Unfit Father

Published on August 25th, 2016 | by Richard Black


My Top Three Parenting Fails

UF_Fail_082416It may come as something of a surprise but I’m not a perfect parent. I was pretty shocked to discover the fact and I can’t imagine how you, my attractive and intelligent readers will react to this disclosure. I can only hope that you’ll find some solace in my confession and not throw yourself off a bridge.

In a day and age in which most parents post about the glories of being a mother or a father I tend to focus on the other part of parenting, the part about being vomited on or the time when my daughter jammed a wire ornament hook into a light switch.

It’s a hard gig whether you’re a stay at home parent or working a full time paying job and there are times when we, however we parent, aren’t at the top of our game. I’ve had three massive fails that come to mind as a stay at home father. In all likelihood there will be many more but, until that time, here they are:

The Flip
When she was little more than six months old there was a day in which Darcy was resting comfortably on an ottoman and I was paying bills. I should mention that I was paying actual bills, with a checkbook, because I’m that old and technology frightens me. My crushing neurosis however isn’t the crux of this story.

Every once in a while, a few seconds at most, I would look up to be certain my daughter wasn’t cramming a steak knife into her mouth or tonguing a light socket and then, quite suddenly she disappeared. To this day I have no idea how she managed the feat. Somehow, in the span of a split second, my lump of a daughter pivoted 180 degrees on her head and slammed face first onto the floor.


I imagine Darcy looked something like this as she catapulted over the ottoman.

It took me a few seconds to figure out what had happened at which point I pirouetted like the world’s heftiest ballerina around the furniture. On the other side was Darcy, back arched, fists clenched with a face turning a stunning shade of “Fuck You” purple.

Even more upsetting was the fact that Darcy had yet to make a single sound. The thought that I had just ruined our daughter flashed through my mind. “This, Richard is why we can’t have nice things,” I could hear my wife say shortly after suggesting a brief but inevitably permanent separation.

In desperation I scooped Darcy up (because that’s what a parent should do when there’s a possibility of a spinal cord injury or head trauma). When she didn’t scream I jostled her around some more, stroked her head and cooed in her ear in the hopes I could soothe her or, at the very least, prove that I loved her and wasn’t a horribly negligent father.

She still refused to utter a sound and just as I considered calling 911 I was rewarded with an ear splitting howl that didn’t stop for a good thirty minutes. To this day I have never so relieved to hear my daughter cry.

The Topple
Toddlers are crazy, or stupid or maybe some combination of both. By the time she was two Darcy was in full kamikaze mode. When she wasn’t tearing around the house on her chubby and wildly unsteady legs she was developing an unhealthy fascination with stairs in the same way adrenaline junkies bungee jump off bridges or marry a Kardashian.

Given my daughter’s preoccupation with danger I’d installed a gate at the top and bottom of the stairs; an incident that required a lot of cursing and, quite frankly, almost brought my wife and I to the brink of marriage counseling. For the most part Laura and I had the wherewithal to close the gates but on one particular morning someone, most likely me, dropped the ball. In my defense I was really tired. I was also really hungry and, in another lapse of judgement, decided to make a quick run at the kitchen downstairs.


A little visual of what my wife was doing to the toilet and the entire upstairs of our home.

Darcy was catching dust bunnies under the bed in her room, Laura was happily perched on the toilet answering emails, I was heating up a four day old burrito in the microwave and all was right with the world until, quite suddenly, it wasn’t.

Being downstairs I wasn’t privy to the entire event. Given the lack of usable air in the second floor of our home as part of my wife’s, how can I put this delicately, activities in the bathroom I imagine that Darcy was driven to the edge of the stairs in a desperate search for oxygen.

Laura’s pleas of “honey come back here and get away from the stairs” eventually rose in pitch to screams of “DAMNIT GET AWAY FROM THE STAIRS BEFORE YOU KILL YOURSELF”. I leapt up the first flight of stairs just in time to see my daughter land on her head and knocked, more or less, senseless by the wooden landing.

Though some miracle the only injury Darcy incurred was a massive black eye. The upside for all parties involved is that being only two, or having suffered some sort of minor brain trauma, Darcy had no memory of the incident. The downside was the visit to the pediatrician for my daughter’s two year physical a week or so later.

Fortunately my Darcy’s pediatrician is a remarkably kind and attractive and understanding person. Her staff however was a bit more…inquisitive. I answered seemingly innocuous queries about how my daughter managed to get “a really big shiner” or “how do I like being a stay at home father?” and all the while thought that it was so very lovely and nice that the nurses and techs were so interested in my life.

The Divot
Three weeks after “The Topple” I was blessed with another opportunity to explain my daughter’s injuries to medical professionals. I also had some time to reflect on why two year old kids are called “toddlers” instead of “sprinters” or “walkers” or even “kids who can remain upright without running into walls.”

Despite her best efforts and my expert tutelage (I promise it’s a word, go look it up) my daughter still hadn’t mastered the ability to walk. “Careen” would be a better word. Instead of stumbling along in an undignified but generally safer mode of transport Darcy had taken to hurling herself, headfirst at stationary objects like countertops, couches, tables, walls, her mother her father and just about anything that wasn’t bright enough to get out of the way.

Like any toddler Darcy had taken a few dives but nothing that required a visit to the ER at least not as far as you or my wife are concerned. She had however been coming down with blotchy red rashes on her legs which typically preceded a few hours of projectile vomiting and a low grade fever. I like being puked on as much as the next guy but, being a concerned parent, decided to schedule a trip to the pediatrician’s office the third or fourth time I found myself showered in used peas and carrots.

Upon giving Darcy a once over our pediatrician, the aforementioned remarkably patient, understanding and good looking woman, discovered a divot an eighth of an inch deep and about a half an inch long in my daughter’s forehead. When asked how the injury had occurred I had no ready response. Kids, more specifically mine, run into shit all the time and in my defense Darcy hadn’t had a haircut in a while. Her bangs were pretty long which did quite a lot to conceal the aftereffects from having run headfirst into the corner of…well something.


I mean come on. Could you ignore those come hither eyes? Or eye? Whatever.

I was subjected to another round of questions (Tell me about your mother? Where were you on the day JFK was shot? Have you ever molested a horse?) by four or five nurses, medical techs and a few men with billy clubs before being released. I rushed out of the office as quickly as possible in the hopes that I’d be able to avoid the inevitable conversation with a Child Services Representative who’d just repelled in from a helicopter. I cinched Darcy into her carseat like it was an 18th century corset and then proceeded to drive home at a safe and stately fifteen miles an hour on the highway and thought that maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look for a new pediatrician.

These are, bear in mind, only the traumas my daughter has incurred over the first few years of her life and not a comprehensive list. In the intervening years there have been many skinned knees and scraped palms and perhaps even a concussion or two. Last year there was even an incident with lead poisoning (don’t worry Darcy’s fine we’re all fine).

Of course I haven’t even begun to consider the emotional damage I’ve inadvertently visited upon my daughter which is the topic for another post at least and perhaps even a book. Until that time your thoughts and prayers are appreciated but not as much as your discretion and, perhaps even, an alibi.

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