In becoming a parent, the spectrum of emotions grows as if a plow removed the barriers from both ends; sorrow, fears and pain emerge as well as joy, and boundless love. Since I knew that my child was coming -almost 2 years ago- my life has been through a process of reassessing who I am. Not only my sense of self but also how others see me and how much that matters.
There are moments when the links that you create with your children appear in front of you and you are confronted with the opportunity to take them o see them go. Many of them appear during unexpected moments, so it is very important to be present. As men, we are taught in a very harmful way that our role is not at home. We are told that women are more caring, nurturing and suited to provide for others. We see this on tv ads and shows. These messages fill out our imaginary as a slow drip fills a bucket. Slowly but relentlessly.
The word shit appears more often when you become a parent. You deal with it on a daily basis. Literally and figuratively. You learn to read it as if looking at tarot cards. You count it as pulling off petals of a daisy: they pooped today, they did not.
Shit gets real. Adulthood hits you like a baseball on a windshield. When you look around and people ask about the adults in the room, they are talking about you. Shit gets complicated. Every day is a reminder of the fragility of the old status quo and the emerging nature of dealing with work demands, stomach bugs, family schedules and bill payments. Lately, I have been talking to myself as I look at my calendar, saying “you can get sick until the end of the month”.
Shit happens and when it does, you have to look inside and find the answers. They are not evident as our western, capitalist, patriarchal culture rewards productivity and profit over people. So when I have to take time off to care for my family, I think about the 150 things that are due and I feel the pressure boiling like a tea kettle.
But as shit gets real, when the moments that make you the parent you are arrive, you have to choose. For me, the choice is made with the huge amount of privilege of having a unionized workplace and a supportive network. But as a man, I feel the invisible weight of expectations on my shoulders. I can hear the voices saying “though it up. You have it easy”, “this is what moms do every day so don’t complain”. And when that happens, I think about how many of the things that I thought that matter are no longer important. At least, not as important as they use to be.
Does this mean that I don’t give a shit? Not at all. It means that if I don’t make a conscious decision about the kind of man I want to be, the kind of father I want to be, the kind of father I wish I had, I am losing my chance to be present when the opportunities to create long lasting bonds with my child show up.
As I walked around the park pushing the stroller, I listened to the call I cannot miss today. This is the moment I have been working and waiting for the past months. And I am not there. I am taking care of the aftermath of the chaos created by a day care bug. Thank you, day care.
The sun helps my child to get some energy and he decided to climb on the playground. I followed him, half making sure he does not fall, half listening to the questions emerging from the phone.
Then I heard my name on the phone and I saw the face of my son. Two places calling for my attention at the same time. Shit got real literally and figuratively. As I hung up the phone, I took him on my arms and I could see in his face the need for reassurance and solidarity. Reassurance that the adult in the room knows what to do now. Solidarity for the poop explosion that happened inadvertently. I spent the next 20 minutes walking with him on one arm, singing about a cat that lives next door while pushing the stroller with the other. When we are home, I gave him his first standing shower and spent several minutes debating if I should toss and burn my clothes.
Love can be found in shitty places. As I was doing the laundry, I felt that this moment was a chance for me, for him, for us to strengthen the invisible link that bound us. He will not remember this and I will try to forget about it. But deep inside, we both know now that when shit hits the fan, we are there for each other.