Over the past year, Walter has developed a surprising amount of social awareness. Maybe between 5 and 6 is the normal range when this happens for all kids – it probably is. But since he’s an only child, I have nobody else to compare him to. Therefore, when standard developmental milestones take place, I often think, “Holy shit! My child must be some kind of superhero!” So what’s surprising to me might not be surprising to you.
Just about a year ago, Walter was fond of telling me on a regular basis how much more he loves Mom than me. It stings a little bit to hear that you’re solidly in second place, but it’s OK. I think Lori is great, too. On days when I bought him candy or toys, I might temporarily climb the charts to #1. But it never lasted for long. I get it. Boys are usually in love with their mothers and girls are usually in love with their fathers. Or so I have been told by other parents.
But Walter no longer keeps me apprised of the family love standings. He understands that it’s an uncool thing to tell a person. And he’s become increasingly aware of how all of the things he says make other people feel. I’m proud of him for that because it’s an important step toward becoming a socially well-adjusted human being. But he still has subtle ways of letting me know that he thinks I’m boring. “I wish Mom were here” is a common one when Lori is away on a business trip. “Me too, buddy,” I say. Or Walter’s most frequent question, “When is Mom going to be finished with work today?” To which I respond, “At 4:00, which is the same as I’ve told you eleven other times today.”
Walter’s perception of my perpetual, pedestrian boringness is a nice summary of parenthood as a whole. Because I chose this life. Or I should say that Lori and I chose it together. Around the time that Walter was born, which was a truly difficult stretch for our marriage, we talked almost every day for over a week about the division of responsibilities in our post-child home. I found out later that the year after having a first child is a rocky one for many (maybe most) couples. Everything changes. Love takes on a different meaning, and neither yourself nor your spouse is any longer the most important person in your lives. We finally decided that I would leave my career in agency marketing and Lori would continue to pursue hers.
Like most fathers, my dad wasn’t around that much because he went to an office every day and traveled for business. To some degree, nearly all fathers are absent fathers. There was a time in my life when I resented my dad for his absence. But now that I have a family of my own I feel differently. I understand that he did a pretty good job of doing what he had to do to support the people whom he loves. But I wanted to do it differently. It was important to me to figure out a way to be a part of my son’s life as much as possible, every day. You only get one chance to be there for a first smile, first steps, and first words. And I wanted to be in the room for all of it. I was greedy for it. So we made it work.
The byproduct of being around all the time is that I am the uncool parent. The boring one. If there’s one thing that Walter can count on, it’s that I will be there. I’m like a bland movie score – always present in the background but barely noticeable. Maybe he will learn to appreciate my dedication some day, but maybe not. I don’t think I actually care that much either way. Despite all of Walter’s arguing, crying, insults, and tantrums. Regardless of the pain, there are sometimes hugs, kisses and thank yous. And every once in a while, he’ll even tell me that I’m a great dad. I don’t know how because it doesn’t make any mathematic sense, but it’s totally worth it.
This story was syndicated. Read Drew Hubbard’s original post on Medium.