Daddy Diary – I Was Wrong, I Miss My Children’s Childhood Already

Well, good people, life is still unbelievably insane. My work-life balance still suffers from a burdensome imbalance, work days bleed profusely into home-life, and meaningful rest remains a distant hope. I find solace by understanding my labor helps provide for my family. Burning my candle at both ends is an observation offered by a coworker. It’s tough. However, I try to find bright moments. Sporadically, during varying occasions, I purchase surprise gifts for my children. The items are never elaborate, however, my children are elated with their unexpected presents nonetheless. Their unblemished happiness is a small sliver of joy that I can extract from this current state of affairs called life. My previous post detailed the struggle of balancing a new management position with the birth of my son. Often I would think aloud how eager I had become for these turbulent times to pass.

The same coworker gently reminded me that this time can never be revisited, and it was very important that I enjoy my children to the fullest during their childhood. Tenured parents often remark that I will long for these times, but it is difficult to grasp when you are in the parental trenches so to speak. Nevertheless, I’ve granted some thought to the subject and compiled a list of parental experiences that I will certainly long for as my children grow older. There are some duties that a parent performs daily and consistently; these tasks become ingrained within your person. Speaking for myself, this includes, but not limited to: packing lunches, ironing school clothes, morning school preparation (shower, dress, breakfast), school drop-off, teaching ABCs or 123s, bedtime wind down, etc. When these activities cease, only then will I probably feel that tremendous void. It’s like empty nest without them leaving the nest. So, enjoy, maybe someone will appreciate and relate to this compilation of early childhood happenings I will surely miss.

  1. I will begin with one of the quirkiest behaviors that my daughter exhibits. For Ava, from almost the instant she was born, my arm doubled as a comfort blanket for her. As she began to formulate words and recognize colors, she would beckon and gesture for my “brown”. We would sit on the couch watching cartoons, and she would say, “I want some brown.” Simply meaning she wanted to cuddle next to me and hold my arm for comfort. She wants to cuddle less nowadays, but every now and again, she will plop next me and request some “brown”.
  2. As I stated above, redundant activities breed a familiarity that results in a parental bond shared between child and parent. I sleep trained both Ava and Miles, but Ava’s training was more intense. She was difficult to put down to bed. And no matter what time she went to sleep, like clockwork, she would rise between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. My work shift did not start until 10:30 a.m., so I was up extremely early for my day. We would sit in bed watching Octonauts or Doc McStuffins – most mornings I would drift in and out of consciousness as the Doc diagnosed her latest toy boo-boo. Sometimes I find myself watching those same cartoons as a retreat from life’s tumult. It reminds me of Ava and Miles.
  3. I am going to miss the days I could hold my children with one hand. Ava is nothing but legs and Miles is akin to a small duffel bag of bowling balls. I won’t be holing either with one arm any time soon.
  4. When he is up to mischief, Miles devilishly averts his eyes to avoid looking you in the face. My wife claims I do the same thing. She may be correct with that assertion.
  5. Daycare drop-offs are exhausting – physically and mentally. Mornings proceed at a breakneck pace as we scurry out the door. However, morning jam sessions in the car – Earth, Wind, & Fire of course – is the preferred artist. And although we’ve listened to the same tunes over and over again, our carpool karaoke never gets old.
  6. Witnessing your child’s learning and development is a wonder to behold. You will notice something new every day. It could be subtle. It could be blunt. Watching their transformation from babies incapable of coherent communication to forming progressively complex sentences is amazing. Last week, my son climbed on the couch, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me sir, I need help.” He is 2 1/2 years old. It was cute.
  7. The kids absolutely the zoo. Both love the train ride and penguin exhibit. And no matter what, Miles demands we visit the rhino and “z-bahs”. He really does love animals. He can’t sleep without his stuffed rhino, “z-bah”, giraffe, and sometimes monkey.
  8. Is is bad that I slightly enjoy eradicating creepy crawlers that terrorize Ava? Daddy – get it!! If but for a moment, I feel like her super hero.
  9. For a little over a year, I slept on the floor next to Ava’s bed. Despite my efforts to make a comfortable palette, that floor was unforgiving and my back reminded me every morning. Through nightmares and soiled sheets, I manned the night shift accordingly. As I transitioned back to my own bedroom, sometimes Ava would request I sleep next to her for the night. As tempting as that hardwood floor presented itself to be, I had to respectfully decline. However, a bit of me does miss our mini slumber parties.
  10. I am going to miss writing about my kids during this time. Writing truly is therapeutic, and I seriously don’t do enough of it nowadays. However, I am going to get a kick out of my kids reading these journal entries when they are older!

