stomach “bug”, but the next day he seemed worse. So, to the vet hospital we went and after a few hours of waiting for a diagnosis, the blood and urine tests revealed a horrible truth. The news hit me like a truck. Duff was suffering from acute kidney failure, brought on my ingesting a deadly toxin… antifreeze.
The vet recommended putting him down within 24 hours.
I remember driving home in utter disbelief, with a sickly Duff quietly sitting in the front passenger seat right beside me. I was a devastated pet parent. We always knew the risks of letting our cats outside, but I couldn’t wrap my head around this. Antifreeze? Really? Are you kidding me? I was always concerned Duff would chase a squirrel into traffic and suffer a swift end to his carefree lifestyle of enjoying the great outdoors. But this? This just seemed like a cruel joke.
I was absolutely floored. I couldn’t believe we were losing this young life, this family member, this best friend of my son! I was absolutely dreading what had to happen next. I called Lianne at the office to let her know about Duff’s dire condition. That phone call was extremely difficult to get through but I knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Not even close. School was letting out in a couple of hours and didn’t know how I was going to break the news to Abby and Daniel.
It was a an extremely warm February afternoon, and I was waiting in the parking lot at the kids school with the windows rolled down, anxiously waiting. I was completely sick to my stomach, as I knew the kids would ask me about Duff the second they got into the car. They were well aware I had taken him to the vet hospital and I knew they were both quite concerned about him. Abby was first to arrive and immediately asked how Duff was doing. The words stuck in my throat. I couldn’t talk. My daughter’s eyes widened. My voice cracked, and I finally forced out a very raspy: “Duff is dying”, and Abby started wailing. This was all unfolding as Daniel arrived. We tried to hold our shit together for a moment, but Daniel knew right away that something was terribly wrong. When I broke the news to him, they were both in the back seat, screaming in anguish. There were no words, just a massive unleashing of raw, tormented emotion. I just slouched in the drivers seat, head down… with my red, puffy face in my hands, letting my kids fill the car with their pain for several minutes.
All I could do was croak out the occasional “I’m so sorry” between my own sobs. It was the most emotionally charged event I’ve ever had with my kids. Remember when I said the death of our senior cats “wasn’t the kind of sorrow that ripped your heart out”? This most definitely was.
The next 24 hours were even rougher, as now we had our beloved Duff, lying on our dining room chair, slowly dying before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do but say goodbye. Having a beloved pet in the house that has been scheduled to be put to sleep is something Lianne had to endure with both Sammy and Ivy, but Abby and Daniel really didn’t feel the full weight of those situations, as they were not nearly as invested. This time, it’s arguable they were more invested than we were and it was heartbreaking to watch them say farewell to a pet and companion they helped raise from kittenhood to handsomeness.
We were especially heartbroken to watch Daniel interact with his furry best buddy, as he and Duff shared a special bond that the rest of us didn’t have. It just wasn’t fair that our eleven-year-old boy had to take on this much crushing sorrow.
None of us slept very well that night, as we all knew what was coming the next morning. After the kids bid a final, sombre farewell to their beloved pet, Lianne drove them to school while I drove Duff straight to the vet hospital. My mind was filling up with fond memories of our handsome Duff while my heart was filling with sadness. With Sammy and Ivy’s final goodbye, we had our trusted family veterinarian visit the house and put our cats to sleep in the comfort of their own homes, encircled by loving faces and familiar surroundings. Unfortunately, our vet was out of town and I decided to take on the unenviable task of guiding Duff to the next life all on my own.
This time, it wasn’t a senior cat that had lived a long, happy life. This time, it wasn’t happening in our home. This time was different, as the circumstances surrounding Duff’s demise were obviously unexpected, and infinitely more painful. To be honest, I was a little worried about getting through this difficult, yet unavoidable farewell to Duff all alone, but I shook it off by thinking about the bigger picture: by going solo, I was sparing the rest of the family one final emotional episode. It was time to man up.
At the vet hospital there was plenty of waiting… and there were forms to fill out… and then there was more waiting. The entire process was taking much longer than I had imagined, and I was getting restless sitting in the “quiet room” where they perform the procedure. They were supposed to bring in a heavily sedated Duff, ready for the final injections that would end his life. Instead, they brought in a boy who seemed curiously like the Duff of old. The amount of sedatives they gave him obviously wasn’t enough to settle him down, and the strange animal smells and odd surroundings of the vet hospital had him full of the beans and eager to explore the room. To be honest, it was actually kind of nice to see the bright-eyed version of our handsome Duff one last time, as he had spent most of the last 48 hours wasting away on a dining room chair, barely moving. The veterinary assistant eventually took him away to up the dosage and brought back a very sleepy cat that looked ready to put the suffering behind him. Duff and I quietly locked eyes as I gave the vet the OK to proceed. No more words had to be said at this point.
