Flannery Correspondence

May 1, 2010

Men Are From Mars: This Means War

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:45

April 16th, 2010

by Brian Flannery

“I just try to remember that everyone is fighting a great battle.” That’s how a family friend handles tough customers. She works retail; she should know. Good for encouragement and patience, I guess. But mostly I just like the idea of battle!

We’re tip-toeing through this gray foggy world. Everyone wants to pick light or dark, white or black, right or wrong. Real life is way too complex for that constant precision. Even though you know you can’t be perfect, you want to try to be a good guy. A good husband, father, neighbor.

Your only hope, then, is to boil it down to a story that’s clear — one or two fairy tales with real heroes and real bad guys. Then you can know who’s side you’re on. There’s not much intrigue in being you — timid, balding, middle aged, middle-of-the-road, mid-level manager earning average wages for a mediocre job somewhere uninspiring. What if instead you were Robin Hood or William Tell or Ivanhoe or Lancelot?

I don’t mean fantasy. Not a daydream over the copy machine. I mean a subtle fable that you refer to when you make decisions that matter.

  • White lie about a coworker? What would Honest Abe Lincoln say? He would probably wrestle you.
  • Sell out? What would George Bailey say? He’d say It’s a Wonderful Life if you stay broke but friendly.
  • Cook the books? Batman will drive a black Ferrari through your morning commute.
  • Passively resign yourself to middle class suburbia? What would Sarah Conner think of that? No fate but what we make.
  • Compromise your wedding vows? Merlin will claim your firstborn.
  • Minor export-control violation (sell weapons or defense blueprints outside the USA)? Iron Man will feed you to the starving residents of Gulmira.
  • Exploit your low-level workers? Think about Robin Hood or Clark Griswold.

[Editor’s note: I just noticed that those bullet points look like cute little flowers on the website mopsinfo.blogspot.com. Just when I thought “bullet” points were unquestionably cool.]

There are plenty of analogies and live-in allegories to choose from. Ladies like the soft, emotional ones where you have to outwit a nasty step-mother. As men we like rougher stuff — like war. Most of us are not in a real war. Nobody is shooting at us. We rarely stay up for days with only adrenaline and cigarettes. We hardly ever see things blow up. So much for men being from Mars, god of war.

On some important level, we are all fighting the great battles that constitute a living war. The enemy is the wimp inside us, or the bully; the codependent alcoholic or the pious Pharisee.

The enemy has infiltrated your intelligence network and scrambled the signal. The enemy is telling you to turn the TV up and throw back another cold one instead of changing the oil. Play another round of Nintendo golf instead of taking the kids to a sunny park. Level up in Warcraft then saddle up for the Doctor Who marathon. Read the paper instead of having to look at your wife and children over breakfast.

The enemy is the rat race of consumer debt and impulse spending. The enemy is whispering in your ear that you’ve done enough, you deserve a treat, you can skip those calls you should make. Ignore the chance to make a friend or have a beer with the new guy.

Maybe the enemy is not the boys who want to date your daughter. Maybe the enemy is not your son’s drugs or peer pressure. The enemy is not your wife’s handsome new coworker. The enemy is not pornography but who’s looking.

The enemy is ruthless. We will never survive unless we are ruthless. Hack off every little inoculated arm. Waterboard some answers out of your own internal POW.

So throw a grenade. Grab a machine gun or flame thrower. Radio for some air support. Drive a tank over the trenches and pump them full of mustard gas. Stick a pipe bomb in their chassis and send an exploding arrow into their exhaust. Carpet bomb the perimeter and take no prisoners.

We are under attack. If you are reading this, you are the Resistance.

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Men Are from Mars: Forget about It

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:42

March 4, 2010

by Brian Flannery

One frustrating problem with kids is when they forget.
“What did I just say?” “Where did you put it?” “What did you do with Daddy’s phone?” “Who hit the baby?”
(Respond all together as one “I dunno” chorus.)

Other frustrating problems with kids:
Potty training, diaper escaping, potty accidents, bet wetting.
Biting, hitting, fighting, rivalry, bullying, jealousy, favoritism.
Lying, embellishment, manipulation.
Busy, clumsy, break everything, nothing is safe or truly baby-proof.
Not sleeping through the night, bad dreams.
Licking light bulbs (“That’s not candy!”).
Hair pins in the electrical outlets.
Spoiled nagging whininess.
Stranger/separation anxiety, childcare crying, over-friendliness with strangers.
TV/no TV, sugar/no sugar, cow’s milk/goat/human/soy/rice.
Growing too fast for their clothes, too slow for their age.
Failure to thrive or childhood obesity or stomach flu or other medical concerns.
When your wife rents that horrible movie, My Sister’s Keeper.
(I cried at the trailer. Don’t tell the other POPS!.)

