I've been a single dad now for about a year. And one thing I've come to recognize is that parenting three young kids is quite possibly the most insane/difficult/rewarding experience there is to be had. I love my kids: Violet, 6, Henry, almost 4, and Charlie, who is coming up on his first birthday. But it's tough sometimes, same as it is for any parent, single or not.
That said, sometimes the best way for me to ease the chaos of my life is to take a step back and snap a couple pictures. It seems a bit cliche but even the simple art of snapping shots with your iPhone (which is all I do) can really help to recall just how cool and vital the tiniest moments of parenting really are.
Because that's what defines us as moms and dads. The small stuff, the little things, the fleeting moments that no one else in the world really catches. Think about it. As you're sitting by the pool wondering if your toddler is pissing in the water or you're walking a shopping cart full of tired little heads down the frozen pizza aisle, how often do you zoom out from your regular everyday life and actually take in the scene in front of you?
Modern parenting isn't easy.
But if you remember to look just beneath the surface of the bustle of your passing day, you're going to see exactly how beautiful it is, too.
Here's what I mean:
Kids can transform themselves into almost anything at any given moment. They're like little shape-shifters fueled by mac-n-cheese. I love how their minds work when their imaginations are on full throttle.
Even when my kids are at their mom's for a few days, I feel their presence everywhere. It gives me strength and energy. Sometimes I take one of their toys to ride shotgun with me as a reminder of what matters to me most.
The fact that young kids ask a thousand questions every half-hour is something that can make you mental if you let it. But what I do is pretend I'm the star of my own wildly popular reality TV show. Then I sit back and listen to my kids babble on about crazy crap and I imagine how many millions of people would be cracking up watching us on the tube if they could.
One thing that sucks about being a parent nowadays is that you lose so much of your free time. Even exercising or cooking a meal is tough when you have a gaggle of hyenas barking at your heels. I try to find time where I can and if I don't, I don't. That's the deal.
It's pretty rare to know peace and quiet as a parent. I miss that sometimes. But you need to just appreciate the hell out of it whenever a quiet moment or two falls into your lap. Even when you weren't expecting it.
Part of being a dad is doing weird sh*t I never imagined I'd have to do back when kids were just something I imagined in my mind. Whether it's talking about dinosaurs for an hour straight or making sure someone's lollipop ring has a safe place to rest until it's needed again, I've come to realize parenting is often just a series of bizarre tasks.
Even though being a dad is paramount to my existence, there's other parts of me I can't forget about, either. After all, I'm still a grown man fueled by lust/passion/vision. Too often, parents lose themselves in their roles as moms and dads and that sucks.
One thing that really causes me to struggle with parenthood is the amount of tears and meltdowns that I have to deal with so often. As a result, I make sure to open my eyes wide as hell whenever one of my kids seems pretty happy and smiles break out all over the place. Those times are the best.
I never, ever stop loving the silliness my kids jam into my days. Being grown up sucks when you think about how much of our innocence and sense of humor we lose over time. (When did we all get so serious?) But our kids really WANT to bring that back into our world and whenever we can, we ought to let 'em.
Every kid, in his or her own way, is a godd*mn super hero. Think about it. They want to do good but they can't really help breaking things and getting in brawls along the way. Little children dream of flying and being epically strong and having wondrous powers that would enable them to hurl you across the room with a flick of their fingers whenever you won't give them Pop Tarts for dinner. I love that outlook and attitude.
I love spotting tiny reminders that I'm a dad. I find it almost meditative to drive down the road and suddenly find a hunk of abandoned gummy worm stuck to my coffee mug. Boom. Just like that, I'm thinking about my kids.
Fridge art. Don't ever stop it. Let it ride. Change the exhibition but always have it going for as long as they're bringing all that stuff home from school or camp. Fridge art is a portal into the modern parent's soul.
Too many parents nowadays think they have to set up this perfect little life for their child with perfect little schools and perfect little friends and perfect little dinners made out of perfect little free-range chickens and organic vegetables. To hell with that. Let kids be kids. Not all kids dig carrots. Who cares? No one ever died from not eating carrots. And don't try and convince yourself that they did either.
If you're up and at 'em every Saturday morning at the break of dawn, carting your kids off to karate lessons or kid's pilates or junior helicopter pilot training, good for you. But chances are your kids really wish they were home in their pjs, dragging some cushions onto the floor to make a bouncy trail to hop on. Remember that. Parenting at its best doesn't always require a chock-full schedule.
The more you zoom in on the simplest moments of being a mom or dad, the better your life will be. (And the better your kids will remember you someday when you're gone.) And the memories they'll recall will always be the simplest of things: laughing around the Christmas tree, eating melted Popsicles, falling asleep on a towel at the beach, eating McDonald's in the hot summer car. Trust me. I know I'm right on this one.