A little over a year ago, I had a very thorough physical examination at one of those executive health clinics. I am pleased to report that I am a fairly healthy human being. Well, perhaps I’m a tad overweight, and perhaps my blood pressure is a tad high… but it’s nothing too serious.
Except there was something serious that came out of that physical examination. Well… it’s kinda serious.
A routine hearing test revealed something that I never would have guessed. I have significant hearing loss in my left ear, and my right ear ain’t no bargain either!
WHAT! How could I have missed this? I could not BELIEVE that I had a problem! But, once the audiologist gave me the straight goods, and I really started to think about it… everything suddenly made perfect sense.
I would often mishear stuff Lianne and the kids would say to me. Sure, I could hear them, but I wasn’t properly processing the words I they were actually saying. I was hearing something else, which prompted numerous misunderstandings and annoying requests to repeat what they had just said.
I also noticed that I would listen to TV and music at a much higher volume than anyone else in my household, prompting my kids to yell at me in the car: “Dad! Why is this music so loud!” I’d get the same anger directed my way when I’d crank up the volume in the basement home theatre while watching a movie.
I had always chalked this up to me getting older, and it’s true… I did just TURN 50 YEARS OLD last month. Isn’t hearing loss simply a normal part of the aging process? Well, in my case… no.
THIS much hearing loss is not normal.
So, the recommendation given to me last spring was indeed startling but ultimately, not all that surprising:
I NEED A DAMN HEARING AID!
My diagnosis isn’t exactly situation critical, so I was asked to think about it for a year and then come back for another hearing test. Well, here we are one year later, and my hearing is slightly worse than it was twelve months ago.
Knowing that it’s only going to keep deteriorating over time, do I feel like I am somehow disabled or at a serious disadvantage? No, I don’t think so. Do I feel that I am truly missing out on hearing EVERYTHING I’m supposed to hear in the whole wide world? Not really. But, that’s not what is holding me back from taking the plunge and getting that hearing aid.
I’m not proud of it, but to be 100% honest… what’s truly holding me back is VANITY, pure and simple.
I’ve already LOST most of my hair! And, what’s left of it is starting to go grey… and now I’m supposed to throw a hearing aid into this winning look? Really? I might as well start wearing my pants REALLY high and use a walker while I’m at it!
I know there’s a real stigma to wearing a hearing aid… which I know isn’t fair. People wear glasses to correct their vision, so how is this any different? Listen, I don’t know WHY it’s different; I just know that it IS different. Some people actually wear fake glasses as a fashion accessory, or to make them look smarter. Have you ever heard of ANYONE wearing a fake hearing aid to improve his or her image? Oh, you haven’t? ME NEITHER!
OK, I’ll admit the old-timey photos I’ve posted are grossly misrepresenting the actual reality of what hearing aids are… but it’s all in the name of comedy! Yes, we all know that GIANT CONES are no longer the primary device to correct hearing loss. But now, I’d like to get serious.
I know many of you probably think of THIS when you think of hearing aids.
I readily admit that I wrongly assumed any hearing aid they would try and push on me would be some super-clunky unit that would squeak feedback into my hear and pick up ham radio frequencies from Germany.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see THIS when I was fitted a couple of weeks ago.
When I tried one on for size, I was shocked to see how small and light it was, and how it neatly snuck behind my ear, virtually out of sight and out of mind. And, forget getting those ham radio signals from Germany… the latest models connect to your phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to hear your phone calls and listen to music through them.
That is actually pretty damn cool.
My audiologist told me that most people take five to seven YEARS to finally make the decision to get a hearing aid after being diagnosed with hearing loss.
I’ve already been mulling it over for twelve months, but I don’t think I’ll need half a decade to make the call.
I’ve got a big decision to make… and I’m pretty sure I’ve just talked myself into taking the plunge, and dramatically improving my hearing.
And, I’m 99.9% sure I won’t need to purchase a GIANT CONE to do so.
Let’s travel back in time to the early 80’s. I was just a dumb kid and remember seeing funny signs on front lawns jokingly drawing attention to a certain “milestone” birthday:
“LORDY, LORDY LOOK WHO’S FORTY!”
At that time, the thought of someone being FORTY meant they were absolutely ancient. Forty years old? Ha! These people deservedto be made fun of with silly lawn signs! They practically had one foot in the grave!
Back then, I couldn’t imagine being THAT OLD.
Wow. Looking back, I can’t imagine how I could have been so shortsighted. But hey, I was just a dumb kid and didn’t know any better.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2020.
OH, LORDY! WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO BE ONLY FORTY!
These days, I most certainly know better. FIFTY IS NOT OLD! How do I know this? Well, I’M not old, so how could FIFTY be old?
It’s really that simple.
But, seriously folks… while I may not be absolutely ancient, reaching the half century mark this week has made me look back on how my life has changed these past fifty years, and what I can look forward to in the future.
Now, let’s take it back to the start.
Dad@0: The Early Years
A friend of mine challenged me to write about my top five LIFE MOMENTS – one for each decade I’ve been alive on this earth. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t really remember much from the first four years of my life… who can? However, one of my first great memories, or LIFE MOMENTS, happened when I was only five years old.
Because both of my parents were teachers, they had every summer off. So, we always went on a fun family road trip, usually pulling our Scamper camper trailer. I don’t know what possessed my folks to even try this, but in the summer of 1975, we pulled off the most EPIC road trip in Tysowski family history! Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan to Prince Edward Island, and back… pulling a trailer.
That round trip is over 8,000 km! That’s over 5,000 miles! That’s two adults, three boys under the age of six, my sister, and her friend – THAT’S SEVEN HUMANS – all living, eating and sleeping together in a relatively small trailer!
We all piled into the family station wagon, hit the open road and never looked back. The adventure took up most of the summer, and because it’s the first major life event I can truly remember, it has totally stayed with me. It has been seared in my memory, and for good reason. What five-year-old kid wouldn’t want to spend the summer in a Scamper camper on an 8,000 kilometre road trip?
Dad@10: Just A Dumb Kid
Once a kid hits double-digits, they seem to think they know EVERYTHING. I remember that decade well, and looking back, I can only take away one thing: I really didn’t know ANYTHING. Because I’m currently raising teenagers, my memories from this time in my life have all come flooding back to me. I remember feeling how they feel, and I also recall thinking I didn’t need much parental guidance! Like I said… I was just a dumb kid.
I struggled a bit with coming up with a major life moment, but when I really thought about it, there was really only one option. During this formative decade, SCHOOL dominates your entire life. It’s where you spend most of your time, it’s where you meet friends, it’s where you get slotted into your category, your social order, your clique: jock, nerd, class clown, loner, stoner… the list goes on.
School is where you begin to think about your pending ADULT life! So, after twelve long years, your high school graduation feels like a really big deal. It feels like a right of passage. It feels like freedom.
It feels like a top five LIFE MOMENT.
Dad@20: Massive Hair And Massive Change
By the age of twenty, I was already in my second year of university, and I had a MASTER PLAN for the rest of my life! I would keep growing my hair indefinitely, get my bachelors degree in English, transfer to Journalism school and then I’d become the next Walter Cronkite. (Just Google it)
My time in University was a lot of fun, but success in my chosen field didn’t come easy, or early. By the fall of 1993, I moved my jobless ass to Calgary to join my brother and sister. There, I crashed on their couch, ate their groceries and smoked plenty of cigarettes.
After a year-and-a-half of odd jobs, unemployment insurance and zero dollars in my bank account, I met my next LIFE MOMENT at a Christmas party in late 1994. After meeting Lianne, everything immediately changed for the better.
I got my first job in broadcasting, I asked Lianne for her hand in marriage, (she said yes) and in the summer of 1996… THIS happened.
Dad@30: From Working Stiff To Stay-At-Home Dad
If you thought the previous decade was one of massive change, then your head might literally explode when you see how much MORE massive the change was in this particular decade!
By the time I reached the age of thirty, I had just changed careers. After five years of working in television broadcasting, I began a new job in advertising at Canada’s largest sporting goods chain. Goodbye Walter Cronkite, hello Don Draper. (Just Google it)
Lianne and I had only been married for a few years, so having kids wasn’t really on our radar… yet. We were just living and loving our lives! Travelling the world! Growing our careers! Why would we mess with a good thing? Well, we decided our neat little lives needed to get REALLY MESSY in 2003 and then again in 2005. I know it’s technically two moments, but let’s mash them together into ONE GIANT LIFE MOMENT!
