Mushy Stuff to Follow. Nothing to See Here.
Yesterday was my daughter's second birthday. We had a good time with it--she had pizza and cupcakes and managed to open what seemed like an endless slew of presents. She's a toddler now, and she's prone to those legendary two year old tantrums every parent speaks of in feared tones. But she's my girl, and I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world.
Being a dad is one of the most important jobs I've ever had. It means that you check your ego at the door and your life changes--always for the better if you look at it like you're supposed to. It means that you're there when they're happy, there when they hurt, and there when they need you for advice on how to proceed through an honest life. It means that you take on a whole new world of learning, study, and comprehension about human nature--if you do it like you're supposed to. And for all these gifts, as hard earned as they've been, I'll always be grateful.
I've learned in the past two years how to change a diaper with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew. I've learned the differences between developmentally appropriate toys. I've managed to grasp the concept of "big feelings we can't articulate" vs. outright tantrums. And I've even managed to learn a tiny bit of sign language. None of this would come about if it weren't for Talia, and I am eternally grateful her presence in my life has taught me such things.
Talia has taught me patience and compassion. Patience with myself when I'm not completely immaculate during the work week, and patience for when my family doesn't make it out the door on time. Compassion for the families with the screaming kids in a restaurant (we've been there. several times). The list could continue--but the empathy of those two lessons alone makes the entire Father experience worth it.
Talia has taught me how to have fun in ways that I didn't think would be possible. I'm a guy who normally lives in his head, full of reading, learning, writing, and constant play with playing cards. She's shown me that the mere possession of a doll who can teach her the ABC's and the chance to play in a bunch of streams of water can be incredible ways to spend your time. When you can look at the world through the eyes of a two year old, things seem like a far more magical place than the doldrum of our everyday existence.
Talia has taught me how to curb my tongue. There's been some things I've wanted to say to people on certain days that would make a sailor blush, but then I remember that if I don't have two little ears listening at that time I may in the near future, and the last thing I want to be is one of those parents who has their small child saying four letter words before their teens. As an added side effect of this process I am also far more polite to everyone than I have been in the past.
One more note on the lessons I've learned as a Father--Talia has stopped me from being angry about a lot of pointless crap. I could be just as offended as the next person on the Internet Outrage Machine, but it's really, really hard to do that when you spend five minutes barking and mooing on all fours at a small child just for the privilege of hearing them giggle.
I could go on and on about what she's taught me, but I say this in sincerity--it's been a hard two years. A hard two years of self-reflection, beating myself up for not doing a better job as a Dad, checking my ego at the door, and an abandonment of selfishness. Every morning I wake up, though, I hear "Hi Daddy! Up, Please!" Eat More?" and I remember just why it's so good to be alive right now. I feed her breakfast every morning I can and read to her every night I can because it's two of the best parts of my day. This is why I left firm life and became a solo again--moments such as these.
One day my daughter will read this in full. It will probably be at a time when she thinks Dad isn't cool anymore, when she says to her friends that her parents are "gross," or when she's had a fight with me because I wouldn't let her go out one evening with a boy. When that happens, I want her to read this and know one thing: Talia, I love you with all my heart and always want what's best for you, even if it doesn't seem like it right now. I have since you were born-when you melted my cold, hard heart--and will continue to do so until I leave this world.