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Rainbows and Unicorns

Recently a dear friend told me she reads my blog (13th reader!) and likes it, but…“I could use a few more rainbows and unicorns.”
She is sweet. I am not.
Well, I can be. But I won’t sanitize my parenting life…because it is HARD, people. Given the choice, I would have another acting gig and make peace with giving 85% of my salary to childcare. (It ain’t for lack of trying. Any casting directors out there reading this?)
Admittedly, then I’d complain about being away from my boys so much.
Complaining is so satisfying. Aren’t playground conversations all about commiseration? It lets us know we’re not alone.

Plus, rainbow and unicorn parenting blogs just annoy me. 1. They make me feel like I’m not creative/energetic/crafty enough, 2. I don’t believe them.

I think I’ve made it clear I would take a bullet for both my kids, but being a stay-at-home-dad is not in my DNA.

The fact is: my days don’t feel full of rainbows and unicorns. It actually feels like a frantic struggle to preempt boredom and friction. It’s an unending scrambling to feed, keep on nap schedule, break up fights over Legos, squeeze in reading, desperately seek five minutes of quiet for myself, and deal with the guilt of checking my phone every 90 seconds.

This is all so that I don’t have to play with Thomas the Train, because Thomas time grows quickly stale. My boys get bored with that as fast as I do.

I plan visits to playgrounds, libraries and play-dates so I can help the entire family avoid boiling-over from cabin fever. If we don’t have actively-planned days, I end up yelling about things I shouldn’t care about…splashing in puddles when they’re wearing new sneakers, peeing in pants, #tearlesscrying because I…well…fill in the blank.

My life doesn’t feel like a TV commercial for lackadaisical family vacations on the beach. It doesn’t look like an evangelical church pamphlet or stock photos of frolicking families. There are those rainbows and unicorns moments, for sure. But more often, I feel like a glowering, exhausted, hungover chump; like an overwhelmed protagonist of a Judd Apatow movie. (Again: any casting directors out there reading this?)

I write to find humor and seek forgiveness in my endless short-comings as a father.

I write what I’d like to hear: that everyone earns “Parent-of-the-Year” sarcasm medals every day; that we all yell at our kids and feel bad about it; that we all fret that we haven’t played enough or taught enough or inspired enough or been patient enough in one day.

I spend my days avoiding tears, dodging trains and preempting emotional breakdowns (my own). That’s not rainbows and unicorns.

I try to have blissful moments of “now” as often as possible. But that’s hard when you’re desperately managing days of lowest possible friction.

A friend and I have joked, “Parenthood: it ain’t for sissies.” Despite using that dated word, the sentiment is accurate: parenthood is not for the faint-of-heart.

Rainbows and unicorns grace me every day with bedtime stories, two toddlers clamoring to sit on my lap simultaneously, post-nap cuddles, spontaneous declarations of “I love you, daddy”, tears because Daddy isn’t the “parent-of-the-day” at school, Ellison’s pride every time he pees in the potty, Colton’s insistence on snoozing on my chest like a 2-month-old every morning.

But rainbows and unicorns are much less fun to write about.

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7 Comments

  1. Lisa says

    So true, my friend. Being a stay-at-home parent is the busiest, non-busy job! I was constantly on the go so as to avoid the dreaded doldrums of “train time”. I always joked that I was the stay-at-home mom who was never at home. Hang in there friend. We are all in the parenting trenches together. Wish we were in the same city so we could meet at the McDonald’s playplace because it is the only place where the kids can play and parents can chat with only mild interruption, especially during the cold, winter months.

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  2. Joe says

    I’ve been following for a few months ago. As a future hopeful father, I love the blog. I think this is the best blog post you’ve done. Great job! (Parenting and writing)

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    • Hey, there! Thanks for following my mental meanderings. I’m thrilled to hear you’re a hopeful father. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions. I love talkin’ babies. Good luck!

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  3. Don’t change a thing! I love the non-unicorns and rainbows perspective because you preach truth. Like you, I would take a bullet for my kids. But, like you, I also think that there is my life beyond my kids. What you are experiencing is the untold side of parenthood. It’s not the part that gets glorified in commercials and pamphlets. And it’s not the underbelly of parenthood that makes such great fodder for sitcoms. It’s the quiet, mundane, boring, day-to-day normality of parenting that goes unheralded and unrecognized and that you somehow manage to write about with a fresh eye and a voice that helps us all see the humor in our own lives. Not everything we do is a tweet or a Facebook status. But it still matters to the ones who depend on us the most.

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  4. Christine Main says

    Gavin This is one of the best things I’ve ever read about parenting. You hit the nail on the head. I would not repeat it again for anything, I mean anything; but then I wouldn’t have missed it for anything either. To have missed having children is almost incomprehensible in the sense of “missed opportunities”. I cannot imagine my life (nor would I want to imagine life) without them. Keep on writing. Your honesty is fresh, stimulating, and affirming (even after all these years, I say to myself, “See…you aren’t the only parent who almost perished” during the toddler years). The level of boredom you are experiecing right now is as bad as it gets; I promise you there’s a light…….etc.

    Love Chris

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  5. I remember when my boys were toddler–especially the first one. Everything is tough during those years, but they do grow up and your job gets somewhat easier. They can have intelligent conversations with you and soon you’ll be amazed at how independent they have become. The day to day trials will pay off! Those two are the greatest investment you’ll ever make, and I know you know that.

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