Lessons from Dad: Reminders from the Road


For as long as we’ve been a couple, the intensity of my husband’s job as a college baseball coach ebbs and flows with the seasons. Long before we were married, in the extended tenure of our dating (it was a loooong courtship) I was familiar with the end of the holiday season coinciding with the anticipation of training season. Even though the temps usually hovered below zero outside, inside the gym floor was buzzing with a sea of blue shirts, pinging bats, and systematic commotion.

When his road trips took him away for multiple nights, I remember feeling giddy at the prospect of solo time. There would be no fighting over the remote, and my chosen meal (sushi) was usually consumed in my pajamas while watching some obscure documentary. Now that we have two young children at home, clearly the sushi and movie consumption has dwindled significantly. More importantly, his absences are felt deeply by two little gentlemen who race around the living room after bath time and prefer to play Sequence with Dad. Despite the intensity of this schedule, the challenge of a three-day road trip also promises that on Monday morning, Daddy is in charge of school drop-offs, or ends his day a bit earlier to sneak in some floor tackling and stories.

Obviously, moms don’t get enough credit. That is proven day after day on the battlefield of keeping tiny and mid-size humans alive. But as the grateful co-parent of an equal opportunity household, I know that dads could also stand to receive a little more gratitude.

He makes dinner and I mow the lawn

From the minute I became pregnant, I was hyperaware of how gender stereotypes play into raising kids. We didn’t find out the gender with either of our subsequent births. Colors we chose weren’t ever pink or blue. Consequently, some positive effects included how simply normal it is for our kids to witness the activities of daily life being not necessarily attributed to mom or dad, but instead to a parent. He often prepares and cleans up after dinner. (OK, most of us don’t like it, but someone has to do it.) If I’ve skipped a run that day, I happily volunteer to mow the lawn. Diaper duty? Pretty sure he’s changed twice the amount of diapers as our kids have grown. Work is work. Divide and conquer. Band aids and kisses for skinned knees are evenly divided.

Work hard and don’t give up 

Our kids are never going to exel at throwing baseballs (or playing the piano, building a rocket, or learning to ride a bike) if they don’t practice, practice, practice, and do it with as much verve as they possibly can. Part of loving an activity is building it into your life.

Lessons from Dad: A Reminder from the Road | Duluth Moms Blog

Sit in the driver’s seat and imagine destinations

I’m not sure I did this as a kid, but perhaps the racecar driver gene our kids innately possess have been passed down from my husband. While I sometimes roll my eyes and wince at the thought of hanging out in the car longer as I struggle with an impending puddle of liquid popsicles, he never thinks twice about letting them (without keys, of course) blast off to space or race down the California highway. Now, I try to buckle them in, climb in the backseat, and tag along for their adventure.

Set firm boundaries and stay silly

His years as an elementary school teacher were incredible preparation (and PATIENCE) for the important and challenging moments of parenting. He provides stability and consistent guidance to our young sons on navigating the boundaries of right and wrong. They know what to expect from his guidelines and undoubtedly feel safety in that.

Conquer the race, even if you don’t win the race (This one is mine)

Every big race I’ve ever completed, our older son has always asked if I won. I explain that I may never be the fastest or most talented runner on the course, but I quickly follow with I try always to envision what I want to accomplish and I work systematically to go after it.

Dogpile on the couch whenever possible

Even after we endure a challenging moment of conflict (usually over toys), he invites everyone (canine included) over to the couch for a regular dogpile. He is the official jungle gym of the living room, and our family derives happiness and comfort from these crazy cuddle sessions.

Make sure they only win about half of the time

I love this lesson the most. We owe it to our children to demonstrate they can’t have everything they want and they won’t win all of the time simply because they are the youngest. While losses initially cause some protests of unfairness, it makes their actual victories much richer, knowing they can rely on their own skills and savvy to try and achieve this. Chutes and Ladders can a brutal lesson in life’s ups and downs, but a little reality can go a long way.

As a parent, admit the work is hard

After I returned from a girls’ weekend, he shared with me how hard solo parenting can be. I knew he appreciated the work I did for our family in his absence, but to hear him admit it was also overwhelming was a validating gesture.

Thanks to my husband for challenging me to be a better parent. All the goodness I envisioned about him as a future dad came true.

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Carrie and her husband of ten years are raising their sons, ages four and 15 months, with the guiding family principles that wiffle ball games can turn into neighborhood events, packing extra snacks never hurts, and the best way to end dinner time is with a family dance party. Her full-time work away from home is in higher education, equipping students with pathways to success during and after college. As a native Duluthian who returned to the area after completing a graduate degree in English, she’s motivated to develop this community for young professionals and families. Beyond frequenting parks and the kid-friendly spaces of the Zenith City, Carrie puts in miles on the trails and the Lakewalk for self-care and to maintain a supportive female community. Some of her personal goals for the near future include completing a marathon (maybe), starting a book group, and planning next year’s family vacation. She is hopeful she can use some of her challenges and growth as a mom with young children as a catalyst for community support.