Not all days are good daddy days. Being a stay-at-home dad challenges me in many ways and is, at times, as difficult as I thought it would be. But yesterday…yesterday was a good daddy day.
My routines for any given Monday – Friday is fairly predictable. Up for breakfast by 6am, get K dressed and ready for school by 7:30ish, put M down for 1st nap by 8:30, respond to crying M by 9 or 9:30, household chores or errands around town till 10:30, morning snack for M finished by 11 or 11:15, try to prevent M from falling asleep, or recently, put M in backpack and let sleep as I walk through the forest to pick up K from preschool by 12pm. Home by 12:30, both boys in for nap, I either try to nap or catch up on reading/internet. M wakes by 1:30, try to keep entertained and quiet until K wakes up around 2:30 or 3pm. Snack time again and then I try to prevent any serious damage being done to either the house or the boys until momma comes home around 4:30 or 5pm.
Well yesterday, this routine held fairly firm, but somehow it was different…special. M had a good nap in the morning, a full hour and following that, we had a lot fun doing my self-appointed household chores. Dishes, which I do two to three times a day, hand wash; I have never lived with a dishwasher and find washing dishes by hand quite cathartic. I prop M up in his highchair by the sink and we grooved to some classic Soul music. We learned all about RESPECT, going to the river, and one badass motherf*#ker named Shaft. I then took on our clutter closet and got is well organized, even with labels!! Perhaps it was the Soul playing, or the fact that M seems to really enjoy bobbing his head to the music as he crawls around the floor with a toy in his mouth, but the groove was there and I was feeling it. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take M and meet my wife for lunch. I typically make something, from PBJs to yesterday a nice greek salad. We get a half hour to enjoy lunch together before I pick up K.
K and M down for nap, and I decide to take one too, get a full hour in before M wakes, but he then cuddles up on my chest and falls asleep for another hour. And I am telling you, there are very few things I enjoy as much as having a sleeping baby on my chest, especially when I can prop myself up against a nice comfy couch and nap too. K & M wake at the same time, we watch an episode of Curious George and as the rain was absent this day, I marshal the boys and get them outside. K at first was resistant, but with the promise of going to watch diggers, he quickly relented.
Almhult is currently one large construction site, and K loves nothing more than going out and watching these big construction vehicles do their thing. Some days, we go into the forest to do some pinecone hunting, which is my favorite thing, but on this day K, M, and I enjoyed a very nice leisurely stroll up N. Espalanda and watched digger after digger, dump truck after dump truck, and front loader after front loader move up and down the street, hauling dirt and gravel and working or rebuilding the road. It was a beautiful Fall day, the leaves are turning a golden yellow, and as this was the first day without rain in two weeks, the radiant sunshine made everything glow brilliantly. On our walk back, I managed to convince K to walk through the woods, so we both got a bit of what we were looking for. Two hours after leaving, we make it back to our home. On the way home, K asked to go apple picking. We have some friends that have a couple of apple trees in their lawn who have graciously extended an open invitation for us to come and pick apples whenever we want. For two weeks I have been trying to get K to go, but he always refuses, so I have very excited. But, having to go home first to meet up with momma, I am sure he will choose to stay home with momma instead of apple picking.
We get home, momma arrives just after us, and I am working to convince momma and K that the whole family should go. To my surprise, K says, “No. Daddy and K go. Momma and M stay.” I am shocked. K is super attached to his momma, which I don’t blame him for as my wife is an amazing woman and phenomenal mother, I too try to hang out with her as much as I can. But K always chooses momma over daddy. Nothing personal, she has been the stay-at-home mother for most of his life and with the arrival of little brother M, K has been working through some jealousy issues. So, for him to yell back, “No. Daddy and K go. Momma and M stay” as he is already rushing down the stairs is a shock.
I embrace it, drop off M with momma and head down to meet up with my eldest son to go apple picking. We stroll over to the house and go about identifying the best (biggest) apples that we can pick. I get K up on my shoulders so that he can reach the apples high in the tree, we get rakes out to help pile up the apples that have already fallen, and we just have a great time working through the apples and selecting the best ones for an apple cobbler that I plan on making. This is Ks first time to pick apples and he really enjoys it and gets all excited about being lifted up and pulling down a big yellow-green apple from the trees in the setting sun.
After picking the select apples, K gets into his stroller for the walk through the town to our home where momma has some pizzas waiting for us. We get in our home, I help K with his jacket and shoes and he runs into his room to play with his toy diggers…and then it happened. Without any prompting, he calls out from his room, “I love you daddy.”
“I love you daddy.” For the second time today, I am floored, my heart is pounding and a foolish wide smile breaks out across my face. Now, while this is not the first time my son has told me he loves me, it might be the first unsolicited “I love you” from him to me. Often, my wife and I will tell him that we love him and he will respond in kind; but that is prompted. Recently, K has gotten it into his head that he can only love one thing/person at a time. So, when you ask K who does he love, he always answers “momma.” If you directly ask if he loves daddy, he will say, “No, I love momma.” Again, nothing to take personally, he is of that age…but I still have to say that it hurts a bit, even when I know not to take it personally. So, for him to call out, unbidden, “I love you daddy” it was a shock and a moment to cherish.
My wife has been telling me for the past month that she has noticed a change in my relationship with K. She says we are getting closer, that he is responding to me much better than he has in the recent terrible two/ horrible three past. And she is right. By taking this time to be a stay-at-home dad, I am reconnecting with my eldest son, as well as building a solid relationship with my youngest. When K was a baby, I would see him for about 90 minutes in the morning before I went off to work and by the time I would get home I would have maybe two hours with him before it was bedtime. While I cherished those two hours and made it a priority to leave work on time everyday; yesterday I was able to spend three full hours with my son, outside watching diggers, walking through the forest, and picking apples, before going home and then enjoying dinner and post dinner play time. And I can do this everyday…with the reward of hearing my fiercely independent and momma-loving son call out from his room, “I love you daddy.”