Family Moments

Published on December 1st, 2016 | by Richard Black

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The Opposite of Being Self Aware

uf_drunkpinkpanther_113016I recently read or heard something about the benefits of “being mindful” and I really couldn’t think of anything more detrimental to my emotional wellbeing. Over the past forty years or so I’ve found that being remarkably unaware of the events around me to be a pretty handy coping strategy. I imagine that most parents and spouses feel the same.

As a stay at home father I endure my fair share of banality. I spend the bulk of my days doing laundry, preparing meals that no one wants to eat, doing more laundry and then harassing my six year old daughter to do ten minutes of homework over the course of three hours. It’s not an easy life but it’s one I’ve chosen. I used to have aspirations of becoming…well something but I couldn’t say. That’s how invested I am in being the opposite of being mindful.

My wife is an insurance broker which is an incredibly interesting field for people involved in insurance. For the rest of us it’s the mental equivalent of taking a Quaalude. Early on in our marriage I used to try to keep up with goings on in the industry to be able to have an intelligent conversation with Laura about her work. It lasted all of about six weeks. Now I just try to smile and nod and think about baseball or a nice foot rub as my wife drones on and on over dinner about medical benefits or the ACA.

Laura loves being present and it’s a character flaw that I’ve tried to overlook. She enjoys taking pictures to commemorate her “presentness” be it a family trip to the zoo or shopping for groceries or even gassing up the car. No event is too tedious to document when it comes to my wife. Laura loves the experience of being a parent. She revels in the role whereas I spend quite a lot of energy devoted to doing the exact opposite.

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Even this woman, who’s clearly made some odd life choices, can manage to put on a pair of shoes.

As a father I’ve found that being unpresent is integral to the survival of my daughter and perhaps my family in general. If I were “present” all the time I’d more than likely lose my shit on an hourly basis. There are only so many times I can ask my daughter, a bright and lovely six year old, to blow her nose, put on a coat or perform any one of a number of tasks before I start to yell.

Don’t believe me? Here’s how a typical morning begins at the Black household about five minutes before I take my daughter to school.

Can you put on your shoes sweetie?

Yes that is a pretty pony you’ve just drawn.

I don’t know what makes a pony different from a horse. Horses are just bigger.

Seriously just put on your shoes.

Would I like to watch you try to do a cartwheel for the eighteenth time? Of course I would but how about you show me when you come home from school.

Let’s really put on those shoes.

I don’t know what I’m cooking for dinner.

No I don’t think you’ll like it.

I’m not kidding you need to put on your shoes.

I’m sorry that Aubrey made you sad but you need to put on shoes so that I can take you to school.

I’m going to start yelling if you don’t put on your shoes.

Yes spiders are creepy now please, for the love of all that is holy, put on shoes.

I don’t care about the squirrel you saw outside. Put. On. Your. Shoes.

PUT ON YOUR SHOES.

But daddy…

DARCY PUT ON YOUR SHOES BEFORE I HAVE A STROKE AND TELL YOU THAT SANTA DIED IN A COKE DEAL GONE BAD!!!

My requests, whether they involve putting on shoes, a coat or eating a bowl of cereal may differ but the result is usually the same. More often than not I end up yelling, Darcy ends up sobbing and I drop her off at school with the expectation of hearing from social services.

Enjoy the moment.

Take pleasure in each and every second.

These are mantras for people whom are my intellectual and emotional betters. Then again they may also live in a state like Colorado or California where marijuana was been decriminalized.

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I love a good party. This looks like a good start. Not for a six year old. There’s too much tape.

Life, marriage, and particularly fatherhood are full of moments that should be suppressed if not outright ignored. When she was six months or so Darcy burped up recycled breast milk into my mouth as I held her over my head. A few years later she puked tomato risotto all over a dog, myself and the bulk of an entire store. Recently she’s become fascinated with Pokemon which, aside from Monster High or Mia and Me, are subjects that enthuse me about as much as a colonoscopy. These are memories I could do without.

I may have missed some important milestones along the way. To date I couldn’t give a coherent account of my daughter’s fifth birthday party or even what she wore for Christmas. To be honest I can’t even remember what she wouldn’t eat for dinner last night but that’s the cost of my unique approach and one I’m willing to pay.

It’s not a perfect system. There’s going to be some collateral damage be it memory loss through heavy drinking or some inevitable liver problems but I’ve accepted that. It’s just one of the many sacrifices I make as a stay at home parent.

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