Stay at Home Dad - Week 1

tl;dr: It is hard and I'm struggling. But if I had a choice I'll be a stay at home dad all the time.

My company offers 4 weeks of fully paid paternity leave. I'm staying home to help out with the new baby. I thought I'd miss working and I did, for whole two days. I was checking my work email and clearing the accumulation, but after that I completely forgot about anything work related. 

The few times I've held the new born, I can't peel my eyes off of him. The little guy wins the staring contest every time. Sometimes I get a stink eye from him, when I take him from his mom's arms. But he's just too adorable to be taken seriously.

But most of my time is spent with Sempi (our first son), trying to fill the time and attention that Yoshi used to provide him. The biggest challenge so far is trying to find things to do with him. He's not a fan of leaving the house (probably inherited from me), but he insists on me playing with his trucks. After a day of playing in the house, my brain was fried from squeezing every ounce of creativity to make the playtime fun for both of us.

I used to take him to our nearby coffee shop to read books on weekends. That worked great when I did it once a week, he flat out refused when I asked him to go two days in a row. 

Tiny emperor on his stroller, being chauffeured to the coffee shop.

Putting him to sleep at night hasn't been rough thanks to Yoshi. She established a nice bedtime routine. Even though reading books in bed was designed to put him to sleep, I'm the one who usually zonks out first.

Weekends are harder if I don't have anything planned. Last weekend I convinced him to go to the Children's museum where he spent a cool 6 hours playing with every exhibit to his heart's content.

Weekdays are easier since he goes to preschool in the morning. We setup playdates after school or go to a park.

Mudpie anyone? 

He still prefers his mom over me, but I still have 3 more weeks to change that. ;)

Did I mention that we have not one but two grandmas at home to help with the baby? I haven't cooked or cleaned in 3 weeks, I can really get used to this.

Negotiations by a 3 yo

Sempi and I are sitting at the dining table eating dinner. Sempi is munching on homemade fried rice chips (vadaam) made by his Paati (grandma). He has a plate full of it and I'm trying to get him to share some of it with me. 

Me: Sempi, this plate of vadaam is for the both of us. 

Sempi: *pulls the plate towards him, suspiciously*

Me: How about I take just a few of them and you can have the rest. 

Sempi: Ok, but how about you can have (long pause) .... none of them?

Sempi: Appa, you don't have to eat right now.

He proceeded to eat all of it while I watched him.

This is not the first time he's used this line of reasoning.

Vianvilari Takeru Ramanujam

I'm happy to announce we welcomed our new addition to the family on May 2nd 2016. Our second son, Vianvilari Takeru Ramanujam.

When the baby came out I was grinning like an idiot for a whole 5 minutes before I realized it. I was ecstatic and filled with joy, even though the baby was crying. More than once I caught myself staring at the baby while he was sleeping. 

Oh and then there is this: 

I don't remember why it was so hard to raise a newborn last time. I'm sure it was all just my imagination. ;)

Defeated by a Dandelion

We started a new routine for dropping off Sempi at his pre-school. We walk to the school and on the way we find flowers to pick. This morning we found a dried dandelion and Yoshi taught him how to blow the florets. She blew half of it and gave it to Sempi.

Sempi wasn't all too interested but he wanted me to blow the rest. His stipulation was I have to blow the rest with my nose and not with my mouth. 

So I rose to the challenge and took a deep breath and blew air through my nose as hard as I could. I forgot this is allergy season and I have a runny nose. 

The next few minutes were spent on wiping my mustache, lips and my shirt that were covered in snot.

Yoshi and Sempi thought it was the most hilarious thing they've seen. I took solace in the fact that no one else was around to witness the debacle. 

For anyone who is curious, the dandelion was totally unaffected by all of this. 

Conversations with a 3yo

Sempi and I are playing with a marble run game. I just built a pretty complex structure. I was quite proud of my creation. 

Me: Sempi, look at this run that I built. Is it pretty cool or is it pretty cool?

Sempi: Appa, pretty cool and pretty cool are the same thing. 

Tread carefully when fishing for compliments from a toddler.

Jurassic Park with a twist

This is a continuation of our previous story. Sempi and I are still at the Swap n Play. He's still playing with his cranes and trucks and I'm still playing with three dinosaurs. 

Sempi: Appa my crane is going to help build a fence around the dinosaurs. 

Me: Oh yeah?

Sempi: Yeah people can come and milk the dinosaurs. 

Me: Milk the dinosaurs? 

Sempi: Yeah, like milking a cow, they can milk a dinosaur and drink it. 

He's gonna be so disappointed when he finds out dinosaurs are not mammals. 

