Life comes packaged with a series of challenges.
We start out with some of the basics — walking, talking, jumping, etc. — before graduating to reading, writing, asking somebody out, learning to drive and taking on that first job. The challenges don’t stop as you get older, and, in fact, they often get far more complicated.
Once you get a full-time job, you quickly discover that every single day is a set of challenges, with your future and ability to have shelter hanging in the balance. You might have marital or relationship challenges to battle through, or raising a child or saying goodbye to a loved one.
The longer you live, the more challenges you often find yourself facing, and even though you might think life gets easier as you gain more experience, each challenge you face in life is unique, and you must battle through each one just as you have countless challenges before.
I found myself facing one of the most difficult, trying challenges of my life last weekend. I don’t say that lightly, either. I have been on those famed yellow footprints at the start of Marine recruit training at Parris Island. I have been to war. I have been a fan of the Washington Capitals since they first got a team. And I have worked with Susan Lyons for 17 years, and counting. I know challenges. And this one was a doozy.
I was to be left on my own with my 2-year-old daughter last weekend for the first time.
Just to be clear, I have been alone with my daughter on many occasions, and I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea that I won’t do irreparable harm to her as long as I pay attention and keep her occupied. However, this would be my first “over-nighter” with her when her mother wasn’t going to be home, and my anxiety levels were creeping up in the days leading up to “the big day.”
I assumed my watch at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, as my wife was leaving with some of her family members to attend a funeral for an uncle she was very fond of over the years. The two of us quickly got settled in, and by 7:30 a.m. I was wearing a frilly hat and enjoying a spot of tea with my little princess.
It’s important to note that I used “little princess” at this point of the story. That descriptor would evolve a little bit by Sunday evening.
The two of us had a pretty solid morning, alternating between playing games that I never quite understood and feeding her insatiable appetite for blueberries. I was feeling pretty confident at this point, and the two of us got cleaned up and exited the house to take on a few errands.
Again, this went pretty smoothly, and I was quickly growing skeptical of my wife constantly suggesting that raising this little angel was anything but a proverbial tiptoe through the tulips. She was a perfect little girl, and we finished off our journey with some pancakes before racing home to beat the weather that was starting to generate some strength.
Now, it was at about this time things began to degrade a little bit in our weekend of splendor.
That goofy weather we had last Friday? You know, the snow, rain, sleet and frogs falling from the sky as we got sporadic teases of sunlight? Yeah, Riley was not a fan of that. In fact, after being confined to “inside” for a few hours, she made it quite clear that not only was she going to become visibly frustrated, but she was also going to start taking on a green hue and bursting through her clothes before destroying everything in her wake in a Hulk-like manner.
What happened to my little princess?
No worries. She was back at her adorable little self within minutes of each explosion, and Daddy was back in his rightful place, wrapped around her little finger.
Until the next mini-explosion.
Then the princess is back.
She started to slow down a little after dinner, and we had a low-key evening of eating popcorn and watching movies. Things seemed to have leveled out at that point, and I allowed myself to feel secure again that I had this parenting thing all figured out.
“I should write books,” I thought to myself. “I’ll call the first one, ‘The Greatest Dad in History — And How You Can Become One, Too!’”
Then I saw the clock and realized it was time for my little princess to go to sleep. I gathered her stuff, had a brief skirmish over brushing her teeth that left me bloodied and covered in bubble-gum-flavored fluoride, and picked up my little girl to take her to bed.
Did I mention that she has the strength of 12 sumo wrestlers on steroids? Yeah, that’s a pretty big factor in the next part of this story. I really should have mentioned that.
We engaged in a battle for the ages. She punched, kicked, scratched and bucked. I defended myself and tried nobly to hide my tears. The struggle continued into her bedroom and only stopped when she collapsed from exhaustion into complete slumber.
Battered, I went downstairs and sat on the couch to gather myself. Covered in blueberries and tears, I realized that I was completely drained, and my soul was in imminent danger of just packing it in and leaving me forever. It was 7:30 p.m.
I might wait a little bit on writing that book.