93 Days Dads Daughters Family Life NICU Prematurity

10 Years Ago, Yesterday

Yesterday, 10 years ago, was the worst day of my life.

It was also Ava & Zoe’s 10th birthday which, granted, implores a more thorough explanation before the Facebook mamas schedule an event after “coffee Tuesdays” to have me lynched.

What exactly happened 10 years ago is something that I will endure forever, but that being said, even 10 years later, I continue to live with the consequences of that day.

I had a hard time yesterday; I tried to write about it, I tried to post online about it, and I tried to dig deep and find my patience for the special day.

I fell short of my self-imposed demand of pseudo-perfection.

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Life is hard. Parenting is harder. And when you mix in the challenges that some kids live with each day (of all kinds and extents), it not only affects them, but it can, and often does paralyze the entire family.

At least temporarily.  We find comfort in that “tomorrow is always another day” when we can try again.

The innate problem with that resolve, reluctantly, is that we don’t have an infinite bucket of tomorrows. We can’t just repeatedly chalk it up as a bad day. We have to find strategies and alternatives to help our kids be successful in the things that move all of us – the passions that make us who we are and give us purpose in life. Otherwise, what’s the point?

In particular, Zoe had a rough day yesterday. Her extreme frustration with the mundane and ordinary is hard to comprehend. As a “normally” adjusted adult, it baffles me and in return, my own frustration elevates and nothing constructive comes from our collective meltdown. That doesn’t mean either of our feelings are any less valid, but it does present a problem and requires a gargantuan level of patience for which I do not typically have reserves.

Some believe it’s often best to remove emotion from these situations and approach it more objectively. That often works in business and other aspects of my life but, on a personal level, it goes against the very fabric of my existence. I wear my heart on my shoulder; I make no excuses for it and am grateful for being able to access that part of my soul as I know it’s so very hard for many people.

Emotion, for me, is the *food of life*. It makes us human and to take that away defeats the purpose of connecting to one another, to our world, and most importantly, to ourselves on a higher, more intimate level.

I guess the point is that we cannot mask our emotions or feelings, however absurd others may think they are. Rather, we should own them, understand where they come from, and find ways to embrace and channel that passion into something purposeful and meaningful instead of letting them escalate, unbridled until they become the cog in our lives that keeps us from becoming, *awesome*.

We all need to find ways to to celebrate who we are  even if we don’t know who that is just yet.

For the past 10 years, somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve been trying to play the fit the square peg in a round hole game. I’m learning, albeit excruciatingly slowly, that I need to play a different game altogether.

The game I learned as a kid is not the same game they play. Together, we need to learn, and accept, a lot of things about each other:

  • that the rules are different
  • that there are no rules
  • that they don’t always know the “why”
  • that their feelings don’t have to make sense to me
  • that their feelings don’t have to make sense to them
  • that they want to be happy but sometimes don’t know how
  • that I am the center of their world and that is a gift, not a right
  • that they are never going to be who I thought they should be, or think, or feel
  • that they are their own imperfect versions of themselves
  • that they don’t have to do things my way
  • that they have choices
  • that they are smart, funny, beautiful
  • that ***what they have to say is important***
  • that I have time for them
  • that I will protect them
  • that I am *trying* to help
  • that I need to be more patient
  • that my primary job is to be their Dad and not their friend
  • that I’m not trying to make their lives more difficult but rather make it easier
  • that I don’t understand sometimes
  • that we don’t have to always agree
  • that you don’t always have to understand your feelings
  • that it’s ok to be frustrated
  • that it’s ok to be sad and not really know why
  • that it’s ok to want to be alone sometimes
  • that it’s ok to ask for help
  • that you don’t have to be good at everything
  • that you don’t need to learn how to ride a bike
  • that you are entitled to your own space – physically and emotionally
  • that what you feel is valid, good, and important
  • that Daddy makes mistakes too
  • that you can do anything you want in life
  • and that I’m imperfect and that’s ok too.

Yesterday, 10 years ago, was one of *the best days of my life. In an instant, you gave my life more purpose and meaning than I could have ever imagined. And each and every day since, you have pushed me to think and learn *differently*, love more, and become a better Dad and a better person.

Embrace who you are, own your emotions, and never, ever forget, that you are, and always will be the center of my world.

Happy Birthday.

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