Unfit Father

Published on February 5th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Carrying My Daughter to Bed and Why I Love Being a Stay at Home Father

UF_newborn_sleeping_020515Last night I carried my daughter to bed. I hope I’ll have a few more years before this cherished ritual of mine is over and, with a little luck, I’ll have more than just a few. I don’t do anything elaborate, I really just gather Darcy up from our bed and place her in her own but the moment means the world to me.

No matter what has occurred during the day, the regular battle of wills that transpires when Darcy won’t eat her peas or freaks out because the seams of her socks are uncomfortable, the tender act of putting Darcy to bed reminds me, whether correctly or not, that I’m a pretty decent father.

It might sound strange that as a stay at home dad one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences I share with my daughter is the time I carry her to bed. After all I’m with her every day and over the past four years I’ve witnessed many other, perhaps, more momentous events: her first garbled words, her first steps but tucking my daughter in every night is still, hands down, my favorite event of the day.

Holding Darcy in my arms and laying her ever-so-gently in her bed reminds me of the very little girl she used to be four and a half years ago and forces me to imagine the young woman she will become and my part to play in her growth. It reminds me that these moments are fleeting, that there will be a time in the not-to-distant future where I will carry her to bed for the last time. It reminds me that my daughter’s growth is bittersweet. More than anything this one nightly act reminds me of the times my father carried me to bed and that he almost certainly had the same thoughts and felt the same emotions as I do now.

I often joke about my life as a stay at home dad and the difficulties thereof. I complain. I bitch. I’m an ass with a skewed sense of humor. In some part however, this is an act, a coping mechanism I use to deal with the occasional unpleasantness and frustrations one inevitably faces when raising a child. I would not, however, trade the experience of being with Darcy day in and day out for anything, anywhere, at anytime. Watching her grow and playing an integral part in her life since she has been an infant has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had the pleasure of taking part.

I tend to belittle my role in the family. I grew up in small town Indiana where a man who didn’t work a traditional job was considered to be odd at best and a subject of ridicule at worst. Before Laura had even conceived we knew we that one of us would stay at home. As Laura had always made the larger salary and I knew that the person who would do so would, most likely, be me.  I’d like to say that as I’ve aged I’ve made my peace with my place in our family but it isn’t true. My role as a stay at home father is one I revel in every day and, so far, one in which I happen to to be quite good.

When I give the matter some thought I, and really any stay at home parent worth his or her salt, contributes quite a lot to the well being and support of their families. I take care of the mundane details necessary for everyday life. I shop for groceries, I cook, I vacuum the floors, I mop, and even occasionally dust. I wash the laundry and drive my daughter to school and gymnastics. I pay the bills (even if I don’t make the money). In short I make our life work. I’ve even found some modicum of pleasure in these ordinary every day routines and not just because they are integral to my families well being. Over the past four years I’ve discovered that I really enjoy cooking. I make a killer chili (veggie or with beef), can smoke a pork shoulder and whip up a mustard vinaigrette, a decent stir fry, jambalaya, or even a tomato rissotto when necessary.

My culinary progress aside however the time I spend with my daughter is immeasurably more rewarding. I help her write her name. I revel in her stories where she’s a dragon who doesn’t breathe fire (only ice), I play with the Calico Critters I loathe because my short stumpy sausage-like fingers are incapable of grabbing a box of milk the size of a zygote. I care for my daughter when she is ill and when she is well. I’ve taught Darcy about butterfly kisses, how to (mostly) blow her nose and the names of the flowers that bloom in our yard in Spring.

Before bed I listen to my daughter tell me the dreams she hopes to dream (they usually involve a unicorn named “Jewel Rose” who is galloping by her mother on a rainbow). I do all of these things because I want to make the most of the this short window of time I have with my daughter and I am not the main presence in her life.

I love my job and it is a job. I even love most, if not all, of what it entails but carrying my daughter to bed is the most tender moment I share with Darcy because it connects me with my father and reminds me of what it felt to be loved as a child. I remember my father taking me in his arms from the backseat of the car at night after a visit with his parents or when I’d fallen asleep on the couch. I remember the rhythm of his steps as he carried me up a flight of stairs and placed me in bed. I remember the kind tenor of his voice as he whispered “Goodnight” before kissing me on the forehead and tucking me in. I remember feigning sleep at the age of six or seven, knowing that there would soon be a day in which I wouldn’t feel my father’s arms around me as he carried me to bed.

Many years from now I hope my daughter will have the same sorts of thoughts when she’s my age. I hope she will remember her old man fondly and how he carried her to bed when she puts her son or daughter down for the night. I hope that as my grandchildren drift off to sleep they remember the loving and safe embrace of my daughter and imagine a day in which they will do the same for their children.

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