A dad’s letter to himself on his worst day, from himself on his best day
This article originally appeared on 11.23.16
Hey man, I know today was rough. I’m really sorry. I heard it was a doozy.
It started a lot earlier than it should have. I guess you could say the previous day never really ended.
You put your daughter down for bed around 8 p.m., like usual. You scarfed some food and chugged some NyQuil to try to knock out your throbbing cold, the one you caught from her (love those daycare germs!). Two hours later, you woke up to the sound of her coughing through the baby monitor. Then came the crying.
You rolled out of bed in a glassy-eyed, cold medicine-induced fog. You stumbled your way up the stairs to soothe her. Nothing worked. She cried every time you tried to lay her back down. Your head was throbbing. Your eyes dry and heavy. Her cries like nails on a chalkboard. You got frustrated and had to just put her down, let her cry while you walked away to cool off. “I can’t do this,” you thought, exhausted, drained. It didn’t matter if you could do it or not because she kept crying, and she needed you.
The whole night went on like this before the sun mercifully came up.
Breakfast time. You sleepwalked your way through cooking an omelet (you burned one side, but does it really matter?). She threw it on the floor and wailed. Did she want a banana? More water? Crackers? Was something hurting? You didn’t know. You just kept handing her things.
This was your entire day.
After that, you carried her over to her toy bin and let her play. She was joyful, finally smiling and laughing. You sat, zombie-like, sipping your coffee and enjoying the brief moment of peace. Then she tripped over a wooden puzzle piece and hit the ground hard. More tears. And then more. Normally she wouldn’t cry this hard, but she was sick. She wasn’t herself. You picked her up and held her and kissed the boo-boo, but she wouldn’t stop crying.
You put her back down because the crying in your ear was like a power drill to your temple. Normally, you’d be so much more patient and nurturing. But you weren’t yourself either.
The whole day was like this. You took her to the store where she refused to stay in the cart. She wanted to run up and down the aisles, which was fine, but then she tripped and fell. Again. More tears. She threw her lunch on the floor and cried about it. You tried to put her down for a nap, but she kicked and flailed until you gave up.
It didn’t matter if you could do it or not because she kept crying, and she needed you.
There were things to be done around the house: chores, projects, cleaning. You had nothing in you but medicine and whatever food you were able to scarf down between tantrums. It was all you could do to muscle your way through bath time and get her into bed.
And you weren’t far behind her. You crawled into bed, drained, knowing she’d probably be up within a matter of hours, hacking and coughing and crying. Poor thing.
When it was finally quiet, you felt bad for her. She didn’t mean to be a pain; she’s just a baby. A baby with a cold, at that. You were so disappointed with yourself. Why couldn’t you have been more patient, more loving? She had a hard day too.
You have to be better than that.
You drifted off to sleep locked in on one single thought: Maybe I’m not cut out for this dad thing.
I know your day was bad. Really bad. But mine was great, and I’m sorry, but I just need to tell someone about it.
Get this: It started at 8 a.m. 8 a.m.!
I know, I know. My daughter slept great. It’s hard to believe she’s so grown up. It doesn’t seem that long ago that she was only sleeping a few hours here and there, then struggling through the night. Last night we put her down at 8.p.m. and didn’t hear a peep out of her for 12 hours. I slept gloriously.
So. Much. Better.
The baby monitor gently crackled to life with her quietly babbling to herself. But I was already up. I climbed the stairs and pushed the door open to her room. She jumped to her feet and saw me, and she smiled the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and bounced up and down in her crib. As I got closer, she shot her arms into the air so I could pick her up. I did, and she laid a sleepy head on my shoulder.
She was a joy at breakfast. She sat in her chair and gulped down her banana while I cooked up an omelet (I nailed it, by the way, perfectly cooked, 10/10). I put on some music and she playfully shimmied her shoulders to the beat. When the eggs were ready, first she blew on them to cool them down, just like I taught her. She then showed off her fork skills and wolfed down the entire plate.
The rest of the day went by in a blur. There was the quick run to the store, where she helped put things in the cart and waved at every single person who passed by. Then, a trip to the park where she finally went down the big scary slide by herself. She came out the bottom giggling and ran to me.
I didn’t want the day to end.
And after I kissed her good night and mommy rocked her to sleep, I was left with just one thought: I am doing pretty OK at this dad thing.
It’s hard to believe sometimes that we are the same person, living the same life. But here’s what I know: Tomorrow is a new day.
I don’t know whether it’ll be good or bad. I really don’t. (I hope it’s good!)
But you know what? At some point, you’re going to look at that spot on the floor where your daughter tripped and face-planted, and you’re going to laugh. When you think about it, it was kind of funny, right? (She was totally fine.)
And eventually you’re going to find an old piece of omelet wedged under the kitchen table, covered in dust after she chucked it over her shoulder, and you’re going to roll your eyes lovingly as you scoop it up and throw it away.
Take it from me: You’re doing the best you can. You’re going to have those days where you wish you could keep it together better, where you wish you could be the perfect parent.
But if you can just hang in there, better days are ahead. I promise.
Trust me, I just had one. And it was totally worth the wait.
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