My hands shook as I got into the car and drove to work. I looked back in the rearview mirror and turned up the volume to the radio in the hopes that my thoughts would get carried away.
The morning was your typical morning. I woke up, took a shower and got dressed and ready for work. The only difference from every other morning: I would be dropping off our daughter at a new daycare facility. My wife had stayed home for several months, but now she was headed back to work. She handled drop-off and pick-up most days, but today she needed my help.
I got out the door on time. I sang a few songs in the car to soothe my baby girl, but then we got to daycare. As soon as I dropped her off and prepared to leave, she started to cry. And when I say cry, I mean, let out a deadly scream. If she could talk, she would have been crying out: “Don’t leave me dad. Don’t you dare leave me.”
You really left me
The daycare worker comforted me and told me that she would be cooing quietly in a matter of minutes and my own common sense told me that things would be fine. My wife and I had talked a lot about this decision and we had made the best possible decision for our family. I still couldn’t move. Finally after what felt like forever, I finally left. I walked outside, looking back through the plate glass window and she was still in tears. She had the saddest, eyore-like eyes that I had ever seen. My heart felt like it was stretched in the ringer. I felt like the worst father in the world for thirty minutes until the daycare worker called me at work and told that everything was fine. “Oh, I’m a horrible father.”
See you later dad
Compare that to earlier in January. My daughter gave me a hug and got in the car to drive back to school. This time I was the one with the sad, eyore-like eyes asking “when will we see you next?” I closed her car door and begged her to text and call. She shook her head dutifully and drove off. I watched from the front window of the house, wistfully hoping that she would turn around and come back. She loved us right? She’d do the right thing, right? Of course, she kept on her merry way. My wife and I tried to keep busy the rest of the day, cleaning up whole sections of the house that we had already cleaned earlier in the day.
Before and after
Oh, how times have changed. When our children were young, when they were always within arms reach, we were concerned about the basic things, did they eat, sleep and poop on schedule
Now, our concerns are so much more complex, so much more tangled up inside. We want them to challenge themselves, we want them to fight for their dreams, and the minute they do, we’re cringing, praying for their safety. We’re not helicopter parents, we refuse to step over that perilous line, but we still worry about them nonetheless.
Let me show you what I mean:
–When our children were young, we worried about my oldest son learning how he walked. He’d totter from side-to-side, stumble and fall, each time we’d watch in peril, running to make sure that we caught him.
Now my son lifts and works out throughout the week and has arms and legs that put me to shame. Of course, we worry about him at boot camp, all the while knowing that there’s absolutely nothing we can do to help him. He’s on his own now.
–We worried about challenging our youngest son. For the longest time, he seemed to like staying in his brother’s and sister’s shadow. We worried about making sure that he challenged himself academically, emotionally and physically.
Now he’s got school marching band practice several times a week, spends free time with his friends, does his school work and has a million other commitments on his plate and we frankly worry that he’s got too much, but he keeps bringing home great grades. Hard to argue with the kid.
–When we first moved into our house and had our children, we worried about keeping the house clean and spotless.
Now we put less pressure ourselves. We clean and certainly take care of things, but we know that a lived-in home is a loving, caring home.