Daddy Diary – Failure, Regret, & Trying To Be a Better Father

As a matter of public record, I have passionately stated that there are many aspects of early childhood parenting that I would certainly not miss. Among a few parenting pleasures that include, but not limited to psychologically torturous, sleep-deprived nights and cleaning projectile bodily fluids that require immediate attention, there are numerous memorable daddy moments that have rendered me mentally scarred. Nevertheless, there are memories that make me smile and moments that I will truly miss.

Unfortunately, this heartfelt feeling that makes me smile inside is stronger with my daughter than with my son. The first 2 years of my son’s life has been quite a blur. Seriously. As an infant, I struggle to recall our interaction as father and son. Conversely, with Ava, I can vividly remember many smile-worthy nuances, from the first time she was able to roll from her stomach to back and then reverse the position through the time she first crawled across the carpet for me. With Ava, I would designate random stuffed animals with silly names. Geoffrey the Giraffe. Mitchell the Monkey. Ella the Elephant. Reading books to Ava became Sing-a-Long Story time where I sang the stories to her. My uncanny mimicry (a hidden talent) of certain cartoon characters – to Ava’s delight – was mostly on point. These memories are plentiful.

However, in my experience with Miles, I cannot readily draw such indelible memories. Now, I know if I dutifully grant enough thought and concentration, I would be able to stubbornly retrieve a few from my recollection. It should not be that difficult – but sadly it is. And so, it is with regret and guilt, that I can’t summon as many memories from his first 2 years as I can with Ava. I can distinctly remember balancing, holding Ava on the underside of my forearm as a rubbed her back so she could fall asleep – maybe. I feel I was able to give more of myself to Ava than Miles, and thus the parental connection, sometimes, feels different between the two.

Miles’ birth arrived at a peculiar time in my life. I was a team lead at the time, maybe 9 months into my position, and then suddenly I would be promoted to the role of supervisor months later. On the job training was in session. As I was soon to discover, management is painfully demanding. Every day became a matter of professional survival and maintaining one’s sanity. In addition to supervising standard operations within the team, managing direct reports has proven to be an extraordinary challenge – a severely underestimated one by my calculation. Dealing with a motley blend of personality and emotion, I am a perpetual sponge, as I absorb and absorb the challenges my team offers daily. And so, my work life balance is disproportionate. It’s pretty horrible actually. I absorb and pour out of myself almost everyday. My leadership and decision-making are constantly questioned and criticized. I question myself. And in the end, the burden is mine, and sometimes too much to shoulder.

When my shift is finally over, it feels as if I have no more to give of myself. As a community volunteer & mentor. As a husband. As a father. And now I live with a guilt that I have shortchanged my son in these past 2 years or so. I live with the regret of failing to capitalize on the joyful moments I should have captured with Miles. I think about the missed opportunities and my own personal failings as a father. I simply needed to do better and I faltered. The energy and life I poured over Ava just was not there for Miles. I tried. I tried. But work bled into home life and time became a constraint. I could see all the things I felt I was doing wrong, yet felt powerless to change it. Nevertheless, a gentleman makes time for what he values the most. No excuses. You have to make time. You have to get innovative. You have to create your own opportunity to do better.