I have no problem recalling this list of annoyances. I have a good memory. I don’t forget things like a two-year-old.

Sometimes I do forget. For instance, I forgot one important problem with kids: That kids are not supposed to be a problem.

I don’t just mean in the “seen and not heard” sense. (That would be nice.) I mean we can get too busy providing for them and disciplining them and educating them and changing them, sanitizing them, reorganizing, recombobulating, chauffeuring and emergency-room-waiting that we forget to be with them. Smile at them. Play. Hug. Love.

When I was home all the time, they were the obstacle. I wasn’t getting any work done and I certainly wasn’t making any money with these kids crawling all over me. Now that I am away nine hours every day, they are the missing part of the day. I see them before they go to bed, maybe.

I will leave it up to you to hum “Cat’s in the Cradle” to yourself.

Remember! For it is the doom of men that they forget.

-Brian the old softy

Next week:
The important difference between swearing around your children and swearing at your children. Plus, that unsung nuance of parental profanity, swearing with your children.

.

Men Are from Mars: Handy

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:41

February 19, 2010

by Brian Flannery

Every so often for the amusement of my neighbors, I put the garage door up. There among my clutter I attempt something handy. I am about as handy as a club-footed midget amputee wearing an eye-patch. My projects usually result in wasted supplies, a few ruined tools and a lot of bandages. When I was a kid, Mom told me you got tetanus from scraping rusty metal. Now that I am older, I am less superstitious. Like a scientist, I’m waiting to see if I escape lock-jaw.

I started a project while Christa was at MOPS. The kind of project that should of taken an hour and a half, tops. Two hours later, Christa came home and asked me for help with the kids. No problem; I’m almost done. Another two hours passed and our neighbor across the street walked down to get the mail.

“What are you making?” She caught me at a bad time, kind of an anger management moment. I was swearing at inanimate objects and trying to keep down a little bleeding with a rag and duct tape.
I told her I was building a castle. Aren’t we all?
“No, really. What are you making?”
It’s hard to describe. “A kind of saw-horse.”
“Oh. We have saw-horses. We bought them at the store.”
“Well, I need a special kind of saw-horse.
“I guess. Ours look like saw-horses.”
Mine looked like a medieval torture device. Imagine a Roman cross combined with a bird house and a weaving loom the size of a car. “Go away,” I said with my mind. She went away and I felt bad for being telepathically rude.

Another hour and a half passed. A car stopped in front of our house. “Hey, get a job!”
Holy crud, is it that bad? I have no idea who this person is. “Hello, I’m Brian.”
“Yeah. I’m your neighbor. We met you when we moved in. Hadn’t seen you around in a while.”
Yeah. Well, I’m working, so…. We talked more. I learned about his training and family. He didn’t pry about my birdhouse torture loom.

He drove on. I returned to my opus which was almost stable. I call it stable if it stands up without leaning against the wall, a countertop, two stools and some cardboard boxes. That’s how I frame my complicated inventions. A few more screws and a cross beam later, I stand back and gaze at my masterpiece. A finished thing is a thing, a thing. At last.

Then I tried to move it. It was heavy. I might have used two or three times too much wood. It wasn’t pretty. The neighbors might consider it an eyesore. It was destined for the backyard. I had put the neighbors through enough. Trouble was, all those cross beams made it very clumsy to get near its center of gravity. So I had to crawl inside it. Surrounded by my infrastructure, I notice that all of the screws I used are about two inches too long. They stick through the beams from every angle. Even so, I lift this crown of thorns and scooch it a few shuffles at a time, pausing for air and to relieve the drilling pain. One false move would look like an elaborate suicide.

When I get to the gate to my backyard, I notice this oversized Trojan saw-horse is too wide to pass. I pause in despair. I could not imagine how many more hours it would require to disassemble it and re-assemble it on the side of my house. I looked up at the heavens and saw that they were grinning without sympathy. If I were Paul Bunyan, I would just lift the whole device over the fence. If I had twenty stout men we could do it. But I’m just little old clumsy me.

