Everyday I am confronted with the choice to be a good parent or not. I feel the tension inside when I succumb to tiredness or grumpiness. I can find myself drifting off fantasizing the single life where choice is king and a sunny day means adventure time.
When I come home from work these days, its often after back to back meetings. I am distracted and exhausted yet in contrast my daughters are ready with the play button switched on. Often the chant will bellow the minute I walk in the door as though my daughter Jaz has never experienced the joy of play in her entire life, “Dad pleeeaassseee play with me pleeeaaasseee.” Stopped in the hallway with a doll forced in my face half dressed and in need of a friend, my daughter Jaz quickly gets me up to speed, “come on Dad lets go, you can be the Princess Fairy and I’ll be the Rainbow Fairy, I am going to have the wand and you can have the magic stones.”
A little overcome with the enthusiastic directive I tag along like a drowsy puppy not sure how to say anything but yes. Before I know it I am on the floor pretending to fight Jack Frost resisting the temptation to be silly knowing that Jaz’s tolerance is minimal to my Tom Foolery. As my doll makes friends with Dancing Fairy, I have a moment of frank reflection acknowledging how close I was to missing out on such a simple pleasure. One day very soon I will reminisce about the times we used to play dolls together. (cue song off our new CD – Mow Around the Daisies!)
Once I have run out of fairy narratives it is time to focus on my other daughter Sunshine who has special needs. That has a whole other complex layer because without interaction from my wife and I, Sunny is limited to how she can play. Most of the time Sunny gives instant gratification with her endearing smile that knocks me over even after 8 years. But playing with her is always done with a lump in my throat because the grief just sits there, under the skin, like it was yesterday that I heard the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Even though I am fully engaged, thoughts of ‘what if’ flash across my HUD as I wonder what it would be like if Sunny could hold a doll and I could hear her thoughts like my other daughter Jaz so freely offers…
The truth is I never feel like I do enough, especially with Sunny. No matter how much therapy we do with her or how many activities, it is never enough. Most special needs parents go to bed troubled wishing they had the energy to give more and find it hard to let themselves off the hook. The line for healthy self care to ensure longevity on the steep climb and the job of a fully engaged parent gets very blurry. Something that I am still figuring out. Still… I can’t let the confrontation distract me from being present.
I am guilty of making a million excuses and unfortunately getting away with it, if you say no enough your kid eventually stops asking. My biggest learn so far as a parent is saying yes when I really want to say nooooo. It is playing for that 30 mins before bedtime to make room for that magic conversation you could never orchestrate, the precious moment of comedy, the revealing story behind the drawing. How else are you going to get good material for the 21st party speech?
And to think…I could have missed out tonight if I said no.