Ahh, Thanksgiving. A time when families gather into confined spaces and around overcrowded dining room tables to stuff their faces, give thanks and air their grievances about politics and their employers. It’s dinner and a show, and you don’t even have to tip.
Two weeks after the most ridiculous presidential election we might ever see, this Thanksgiving promises to be particularly enjoyable. I’m already thankful for the prodding and mocking that will grow less subtle as the day drags on… and the punch bowl dries up.
Aside from the passive-aggressive Midwestern political dinner theater, I’m also thankful for several very specific reasons. As a stay-at-home dad, I’ve developed a serious appreciation for things that I either used to take for granted or otherwise completely overlooked. It’s a running total, but here’s the list (as it stands right now):
- The enduring legacy of stereotypical gender roles.
I’m no sexist, but I sure am thankful for the slow pace of gender equality when three hours into a five-hour road trip I pull the family station wagon into a rest stop and find that only the women’s restroom is equipped with a baby changing station. It’s a small gift, but as I sit in the blissful silence of the men’s room (while my wife tends to our son), I give thanks for the poopy diaper pardon this unjust world has bestowed upon me.
- Drop-in daycare at the gym.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I’m in the best shape of my adult life… and I owe it all to being a stay-at-home dad with a gym membership. For two hours a day—almost every day—I get to drop Macklin off to play with kids his own age under the care of the best staff I’ve ever dealt with. It’s a beautiful arrangement: Mack cheers when I drop him off, I go admire myself in the mirror while I do some curls, and then I come back to a well-fed, even more cheerful kid. Thank you, Courts Plus. Don’t ever leave me.
- Brilliant bibs.
One of my daily goals is to keep Macklin in the same outfit throughout the entire day. It’s not as easy as it sounds, considering his lack of fine motor skills and his relentless need to eat. Nonetheless, I’m successful most days thanks to… and I can’t believe I’m saying this… Ikea. It may be my least favorite place in the world—seriously, it’s a human ant farm—but, damn if those Swedes don’t know they’re way around a bib. All the way around. To give you a visual, imagine putting on a rain jacket backwards. With one of these full-sleeve, straight-jacket-esque Ikea bibs, you could wear your (or your wife’s) wedding dress, eat a pile of runny spaghetti with your bare hands and walk away spotless.
- Liquid ibuprofen.
Drugs are bad, kids. But drugs for kids are great. When Mack’s gums are getting shredded by two blunt molars and a prison shank-worthy incisor (all at once), I can’t leap off my “Down with Big Pharma” soapbox fast enough. And if you think that makes me a bad parent, come over and let me stab you in the mouth with a handful of toothpicks while you try to take a nap, then we’ll talk… if you can.
- The family zoo membership.
Economically speaking, our family membership to the Red River Zoo in Fargo has been the best $65 we’ve ever spent. It’s a built-in outing whenever we want (or need) it. There’s food, animals, a playground and sunshine. Plus, that single membership has gotten us into other zoos and aquariums around the country for free, and free anything is my favorite.
- Restaurants. All of them.
Family dinners that require no clean-up… enough said.
- Three-hour naps.
Unfortunately, Mack’s epic three-hour naps are becoming a thing of the past, but they were great while they lasted. Not only would he wake up refreshed and singing to himself in his crib, I’d get a ton of work done while he snoozed… usually with enough time for a quick nap of my own. (Yes, you should be jealous.)
- Never having to set an alarm clock.
The worst part about having a regular job is being a slave to the alarm clock and other people’s arbitrary schedules. True, Mack’s schedule can go from predictable to bonkers without explanation, but he’s a baby. It makes sense for him to act childish. It makes no sense, however, for an adult to throw a fit and demand a team meeting at 4 p.m. on a Friday. As a stay-at-home dad with an above-average happy child, I’m incredibly thankful for the ability to take each day as it comes without worry of deadlines or alarms… and I’ve got the blood pressure to prove it.
- Bathtime resets.
Bathtime gets a bum rap for reasons I don’t understand. Macklin loves them, and they’ve proven to be a reliable reset button whenever we’ve mistakenly hopped onto the struggle bus and missed our stop. Just the sound of the tub filling up is enough to turn his cries into giggles.
Hear this: buckles save lives. I had no idea. Buckles on car seats, strollers, high chairs, booster seats and changing tables save lives every day in this country. My home is brain injury free thanks to buckles. They’re the last line of defense against a baby case of CTE. I mean, I can’t be expected to watch him all the time, right? That reminds me… I’m also thankful for low expectations. Happy Thanksgiving!