Learning on the Job

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.

For me.

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.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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22 Responses to Learning on the Job

  1. Jared Karol says:

    Dude, how do you hit it on the head so well? You must have good aim. You should try throwing a chair off the porch. Or maybe you already have, and have chosen not to write about it. . . I don’t know that I could do your job, and I’m looking for a new job, not sure I want THAT job though. . . love the honesty – it can be hard to write some of those lines sometimes, but in the end it what makes the piece so strong – for the reader, and I’m quite sure for the writer as well. . . thanks for posting. . .

    • I can honestly say that I am honored to read these words from you. Thank you, my friend. I do want to try the glider-chucking, though.

      • Jared Karol says:

        you should definitely try it. . . just make sure one of your girls isn’t in it. . . and make sure it’s already kind of broken in the first place, even if you have to “engineer” that as a backup for when you have to explain your actions. . . now our glider is in the garage until we can get it to the dump, and when Max sees it he says, “Daddy, chair, bushes, bullshit. . .”

      • I hope Max puts the proper emphasis on ‘bullshit’.

  2. Laurel says:

    Dearest Mitchell… How I love to read your thoughts…
    I find your honesty, humor and emotion to be both touching and deeply thought provoking. Thank you so much for allowing us a glimpse into your colorful world. I always look forward to reading your musings and especially enjoy the turns each one takes me on.

    You’re the best…

  3. Meka says:

    let me wipe my tears so I can type….Did you drive by my house yesterday????? Did you see me throw my car into reverse, back into the drive way, get out and yell..THen break down in tears because I am so mad at myslef for yelling and I made my kids cry. I thought of you yesterday because you and Holly always seem to have the right answer for the situation. Patience exudes from the two of you and I was falling so short I did not know where to begin. I started the day saying “patience” I ended the day saying “who the hell let me have kids”…Glider chucking would have happily been on my to do list! Now I read this and you hit it right on the head. I would give to world to my boys if I could, but there are days I really don’t like my job. It’s hard to say that and seeing someone I admire so much say gives me some peace. I can’t say thank you enough for this post.

    We are so fortunate to be able to spend this time with our kids. Everyone job has it’s pros and cons and I believe we definitely get more pros!

    ***sorry for the sappy post****:)

  4. Jessie Hyre says:

    I Love Love all your posts, but this one takes the cake. This post embodies everything it is to be on the roller coaster of parenthood. I love you guys.

  5. yara fisher says:

    i am not a parent, and I am currently teary eyed. thanks again, Mitch for your open, insightful, sharing being. I am so happy you are a father who writes.

  6. David says:

    I am not surprised. In fact am happy to hear your comparisons of the good and the bad but the overall good of it all, as I have experienced myself; and probably most primary care parents can relate to. You have a long way to go, my friend, but I think you have a big head start on the rest of us. It will serve you and the Girls will, I am quite sure.

    Thanks for reminding,
    David

  7. Mitchell Brown says:

    I wanted to reply to each of you individually but I am camping with the fam this weekend, so I couldn’t get to a computer. So, this is the best I can do. I am overwhlmed with graitude (I seem to be using that phrase a lot lately – awesome). I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to read and to share with me. Y’all keep making me cry – thanks.
    mitchell

  8. Carol Brown says:

    Every parent, no matter the ages of their children, will, if they are truthful, acknowledge the accuracy of your description of parenting. This was wonderful.

  9. Christie Collbran says:

    Mitchell,
    I’m with Meka on the “let me wipe my tears first.” Well I guess most of us have had our moments when we’ve lost it…. but hearing you say it with so much honesty and humility was quite something. Thank you very much for doing so. You have communicated very precisely the dichotomy of parenthood and the importance of learning from the experience. So true. I respect what you do and the happiness that shines from your children shows that you are doing a pretty darn good job. 🙂

  10. Adam says:

    I so appreciate the fact that you are putting yourself out there to help us to better understand ourselves and this process. I think it takes serious courage to be this honest with yourself…and with you readers. You’re a good man Charlie Brown.
    By the by,
    Do you proto vegans get to eat smores?

  11. mudly says:

    I’ve had kids on the brain lately. My older brother just had a baby, my younger cousin just had a baby, my other cousin had one earlier this year. My grandparents became great grandparents three times over, all in one year!! I talk to my mom quite a bit about what it was like when we were little, I talk to her a lot about what its like now… The being a parent thing, it never ends, even when we grow up. She still worries. She still frets. She still holds herself responsible for the lessons she did and did not manage to teach us. I’ll be honest and say the thought of being responsible for another human being scares the living shit out of me. But I love kids. I love the idea of kids. I love hanging out with other people’s kids. Kids are cool! Being a parent (not that I am even remotely close to being one), hardly seems like an experience I should forgo just because I’m scared.

    So I don’t know what its like being a parent, and who knows if I ever will, but for the time being, I am very happy, honored, appreciative, to know all of you parents that I do know, you’re an inspiration… In parenting, and in life.

  12. J i m S says:

    Amen, brother.

  13. Maggie Batt says:

    I’m loving your posts. I always say that parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Your girls are amazing and are very lucky to have daddy brandishing his magic wand. See you at co-op.

    Blessings,
    Maggie

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