I rolled that saw-horse through the gate. Tumbled it head over heels. And when I rolled it where it belonged, I stopped rolling. It survived the jostling. Something about using way too much material with way too many fasteners made for one sturdy hurdy gurdy. To consummate my accomplishment, I sawed a branch in half using my custom saw-horse. It wobbled a little and it is one foot too tall. Then I went inside. My wife gave me two Advil and hassled me very little for blowing the day. I went to bed. Before passing out in pain, I thought to myself: Next time I’m going to invite the neighbors over. I might even ask them for help. Or borrow their saw-horse.

——-

Christa’s comments: Pick your battles (this works with kids, too). Some of the best lessons are taught by keeping our mouth’s shut. If nothing else, it makes for a good laugh.

——-

Brian’s comments: My mother-in-law walked in on me twice while I was constructing my masterpiece in the garage. She asked a few questions then decided to drop it. When Christa showed her this article, she laughed loudly. “It sounds like he’s exaggerating but he’s not — I saw it!” she said. So there you have it (in case you doubt…).

Men Are from Mars: Who Buys Blue Light Bulbs?

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:39

February 5, 2010

by Brian Flannery

Someone invited our girls to a mermaid birthday party. Christa was out of town with the baby boy so I had to pack up the estrogen wagon and make it to the lagoon on time.

We arrived late. I had to carry the two one-year-olds and motivate the big girls to walk faster. The trip from the minivan to the door was exhausting. My motivators were sore; and the big girls were tired of getting a boot to the behind.

Then we stepped inside.

Blue light led us forward. Blue rippling streamers spanned the ceiling. Blue plastic tablecloths adorned the walls — painted all over with undersea scenery. Bubbles poured into the room over a blue curtain. The finger foods were fish crackers and cheese sticks with little eel-like eyes (cloves). Mini cucumber cracker sandwiches and dyed green cream cheese. A smiling crab (carved red pepper) cradled the dip. The turquoise cake was topped with white foam and rimmed at the base with gravel (chocolate raisins).

The Little Mermaid soundtrack plays in the background. The hosting mother is unrecognizable as a purple-haired mermaid and compliments her guests’ own costumes (we had only one to split four ways). The hosting father is dressed as a pirate and the kids soon discover a treasure chest (brown painted Styrofoam cooler) in the corner, full of sand (lima beans) and precious jewels (with convenient barrettes).

While the older girls take turns excavating treasure among the beans, the younger girls go fishing by casting lines over the bubble curtain and pulling out candy and animal crackers. The climax of the festivities is a jellyfish piñata that refuses its candy until one lucky child plucks the right tentacle. As the party wraps up, the soundtrack evolves into repeating ocean sounds, waves crashing. The parents watch their little mermaids get dizzy chasing bubbles, sugar crashing.

The youngest girls are swimming in the treasure chest beans and using them to fill up other people’s shoes. (They will be vacuuming for weeks.) The older girls find their way around the fishing curtain and are helping themselves to the animal crackers by the handfuls. Someone is running back and forth catching bubbles in her mouth like snowflakes. Lima bean stowaways await discovery during the next diaper change.

——-

We survived the ordeal. My brother called me that evening asking about my day. This is my single, childless, heavily tattooed, military motorcycle brother. Halfway through my extended description (that you’ve just read) it struck me that he didn’t care how elaborate this mermaid party was. He agreed. And then I thought of you, MOPS. You’re brainwashing me.

Letters from Planet Mom

Filed under: MOPS, POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:38

February 5, 2010

Dear MOPS, Thank you so much for taking the time to read the newsletter — and a special thanks to those who have written down your comments and concerns via email or the blog. After receiving a few concerns about our last “Men Are From Mars” Article, I wanted to take a moment to apologize and explain.

Let me begin by saying sorry if the “Men Are From Mars” Article has offended you. In the midst of our crazy week, Brian and I accidentally printed a draft of the article instead of the final. While the overall content was the same, we intended to delete some of the less tasteful words that had been printed. (The correct, final draft can be found at MOPSinfo.blogspot.com).

As moms, sometimes our jobs can throw us some PG13 (or even R) material that we must somehow convert into PG or G for our kids. As parents of four girls, Brian and I recently hurdled one of these such subjects. We brought home baby brother and it was inevitable that the girls noticed he was different. So, Brian and I began our discussion. What terms would we choose?

My thought was to use the technical terms “penis” and “vagina”. Brian disagreed: “vagina” is usually not the correct technical term. He’d prefer to simply call them private parts. We still haven’t came to a conclusion but we’re working on it. In the end, what we decide is not nearly as important as choosing something. If we do not direct our children, someone or something will direct them for us. I pray that I never shy away from a subject simply because it’s hard or adult content – but that in everything we do as moms we try our best and trust God to do the rest.

