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Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, June 10, 2020: “The Power of Dadding During Stay at Home 2.0”

The world is an extra crazy place right now. Watching the news creates as much anxiety in my heart, as teaching and working from home has the last two and a half months. However, for as high strung as I tend to be as a teacher and mom, trying to do it all from home is difficult. Geoff is generally a calm, active force of nature, doing his best to be a supportive dad for our children, creating pandemic normalcy through bike rides, wood and nail projects, and baseballs tosses after dinner. “How did Dad learn to dad?” one of our children asked not too long ago. It was a good question, really, using the term “dad” as a verb. “Dadding” is an action, no doubt, the act of being a good dad and all that actually means in social distancing 101 in the year 2020.Geoff Krill playing catch with daughter

Both Geoff and I are lucky enough to have our own dads still very much an integral part of our lives. Both of our parents have retired near to where we live. They are equally more patient as granddads than they ever were as first-generation fathers. Likely the case for many grandfathers who were busy working and stressed about the more complex aspect of life when their children were small. They are enjoying retirement and spending time with their extended families, biking and visiting on porches and in backyards since we are still maintaining the non-hugging of grandparents, hard on everyone! But Geoff– Geoff has always had the patience equivalent to the “retired grandparent” despite working and traveling before COVID-19.

But don’t mistake his patience for old age or inactivity. Back before the world changed, I would be rushing our family off to something whether it was school or practice or some other scheduled event. Geoff would be explaining something to one of the kids or looking at a bug or worm or classic car driving past. In our parenting growth, I’m still the one learning to take deep breaths, smell roses, and be accepting of pauses. Our Stay at Home time has certainly helped with that, but of the two of us, Geoff tries his hardest to foster curiosity and creativity during our kids’ remote learning.

Our kids wanted to build a “Hermit Crab Recreation Center” for our four hermit crabs. (Note: Thank you to Mrs. Nicoll, Carver’s third grade teacher, and now our daughter’s, who sent him home this time last year with one “to raise, nurture, and look after” and, obviously, provide recreation opportunities.) “Mom, Poseidon needs a friend. Hermit crabs are social animals,” he reasoned. Really? The irony of them being “hermits” was lost on him. Geoff took them out and three friendly hermit crabs joined our family. We already had a turtle in a 30-gallon tank, found by Geoff online, when our daughter was so sad about his parents’ dog dying. “Dad,” she sobbed for three days, “if we aren’t getting a dog soon, the only thing that will make this any better is a turtle.” Suddenly, we had a turtle. We also have two 55-gallon fish tanks with assorted warm and freshwater fish. Geoff and Carver feed, nurture, and wonder about; yet both are too short to actually be able to clean any of the tanks. And of course, there is our daughter’s Betta fish, Galaxy, and our service dog Emerson Gronk Snowy Krill. We have a lot of life to sustain here in our little house in the White Mountains. I complain regularly about cleaning the fish and turtle tanks. Geoff is the one who helps them sketch and plan and make a materials list for what they need for the “recreation center”. Now, each morning, they move Poseidon and crew from their evening habitat upstairs into our son’s bedroom for group exercise in PVC pipes and Rubbermaid containers.

That’s one way to dad. Another way to dad from the seated position in one’s wheelchair is to help others envision what could be with a little help. We recently salvaged a treehouse whose tree could no longer support its house. I liked the idea of repurposing someone else’s childhood memories for our own kids, although ours will be a cabin on the ground so that Geoff can visit from time to time. Geoff searched for just the right windows and doors to build the house around and asked our friend Ken to help him pick them up an hour away. They really are just right, even though I wouldn’t have taken the time to look for a matching set of windows and a really cool, super old solid wooden door which wasn’t for sale. However, Geoff was able to convince this young couple that he needed THAT specific door for his children’s repurposed playhouse.

That’s another way to dad. Other dads may spend time with their kids in other ways, but I’m sure glad that our kids have this one. Thank you to the dads of the world, the granddads, the uncle-dads, the neighbor-dads, the ski dads, the cycling dads, the teacher dads, the coaching dads, and the friends who maybe don’t have any children of their own (or they do) but who drop everything from time to time to help our kids (and me) with whatever Geoff can’t physically do specifically given his spinal cord injury. Happy Fathers’ Day!

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 10 and 8. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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