One night last week I found myself weighed down with the swirling emotions of mind and soul. Worried I wasn’t being all that I so desperately and deeply want to be. Stressed and distracted by an upcoming court hearing after Andrea filed a motion to quibble over 2-4 days of the boys’ visitation schedule, though they are with her for 80 percent of the year. Remiss that the summer was drawing to a close. Wondering if I’d done all I could for my boys this summer. Wondering if I had done any good. Had I taught them? Had they learned? Had we laughed? Had we loved? Had we experienced the beauty and bounty of life?
I had sketched out some of my feelings. To clear my mind. To solidify my thinking. The therapy of fingers on computer keys, letters making words, and words lightening the soul.
And then come the sweet moments and tender mercies of life.
A normal evening. Three boys. Diverse needs. A previously requested baked potato, a bedtime snack, now ready, is placed on a plate and sprinkled with cheese. Another request from upstairs echoes and bounces and reverberates to me. I tell son #3 his baked potato is ready and set it on the table. I head upstairs to scratch son #2’s back until he falls asleep. We look at new sneakers for a new school year, talk about the day behind us, the new one before us, and I scratch his back.
As the deep steady breathing of sleep overtakes the uneven stroke of my hand on his back, I slip off to order shoes. Sons number 1 and 2 have put themselves in bed. I vocalize my love for each of them. I trail downstairs and turn the browser to Footlocker.
Moments later I hear little footsteps. Son #3 works his way down a few stairs until I am fully within his view. He leans over the railing and says, “dad, I read what you wrote and I think your best is more than enough…”
Tears swell within my eyes as the familiarity of the vernacular sinks in. I look next to my computer to see the remnants and remains of a now cold baked potato and realize son #3 must have somehow seen, while I had been scratching backs and looking at Lebrons, what I had written out in previous sitting.
Though still a draft, with a single comment from a child, it suddenly felt complete. Both imperfectly unfinished and perfectly complete. As if the unfinished complemented the finished to form something entirely new. I leave it here, suspended in that condition. An incomplete, imperfect draft made whole with a comment from the stairs. Previously in that seat I had been contemplating fatherhood, trying to find words for the emotions I felt and the things that were weighing on me. But in this moment, the small interactions that only parenthood provides, I experienced all the joy and peace that is fatherhood.
After our short exchange, #3 beckons me upstairs to bed. While he’s falling asleep I say aloud “I love you so much” to which his little voice replies, as he purposely inhales one last breath before drifting off to sleep, “I know.”
Reflections on Fatherhood
I often worry I’m not doing enough. To be sure, I am trying to do all I can. I am trying to do all within my power. In trying my best, I often feel my best isn’t enough. I worry my best isn’t sufficient. I worry all I’ve got isn’t enough for the three most amazing young men in this remarkable world. I love them more than anything and I worry they aren’t learning all they should or internalizing all they could. I worry they aren’t learning the art of hard work. I worry they don’t internalize the right lessons from discipline. I worry they’ll remember the bad times and forget the good ones. I worry they fail to hear how much I love them in all that I do for them and all that I try to provide. I worry they miss the “I love you” of back scratches and other trival measures. I worry they don’t see the plight of those around them. I worry they aren’t developing empathy