Laura-Kim has been publishing a series of Father’s Day posts and she asked me to make a contribution so I wrote a post titled “Being a Dad” one afternoon, while I was sitting at a park with our kids.
The thing with “Dad posts”, especially when they are written for a Father’s Day series, is that it is tempting to delve into the profundity of fatherhood. I’ve certainly written those posts before.
Fatherhood is what happens when our kids disrupt our plans
This time around, I wanted to focus on an aspect of fatherhood we often don’t focus on because, well, it’s a little embarrassing. You know that saying that “(l)ife is what happens to us while we are making other plans”?
It occurred to me that much of being a Dad is like that. We have things we want to do, either with our kids or on our own, and those things are often not what our kids want to do.
I thought I had something meaningful, profound even, to share about the magic of being a Dad and then I was interrupted.
I was at the park with my daughter at the time. She asked to push her on the swings and I lost my tenuous link to what I thought would become a deep insight into the source of the magic of fatherhood.
As I pushed her higher and higher (these kids are crazy) I tried to remember where my thought train was derailed and failed. Instead I found myself captivated by the sunlight in my little girl’s hair and I realised that she isn’t such a little girl anymore. When did that happen?
Instead, our kids have a tendency to pull us out of our plans and send us down another path (usually a paved path in a park towards an inadequate hiding place). Sometimes being a Dad is recognising that our kids’ impromptu plans are the more important ones.
With that, here is my post. I hope you enjoy it (I certainly enjoyed writing it):
When you are finished reading my post, go read the other Dads’ contributions to Laura-Kim’s series:
Episode 43 of Reconcilable Differences is gold for Dads. John Siracusa and Merlin Mann go deep on Dad Jokes and other Dad stuff. I love it. I have already started with these much maligned jokes and even though they will embarrass my kids for decades, I like this part of my Dadhood.
I especially love one of their descriptions of Dads (and the episode titled): “Pack Mule with a Checkbook”. So if you want to understand why we do these silly jokes and other Dad-related things, listen to this episode. I’m enjoying it.
Some fine print to save myself from being beaten by hard-working Moms
This post is about working Dads. Before I get to that, here is a quick disclaimer: Moms don’t receive nearly enough credit and, thankfully, there is a wealth of stuff being shared online highlighting just how much mothers actually do. The term “stay at home Mom” should be banned and replaced with “Mom who works a double shift at home because she doesn’t get the day off at the office”.
That said, Dads are often portrayed as goofballs whose primary contribution to being parents was that disappointing, drunken performance that one night about 9 months before the child arrived.
The next disclaimer is that my wife did most of what I describe in my typical day last year when I was doing evening ulpan classes.
Sure, there are fathers who fit that cliche but there are plenty of working Dads who do so much more and they don’t receive nearly as much attention as they should. I thought I’d share a typical day in my life, not to brag (I always think I could do more for our kids) but to point out that working Dads really work for their families! I’ve touched on this before, so feel free to pause this post and read my earlier one:
I have two alarms set. The first goes off at 05:00 and the second at 05:10. The reason for this early start is that I start work at around 6:30 (7:00 at the latest) so I can log enough time to return home for my second shift (more about that below). My routine is pretty much the following:
Dress fairly quickly;
Pack my breakfast to eat at the office;
Do teeth and hair (nothing fancy – just making sure it doesn’t stand up);
Leave notes for our kids;
Kiss my wife goodbye; and
Head out the door between 05:20 and 05:30 (usually closer to 05:30).
I usually walk to the train station (15 minute walk, more or less) but sometimes take the bus if I catch it in time. My train leaves at 05:48 and I arrive in Tel-Aviv in time to start work at about 06:30 (if I miss my usual train, I start work just before 07:00).
I don’t have time to eat breakfast so I do that when I arrive at work while orienting myself for the day. If our babysitter can fetch the kids 3–4 four days a week, I wind up working over 10 hours a day to make sure I accumulate enough time to compensate for the days I have to leave earlier to fetch the kids from aftercare. It mostly works out although I am still working out a few kinks.
Changing shift after work
Ideally, I work till about 4:30pm to 4:40pm when I leave to catch a 5pm train back to Modi’in. I arrive home at about 6pm to take over from our babysitter who would have fetched our kids from aftercare earlier that afternoon. On days she can’t fetch the kids, I finish work in time to catch a 3:30pm train and then hustle to fetch the kids from aftercare when it finishes.
