Sometimes I just like to watch my children sleep.
It’s an emotional lift if I’m heading into work really early, before the sun and the children both rise. It’s equally effective if I’m stuck working late at night, missing both the sunset and bedtime at our home.
Those sleeping faces remind me why I work as hard as I do, so they can rest peacefully while I worry about everything surrounding their lives. I imagine I’m not the only father who needs that reminder about why we don’t just quit the rat race and live in a shack by the beach, even on Father’s Day.
It can be so difficult to see the world clearly when they’re wide awake. Awake children have a tendency to talk. Talking children have a tendency to use frustrating words. Frustrating words make you question why you ever wanted to have children.
For instance, my 5-year-old daughter has mastered backwards logic. Lately she’s on a kick that my wife and I should divorce. Her reasoning? I’m allergic to cats. If I’m out of the picture, she can get a cat. Right now, she thinks she’d rather have a cat than a dad.
My 6-year-old daughter, the scholar, began correcting me recently. It’s no fun for someone who edits words for a living to have someone with a first-grade education trying to exert grammatical dominance.
My 12-year-old daughter wants to challenge me on everything because that’s what pre-teens like to do. I’ll never understand anything she goes through, she’s already told me a dozen times.
They don’t realize how hurtful their words can be. Their words and deeds can be frustrating to a well-meaning father trying to guide them on the path of life.
I must admit, sometimes I say hurtful things back, even though I know I shouldn’t.
Sometimes they’ll tell me I must not love them because I won’t get them whatever they want at that moment. That request has varied from a snack all the way through a Disney vacation, depending on their moods.
Sometimes they’ll say I don’t play enough with them. Experience tells me we could play for 16 hours a day, and they’d still want the other eight. Then again, I should be glad they still want to spend time with me, even if it’s in unachievable chunks.
Fortunately, I can see them when they’re sleeping, when they’re their true selves, absent any of the nastiness that comes with growing up.
Those moments of quiet remind me of the countless moments of genuine sweetness they bless me with every day. They remind me of the times they laugh at my corny dad jokes. They remind me of the times they live up to their full potential.
It’s so easy to focus on the negatives in life. When you take a step back, you realize your children are turning out just fine, either because of your efforts or in spite of them.
Those quiet moments remind you that being a dad isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely worth it.