Dad Matters: A short list of everything I learned in 2020

Dad Matters: A short list of everything I learned in 2020

- in 2020 Editions, December 2020, Magazine, Parenting
At the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland —no time spent outside is wasted. PHOTO BY JASON LEA

1. Every word to every song from Disney’s Zombies 2.

2. You can’t microwave pancake batter.

3. I mean, you can, but you won’t get pancakes.

4. Calendars mean nothing in a pandemic year. If you go caroling in April or trick-or-treating in June, your neighbors will  go with it.

5. When everything was closed, what I missed the most was my immunocompromised mother. Oh, and the baby rhinos at the zoo.

6. When it comes to kids, a little bit of learning every day is better than no learning.

7. Blowing something up — like, say,  pancake batter — counts as “learning.” It’s a chemical reaction, after all.

8. Teaching a kindergartner to read is difficult.

9. Coaxing a kindergartner to clean up is more difficult.

10. Kids learn addition and subtraction faster if you use Goldfish crackers instead of  flash cards.

11. Being a teacher requires the wisdom of Athena, the patience of Job, and the endurance of Atlas. Also, coffee. So much coffee.

12. You can overdose on caffeine.

13. No time spent outside is wasted.

14. The European beech tree by the lily pond at Holden Arboretum is the Platonic ideal of a climbing tree.

15. Girdled Road Park in Concord Township has a shady creek that’s perfect for catching minnows in July.

16. The aforementioned shady creek is ensconced between two hills, one of which you must climb to get there, making you want to die of heat exhaustion.

17. Wear sunscreen.

18. Getting an enormous, painful sunburn is an opportunity to teach your children about ultraviolet light.

19. Swings are essential.

20. The Wendy’s drive-thru is essential.

21. Panda cams are also essential.

22. Panda cams are not a substitute for therapy.

23. Bring a sketchpad everywhere. You never know when your children are going to be inspired.

24. When purchasing art supplies — markers, paints, crayons, whatever — make sure they’re labeled “washable.”

25. When children ask if you want to see their artwork, always say, “Yes.”

26. Don’t read “Harold & the Purple Crayon” to your children before bedtime unless you want to wake up to a mural.

27. Take a picture of the mural before you clean the wall.

28. Preschool teachers and administrators also deserve at least 30 minutes of “panda cam” time a day.

29. You can live in pajamas and princess dresses.

30. Even a 3-year-old will lose enthusiasm for Frozen 2 if allowed to watch it continuously for four months.

31. If you want your children to be excited about museums, tell them that they can’t go to one for four months.

32. We are living in a golden age of children’s television. If you grew up with Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as your only edu-tainment options, then you’ll be shocked to find entire channels dedicated to teaching your kids science, reading, math and art.

33. Parents can play with their children, but they are not a substitute for friends.

34. Watching Friends is also not a substitute for friends.

35. The iPad is not a substitute for a parent, but it can take a shift babysitting.

36. It’s physically impossible to get 3-year-olds to socially distance.

37. Everybody is going through something. Lead with empathy.

38. It’s impossible to feel like a competent employee and good parent at the same time.

39. There’s no need to be embarrassed by your kids interrupting the Zoom call. This has happened to everyone this year. Even people who don’t have kids.

40. The mask goes over the nose.

About the author

Jason Lea has a son, daughter, and a full-time job at the Mentor Public Library. He also blogs for Northeast Ohio Parent in his nonexistent free time. You can find this East-sider on Twitter at @jasonmarklea or read his blog at

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