Time and distance do not always provide perspective for parents. To gain it, one must still the mind and allow the swirl of emotions, events and smelly diapers to coalesce into a meaningful narrative.
But how? When? The thing about parenting is that it’s always in motion. There is no comfort zone, no discernible plot to follow. Everything changes, always, sometimes minute to minute.
It was only a second ago, wasn’t it, that my older son grinned that impish grin at me from inside that bright red slide? Those dirty blond curls still encircle my younger son’s head like a cloud of caramel swirl. Right?
We just left that park, didn’t we? I can still taste the donuts and Cheerios we ate for lunch.
No, it’s been years, not minutes. They were born, and so was I – a new dad. They grow and learn, and so do I. It never stops.
Sometimes, I just want to step into the middle of the ring and yell, “WAIT! HANG ON A MINUTE! Let me catch my breath.”
But then I think … no. That’s not right. We can’t stop. That’s not how it works. We have to absorb it all and process it and move on to the next thing and the thing after that SIMULTANEOUSLY because that’s parenting.
It’s also life. Even when I figuratively pause to write down a few stray thoughts, things are happening, man.
Right now, the boys are at summer camp. They swam today and frolicked in the sun with mermaids at a local tourist trap north of here.
Later, the younger boy – curl-less now, but still sweet as caramel – will resume his tennis lessons. Maybe the older boy will ask to watch a particular TV show, or settle in to giggle at a YouTube video about Minecraft, or pick up a chapter book and read it cover to cover by bedtime.
Those are today’s memories. Tomorrow … that’s the good stuff. That’s how we grow, it’s how we fill our souls – one tomorrow at a time.
Who am I because of my sons? I’m dad. But who is that? Man, I don’t know. Whenever I think I might have a clue, or fool myself into believing that perspective is about to sink in, another tomorrow comes along to add a layer of being.
Whoever I am, these guys made me. I helped make them, sure, but without a doubt I am who I am today – and will be tomorrow – because they are in my life.
I could go back to that sweltering day in the park and bask in the summer heat and snarf down another donut and tell them how much I love them and yell at them to be careful on the slides and hug them a million times – a billion – and it wouldn’t match my gratitude for all they’ve given me.
It’s almost Father’s Day, and I’ve partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion and to tell this story. It’s about giving thanks for fatherhood, even though there is no way for me to adequately express it.
Better, maybe, just to keep it simple and share the hashtag: #ThanksBaby. It’ll be all over Twitter this weekend, as will I. Check in on Twitter at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17, for a one-hour #ThanksBaby chat with Pampers and Life of Dad, with a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card.