The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Parenthood


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“Love you, Daddy.” My 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, slammed the car door and off to school she went, toting her book bag, lunchbox and clarinet. I drove out of the school parking lot happy.

Each day, parents experience numerous joys and challenges. In my 12 years as a stay-at-home dad, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. 

“Love you, Daddy” provides a perfect example of the good. I never get tired of hearing those words.

We experienced the bad earlier this year when Jessie had pneumonia. Any time she cries is also bad, which happened a good bit this year because my wife, Mattie, took a new job in another state and Jessie had to leave her friends. 

Then there’s the ugly. Jessie learning to play the clarinet fits that bill.

Early in August, Mattie and I registered Jessie for sixth grade. The middle school receptionist handed us a course selection form and said to number the electives in order of Jessie’s preference.

Jessie wanted to take Drama I. Since she already excels in “daily drama,” I didn’t see the need for this course. In fact, I think she could teach it. However, Mattie and I approved Jessie selecting it as No. 1 on her list of electives.

We went through the rest of the options. Robotics, no problem. Art, great idea. Beginning Band? Mattie wanted Jessie to learn to read music and play an instrument. Jessie had no interest in taking Beginning Band. I could have gone either way. It’s amazing how three people in the same family can think so differently.

Sadly for Jessie, she didn’t get into Drama I, her top choice. Beginning Band would be her first class each day.

Little did I realize, things would only get more complicated when the band teacher invited parents to his classroom to discuss instrument options. The band director felt that Jessie’s mouth shape made the clarinet a good choice for her. That worked fine for me. I really didn’t want Jessie beating away on drums or clanging cymbals. Mattie envisioned her daughter playing the flute. Jessie didn’t care. We watched online videos of both instruments. Although the flute makes beautiful sounds in the hands of a skilled musician, videos of students making high-pitched squeals while playing the flute convinced us to choose the clarinet. 

Next, Jessie had to learn to play it. I’ve helped Jessie with her homework throughout her school years, but never before have I had to wear earplugs. As it turns out, the clarinet can also make high-pitched squealing sounds.

We had just moved into an apartment and I didn’t want to force our neighbors, or our dog, to listen to her clarinet practice. So I took Jessie, along with my earplugs, to our pickup truck to complete her band homework.

Speed ahead to the winter concert. A proud dad, not wearing earplugs, sat in the school auditorium. The band director, with his little white baton, led the class of more than 100 students in an impressive performance. Four months earlier, most of them couldn’t even name their instruments.

This leads me to two key takeaways. First, I need to get myself one of those little white batons. They apparently convey special powers that get kids to obey instructions. Second, something might start out bad or ugly, but not stay that way. Jessie recovered from her pneumonia and loves living in her new home state. There were times I thought about hiding Jessie’s clarinet. However, just by hanging on — and sometimes inserting earplugs — the clarinet turned out to be a good thing, too.

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at amazon.com. Follow him at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.

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February 2017

Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Families celebrate Purim with bagels, fruit and Hamantaschen. Kids enjoy Purim-related activities,  music and more. Costumes encouraged.

Cost: $8/family, member; $12/family, nonmember

Where:
Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
12804 Norwood Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
Telephone: 919-676-6170
Contact Name: Jill Lokitz
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Learn how to creatively attach air plants to scrap wood. Combine reuse and living art and learn about how to care for air plants. All materials are provided, including plants. Register online....

Cost: $25

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: The Scrap Exchange
Telephone: 919-213-1278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
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Join a park naturalist on a one-mile hike around Yates Mill Pond and help to identify and count the birds that we see along the way. Learn how to identify backyard birds by sight, sound and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy the tale of a young mermaid with the dulcet voice who risks it all for love in a daring deal with a vengeful sea witch. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $30-$89

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
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Discover birds along the trails and pond. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Learn about the bald eagle and hike to the fishing pier to view eagles soaring high. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Ages 3-5 enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Enjoy games, crafts and hikes. Take a picnic lunch. All ages. Dress for outdoor fun. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Spend the afternoon learning all about birds. Go on a bird behavior scavenger hunt, play a migration game, and learn how to identify common species on the lake and at the feeder. Make suet. Ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Mr. Panda is making a surprise. What is it? The animals must wait and see. But waiting is boring. Mr. Panda shows that good things come to those who wait. Read the story about patience.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

More information

Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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The library's Teen Leadership Corps hosts an opportunity for kids of all ages to come build something special with Lego and Duplo bricks, and play games to improve reading and math skills.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Listen to a story in English and Spanish and meet  animals.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Parent and child enjoy a craft, activity and guided walk along the greenway. Ages 2-6.  Register online. Choose course #199100.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Moms meet other moms for support and friendship. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grow, The Family Boutique
2885 Jones Franklin Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-803-3521
Contact Name: Heather Dickens
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Help park staff with citizen science projects. Take a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes. Ages 8-10 with adult; 11 years and older adult optional. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Chase away the winter blues with a hike through the winter garden. After the walk, warm up inside with a book and winter craft. Meet at the visitor center. Ages 3-12. Register online.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Join others for an easy paced hike around the greenway. Ages 3 and younger; older siblings, strollers and leashed pets welcome. Register online. Choose course #199059.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Learn about wolves, coyotes and foxes. Take a hike to look for tracks and signs. Make casts of canid feet to take home. Ages 9-13. Register online. Choose course #199997.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
11408 Raven Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-996-6764
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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Kids can drive their futures at the fourth annual Marbles Future Me Kids Career Fair, which introduces children to real-life architects, bakers, dentists, engineers, news reporters,...

Cost: $5 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Ages 3-5 enjoy play-based activities in English and Spanish to prepare for kindergarten.

Cost: Free

Where:
Athens Drive Community Library
1420 Athens Dr.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Families enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the magic of storytelling on Disney Reads Day. Read popular Disney stories and take part in fun activities to inspire your imagination. Enjoy giveaways, including stickers, bookmarks and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Celebrate Mardi Gras with a walking parade, children's activities and contests. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
S. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Join park staff and search the park for snowflakes and ice crystals. Explore the unique shapes of snowflakes and view ice crystals under microscopes, then construct your own paper snowflake or ice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Kids learn to code in a free workshop. Register online. Sign up for a summer camp during the event and save $100.

Cost: Free

Where:
theCoderSchool
201 Davis Grove Circle
Cary, NC  27519
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Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

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Delivered is a community workshop centered on educating, empowering and encouraging women to plan and achieve their most optimal birth plan. The workshop will introduce attendees to the benefits of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Davis Family Chiropractic
7901 Strickland Rd.
Ste 104
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Davis Family Chiropractic
Telephone: 919-615-2257
Contact Name: Dr. Alisha Davis
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Raleigh Little Theatre's troupe performs the story of Cher Ami, a pigeon who saved American soldiers during World War 1 by carrying a message for help. Ages 5 and older.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy a fast-paced and accessible introduction to many influential black Americans who have shaped the nation over the last 150 years. Grades pre-K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Website »

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Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

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