Brian Gawlak missed almost every major milestone in his young daughter’s life, but, one day, unexpectedly found himself facing the one big milestone that he wasn’t sure he was ready for…
I dodged a bit of a bullet today.
I have been a stay-at-home dad for over 10 years, and yet somehow managed to miss every single milestone for all three of my children. I have always been more of a night person, and my three girls seem to be following suit. When I was off working my part-time evening job, they would each experience their “firsts”—first laugh, first step, first word, and so on. I always thought it was poetic justice that my wife got to experience all of those things first, even though I was with the girls full time and she was not.
Cut to this afternoon when I was cleaning the girls’ bathroom. I opened the toilet to flush that inevitable flush that my fourth, invisible child, “Notme,” always fails to take care of (doing so with the perpetual hope that I’ll find a clean bowl). There in the toilet was a bloody wad of toilet paper and un-flushed urine. My heart began to pound and I called all three girls in to ask who was the last one to use the toilet. True to form, they each swore that “Notme” did it again. I explained to them the seriousness of the situation and about how important it was that I know who was the last one in there. I promised no one would get in any trouble, but still, they insisted—“Notme” did it again.
I began panicking, as my girls are currently on antibiotics to finally get rid of the strep throat they’ve been passing back and forth for a month (we finally found a doctor who agreed to treat all three who each presented with symptoms, even though they didn’t all test positive). One of my six-year-old twins had been complaining of back pain a few days ago, and all I kept thinking was, “OMG! What if this is her kidneys?” Or, “Did I miss something in the Halloween candy and they’re poisoned?” My eyes darted from kid to kid trying to remain calm, when I made eye contact with my ten year old.
My panic level was off the charts on the inside, but I did my best to hide it with my outward actions and tone. I calmly said, “I need you to go in the master bathroom and take a flushable wipe to see if it is you who is bleeding.”
Her eyes popped out of her head, realizing what I was talking about. I hugged her and told her how exciting this was, and that she would be OK. And then I kept saying to myself: “It is going to be OK, it is going to be OK!” I was dying on the inside… how could my little girl… my 10-year-old little girl…be having her first period when my wife is not home???
I sent her into our bathroom, as I knew that we had a new supply of pads, tampons, panty liners—the works.
I started to well up with tears at the thought of what this meant. My little girl is not a little girl anymore! What if she has questions I don’t have answers for? What if she forgets what my wife taught her about using a pad? What if she comes out of the bathroom and doesn’t look like “my little girl” anymore? Wait—I miss the first laugh and the first step, and I get THIS milestone???
When she came out, she advised me that she was not bleeding, but thought she saw some blood on her underwear. I swapped a clean pair of underwear via stretched arm through the door and advised her to use a pad as her mom had taught her. With all the confidence I could muster, I asked her if she was feeling all right and if she had any questions. Thankfully, she said, “No, Daddy, I am fine and I know what to do.”
I looked at the underwear and there was no stain anywhere to be found. I went back to the girls’ bathroom and further looked at the bloody mess in the bowl. I flushed it and let out a deep sigh. My daughter came out of the master bath and did not look any different to me, as I had feared in my panicked mode. I gave her a big hug and told her I was proud of her and the young lady she was becoming.
My daughter went back to the book she was reading, and I returned to my cleaning. As I emptied the bathroom trash, I found a red ice-pop wrapper stuffed in the bathroom garbage can! I called all three of “Notme’s” sisters in, one more time. I asked them to stick out their tongues. I directed them to look in the mirror and, for the one with the “red tongue,” to prepare an apology for once again blaming “Notme” and for putting me in a bit of a panic. True to form, the responsible child for this current mishap was the only one who looked away from the mirror rather than fess up. #notmediditeverytime!
My wife came home and I opened myself a cold, dark beer and stepped outside.
“Did you have a rough day?” she asked, as the screen door was slowly closing.
“Depends!” I quipped, as the door slammed shut.
Milestones are an amazing part of parenthood. I am realizing as the kids grow older, the bigger these milestones will be—each now tinged with a bitter reminder that we have to let our babies grow up.
I am grateful that I had this little dress rehearsal for something I am clearly prepared to handle; however, I would have no complaints if, when this actually happens, my wife is home at the time.
Originally appeared on thecookathomedad.blogspot.com
Header Image Credit—SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget/Flickr; All other images courtesy of the author