Rookie Dad: Love Those Pockets

Ah, I just love summer. Being outside. Enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Pushing my kids out of the way so that I can be the first one to use the Slip ‘N’ Slide in the backyard. Drinking iced coffees so fast that my brain freezes. Forcing the crying children to go to bed even though it is still light outside. You know, all the usual stuff.

But the absolute best thing I like about summer is pockets, in particular, the pockets of my cargo shorts. Before you think those iced joes have frozen all of my brain function, let me explain.

For the baby shower before our oldest son was born, a few well-meaning friends and relatives bought us a complete line of diaper bags. There was a cute, powder blue Snoopy bag. A feminine, ultra-hip leather purse bag. And, finally, an all-purpose black backpack diaper bag.

Now, I love Peanuts. Charles Schulz goes down in my book as an unqualified genius. Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty, the whole gang – they’re awesome. But, me carry around a powder blue diaper bag? Forget it. Wasn’t gonna happen. And the leather purse bag? I knew that wandering around town as a stay-at-home dad would raise a few eyebrows, but could you imagine the looks I’d get carrying a baby in one hand and a purse in the other? No way.

So, I went with the backpack. It was functional, and it looked really stylish. OK, it looked one notch above nerdy – but hey, that was better than carrying around a woman’s handbag. After a few months of lugging the backpack, though, I came to realize that it offered too much space. Too much opportunity to bring along something we might possibly maybe perhaps need while we were out.

I would have that thing so packed that I could barely zipper it. Bottles, diapers, wipes (in the big plastic wipe container!), changing pad, blanket, burp clothes, extra shirts, pants, sweatshirts, books, toys, binkies, disposable plastic placemats, toenail clippers and about a hundred other items. I was a walking Babies “R” Us. You could have registered with me. Hunched under the sheer weight of the pack, I carried anything and everything a pampered baby might need in case we were stranded in the woods for a week and a half.

I was prepared. And I looked like a clown. Why didn’t someone tell me? Why didn’t I associate that nagging pain in my back with my irrational need to haul around 30 pounds of baby paraphernalia every time I stepped out the front door? Why didn’t anyone say anything?

Then, one day, it happened. It hit me. I figured it out on my own. I looked through the well-stocked backpack and realized that I never used 94 percent of the stuff that was in there. I was carrying around all of these supplies for nothing. When it comes down to it, a baby can survive a trip to the grocery store, or a trip to grandma’s house, with a bottle and an extra diaper.

So, I vowed then and there to add a new rule to my list of golden rules for stay-at-home dads. The rule goes like this: “NEVER CARRY AROUND MORE SUPPLIES FOR YOUR CHILD THAN YOU CAN CARRY IN YOUR POCKETS.”

Now, I have to be honest with you. This rule can be a little difficult, though not impossible, to observe when you’re wearing standard jeans or dress pants. You can’t fit a lot in those pockets. Maybe one extra diaper and a small snack. You are pretty limited. When I’m wearing pants, you can bet that I’m praying that one extra diaper will be enough for my younger son while we’re out. No one likes to improvise.

And that is why I love summer: cargo shorts with six pockets. I have four different pairs in four different colors. I can pack everything I need in those pockets and don’t have to worry about being unprepared out on the road or about needing to schedule an appointment with the chiropractor.

Sure, kids need less traveling supplies as they grow older. But, I can tell you that the cargo shorts theory has worked for me for several years and that includes my younger son’s entire life. A measured bottle of water and a package of powdered formula fit very nicely in the side pocket of your cargo shorts, believe you me.

Embarking on a recent three-hour excursion to the zoo, I “pocketed” these items:
Right front pocket – car keys
Right side pocket – SPF 70 kids sunscreen (hey, we German-Irish hybrids burn easily) and a Pocket Field Guide of North American Birds (yes, that publisher knows its audience)
Right back pocket – wallet
Left front pocket – Kleenex and wipes (in a plastic sandwich bag)
Left side pocket – two juice pouches and a plastic bag full of grapes
Left back pocket – three diapers (just in case)
The zoo was delightful and we had everything we needed. Man, I love those pockets.

Brian Kantz discovered a company online that sells cargo shorts with insulated pockets for carrying hot and cold beverages. The shorts, unfortunately, are “permanently out of stock.” Apparently, it wasn’t such a good idea after all. Visit Brian onlin