Allow ya boi, ME, to apologize. I sincerely enjoyed sharing the great adventures of Dadddy’s Academy of Gratitude but with school ending, there just wasn’t much content. Our last REAL day was Tuesday, 5/12, and since then, we’ve been finishing assignments, tests, projects, video, meet-ups, turning in school electronics, cleaning out school lockers, everything and anything associated the the closing of school. IF (and I did INTEND to make it capitalized) you didn’t know by now, I consider myself a storyteller. As I’ve adjusted to life from a wheelchair, accepted being HOMEbound and built my foundations on the crib, I’ve learned that my passion is STORYTELLING and my purpose is HELPING others.
Running this Daddy’s Academy of Gratitude, has given me the opportunity to combine my passion and purpose like a real classroom. Even if I wan’t teaching the students much (the students = dem kids), I genuinely felt that I was teaching parents how to deal with their kids during this homeschool pandemic, schedules, routines, blending work with homeschool, chores, cleaning, P.E.. My ultimate goal was to share our experiences, triumphs, failures and most importantly, guide dem kids (the students) into a set of actions that made them better individual do-ers around the house.
Meet DA players
You’ve read the names. You’ve rocked the stories. Hopefully, you’ve had a good time with the major players of Daddy’s Academy. Now, it’s time to officially meet each.
Kid #1 is the graduate of the clique. She has her college plans, admissions, classes, the whole nine. THAT is whatcha call a strength. She is an independent son-of-a-gun. Quarantine and Academy helped to direct her independence into “family friendly channels”. See, I’m sure I’m not the ONLY parent that feels this way but asking a teenager/young adult or telling them anything is grounds for an argument. It doesn’t matter what, when, where, who, teenagers have that trifling tendency to challenge authority. *serious face* I am the authority figure so here comes the challenges. *eye roll*
Until Academy that is. Weeks of prolonged exposure to each other forced us to adapt and improve our communication. I’ve learned not to take her body language, sighs, etc. as personal attacks of disrespect. She asks questions about my disease, waits to see if I need help and generally steps to handle her siblings while Mommy is working. Huuuuuuuuge homie. Y’all just don’t know how HUGE that is. Sometimes, she cooks dinner or lunch for the entire team. Other times, she posts up in the kitchen and oversees her sisters cooking and baking. All I’ve had to do is relax a little about this new language. *sigh* Easier said than done but I set a goal to do it. I know I’m drifting down a rabbit hole (Y’all know I get carried away!) buuuuuut… There are times, that I realize, that as grateful as I am, I can still come across as the “old man yelling bout his lawn”. One day, it won’t be today, I’ll explain that this Spring semester of Quarantine season 2020, she made me conscious of that. Her siblings may not feel it. She won’t see it but I’m learning to chillax and let it go when it comes to my kids too.
#2 is my ONLY boy and I mean, BOY. He’s surrounded by girls, sisters, cousins, THEIR friends are girls and my pretty but handicapped ass. All that beauty, (Who YOU laughing at?! *LOL*) and this dude is the resident comedian, prankster and ninja. He has this remarkable ability to disappear for stretches and I totally OVERstand now that I’ve spent half a semester as his teacher. This is what I mean, it doesn’t matter WHO he sitting near, there will be chuckles and off-task behavior. NON-stop. ALL day. If he is alone, he is damn near comatose on anime or Roblox. He doesn’t need to eat, use the restroom, drink water, cough, anything. He is good to go, as long as he has his “equipment”. *straight face* As a parent, you may have one like this. Where his strength shines is that humor. Surrounded by girls, my son can blend in with college girls, high school girls, middle school girls, elementary girls, THEN play the football season at running back, safety and defensive end. The constant is that humor, comedy, jokes, non-stop. It is incredibly easy to make him smile or laugh so whatever it is YOU saying, sharing, he finds entertaining and asks questions. As an adult rocking disability, it is freaking awesome to know there is somebody in the crib who will find humor in whatever it is we’re facing. Since he is part ninja, he is great for a prank or talk and disappearing to play his game or watch anime. Most “funny” people I’ve met, take it too damn far on a regular basis. #2 is funny and gone on to do his own thing.
