MIKE KRAUS Let it snow.

Daddy and Max.

AGE   38

HOMETOWN(S)   Queens, NY / Dale City, VA

ON THE WEB   MaxsDaddy.wordpress.com

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   One, Max (turns 4 in November)

DAY JOB   System Engineer

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   Married (8 years in March)

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?

My wife and I both get an early start to our day. We both leave for work before 6:30AM, so that we might get home a little earlier in the evening. If we worked the normal 9-5 grind, we would have very little time to spend with Max. I get home about 45 minutes earlier than my wife, so I usually get dinner started and then we can all eat together when she and Max get home. It gives us 3-4 hours a night to spend together as a family.

If there is some sort of weekday engagement like a field trip we need to attend with Max, we try to take turns as often as possible. Parenting to us is all about compromise and sharing the work load.

HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

I think parenting has made me a stronger person. Before I was a dad, when the going got tough, I would often just wave the white flag and give up. I hate disappointing Max, so I exhaust all options and try to do what’s best for us as a family. Parenting has encouraged me to try new things and set personal goals to better myself. I want to be a positive role model for Max, so I try to do the right things and lead by example.

I think I am much more thankful for the “little things” now. When I watch Max see and experience things for the first time, it makes me realizes how jaded and complacent I had become as an adult. I used to look at snow as an inconvenience and a pain. It would mean back breaking shoveling, messing up my commute to work, and all I would focus on were the negatives.

Now I look forward to snow, just like when I was a kid. I know how much fun Max has playing in it, and now how fascinating it can be. Same deal with bugs. Bugs were something I would shoo away or get annoyed by. But now I see the wonderment in Max’s eyes when he picks up an earthworm from the dirt, or when he picks up a caterpillar and lets it crawl around on his fingers.

HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

It’s made us cherish the alone time we have a lot more. Most of our time together is spent doing things that are fun for Max. So on the rare occasion when it’s just the two of us, it’s nice to just take it easy. We don’t need some elaborately planned evening. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit quietly and talk, or to watch a movie together on the couch.

We definitely argue more now than we did before we were parents. Our parenting styles are quite different, so we often disagree on the best way to handle a situation. We’re both a big headstrong, ok, very headstrong, so neither of us likes admitting when we are wrong. It was especially tough when Max was an infant. We were both working, not getting enough sleep, and some days our house felt like a powder keg, ready to explode.

Thankfully, we have both learned from this, and tend to handle the ups and downs a lot better now.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?

I think my biggest weakness is letting Max do things on his own. I still find myself loading food on his fork for him and spooning it into his mouth when I know he can do it himself. Or if we’re on a playground I tend to step in to resolve a conflict instead of letting Max handle it himself. I know I can’t be at his side 24/7, so I need to let him handle more things on his own. It’s an important part of growing up.

My strength is patience. Most days, Max is a pretty good kid. But on occasion there are days when he is not on his best behavior. I can USUALLY keep my cool, and find ways for him to use up all his energy in a productive way. I’ve learned that by yelling and screaming and “losing it”, it just makes an already volatile situation worse.

There are times when he needs to be disciplined, but I’ve found that simply yelling “stop” or “don’t do that” doesn’t work. It’s much better to calmly explain why I am upset with his behavior, and how I would like him to behave.

WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

My mother-in-law. Ever since my wife went back to work, her mom has been Max’s primary daycare provider. This is such a blessing. She has been like a second mother to Max. My mother-in-law has over a decade of experience working in the public school system, so she has a very good understanding of what keeps kids motivated, and always has fun projects for her and Max to work on. Plus she’s raised four kids of her own, so she’s got a lot of personal experience.

Another bonus is that we share the same ideals and values, so for the most part we are on the same page as her in terms of raising Max.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?

While at the beach this summer, Max was a little hesitant about going into the ocean. He loves the pool, but the waves rolling in had him a bit scared. In an attempt to get him comfortable in the water, I picked him up and carried him out into the water. The water didn’t seem particularly rough, so I walked out with him a big further. A few waves gently lifted us up, but nothing terrible. We were smiling and laughing and having fun.

Then I looked up and saw a wave coming. It moved up on us so fast that I didn’t have time to react. Next thing I knew we were under water and tumbling. Luckily I held on to him, and the worst that happened was I lost my sunglasses. Looking back it could have been a lot worse if I had lost hold of him.

It was a silly thing to do, and I should never have put him in a dangerous situation like that.

WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?

I guess it’s any time I can comfort Max. Whether it’s doing something goofy to make him smile after he’s scraped his knee, or comforting him after he’s had a bad dream.

It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world when you can sooth your child and put them at ease.

Lisa D

Lisa Duggan is the founder of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

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