Handy hints for helping “Helpers”

I’ve learned over the years that the boys absolutely love “helping” me whenever I work on a project around the house. It doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning the garage, building a fence, or just doing the dishes. Whatever it is that I’m doing they want to be involved in it. Since there is little to no chance of discouraging my stubborn little monsters I’ve come up with a few helpful strategies that I thought I’d share with other Dad’s out there.

 

#1 A flexible time schedule

Whenever you do any task it's important to have close supervision.

Whenever you do any task it’s important to have close supervision.

What this means is that I’ve learned that anything done with kids hanging around is going to take much, much longer than planned. Interruptions have a way of doing that. Even if the boys are actively “helping”, there is constant stopping to break up fights, put shoes back on, change butts, and kiss boo-boos. What I had thought was going to be a weekend long job, could stretch out over several days. There’s no way to predict how much additional time will be needed, so it’s best to plan for the worst and then be pleasantly surprised if it didn’t take weeks to finish something that could have been done in an afternoon. 

 

#2 “Decoy Tools”

The boys "help" me disassemble our Christmas fence. Zack is ready to jump in with his toy drill if I need a relief.

The boys “help” me disassemble our Christmas fence. Zack is ready to jump in with his toy drill in case I need a relief.

When I work on a project and I know the kids are going to be underfoot (which is pretty much every project) I make sure to have plenty of extra screwdrivers, tape measures, or whatever else I’m using handy or better yet, toys that look like what I’m using.

Inevitably I’ll reach for something only to discover one of my little kleptomaniacs has run off with it or is by my side happily playing with that one crucial tool that I needed. Having toy facsimiles or extra “stunt” tools lets them have fun while helping me keep my sanity.

The boys have amassed quite a collection of miniature tools, vacuums, brooms, and other household items. As an added bonus, this has made huge difference with Zack’s sensory disorder. This kind of play demystifies the sounds that these items make which helps him cope with noises that may have previously frightened him.

 

#3 Distraction… Er, Involvement

Zack mans the full size swiffer while Josh has the kid sized version. As an added bonus, they may accidentally get the floor clean too!

Zack mans the full size swiffer while Josh has the kid sized version. As an added bonus, they may accidentally get the floor clean too!

While my little guys are still a bit too young to offer much real help, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. When I plan a project I try to find things that they can do to feel involved.

It’s amazing how excited they get just doing a small task like dumping the dustpan, handing me screws, or putting loose nails in a jar. It can be tricky because the novelty of actually helping wears out quick and they’ll start entertaining themselves by just getting in the way.

 

#4 “Stunt projects”

Josh shows off the plastic hammer he uses "pulling nails just like Daddy"

Josh shows off the plastic hammer he uses “pulling nails just like Daddy”

Having a little project of their own goes a long ways towards keeping kids happy. If the kids see me busy pulling nails for instance, I’ll make sure that they have a few boards of their own (minus the nails of course) to pound on with toy hammers and pretend to pull out their own nails. Josh loves to “help” me do dishes, which in his case involves standing on a chair next to me endlessly pouring water from one cup into another while I scrub all the dishes.

 

#5 A Backup Plan

The guys take a Play-Doh break while helping Mom & Dad clean and organize the garage.

The guys take a Play-Doh break while helping Mom & Dad clean and organize the garage.

No matter what their level of fascination is with what Daddy is doing, they are bound to eventually tire of what I’m working on and want to be entertained (by me). This can get awkward, especially if I’m still knee deep in the task at hand and I can’t break away from it.

Having a backup plan ready can be a life saver. Just about anything qualifies as a “back-up”. The only rule is to make sure it’s something the kids really enjoy, doesn’t need lots of direct supervision, and will keep them in the immediate area (Play-Doh, coloring books, snacks, sidewalk chalk, etc.). A few well timed granola bars and a magna-doodle can be a real life saver.

Zack decides to "help" by filling one of my work gloves full of fencing nails.

Zack decides to “help” by filling one of my work gloves full of fencing nails.

I would have put “Patience” and “Sense of Humor” on this list too, but I think it’s a given. As with everything involving kids, having a lot of patience and a sense of humor is a must. Try not to stress out, appreciate the ridiculousness of the situation and enjoy the chaos that is unfolding around you.

Even when we have big equipment the kids have to get in the action. Don't worry, the landscaper was shut down when Josh ran in to "help"

Even when we have big equipment the kids have to get in the action. Don’t worry, the landscaper was shut down when Josh ran in to “help”

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What the heck is a “Dadism”?