Dinosaur Story by a little Dr. Suess

Sempi and I are at the swap n' play (an indoor play area). He's playing with a crane toy and I'm sitting on a chair staring at my phone. 

He deicides to rescue me from my boredom and brings three dinosaur toys to me and says "Appa, here, play with me".

So I join him at the table with three dinosaurs. Here's the ensuing conversation: 

Me: Here's a Triceratops, it says, "Woof, Woof". 

Sempi: ???

Me: Here's a Stegosaurs, "Oink, Oink". 

Sempi: *intent stare*

Me: Here's a Brontosaurus, "Mooo, Mooo"

Sempi: No appa, this one says "Grooo", this one says "Bloooo" and this one says "Octopus Stew". 

My little Dr. Suess with his rhyming stories.

Raising a Rebel

A good friend of mine sent me this article after reading my previous ramble. Here are some choice snippets from that article that resonated with me.

Values not Rules:

Focus on teaching values than rules. Instead of, "Here's the list of things that you're allowed to do and not to do," say, "Here are the principles that are important in this family, and let's talk about how you want to express them."

I have been guilty of creating or enforcing rules.

I am not a rebel in any stretch of imagination. But even I refuse to follow rules without getting a background for why that rule exists. I have to buy into a process in order to follow it. It is only fair that I provide the same for my son. This does not mean there are no more rules, but every rule will come with an explanation. 

"Here are the rules we have. And this is what they mean to us. This is how they really connect with our core values."

Conditionals not Absolutes:
"Kids are much more likely to think in original ways if you teach them in conditionals rather than in absolutes."

Instead of saying, "This is a book," teach them, "This could be a book."

In other words, teach a child to question the assumptions rather than accepting that there is one right answer. This reminds me of the Candle problem

Brain writing not Brainstorming: 

If you take five students and put them in a brainstorming group together, you will get fewer ideas and less original ideas than if you had taken those same five students and let them work independently, in separate rooms, by themselves.

You put kids in separate rooms, what you get is all of the ideas on the table, and then you can bring the group together for what the group does best, which is the wisdom of crowds. The evaluating.

That technique is actually called brain writing.
This is a suggestion for a classroom setting but I think it has great potential for adult teams at work. Imagine coming to a meeting with a your ideas written down and debating the merits of each idea instead of coming up with ideas in a meeting and having to defend it at once.

Procrastination can lead to originality:

Great originality comes from being quick to start but slow to finish. That when you dive right into a task, you close yourself off to incubation. If you finish early, you're stuck only with your most conventional ideas, your first ones.

I want to thank Paul for sending me the article. I think I've picked up a few neat tricks. 

Alternate Solution

Sempi and I are playing with Legos. I'm building a small mars rover for him, which he has tasked me to redo for the fifth time because it didn't quite measure up to his satisfaction.

In a desperate attempt to impress him, I started building yet again. I noticed I only had one of the 6 hole blocks and needed a matching pair to finish my model. I asked Sempi if he could find me the matching pair. He took that piece I had in my hand, looked around him to see if can spot it's match. Then threw it away and told me, "Appa, you don't need that piece". 

Can I raise a rebel?

My son recently started going to a Montessori pre-school. It's a great school and I have nothing but great things to say about the teachers and the administrator. 

They perform various activities in class which starts with simple things such as cleaning a set of wooden blocks, then building shapes from it etc. The idea is to learn from the larger community of fellow students and learn how to behave in his community (his classroom). He is taught good manners such as covering his mouth when he coughs, conflict resolution and sharing. It is working remarkably well. I've noticed that he now waits his turn to play with a toy instead of grabbing it from the other kid or asks the other kid if he could play with it when they're done. I beam with pride when he does that. 

But I've often wondered if it is the right education style for him. The Montessori principle as I understand is that the kids learn through work. It is a very disciplined system and I've often heard guides (teachers) say phrases such as "No, that is not an option" when the student tries to test the boundaries.

I am of the opinion that "Well-behaved kids rarely make history". I love the fact that when I ask him "Would you like one pancake or two?" he answers "Three". He reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes. 

I wonder if the classroom is training him to fit well in his community thus training him to be a sheep.

I definitely don't want my son to grow up to be a felon, but at the same time I don't want him totally domesticated either.

I trust the teachers in his class to balance the discipline with creativity thus helping him grow as a well-adjusted individual whose creativity isn't extinguished. 

As a parent how can I do to help them achieve this goal? Are there measures that I should follow to check his progress in both lanes?

How can I encourage him to push the boundaries without burning himself severely? Can I test his boundaries by suggesting rule breaking? 

I would love to hear the thoughts of fellow parents or teachers. 

If you have suggestions please get in touch or twitter: @amjithr

ps: I should point out that this is my own opinion and Yoshi (my wife) doesn't quite agree.