Our Story Begins:
Have you had that moment?
More appropriately, in my case, those moments?
Before you say “what the heck” and click over to some gossip site looking for the latest news about Kim and Kanye let me just look you (metaphorically) in the eye and say . . . you know what I’m talking about!
As a parent, particularly in those early, crazy days when you constantly smell like poop-infused baby powder mixed with strained carrots; losing your mind as you chase those little creatures around the aisles of Target, you want to give up. You sit in the car before going to the grocery store wondering just what in the hell possessed you to take ALL the kids with you? Then you suddenly realize – oh, yeah, you’re by yourself so you HAVE to bring the kids with you.
Then there’s the fact that these tiny little things, who seemed so small and fragile and ready to break from the smallest mistake, are running around with the speed of The Flash on steroids and you wonder . . . how can something with such tiny little legs be so damned quick and agile?!
There’s the ridiculous things; things you wonder why it ever crossed their minds:
“Why in the hell would you throw your flip-flop out of the shopping cart in the middle of the yawning abyss that is Ikea for God’s sake?!”
“What would possess you to think giving your sister a haircut was a good idea?!”
This is followed with “I don’t know…”
You wonder, constantly, if you’re really cut out for this.
I walked into the waning stages of this when my wife passed away and I became a single dad. I was barely functional myself. Logic, you see, disappears and becomes something like a fever dream that would make even Timothy Leary say “no . . . I’m good, gonna just come over here and grab a cup of coffee.”
But I got a piece of advice early on from my father that was simultaneously funny and perfect. It came after a tantrum from my son, punishment, and a brief moment where I was waffling over caving in to aforementioned son because, frankly, I’d had it.
“You have to be the one in charge in this house, son. Otherwise you’re really just the tallest person in the room.”
It seems a strange statement, but go with it. I have, under the guidance given me by said parents, never thought kids were stupid. They don’t have our experience, no. They don’t have our instincts, either, but they are far from stupid. That being the case . . . they know that when they put your dress shoes in the washing machine to see what happens that you will have a freak out moment. They know that when they scream it drives you nuts and are hoping you will cave in. They know they get to stay in Ikea an hour longer because you have to trace yourself back to the lost flip flop!
When you cave in they are in charge and you’re really just the tall guy with long arms who can get cookies off the shelf for them. See what I mean? When that five-dollar flip-flop gets tossed out of the cart? Guess what? No flip-flop. Sorry. We’ll get you more when I have time. We have other shoes at home.
So I did something different. Rather than giving up, crashing, burning, even after watching snot, paint, hair gel and laundry detergent turn my hair into a mix of a mohawk and a comb-over, I got up on my feet.
I don’t sit a lot. People ask when I have time to cook, bake, make holiday dinners or cookies . . . but you have to get to a point where you realize you’re either a parent or you’re not.
You WILL do laundry at 10pm because someone forgot to tell you their PE clothes were dirty.
You WILL load the dishwasher all over again because the kids did a perfunctory job of it.
You WILL follow through and when you find gum wrappers on the floor 2 feet from the garbage can you put them in your daughter’s pillow case to make her realize there is a garbage can and it’s not the floor. (Yep. Really happened.)
But in the midst of that . . . you sing while you cook and the kids begin to join in. You bake and the boys ask if they can help. You do laundry and a kid appears behind you and starts folding clothes.
You go on a date and your daughter smiles instead of frowns.
Parenting isn’t easy and it isn’t easy to embrace. Yet once the kids realize you’re their guide, not their nemesis . . . that’s when exasperation gives way. That is the moment I’m at today.
That’s until they break a computer or drop your phone in the toilet or bug you for video games or . . .