Updated: Mar 13, 2020
Some days are harder than others. Any parent will tell you that. My wife and I often work opposing shifts to avoid the ridiculous cost of day care. I, the day shift. She, the night. Then we alternate weekend shifts. Therefore, it is mostly my responsibility to cook dinner, clean dishes, pick up the stray toys, and put the kids to bed at night. I'm not complaining. I love it, really. But, some days are harder than others.
For instance. One night a wrestling match takes place as I attempt to cook a meal for dinner that my boys will probably never eat. This is normal. Like, every day normal. Boys will fight, and I can't stop that. However, I don't always have the time to referee. This recent fight results in an expensive pair of glasses being yanked off the younger sibling's head and tossed haphazardly across the living room. The fight intensifies. Someone draws first blood, and everyone is crying.
While I separate the wayward children and search for the discarded spectacles (praying they have not broken - thankfully they have not), I hear the pot boiling over in the kitchen. I rush to rescue the meal from burning and hope to stop its progression before I have to scrape charred sauce off of the ceramic burners later that evening. I fail. The fight begins again as I clean the mess. The aforementioned glasses, once again, are discarded. I concede defeat and throw the chicken nuggets and French fries the boys had been screaming for into the oven. I lord over them as they play to ensure fresh blood remains un-spilt while we wait for the oven timer to sound. They eat the nuggets. I eat the burned monstrosity of a meal I attempted earlier. I just can't justify wasting food.
After an hour of TV time before bed, I inform the finally settled children it's time for a bath. One excitedly runs upstairs with as many toy cars, trucks, and trains as he can carry. The other must be coerced...and I mean by chasing, tackling, stripping, and carrying to the tub while he screams, thrashes, and scratches at my face. The boy will never win this particular fight...he is deposited into the bath along with his brother.
It's not long before they are at it again. This time the collateral damage is me and the floor getting completely soaked with tub water. Plus the youngest getting smacked in the head with his own metal cars. My voice becomes loud, scary loud. I have had absolutely enough at this point and I reach to drain the water. It is now when they decide they want to stay in the tub. Splashing continues, frustration mounts, and an epic battle for the drain begins. Daddy finally prevails amongst the tussle.
Pajamas and toothbrushes are near, but of course, they don't want to do those things either. I chase naked boys around the room as they roll on the cat hair riddled carpet that resides in our bedroom - negating the bath completely. I do not care. I wrestle them into their jammies and it's into the bathroom to brush our teeth. Sometimes, this goes horribly wrong and more struggles/screams ensue. This night, it seems, they have decided to give Daddy a little break. Thank God for small victories.
I place the youngest in his crib and read a few of his favorite stories while the eldest climbs up my back to look at the pictures over my shoulder. This is the best part. Once story time has finished, I tell my oldest to go to his room so I can set up the younger boy with his lullaby music and night-light. He listens (small victories). I stroke the youngest's face gently with the back of my hand, taking in how beautiful he looks in the night-light's soft glow. The oldest is typically my affectionate boy, this one hardly lets you give him a hug, never mind a goodnight kiss. I kiss my hand and put it to his forehead.
"Good night," I say. "I love you very much."
"I love you too, Daddy." he replies in a soft sleepy voice. Angels have never sounded so sweet.
All the frustration of the evening is now being evaporated, like so much water from a small pool on a hot summer day. My heart can barely contain how much love I feel in this moment as I slowly close his bedroom door. I carry that with me to the room of my eldest son, who greets me with a big hug and plants a wet kiss on my cheek. I hug him back, hard, and plant my own kiss on the boy. What the hell just happened? I place him in bed and tuck him in. One more story, The Cat in the Hat (or the kitty book as he calls it), and he is out like a light. I creep out of his room with the same reverence I felt leaving his brother’s room and quietly shut the door behind me.
At this point, I tip-toe down the stairs, feed the cat before her meowing wakes the children, and crack a cold beer from the fridge. The rest of the night is mine to do with as I please. Shit, I have to clean the burner! Ah Hell, I'll do it tomorrow. Because some days are harder than others. Any parent will tell you that. But, when they end like this...everything seems worth it.