Daddy, Owen, and Ella Day

Ella and Owen, December, 2015

Since the school year started (back in September), I’ve spent each Friday–from 6:30 AM to 6 PM–with the kids: “Daddy, Owen, and Ella Day,” as Ella calls it. I understand plenty of parents–heroic mothers, mostly–spend every weekday alone with the kids. What for me is a weekly “event” is for many stay-at-home parents (heroic mothers, mostly) just another day with the kids.

I also understand that Daddy, Owen, and Ella Day is a breeze compared to Mommy, Owen, and Ella Day. Together with the kids, I take a free agent approach: Let’s just all hang together in close proximity: Ella imagining with her Magic Clip dolls; Owen swiftly crawling, stuffing things in his mouth; Daddy cooking.

With Mommy, though, a free agent approach is impossible. Owen cannot be around Karen without NEEDING to be held. He is, after eleven months, still a part of her anatomy: nursing, cuddling, sleeping on and with her. Seeing this, Ella–a week shy of four–demands nothing short of Karen’s total attentiveness. “Mommy, play with me.” Ella has been known to say this hundreds of times per day. Even when Karen is playing, Ella, noting the slightest lapse, repeats, “Mommy, play with me.”

So I’m nothing special. I get that. My anger at the end of the day when Karen is, say, ten minutes late. My tales of poop and sorrow. The hour I spend in our parked, idling car, the kids sleeping in peace. Nothing special.

It’s just unfathomable how hard it can be. Monday to Thursday,working and writing, I seem to forget what Friday has in store for me. Then the day arrives, Owen waking early, seeing me and not Mommy, fighting the disappointment, crying, desirous of everything: food, love, hugs, attention. Then Ella, up at seven, not at all fighting disappointment: “I don’t want it to be Daddy, Owen, and Ella Day!”

By nine, when we leave to go the Y, I feel the rest of the day collapsing upon me. But somehow, we survive. There’s laughter. Owen, the bruiser, smashing his head into something seemingly dangerous, yet giggling. There’s reconciliation. Ella eating Daddy’s cooking, saying, I swear, “I wish we could go back and do everything over, and I’d never cry, and never get angry, and we could have this great sandwich over and over.”

There’s love, too, of course, the love I’m taking my time to learn, the selfless love one is urged to embody. There’s the selfish love I much prefer, too, the love I’ll never give up, my love for Ella and Owen bound in my love for myself, for who they make me: “Daddy,” as I say, hundreds of times per day. So nothing special. In the context of my life, though–6 months out from forty–an identity-altering occasion.

Originally posted on Facebook.