Father Time presents:
“Life & Times – Fathers and Their Views about Time”
Featuring a real-life dad offering his take on time
Shaun H. (Pennsylvania)
Occupation: Writer and Adjunct professor at DeSales University
Status: Married with one daughter, age 3
Wife is a Vice President at Bethlehem Apparatus.
FT: Describe the biggest challenge with time as a family.
SH: The biggest challenge time poses for me isn’t what I expected it to be. It’s not that there’s “no time” or “not enough time”; it’s that one never knows WHAT time is going to contain anymore. And this is restricted to me only having a toddler now, of course, but check this out.
Two or three times a year, Kate has to go on business trips. Sometimes they’re five days; sometimes they’re seven days. My mom and our two-days-a-week daycare make it so I’m not alone 24/7 with Edie, but during those no-Kate times, Edie is INVARIABLY sick. This means that, with my teaching work and my writing, the margins aren’t thin; they’re completely undefined. MAYBE, during those solo parent times, I’ll have this great day where Edie chills with her grandma for the morning, I teach and cut out ASAP to get home, we play, we learn, she’s reasonably well behaved, goes to bed, I cram in work at night, and everybody wins. But MAYBE Edie needs to go to the doctor midway through grandma time and I need to be there for that because duh, so I have to cancel class or cut it short or cancel appointments at least, and then it’s crisscrossing town for meds, and Edie is upset, and where is Mommy, and grandma has to leave because she’s unwell and wait—Mommy wants to FaceTime and that’s a genuinely good thing, but Edie refuses to talk to Mommy even though she went on and on at the drugstore about how she only EVER wants to be with Mommy from now on, and now it’s 8:30 pm and Edie won’t sleep and needs another nose-blow and her meds taste like grape, but she wants cherry so she makes herself puke and so she finally falls asleep at 10 and I get two essays graded but wait, she’s up again…
You get the idea. You know that old chestnut: Want to make God laugh? Make a plan. Remember that? Well, I’d amend that for parents of small kids. “Want to make your toddler rage-barf? Make a plan.”
FT: Describe a time success story you’ve had as a father or as a family. For example: describe any discoveries or “hacks” your family has made to better manage or honor time.
SH: I’d love to be able to say something heroic, like “I can change a diaper in 6 seconds–INCLUDING Desitin application!—but…what comes to mind here is value. Light on anecdotal value, I realize, but I think I’ve been able to really internalize how fast Time-as-a-Parent-of-a-Toddler really goes. I won’t know for sure until I’m on the other side, but I’ve resisted some…and I think it’d be impossible to resist ALL…of the temptations to just “because-I-said-so” my daughter, you know?
In favor of explaining for the tenth time why moisture in the air relates to clouds relates to rain relates to lightning relates to electricity in terms she’ll mostly forget tomorrow. I’ve learned to appreciate that she’s trying to gather information and looks to me to be a guide, that she’s not trying to interrupt my already-hurried time on the toilet to irritate me; she heard thunder and genuinely wants this towering, bearded font of answers to weigh in because he knows SO much and she doesn’t—and probably shouldn’t—understand that answers can wait, and that tomorrow is another day.
I hope I’ve used more of those opportunities to push through the selfishness of my own schedule to help her see things because I know she’s going to take answers where she can find them and she can trust me for sure. And it’s cliched, I guess, but one day she won’t. Any parent who just wishes their kid would back off and leave them alone will have their wish granted, and it won’t ever change back once it happens. Edie will roll her eyes one day soon when I tell her how the snow she’s looking at now is comprised of only a few kinds of flakes that are infinitesimally different from any collection of those kinds of flakes that ever fell before. Not long after that she’ll move out.
So yeah, I found out that mixing a very small amount of sour cream into mac and cheese both cools it down faster and makes it tangy in a way that Edie adores, but I think what’s more, bigger, and better is that I’ve partially trained myself to explain to her, for the umpteenth time, that mac is short for macaroni is a noodle is pasta is from Italy is European is a whole other part of the Earth is a planet is a spinning massive body in space is above and all around the sky is, yes, full of clouds that make it rain.
Better to avoid the hacks if you can find substance behind the actions you’d hack, right? Oh, that’s corny. But so is parenting. Anyone who says otherwise is short-changing their kids or lying.
Link to Part 1
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker.