Home Education Magazine - November-December 1998 - Columns
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Sunny Side Up
Welcome Home, Dad!
Dad's home, and by that I don't mean he's home for the week. I mean he's home for the foreseeable future. A complete lifestyle and career change. Enough of that crack of dawn, forty-five minute drive to work only to be faced with a boss who not only doesn't understand him but on top of it has the gall to disagree with what he doesn't understand. Years and years of that and it's time for a change.
For the time being, it feels very similar to what early retirement must be like, except for the part where we didn't pack up the house and move to a condo in Florida.
In the days before retirement, our family consisted of three homeschoolers plus a Dad who was gone in the morning before the rest of us were up and didn't arrive home till somewhere between the broccoli course and dessert. And then it was only to fall asleep dead tired on the couch. It's easy to draw a comparison between a father who is off at work 12 hours each day with a youngster who is off at government school all day. They both arrive home grumpy and tense with the problems of their world weighing heavy on their minds. It used to be a case of the sad, mad, bad Dad. But now that he's home full time, we have a happy pappy on our hands.
Personally, I think the real reason he quit the rat race is his belief that if the kids were ever going to get into Harvard, my tutelage wasn't going to be enough. Dad's a bit of a nose to the grindstone kind of guy. I'm more of an "if it doesn't get done today we can always try again tomorrow" kind of gal. Academically, our two children have really picked up their socks since Dad's been home. From counting back change to equal a dollar with Mom, they have moved onto the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square on the other two sides with Dad. There I was getting the kids to name the oceans and continents. Along comes Dad and now they're studying crop rotation in the sub-Saharan countries of Africa. We've definitely picked it up a notch or two. I fall asleep dreaming of Harvard and Yale.
I come from a household where when my mother said, "Wait till your father gets home," it didn't mean "and then we can go out for ice cream." It always meant something extremely dire was going to happen and I, banished to my room in the interim, could only imagine how miserable my immediate future looked. As a result, I made a promise that there'd be no "wait until your father gets home" in our house, although many is the time I could have used it in the days when Dad was away at work. Not as a threat mind you, but as a way out of a sticky problem. You see, in our house Mom has certain jobs and Dad has others and in some cases, never the twain shall meet. And never was this division of labor more obvious than when my son would ask me how a circuit board worked as he disemboweled an old radio. There I'd be with a painfully dumb expression on my face with the alarm bells in my head screaming, "Dad job! Dad job!" all the while wishing I could say something useful. But as someone who still can't figure out how the electricity comes on when I flick a switch, I realize I have little to offer in a discussion on electrical circuitry. How easy it would have been to say, "Wait until your father gets home", but no, I'd dig in like a real trooper and by the time I was done, the radio was so ripped apart there was no circuit board left to speak of. There are a lot of these irreparable electrical projects sitting in our basement. I'm no wiser, but my son is. Now, in the middle of the afternoon, my son chooses wisely as to whom he will get to answer his Einstein type questions.
The children's lives have expanded in other areas as well. One very obvious improvement is their artistic development. I haven't meant to stymie their artistic talents, but when the best I can draw on a good day is a picture of little stick men standing outside a house with smoke coming out of its chimney on a sunny day, I realize that I'm not the best example of "art as a higher calling." Dad, on the other hand, fairly oozes artistic ability from his pores. Now when my daughter wants help drawing a ballerina, she knows who to turn to. Have you ever tried drawing calf muscles on a stick lady? It's not a pretty sight, I can tell you.
Whoa - hold those horses a minute. Dad being home full time is not all the bed of roses I've painted here so far. (Mind you, I use term "paint" loosely. My painting of a bed of roses would actually look more like a group of green faced people with a bad case of the red measles.) On the horticultural theme, along with the blooms that have arrived since Dad's return to the fold full time, there are a few thorns on the bush and a few weeds that have sprouted up here and there. What is it they call that time right after the honeymoon? I think "period of adjustment" is the euphemism that's used for the pitfalls that await.
It's as the designated chief cook and bottle washer that I'm finding the addition of one more full time member to the family to be the biggest adjustment. Lunch used to be a breeze - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all around. That doesn't quite cut the mustard with Dad, who has years of fine dining out at lunch with clients on his resume. I can upgrade the peanut butter and jelly to soup and egg salad sandwiches, but I'm not sure how much further I can go.
The major side benefits of homeschooling, at least in the days of yore, was staying in bed long past when the sun came up. Our only requirement was getting out of our pajamas before Dad came home. All that is but a fond memory. Nowadays there are no layabeds in this household. Our pajamas barely get a work out, we're in and out of them so quickly. Gone are the memories of the day's events etched in stain on the cuffs and fronts of those same pj's. Juice, markers, backyard dirt, mustard and glue are no longer pajama events. Dad calls it getting a jump on the day. The rest of us call it the grumpy break of day blues.
Being a full time homeschooling parent fits Dad like a glove. He's jumped into it with both feet. Now if only the rest of us could keep up!
© 1998, Shannon Vale
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