I’ve noticed a strange thing about being a dad.
This is probably attributable to parenting in general, but fatherhood is the only aspect of that I’m qualified to speak about. You moms out there are welcome to disagree.
There’s an ebb and flow between wishing for a particularly difficult phase to be over, and simultaneously trying to be “present” in every precious moment as it passes.
My life fluctuates between grinding through “survival mode,” and basking in blissful, easy, and all too fleeting moments of pure love.
Like this one, for example.
You grit your teeth through calamities while acting as a disaster response team of one, yet this is tempered with the satisfaction of having remedied whatever issue your child might have been suffering.
And, now that you’re being drawn in two directions at once, let’s dump a cold bucket of guilt into the mix.
Guilt over wishing to go back to whatever it was you were doing before the problem arose. Guilt about wanting a little extra sleep. Guilt over spending money on yourself rather than saving every penny for your kid’s future. Guilt over wanting one uninterrupted hour to watch Game of Thrones. Or, specific to me this week, guilt over a little Oculus time so I can to courier data to distant planetary outposts for credits in Elite: Dangerous.
This dash is in desperate need of a hula girl.
Another example: there were some very long nights back when Daphne was an infant that I, like most parents, completely lost my ability to revel in the present. All I wanted in the world was for her to go back to sleep so I could do the same. Yet I was holding my little girl and gently rocking her back to sleep in a quiet room, which was a comforting and lovely place to be.
Now am I saying that I miss those days? Well, that’s a loaded question too, isn’t it?
If I say “no” then I’m insensitive. Sure it might’ve been 3am, and sure I’d probably been up reading until midnight because my circadian rhythm is 120 bpm breakbeat, but my little girl needed me and I was there for her. What is a father’s purpose, if not that?
And if I say “yes,” then I’m showing that appalling parental propensity for shellacking days gone by with rose-colored lacquer. I mean, condensing the reasons for an infant’s displeasure from a vaporous activity like crying can be (and was), an incredibly frustrating activity.
“This? No? Okay, what about this? Nope. Ugh, kid… What do you want!?“
This sounds like I’m dogging on fatherhood again, doesn’t it?
None of these are “bad things,” per se.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
There’s strength that comes with things pulling you in different directions at once. It creates an odd balance. Sure your life veers and sways from time to time, yet there’s always something important (your child, your spouse, your job), that resets you and pulls everything back to center. As such, you tend to refrain from tilting too far in one unhealthy direction.
All the pulling allows the nail to stand firmer.
I guess that’s where fatherhood lives. That median between being a steadfast prow for your family, while silently wishing things were a little easier. Adoring the time you get spend with your child, despite lamenting the loss of your autonomy. Hoping tonight will be easier than last night, while feeling ashamed you didn’t realize how good you had it the night before.
It’s a balancing act.
And it’s worth every second.