ometimes being a DorkDad isn’t about action figures, or video games, or T-shirts. DorkDads have jobs, bills, and various weight-gain/hair-loss issues associated with approaching their 40th birthday just like everyone else. We don’t have super powers (much as we’d like to). To quote Shylock:
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”
(Shakespeare. That’s a new one for this blog)
Last night I got home from work a little frayed around the edges. The first week of January is pure insanity in a dental office. Everyone’s insurance has rolled over at the new year, and all the work people have been putting off suddenly becomes so urgent it can’t wait another moment. That, combined with the fact that we took less time off over the holiday than we should have, and I was pretty haggard as my car pulled into the driveway late for dinner.
I stumbled into the house, aware of the fact that I hadn’t warned UnDorkMommy that I was going to be late, and wary of what that was going to do to her affect. At the moment we’ve got that Norman Rockwell, Ozzie and Harriet thing going on where Daddy comes in the door from work and the two older kids come sprinting through the house yelling “DADDY!!” and jump into my arms. It’s really sweet and those moments are exactly what I dreamed about when I imagined being a father. But lately it’s become more of a competition between the kids to see who can yell the loudest, knock over the most furniture, scatter the most toys, and get to Daddy first. This is the way it’s been for the past 6 or 7 months. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything, but the obnoxious-factor definitely takes a little luster off of the experience.
Now as far as the baby goes, at 10 months old he’s still at the point where he’s inextricably connected to his Mommy, and the Daddy-relationship is slowly building over time, brick by brick. We have our special moments, to be sure. I usually handle the bath and getting him into his pajamas after dinner. That’s our time and we’ve developed our own special routines and games, but thus far his relationship with me is nothing compared to his relationship with his mother. That’s OK. This is kid #3. I’ve been down this road before. It’ll come. Last night, however, something special happened.
Last night Episodes IV and V tackled me in the driveway just as I was closing the car door. I could hear the “DADDY!!” coming from inside the house, through the garage, and out to the driveway where I was. The tackle happened – the struggle to accommodate both their requests/demands to be picked up at the same time – the awkward struggle to lumber into the house with each of them sitting on one of my feet, arms wrapped around my knees, like a pair of 30-50lb snow boots – all before I’d even had the chance to exhale from the day’s work.
We made it to the threshold where I insisted they dismount and return to the table where the family started dinner without me. Midway through the shenanigans it takes to return their attention to their food, I became aware of another commotion out of the corner of my eye. Episode VI was in his high chair, having a conniption fit because his daddy was home and he wanted his attention. There he sat, partially covered in mashed raspberries, shredded cheddar cheese stuck all over his face, cheerios strewn across his “plate”, big brother and sister putting on the big-brother-and-sister show across the table, and none of that mattered. His Daddy was home. He was stoked. In that moment, the only thing that existed for him in the entire world was me, and he wanted his Daddy. First came the arm-waving squeal of excitement, then hands reaching up to be picked up, then the desperate struggle of a 10 month old to get out of his high chair and into Daddy’s arms. He would not be satisfied until he had his chance to smear mashed up raspberries into my work clothes.
When a baby is born, their connection to their mother is instant. Dads have to take a longer view. We build our relationships with our kids moment by moment, and watch it materialize slowly over months and years. In the early months it can be a bit of a bummer, being 2nd string all the time in your baby’s eyes (or even 3rd or 4th string after the siblings and the cat). But the relationship does grow. It does happen. And as with anything, if you take the long view and steadily invest here and there over time, the payout can turn an otherwise downer of an evening into the best day of the week.
To my 10 month old Episode VI:
You have no idea how much I needed that.