Some days just cover you in layers of suck. Sometimes deadlines are blown, projects are killed, and managers dress you down in a meeting. Other times all your favorite snacks are removed from the vending machine. All those things are equally awful. All of them.
Occasionally you bring your layer of suck home, like the worst turtle ever. And the fact is your kid probably doesn’t want a sad, stressed-out turtle. They want an awesome dad that’s excited to see them. But how do you shed your shell and reconnect with your youngster after a long day? Here are some great ideas.
A Brief Decompression
Long commutes are not fun. But they do allow you a bit of time to come back to yourself and prepare to Dad it up. So take advantage of that time.
If you’re stressed out and the news of the day will just stress you further, turn that nonsense off. Maybe opt for a relaxing parenting podcast. Or play your favorite music. Alternatively, you can drive in silence, breathing deeply and imagining the day falling off you with every mile.
If your commute takes you on transit, bring a funny book. Or invest in some noise canceling headphones so you can simply tune out, close your eyes and breathe.
If you haven’t shaken it off by the time you get home, it’s time to pause for a moment. Remember that your workday has ended. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait until morning. Take a deep breath. Smile. And get ready to accept the unconditional love of your amazing kid.
Father And Child Reunion
Even if you shed your shell on the commute, the transition into home life can be jarring. But know you’re basically one of your kid’s 2 favorite people (the other one is Elmo). So you should at least make an effort to prove they have excellent taste in humans.
Often times the biggest barrier between you and your kid is the bleeping, glowing, entrancing communication device you’re holding. Learn how to turn it off. And then do that before you walk through the door.
Having a physical connection with your kid is important to their development. But that doesn’t mean you just have to snuggle down. A little wrasslin‘ with your little one after a long day can make both of you feel much, much better. Particularly when you get to pretend to be Andre the Giant.
Have A Ritual
This doesn’t mean you need to make a pentagram out of candles and sacrifice stuffed animals to Moloch (unless your kid is into that kind of thing). It does mean that you should develop some kind of activity to mark your return to home life. Maybe it’s a song. Or it could be a special handshake or dance. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that is only for you and your kid.
Share A Household Chore
If you’re the guy who makes the dinner, bring your kid into the kitchen and have them help. Or maybe there’s an evening cleaning chore that you can bring them in on. Sadly, they won’t be able to help you with your most important after work chore: drinking all the beers.
Kids love it when you go from serious dad to WTF bonkers dad. This might be a simple as suddenly switching to a different voice. Or becoming a monkey for a couple minutes. Or standing on your head. You know, silly.
There is ample research suggesting that when you pretend you’re happy, by forcing a smile for instance, your mood can actually change. And if your mood really changes then that can only be a good thing for your kid.
This may not be the easiest thing to do when you have younger children. But know they are listening when you are telling them about your day. Return the favor by asking them questions about their day and feelings. You might not be able to understand all of it, but that shouldn’t stop you from active listening: “Oh really? You don’t say! Wow!”
The bonus of engaging in any of these activities is that they will probably make you feel way better about your day. You’ll also be able to feed off your kid’s seemingly endless pool of energy. Eventually, that crappy meeting won’t look so bad. That vending machine snack situation, though? Nothing can erase that work trauma.