Yesterday, I left the house for work at noon, with Sam sick, and Eddy in the midst of a full-blown tantrum — the type of tantrum only a three year-old can possibly throw: ridiculous subject matter (“no, I don’t want peaches with my lunch!”) and the kind of focus a sniper would envy. As I got in the car, I said, “Thank fuck I have to work today,” and I was relieved. Nay, I was damned relieved to not have to be there when Eddy was put down for his nap.
Situations like that are the ones I have loathed since becoming a parent. Having a child melting down for seemingly-trivial reasons is stressful enough, and it also brings out the differences in our parenting styles, something that can be a source of stress for both me and Kate.
As I drove to the office, though, I thought about all the happy little moments leading up to today. The endless hours in the NICU with Eddy, holding him and singing him U2 and Bob Marley songs. The quiet hours I spent with Sam just after he was born and while Kate was in surgery. Teaching Eddy to throw rocks into the lake at grandpa’s house. Sam’s fearless laugh as he initiates roughhousing with Eddy.
And I started to realize that all these things, all these moment of peace and joy and goofiness, none of it would be as amazing as it is without the counterpoint of the frustrations and moments of anger or sadness. Because even though there are the shitty moments of being a parent that no one ever really talks about, that can make you insane, make you bury your face in a pillow and scream, make you walk away before you really lose your temper while you question your ability to do the job, those moments are important. Those shitty times make the moments when your kid takes his first step, when he sneaks up and falls asleep next to you on the couch, when he dances in his high chair, when he hugs you tight around the neck at bedtime and won’t let go, all that much more special.
Yesterday I realized that embracing the suckiness is just as important as savoring the joy. It’s time to start taking deep breaths again, to stop raising my voice by default, to start looking for the silver linings, and to be a better dad and a better man.