What I’ve learned this Academy is that he is growing TF up. It trips me out how much I may struggle to place my wheelchair in the trunk and he hangs around the peripheral, waiting. Soon as it gets ugly, he is there. Boom.
Him: “Hey Daddy, looks like a fine citizen, such as yourself, is in need of assistance. Please step back sir. Allow the BIG BOY to handle this situation.”
*#2 slides wheelchair in trunk with relative ease*
Him: “I’ll accept my gratitude in LAPTOP time sir. If you need further help, let me know.”
Awwwww! So sweet huh? He helped his Daddy. *duckface* On the way to his dear ol’ Daddy, he passed gas on one sister. While she suffocated, he sneak three chips out the other sister’s bag and shared them with his Mom, who was watching and laughing the entire time. On top of ALL that, he never snitches. *thumps chest* He got the no-snitching from his Daddy.
I’m an example of the parents that give their kids a STRONG ass middle name to kinda… Sorta…. In a round about way, spark something. Kid #3 is the kid that it seems to have worked on. Named after a particular Queen, my daughter is absolutely UNBOTHERED with most everything. She is in her own world in a truly sublime sense. She is already deep into scary movies but plays with her dolls more than electronics. She is quiet as hell but will fiercely defend “her stuff”. She is about as passive aggressive as an individual can be. She reads deep books (slavery elements, family dies, bullying), loves a good or bad story about anything and is allergic to paying attention. *unblinking* #UNBOTHERED.
Yooo. Daddy’s Academy of Gratitude has given her the most opportunity for growth and damn it, GROW UP she did. For a full year, she has wanted her own cellphone, YouTube Channel, etc. (I know, I know. *mimics* What kid doesn’t want a phone?) For a full year, I’ve held it like a carrot, dangling and reminding her to hit the goals I outlined. In my parental Daddy eyes, she wasn’t trying hard enough and “wasn’t finna get that damn phone blah blah blah.” Principal Mommy gave her a little video camera when quarantine started and encouraged her to start her vlog of homeschool.
Oh. My. GAAAAAWD! The growth, the maturity, the cleanliness, the communication, the… the presence to be present all seemed to collide and she is handling them! *sniff* Daaawg, she comes downstairs in a good mood, face washed, teeth brushed, hair done, carmex on lips and just HAPPY. All day, she is speaking to the vlog, recording, noting, watching and reading articles on how to build a vlog THEN spending crazy hours editing that night. She sets her alarm clock to do stuff. What stuff? What time? Well, I have grown up myself so for me, I’m crunk AF that anything is so important a 5th grader is setting their alarm without being threatened. (She’s actually working out and practicing dance routines, at certain times, to create scheduled vlog content! *mind blown*) Yo Sis. *looks for haters* My daughter is teaching ME how to create intros and outros for my blog. We’re up early, before everyone else, working our crafts together, watching Stranger Things and *single tear down the face* Morgan Freeman movies because he’s her favorite actor. I am so serious. I’ll never forget how close we’ve become because of the quarantine and that video camera. YES. I TOLD MY WIFE ALREADY. SHE GETS THE CREDIT! *winks*
All hail the Queen of “Doing Too Damn Much”. Kid #4 has proved soooo much over the semester. She has always been the most helpful of my children, chores, tasks, garden, anything, she got your back. Going outside in the hot sun? She rolling. Finna eat a little something. She hungry. Reading quietly alone? She in the corner with her book reading quiet too. (Psss. She probably already read YOUR book though!) She is always there by everyone’s side, first to wake up and last to fall asleep. Her strength is her energy. For the longest, I considered it her weakness because it led to so many instruction repeats and defiance but I’ve learned to appreciate her energy this quarantine and see it for what it is, the girl is high energy and needs a channel.
I challenged myself to do more and that started with Gratitude. I was grateful that on my tough days, she was down to yoga with me. I’m grateful that SOMEbody else in the houses tries and enjoys my vegetarian bacon, sausage, burgers. I’m grateful that somebody will listen and bounce ideas of blogs with. Nooooo, her ideas are not the best but that is not the point. The point is changing my perspective and giving her channels. I realized for all that non-stop energy, she was always down to do what others wanted. I recognized that she actually takes all the fussing, complaining, whining that everyone else does about her energy (It ain’t just me!) into account. She opened up to me one day, outside together in the heat.
