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Ten Week Reflections

Even though it's a crime to do so in certain frameworks of thought, I think I’ll begin by paraphrasing something Joe Rogan has said about fatherhood. Yes, he talks about conspiracies, meatheads weight-lifting, the second amendment, hot rods and all the rest of the macho/controversial stuff but he also talks about fatherhood sometimes. And in his description of what fatherhood is like, or how it has changed him, he describes a situation with a banana (if I’m remembering correctly). Without directly quoting him, I’ll summarize his words.

He says if he were to go grab a banana in his fruit bowl and saw it was the last one, he would leave it because he knows his daughter likes bananas. However, if it was just his wife who liked bananas, he would snatch that banana right up, proceed to consume it and then tell his wife she should’ve got to it before him.

Now, this honestly is a brilliant simple way to describe an aspect of fatherhood. The love of a father or mother. Of course, it isn’t a full depiction of fatherhood or anything close to getting in the nooks and crannies of what it looks like but it paints a pretty picture. And what’s the picture of? Well, it’s selflessness. A dying to self of sorts because you have this son or daughter whom you are bound to with an overpowering love. It’s truly a beautiful image he’s concocted and I believe it to be absolutely true. (Whether it’s easier for him to give up the last banana because he has 500 million dollars is, I guess, another thing to look into at a different time).

But there's a problem. It’s the aspect of this picture he’s painted that feels half true to me. Mind you, this is my website and therefore I can only speak for myself. But while the banana sentiment is there, there’s also the human sentiment. The one that tells you to peel the banana back and scarf away because god dammit this is my home and I’ll eat what I want. It’s the feeling you get when you wake up to the screaming of “daddy!!” because your son is already awake and has no consideration for the hour-long waking process you find necessary before playing the part of a living human being. This selfishness that burrows itself away deep in your heart, reachable only by prolonged breathing sessions, long blistering hot showers or a brief utterance of “it’s only a couple years.”

It’s the problem I’ve found with fatherhood, which I assume plenty of others have as well. People speak of fatherhood as if it’s something summoned from the pits of your soul that overpowers you the moment your sperm has become fertilized. But it isn’t like that. Not fully, at least. Surely there are the times you are up late at night, past your will’s flexibility and somehow you make it. (Just ask my wife, she does it more than I ever do!) But I’ll be the first to tell you, (or she might) that your will might stretch more than your love can.

I love my children. Don’t get the wrong idea. But when you zoom in and are entirely entrenched in the moments of parenthood, it can be difficult to zoom out and see the grand reality of what’s happening. Sometimes you just want to be in bed, sipping your nighttime tea and watching clips on YouTube.

This has been my experience over the past ten weeks of parental leave. It hasn’t been so much a battle with a newborn and a toddler as it has been a war against myself. And I lost. Of course, this war is a long one. There are projections we won’t be done fighting for at least eighteen years and supposedly we enter a cold war after that, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes. For now, it’s about controlling my emotions, selfishness and desire to tantrum like my son when he isn’t allowed to have his fifth cookie of the day.

What I find to be the funniest part about the past ten weeks, is near the end when I was reading the Bhagavad Gita. Don’t judge me, I’m not pretentious. At least, I don’t want to be. Putting it on my Christmas list for my wife’s family to get me, that might’ve been pretentious. Good thing that was almost three years ago and I’m totally not like that anymore…Anyways, my point is I’ve had the ancient book for almost three years and it’s sat on my shelf mocking me for just as long. Finally, I thought it might be time to crack it open to learn something about the Hindu world.

One of the main ideas discussed within the Indian scriptures is the idea of being selfless. Not doing things for selfish gain or for reward. That one should not be led by emotions but rather find their true self (Atman) within them and realize you are passing through these things like a ship through waters. And there was something so hilarious about me ignoring my son while trying to read this. “Go and play with your cars, bud.” “I don’t wana play with my cars, I wana read dinosaur book with you.” “Bud, we’ve read that a jillion times, I don’t want to read that. Go play with your cars.” He struts off pouting and I go on reading about how to become a self-less being not looking to gain personally but to do deeds for others in genuineness and not anything in return.

What a douchebag, huh. I even highlighted passages.

(This is one of the reasons Christianity works so well for me. It's a religion--if you can call it that--for failures. Ask me to adhere to some type of standard, I will likely fail you. Sorry, Krishna. I suppose I am destined for the repeated cycle of life and death in reincarnation, maybe I’ll get it right next time. Someone like me much prefers a good word. A word of forgiveness and grace in my failure, not another attempt where I’ll fail again. But this isn’t about that.)

Like I said, I love my kids. But do I always love being a father? I regrettably type the words: No. And as terrible as that sounds, I feel like part of being a good father is accepting that truth. (or I just like to justify my actions.) Sometimes I see my son’s saggy ass diaper and just say, eh I’d rather finish working on this article. Or I’ll hear my daughter crying and try to wait out my wife to see if she’ll give up and grab her first. Yikes. That’s a terrible thing to type out but I can’t deny it. It’s not every time and I swear I’m not the worst husband or father on Earth. I think my wife would still have nice things to say about me, at least I hope so. But when I look in the mirror, I know my true thoughts and actions. (Usually a decent sized bowl of marijuana before bed will leave me with an honest view of how I acted on any day.)

I’m learning. Trying to change is difficult and makes me come off juvenile. But part of being a father (and mother) is attempting to maintain pieces of yourself that are still you. I like to write. I like to read. I like to be killed numerous times on Call of Duty Warzone. I like watching movies and binging tv shows. Was all that supposed to just die the moment I had a child? Absolutely not. But that’s the thing, how do you navigate having children and maintaining the things you want. Now, you might say, that sounds utterly foolish. Tv shows? Really? But have you seen Ozark? Aren't you itching to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Have you ever won a Warzone round and felt your heart thumping around in your chest? Or had stories rattling around in your brain that make you feel like you’re doing nothing with your life unless you write them down and create them into living bodies of work? Perhaps you have in your own way and with your own passions.

