On Being Mom and Dad

Fathers, who haven’t been divorced, are [insert unfair, generalizing, controversial, upsetting statement].
Read on.

Weekdays: Get up, go to work, come home, go to bed.
Weekends: Work on something, hang out with friends.

Oh! Don’t forget to play with your kids.  But when does it happen?  After work? Before dinner, after dinner? Before bed?

Before getting divorced, as the “bread winner”, (I still have yet to “win” any bread…just saying) I was unable to play with my kids from 8-5, because of work, 7-6, to include getting ready and drive time.  I would play with them while dinner was being made, unless I was making it,  but at their age, it was more often damage control rather than stimulating play time.  Put in the swing, take out of the swing, put in the crib, take out of crib, find pacifier, insert pacifier, change didy widy, bounce on knee, rinse, repeat.   My fathering skills were, classic, “traditional Dad”;  Don’t show love, emotion,  swoop in when there is upset,  over correct bad behavior, when it’s convenient (proximity),  lay down the law, or hold the baby for a second.  On weekends, I was usually busy doing something else, and interaction with my kids was generally only when I had to hold them.

Sound familiar?

Then, it was time to fix life.  Divorce felt inevitable at a certain point.  Life in, life out, fight after fight.  And then, one pivotal conversation flushed our lives into the ever-spinning toilet of divorce.  An apt metaphor on many levels if you really think about it.  Ever felt great after using the toilet?  Yeah, then you get the reference.  Turmoil, pain, fighting, chaos.   Making the decision is easy.  It’s dealing with the fact that your kids won’t always be there, anymore, that is gut wrenching.  That’s the true decision.  Do I put up with this abuse spewing cuntcano psychopath for another 16 years and still see my kids everyday, or do I end the madness and settle for less time with my kids.  I can’t find a good way to illustrate the weeks of confusion and difficulty involved with making the final call.  In the end, obviously, I made the decision, got the bumper sticker;  ”This car climbed Mt. Cuntcano”.   Moving on.

During the divorce you just, stare.  Constantly.  Everywhere you go.  Nothing smells, or tastes. It just is.  Except for a few short hours each week.

Dad time.

For a few hours, two days during the week, and every other weekend, I have the pleasure of hanging out with two, bubbly, happy, human beings, painting life back into color.  ”Holding the baby” is now an experience; warm, soft, squirmy.  You notice and feel eye contact, little microscopic facial hair, specks in the iris of the left eye.  You remember the grip strength of four fingers and a thumb wrapped around a finger.  Stuffed animal forts are something you build with them, not something you remark “that looks nice dear”.  Every second is slurped up and savored.  I was there, both physically, and emotionally.  I was it, the “one”.

I was Mom and Dad.

I was the whole shooting match, their entire world.  For “half” of the time.  This changed me instantly, from a spectator, to the coach.  This “game” depended on me to make the right calls, develop great plays, run solid practices.  I felt this very powerful shift away from being “proverbial Dad” to who I am now.

It is possible that some of these things I was, back then, are due to the shell of a person I had become, due to the relationship I was in.  I could have been “father autopilot” based on the relationship, and if given the chance to have children for the first time in a full, healthy relationship, things would have been different.   How many people do you know are in “perfect relationships”?  Probably a handful.  I’ll give humans that much credit, there are some really great relationships out there.  Especially ones that nurture, life in kids.  But for all the bad ones that are still together, (and always might be, for better or for worse), please at least put your energy into thinking about how awesome you are parenting, or could be.

It’s been 6 years and I still guard my time with my kids.  I still jockey for more time with them, around every holiday and vacation.  I still don’t schedule anything on the days I have them.  And I always will.

Play Tag. Always.


I don’t feel like it.
I’m tired
Not right now
Maybe Later
My [body part] hurts
I can’t right now

When your child asks, can you [insert activity] with me?  Is your response, one of the above?  I know I’ve said those things in the past, a hundred times.   Now, obviously, children could ask this question a hundred times per day, and it’s not realistic, or healthy to play with them EVERY time they ask, but as children age, especially when they are old enough to entertain themselves, I think it’s easy for parents to fall out of habit of playing with their kids.

I noticed this behavior, in my parenting, over the past year.  I was saying no, often.   How long had this been happening?   When the kids were little, ages 1 to 2,  I played with them often.  Through the divorce, ages 2-4, I played with them a ton, way more than if I hadn’t been divorced, actually.  Then after 6, I got busy building a downstairs, and then a garage, and they became older and enjoyed just playing by themselves, and it just stayed that way.

Two weeks ago, we took them to a playground, to play.  I threw the ball for the dog a few times, and then went over to take pictures of them playing on the playground.  I’m realizing now, what a perfect shield, a camera is, against playing with my kids.  I can be there, without being there, so easily with a camera.  But, that’s a whole other article, the relationship between parent, camera, and kids. “Nope, can’t play, taking pictures” is the sign that invisibly hangs around my neck, sandwich board style.

After feeling bored with taking pictures, I sat on the bench and watched them play, which truly is a wonderful activity, all on it’s own.  Then they asked.

Can you play with us?

I could feel my rolodex of lame excuses fly up in front of me.  My conscience fought for a voice, “you shouldplay with them”, the rolodex spun, voice from partner, “come on it’ll be fun”, rolodex slowed down and landed on…


Hours later, we all had played the most amazing game of tag, in, on and around the play structure.  Making up rules, like, you can’t touch the ground for more than 5 seconds, and no tag backs for 15 seconds.  Driving away from the playground, I thought, “what would life be like, without that game of tag”.

Last friday, we were sitting at the “drop off”, a name affectionately given to the intersection point between their two worlds, the “hand off” between Mom and Dad.   A gift, really, the drive to and the waiting at.  Built in, quality time, though not always, that we spend before school at least 2 days each week.  We generally play a game on the drive, counting colored cars, or types of cars, or eye spy.  And then talk, or listen to music, or tickle and annoy one another.  Last Friday, exercising my new found power over my lame excuses, I said “yes” and we played Tag.  Because one of our rules was staying “near” the car, we ended up just running around and around the car, tagging each other.  We would grab someones arm just before being tagged which would pass it along to the grabbed person.  We would accidentally run into the mirrors, or slip near the trunk, and get tagged.

We laughed, out loud, running, for 15 minutes.  One of my favorite drop offs ever.

In life, if you’re asked to play, say yes.