Adventures in Fatherhood, Part 3

By ben  

The first two days of my ‘single father’ experience were a warm-up for the last two days. While I had plenty of family support on Saturday and Sunday, it would be limited on Monday and Tuesday. This was by design; while I could have leaned more on Bubba and GrandPat, I really wanted to build my own self-confidence as a parent.

My plan for Monday, April 7 was pretty simple. Find things to do with the kids (besides sit around the house), and take it slowly.

It’s taken me a while to find the time to write these recaps, so I don’t recall exactly when the kids got up or what I gave them for breakfast. It was most likely an average wake-up time (around 7:00 a.m.) followed by cereal, pancakes, waffles, yogurt, fruit, or some combination of those. With no serious morning issues, I set out on my task to take the kids swimming at the company pool, which is about a 25-minute drive to the north.

I did some packing the night before, and I verified on the company web site that the pool was open on Monday morning. I was a bit worried that our visit would coincide with a group from the child care center, but I figured I could manage with just two little ones. How can I handle two non-swimmers by myself in a pool, you ask? Well, there’s both a typical swimming pool and a wading pool for kids. It’s no more than two feet deep, so I would be able to comfortably monitor both kids.

I had no trouble loading up the car with the kids and all the stuff needed for swimming (suits, towels, clothes, swim diaper for J, snacks/drinks for after). I did forget the kids’ ID cards, but that was no issue since I had my ID. I used the family restroom, and we had a calm environment in which to get changed at a leisurely pace. We made our way through the locker room and into the pool area. I was carrying Jonas, and Eliana was walking beside me. It was at that point that I was hit with the biggest setback of the day.


A combination of anger and sadness welled up in me, as Eliana was already trying to open the gate to get in to the half-drained wading pool. With relatively few people around on a Monday morning, a lifeguard (probably late teens / early 20s) quickly noticed my predicament and walked toward me. While keeping Eliana near me, I asked the lifeguard why the wading pool was closed, and he said that they periodically clean and drain it if the ‘chemical balance’ is off. I knew that the situation was beyond his control, but that didn’t really ease my frustration. Attempting to stay calm, I explained that I had no other option — I couldn’t support both kids in the regular pool, which is four feet deep on the shallow side — and asked if there was anything he could do to help. His answer was an apologetic no.

Had this been an issue where a kid did something in the wading pool that requires an immediate cleaning (which has happened before), I probably would have been more understanding, but the fact that the wading pool was closed for a non-urgent matter when it was supposed to be open really ticked me off.

I contemplated asking the lifeguard or one of his colleagues to carry one of the kids. Some of the other staff on hand became aware of the situation, and one of them came to the rescue and brought out a foam noodle and a swimming aid that Eliana could wear on her back. For those not familiar, it is four foam blocks, each about eight inches by ten inches by one inch thick, that are connected with a strap that fastens to the child’s mid-section. If I could get Eliana to wear it, I would just have to hold her hand in the water, as the foam blocks would support most of her weight.

The amazing thing about this whole ordeal is how Eliana remained calm and even-tempered. I was fully expecting her to have a tantrum or break out in tears (or both) at the thought of no kiddie pool. She was willing to go in the big pool, despite how excited we all were about the kiddie pool; we had been talking about it Sunday night and all morning. She wore the swimming aid without a single complaint. While I held Jonas, she could still jump in from the side, swim next to me, and have all kinds of fun. There were some toys typically reserved for the kiddie pool that we used in the big pool. There were no other kids around — just some retirees using the jacuzzi and a few ladies doing aquacise — so the three of us had a very large area all to ourselves.

Jonas was having a great time too. He liked kicking his feet, splashing around, and sharing the toys with Eliana. When he got tired and wanted out, Eliana played by the stairs in the pool so that I didn’t have to be right next to her. I still watched her closely, but I was thrilled how she was making the best of an unfortunate situation. I gave as much time as she wanted (no rush, remember?), and she eventually decided that she’d had enough swimming, and we headed back to the family restroom.

While Eliana took a hot shower (which is available in the family restroom), I took my time getting Jonas and me dressed. After that, it was easy to get Eliana ready to go. Before we left, we spent more time at the indoor playground near the pool. We once again had the place to ourselves. It was great for them to have so much space to run around. Jonas could do one of slides all by himself, and Eliana was doing a great job of helping him climb and being a wonderful big sister.

So, what could have been a disaster turned out very, very well. I’m going to call ahead about the kiddie pool the next time I plan a trip like this.

Jonas quickly fell asleep on the car ride home. While he napped, Eliana stayed awake listening to the Frozen soundtrack and munching on snacks. I stopped for gasoline, picked up a package at a nearby post office, and made it home without Jonas waking up, and without Eliana falling asleep. My string of successes continued when I was able to transfer Jonas to his crib and keep him in ‘nap mode’. This allowed me to focus on lunch for Eliana and me, and it gave us some quality father-daughter time. Jonas continued to sleep while Eliana and I relaxed on the couch watching her favorite shows. Soon enough, Eliana was ready for a nap herself. For roughly half an hour, all three of us were asleep. That’s what an active Monday morning will do for you. 🙂

Eliana resting after plenty of morning pool time

Eliana resting after plenty of morning pool and play time

Soon after our naps were over, my dad called asking if I needed any help. I happily responded that I was doing great. The only other challenge I recall from Monday is that Jonas would not sit in his chair at the kitchen table, which meant that I had to hold him while I fed him, or just give him some finger food on a plate or in a bowl and set it on one of the tables in the family room. No big deal.

Before she left, Jenelle recorded some videos of her reading books. These were a great help — not just at bedtime — as the kids still got face time with Mommy. Eliana and Jonas enjoyed watching these a few times over. I’m thankful that the kids were not missing Mommy too much.

After the kids went to sleep, I successfully completed four miles on the basement treadmill, tidied up the house a bit, and went to bed at a fairly reasonable time. Three days down, one to go!