There was a time when she fit right in my arms. There was a time when everything needed to be done for her. She was a baby then. There was a time when she was just learning how to walk or how to say things. There was a time when all she wanted was a little attention, which of course, we as parents often take for granted because meanwhile, life is happening and there is so much going on. But meanwhile there they are. Our children are waiting on us and waiting to be played with.
I am not sure when the switch begins but I can say this peels off in layers. Once, it was up to us to dress them and then one day, our children are up to dress themselves.
We used to have to feed them. And then one day, we come down to the kitchen to find them sitting at the table and feeding themselves. Perhaps they might not clean up after themselves —but at least they have the feeding part down.
Of all things I have heard in my life, the one thing I heard which I miss more than anything are the words, “Daddy, will you lay wiff me,” before putting my little girl to bed.
It’s weird though—
I think of how my daughter used to look for my attention and how sometimes, life got in the way. And life still gets in the way plenty these days but my little girl is far from little now. She is far from the size when she fit in my arm to carry her and far from the mindset when the Tooth Fairy came. I think of how I would turn around and my little girl would be there. I swear there was a time when she needed everything done for her. And in my emotional mind, there was a time when she needed me. But then the teenage years happen. And just like that, everything changed.
I say to you as a divorced dad, keep mindful of your child’s youth and be mindful of your conservation of time. This is the most important thing because of all things I have learned the one thing I have learned is this: the infant years only happen for a certain amount of time. The days of bedtime stories are limited to only a few years. And one day, you will walk past an empty bedroom with stuffed animals on the bed, thinking about the times when your child was sleeping at an early hour. Or at least in my case, one day, I looked in and realized my little girl isn’t so little anymore. She is at the age when a minute away from friends is like hours of cold, hard punishment.
And I get that. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt though . . .
I see parents of divorce and I often wonder where the benefit is for one parent to burden their child with the bad-mouthing of the other. I wonder what purpose this serves. Although I understand that co-parenting is far from easy and in some cases, co-parenting does not always work —I never understood why one parent would teach a lack of respect for the other. This happens on both the mom and dad side —so one side is not more or less guilty than the other. No, there is culpability on both parts.
As I see it, people are self-serving. Also, people have this terrible need to be right in their argument. With regards to parenting—I see this as a tragic thing to involve a child in because later in life, this will all unfold on our children and the choices they make.
Now, in fairness, I have not done all the right things. I certainly have made my share of mistakes. I did not always say the right things and in truth, —my ability to co-parent is in need of improvement. This is me and my faults. And if I am to be any kind of man, then let me be an honest one. This is my side of the mistake. And yes, there is another side, but that side does not belong to me. I know there are things that were wrong on the other side of this but I am not responsible for those things. I am just responsible for me and what I do. Therefore; I hold myself accountable for my actions and in the need for a better mind, I cannot and will not involve myself with outside aspects that are beyond my control.
One day, when my daughter grows older, I know she will ask questions. And I know she will ask a lot of questions that begin with the word, “Why?”
I suppose I will deal with those questions then.
But . . .
If I could be helpful to any man in the early years of fatherhood or to a man of divorce or a man co-parenting, the best recommendation I have is be mindful of time because time is very limited.
Be mindful of what you say and do. And while I understand that life has a way of getting in between us and family—try not to let that happen because in all honesty—there is no good or bad, right or wrong, as long as there is real love for our children. But, if we are not mindful, then what happens is what happened to me last night. I looked in my little girl’s bedroom. And she’s not little anymore. It’s been years since I heard her ask for her stuffed animals before going to bed and then she would ask, “Daddy, will you lay wiff me?”
I miss that.
“Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
“Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That’s how you and I will be”