Watching a living creature that you dearly love slowly slip away while cuddled up close to your heart is an experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but in the end I felt fortunate to be there for our beloved family pet in his final moments.
I was moderately proud of myself for holding it together for a vast majority of my visit to the vet hospital… that is, until I got in the car to go home. I put Duff’s cat carrier on the passenger seat, looked down at the empty box then completely lost my shit for several minutes in the privacy of my Subaru. So much for “manning up”, but I’m sure those of you with pets of your own will give me a pass on this one.
With the worst behind us, it was time for our family to begin the healing process. We talked about our memories of Duff, we all shed a few more tears, and we promised Daniel he could have another kitten when he was ready. He told us that he may never be ready, and we completely understood.
We also talked about death, loss and grief in broader terms. I was hoping to show the kids that going through an excruciating experience like this can actually make you stronger, and can help prepare you for a more traumatic loss – the kind that involves actual family members – the kind that you can’t replace at the Humane Society, Petland or at a breeder. It may sound strange, or even a tad insensitive, but Lianne and I saw this family tragedy as a teachable moment in the young lives of our children.
The following day was a bit easier, and it certainly helped that it was the kids’ final day at school before a full week break. As I picked them up, a rather sheepish Daniel had a rather significant request. He freely admitted that just one day earlier, he told us he couldn’t imagine replacing Duff, but now he had changed his mind. He wanted to visit the Humane Society right away, “just to see” if they had any male kittens up for adoption. Lianne and I were not so sure about this “quick fix” solution to our son’s suffering. We always wanted to be a two-cat family, so we felt this was going to happen eventually, but was it wise for Daniel to try and fill up the hole in his heart so quickly? Should we refuse his request just to teach him the value of patience – the patience required for a true journey to healing?
After some serious discussion, the overwhelming urge to ease our son’s pain won the day. As a parent, it’s very difficult to watch your kid suffer, so we chose the path Daniel so desperately wanted us to… the path to immediate restoration and rejuvenation of the soul.
So, the entire family piled into the car and hit the road, excited to see what was available at the Humane Society. As luck would have it, they had one male kitten left. And, wouldn’t you know it, the little guy had almost the same black and white markings as our recently departed. Luckily, he had a skinny white stripe running down his face that set him apart from his handsome predecessor. After just a few minutes of interaction, Daniel immediately fell in love and asked if we could bring him home. It was kind of surreal to even consider it, as we had been a one-cat household for all of 29 hours! Was this way too soon? Was this the right thing to do? Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. Lianne and I were definitely struggling with the decision.
Maybe teaching Daniel that there’s no shortcut to recover from “real” grief, the kind that only comes with human suffering and human loss, is secondary. Maybe the death of a pet, no matter how traumatic, doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a life lesson about how we can mentally prepare ourselves for some future, theoretical family tragedy.
We decided to say YES to add a new furry member to our family and noticed an immediate and welcome change in the happiness quotient of our children. This super cute boy certainly has filled a void with Abby and Daniel, but what about Lianne and Greg? Well, to be honest, not so much. Our hearts are still very heavy for our fallen friend, but our home is happy again, buzzing with the activity that only a playful kitten can bring and that’s a very good thing after enduring a very tough week.
We said goodbye to Duff on a Thursday. On a Friday, we welcomed little Domino to our home. Two family pets… two kitties separated by only a day, never to meet but forever linked in our hearts.
Finally, this “Tale of Two Kitties” I’ve been yammering on and on about has come to an end. Thank you for allowing me to share our story of undeniable loss that mercifully morphs into an uplifting tale of renewal.
It’s been over a week after Duff’s passing and there’s only one thing left to do. I’ve been purposely avoiding it for a couple of days now, but I’m overdue for a trip back to the vet hospital to pick up the cremated remains of our forever handsome boy. Once Duff is back at home, I’m actually looking forward to attending another classy memorial service in our living room, hosted by the ever-popular Abby and Daniel. We’ve all given a warm welcome to our new edition Domino, but we still haven’t said a formal and proper goodbye to Duff, the one who was so handsome, outgoing, athletic, a successful hunter of small animals and could seemingly leap tall buildings in a single bound.