uswalkingintown

“Daddy, I want you to be little. So you can play with me.”

When was the last time you “didn’t see something until it was too late?” Perhaps it was another car you hit, or a superficial sale you missed, or even a common cold. No one’s ever said “I totally didn’t see that promotion coming, until it was too late!” That’s because anything good in life. Anything rewarding. Anything worth fighting for. Truly takes your heart and soul, and your undivided attention and hard work. You’ll always see it coming. At least, if you’re a grown up. When my daughter Maria said to me “Daddy, I want you to be little. So you can play with me.” I didn’t see it coming. And It broke my heart.

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In July of 2010 my beautiful wife gave birth to our first daughter, Maria. For me, the first year of Maria’s life was the source of much guilt, anger, shame, and anxiety. I FELT no real attachment to her.  I FELT the instinct to care, to provide, and to worry for her. By all other accounts I was not in love with my daughter… There, I said it. And I’m probably going to hell.

Okay, I’m probably not going to hell (but maybe Walgreen’s for diapers). But mostly, because hell probably doesn’t exist. More importantly, the way I felt was normal. I’m the Dad. Dads are allowed to come along for the ride, we aren’t real contributors in the whole baby making business.  Making a baby takes 9 months, plus 5 minutes. Dads have the hard 5 minutes covered.  And quite well I might add. You don’t have to thank us. We already know we’re pretty awesome. Outside of those hard 5 minutes we don’t get to experience the burden/privilege of growing a human. GROWING A HUMAN!?!? I didn’t sleep through ALL of Science Class.  And I picked up a good portion of the reproduction process from listening to Eazy-E as an adolescent.  I also read “How to be a Dummy, for Fathers.” It was pretty long, and had some big words. So I was pretty surprised that after all that preparation and dedication, that I was the family outcast.  It must be my curse for being an only child.

Don’t get me wrong. When Maria turned a year old we really started to hit it off. Poor girl had a very difficult time dealing with colic. Colic is science for “that baby is really pissed.”  I wrote her a book called “Dealing with Colic, for Infants” but she was too lazy to read it. I was seriously starting to believe I was too selfish for Love. So I told my wife I was ready to “make” another child, since the first one was broken. And we hadn’t had sex in awhile.

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Fast-forward to 2013, after 9 months and 5 more minutes of hard work. My wife did it again. She gave birth to another baby human! I just stood there looking foolish while the Doctor’s pretended to involve me. I mean, I tried to be supportive. I read another book, played some video games and even bought her a stress relieving ball. Well, full disclosure.  By stress relieving ball I mean my back and shoulders. And by bought I mean I told her to rub them. I know what you’re probably thinking. It must have been exhausting always begging for sex, sleeping in, and eating sandwiches. So you probably really deserved that pregnant massage. It’s true. But I’m a nice guy and even though she needed the stress relief, I usually would let her stop massaging me after about 30 minutes. Or whenever I fell asleep again. Then I’d make myself a sandwich. That’s right ladies, by 2013 I knew how to make MYSELF a sandwich. I’m all about women’s rights. So much so, I think I even made her one, too. Hashtag 2013.

At this point Maria and I have a great relationship. She loves her daddy. Daddy loves his little girl. And soon she’ll also, be able to make sandwiches. It was just about this time she started to implement logic with words.  She of course, knew meanings of words. Like “Maria, get Daddy beer.” But she was really beginning to understand the concept of the differences between words. Like big and small. Tall and short. Thin (mom) and fat (dad).

One day out of the blue Maria says something to me that stops me dead in my tracks.

“Daddy, I want you to be little. So you can play with me. I don’t want you to be big anymore.”

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To her, Daddy was too big to really play. Daddy was too big to roll on the floor or run around the house, or hide in the best hiding spots. To me, Daddy was too big to pay real attention to his sweet baby girl. And in one sentence she made me eat the words, “Sorry honey, Daddy’s just too big for that.” Well, it was time for Daddy to be… not so big, for any of that.  Unbig.  To some outsiders, some may consider him “small.”  But none of that matters. If Maria wants me to be little, I’ll be little. I’ll be whatever she wants me to be. Wherever she wants me to be. Because that’s my job. Love is my job. She, is my job… And I’m her hero.

So with the impending arrival of Lena just around the corner. I remembered all too well the guilt and anxiety, and the fear and sadness that I felt when I was disconnected from her big sister.  How long until I could be a hero again?  I was prepared for the worst.  I would be okay, and not punish myself psychologically for years to come.  This time, I was going to see NOT falling in love coming a mile away. This time, I was ready.

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I still don’t believe what happened. From the first moment I held Lena in my arms, she stopped crying, every time. I comforted her. This guy. She found solace in me and wanted me. Her father. Her Daddy. Her hero. My mind was, and still is… completely and utterly blown away.  And I didn’t see it coming!  And it healed my heart. I was in Love. And it’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt, and is the happiest moment of my life.

