It’s the time of year again where neckties, decorative socks, action movies, and coffee mugs start flying off the shelves. Just about every other commercial is for a hardware store or this year’s greatest trucks and steakhouses see an increase in visitors.
That’s right—it’s Father’s day.
Now, all of those things I just mentioned are the stereotypical Father’s Day gift ideas, and there’s nothing wrong with a steak and a tie, but it is hard for me to think about Father’s day without thinking about those little people that made this a holiday for me—my kids.
Leading up to Father’s Day, I was thinking about what this holiday really means to me. I thought back to when I was 6 and 8, the ages of my daughter and son, and there weren’t that many memories. I couldn’t help but be concerned about how much my kids will remember from this time in our lives. When I brought this up with my wife, she suggested that our earliest memories only stick around if we reinforce them. She has memories from when she was little, but mainly because her family has story-sharing traditions to constantly remind her of them.
That’s why I’ve decided I need a Father’s Day reboot.
Instead of nice lunches or custom mugs, this day will be about reflecting back on all of my favorite memories of and with my children that year, and sharing those stories with them. As they grow each year, I can share a memory every Father’s Day and remind them of how awesome they are.
Recently, being a dad has meant teaching my son how to catch a baseball and giving my daughter piggy back rides when her legs are tired (Unsurprisingly to other parents, they always seem to be tired.). It's meant attending talent shows and learning the words to the latest Disney musical so I could sing it at the top of my lungs while driving together in the car.
But the real dad moments—my favorite dad moments—tend to happen during the day-to-day events that we sometimes don’t think matter.
This year my fatherhood was defined by sitting at the foot of my child’s bed every night listening to them tell me about their day, multiple times, and showing the same amount of excitement with each retelling.
While they have a bedtime routine on paper, the ritual plays out very differently. It starts with the usual brushing of the teeth, the sudden onset amnesia where my children seem to forget what a toothbrush is and how to use it, the re-teaching of the tooth-brushing process, and then the reminders to drink some water and go to bathroom. This final request is always followed by “I don’t have to go” or “I went earlier”. As parents, of course, we know full well that if we enable this denial, the second the lights go out you’re guaranteed to hear a request for water and a bathroom trip.
Eventually, we get to the best part of the bedtime routine. My wife and I tag team the “good night” part of the process. We start in separate rooms and spend some one-on-one time with each of the kids. Admittedly, I’ve sometimes tried to rush this part, so I can get to the items on my to-do list I just can’t do when they’re awake. Lately, I’ve realized these moments cannot be taken for granted. This is when the world stops and it’s just you and them, nothing else should matter more. This is not where the bedtime routine stops though—that would be too easy.
This is where their two very unique personalities cause the routines to diverge.
Let’s start with my son. He is an introverted quiet soul who loves his sleep. His nighttime conversations include a quick reflection of the day, some Red Sox replays, a few superhero debates, and maybe some worries about the day to come. Once we walk out of the room, he is pretty much done for the night and is off to sleep and will do so well into the next day.
My daughter, however, is quite the opposite. She is our little extrovert and wants to spend every last minute with us. She needs to tell us everything she can think of, like this is her only chance to share what is on her mind because once she’s out those thoughts will surely be gone forever.
Unlike my son, she does not stay in bed when we leave the room. She will sneak into the living room to ask one more question, or make one more statement that she didn’t think of before. If there isn’t anything left to say she looks to the ceiling twisting her hands and stalls to think of something that will be so profound that it would lead to a long conversation. When her efforts fail, we take one more walk to her bedroom and get her settled in for the night.
At least until she secretly sneaks into our bed in the middle of the night, every night.
With our old mattress, when my son was in the throes of the sneaking-into-bed phase, it was very easy to know when he climbed into bed with my us. The bed would shift and we would feel each movement as he crawled closer and closer. We would stagger back to bed and tuck him in once again. Now, in our daughter’s sneaking-into-bed phase, we have a T&N mattress and we don’t know she’s there until we get elbowed or kicked in the face as she forces her way into whatever comfortable position allows her little body to crash–and take up a majority of the bed.
Early into this routine we would ask why she always climbed into our bed—she would answer that it’s because our mattress was more comfortable. When we had the opportunity to get her a T&N of her own, we thought we found the fix. And it was… for about two days until once again we were being elbowed and kicked. While her bed is just as comfortable as ours I have come to the conclusion that she just loves being sandwiched between her parents and this dad is okay with that.
Maybe next Father’s Day I’ll tell her all about how much I enjoy knowing we’re her safe space, though I can only hope she’s cooled it on the kicking by then.
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