Today at lunch, I was about to start a brief workout, part of my only-sometimes-successful attempts at keeping my mental state healthy enough to be a decent parent (any physical benefits are ancillary), and I looked down at my iTunes. There on that little screen was the summary of Fatherhood, at least for me.
In the interest of burning some extra energy, expending some pent up tension, I was putting Rage Against the Machine on shuffle. As I glanced down putting my earphones in, I noticed that the last song I had played was from none other than the movie Frozen: “Let It Go.”
But, this Fatherhood story isn’t just about the fact that I am a man with 40 years of life under my belt and a Dad with 5, and that those two lives aren’t always in sync and certainly don’t fully overlap. This was uniquely about Rage and “Let It Go.”
At times, I rage internally against the structures and routines, the relentlessness and lack of “me time” that I experience as a Father. Most of this remains pent up inside. This is when exercise helps. Alternately, I will joyfully and unabashedly walk around the house singing “Let It Go” at the top of my lungs (and I have a terrible voice), backed by the intermittent voices of my 3 and almost 5 year old girls as they recall (or make up) the words, and choreographed with our collective dramatic dance movements.
Both are me completely.
Fatherhood is hard as shit, and I rarely openly accept that things are hard for me. I need to rage. I also need to let it go. Sometimes, I match my 3-year-old’s tantrums with my own brief verbal tantrums. Not always a great response. Sometimes, I lay my head back and close my eyes and pretend none of it is happening, let it go. Also, not always a great response.
I suspect that the best answer, the sweet spot for Fatherhood, lies somewhere in the middle. Fatherhood is too important a job not to take it seriously, to approach it with diligence, consistency, and maximum effort. So, I will stand by my intensity. It is also too important not to just let some things go, accept that the process of raising children is a life’s work, and is, in fact, hard as shit. So, I will also stand by my occasional checking out. But, day-to-day, it’s imperative to seek the appropriate middle ground, and develop the tools to maintain it. This isn’t a destination; it is the process of parenting.
I can’t wait to get home and see them.