Today was my first day being a single dad on a school-day morning.
This meant dressing my five-year-old son a little bit nicer.
This meant worrying about whether he can effectively manage the hook fastener and zipper on his shorts to avoid stressful trips to the bathroom.
This meant wondering whether kindergarten teachers assign homework.
This meant revisiting when boys and girls started liking one another.
I want my son to do well in school. Both academically and socially. I worry about how much I’m not doing to foster his development on both fronts.
It all feels a little too big and too scary sometimes. With no one to talk to about this stuff. With no one there to read books to him while I fold laundry. With no one to clean up the kitchen while I give him a bath.
There aren’t enough hours in a day.
But that can’t be an excuse for lazy parenting.
School at Home
I finally feel like I’ve turned a page. Like I have finally arrived at a place where I can begin the process of growing accustomed to my new reality.
Half the time, I’m a dad. Half the time, I’m a middle-aged bachelor.
And I need to figure out how to achieve balance with all of that.
I’ve only cleaned my house twice in five months. Gross, right? I know.
I keep the kitchen tidy. I wipe the dining room table each night. I never let the bathrooms get disgusting. And I certainly spot clean if something is amiss.
But still. Twice in five months? It’s pathetic.
My garage door opener bunked out on me about three months ago. All I have to do is get the model number off the unit and call a local repair shop. Probably won’t cost $50 to fix. I have issues.
I still haven’t established a financial budget for my life.
That’s right. I bought a brand new vehicle without budgeting for it.
I. Make. Bad. Decisions.
I’m still not working out. It might be a figment of my imagination, but I think I look even worse when I get out of the shower than I did two months ago when I was feeling sensitive about it.
Do you know how hard it is to wake up an hour earlier, do a little cardio and lift a few weights?
It’s not. I have all the equipment at home in my basement. I used to be down there every morning.
NOT. THAT. HARD.
Yet, something stops me. Mental exhaustion? Depression?
I think it is simply a lack of discipline. For example, I’m at work almost every day. I do what’s needed. I don’t forget to pick up my son, or pay the day care lady, or to post as often as possible here.
I don’t want to be undisciplined. It’s no way to live. Because when you lack discipline, your responsibilities start falling through the cracks. And the consequences begin to pile up. And the stress emanating from all of those dropped balls is not something any of us need.
Moreover, there is a direct correlation between my reduced waistline and toned arms, and my self-confidence.
If I don’t get better at anything else, I MUST resume regular exercise. I must.
Because I’m a viable male companion when I look how I’m supposed to look. And the trickle-down effects of that could be tremendous.
Heightened mental aptitude.
These are very good things. Things I crave.
What am I waiting for?
I honestly don’t know.
To Be a Man
What does it take?
To be a man?
To be a father?
More than what I’m doing.
I can keep the wool pulled over my son’s eyes for a little bit. He’s five. He’s easy to con.
But it won’t be long before his powers of observation are keener than my ability to justify inaction.
I am that boy’s best chance to follow whatever path leads to success with life management, with health, with friends, with girls, with extracurriculars, and whatever else.
It has never been more important for me to walk the walk than it is now.
One of the things I miss most about marriage is that I genuinely like doing things for others.
I used to enjoy keeping the kitchen spotless or dusting surfaces because it made my ex happy. It lightened her load. I was serving a purpose. I was serving her.
I used to enjoy cooking meals. Large, made-from-scratch meals. I’ve made two meals I’m proud of since she left. Two. Both for guests.
The rest of the time, I’m whipping together quick things like breakfast or tacos or salads or mac and cheese, or something worse.
He deserves better. He deserves more. He deserves a father who never takes the lazy way out.
A father who does things the “right” way—the difficult way—in virtually all situations.
To see me walk the walk. All the time. Every day. In all I do.
What does it take for someone who knows what should be done to actually take action and do it?
The lazy and ignorant person who doesn’t know better, or the person who’s well-informed, has a blueprint for success, and makes shitty choices anyway?
Me, right? I’m worse.
I think so.
I want to help people. I want to help people very much. But I can’t help anyone if I can’t figure out how to help myself.
People keep telling me I’ll be fine. That I’ve been through a hard time and should cut myself some slack.
When it gets hard is when character is formed. Perseverance isn’t just about surviving. It’s about thriving despite the odds.
My son couldn’t work that little hook fastener on his shorts this morning. Instead of being cool and just finding him some different shorts, I chose to sort of let him sink or swim when he goes to the bathroom today.
He had trouble working the mechanism. I got frustrated with him because he quit when it got hard. Because he didn’t keep trying. Because he didn’t overcome.
What a hypocrite, I am.
But I feel bad about it. Which is why I know there’s hope.
I won’t quit trying to be better today than I was yesterday.
And I hope that’s an idea everyone can get behind. Just trying to be marginally better today at anything than you were yesterday. Constant improvement. In all areas of life.
Because children need us. Not just ours. All that look to us for guidance.
Not to spout off a bunch of hot air at them.
But to lead by example. To blaze the trail. To be someone they can emulate and be proud of.
Could anything be more important than that?