I felt like such a fool.
My wife had given birth to our second child. We were a few months into our new life as a family of four. We thought we knew what to expect, but we both were falling into bed at the end of the night exhausted and on our last legs. My wife looked like she was especially tired, she had just gone back to work, so I offered to take our daughter, who was two, and our young baby out for a short get-away.
I had it all planned, we would go to a park. I would walk the baby in the stroller and my daughter could play on a nearby playground. The kids would be exercised out and would fall asleep early, leaving my wife and I to celebrate over take-out and a good night’s rest.
Problems right out of the gate
My daughter was ready to go the minute we got to the park. “Yes, honey, I told my daughter, we’ll go soon,” I said, as I pulled out the stroller and loaded the diaper bag. We were packed more for a six-month military tour than a day at the park, but I was committed to us having fun. Of course, as soon as we walked up the playground, I could hear the baby let out a huge toot in his diaper.
“You couldn’t go before we came to the park,” I asked. My son looked back at me like he didn’t have a care in the world.
My daughter wanted me to push her on the swing, but I first needed to clean up her young brother. When I checked the back of his diaper, it was even messier than I thought. I laid down a blanket and started to wipe up my son. To make matters worse, he had poop up his back and wouldn’t stop wriggling on the blanket.
When I told him to stop, he looked up at me with the most mischievous grin. I have a very active imagination, I’m pretty sure it was on purpose. Of course, I soon had poop all over my shirt sleeve. Right on key, my daughter spilled her drink on herself and the bench she was sitting on and started to cry. I was needed in three different places and I was failing in all of them.
Why did I think I could hold up on my own? I wanted to scream.
Make it work
I considered my options. We could throw in the towel and head back home. My wife would be sad, but would certainly understand, or we could stick things out and make them work. I wasn’t ready yet to give-in, I was determined to make the day work.
When I had my son finally cleaned-up, I placed him in the baby carrier that slung over my chest and started to push my daughter back and forth on the swing set. “Higher daddy, higher daddy,” she screamed out. She was finally having fun and I could hear him laughing and giggling too seeing his sister fly up in the air.
From the swing set, we went to the slides, to the Monkey Bars, to the see-saw. We were somehow making the outing work. They were having fun and I was getting a handle on life as a single parent. I decided to press my luck: I would take the both of them to the grocery store. We had gone a couple of times in the past, but it hadn’t ended well. There were still too many things to see and touch, but both were so tired, they were pleasant and helpful and I was able to take care of a much needed chore.
Learning my lesson
I learned an important lesson that day: I wanted to be the perfect parent, but it’s not possible. The number of books I read, the amount of planning I put into my job as husband and father didn’t matter. My expectations were out of a whack. I expected perfection, my kids simply wanted to spend time with me.
Parenthood is not something you prepare for. It’s something you give your live over to, something that you jump in with both feet and see where it takes you. I think the best ones work at it, looking for ways to improve and connect with their kids, but there’s no magic bullet that makes everything right.
In the years since, I’ve gotten poop, slobber, and a few other things on my sleeve, there’s no way to stop that from happening, that’s life, but parenthood has taken me to some pretty great places too. Yes, some amazing ones that I’m glad I got to experience.
Here’s to jumping-in without a net.