It’s just after 6:00pm as I punch in the code to enter my house; when I step through the door I’m greeted by the same peculiar feeling I’ve felt past few days. I survey the house to find that everything is in the exact place it was this morning when I left for work. Everything appears to be ok when, out of nowhere, the sound which has accompanied me the past few days returns. What the hell is that? It has a familiar sound, but one from a dream or a former life; then all of a sudden it dawns on me, it’s my own thoughts. And the sound that’s hitched a ride with my thoughts is the sound of silence!
This past week my wife has taken on the brave task of going out of town with the kids. What have I done with all this free time, you ask? Whatever I wanted, that’s what! I showered whenever I wanted without someone standing in-between the decorative and plastic shower curtains talking to me about Pokemon Go. I ate whatever I wanted, which sadly involved way more pizza than someone who isn’t rocking a college age metabolism should consume. I watched whatever I wanted, using just the adult profile on Netflix this week. I ran the dishwasher only once every few days as opposed to twice a day. I was on my own and I was loving it.
Or was I?
I mean this is the scenario I imagine when I am at the brink of insanity. When the kids destroy the house more than a drugged out 80’s hair band, this what I want, cleanliness and peace. When they have woken me for the 8th time in one night, this is the safe place I go to, solitude. But nearing the end of my week alone, I have discovered that my kids had destroyed something else, my fantasy life. All the things that I had hoped for when sanity was on its way out the door didn’t seem as fun or fulfilling as I imagined they would be. I have grown so fond of my hectic, 100 mile-per-hour life that it has lost its joy unless my family is there to share it with me.
Was I always this in touch with my feelings and sensitive and stuff you might ask, HELL NO! Babies scared the crap out of me; to be honest most days, being a parent still scared me. The idea that my decisions will impact the lives of my children terrifies me, especially since as a 36-year-old I feel as if I’m still figuring things out. Before kids, I had an idea of what life would look like with kids, but as most people with kids know that idyllic vision is quickly shattered by a crying baby who doesn’t care one bit about how you thought life was going to go and instead spoon feeds you a healthy dose of reality.
My Life as a Stay-at-home Dad
A few weeks before my first child was born my wife called me at work and presented me with a strange proposition, “Would you want to stay home with the baby full time after I go back to work?” Was she insane? How is that a good idea? Should I be with someone who makes bad decisions like this? You see at that time I was on round two of college and working part time. It made since financially that one of us should stay home with the baby. Reluctantly, I said yes and my life was never the same.
The first few months, I was optimistic mostly because my wife handled the bulk of the childcare. No midnight feedings for me since the baby was breastfeeding; removing the baby from my wife’s death grip was damn near impossible too, so I coasted. I coasted on the luxury of two parents home without the worries of work or other responsibilities. It didn’t take long after my wife returned to work when I realized I was in over my head. My daughter demanded every part of me. I made it 27 years without anyone throwing up on me or using the bathroom on me, and within a week my daughter trashed my record. She brought me so much joy and then I would find myself lying on my bed crying not know what to do next. I loved being a dad, and at the same time, I had the feeling that I wasn’t qualified for the roll I was in.
Less than two years later, baby number two came on the scene and destroyed all that I thought I knew about being a parent. Then, one year later, when we knew for sure that we were done having kids, when we were sure that two kids was enough, my wife told me she was pregnant. Not long after baby three came along, I was finished with school and it was time for my wife and I to swap spots. Me into the lion’s den of corporate America, and her into the lion’s den of staying home with three kids, ages three and under.
It has been almost nine years now since our first kid was born and I still feel like I imagine someone feels who works with wild animals: the animals are behaving themselves one moment but things could go south real quick. I wanted so many things for my life but never once thought what would define me most would be being a father. My kids are such a miraculous blend of my wife and myself.
To My Family
Kadence, my first born and only girl, you were my introduction to the world of parenting. Meeting you was the first time I ever felt unconditional love. The kind of love that would have me sacrifice my wants, needs and well-being to protect you. From the beginning, you’ve had a beautiful spirit. You have the ability to see wonder and beauty in the world that is hidden to so many of us. Your mind is constantly creating, whether it be with clay, paint, stories, or with one of your money making schemes were you try to pass rocks as diamonds and sell them. Watching you grow into a young women has brought me immense joy, even when I have no idea how to deal with your emotions. I love the type of girl you are and the type of women that you will one day be. I love that you care what type of engine my car has (more than the boys) and that you want me drive with my windows down so that you can hear my exhaust all whilst dressed in one of the girliest dresses ever and heels. Without you, all my skills of braiding hair, applying makeup and sewing, that I learned growing up with two sisters would have gone to waste. I love that you make me walk around with painted toe nails and be completely ok with the explanation, “My daughter wanted to paint my toes.” I love that I see so much of your mother in you. Sometimes it scares me, but you have her strength and determination and will grow to be an amazing woman.
Gavin, my second born and first boy, before you were born I was worried because I honestly did not comprehend how I could love another child when Kadence had my heart completely, but seeing you showed me that my heart, which I believed to be full, had plenty of room to grow. You scare me. Not in a bad way, but because I believe you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. You are so smart and have such an amazing memory. I love how deep you think; I love that speaking to you makes me forget you are only seven based on the depth of your questions. I love that simple answers don’t appease you and that you can see holes and injustices in arguments that sadly some adults have trouble grasping. I love that you are so boy to the point it makes me question if you even have feelings, yet then will go out of your way to bring your mother a flower simply because you like her to have pretty things. I love that you are good at almost everything you try.
Dylan, my last born and second son, you were the one who showed me that you can be missing something you didn’t even know you wanted. My sour patch kid. None of our kids are as overtly sweet as you, but at the same time none of our kids are as cut throat as you. Since the time you arrived, you have dictated the mood of the house. You have such huge emotions but none seem to be in the middle; you are either on one side of the street or the other. I love that at 5 years old you still climb in bed with us and want to cuddle. You are so gentle and empathetic; you really feel others’ emotional pain, but if you don’t get your way others will feel your emotional pain. You have such an optimistic view of life and get so much joy out of the most mundane things. You make going to the grocery store or running errands fun with your light hearted and playful attitude. Watching the joy on your face is almost infectious. I love that you have a smile and laugh reserved just for swimming.
Myndee, my wife of 12 years and partner for 18. Even though Father’s Day is about me and not you, I feel like you deserve a shout out since you did after all give birth to those monsters. It’s been quite a ride together. We became adults together, parents together, and we are still figuring out life together. Your idea of having me stay home with the kids while I was in school is a gift I could never repay. I know myself and I know if we would’ve fell into the traditional rolls where I worked and you stayed home I would’ve missed out on so many special moments. I love that you love our kids with a fierceness that is almost indescribable. I love that you aren’t okay with the notion of “ doing my best.” I love that when I’m in error with the kids you call me on it and want me to change for their benefit. I love that you let me have bedtime every night with the kids. Putting them to bed is one of the highlights of my day. I love that we have been together so long and still have a long time to go.