By the fall of 2004, Lianne had finished six months of maternity leave and then it was my turn! I took six months of parental leave… and then… never went back to work.
After five years of working in advertising, I began my new job as Dad@Home. Goodbye Don Draper, hello Michael Keaton from Mr. Mom. (Just Google it)
Dad@40: The Golden Years
By the age of forty, I knew exactly what my life was and what it would be for the next decade. I had been a stay-at-home dad for almost six years and life was good! I survived the crazy years of babies and toddlers, and both Abby and Daniel were in school full time. The increased freedom felt incredible. I had the routines down pat. I had school and extra-curricular schedules down pat. I had family meals down pat. I had laundry… well… sorry… but I still hate doing laundry and will NEVER have it down pat. Laundry sucks. But I digress.
This was a decade where there was no truly obvious LIFE MOMENT to highlight, but there were several very good candidates.
The summer of 2010 will go down as the most epic family vacation since… well… 1975. Lianne took a three-month sabbatical from her job and the four of us spent SEVEN WEEKS exploring France. I don’t remember any of us being that happy before or after that particular holiday. It’s our GOLD STANDARD of happiness.
Another candidate for this decade’s LIFE MOMENT would be writing Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated. Publishing a book about my life and times as a stay-at-home dad was a big goal of mine the second I decided to quit the rat race and become the primary caregiver. I launched the book in December 2016, and it led to me writing this monthly blog and recording the audiobook version. It has given me back a semblance of a “profession” outside of my work in the home and it keeps my writing skills kinda-sorta sharp.
But, if we’re talking about a true LIFE MOMENT, nothing beats WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP.
That’s right, even if you played in Division 11. Even if it’s only beer league. Even if the opposing team decided to forfeit the final and deciding game three of the series… a win is a win.
A championship is a championship.
And so, in the spring of 2016, a rag-tag group of middle-aged men (with a couple of young guys) did the impossible. We won the CUP! We won the NCHL Division 11 City Championship! What a LIFE MOMENT!
Dad@50: Now What?
And, that takes us to the here and now. On May 11th, 2020, I turned fifty years old.
As certain of what my life was at age forty, I am equally uncertain of what my life will become now that I am fifty. This current pandemic lockdown has given me a real glimpse of what my life will look like once the kids have graduated and are out of the house! Ever since school has shifted to online learning, and all sports and extra-curricular actives have been shelved, a lot of my stay-at-home dad duties have grounded to a halt!
I’m not waking up at 7:00 to make breakfast and drive Daniel to the bus stop. I’m not driving him to volleyball, piano lessons, or hockey. There are no club basketball games or tournaments to watch. There are no dentist appointments. There are no trips to the mall to pick up Daniel.
I used to fill up my gas tank once a week – now it’s once every five weeks!
Last year, I wrote a blog post about potentially going back to the traditional workforce once the kids both fly the coup. Now that I’ve tasted a life with very little stay-at-home dad responsibilities, I am more ready than ever to get back out there. I am ready for my next big LIFE MOMENT.
Remember, I’m ONLY FIFTY!
FIFTY IS NOT OLD! How do I know this? Well, I’M not old, so how could FIFTY be old?
Like the rest of the world, my life is upside down. I used to have responsibilities! I used to have routines! I used to have stuff to do! I used to have purpose!
I USED TO LEAVE THE DAMN HOUSE!
Well, thanks to coronavirus, all of that is just a faded memory.
Just a few short weeks ago, I was still dropping off Daniel at his school bus stop, driving him to hockey… or volleyball… or piano lessons… or to a friend’s house… or picking him up at his school bus stop. There were also Abby’s basketball tryouts to watch and future basketball and rugby games to attend.
There were errands to run, movies (in an actual movie theatre) to see, friends and family to visit, live theatre and concerts to attend, coffee shops to loiter in, stores and malls to stroll through, and restaurants to sit down and linger at.
Perhaps most importantly, a few weeks ago I was wrapping up winter beer league hockey and I was already thinking about summer beer league hockey.
Those beers weren’t going to drink themselves!
And now, there’s NOTHING! THAT’S RIGHT… NOTHING TO DO!
So, let me tell you what happened about a week ago when I looked in the mirror and noticed that the terrible salad sitting on top of my head needed a serious trim.
Well, I would have gone to my local barbershop… but I think we all know that ship has sailed.
It was time to take matters into my own hands.
I HAD TO BECOME MY OWN BARBER!
I asked myself if I had the skill set to “taper and trim” my hair the way my barber does it. Could I keep it short on the sides, and then blend it to leave a finger length on the top?
I thought about it for about two seconds.
There’s only ONE OPTION for a man with my particular set of skills:
LET’S GO DOWN TO THE WOOD!!!
I have to be honest with you.
Buzzing off your own hair is actually a lot of fun!
It feels so liberating while you do it. It’s like you’re doing something outrageous, or even illegal. You feel a bit like Britney Spears.
The dramatic transformation unfolding before your very eyes is shocking… and in this age of boring quarantine, it has been the most exciting thing to happen in my household in MONTHS!
When I was a young lad with a full, flowing mop of long, reddish-brown hair… I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror for HOURS and experiment with funny hairstyles: the classic comb over, the 70s middle part, the slick-back look, the list went on.
Sure, it was a super weird way for a 16-year-old boy to spend a Friday night, but dammit, it was fun!
Now, my obvious (and tragic) male pattern baldness has made that kind of tomfoolery impossible, but trimming down my dome to various stages of baldness was the closest thing I’ve had to that silly, youthful practice in a very long time.
Dammit, it was FUN!
After my self-inflicted buzz job was complete, I asked myself if that was ENOUGH.
Should I STOP?
The electric shears had shaved my head clean, but there was still plenty of visible stubble. Did I want to lather up with shaving cream and COMPLETELY REMOVE every vestige… every remaining bit of follicle evidence from my head?
DAMN RIGHTS I DID!
I wanted to accomplish this Herculean feat all by myself, but I had no idea how to shave the back of my head without A) missing a bunch of spots, or B) cutting my skin to shreds with the razor.
So, I busted into Daniel’s room and woke his lazy ass up.
Initially, he was not receptive to helping me out, so I had to ORDER him to do it. Non-compliance meant me taking away his laptop, and thus, his ability to play Minecraft. He complied. Did I mention it was 1:12 in the afternoon and he was still sleeping when I asked for his help?
NOW CHECK OUT THE FINISHED PRODUCT!!!
After Daniel finished shaving the back of my head, I immediately ordered him out of my bathroom, and I assume he went back to bed. Lazy teenagers, WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?
After wiping off the remaining bits of shaving cream, I absolutely revelled in the sheer smoothness of my freshly-shaven melon!
So smooth! So shiny! So KOJAK!
(Anyone under 45-years-old can feel free to Google that… as I’m not going to explain the reference.)
I simply couldn’t keep my damn hands off my silky head! I COULD NOT.
I pretended it was a genie’s lamp and rubbing it would bring good luck!
Unfortunately, that wonderful feeling was fleeting.
By the next morning, the dream was over. My head felt like SANDPAPER.
I was tempted to rub it against the rough corners of my dining room table to smooth them down! Even pulling a tee shirt over my head was like rubbing two pieces of Velcro together!
It would be WAY too much work to shave my head each and every day to keep that “smooth as a baby’s bottom” feeling, so I decided this little experiment would end right here, right now.
The GREAT 2020 PANDEMIC HEAD SHAVE SHOW had concluded it’s short but memorable run. My hair will now re-grow, unabated, for the next couple of months with little or no maintenance required. It’s almost sad. It all happened so quickly.
So, why did I do it?
The answer is simple. WHY THE HELL NOT?
What else do I have to do?
We’re all stuck at home, and even for a stay-at-home dad who’s job title literally has “STAY AT HOME” in it… I’ll freely admit that BOREDOM has overtaken me.
I guess I’ll have to think of some other infinitely entertaining self-grooming practices to help pass the time.
However, in the meantime I will promise you this.
I shaved my head on March 29th. If we are still stuck in our homes by May 29th, I’m going to do it all over again.
Like many of you, I have been glued to every screen available to me… watching the entire world being brought to it’s knees by a deadly microscopic bug.
As the crisis unfolded in Asia in January and February, it definitely scared me, but only in an abstract kind of way. The infected masses were half a world away! Yes, the spread of COVID-19 to every corner of the globe seemed inevitable, but I truly believed it couldn’t get that bad in my backyard.
