Child Rearin'

Published on July 13th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Love Hurts; How Dating Prepared Me For Fatherhood

UF_Nazareth_071315Love hurts. Teens know it. People into BDSM know it and now that I’m raising a daughter I’m reminded of that fact every single day.

Love hurts.

Today, as I was fixing Darcy’s lunch, I had an epiphany. To be honest the epiphany didn’t occur until later but bear with me. I was putting together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my daughter as she told me at length about how much more she loved her mother than yours truly. This sort of thing happens pretty regularly. Over the past few years Darcy’s been pretty insistent about telling me that I’m second on the totem pole when it comes to her love and I get it. I really do.

I’m just some guy who tends to my daughter’s needs. My wife Laura is the rock star in the family and I’m just some roadie who does the heavy lifting and lets the talent puke on him.

I usually get the lecture from Darcy, my daughter, while I’m doing some thankless task like wiping her butt or spreading organic peanut butter that has the consistency of dry concrete over a woefully inadequate piece of bread. It happens about two or three times a week and it really doesn’t bother me.

As a stay at home dad I’m something less than a novelty as far as Darcy ‘s concerned. I get that but this time during her diatribe I had this strange sense that I’d had a conversation like this with someone else. Not déjà vu exactly, but something similar. I shrugged it off at first and attributed it to sleep deprivation, a lack of vitamin D or some other vital deficiency that most parents suffer from and began cutting my daughter’s sandwich into quarters.

“Momma always cuts the bread in triangles,” Darcy screamed and proceed to have a fit of epic proportions, “triangles! TRIANGLES!!!! Why can’t you just do it the way momma does? Why? WHHHYYYY???!!!!”

A casual observer would have thought that I’d chopped off one of her fingers instead of cutting a sandwich incorrectly and, in the midst of her screams, the strange sensation that I’d been through this before occurred. Of course I’d been through this exact scenario before. I often forget that my daughter likes to have her sandwich presented to her in triangle form. Despite all evidence to the contrary I’m really a pretty bright guy. I remember the date my wife and I first met, our anniversary, I even remember the odd fact (did you know that syphilis didn’t exist in Europe until Columbus came back from Hispanola and his randy crew began spreading it across the continent!). What I inevitably fail at on a regular basis is remembering to cut Darcy’s sandwich into triangles instead of quarters.

I’m not perfect and I’ve only rarely claimed to be so a few times if memory serves which, sadly, it often doesn’t. Still I seemed to recall a certain something deep down that reminded me of the event.

The thought or the memory escaped me like a dream one can’t recall upon waking to a screaming five year old, perhaps because my five year old was actually screaming. Instead of making another sandwich I distracted my daughter by renting a Barbie movie through OnDemand. Don’t judge. When given the choice between making another sandwich or throwing four bucks at the problem I’ll throw four bucks at the problem and not to mention the fact that once I start making another sandwich the Russians win.

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Every time I fix another sandwich we risk have these bastards marching across our front lawn.

Thirty minutes or so into the movie when Barbie was in the midst of turning into a mermaid or trying not to turn into a mermaid, I couldn’t really tell, I was trying to take a nap and Darcy had finally calmed down. She’d managed to snarf down her sandwich and a few pounds of blueberries I looked forward to seeing later and all was well and right with the world.

And then, as Darcy’s head was on my stomach she noticed the…rotundity of my midsection.

“Daddy I love you but you’re fat,” she said matter-of-factly, “you could be smaller if you wanted too,” and that’s when it hit me. Every woman I’d every dated had been preparing me for the most important codependent relationship I would ever have: the one I have with my daughter.

I immediately recalled a relationship in my past in which the woman I was dating suggested I lose a few pounds and then another who constantly compared me to her last boyfriend. Fortunately the former developed an eating disorder which left me conveniently off the hook and the latter caught a VD when she went back to her “best boyfriend ever.” During the time however it was no picnic.

Love is hard regardless of age. It’s difficult when you’re an idiot kid in his early teens, a young man in his twenties or a father in his early forties. The fact is that both children and young women can be cruel. Young men are generally idiots but that’s another topic for another time.

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I’m not saying I sent this to anyone I’ve ever dated…but I’m not saying I didn’t either.

As startling as it may sound I’ve never been good at relationships at least until I met my wife (I REALLY LOVE YOU BABY!!!). I was too needy, too aloof, too fucking weird, too…much. Apparently, somehow, over the past few decades I’ve matured and am moderately less needy, weird, or aloof.

Do I take it personally when Darcy tells me that she loves her mother more than me? Of course I do. Darcy however is five and I’m supposed to be the adult. It may be hurtful to hear a numbered list compiled by a small child that details one’s faults but I try to remember that my daughter understands the concept love about as well as I understand quantum mechanics. We get the gist of the idea but have a long way to go when it comes to the nuances of each subject.

Now excuse me while I go for a quick jog. I know it’s 100 degrees outside with a heat index of 110 but if I can sweat off those last few pounds I think I’ll be able to get my daughter to forgive me the next time I cut her sandwich into squares. At the very least she might not think I’m all that fat.

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