Her: “Daddy? Even if people are helpful and do what you want, sometimes people just don’t want you around huh?”
That shit broke my face. Here I am claiming to be an ‘Agent of Gratitude’ and my own daughter feels underappreciated. Over the quarantine, I’ve learned that the more stuff she is invited to, the better at teamwork she becomes. With all that energy, she has become the best in the house at teamwork. She usually has her own ideas of said “teamwork”, roles, duties, start time but she’ll accept yours too. Early in the mornings, she’s up and outside with her mom in the “porchgarden”. Afternoons, you can find her reading or on the trampoline with her big brother for wrestling and work outs. Evenings, probably hanging with her sister and playing with dolls, being her test subject for vlog content. Nights? She is up with her eldest sister, doing hair, cleaning the kitchen and poking fun at her boyfriend. Her energy makes her the greatest walking asset in the house.
Daddy’s Academy of Gratitude has improved US as well. Before quarantine, we were often passing ships because Principal Mommy is a busybody and I’m the homebody. Well, quarantine forced everyone to stay around the house and we were popping at Academy so she jumped in. Her idea for Who’s Cooking Tonight was a smashing success. All the kids are either asking to help cook or flat out following her prep orders when she texts them. It was her idea to take the school-provided lunches and breakfasts and remix them into something GREAT. We saved money, got the kids out the house and of course, ate. We have a “porchgarden” where we’re growing herbs for personal consumption and as a stress relief. The increased time together is aligning our schedules as well. She was a night owl, I’m an early bird and we’re doing more of each other’s times. We even have plans to incorporate HER opinions and responses in the blog!
Our teamwork is becoming sooo on POINT. Expectations are soooo clear to all of us, parents, students, teacher, principal, dem kids. One of my original goals of Daddy’s Academy was teaching my kids to be my kids. Well, we spend so much time together that it is working. I know it is working because there are less arguments over expectations, less “oh, I forgot.” As a parent, I am more in tune with my kids’ individual needs. I OVERstand how to talk with my daughters, specific to each because they are NOT alike. I don’t fuss near as much about how well my son does chores because I appreciate that he did them without being told and I know he washes dishes BEST. *rubs hands like evil genius* Instead, I’m teaching him how to do chores, where to scrub, what to look for. Our teamwork is tighter than a mosquito booty. We cook, clean, garden, help Daddy as a team, unit, squad.
We do damn near everything as a team so everything takes freaking FOREVER. Bedtime? On a normal night, it’s like 10:30 -11pm. *squints eyes* True story. Weekends are literally, whenever the kitchen is clean. That can be 12am, 2am, whenever but the kitchen should be clean when Daddy or Mommy come out. Running to the store to pick up groceries? Maaaaaaan, better start an hour early because the entire team is coming to wait in the car but FIRST, the team needs cellphones, tablets, books, dolls, video camera, bottled water, snacks and SOMEBODY has to go back for something every time.
It gets ugly when the sarcasm gets out of control. Really. As funny as they THINK it is, they have noooooo idea. It starts with a simple sarcastic remark that somebody sees as “coming for me” or “being DISrespectful.” That person shoots a low-ball sarcastic response and the back-and-forth is on. I curbed it by making kids do writing exercises and meditations but it takes sooooo much energy and focus. By the end, I gave up on trying to change it and considered myself just an old man hollering bout his law.
My WTF moment is how much I enjoyed this life, wife being home, kids home, I’m back teaching, outside gym, physical exercise and teamwork. I enjoyed it ALL. I nicknamed rooms and treated each as such throughout quarantine. The kids called me Mr. Daddy during Academy because they got into roleplay and everything. We play music all day, every day, inside, outside, cooking, yoga, everything is done to music. At random times, throughout every day, people are bursting in song over something being played. When Mommy comes home, we fight for seating positions on the porch and favorite glasses of lemonade. I can’t brag enough on my squad for how we’ve handled this whole thing.