When I set up this blog I had little idea what I was doing (and still don’t), but I did already have a name for it “Random Dadisms”. So where does this term come from you might ask, or you may not. Regardless, I’m going to explain it anyways.

Whenever I find myself saying something ridiculously bizarre to the children, the sort of sentence I never in a million years imagined would come out of my mouth; I refer to it as a “Dadism”. Beginning about a year ago whenever I uttered this nonsense I started writing them down in the notebook app on my iPhone. The file is named “Random Dadisms” and hence, so is my blog and nifty new Twitter feed where I started posting them.

*Warning*… That’s the short version. Question answered, Dadism = incoherent Dad rambling. A further, long drawn out nonsensical explanation now continues. Proceed at your own risk!

Still there? Well alright, don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

Of course I didn’t just come up with “Dadism” on my own, I’m not going to try and pretend that this was my original thought or anything. It’s a term that was handed down to me by my own father, and I’m sure he heard it somewhere else too. Although in his case, what he referred to as “Dadisms” were just examples of his corny sense of humor disguised as advice. A few of his favorite gems were:

“Keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool, or open it up and prove it.”

“The definition of ‘Expert’: an ‘Ex’ is a has-been, and a ‘Spurt’ is a drip under pressure.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, practice sucking seeds.”

“Necessity is the mother of contraption.”

You can see now how I came to know the term “Dadisms” as pretty much any insane thing that is said by a father.

A bit of background on the man my Dad, Warren Husted, was:

My father was from an older generation. Born in 1920 he was an army veteran who served his country during World War II, fell in love with a nurse, married her, raised two sons, and then when he was almost fifty he started a whole new life. He remarried, this time to a woman with four children of her own, had a “surprise” baby (me), became a civilian, and traveled the world.

The reason for this tangent about my Dad (but can it really be a tangent if I never developed a cogent thought to begin with?), is to show a bit of my inspiration for being a Dad. Or I guess I should say more accurately, my inspiration for the kind of Dad I want to be.

Four generations of Husted men.

Four generations of Husted men.

My Dad tackled fatherhood all over again late in life. In this picture the goofy looking kid on the left is me in my Dad’s lap, my grandpa Husted is in the middle and the man on the right is actually my big brother Dick. The little boy in his arms is my nephew Chris, just a few months younger than me.

While I recognize that Dad may have had his faults, he could be a bit of a dork sometimes, and great many of the things he “fixed” never worked quite right again, he will always be an example of the man I strive to be. To my little kid eyes he was a Super-Hero. He always took time to encourage me when I needed it, to help me wholeheartedly however he could, and offer up a cheesy joke whether I wanted it or not. I honestly can’t remember a time that Dad wasn’t in my corner. Granted, there were a few times when he was even a little too enthusiastic in encouraging my participation in some activities (The subject of future blogs I’m sure), but never a time when he wasn’t there to help.

Dad and Me

Among my fondest memories of my father will be his laughter and yes, that cornball sense of humor. Its funny how at the time, listening to his bad puns and his “Dadisms” used to drive me bonkers, but now those are some of the things I miss most. Dad passed away four years ago today and there isn’t a day that goes by since then that I can’t imagine his distinctive “chortle” and wish that he was here to see his grandsons grow up or to give me advice on how to be a better Dad. Zack was seven weeks old when Dad passed, so I’m thankful that he did get to see me as a father for a at least a little while.

Dad and Zack

Warren & Mary Husted with baby Zachary (1 day old)

I know that, like my father before me, I can be a bit of a dork at times (or in my case, a lot of a dork most of the time) and I might not always get it right. But I’ll do my best, and hopefully I can live up to the example that my father set for me. There are a lot of things that I never planned on as a Dad (like you can “plan” much of parenting to begin with), but I kind of enjoy the fact that I catch myself over and over spouting the same kinds of wacky things my father did before me. Sure they may not be his well-rehearsed corny jokes, but I think he’d appreciate the humor in my own brand of “Dadisms”.

So did any of my ramblings actually define the term “Random Dadisms”? Well, maybe not, but it did tell you a tiny bit about the incredible man I’m glad I got to call “Dad”. As for the whole “Dadism” definition thing, just scroll back up to paragraphs #2 & #3 in this post. Hey I did warn you about the whole meandering thing didn’t I? Oops, sorry… I’ll try to do better next time.