One of my favorite things to do is tell friends and family members who are about to have children that you don’t change like a snap of your fingers. At least, I didn’t. I like to give them that piece of information in case they are expecting something. And maybe they do. But if they don’t, someone told them they weren’t alone in their selfishness.

But before I stop ranting about whatever this is I’m writing, let me also say there have been amazing times over these ten weeks. I’ve only shared negative things thus far but that’s only because I didn’t want this to be a kind of cheesy, rose-colored glasses kind of blog post. Now let me share a couple of my favorite moments from the last ten weeks in no particular order:

  • My toddler and I went to see three movies! Sing 2, Sonic 2 and The Bad Guys. I’ve been waiting to be able to go to the movies with my son and now we are finally enjoying the theater experience together. And he loves it! We get to see trailers for upcoming movies and then talk about them in the weeks leading up and it’s adorable to see him get excited to get candy and recline back to see something he actually wants to see. I never thought he’d be into Sonic but now he runs around the house saying “I’m fast like Sonic!” and boy is that special.

  • I have a difficult time connecting with infants. It’s fairly common with men I believe. Especially when the infant is nursing so often and frequently close to the mother. However, this little girl and I shared a special moment that I won’t forget. I’ve never had sisters so a lot of the girl stuff will be new for me. And it also contributed to my lack of ability to imagine what it will be like with a daughter. But one day, when she was resting in my arms as we were laying on the couch, it hit me that this was a little girl. You would think the tiny vagina I had wiped orange poop goop off of would’ve clued me in but it wasn’t that. It was the little straps of her striped tank top she was wearing that day. Usually she wore a onesie, which a little boy or girl could wear and it not really specify for you what the gender was. But this day, as she laid on me sleeping, I saw her as a girl. And it was sweet. There was a scene in this movie my wife and I watched recently, On the Rocks, where Bill Murray is telling his daughter the moment he saw her as a person. He describes a scene of when she was nine months old and they looked into each other’s eyes giggling. That might be my favorite scene. It felt much like that and it was special.

  • After my son, Cash, began to repeat the actions of Call of Duty and started saying “I killed you!”, we decided it was best if he didn’t watch me play that game anymore. But because of his interest in space exploration and Spider-man, I figured maybe he’d find interest in the Guardians of the Galaxy game—and he did. It was a blast to experience playing a game and actually having him be interested/excited to watch along. Yes, there is shooting and a bit of violence but it’s somewhat playful and not extremely graphic. So, it’s better. Plus, his favorite character is Groot, the tree guy. Better than the one with guns, a machete or knives.

  • One of Cash’s favorite places to go is Café O’Play. It’s an indoor playground with a coffee shop attached to it. We didn’t get to go as often as I thought we would because of the numerous times we all got sick during the ten weeks, but the couple times we did go were a blast. Not only does he get to interact with other children but he is able to run around independently and make his own decisions—always a joy to watch. I took him once by myself and brought my computer. You get three-hour block sections of time and I was able to watch him play while also drinking a Twix latte and working on some writing. That’s a win-win to me.

  • Near the end of the ten weeks Sophie began to smile. Which is something to be celebrated most definitely but certainly it’s more meaningful when she had been quite the crying baby for a good portion of the time. It’s one of the cutest things you’ll ever see! Plus, it helps make up for the terrible times. Then she started doing something that resembled laughter. Not actual laughing but she made tiny giggle noises just the other day and we cherished that moment.

  • My wife and I wondered how our son would react to the newcomer of the family. Much to our surprise he has been wonderful! Of course, it’s hard for him to understand the priority she’s taking right now but he overall has handled it well. He’s taken up some independence and also helps out quite often. But the cherry on top is the love he gives to Sophie. He gives her kisses, pats her head and even tells her “everything’s going to be okay, Sophie” when she’s crying. It melts your damn heart.

  • As chaotic as this life is with two little kiddos, I love seeing my wife with our newborn. (And no, not just because that means I don’t have to be taking care of the baby—although that is an added benefit.) But because I can see how much she loves her. Especially with breast feeding and the uncomfortable pain which comes along with it. It’s amazing watching the entire process from pregnancy to the newborn actually being here and it’s something I’ll never fully understand or probably appreciate. But I see it, whatever that beauty is, I see it in these moments where even through all the exhausting and demanding moments this life brings on my wife, she still lovingly cares for our daughter and family.

  • Lastly, something which occurred recently. As in yesterday. Last year we had gardeners and this year I purchased a sit-down lawn mower. Now, if you know me this isn’t exactly my area of expertise, if I even have one. But house maintenance and the likes are all new to me. The first time I brought it out Cash followed me around from behind and had a blast. But this second time yesterday, he was brave enough to sit with me and helped me steer around the backyard. It was one of those moments. Those movie/cheesy moments that you see before you’re a father and think “whatever” and then you have them and think “oh, I get it”. We had so much fun! (And as much fun as we had, I can’t help but think of the day when he’ll be old enough for me to make it his chore to mow the lawn.)

Well, I’m sure I could think of more things to say about this past ten weeks but at the moment this is all that’s coming to mind. It’s been a wonderful time and I can’t help to think I’ll be wishing to be back on leave very soon. Alas, I will not be. No more kiddos for us! It’s only PTO for me from here until retirement. Boy, that’s grim. Back to work I go. Thanks to my lovely wife, Hallie and two little ones for a unforgettable ten weeks.

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