Let’s face it, kids are not always a pleasure to be around. Just the other day my two-year-old, Matthew, was yelling at me for playing with one of his basketballs, while simultaneously ordering me to shoot hoops with him. This was followed by him chucking a ball at my eight-month-old and then screaming his lungs out because I took her out of the room and put his balls away. Good times!
But let me back up a bit, to just a few years ago. Before my wife and I became parents, we thought we were busy. We both worked full-time and had hour-long commutes. We had to get up early to walk the dog and then again in the evening a couple of times. We had family obligations and social engagements. What a full life!
Well, now after two kids, I wonder how we ever could have felt even the slightest bit stressed or tired. You mean there was a time when all we were responsible for was ourselves? When we could go to sleep and not have to worry about being woken up a half dozen times in the middle of the night? There was a time when going to the grocery store was just going to the grocery store and not an endearing reenactment of the family circus?
Being a dad is one of the greatest and toughest jobs in the world. It requires endurance, strength, patience, humility and most importantly love and often it requires us to exhibit all of these qualities at the same time, while exhausted and in some cases afraid. So why do we do it? We don’t get paid. It doesn’t advance our careers. There are no breaks or vacations.
From the moment I saw my son (and then a couple years later my daughter) for the first time I knew the reason. I’m reminded all the time of our ever-growing bond and genuine love for each other, whether it’s through the day-to-day experiences — things like an exchange of laughter, an accomplishment of theirs, or a sweet gesture of satisfaction — or in the big firsts: their first time crawling, walking, or talking.
These moments not only bring us closer, but they can also help us get through the not-so-pleasant times. Ah yes, back to basketball chucking. Recently, a tantrum started when I went to get Matthew cereal and poured the milk in his bowl without letting him help. Note to future dads: you cannot pour milk on your own. Never think you can pour milk on your own. And don’t get me started on weaning, teething or potty training. Let’s just say getting a toddler toilet thrown at your head while standing in a room full of screams is about as fun as you’d imagine.
Be patient and enjoy the moment
What I have learned and am still learning is that the tantrums are only temporary and while it may seem like your kids’ only goal is to push you over the edge, they’re just trying to grow and express themselves. They’re usually just frustrated because they’re still learning how to communicate or they want to learn to do things on their own. So be patient. Let them figure things out, even though it may take a little longer. Involve them in your day-to-day tasks. They’ll be happier and might even learn something.
Every so often I have to remind myself to enjoy these days while they last; they’re really just a brief moment in our lives. It’s tempting to look back on the “good old days” when we could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. But then I look into my kids’ eyes, and I see their joy and love and any feeling of frustration fades away. It’s then that it hits me: these are the “good old days” — right here, right now. Being a dad is a privilege, so let’s treat it like one and not take it for granted. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s good work. Through the pleasant and the not-so-pleasant times, let’s try to live in and love the moment and let our kids’ joy spread throughout our hearts. There might even be enough joy left over to make us want to take out that basketball again.