Gina is doing ulpan (Hebrew classes) two evenings a week in Tel-Aviv so on those nights (or when she has something on at night after work), I am generally pretty busy with –
taking the kids to the park for a little play time after school when the weather is ok;
making sure homework is done;
bathing the kids;
making supper (I enjoy this part although it sometimes means we eat a bit late, depending on what time I arrive home and whether the kids have playdates);
helping Aaron make sure his bag is packed for the next day (I’ve been slacking off a bit with this lately and often leave the actual check for Gina);
putting the kids to sleep;
making school lunches and my breakfast for the next day; and
some or other home task like cleaning, laundry or something along those lines.
I have a deal with our kids to leave a note of some description for them in the mornings when I leave because I usually leave for work before they wake up. This is usually the last thing I do before getting into bed and passing out (I am aim to be asleep by 10:30pm at the latest or I can’t function the next day).
I tried waking them to say goodbye but it was a bit of a disaster because they didn’t go back to sleep and the whole family was up way too early.
Weekends are a little easier
Friday is the start of our weekend and I get to sleep late … till 6am, at least. The kids still have school so I’m usually up around 6:15am to get them out of bed, dressed and packed for school.
Gina and/or I then get them to school and spend the morning cleaning, shopping for the weekend (shops generally close early afternoon on Friday) and we then fetch the kids late morning from school.
Friday afternoons and Saturdays are mostly focused on the kids. Now that the weather is warming up it is great park weather and the kids love riding their bikes so I spend a big chunk of the weekend fighting my urge to hide in a man-cave after the week and spend time with them instead.
Oh, Gina and I also try really hard to spend some time together but kids tend to want to override that.
What’s the point of this?
There are many working Dads in our community and elsewhere who work even harder than I do. The point of this post is to give some insight into what my typical day is because I suspect many of the Dads we know have similar days.
So, yes, working Moms (and even so-called “stay at home” but really “work even harder” Moms) have a lot on their plates between work and family life. No question about that. My wife had my typical day all of last year while I was doing ulpan classes and this year is my turn.
As much as we want to celebrate the work Moms do, don’t forget the working Dads who also work really hard and make sacrifices for their families every day. Maybe swing an infographic or something along those lines our way now and then? Just a thought.
These sorts of posts help me understand the lessons I am teaching our kids every day, often just by how I interact with them and what they observe about my behavior and my relationships with their mom and other people we come across.
19. Don’t wait for the right moment to say I love you. Now is that moment.
At the same time, these posts also take me back to my relationship with my dad who passed away almost 12 years ago (coincidentally, also from pancreatic cancer). I think back to the things I learned from him, his experiences and how much more I understand them now that I have children of my own.
I think I make mistakes far more often than I get it right (whatever that is) but I hope that even when I make mistakes, our kids learn something positive from how I handle those mistakes. Sometimes that is the best we can do as parents, I think. That missing “How to be an awesome parent” manual still hasn’t been published so we’re all mostly figuring it out as we go.
Being a dad is a full-time, contact sport except its most about making sure your kids always win (or as much as possible) in this little game we call “Life”.
Today is Fathers’ Day in South Africa (and possibly for you too). I prefer “Dads’ Day” and this is my little greeting.
I love being a Dad. Our kids’ arrival introduced an amazing dimension to my life which shifted priorities, focus and purpose. It has been a wild ride and although it isn’t always hugs and kisses, there are plenty of those too and they make it all worthwhile and then some.
Wow, what a year this has been. “Challenging” doesn’t quite describe it for me. My business is evolving rapidly and about to take what could potentially be a radical leap in a fairly different direction and while I’m excited about it, it also scares me more than a little (which means it is probably also the right decision). Today has been particularly intense so this video was perfect:
This ad reminded me why I do what I do every day and what it is all about at the end of the metaphorical day. It also reminds me why I shouldn’t do some of the things I do every day either: things like stress about challenges and work so hard that I miss the time I have with my family. I also keep reminding myself to be more present when I spend time with my wife and our kids and not distracted by work or devices that don’t enhance those moments.
As much as I love my devices, when I am using them I am not present with my wife or our kids and, in those moments, they deserve to have me there with them, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Just as I watch this video and see myself in so many of those moments with our kids, I can’t help but remember that my Dad isn’t around to share them with me. Like him, I don’t know how much time I have with my family and that makes the time I do have even more precious.