SARS, MERS, H1N1, ZIKA – ALL of these of these viruses came and went without disrupting our lives.
By late February, I knew some people here in Calgary who were starting to stock up on non-perishable food and I thought they were CRAZY. At that particular time, the threat of COVID-19 still didn’t directly impact my life. I thought to myself:
“I’m sure I’ll be able to get groceries, disinfectant wipes and Advil any time I want. This is no time to panic!”
By the end of February, the entire country only had 20 confirmed cases. Maybe we could stop or significantly slow down this outbreak? Wishful thinking. A few days into March and that number jumped to 47, but fortunately there were still no cases in my home province of Alberta.
Then, the inevitable happened.
Thursday March 5th:This was the day the Alberta government announced the first case of coronavirus in the province. I happened to be out shopping at Safeway when I heard the news, and I already noticed some unusual activity. There were definitely more people in the store than usual, and there were a lot of shopping carts filled to CAPACITY at checkout. So, that unsettled me a bit.
My immediate reaction was to buy a couple of jumbo tubs of disinfectant wipes, more Advil and Tylenol, and because I collect AirMiles Reward miles, I secured 20 bonus points for purchasing a 30 pack of toilet paper! (Little did I know how fortunate I was to get it.)
The weekend came, and our lives went on as usual. Daniel had a volleyball tournament, Abby had club basketball tryouts, and then we went out for a family dinner at a nice restaurant.
Coronavirus was here, but the threat of COVID-19 still didn’t impact my life. I thought to myself:
“I’m sure the government will be able to keep a lid on this. This is no time to panic!”
With the weekend behind us, a new workweek began for Lianne at her downtown office, Abby drove herself to school and I drove Daniel to his bus stop. Everything was… normal.
I had no idea how much our world would change in a single week.
Monday March 9th: Abby came home from school with a friend who was killing time at our house before they both went to rugby practice. As they made themselves ham and cheese sandwiches, Abby’s friend casually mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well, and at first I didn’t really think much of it.
However, after she left I quickly cracked open my new tub of disinfectant wipes and completely sanitized the kitchen. This was also the day I that I started to really wash my hands… like REALLY wash them! Like… RELIGIOUSLY follow the detailed instructions of the World Health Organization.
Tuesday March 10th: By now, there were multiple news reports of a mad rush to secure TOILET PAPER! What? Costco, Superstore, Wall-Mart… ALL SOLD OUT! What were people thinking? This isn’t the zombie apocalypse we’re talking about here! Sure, I bought one pack at Safeway but many people were HOARDING them, and loading up their cars with 5, 6, or 7 JUMBO packs. Idiots.
Wednesday March 11: This was the day when two very big things happened that suddenly made the Coronavirus outbreak very real for a LOT of people.
First, the NBA very unexpectedly SUSPENDED THEIR SEASON! What? There was talk of playing in empty stadiums, but this was downright shocking! Then, TOM HANKS! Yes, national treasure and everyone’s favourite NICE GUY actor Tom Hanks (and wife Rita Wilson) tested POSITIVE for COVID-19.
Why does it take someone REALLY FAMOUS getting infected to suddenly make this crisis HIT HOME? It’s difficult to explain… but somehow, Tom Hanks getting sick was a REALLY big deal.
Thursday March 12: The sudden suspension of the NBA led to a domino effect of professional sports leagues following suit. The NHL, MLS, MLB, NLL, PGA, ATP… you name it, it was shelved! The NCAA March Madness tournament also joined the parade of sports shutting down indefinitely. All of this uncertainty also affected the stock markets, as every index completely TANKED! Financial panic had started to set in.
For over fifteen years, I have been visiting my parents every Thursday. It’s tradition! I rarely miss it, but on this particular visit, my behaviour was noticeably altered. NO HUGS! NO KISSES! I also sat on the opposite side of the room from my Mom and Dad. I secretly wonder if this will be my last visit for a while. Maybe I could wear a mask? Rubber gloves?
More cancellations roll in. My son’s hockey season is DONE, which was really disappointing as his team was all set to play in the league championship game on the weekend! Next up, my daughter’s club basketball tryouts are suspended. My gut suddenly tied up in KNOTS as I contemplated life without my beloved BEER LEAGUE HOCKEY! Please Lord, let me play just one more time!
Friday, March 13: For whatever reason, the STOCK MARKET RALLIES! The Dow had its best day since 2008, which calms a lot of people down who have their retirement savings invested in the markets. Maybe things won’t get that bad after all?
This was also the day I decided we should be prepared for a potential 14-day self-quarantine. A quick inventory of our frozen and dry goods showed we were woefully underprepared to be holed-up for an extended period of time.
Was this panic buying? No it was not!
I bought an amount of food that I felt was appropriate and I now feel confident we won’t have to venture outside if one (or all) of us tests positive for COVID-19. I did NOT buy a flat of bread, stacks and stacks of chicken breasts or a dozen bags of frozen peas. I managed to get most of what was on my list, but frozen vegetables, pasta and canned soups were in very low supply at my neighbourhood Safeway.
Saturday, March 14: We wake up to the news of more cancelations. Daniel’s upcoming volleyball and Abby’s basketball tournaments are either cancelled or postponed. The usually BUSY weekend is upon us and all of a sudden we have nothing to do! There are no kids sports, no professional sports on TV… and perhaps most importantly, my scheduled Saturday night beer league hockey game, and the remainder of the season, has been shelved indefinitely. My hockey career is over… for now.
That news hit me especially hard, as I was on a 1-game point streak.
We were cooped up in the house all damn day, so we decided to go out for dinner to a neighbourhood Italian restaurant – WHILE WE WERE STILL ABLE TO! Some countries are now on full lockdown, with all eating and drinking establishments completely shut down.
We decided to take full advantage of one of the last remaining vestiges of a normal life, and it was delicious.
Were we putting ourselves at risk by eating in a public space?
Perhaps, but we tried our best to be as careful and sanitary as possible. Was this lovely sit down meal our LAST ONE in a restaurant for MONTHS? Most likely… yes.
Sunday, March 15: Our life continues to slow down with no signs of returning to normal any time soon. Lianne is informed that her office may be asking everyone to work from home within a week. More provinces in Canada are shutting down schools! Could Alberta be that far behind? To make matters even more uncertain, the provincial government suggests that IF they decide to close schools, they would likely stay closed for the remainder of the school year. WHAT!
We are now looking at the very real possibility that ALL FOUR OF US will be under the same roof… ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, for possibly months on end.
NOW CAN I PANIC?
As a stay-at-home dad, I’ve had the entire house to myself during the weekdays for a very long time – like, for almost a DECADE. How would we cope with a FULL HOUSE 24/7?
I’m not sure, but I think we’re about to find out.
UPDATE! Sunday, March 15:
ALL SCHOOLS K-12 IN ALBERTA ARE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!
It’s still unclear what the plan is for online instruction, but Abby’s school sent us a letter telling her not to burn her textbooks just yet, and to keep doing homework. She was crushed that her grade 11 school year wasn’t completely finished.
Then, another big announcement comes just hours later:
THE CITY OF CALGARY DECLARES A STATE OF EMERGENCY!
A whole whack of city facilities like recreation centres, pools, arenas and public libraries are now shuttered. We went to bed wondering what the next day would bring. With even more countries and cities going on FULL LOCKDOWN, I don’t think any drastic measure could surprise us now. Speaking to CTV News, the Prime Minister says:
“NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE.”
Monday, March 16th: We turn on the news and witness another EPIC CRASH on the stock market, as the yo-yo continues. Actually, the term yo-yo makes it sound almost fun, but in reality, the stock market suffered it’s biggest loss in HISTORY. So yeah, not so much fun. We’ve decided we won’t even look at our investment statements for a few months. It would simply be too depressing right now.
Lianne’s firm has instructed her to pick up any materials she needs, as the plan to work from home plan has been ACCELERATED TO BEGIN TODAY! Starting immediately, we will be seeing a lot of each other. Yup, that “close-quarters” scenario I was so worried about has dramatically come to fruition.
OUR FAMILY OF FOUR IS ABOUT TO BECOME REACQUAINTED… VERY REACQUAINTED.
