Someone recently asked me what the most difficult part of being a father has been. The answer, hands down, is patience. Whether it’s having it, maintaining it or not losing it, patience is a virtue I lack. Unfortunately for me, when you’re dealing with a toddler it’s the one quality of which you need to have an abundance.
The thing is, I’m a punctual person and I’m all about efficiency. I don’t dawdle, meander or dillydally. If I need to go somewhere, I take the quickest possible route to my destination. Then I do what I have to do, leave and get home as quickly as possible. I think it stems from the fact that my mother was habitually late, but that’s a therapy session for another time. The point is, when Will doesn’t do exactly what he’s supposed to precisely when he’s supposed to, I get pretty irritated.
And god help us all if we deviate from the plan. I hate unexpected detours. As you can tell, I’m just a ton of fun.
That’s why MJ has begged me to calm down. When Will is tearing through the Tupperware cupboard and tossing shit around the kitchen, my blood boils. When he’s eating pasta but not using his fork and getting the mess everywhere, I have a series of little heart attacks. Basically if he strays from my best laid plans I go a little berserk.
I had the last two days off from work and luckily, Mother Nature finally stopped being a total bitch long enough to temporarily release us from the clutches of another frigid New England winter. With temperatures being so mild, I knew it would be downright criminal to keep Will inside for the day. So I decided I’d take Will to the playground on the beach two miles from the house.
But instead of being thankful for the mild weather and rare chance to go outside in February, all I could think about was the wet sand, dirty slides and the fact that all Will wants to do is dip his wee little Nikes in the ocean. And the ocean is wet. Which soaks his feet. And then the sand sticks to his sneakers. And God forbid if he falls in.
Soon we arrived and sure enough, like clockwork, he went straight for the sea.
I spent the next five minutes pulling him back from the water’s edge, while he repeatedly kept trying to dip his toes in. Back and forth, ebb and flow. Over and over again. When he got tired of that, he started throwing rocks. But he would only pick up the rocks that were underwater, thus creating a very unstable situation as he crouched perilously over the water giving me great stress.
I was about to pick him up and drag him back to the car kicking and screaming. But instead, I took a deep breath and remembered my wife’s advice.
Suddenly I realized what an idiot I am.
I was at the beach with my son. We had the entire stretch of sand to ourselves. Dad and son together, tossing rocks into the sea as the light of day prepares to give way to dusk. Kodak couldn’t even make a moment like the one on which I had been unwittingly sitting.
Instead of freaking out about how wet his shoes were and sand getting everywhere in the car, I took a few deep breaths and realized how lucky I was to be with my son. So I picked up a rock and gave it a toss.
“Yaaaaay, dadda! Throw, throw!” was the response I got.
So I picked up another one and threw it a little farther, and received a similar response.
“More, more. Big throw dadda. Big throw!”
This time I grabbed a slightly larger rock, took a few steps back and launched that sucker toward the horizon.
“Wooooooowwwww,” said Will.
The kid was looking at me like I was Superman. He had an amazed look on his face, the kind of look all dads hope to receive and hold onto for all time. Like I was his hero who just performed the most amazing feat imaginable. There was no need to tell him I dislocated my shoulder with that last toss, it would’ve ruined the moment.
For the next 20 minutes we happily took turns throwing rocks into Buzzards Bay. Laughing, smiling and not worrying about the stupid shit.
Although I still have sand in my sneakers even two days later.