You’ve had one of those days. One of those days that make you question your sanity. One of those days where you wish you could experience again what it was like before you had children. If only for a day or two. Or a couple hours. Where there were no cries and screams, no impossible demands, no blatant disregard for instructions. No tantrums. No bickering.
You knew there were going to be days like this because people had told you and because you had seen it happen to your friends, but until you began to experience it for yourself you were unable to relate in any real sense. Days like this remind you in no uncertain terms that you’re a dad.
The evening finds you standing at the sink doing the dishes. You take great joy in scrubbing the dried pasta sauce off the pan and disentangling wet half-chewed Cheerios from the rug and dumping a rotten squished banana into the compost. You enjoy this because it is a break. And today is one of those days where you need a break.
Because the alternative is to go upstairs and entertain the kids before bedtime. And while there have been many other nights when you have chosen this option, tonight is not one of those nights. Tonight you would choose anything but that.
Your wife takes the kids upstairs, and you appreciate her for doing that. She knows. She knows that you have had one of those days. She knows because she has had plenty of those days herself. Now that the two of you are parents you know all too well that all parents have had days like this. That these days are just part of being a parent. That there is no way to avoid these days. Because there is no way to avoid the fact that you have two two year olds. And in a year you’ll have two three year olds. And a year after that. . . Yes, you will have many more days like these.
You have finally begun to relax as you dry the last plate and you put the last glass in the cupboard. You are almost finished cleaning the kitchen when you hear laughter from the upstairs bedroom. You love that laughter— excited squeals and goofy giggles, laughter that convey happiness and contentment. And you begin to relax a little more. Things have settled down. You have a good partner who can make the kids laugh. For that you are grateful.
You wipe the last counter top and put the last leftover in the fridge and you turn the kitchen light off. The laughter continues and it lures you up the stairs like a lone fiddler from up on a mountaintop, playing a sweet meoldy that you can’t ignore. The laughter turns your frown into a smile and it turns your frustration into gratitude.
At the top of the stairs you see your kids in a crib and your wife sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. She is throwing teddy bears to your kids and that is what is making them happy. She is trying to teach them how to catch.
She throws a teddy bear at your son and it bounces off his face and falls to the floor. Your son does not see this as a failure but as the most hilarious thing in the world. He giggles, then shrieks, then flops down in the mattress. He says, “’gin, ‘gin” over and over.
Meanwhile your daughter is slapping her hands on the side of the crib excitedly waiting her turn. When the bear hits her face, she laughs too. They roll around on the mattress having the time of their lives.
You are watching all this from the doorway. You sit down in the hall where your kids can see you but only peripherally. You are an interested observer, a spectator in the balcony of the theater watching the scene of childhood unfold. You are appreciating the quality of the entertainment on stage. You are getting your money’s worth.
Your son looks over at you and he smiles. You smile back at him. He sees that there is now a new spectator in the balcony to entertain. After every bear that bounces off of him and falls to the floor, he looks at you and smiles. You don’t say anything to him with your words. He sees your smile and your smile says all that there is to say. Your smile says you are proud of him.
As you watch this scene you start to cry a little bit because your kids are so beautiful. You start to wonder how you could ever be mad at them. How you could ever get so frustrated that you would want to escape and leave it all behind. Even for one day.
As you sit in the hallway with a tired smile on your face and tired tears in your eyes you look back on your day and you think, that wasn’t so bad. Your kids smile at you as if to confirm these thoughts. Your daughter says, “Daddy, play catch.” You wipe the tear from your eye and you keep the smile on your face and you go throw a teddy bear.
And you remember why you’re a dad.