Scanning the news feeds has now become my favourite, nerve-wracking past-time, and I just ran across another “sign of the time”: Tim Horton has closed all dining seating, and becomes take-out, drive-thru and delivery ONLY. You can’t even sit down and have a coffee at Timmys any more. Hours later, Starbucks follows suit.
Another bombshell! Canada shuts down the border to all non-Canadian citizens, with the exception of permanent residents, their immediate families, diplomats and U.S. citizens.
That last exception… U.S. citizens, worries me.
I really don’t believe they have a great handle on the crisis south of the border and feel they could UNDO all of the good work being done to protect Canadians from infection.
The underwhelming leadership style of Donald J. Trump has not inspired a whole lot of confidence in the rest of the world. 90% of Canadians live within 300 miles of the U.S. border. If THEY get overwhelmed by this, chances are WE will get overwhelmed by this… no matter what we do.
Exhausted from the wall-to-wall Coronavirus coverage, we all go to bed Monday night, bewildered by the events of the past week and wondering what extraordinary new social distancing measures are coming next.
What I have just described to you is how Canadian life has been turned upside down in only seven days. SEVEN DAYS. Our lives went from normal to something completely unheard of… seemingly in the blink of an eye.
So, now what? All joking aside about me panicking over the thought of actually spending time with my family… WHAT SHOULD WE ALL DO? Is all of this personal sacrifice worth it? Is the catastrophic damage to the world’s economy worth it?
WILL ALL OF THESE UNPRECEDENTED SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE AT ALL?
The unequivocal answer is:
YES! ABSOLUTELY YES!! 100% YES!!!
I know there are those who inexplicably believe we are all overreacting to this virus. They say nothing will happen, or it won’t be that bad, or that this is all overblown by some “liberal” media with a nefarious agenda.
And here’s the thing… if we all band together, and do the right thing, we WILL reduce the number of cases, it WON’T be as bad as we thought, and those idiots who preach doing nothing will actually think they were right!
“You see, we did all of this dumb stuff to disrupt our lives and in the end, it wasn’t that bad!!!”
Hey dummy… it’s BECAUSE of these drastic measures, these unprecedented displays of social distancing that it may not be that bad. It’s BECAUSE of this incredible inconvenience that we WILL save lives, and ultimately that is what this is all about:
We all know and love people who are the most at risk. I have not one, but TWO parents who are in their mid-80’s. I have aunts and uncles in the same boat. Lianne’s mother is almost 80. But, the elderly are not the only people at risk! Those with chronic health conditions are not safe either. And lastly… let’s not forget that even vital, young, healthy, strong people could still die from this. There are always those outliers that we never see coming.
The infected are dying by the thousands in Italy right now, and Spain could be right behind them. All we have to do is take a hard look at the countries that did NOT react quickly enough to curtail the damage of this deadly virus.
Two weeks ago, Italy was not in crisis. But today? COVID-19 has completely overrun the health care system, and doctors are having to CHOOSE WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES because of a lack of medical resources.
Let that sink in. People who desperately need saving will not be saved.
Think about what that would look like here in Canada. It seems unfathomable… but we could be a couple of weeks away from that exact scenario.
We are all shutting down our normal lives TO SAVE THE LIVES OF OUR LOVED ONES.
We are all shutting down our normal lives TO SAVE THE LIVES OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.
Don’t forget, these “strangers” are all someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, father, mother, grandfather or grandmother. They are letter carriers, chiropractors, sandwich artists at Subway, school teachers, UPS drivers, yoga instructors, firefighters… or homeless people who have no one else to look out for them.
They are us. We are them.
So, let me leave you with a graph that many of you have already seen on the news, or in your social media feed, or in an email from your great uncle Walter:
It’s called FLATTENING THE CURVE.
The radical social distancing measures implemented by our government must be followed! If we all comply like good soldiers, we WILL slow the rate of infections and give the Canadian health care system a fighting chance to save everyone who needs saving.
Everyone stay safe, stay healthy, help those in need, keep washing your hands and remember:
This past fall, I entered my seventeenth year as a stay-at-home dad. It always sounds crazy when I think about how long I’ve been doing this, and it always gets me thinking.
Whenever I stop for a moment to take stock of my many adventures in domestic life, I often ponder what I’ve found harder and what I’ve found easier about my years at home. For the longest time, I was convinced those first few years of being home alone with a baby and a toddler were the most difficult – bar none! I used to think:
“THOSE were the days when I earned my keep around these parts!”
But now? I’m not so sure and I’m curious as to what other people think about which phase of parenting is the hardest.
PHASE ONE: Babies, Toddlers, and the Pre-School Years
When Lianne and I brought our daughter Abby into this world, I was still a 9 to 5 working man with no idea what I was getting myself into. When my wife went back to her law career after six months at home and I quit my job, I had no idea what the hell I was doing! However, I quickly learned that the fastest way to get up to speed was to dive in headfirst and just keep swimming.
When Daniel came along, I was once again treated to a much appreciated six month reprieve with Lianne staying home from work.
Then it all got real… REAL FAST!
A bouncing baby boy and rambunctious two-year-old girl were my daily SOLO responsibility. Those years with two very young kids ran me ragged. The diaper changes, the potty training, the fussy eaters, the constant looking over your shoulder to make sure one of them wasn’t tumbling down an open elevator shaft. It was always GO-GO-GO!
But was it HARD?
Looking back, I would say not really.
I would more accurately describe it as busy… EXTREMELY busy. Some of it was kind of mindless, like changing diapers and cleaning up after them. Some of it was fun, like playing games with them. Some of it was worrisome, like when they both started projectile vomiting. But in the end, it wasn’t all that stressful. When I was still a working stiff, looming deadlines and work stress would keep me up at night. Taking care of crazy kids certainly wore me out, but I slept like a baby.
So, was PHASE ONE the hardest? Maybe not.
PHASE TWO: The Elementary School Years
Once both Abby and Daniel reached grade one and grade three respectively, I had it made in the shade.
Dropping the kids off at school at 8:30 AM and having the day completely to myself seemed like a miracle after seven years of having at least one kid underfoot at all times. I was completely amazed how quickly 3:30 rolled around, because there was always stuff to do, but at least I could have a cup of coffee (or two) in peace.
Sure, the MANY after-school activities, making dinner and getting kids to bed always made sure the rest of my day was absolutely crazy-town, but I always look back at these as the GOLDEN YEARS. The kids were still kids, but not little kids. The danger of them tumbling down an open elevator shaft was practically non-existent.
I think the age of TEN would be my all-time favourite age. By then, Abby and Daniel were very much their own person, with very distinct and dynamic personalities. They were both chock-full of confidence and seemed to have such a positive outlook on the future. Sure, they weren’t perfect – they misbehaved and fought, but for the most part they got along great with each other and with their parents.
But was it HARD?
I’d say no.
Again, it was always busy, but not particularly stressful. I can safely say elementary school was the easiest phase, which was a very good thing, because it would prove to be the calm before the storm.
PHASE THREE: The Junior High & High School Years
Something happens to kids when they enter the ages of eleven and twelve… just before they burst into the very different world of junior high. All of that potent confidence is somehow slowly sapped from their psyche. The joys of simply playing with toys or running around in a park become replaced with the stresses of “friend-drama” and bullying.
Junior high girls can be very mean. Junior high boys can be very mean. Social media completely distorts self-image. Teens can go from having six great friends to zero friends. They can suffer from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Siblings that seemed so tight now barely interact. They suddenly close themselves off and the lines of communication to parents are severed. I found it very difficult to figure out what was really happening inside their teenage heads.
But is it HARD?
YES! Absolutely it is hard!
As a parent, feeling this helpless can be very frustrating and exceedingly stressful. Thankfully, Abby and Daniel still had all of the usual extra-curricular activities that kept us all busy. At times, it seemed like those were the only things that tied the parent and child together during this phase.
Junior High was definitely the hardest time for both of my kids, but thankfully things got better. High School was a fresh start. Situations changed, relationships changed, attitudes changed and our teenagers started opening up to having conversations. The constant fights between siblings have taped off and a new type of friendship is taking shape.
But now, there are NEW things to stress about, like getting good grades, boyfriends/girlfriends, finishing high school and applying for post-secondary education. That positive outlook so prevalent in a ten-year-old is replaced by a fatalistic teenage view of a world with dwindling job prospects and a climate emergency that young people are taking VERY seriously. The future has never been scarier.
So yeah, it’s definitely the hardest phase.