When I took the MOPS position of publicity I was immediately excited about Brian writing an article. Why? For several reasons.

First of all, parenting is not a one person job. Even if you are a single mom, your children need a male-perspective or role model. Our jobs as moms are priceless, but let us not underestimate the role of a father (or father-figure). Boys receive from their masculinity and self-confidence from their interactions with dad, and girls their self-esteem and self-worth (“Wild at Heart” and “Captivating” by John Eldredge, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by Meg Meeker, and articles such as those found at focusonthefamily.com all talk about the importance of dad).

Let’s face it, men and women parent differently. “Men Are From Mars” is our attempt at shedding some light on the male perspective. Whether if offers a conversation starter for you and your husband, brings up a subject that you have not yet thought about or simply offers a laugh in the midst of a stressful mommy day, our hope is to enhance your role as a mom, your relationship with your spouse and ultimately your walk with God.

Never hesitate to let us know your thoughts! Send comments (and complaints) to Christa, Brian or post them here on-line.

Sincerely, Christa (and Brian) Flannery

Men Are from Mars: Private Parts

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:37

January 22, 2010

by Brian Flannery

The question is going to come up. “Mommy, Daddy, why does brother have a different bottom than sister and I?” By “bottom” she means, y’know, down there.

I certainly never thought about it before but it seems that boys and girls are different. And they notice. Oh, they notice. Even an only child or a family of all boys (or all girls, how horrible) will find out. Something will give it away.

That’s when it’s time to stop bathing with your kids. In fact, don’t go to bathroom around them. In fact, try to get one of those androgynous outfits like that delightful Marilyn Manson comes up with. Bathe each child separately, secretly at different times of the day or at random. Otherwise, you’re going to have to talk about it.

What do you say? What do you call it? Boys, “weewee,” “peanut,” “noodle,” “ding dong”. Girls, “fanny,” “winkie,” “front bottom.” For both, “monkey,” “groin,” “peepee” or “P.P.” (for “private parts”). I have not made any of these up. I’m sticking with “boy parts” and “girl parts.”

It’s my personal pet peeve when well-intentioned parents miscall the private parts in an attempt to be proper or scientific. The problem is, the more scientific you get, the more important it is to be precise. Girl parts are particularly prone to mis-classification. Rhymes with “China?” Not according to a doctor. (Truth by consensus, Wikipedia, agrees with the anatomy textbooks on this one, complete with photographs — WARNING!)

Don’t be fooled by the know-it-alls of popular proper-sounding vernacular. Isn’t it better to use “silly” unscientific terms than to flagrantly misuse a clearly defined one. Would you tell your physician that your sinuses hurt when you actually only have a black eye?

Next week: “Where do babies come from? Ask your mother. She told you to ask me? Look, if I knew, do you think I would have so many?”

Fellow POPS! will meet tomorrow, Saturday, January 23rd, 11AM at Old
Chicago, Iliff and Buckley. Half hour of unhealthy food and manly, kid-free
conversation.

Men Are from Mars: Isolation

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:36

January 8, 2010

by Brian Flannery

Engineers are weird. Once I walked among them. I am ever grateful to one who warned me, in engineer language, that having a child “was a step function.”

He meant that life’s complexity and difficulty did not slowly, gently increase by 1 or 2. It did not multiply by 2 or 3. No straight line ramp up. It just jumped from 4 or 5 (depending on your marriage) to 107 without transition. The next child takes you up a sheer cliff to 1000+. The third and further children affect the scale less and less. (Their names blur, your hair grays and the years go quickly.)

My cousin, more human, said that everything he thought he and his wife had learned about communication was completely useless as soon as a child appeared. If you wait a few years between wedding chapel and delivery room, you may notice the change more. My wife and I jumped from confusing married communication into confused parent conversation so quickly it all formed one high-volume static screech.

It is easy to feel trapped, alone in a crowded house. When you and your wife disagree on something intense like discipline or your work schedule, then you’re alone. After a terrible morning of screaming, kids and poop, you barely make it out alive. Then you come home and she says, “I’ve been thinking I’m ready to have another baby.” So you unilaterally make a vasectomy appointment.

Sitting there in the sterile waiting room, surrounded by men who are exactly the same as you, still you are alone. That’s how men are. We like long drives and quiet, empty rooms and speechless, faithful dogs or a day spent with no one but the TV. We pull our hats down and squint at the bitter breeze that scrapes across our rugged bristles.

