I have the greatest job in the world.
My job is to be with my children. It is my job to watch over, teach and love two of the three people in this world for whom I ache when they aren’t around. My days are consumed not by a boss or client or customer, but by my daughters – people who are literally a part of me. I don’t have to sit at a desk or answer phones or bear traffic to and from some fortress of fluorescence. I don’t even have to shower (though, that would be nice on occasion). I take walks to the park, play in the back yard and go to the zoo. My job is to color, liberally dole out hugs and play Legos. An extra dose of awesome comes from the fact that these are things I am really good at.
These are also things that bring me unspeakable joy.
Today I went to pick them up at their grandma’s house and screaming across the lawn came my two little balls of happiness echoing “DADDYDADDYDADDY” throughout the neighborhood. Their sunlit faces radiated bliss, the kind that comes only with the ability to be totally present in a moment. They weren’t thinking of anything but how happy they were to see me and it vibrated through their being.
That is the good stuff. There are no words for that feeling. It’s like an emotional orchestra.
This is my job. And I love my job.
Except when I don’t.
In addition to the marathon puzzle sessions and ‘dad surfing’ competitions, my job description includes some less appealing activities. I am a disciplinarian, a spill cleaner and a chronic repeater of basic instructions. I am mediator, a prosecutor and a butt wiper. My job is often hopelessly redundant, impossibly unreasonable and has unending hours.
As much as the flowery, utopian description of my life is accurate, so too is the starker account. I do get those blissful smiles rained upon me, but I also get shit on me.
This job can be really hard. It is confounding to take an adult, (semi) rational mind and inject it into the irrational, often absurd world of kids. Two and three year olds are barely the same species as you and me. I know – I’ve got one of each. To survive you have to be able to suspend expectations of all that you have taught yourself is acceptable behavior. Adults shouldn’t be subjected to these little people for long periods of time. I’m pretty sure there is something in the 8th Amendment about it.
It is difficult and I’m not perfect. Sometimes I lose my composure. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I make my kids cry. It KILLS me to say that, but I do. I should be better than that. I want to be better than that.
But I’m not.
I talk often of holding my children to high expectations. I talk of how my role is not to be their friend, it is to be their father. But I think I use those statements as excuses. I do believe in those things very firmly, but I have come to sometimes use them as a personal safety net for the times that I fail at being the calm, patient dad that I feel I should – and can – be.
The truth is that I lose my patience sometimes. The truth is that I am not calm all of the time because I am not always totally in control of myself. Or totally happy.
If I go the precarious step further and ask why I am not patient, calm and happy all of the time I end up in a difficult place.
I do not always like my job.
After typing that sentence I had to stare at it for a while. That is a hard thing to say, but it is true. It isn’t pretty, but it is real and I must acknowledge it if I am to grow.
This life, this job is everything all at once. It is the ultimate dichotomy of joy and aggravation, which is why it can teach so much so quickly.
Parenthood embodies the light and the dark, the new and the old, the raging and the serene. From this perspective it is easier to see that this job requires balance and balance requires control, acceptance and understanding.
I must control both my present self and my future direction. Without control I cannot be present enough to hear the lessons being taught and strong enough to allow them to guide me.
I must accept that I am only human and have limitations. My imperfections are me. My acknowledgment of them is intrinsic to my evolution as a man and as a father to my daughters.
I must understand that my girls are pure but raw, just trying to learn their way in this world. I must understand that so am I still.
I must remember that this is the greatest gift and will be the most important, most defining and most joyful thing I will ever have placed in front of me.
It is hard sometimes.
But, I have the greatest job in the world.