All of a sudden those long days of caring for toddlers don’t seem nearly as bad. But, here’s my next question for those “more experienced” parents out there:
“Is the NEXT phase any easier?”
PHASE FOUR: Parenting Adult Children 18+
In less than a month, we will be parents of a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old. I am nearing the end of my time as a stay-at-home dad. Soon, I’ll just be… a DAD. I don’t know if either kid will stay home for post-secondary education or move far, far away. I also don’t know if either of them will be the type to call home twice a day, twice a month or twice a year!
It’s all very uncertain, but I don’t see any scenario where I will stop worrying about them. When visiting my 85-year-old parents, my mom will seem very concerned for my health and safety if I am suffering from even a mild cold. I guess one never stops being a parent in this next phase… the question is:
But is it HARD?
I would REALLY like to think that once the kids fly the coop, it gets exponentially easier, but I’m not going to assume anything when it comes to parenting. So, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on this very important query.
Outside of my marriage, this has been the longest relationship I’ve ever had.
She’s been reliable, steady as a she goes, and has never let me down. Sure, maybe she “drinks” a little too much, but that’s because she’s a six cylinder kind of gal. She’s been my constant, my rock, my touchstone, and my faithful companion for a good chunk of my time as a stay-at-home dad. I see her every day. EVERY DAMN DAY. What can I say… I am really going to miss her.
“She” is my 2010 Subaru Tribeca.
How did we get here? Allow me to explain. It was spring 2010 and our silver 2004 Forester simply wasn’t cutting it anymore. The kids were growing. I was growing. The car simply seemed – cramped. One day, while getting service for the Forester, I casually asked about the Tribeca, Subaru’s new entry into the seven passenger SUV market. The guy behind the counter told me:
“You know, we’re selling our Tribeca demo right now.”
WHAT! They were selling the car they let people test drive? Unreal! I had to have her. I just HAD to have her. We came back to the dealership on the weekend. After a quick test drive and and even quicker trade in, that gorgeous graphite grey gas guzzler was mine… ALL MINE.
The kids loved her right off the bat, all because of one special feature: the DVD entertainment system, complete with headphones. On any ride over four minutes long, they begged me to play them a movie. At the time, Daniel and Abby were aged five and seven, and anything I could use to keep them quiet and calm during traffic was an absolute godsend.
This was my golden age of car travel.
As a stay-at-home dad, I volunteered A LOT to drive my kids and their classmates on school field trips. With third row seating that could seat seven, my Tribeca was a very practical choice to cart these little monsters all over Calgary. And trust me, when things got crazy in the car, that entertainment system saved the day more than once.
When you drive as much as I do, it’s important to have a car that you like. It’s also important the kids you constantly drive around also like your car, and for those first few years, they most certainly did. But, as kids get older, interests change. The DVD entertainment system no longer seemed magical, and the numerous complaints began in earnest.
“Why does this car not have heated rear seats? Mom’s car does! Why is this dumb car so bumpy? Mom’s car is smooth! Why doesn’t the heat blow in the back? It only blows cold! Mom’s car blows hot air in the back!”
Yes, my kids finally realized… like anyone with a brain, that Lianne’s car (an Audi Q5) was a much, much, much, much, much nicer car than my Subaru Tribeca. Now, it seemed everyone had turned their backs on my precious Tribeca… everyone but ME.
I still loved her. I still washed her. I still faithfully serviced her every six months or 8,000 km. She was still my baby, despite her many faults.
And yes, I had to agree with the kids on some of her shortcomings. Yes, the ventilation system in the back only blows the air conditioning through the vents, and not the heat. That really blows! On icy-cold days, I could turn on the seat warmers in the front, while the kids (literally) froze their butts off in the back. Yes, that WOULD be annoying. And yes, after driving Lianne’s Audi from time to time, I certainly noticed a big difference. The silky-smooth, German-engineered ride was a treat compared to the constant light jostling I got when I drove my car.
And don’t get me started on GAS MILAGE! Our previous cars, a VW Jetta and Subaru Forester were both great on gas. The Tribeca was a bigger car with a bigger engine but with the same size of gas tank. It seemed like I was ALWAYS fuelling up. ALWAYS!
Another annoying thing about my car was the length. It was significantly longer than my previous vehicles, and for that reason, I could never quite replicate my savant-like ability to parallel park. Yes, I’m proud to say, that back in the day, I could parallel park with the BEST of them. THE BEST OF THEM I TELL YOU!
I remember Lianne would say: “There’s no WAY you’ll fit in that spot!” I’d just look over at her with a wry smile and say: “Just watch me.”
Could I do that with the Tribeca? Nope. No dice. I just didn’t have the “gift” anymore.
Now, you might be thinking that with all of these shortcomings, I’d be chomping at the bit to unload this 10-year-old hunk of junk… but I’m not. I’m really not. This car has safely transported our family on countless road trips over the years. From numerous adventures to the Rocky Mountains, Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Vancouver Island and back… the list goes on.
Unlike Lianne’s car (which she basically drives to work and back home) my car was the true FAMILY car. If the four of us had to go somewhere, it was in my Tribeca.
There are so many reasons why it’s so hard to let her go.
1) My kids grew up in this car!
My kids spent a lot of time in this car from 2010 to 2020. They ate countless drive-through meals on the way to and from gymnastics, soccer, piano, basketball, hockey, volleyball, rugby and many other activities. I think the back seat still smells like old french fries!
At times, my car was their dining room, bedroom and living room.
Thank God it was never their bathroom! But, full disclosure… my kids have definitely puked in it… more than once.
2) My daughter learned to drive in this car!
Abby also scraped the side of it when she cut it too close while parking in the garage, but that just added to the legend… the lustre… the loveable character of my Tribeca.
3) I could haul LOTS of stuff in this car! And I mean LOTS.
This car has made multiple trips to the DUMP, and never let me down. Sure, there have been plenty of times when I couldn’t see anything out of my rear window… but that’s just how I roll.
4) My body has flattened and shaped the driver seat to the exact contours and specifications of my ass!
Never underestimate the importance of a comfortable seat… especially if you’ve spent thousands of hours in it.
So if this car is so damn awesome, WHY AM I GETTING RID OF IT???
Sigh. I hate to be ageist but my beautiful Tribeca isn’t exactly a spring chicken.
She just hit 180,000 km on the odometer. I know that’s not a crazy amount of clicks, but that’s not the only thing to consider. In the next six months, she probably needs new brakes, new tires, a new timing belt… the list goes on. And guess what? A quick Google search shows 2010 Tribecas are being sold for $5,000 to $10,000. She’s just not worth all that much anymore!
I really don’t know what I could get for her… as she’s not in pristine condition, but I do know I have several thousand dollars of maintenance coming up soon. Very soon.
And, please don’t tell her… but I have my eye on a much younger model.
I’m not carting around a whole whack of kids on field trips anymore. I don’t want to fill up my tank twice a week. I don’t need all of that extra cargo space. Abby is now driving her own car. Next year, I’ll have two kids in high school… and after that, we could be empty nesters before you know it. My Tribeca may feel like a part of the family, but she is simply too much car for the next phase of my life!
It pains me to say it, but it’s time to say goodbye.
People always say you never forget your first car.
For me, that’s simply not the case. I never really liked my first car: a 1988 Ford Mustang. It had weird pink and purple accent striping, it was only a 4-banger, and it was kind of a lemon.
I’d actually like to forget it.
Driving an unremarkable family SUV for ten years did not make me cool, but it faithfully served as my sidekick as I performed my daily duties as a dad. I jokingly tell people that being a stay-at-home father is like being an Uber driver. But all kidding aside, with the amount of time I’ve spent driving my kids all over town, it actually rings quite true.
As I say goodbye to her, I know in my heart there’s no other car I would have wanted along for the ride on this crazy journey called parenthood.
My 2010 Subaru Tribeca is the car I will never forget.
Well, here we are again. I know we are fast approaching the end of another calendar year when I sit down to write the annual Tysowski Christmas letter. This is the 14th anniversary edition, which means absolutely nothing to anyone.
2019 started off with a much needed winter getaway in mid-January for Greg and Lianne. We hooked up with friends Jennifer and Sean for a weekend trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, where we took in a hot car show, a cool hockey game and also played some golf. Oh, and we also drank booze. February started off with BIG NEWS with the birth of our newest niece, little Everly Grace Tysowski! Gaeil and David have combined to create a real cutie-patootie! (FYI, she gets 99.9% of that cutie-patootieness from her mother.)
