Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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A Few Sacrifices I’ve Made As A Father

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Birthdays: As a single man my birthday used to last a week or more. Sometimes the whole month of August. It was all self-indulgent and entitled. I’d take a trip to Southern Utah, rent a cabin, and go mountain biking. Or maybe I’d go see a concert out of state. All of it was charged to my credit card. Now, unless it falls on a weekend, I work on my birthday, because I work in education and my birthday is August 23rd, almost always the first day of school. Then I come home to a simple cake, a simple card, the sweetest jumping hugs from my sweet kids in cheap party hats, and a tender kiss from my wife who has made my favorite orange chicken for dinner. My birthdays are less exciting now, but somehow I find them more rewarding.

Movies: There is a hierarchy of movies in my house. Mostly I watch kids movies (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and the plot-less crap Sony puts out) and kid TV shows (boring-ass Pokémon, the strangely educational and drug influenced Yo Gabba Gabba!, and the clever but repetitively plotted Phineas and Ferb). If Mel and I watch a show together, it’s going to be a romantic comedy or something with a postmodern structure like Parks and Recreation. This means that I get one or two bloody action, science fiction, or psychological thrillers a year.

Buying Random Crap: Before marriage I used to race mountain bikes. And I’d buy a new mountain Bike ever year. I’m not the kind of person to put a bike on credit, so I’d save up a couple thousand dollars every summer and then buy something off-season (in November). But now every time I save up for a bike, something happens along the way. For example: when Norah was born she spent almost two weeks in the NICU. Her lungs were under developed. Everything I saved was spent on medical bills. And as I wrote a check to the hospital, I recall thinking, This is fatherhood. I haven’t bought a new mountain bike in over ten years.

Time With My Wife: I love spending time with my wife. However, after having kids our free time and together has been compressed to between the hours of 8:30 PM (we put our kids down at 8PM, but they keep calling for silly crap and fight going to sleep for at least 30 min) and 10 PM. Mel and I usually snuggle on the sofa, attempt to cram in meaningful conversation, while watching Netflix, and updating our social network.

Sleep: After six years of getting up in the night with my kids, they have finally started to sleep through the night. But now, I wake up two or three times a night, thinking that I’ve heard a cry or felt a soft small hand touch my face. I crawl out of bed, walk down the hall, and watch them sleep for a moment. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever sleep through the night again.

"Dad! Can you see my fingers?"

Alone Time: I am never alone anymore. This includes using the restroom. For example: When I was a stay at home dad last summer, Tristan and Norah would come storming into the restroom to ask me a question, to have an argument settled, or to simply stare at what I was doing, confused and amused, as if my business was obviously their business. They pointed, asked questions, made assumptions, but mostly they just laughed. I started locking the door, and that worked for a few days. Although they were fond of sticking their fingers under the door and asking if I could see them. But eventually the kids got wise and started anticipating my restroom visits. I’d go to shut the bathroom door, and suddenly a small hand or foot would block it. I’d yell at them to leave. I’d threaten to ground them. But it didn’t matter. I had to go and they wanted in. 

 You would also enjoy, What I Should’ve Known Before Marriage.

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.