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Most days the hours between 5 and 7:30 p.m. are a warzone in my house: a flurry of homework, dinner, play, clean-up, arguing, baths, teeth-brushing, and more arguing. Several rounds of sibling spats with at least two full-blown meltdowns serve as toppings to this mayhem sundae.
More often than not, I find myself counting the minutes until 7:30 when both girls are asleep in their respective beds. That is the moment I find myself daydreaming about watching TV, eating a quiet meal with my wife, or simply staring at a wall in peace until I roll myself into my own bedroom for sleep.
It’s not that I don’t love to spend time with my kids. It’s quite the opposite, actually. However, the demands of the day, coupled with a live viewing of Itchy and Scratchy trying to decapitate each other on a daily basis, takes its toll on a parent.
Life wouldn’t have anything to laugh at were it not for the many paradoxes in our lives. My 4-year old came to me a few days back and asked, “When can we do another Daddy-Daughter Day?” It occurred to me immediately that those glamorously fun days that I would schedule with her and me out in the city together had become sparse since the birth of her little sister 18 months ago. While I spend quite a bit of time with my girls doing all sorts of activities that they enjoy (playing in the park, coloring, swimming, dining out, seeing a play), it never occurred to me that the draw of spending time together for them might actually not be the event but me. My daughter had asked for a day with me. Not a game or activity. Just me.
That was an eye-opening epiphany for me.
I thought back to the last few days, but rather than thinking about the quiet moments I often long for, I searched my memories for the loud moments.
I thought of walking my 4-year-old home from school, marveling at how articulate and grown-up she sounded as she told me about her day. (There is a little boy crush happening right now that is eating me alive.)
I remembered both girls playing king of the mountain on my back, my 18-month-old hysterical with laughter.
I recalled catching my youngest one in an uncharacteristically quiet moment alone, perfectly nesting a set of boxes that we have for just that purpose. Upon getting “caught,” she simply looked at me a bit sheepishly as if I spotted her doing something bad, and said, “Dada!”
It occurred to me that I have been so focused on getting through my day that I may not be fully appreciating these truly precious moments that fill it. The big ones and the little ones. Memorable ones and ones that can be easily forgotten. I have to constantly remind myself to stop and smell the diapers. I’ll miss them when they’re gone.