Spring arrived, and with it a couple of March birthdays. Daniel’s slow transformation into a fine young man continues, as he turned 14. As for Abby, she turned SWEET 16 and has already become a lovely, young (edgy) woman. In late March, I made a quick trip to the left coast to visit Patrick and Mia, and hit the slopes at Whistler for some excellent spring skiing.
The rest of spring 2019 was filled with Abby’s club basketball and rugby seasons, Daniel’s rec volleyball and another school play, where he played a flying monkey (among other parts) in the Wizard of OZ.
In late May, Lianne and Daniel went on a special mother/son trip to sunny Los Angeles, where the highlight was attending RuPaul’s DragCon!
On the same weekend, Abby and I flew to the equally glamorous metropolis of Kamloops, BC for a basketball tournament. We stayed at the Travelodge. I’m not sure which duo came out on top?
With the arrival of summer came a couple of major milestones. In July, my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a lovely family dinner and a fancy hotel sleepover in downtown Calgary. The next landmark achievement featured Abby, who joined the ranks of licensed drivers, and could not have been more pleased to gain her “freedom”. Little did she know that I was just as excited to be free from driving her around all the damn time.
Next up, another epic family vacation, where we reunited with Mark, Dona and family and also added our niece Erika to the mix. This time, we journeyed to sunny, beautiful and HOT Punta de Mita, Mexico in early August!
Yes, it was scorching, but on the upside, we rented a huge beach house with a pool for super cheap… and the price wasn’t even the best part. The place came complete with STAFF: a cook to prepare your meals, maids to clean up, and a driver (who also doubled as a bartender/BBQ griller.)
All we had to do was stock the beer fridge, which would suspiciously be missing several cans every morning. I guess that’s what happens when you vacation with five teenagers.
To say this vacation was LAZY would be a massive understatement.
Usually, the dynamic duo of Dona and Lianne would plan a holiday itinerary that bordered on exhausting. On this particular vacation, I STILL felt exhausted all of the time, but for no good reason. Was it because I was sleeping until noon and then crushing multiple Coronas poolside all afternoon in the extreme heat? It’s a mystery that may never get solved.
Just days after coming home from Mexico, Lianne and Abby had their own special mother/daughter adventure. This was a belated SWEET 16th birthday trip, where they joined Dona and fellow SWEET 16-year-old Evan for six days in the Big Apple.
They all had a super-fun and action-packed time sightseeing in New York City, while Daniel and I watched five horror movies in five nights on Netflix back home in Calgary. I wonder which duo came out on top? I also wonder when it will be MY turn to go on a fancy trip with one of my kids? Whenever I ask Abby and Daniel about it, they either quickly change the subject or abruptly leave the room.
August also was marked with some extremely sad news as Lianne’s father, Ralph Ecker, passed away suddenly at the age of 79. He had been living in a nursing home and was suffering from dementia but it still came as quite a shock. The entire family certainly appreciated the love, support and prayers we received.
With the arrival of fall, we all turned our attention to the beginning of a brand new school year. Abby was eager to get back to Bishop Carroll High to continue her self-directed learning. Meanwhile, Daniel was beyond excited to start grade nine at Willow Park School for some Arts-Centred learning. He really needed a change.
Another round of piano, volleyball, basketball and hockey made sure our kids are well rounded, and also totally exhausted by the weekend. OK I’m making the call. This will be the final time this tired, recycled line will be included in this letter, even though it is still considered a Tysowski Christmas letter “classic”.
In November, Lianne’s law firm had a retreat in super-fun New Orleans, and it did not disappoint. Great parties, cool music and awesome food made sure we had a super-fun time. Speaking of SUPER, we checked out the Superdome to catch our first ever NFL game! It was so very, very loud, which made life difficult for yours truly, who was so very, very hungover. Oh, did I mention that we also drank booze on this trip?
For those very, very few of you looking for an update on my beer league hockey team, here it is: as I write this, we are stuck in a huge rut… yes, we are experiencing an epic losing streak so severe my brother Mark and I could soon be fired as co-General Managers of the team! Pray for us. Pray for our survival. (UPDATE: we recently snapped a losing skid that started back in OCTOBER! Mark and I will live to see another day.)
And that brings us full-circle to December where we already have the mid-winter blues and are desperately waiting for Christmas holidays to save us all. Unfortunately for us, there will be no winter escape this year but we are already looking forward to another summer adventure… we just don’t know where it will be. I guess you will all have to read my blog at dadathome1970.wordpress.com to find where we go this year.
And while you’re visiting my blog, you might as well buy my book on paperback, kindle or audiobook. OK, I apologize for the shameless plug, but it’s still the only book I’ve ever written! All right people, that’s enough yammering from me. We hope you had a wonderful 2019 and look forward to hearing from you in 2020. All the best this holiday season!
First things first… I have to come clean. This was completely unplanned.
A couple of weeks before the official “Take your grade nine kid to work day”, Lianne asked our son Daniel if he wanted to spend the day with her at her law firm. The fourteen-year-old thought about it for about two seconds and immediately passed.
He didn’t think watching lawyers push paper and take conference calls was exciting enough to hold his attention for a full day.
I guess that was that, until Daniel discovered that 95% of his grade nine class was actually taking advantage of this opportunity and all of a sudden, HE WANTED IN TOO! So, in typical teenager fashion, he came to Lianne the DAY BEFORE and asked if he could still come to her office.
Her answer was short, sweet and to the point:
“No Daniel, you can’t come to my office for the day. My firm would have planned some activities for you, and they would have needed a heads up that you were coming. You can’t just show up at the last minute!”
He was disappointed, but still determined to find a sneaky way to play hooky from school. Then a light bulb went off just above my son’s head, his eyes got big and he excitedly turned to me:
“Dad! How about I spend the day with YOU… at home!!! Can you call the school and tell them I’ll be going to work with you???”
I knew exactly what he meant by this. He simply wanted a day off school to sit in his room, watch YouTube videos and basically DO NOTHING.
My answer was short, sweet and to the point:
“Absolutely you can stay home with me, as long as you promise to do exactly what I do all day, with NO complaints.”
Daniel promised me he would be a GOOD BOY and the decision was made. My son would shadow a stay-at-home Dad for “Take your kid to work” day. I’m pretty sure he thought it was going to look more like the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I was determined to keep the young lad occupied and perhaps he would learn a thing or two about my world… at least for one day.
And so, DAN@HOME began: Wednesday, November 6th, 2019.
TIME TO GET SERIOUS.
7:00 AM: Wake up!
Actually… um, no. That would be my normal wake-up time. I normally wake my son by 7:00 AM and then go downstairs to fix him some breakfast. But, he wasn’t going to school, so I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t sleep in a bit, so that’s what I did. And so did Daniel.
8:10 AM: Wake up! (Take two)
OK, this time I did it for real. We were finally up and at ’em and ready to start the day. Normally, by 8:10 AM I would be out the door to drive Daniel to his school bus stop, but because he was spending the day with me, that task was no longer required.
However, my Uber driving skills were still needed, as Lianne had a client function the previous evening, left her car at work and required a lift downtown. We had our first task of the day, so I told Daniel to put on some pants. We were going on a road trip.
9:00 AM: Drop off Lianne at work.
When I first asked Daniel to get ready to leave the house, he looked a bit surprised… like he didn’t think he actually had to participate in this whole “shadow his Dad” thingy. But then, he realized this was NOT going to be a day of leisure. No sir. Not by a long shot. (This would be a day of semi-leisure at best.)
9:30 AM: Morning COFFEE!
Speaking of semi-leisure, I decided to forgo my usual routine of making my own morning coffee. Instead, we stopped at our favourite local coffee shop on the way home, where I had a latte and Daniel had an… ICED CHAI??? That wouldn’t be my beverage of choice on a frosty morning, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not here to judge. After our breakfast of champions, we were ready for some real WORK!
10:10 AM: Dad@Home checks his emails. Dan@Home lies down.
OK, I debated making Daniel pull up a chair and watch me check and answer a few emails but I thought better of it. I didn’t see the point. So, I let the young lad do what he does best: lie down in his un-made bed and look at his phone.
I’ll give you a small sample of the many serious issues I tackled while on my computer. I emailed Daniel’s hockey coach about his two-game suspension (no he’s not a goon, but I don’t have the time to get into it now). I also emailed our veterinarian to double-check the correct dosage of Prozac for our cat Sasha (no she’s not addicted to Prozac, but I don’t have the time to get into it now). Then, I went online to schedule a time for Daniel’s Parent/Teacher interview. And, full disclosure… I also checked my Facebook feed.
