The Challenges of Parenthood
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We are just back from the 8th annual Dad 2.0 Summit – and we are charged up to make change! Did you know that Dove Men+Care is pledging $1 million over the next 2 years to help dads afford to take paternity leave? Why is this so important? Getting dads involved right from the start helps all of us manage work and family responsibilities better – and not just during the diapering stage!
Take a look at the inspiring videos on the right, then read the great example of what we’re talking about – it’s a story from one of the bloggers spotlighted at the Dad 2.0 Summit … Then help us push for more change TODAY by taking the
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The Chaos Theory of Parenting – by Cort Ruddy
Our typical morning routine is goes like this: Child 1 ostensibly gets up at 6:15 a.m., to be on the bus at 6:52. Children 2 and 3 rise from their slumber when child 1 departs, and they get on their bus at 7:40. That’s when child 4 awakes, his bus arriving at 8:12, which he dutifully boards.
I call this predictable structure the Ordered Family model. And it works well on paper. In reality, it rarely occurs. Here’s a sample of our reality through the lens of one particular day last week when my wife just happened to be away on business.
The alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. as planned. Our oldest child didn’t move, however. Unplanned. Then it went off again. And again. When she did finally move, she announced she needed a shower because “it had been a few days.”
Long story short: she missed the bus. So, of course, I had to drive her. I woke the two younger ones, who are just barely old enough to be left home alone, and ordered them to get ready as I took the eldest to the High School.
When I got back, the house was still standing and everyone was alive, but nobody was ready for the middle school bus, now just moments way. So, I quickly threw together their lunches, prodded them to brush their teeth and get dressed, and then I watched as the bus pulled away while they sat at our counter nonchalantly eating breakfast. Bus missed.
To take them to school, I had to wake the boy, as he cannot be left alone for everybody’s sake. Once his sisters were deposited at middle school. We went back home to get him out of his PJs and ready for his bus, which he missed. So, it was back in the car and to the third school of the day to drop off yet another child.
By the time I got home, I had exactly zero minutes to get showered, dressed and off to work. Needless to say, I was late. Like, really late.
That’s when it occurred to me the similarities between math’s Chaos Theory and the way my wife and I are as parents: the Chaos Theory of Parenting.
In mathematics, Chaos theory is used to describe dynamic systems where minor variations in initial variables can cause wildly different outcomes.
I find it easier to understand Chaos Theory by thinking about the game Plinko on the Price Is Right. That’s the one where the lucky contestant drops a round chip down the Plinko board and it bounces around rather unpredictably until it reaches the bottom.
The difference is that in Plinko there are only five possible outcomes. While in life, and in parenting, there are infinite. Kid 3 could miss the bus. Kid 2 could leave without gloves and have to stay in for recess. Kid 4 could forget his homework, and his parents could get a call from the teacher. Dad could be late so often that he gets fired, and the whole family could have to move to another state. Anything could happen. All based on Kid 1 sleeping through her alarm and a host of other initial variables.
You could be observing us on what seems like an otherwise quiet evening when an unexpected (but predictable) variable occurs, like someone yelling, “Oh My God! We forgot soccer practice!”
And then we suddenly find ourselves scrambling to get our tween to her indoor soccer practice, and the whole plan for dinner is out the window and half our kids are crying because they’re hungry and haven’t started their homework. All because one of us had to run to the store after work to get an ingredient for the dinner we now aren’t making and, in the frenzy, simply forgot it was a practice day.
Clearly, I have only a rudimentary understanding of the real Chaos Theory, however I’ve found that with proper use of vagueness and big words, anyone can sound like they’re an expert on theoretical mathematics.
Parenting, on the other hand, is not quite so easy.
Cort Ruddy is a writer, working and raising four kids with his wife in upstate New York. His writing has appeared in Adirondack Life and Central New York Magazine, and can be found online at RuddyBits.com. He’s on Twitter @DadBits.
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