When the moment of betrayal hits; when you look at your spouse — you thought you were in this together — and realize that you are, in fact, completely alone; when your life boat’s one man crew shudders at the stormy waves and contemplates the big, empty flatness beyond; when the night is dark and the late stillness plays tricks on your mind and you are at last afraid to be alone, remember: You are never alone.

This is not a Barlow Girls song. This is war. People in Hell are alone. You are not alone. When you’re in the trenches with tunnel vision, don’t forget you have one key soldier beside you. You are nearer than you think to having your spouse as an ally. Give up the two front war: “Me vs. the Kids” and “Me vs. the Mrs.” Instead, join forces! Teach those kids a lesson.

There are POPS! fighting beside you in the same battle, for the same cause. What if spiritual armies fight on your side? What if a resurrected Christ roots for you and a Spirit is rebuilding you from the inside out? You can stand and fight in good company or you can flee.

For camaraderie in action, join your band of brothers. Fellow POPS! will meet Saturday, January 23rd, 11AM at Old Chicago, Iliff and Buckley. Half hour of unhealthy food and manly, kid-free conversation.

Men Are from Mars: A Hostile Time to Be a Dad —

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:35

December 18, 2009

by Brian Flannery

Babies are made of rubber, not porcelain. The stairs are a great place to play. Bruises mean new discoveries. Crying can sound a lot like laughing. In fact, crying can become laughing so easily and subtly (then back to crying again) that it is best just to keep tickling.

My daughter comes up to me and asks, “Put me in the sky and say, ‘shaken baby’!” She asks this because it’s her favorite game. She runs into my arms, I lift her and launch her heavenward, catch her, tumble her and tickle her screaming, “shaken baby!”

No one else thinks this is funny.

How to solicit applause: Skip a night at the bar to take your girl out to a ballgame; tell someone you work from home or you’re a stay-at-home-dad so you can be closer to your family; pack the toddlers in the stroller and stroll down to the bank one Saturday morning.

The world loves the idea of an involved father. But the applause is superficial. They love the idea of a father who cares about his kids but the reality of male parental involvement inspires a surprising lack of comfort. If you prove yourself a capable and caring father, beware. There are many parenting techniques shared by mothers and fathers but men bring a distinctly male bag of tricks into the nursery.

From mothers a child receives warmth, nurture, nourishment and calm, soothing comfort. From men, they receive their sense of balance, impervious resilience to minor physical injury and other fortitudes of spirit. This reassures the child that Dad is strong, fun, a little bit dangerous but loving. Stub a toe, scrape a knee around Mom, feel free to sob the sad song into her comforting bosom. Around Dad you better take the pain, learn from it, walk it off and grow stronger. Every child needs both — to know someone in the world cares and yet to know someone believes they can hack it.

That rough, unpredictable and sometimes painful masculine attribute to fatherhood is under special scrutiny today. In a world crying out for authentic father figures, firm burping swats, baby juggling and extreme strollering are met with gasps and stern frowns. There are dragons, self-appointed guardians of the universe on the watch, ready to spot the man who dares a public display of rowdy fatherhood. They will spot you and make sure everyone knows they are gasping and frowning. They may even bring up the threat, the ultimate weapon in the gasping frown arms race: “shaken baby.”

Never fear. We’re on to them. These thundering clouds don’t expect us to be so prepared. I will tell you how the Boy Scout’s motto dowses the fiery breath of those who whisper, “shaken baby.” The actual deadly action of baby shaking is a specific repeated motion. Knowing exactly what it is — defining the forbidden sequence — frees you from the fear of it. It not inadvertent. It is the last resort of negligent caretakers driven to exasperation by their own inability to deal with a crying infant.

Paradox: A baby is safest with a father who is roughest. Baby shakers are not devoted dads who gradually take their playful involvement one step too far.

At Daddy Boot Camp they passed along the truth: You can jiggle, jostle, toss and bump a baby in every way except this one violent body-shake, front to back without reinforcing the head and neck. All babies have big heads in proportion to their bodies. All newborns have weak necks, too weak to bear the whiplash. All other motions are permissible.

In fact, healthy daddy time strengthens the neck by being a little rough. No father would make the shaken baby mistake if he had the experience of playful roughness. You learn too much about how the baby works, how much support they need and what feels safe, what feels awkward, painful or dangerous.