Sorry folks, but it’s not ALL serious business.
10:45 AM: Time to get SWEATY! There’s snow to shovel!
I can’t remember the last time I had HELP shoveling the sidewalks, so I took full advantage of my personal stay-at-home Dad assistant. Did I watch my son do a vast majority of the work? Yes, yes I did. I figured it was the least he could do after his lazy lie-down break while I checked emails.
11:42 AM: CAT DUTIES! We’ve got two cats. They need our attention.
Sasha, our female cat… is anxious. She’s been diagnosed with anxiety (cat anxiety to be exact). She’s been so anxious that she has been ignoring her litter box and peeing on pillows and blankets around the house. So, every day we hold her tight and squirt meds directly into her mouth. To be honest, the Prozac actually seems to be working. (It’s also very good to know we have an ample supply in the house in case I ever become so anxious that I stop using the toilet and start peeing in strange places).
On this day, Daniel had the honours of squirting the syringe and he did a good job. After that, we headed into the basement where Daniel fed the cats their dry food. We also feed them canned food, but Daniel says the smell makes him gag, so I didn’t force him to do it. One thing we forgot to do was scoop the poop. Daniel got lucky. No wet food, no litter box duty.
12:11 PM: Household chore – unclog some slow drains.
We have two slow drains in our household. One of them is my sink in our master bathroom, and the other is Daniel’s sink in his bathroom. I’m pretty sure my beard trimmings were clogging up my sink. I have no idea what Daniel is doing to back his up… as he’s not exactly “hairy”.
And speaking of Daniel, you may have noticed that he changed out of his regular clothes and is once again in full “loungewear”. Yup, when he thinks he doesn’t have to leave the house, he deliberately changes back into his sleepwear, and puts on a housecoat that makes him look eerily similar to the serial killer from the movie Silence of the Lambs.
12:38 PM: Laundry. So. Much. Laundry.
By now, Daniel was desperately calling for another “lie-down and look at his phone” break, but I was having none of that. Dagnammit, he was shadowing me, and he had to WORK! Instead, we folded clean laundry and started the process of washing three loads.
It turns out; Dan@Home is just like Dad@Home. Dan@Home doesn’t like doing laundry either.
1:01 PM: LUNCH TIME!!!
I asked Daniel to volunteer to make us delicious fruit smoothies for lunch and after some gentle arm-twisting, he eventually agreed to volunteer. He also had some cheese and crackers on the side, as he found his delicious smoothie was not filling enough for a growing teenage boy. Me, I think I’ve grown quite enough…
1:36 PM: Clean up lunch mess, unpack and pack the dishwasher
1:52 PM: Put in another load of laundry… and make some BEDS!
After cleaning up our lunch mess and loading another load of laundry into the washing machine, I ordered my assistant to remove his flowing housecoat, put some “outdoor” clothes back on, make his damn bed and get ready to run an ERRAND.
2:14 PM: Let’s RUN AN ERRAND!
As a damn stay-at-home Dad, I leave the damn house every damn day to run errands. Frequent destinations include Safeway, Costco, PetSmart, Canadian Tire, Shoppers Drug Mart… you name it, I’ve been there. But, sometimes I gotta get some HANDYMAN work done, and there’s only one destination for that.
Daniel has been bugging me for months to install another clothing rod in his closet. Well, now that I had a personal assistant, there was no better time to do it. We picked up the materials, cut the rod and installed the hardware. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
4:24 PM: Run the final load of laundry, change the furnace filter.
5:18 PM: TIME TO MAKE DINNER!!!
When dinnertime rolled around, I experienced my absolute favourite moment of the entire “Bring your kid to work” day. When I asked Daniel to start helping me get dinner ready, his jaw dropped, he stomped his feet and he began his protest in earnest:
“WHAT? I thought I was DONE! I would be done by now if I was at an office today!”
My answer was short, sweet and to the point:
“You sir, are absolutely correct. You would have been done. But, you wanted to shadow ME today, and my workday is far from over.”
To Daniel’s credit, he accepted his fate and got to work. He’s actually a very good cook (for a kid) and is usually in charge of making (or ordering) dinners when both Lianne and I are not home. Lord knows our 16-year-old daughter Abby isn’t the one taking charge in the kitchen!
We actually get a lot of our weekday dinners from “Chefs Plate”. It’s delivered right to our front door! The ingredients are fresh, the recipe cards are easy to follow, and the results speak for themselves… simply delicious!
“Chefs Plate, a stay-at-home Dads BEST FRIEND at dinner time.”
– Greg Tysowski, Dad@Home
(If anyone at Chefs Plate actually sees this, you now owe me $10,000.)
Together, we made Italian Lasagna Soup, described as “using hallmark lasagna ingredients like ground beef, tomatoes, basil, ricotta and parmesan cheese”. It was actually very good!
6:42 PM: Clean up the dinner dishes!
Was Daniel surprised when I asked him to clean up the dinner dishes? No. Did he complain nevertheless? Yes.
Was he VERY relieved when I officially proclaimed that his “Bring your kid to work day” duties were officially wrapped up when he washed that final pot?
7:30 PM: Let’s recap. What lessons (if any) have we learned today?
When I finally released my indentured servant from his day of servitude after almost twelve hours on the job, I asked Daniel the obvious question… the ONLY question:
“Was your day at home with me everything you thought it would be?”
His answer was short, sweet and to the point.
“I’m pretty sure you don’t have to shovel snow and do three loads of laundry EVERY DAY. I think you made this day WAY more busy than it had to be!”
The young lad made a fair argument.
I did make sure we stayed extra busy all day. I also freely admitted that I definitely have days that could accurately be described as LAZY.
I also made it very clear that I sometimes have days so full of errands, chores and appointments that they make this one look like a WALK IN THE PARK.
In the end, Daniel admitted that he learned a lot about what his Dad did at home all day, and he was thankful he asked to take part in the annual “Bring your kid to work day”… even if it started off as a sneaky way he could play hooky from school.
There, I said it. But really, who doesn’t? What’s not to love?
Dressing up as whatever you want, knocking on a stranger’s door and demanding sugary payment for not damaging their property is truly the best tradition I can think of.
(Theoretically, that could also be described as EXTORTION) but who cares, so what?
I LOVE IT! I always have and I always will.
“Halloweening”, and how we celebrate, definitely changes and transitions from one phase to another as we get older. But you know what?
It never gets old.
PHASE ONE: Trick-or-treating as a little kid.
Growing up in Saskatchewan, Halloween was not always so easy to enjoy.
Why, you ask? Well, by the end of October, my home town of Porcupine Plain was (almost) ALWAYS covered by foot of snow, temperatures were well below zero, and to make matter worse… very few houses gave out chocolate bars. Oh, the humanity!
Trick-or-treating was a mad dash from door-to-door… praying for bags of “Old Dutch” chips and hoping to avoid the unwrapped, hard candy the senior citizens loved to dish out. Halloween costumes were usually completely hidden under parkas, toques and “ski-doo” suits. We couldn’t wait to get out there, but at the same time, we couldn’t wait to get out of the damn cold, get home, empty our pillow case of it’s sweet loot and begin the sorting process.
PHASE TWO: Too old to trick-or-treat, too young to party.
As I entered my teen years, I actually didn’t mind when society deemed I was “too old” to trick-or-treat.
That’s because I really enjoyed the second phase of Halloween… HANDING OUT THE CANDY! I loved seeing what the little kids were wearing, and I also loved giving sideways glances and silent stares to the older kids who still knocked on our door, boldly costumeless… yet still wanting their bounty of free candy.
Those older kids were NO FUN! #NoFun
PHASE THREE: PARTY, PARTY, PARTY!
The next phase of Halloween comes when you reach “young adulthood”. This time, the reward for dressing up wasn’t a candy coma, but rather it was getting totally sloshed at a crazy party and waking up the next morning wishing you were in a real coma.
There was a particular mid-90’s Halloween bash on a college campus that ended with me in a coffee shop at 3:00 AM, asking a Tim Horton’s employee to call us a cab home. I handed the cab driver a piece of paper with my address scribbled on it because I was having trouble articulating full sentences. Do I miss this phase of Halloween? Not particularly. #MaybeTooMuchFun
PHASE FOUR: Back on the mean streets to trick-or-treat! But this time with kids in tow.
