I’ve been a dad for almost two years now, so I should know better. I should know better than to expect that an established routine will stay an established routine. I should know better than to get all bent out of shape when an established routine doesn’t go according to plan. I should know better than to think that I have any more than a modicum of control over any of it. I should know better than to try to figure any of it out.
When my kids were only a few months old, I posted a status update on Facebook, something to the effect that I had figured it out. I don’t recall what exactly I had figured out, whether the “it” was a specific incident, behavior or routine; or whether the “it” was actually “it” – you know, fatherhood.
A friend with kids a few years older than mine commented that my statement was the kiss of death. He said you never figure it out, whatever “it” is. You never figure it out, because as soon as you think you’ve figured it out, there’s something new to figure out, and whatever you think you’ve just figured out doesn’t need to be figured out anymore.
I know that now. Intellectually, at least.
And even though my brain has the ability to grasp the concept that I will not be able to figure things out, I continually spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure things out. The things that I think I’ve figured out – things that have absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve actually figured out – I take for granted. Of course all the things that go smoothly are the things that I’ve allegedly figured out. Funny how we give ourselves credit for the things that are working well.
And I fret over the daily barrage of new things that slap me in the face, presenting me with fresh opportunities to figure things out. I worry about these things of course because I know that I am going to try to figure them out, and because I know that I most likely will not be able to figure them out.
In my first post on Dad Revolution, I wrote about my experiences with my son in the early morning chair, I said that it was difficult to be woken up early in the morning with his cries. I couldn’t figure it out why he was getting up so early. By the end of the piece, I had reconciled my behavior and I adopted a new perspective, which I have used since then to great effect. Instead of trying to figure out why he was getting up so early, I have accepted that he does, and now we enjoy our mornings together in the early morning chair.
In a sense you could say that I figured out that the best way to figure out why he was getting up so early was to just stop trying to figure it out. Perhaps I have figured at least one thing out. In theory then I should be able to apply this new perspective to other similar situations. In theory.
While my son hasn’t yet figured out how to sleep in to what I would consider a reasonable hour, my daughter has her sleep all figured out. She’s like a clock. She has been since four months of age. I am grateful that one child in this house has figured her sleep routine out.
Or at least she had her sleep routine figured out.
A couple weeks ago when I heard the cries from the kids’ room, I knew they had to be from my son. After all, it was 3:30am, a time of night my daughter hasn’t seen in well over a year. To discover that the cries were actually coming from my daughter was something I just couldn’t figure out. What was she doing up at this hour? I began to worry that this was the beginning of a new trend, and that I was going to have to try to figure out what I was going to have to do to reverse it.
My worry was exacerbated because I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to figure it out, even though I was going to try and try and try. . .
Instead of dealing rationally and maturely with the unwanted situation like I knew I should do, I was immediately trying to figure out a solution when I hadn’t even fully identified or assessed the problem, if indeed there was a problem.
Two weeks on and this seems to be the new routine. Both kids are up at 5:00am every day. I haven’t been able to figure out what to do about it. I haven’t figured out yet how to adapt to our new situation.
I know that I should stop trying to figure it out and just address each new situation as it comes to me. If I stopped trying to figure things out, and I just accepted things for what they are, I could enjoy each moment with my kids a little more instead of constantly looking for ways to fix the moments.
If I could adopt this perspective, I could enjoy all the moments that my children bring to me each day instead of just selected moments. I could be less focused on the challenging aspects of being a father. If I could just convince myself that I don’t need to figure everything out, it would be a lot better.
Because maybe there’s really nothing to figure out.