Being a single parent with primary custody isn't easy. And when I say "isn't easy," I mean, "bone-crushingly hard." There isn't a moment I'm not either taking care of the kids, spending time with them, thinking of them, or missing them. Everyday, I "sacrifice" some aspect of my sanity, time or opportunity for them.
Still, the rewards are...I can't even think of an adequate word. Endless? Incomparable? Immeasurable? Yes, all of those and more.
Parenthood is life-defining. Of all the roles I fill on an almost daily basis, my day job,being a son myself, friend, writer, photographer, neighbor...whatever, being a father comes first, second and third.
Of course, all of that is in the abstract. Reality is having to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for three of us almost every day, while maintaining a house that's at least neat and clean enough to avoid being featured on a future episode of "Hoarders," dealing with saved-to-the-last-minute homework, endless visits to the pediatrician, so much laundry that I sometimes imagine my neighbors are sneaking theirs in, too, and two pre-adolescents who, while being, overall, "good" boys, nonetheless have the temerity to act like, well, two pre-adolescent boys.
Have I mentioned yet how friggin' tired I am?
Which brings us back to those abstract "rewards." The other day, I sent out a Tweet because I wanted to memorialize the overwhelming love I feel some nights as I put the kids to sleep. (Other nights I'm so exhausted myself, I wouldn't feel the impact of a Mack truck, not to mention sentimentality.) I wanted to put it into words, because while the annoyances and dependencies are daily, the rewards sometimes have to be sought out and remembered. They don't catch our attention the way the negative things do.
The picture below illustrates the opposite. One morning this week, I thought my little one (David, now seven) looked so cute sleeping I had to grab my camera for a quick snapshot. Unfortunately, as seen below, the sound of of the shutter woke him, and he opened his eyes with a suspicious "who goes there?" glare.
Seeing it was me, he pulled up the covers, scooted down into them, and grinned so broadly it transformed the countours of his face.
Here's what I imagine: The unfamilair sound awakened him with a start, eliciting a cautious glance to see what was happening. Then, seeing it was me, he knew it was safe to snuggle back in. His sleeply little self settled in with the smile of a boy who knows his father not only loves him, but is there for him, in this case, literally watching over him. His expression is one of pure contentment: a warm bed, time to dawdle, and a dad as dependable and present as his bedside lamp.
Before he came to me through foster care, David's first year-and-a-half were no picnic. He was the most distrustful, frightened little thing you could imagine. I won't go into details, but he had every reason to think adults were those Big Things that hurt and/or abandoned you.
I don't think he feels that way anymore.
LIke I said, the rewards are fleeting. Few are captured in memory, let alone in pictures. But here's one I'll always cherish. I think you can see why.
(click to embiggen)