I couldn’t wait to get back out there!
Abby and Daniel were barely out of toddlerhood when we decided it was time to dress them up and start trick-or-treating. Living in Calgary, Halloween night isn’t exactly “balmy”, but compared to Porcupine Plain, it was downright pleasant. Usually snow-free, and usually a degree or two above freezing meant we didn’t have to rush home, and thus… we would get a REALLY big haul.
I usually carried extra candy bags for when the first one filled up. And guess what? There were LOTS and LOTS of chocolate bars to be had and ZERO unwrapped, hard candies! My kids never knew the pain I had to endure… so that meant I definitely got to steal some of their loot. Hey, it’s only fair! #ItsOnlyFair
Another thing that makes Halloweening so much better for my kids is where we live, or rather where we live CLOSE TO. The neighbourhood right next to ours routinely wins the day for busiest Halloween hot spot in Calgary. In fact, people come from all over the city to trick-or-treat in this wicked wonderland.
Unlike our home, houses in Garrison Woods can get over 300 kids knocking on their door, and for good reason. There’s a particular street in that neighbourhood that goes ALL OUT on decorations. It kind of looks like a Halloween version of Main Street USA at Disneyland… with all of the spooky decorations, eerie lights, and of course, hundreds of kids and parents in costumes.
There’s even a group of Moms who have set up shop on that street for over a decade, dressed up as witches… serving parents a cup of hot chocolate mixed with Baileys from a steaming, black cauldron. I talked to one of them a few years ago, and asked how many bottles of Irish Cream they go through. She pointed to a pile of empties behind her – there had to be 10 to 15 bottles on the ground and the evening wasn’t even half over.
I have to admit, seeing the super fun displays and extraordinary spirit on that street inspired me to go ALL OUT on my own Halloween decorations about five years ago. Every year since, I try to up my game and add something new to the mix.
I don’t get the same foot traffic as Garrison Woods, but I do get plenty of compliments from plenty of kids. That makes it all worthwhile.
PHASE FIVE: When your kids are too old to need a chaperone on Halloween night!
I actually don’t mind this phase all that much, especially on the rare Halloween night when it’s raining, or worse… snowing! A couple of years ago, both Abby and Daniel both reached junior high and I was told in no uncertain terms that my services were no longer required. I was officially DONE trick-or-treating.
It was totally the end of an era, but it’s still so much fun to see all of the widdle kids come waddling up our front steps. It totally takes me back to my teen years of handing out candy, which then totally takes me even farther back to my own trick-or-treating days in snowy Saskatchewan. #Totally
And that brings us full circle to where it all started… and why I STILL love Halloween.
No matter how old I get, no matter what “phase” I’m experiencing, it will always be totally awesome to watch kids dress up as whatever they want, knock on my door and demand a sugary payment for not damaging my property.
Like I said, it never gets old. It never fades away.
Sometimes, when traffic is especially SLOW on my Dad@Home blog (which is actually the NORM) I will start sifting through the various statistics offered up by wordpress. I can easily find out how many clicks a certain post is getting, which social media site readers found my link at and how many people liked or commented on it.
BUT… by far, the most entertaining stat of them all is the one for all-time views by COUNTRY.
It’s no surprise that 95% of my nearly 7000 views come from Canada and the U.S. But, when I get a single view from a “less obvious” country, I always say to myself:
“Wait! How the hell did that happen? Do I know someone in Kenya?”
The funny thing is, since I launched my blog over three and a half years ago, I’ve had more than a few of those “how the hell did that happen?” moments… so many that the map of the world offered up in the wordpress stats page is slowly but surely FILLING UP.
The big question is: exactly where in the world do I need more clicks to really fill up my map?
Like I said… North America is my stronghold. Heck, I even have 28 views from Mexico. It’s all good.
But, the rest of the Americas are very slim pickings indeed. Central America only has a handful of views from Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica, while a look farther south finds only Columbia and Brazil representing the entire continent! Is my message simply too bland for the spicy Latin world? Perhaps.
Across the pond, it’s a completely different story.
I’ve got a vast majority of Europe covered, with a only a couple of small pockets of complete indifference. One of them is the grouping of countries formerly known as Yugoslavia. The other pocket is the Baltic States (with a salty side order of Belarus)… interestingly; they are all former Soviet republics. Perhaps communists simply do not connect with the hopeful message of Dad@Home? Maybe the Kremlin did not condone the concept of stay-at-home fatherhood? Maybe. Would I have been considered a dangerous OUTLAW in the Soviet era? Perhaps.
But, let’s not get too cocky.
For every success story on my map, there are even bigger failures! Looking directly south, I seem to be failing miserably on the continent of Africa.
4 countries out of a possible 54! And, only 4 views! My message is obviously NOT resonating.
I am open to suggestions on how to increase my views. Maybe an extended, yearlong media tour of the entire continent is in order? How does #Dad@Africa2020 sound? Oh, you think that sounds very unrealistic? Fine.
As much as Africa is a barren wasteland of blog support, it’s even worse in the Middle East! A smattering of clicks from Israel and the United Arab Emirates is all I’ve got. Maybe the region has more pressing issues on their agenda than seeking out a particular blog about a certain stay-at-home Dad? Maybe. That being said, could the hopeful message of Dad@Home completely heal thousands of years of war and mistrust? Perhaps.
Now, let’s get back to the success stories. South East Asia seems to be a (relative) hotbed of blog support! India 32 views! Australia 34 views! Philippines 20 views! I’ve got clicks from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the list goes on! But, with only 2 views, it would appear that New Zealand thinks I’m dumb. Well, maybe I think THEY’RE dumb. But I digress.
And now, let’s address the huge elephant in the room.
There are 1.4 BILLION potential Dad@Home subscribers in that country and I’ve got exactly ZERO clicks from the mainland. I do have ONE CLICK from Hong Kong, which curiously came at the exact moment in time the protests really started to ramp up. Is there a connection there? Could the hopeful message of Dad@Home be fuelling the fires of democracy? Could that be the reason my webpage has been permanently blocked from the largest multitude of potential blog subscribers in the entire WORLD? Maybe. Does the People’s Republic of China consider me a dangerous OUTLAW? Perhaps.
And, while we’re talking about repressive regimes that view me as a threat, is anyone surprised that I also have ZERO clicks in North Korea? You tell me. Personally, I think Kim Jong Un could learn a lot from reading my book Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, which is still very much available for purchase on Amazon.ca!
Now, in the title of this blog I mentioned that I need YOUR HELP to fill my map… and I do! I really do!
To turn this map completely red (or something close to that) I need clicks from a whole whack of countries. I’ve only got 53 out of the planet’s 195 countries, but to be honest, we don’t really need ALL OF THEM to colour my map a vast majority of red.
What I really need are the really BIG countries! That’s right, I want LARGE LAND MASSES.
Sending this link to a friend in Montenegro, or Cambodia, or Belize, or Kuwait doesn’t do me much good. That only fills in a very tiny bit on a very big map. Now, if you’ve got a contact in Greenland, by all means… FORWARD THAT LINK! Because the wordpress map uses the “Mercator Projection”, it shows Greenland as being ridiculously large, and turning it red will go a very long way.
Here’s a list of the biggest countries I still need to FILL MY MAP! Please send links of my blog to the following countries:
Greenland, CHINA! Kazakhstan, Argentina, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, (and really… pretty much MOST of Africa and South America)
Another option for you all is to literally TRAVEL to these countries, log on to the internet, click on Dad@Home, then immediately fly home… as personal favour to me. Now, I know what many of you are thinking: not many of these destinations are truly “touristy”. But, hear me out people!
I know for a fact that Iran is quite lovely this time of year.
Like I said, you would be doing me a huge solid. And, if I discovered that any of you needed my help in any way, shape or form… would I return that favour and assist you to the best of my ability?
Oh, and for your reference, here is a list places you DO NOT need to send links to. Thanks, but I’ve already got these covered:
Canada, United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Ukraine, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Thailand, Japan, Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Germany, Finland, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Colombia, Italy, Jamaica, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Israel, Poland, New Zealand, Congo-Brazzaville, Honduras, Greece, Algeria, Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica, Turkey, Bermuda, Guernsey, El Salvador, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Norway, South Africa and Kenya.
Wait! How the hell did that happen? Do I know someone in Kenya?