I’m so little now. I’m an ungrown-up.  And I’ve never FELT, so big. In retrospect, I really loved Maria very much the whole time. I was just too big, too busy, and too distracted to realize it. Mistakes are pretty terrible if you aren’t smart enough to learn from them. Happy Valentine’s Day to my Loves. You gals are pretty cool.

Here’s a song by Zach Sobiech that I absolutely love. It’s a nice reminder to appreciate the things that matter to you, and not worry about the things that don’t. R.I.P. Zach.

23 thoughts on ““Daddy, I want you to be little. So you can play with me.”

  1. i hope you don’t dwell on your shortcomings too much, matt–i mean it seems like you have a pretty good handle on things based on this awesome article. but really the first kid (or in my case 2) is so surreal. i remember vividly the birthing experience and how it was a miracle i could even be in the same room due to my weak stomach, and after the 8 total hours of labor (yeah, i wish 9mos+5mins) i felt like we had climbed mt everest together. and while climbing mt. everest would be pretty dang sweet, and quite the adrenaline rush, you don’t take the mountain home with you on your way down. but when you bring home that new completely-dependent-on-you lifeform and the autonomic nervous system stops trying to fight or flee it’s so easy to disconnect from that moment and forget what’s really happening. maybe i’m missing the point with that analogy, but my end point here is that it’s a learning experience, and to me the most important part is that you’re there and you’re showing your children that you can change for the better. we have another now who’s 3, and it’s so fun to see how i can approach things differently and better.

    and just for bragging rights here’s a song that my kids and i wrote together: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=533958516693477&id=199479353474730

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    1. Wow Nick! Thanks so much for sharing that is so awesome. It’s cool to see when people have the guts to put themselves out there like that. That’s definitely what I intend to do with material for this blog. I want to try and touch on things that people are a little afraid to talk about. And maybe even a little uncomfortable to read about. That should make for good writing (I hope!). Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. What a read…
    As a new dad..a month on Wednesday… I have found that my lil meatball absolutely loves the daddy daughter time as well… I was so afraid that there would be no bond that I even became less and less excited for her to be here. Now that she is though I am so mad at myself for feeling that way. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  3. Eazy-E though ! Haha

    I enjoyed reading this! I need to show my husband. We had our daughter in October 2010 and had our son April 2013. I’m sure he will relate so much to you! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Really sweet piece. Nice how you came to appreciate the baby and recognize what you had with her big sister.
    Excellent line here: I’m so little now. I’m an ungrown-up. And I’ve never FELT, so big.
    It captures it all. We want to be what our kids need us to be and when we are it feels great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Definitely that line was the height of my emotional roller coaster while writing this piece. If it were hand-written you would’ve seen a few tear drops around that line.

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  5. Matt, I covered many of my thoughts in my Facebook share, but with my son just over 3 1/2 months, I haven’t yet gotten to experience the emotional sucker punch to this degree. I love the guy, but I can relate in the notion of feeling disconnected. Layer that onto all the other pressures of life, and you’re right — it can turn into a recipe for distance, which one obviously doesn’t want.

    I hope I get to read more fathers being as honest about their experience as you have here, to remind us that we’re not necessarily anomalies with our experiences, but also that we can do better once the issue’s been identified!

    Happy fathering, man — I look forward to seeing more of the adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely agree Em. There are so many things we don’t talk about (especially as parents) out of fear of judgment. I chose this as an intro post because it contains so many themes I’ll be writing about extensively. Hopefully I can keep you interested enough to keep reading. Thanks so much!

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  6. This makes me happy. This makes me feel grateful for my own Good Daddy Husband, and thankful that my BFF has a Good Daddy Husband and that I get to call him my friend. I remember looking at you when you held Lena in the hospital. It really was like a light went off. You cried. I cried. Lucy cried (she was hungry though) and the only one not crying was that little Matt Mini Me. Love you guys.

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  7. Matt you are a wonderful dad. I can see it in your eyes, in every picture you post. Treasure these moments because you will blink and it will all be over. Their fingers and toes will never be smaller than they are right now but the way they look up to their DAD will never go away. Hug and kiss often. Happy Valentines Day big daddy!!!!

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  8. Good to see you came around. Kids can say the most heartbreaking things that really make you think. And you know they’re saying it purely from emotion – not like adults, who filter things by situation and by mental-profit-and-loss figures. Kids will knock you to your knees because what they’re saying, they’re feeling. If they say you’re not there, not playing, not paying attention…anything – then that’s how they feel. They may not be right (!) but it’s how they’re processing their environment. And so it’s up to us to do what you did – be their hero. Kudos.

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    1. Thanks so much Zach and thanks for taking the time to read it. Her words really resonated with me. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve changed or if our second is just more forgiving. Maybe a bit of both. Cheers!

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