Operating in the present day, I realize that there is opportunity in my failure. Although time is not promised, I attempt to comfort myself with the idea that I am a beneficiary of time, and Lord willing, I will have said time to correct my early missteps. And hopefully the memories we forge now and in the future will be meaningful to Miles. I look forward to teaching Miles how to read, write, and count. I look forward to teaching Miles how to knot a necktie. I look forward to teaching Miles how to cook a mean meal. I look forward to teaching Miles how prepare for a job interview, and how to react when he does not get the position. I look forward to teaching Miles how to properly love a woman, and how to respond when that woman possibly does not love him back. Overall, I look forward to being a better man and father to him, strengthening the bond between both of us. It is going to be memorable.

Daddy Diary – Fatherhood Is…

Fatherhood is having a frank discussion with the nursing staff to switch your daughter’s room because the adjacent occupant is disruptive and your child needs her sleep.

Certainly, this will not be a surprise for many individuals, but fatherhood does not arrive with a meticulously crafted how-to manual that addresses every parenting contingency. It is simply impossible to document every circumstance that may or will arise. Now, I was inspired to write this post after a fellowship meeting with other men from my congregation. It has almost been two years since I have been in the presence of like-minded men; exchanging and offering wisdom to ferment personal growth.

Fatherhood and manhood were the main topics of discussion. Now, if a man is so blessed to become a father, he should understand that the responsibility is not merely a novelty – it is a serious undertaking. And so, here, I offer a brief testimony with hopes of offering wisdom and clarity to a newly minted father or one that is already in the game. If the tone seems a bit serious, don’t fret, I plan to pen a more upbeat post soon.

1. Fatherhood is singing and cradling your baby girl to sleep in a noisy emergency room until a hospital bed becomes available in the pediatric unit. Fatherhood is then entertaining baby girl for a full day as she must remain enclosed in a hospital crib for care.

2. Fatherhood is rising in the early a.m. to get your daughter on the potty, showered & groomed, dressed, fed breakfast, and then dropped off at daycare. Fatherhood is situating your own shower, groom, and dress routine between the aforementioned child tasks before speeding off to work.

3. Fatherhood is facing down criticism from individuals that negatively question and undermine your parenting. Fatherhood is understanding that one should not seek the approval from those individuals that diminish your character. Rather, fatherhood is knowing your reward lies with a higher, greater power.

4. Fatherhood is creativity – as in carrying a high chair into the bathroom while you shower so you can seat your child nearby for comfort. With fatherhood, you have to think outside of the box.

5. Fatherhood is setting the alarm on one’s phone to periodically wake up throughout the night to administer required breathing treatments for your child. Said mission must be performed quietly and discreetly, therefore, a pillow must be employed to muffle the loud hum of the nebulizer while twisting one’s body to ensure successful delivery of medicine.

6. Fatherhood is knowing that discipline requires the presence of love. Fatherhood is understanding that discipline is followed with a hug, kiss, and explanation of why discipline was required in the first place.

7. Fatherhood is feeling anger, pain, and fear when you discover a child does not want to interact with your child because her hair does not look like his mother or sister. Fatherhood is having wisdom to instill strong self-esteem and confidence in your children.

8. Fatherhood is cleaning up a diarrhea related accident from your son’s car seat at 2 a.m. – only to discover that your washing machine is down because your daughter’s sock has obstructed the washer pump. Fatherhood is repairing said washing machine for the second time – the first repair was not child related.

9. Fatherhood is maintaining a well-groomed lawn, washing dishes, packing your daughter’s lunch, ironing your children’s clothes, shoveling snow, killing renegade insects, etc. Fatherhood is maintaining all of your mental faculties as you head into work to deal with an array of madness.

10. Fatherhood is doubt. Fatherhood is making mistakes. Fatherhood is learning. Fatherhood is fear. Fatherhood is love, patience, dedication, and sacrifice.

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