I’m currently in what professional baseball players like to call “The Zone.”
Nobody knows exactly how you enter The Zone, but once you’re there you know it immediately. Hitters see the ball as if it’s coming toward them in slow motion. They’re guessing correctly on pitches as if they’re reading the pitcher’s mind. The bat strikes the ball on the sweet spot every single time, there’s no hitch in your swing and even the mistakes you make turn into bloop singles.
In short, they can do no wrong.
I don’t think parenting is any different. Sometimes the stars align, forces of nature cooperate and you parent your fucking ass off. This is where I’m at right now.
I’m not sure why, I’m definitely not doing anything differently. But I will not waste time looking a gift horse in the mouth either. I think a lot of it is from Will’s new daycare, which is so utterly fantastic it nearly makes me weep every time I think about it. He gets so much individual attention there from a variety of trained professionals and dedicated personnel. And the difference in his demeanor and his abilities is ASTOUNDING over the last three weeks.
He can count to 12 now, whereas no matter how hard we worked with him he couldn’t get past 5. It seems like he learns 20 new words everyday. But more than the words, he’s grasping concepts and emotions more than anything. I’m excited to pick him up everyday because I’m desperate to hear what he learned and to talk to him about everything, because we can really carry on conversations now.
And — perhaps most importantly — he has friends.
Yup. The kid who adamantly refused to let another kid near him when he played is now happily sharing, talking to and engaging with all the kids. And yesterday when I picked him up, he grabbed my hand and led me to the corner of the room. I thought he was going to show me a toy or something, but then he said something that nearly made me tear up.
“Dada, Dada! This is Colin. He’s my friend.”
To see the two of them playing together, chatting away, was all the evidence I needed to know that our financial struggles to keep him in this school are all worth it. He’s progressed so much in such a short time, and I know most of that progress is thanks to this school.
So maybe my entrance into The Zone is due mostly to Will being in a great mood because of school. But starting first thing in the morning, our routine is like a well-oiled machine. First I take him in the bathroom to pee. MJ showers first and when she gets out she puts together his lunch and gets him dressed except for socks and shoes. I shower next as MJ leaves for work, and Will watches Timmy the Sheep. When I get out I get myself dressed, put on his socks and shoes and give him a quick breakfast. I also take care of the dog. After watching some Handy Manny, Will puts his jacket on, turns off the TV and off we go to school.
That may seem like an easy step, but getting Will to leave the house in the past has not been easy.
Basically I used to take on the role as a hostage negotiator. Will refused to leave the house and I had to talk him out. He demanded to take his fire truck but I said it was too big to bring with him. From there we’d barter.
You can bring your small fire truck.
No, I want to bring my crane.
The crane is too big, you can bring your dump truck.
No dump truck, I want my tractor.
OK, the small tractor.
No, big tractor.
OK bud, you can take the medium-sized tractor and your monkey, OK?
Ummmm, OK Dada.
This is delicate negotiating we’re talking about here. But now, he just grabs his monkey and his Brachiosaurus (his new obsession is dinosaurs), stuffs them in his backpack and away we go.
Once we get to school we put our stuff away, go into the play room, I get a hug and a kiss and then I’m gone. No more tears and no more screaming. He’s happy to be there. But even though he likes it at school, the best part is he’s still happy to see me when I pick him up.
One of two things happens in the afternoon. 1) He sees me through the window when I pull up, and the result is a cute little blonde head bouncing up and down while smiling and banging on the window for me. Or 2) I sneak in and watch him play for a few minutes. Then I creep into the room and wait until he sees me. When he does, he stops whatever he’s doing, gets a huge grin on his face and shouts “DADA!!” before running over to me at warp speed and throwing his arms around me.
I’m completely addicted to the feeling I experience in that moment.
At night we play, mostly with dinosaurs but also with trucks and tractors. MJ gets home later and she takes over for awhile, as she is in charge of bath time and getting him ready for bed. But make no mistake, bedtime is all about Dada!
Will cannot go to sleep until I sing him our song, which is “Share the Darkness” by the Saw Doctors. I sing him my favorite verse, and because I’ve been doing this since he was a baby he knows the words too and sings along.
When the world belongs to distant dogs and the air is dark and still. And drunken conversations pass beneath the window sill. And there’s someone singin’ Elvis songs as they make their way back home. And all your fears and worries attack when you’re alone. So why don’t we share the darkness tonight. Make it warm and burn it bright. I’m not sayin nothin, I’ll be polite. Why don’t we share the darkness tonight.
And I end it the same way every time. I say “Goodnight Will, Dada loves you.” He gives me a kiss and says “Love you too Dada.” And I realize I’m a very lucky man.
I don’t usually post mushy stuff like this that recaps my days spent as a father. But the last few weeks have been such a positive change for us and Will, I felt it was appropriate. The crazy, chaotic and miserable days are the ones that usually get the most attention because all parents can relate and commiserate with feeling like they’re being pulled in a million directions and on the brink of a nervous breakdown. But then there are days like I’m having when your kid is in a great mood, you’re both having fun and everything is as close to perfection as possible.
And those days need attention too.