Ada’s mom was pregnant with her when we broke up. It was a painful time period. I was angry. Nothing was certain. Even the rights I had taken for granted as a father with her siblings, Ella and Lucan, were put into question. I wasn’t at her birth, and it took about a year and a half before we gradually made it to almost 50/50 parenting time. Every visit was precious in those early days. I summoned all of my “be present, be patient” mojo hoping to accelerate our bond. At bottle time, I’d caress her forehead, sing her the “Daddy Loves You” song and pull her close into my warmth. That became our thing. She’s two and a half now. Our relationship has caught up on par with the other two. Today she brought me her empty bottle, “Num nums Daddy.” I filled it and she led me to the rocker. I caressed her head and sang her the song – our familiar love ritual now. I’m proud and grateful for how things turned out for us. I’m also grateful that her mom and I have grown to share our joy for the children together. It makes the difference for all of us.
She has Dora the Explorer. I have the poetry of Raymond Carver. The other two are playing make believe with the rings Ella received from Grandma Barb yesterday for corn beef and cabbage dinner, which to my suprise, they loved. They dart by so fast i feel their wind, their shadows are on the wall. The sun is bright but dying down through the picture window. Everything is settling and carmelizing toward dusk. I’m glad for myself because I’ve already washed the dinner dishes. It’s cozy in this chair with Ada. She looks up at me and smiles, points to the “bow wow” with excitement and pride. Later, we will lay together. Her with “num nums” and me with spider fingers dancing across her back. We call it shimmers. That’s how this evening feels… shimmery, like hazy reality mixed with the average of 1,000 chill Sundays passed.
One time not long ago, when he was mad at me he said he was “walking to mom’s.” I let him walk out the door. 10 minutes later I could not find him anywhere. I called 9-1-1. A police officer found him four blocks away. We met at the corner of Southworth and Center – both my son and the cop waiting for my response. All I could say was “Thank you” to the officer. I held my son’s hand the remaining streets home. I asked him if no one would have stopped him did he really think he could make it all the way to moms. He said “No.”
Life is our teacher. Experience offers us a lesson each time. I’m glad I didn’t tell him “No don’t you dare walk out that door.” I can’t both protect my boy from life and give it to him too. I won’t squeeze out the life that should be let in.
At the grocery store today, he hid in the toilet paper. I’m never sure whether to be freaked out that a predator could take him or pissed off because I know that’s my kid pushing the limits to see the other side. When I finally found him, he said, “Can I?” as if anticipating the pissed off version of me. I don’t always smile, but today I did and I said, “Yes.” He smiled too. Let me NEVER take this beautiful boy’s innocent smile away from him.
Then he tore away with abandon out of the TP imitating the character we both love and watch together, The Flash. He made it 10 or so paces before attempting a hair pin turn toward isle 13, but was side swiped by a cart being pushed by someone unaware that a 49 inch blur can suddenly appear in front of your path. He took the hit like an NFL running back but remained on his feet before screeching to a halt at an end cap aquarium of gold fish. I gave him the “dad look” but he smiled so I smiled back – shaking my head.
I give my boy a long metaphorical leash. He demands it. The space he takes to find himself is his own. He doesn’t need to always hear me say “No.” He doesn’t need a lecture or a warning. I do plenty of that as it is. If I scolded him every time I felt inclined to do so, I’d only steal what is most natural to him at this age: seeking the joy of the calling.
He needs to hear me say “Yes.” I trust my boy. I trust life. Sometimes, I force myself to trust when I tell him “Yes.” I trust that, for now, he will learn more from my “Yes’s” than he will my “No’s.”
Yesterday was a frustrating day with my kids. They were fighting a lot. I lost my temper. This cascaded itself all day long. Then this morning they were up at 5:45. The littlest child, Ada, was pitching a fit about everything. The oldest one, Ella, was up and wanted love.
I have this morning routine where I write down the kind of person I intend to be. Yesterday I missed it because it’s hard to do with kids around…until I decided to include them on the process.
So I said, “Look, you’re up. Yesterday was not a good day. I was upset and grouchy. Let’s talk about what ‘good Dad’ looks like.” That’s when we came up with this list of intentions. It was a good conversation.
It helped me be calm and reset myself for the day WITH my kids, together with them. Today, I modeled this behavior and tomorrow morning we’ll do it together again. This time I’ll have them do it.
I communicate what I almost know and you already sense here.