Photo by Obed Esquivel on Unsplash
The first article I ever posted to this blog was about my mom. She exerted a gravity on me as a child that laid my foundation to be a stay-at-home dad for over six years.
This is my 100th and final blog post on Daddy Daydreamer. I find a serenity and symmetry closing this chapter of my writing life, by celebrating my mom on her 78th birthday.
IT IS A PRIMAL DESIRE for a parent to love, care for and nurture their child. If misdirected, this love can get in the way, even smother. In its truest, unconditional form, it drives the energy, the worry, the desire to protect, and ultimately, the ability to let go. To trust your child will leave the nest, make their own life and make their own mistakes.
Raising a child is an incredible responsibility. The magnitude of it gets lost in the everyday hubbub. Cooking, cleaning, helping with homework. Lecturing, listening, arguing, hugs, kisses, frustration. You sometimes wonder what the hell you're doing. Sometimes you think, hey, maybe I'm okay at this!
One of my earliest memories is playing under the dining room table with my mom. I was 3 or 4. I was pretending to be a baby bear. Mom was of course, the mama bear. The brown wooden underbelly of the table made it feel like a cave. I remember crawling between spider-like chair legs.
Everything seemed so big. Mom could do anything. She protected me. I was safe.
As a small child, your world revolves around your parents. They care for you, feed you and protect you. My dad worked and my mom stayed at home. I adored this time with my mother, before I was old enough to attend school. I remember her telling me how some children don't have enough to eat, so I should eat every grain of rice (to this day, I still do). I remember colouring pictures of Spider-man, Batman and Robin. I remember her reading to me, teaching me to print: A, B, C.
Memory is malleable; I remember the good stuff, a general feeling of being cared for. That feeling stuck with me over the years. I knew if I ever had kids, I wanted them to feel as cared for as I did with Mom. I wanted to be a "mom."
While being a stay-at-home dad was the most fulfilling, meaningful thing I have done, it is a chapter closed. Transitioning back to work after six-plus years at home was much more challenging than I had anticipated, filled with doubts and loss of meaning.
When you lose meaning, life can seem pointless, a waste of resources. But when you have meaning, gross or mundane things like cleaning poop and puke, changing diapers, and preparing lunches late in the evening can be offset by your sense of purpose.
I'm once again working full time. A part of me mourns the man I was, the stay-at-home dad. Its course has run. It's nice to think of the memories, but there's no sense in getting lost in nostalgia.
What I think I'm actually mourning is the loss of innocence, of staring into a baby's or toddler's eyes and knowing you are the centre of their universe. I have rediscovered meaning in providing for my family in a different way. My kids don't need me in the same ways. What they need is a guide, not someone to do things for them. Someone to let them make their own mistakes, in a way that balances risk, reward and relative safety.
As a parent, I see so many things now that were not apparent as a teenager or young child. I see those things replayed with my children now. For example, my young teenager who thinks he knows more than he does. I have to remember what it's like to be that age, to have the world in front of you, a sense of newness, possibility. To be cocksure. And you know what? Seeing those things in him remind me that sometimes, I could take a few more calculated risks.
My parents have been the biggest influences in my life. I have learned different things from my mother and father, equally important. Mom taught me unconditional love and caring for my family. She taught me that worrying, for a parent, is as natural as breathing.
That worrying part, I suppose, never goes away. But as we can control our breathing in certain situations: like when we run, swim or meditate, we can acknowledge our worries and control them, so they don't consume us.
As parents we must let go and let our children evolve. A parent's job is to make themselves obsolete. Our relationships with our children change as they grow. We need to adjust.
If you are a parent of young children, when they get older, you don't need to be the centre of their universe. Be content with being a star (hopefully an important one!). You can still exert considerable gravity. Just don't be a black hole that sucks everything in. Know there's room for other stars in your children's lives.
One day, your child may break away from your gravity. If you've taught them well, as my parents have taught me, they will find their way back to you.
So Mom, on this, your 78th birthday, I celebrate you—for teaching me to be there for my family. For showing me the beauty in caring not only for others, but for myself, too.
I will finish with an entry from a diary you kept for me as a small child:
"You woke up and gave Ma a big smile. It seems to make my day. I know it is going to be a beautiful day."
It certainly has been beautiful having you as the original star in my life.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.
Mom playing piano with her boys.
Editor's note: To my loyal and steadfast readers, thank you so much for your love, support and kindness over the years. I'm so grateful you took the time to read my stories. I've spoken and emailed with many of you. I will never forget the connections I have made.
I won't post any new stories to Daddy Daydreamer but the website will stay up. And don't worry, I'll still write other things and keep you posted on any worthwhile projects.
Take care of yourself, your family and your friends. We need those connections more than ever, especially in this uncertain world. I would love to hear from you, anytime.
With love and gratitude, always.