As for me, I’m going to toughen them up. Fathers unite! POPS risk gasps and frowns. “POPS” is not an acronym; it is an explosion. Unpredictable, unsettling and prone to make babies cry. That’s how we save their lives.

Men Are from Mars: Are You Crazy?

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:34

December 4, 2009

by Brian Flannery

When people hear we are working on fostering another child, the first reaction is usually, “Are you crazy?” In defense of my sanity as a man, let me explain that I understand the question. The last thing I need is another baby around. Kids are useless until the age of one.  Get them walking and saying a few words before you expect me to notice them.

Women love the tiny, sleepy, squeaky and pathetically dependent newborn phase. In general, pathetically dependent is a female’s crack cocaine. Men aren’t nearly so fascinated by passive, needy, tightly-bundled, sluggish cuteness. We’ll tolerate it with a warning: This free ride has a time limit (Chores start at age 2. Lawn mowing starts at age 4.)

The most interesting thing about this new baby is found in the front of his diapers. That’s right, one wife and four daughters later, my bachelor pad was lonesome for another y-chromosome. My ulterior motive is future guy time: Just me, the unwashed dog, the adopted male and a sign on the door, “Toilet seat up; beware.”

Another advantage to this kind of child acquisition is keeping siblings together. If he remains with us, he remains with his two biological sisters. I’m sure alternative family situations like foster-adoption can be disorienting. Having something to hold on to may offer some extra peace of mind. But, this advantage has limits. For example, we cannot take any more of their siblings or any other babies. We’re full. We may consider having another child of our own in a decade or two.

These advantages are not good reasons, just perks. The real reason is that Christa and I had agreed we were ready to grow the family again. I know that may sound crazier than accepting a baby who happened to be available. We certainly didn’t expect a child to come so quickly. These things usually have a 9-month buffer.

Why were we willing to increase our already absurd family size at all? Well, what’s one more? After two children it’s a blur anyway. Christa often asks me if I can remember all our children’s birthdays. I don’t tell her that I don’t even know most of their names. When Christa told me social services called and offered us a baby, my first response was, “Sure. How many do we have now?”

To be clear, we are not baby crazy. We are not snatching unattended children from grocery store shopping carts. We are employing multiple, fault-tolerant and redundant forms of birth control, despite the extreme rarity of Mommy-Daddy time.

If life is valuable, if people are valuable, then we are just investing in the only currency that does not go back in the box at the end of the game. And that’s why it’s worth it to me.

Men Are from Mars: Providing a Living

Filed under: POPS! — BrianOFlan @ 17:25

November 20, 2009

Six months ago, I resigned a stable job to risk working from home on some business opportunities. For five years I had worked with people who hated their jobs yet did nothing to change their situation. I was going to be different. I was going to make my first million before I was 30. What follows is a cautionary tale; feel free to live vicariously through me before you try this at home.

Christa and I spent the first two months fighting over territory. She had the funny idea that the house was hers since I was never around much before. So I threw all her craft supplies away. She put a computer out the window. I threatened her Twilight books and she settled down.

We tried starting two businesses with limited success. Both businesses are now on hold. I also tried working as a salesman. Working from home with young children does not help you project professional confidence. “Hello, I’m calling today to see if you have ever considered the advantages of owning your very own… (Shh. Put that down. Don’t give it to your sister. Well, try to stop the bleeding. Where’s your mother?) Sir, I have to let you go right now but would you mind if I called back later?”

We have way too many kids but we love them and plan on having more someday. We resolved most of the stay-at-home conflict just in time for me to head back out into less domestic working contexts. Forget working from home during the preschool years. You get to the point where those cute babies you wanted to spend more time with become the pests that prevent you from providing for them.

Most important to us is being there for our girls. Before I resigned, I had spent more time in my office than with my family. I had no idea who they were and often went home to the wrong house on accident and spent hours there before noticing. We are grateful for these six months and the chance to be together for a change.

We wanted to teach our girls that “work” is not just when dad goes away for a long time and comes back late and cranky. We wanted them to see it — to see work — to see it as hard but worthwhile — to see mom and dad working together and playing with them together. We wanted our girls to know how money works, how things get done, and how to get paid for serving people, helping people and improving people’s lives. We wanted to show them that business can be a learning game, a manageable risk, even fun sometimes — whether you fail or win or break even — not a terrible mystery to fear.

Jobs come and go. So do careers. But serving people well can become a fulfilling and lifelong quest. (Agree? Disagree? Despise this psycho-babble?)

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