Thinking back on my favorite books, what I sometimes remember most are specific chapters. Beginnings and endings intermingled into the grander story are so often the moments that provide depth and meaning to the bigger picture. Direction lost and found. The wonder of it all encapsulated in the transitions. As one chapter closes the intensity builds and you may find clarity in the progression – a clarity that until then was escaping you. And the story comes to a reasonable stopping point, one that leads not to a conclusion but to another starting point. You are left with a deeper understanding of the path you are on.
And then you turn the page.
This morning my wife and I took both of our daughters to school for their first day. In new dresses and with fancy clips and headbands in their hair, they walked into to school together for the first time. We all held hands and we all knew that today was a new beginning.
Last year Bug started preschool, going only in the mornings, but Lemon (who has told me she doesn’t want to be called “Lemon” anymore, but for the sake of continuity – as if there has been some on this blog lately – that name will remain here for now) stayed home with me. It felt like a transition year, breaking us all in slowly to this new life. Bug ventured out on her own, but just a little. Lemon saw what it was like to not have to share the attention. And I was a stay at home dad to just one daughter again, if for only a couple hours.
We all grew last year and learned a little from our new perspectives. But I think we all found an ease in the sameness of it all. You’re not really swimming yet when you are just dipping your toes in.
Today was a big deal, though.
Today I find myself alone in the house for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. Today I have a surreal consciousness of the moment I turn the page to a new chapter. New stages in our lives are often upon us so quickly that we fail to fully appreciate them until we are settled into a new one and have the chance to look back.
Today, though, is a day that has been clearly on the horizon and one that I have been greatly looking forward to in some ways. Being a stay at home parent is hard. It is something that I have struggled with, especially this summer. I have struggled to find my own happiness and to find the joy in being a parent. In a lot of ways, this chapter that I am finishing has not been a very happy one.
That said, I am incredibly thankful that it is part of my story. I have learned more than I ever could have had it not been written the way it was. I am proud of the man that I have become and, more importantly, I am proud of the father that I am to my children. I am far from perfect and I am far from the selfless, ever-patient, forever positive father that I would have like to have been for my girls during these years of our lives.
But I did my best. I loved them with everything that I had and I tried to learn from my many mistakes.
And now I turn the page.
The new chapter will look a lot like the last one – it’s not like we’re sending them off to boarding school. I’ll still be here, still cooking and cleaning and only occasionally showering. The new chapter, though, begins the part of the story where this odd but lovable protagonist will start creating his own path again. And what seems like a short amount of time each day will afford me a perspective on it all that I think I have been lacking.
So, in this strangely quiet house, it’s time to go to work. I’m excited to see how this chapter turns out, for all of us. I’m sure, though, I’ll want to go back and re-read the last one soon – it was hard, but it was sweet.
And I wonder if I’ll cry everyday like I did today.