As someone who is notoriously introverted, my weekends have always been important to me. Two precious days where I could hide away from the world, playing games and watching football with only my pets for company. “Have a good weekend, see you on Monday” was my absolute favorite phrase, because to me it was a promise. You would not see or hear from me until Monday if I had any say in the matter. This applied to everyone from friends to family. Love you all but I will see you when my isolation is complete. It was how I charged my battery to deal with the constant drain of the day to day. Then I got married. Not only did I get married, but I got married to an extrovert. Full on Type A social butterfly. Woe is me.
My weekends of delivered food and 8 hour movie marathons began vanishing at a terrifying pace. Saturdays and Sundays became a battleground. Dinner dates, shopping dates, dates just for the sake of dating. Projects. Events. The schedule was almost always full. And that is just with my wife, not counting the mutual friend things that I was now a part of because people find my wife (and me through association) so fun to be around. Yes I do know what an asshole I sound like right now, just roll with it the complaining stops shortly. After years of back and forth with her wanting to do all of the things and me wanting to do absolutely nothing we settled on something like a compromise. Divide the weekend up into half day chunks and negotiate throughout the week to settle on something like 50/50 doing things and not doing them. Keep track on whoever “wins” the weekend and next weekend the other person gets more veto power. It was simple and it has worked pretty well for almost 9 years of marriage. Enter baby. She has only been on this earth for 8 months and I cannot remember the last time I had a free weekend. I also can’t remember almost anything at all between months 2-5 but that’s a completely different very sleep deprived story.
I went into this past weekend with a stacked schedule and no small amount of anxiety/frustration. Plans to go to the zoo (yes I know she is probably too young to really get the full zoo experience but I don’t care some animals are colorful and I like the zoo), taking her out swimming, going to the park, all with in laws visiting. It would be hard to design a more anti-relaxation weekend for me. And somewhere in all of that we still have the normal feeding schedule, finding time to do chores, the lawn needs to be cut -I had the chance to do it yesterday but I did not have the strength so sorry to all of my neighbors who are staring at my lawn and huffing and mumbling under their breaths and shaking their heads slowly at what a failure I am because I am completely certain that they all do this- and NAPS. The fucking naps. Critical are the naps. Possibly the most critical things to keeping this weekend from going off the rails is making sure this baby sleeps. One thing that no one ever told me in the myriad of advice that was tossed my way before becoming a dad is just how much time and energy and effort was going to go into making sure this child sleeps when she needs to.
It seemed like a daunting task when I was driving home Friday going through the mental checklist of times and things I needed to remember in order to have any chance at being successful over the next 48 hours. I waiting in line to get gas before I got home, which seemed like an easy way to check one of the things off the to do list before the clock really started and I had a thought pop into my head that this is it. This is the death of my weekends going forward. As she gets older things are just going to get added onto this list of things we need to do for the baby or the toddler or the child to let her have all of the experiences that I enjoyed so much growing up. She’s probably never going to be content with sitting and watching college football for hours on end every Saturday in Fall. Maybe she will want to play a video game for 8 hours but would I be a good parent if I let her do that? She will need to explore things, enjoy new experiences, make friends that also want to explore and enjoy said experiences. Our families will demand her time, and in doing so will demand my time. My wife is going to want to share her interests in equestrian events and engineering. I sat in my truck glaring at the line of vehicles waiting to get gas at Buc-ees and noticed how many of the vehicles were families gassing up to head out of town since Spring Break was starting. Hey you planned a zoo trip for Spring Break week dad, way to go dumbass it’s going to be even more crowded than usual, better get there even earlier.
I won’t go into every intrusive thought that went through my head in that moment because this already sounds like a whiny villain origin story and it’s not that, but by the time I got home after NOT getting the gas because it was taking so long I was in a terrible headspace for what lied ahead. I got home, ate dinner, played an absolutely diabolical game of unstable unicorns with the family, I tried to squeeze in a couple hours of gaming before realizing I was too tired and getting in bed early. Then began the gauntlet.
Pictured: The Gauntlet
I am not going to go through all of the details of the events because this isn’t supposed to be a story and it would take way too long. But over the course of the weekend I kept waiting for the burnout to kick in. The frustration that I was on such a schedule, or the draining feeling of just being around too many people for too long. I made it through the zoo and was shocked to find out I was already looking forward to the next event, because I wanted to see how the baby would react. I was excited to give her another new experience. I was dare I say enthusiastic about the rest of the weekend. There was one moment that will always stick out to me, when Amy was out of the pool getting dried off and it was just me and the baby during adult swim. I was bouncing her up and down in the water, slowly spinning us around in circles, and smiling at her while she grinned and giggled back at me. In any other context it would have been fairly innocuous. But at the end of this long day that was centered around her enjoying herself, it was everything. She was having one of the best 5 minutes of her short little life, just playing in the pool with dad. It was a special moment that I think is going to stay with me for a long time. I was floored by how emotional it made me.
There have been a few moments like this that have snuck up on me since we brought her home, where all of these feelings will just hit me nowhere all at once. Love for her, pride in myself, some imposter syndrome because this perfect baby has no idea I have no clue what I am doing but I am trying very hard. I realized that the old weekends that I had treasured and held on to for so long were gone, and I wasn’t even upset about it because nothing could withstand the smile that was on her face in that moment. That is what my weekends were going to be about from that point forward. These were now her weekends. To explore. To spend extra time with mom and dad. To play sports, or to go to a museum. Or even to just blow bubbles or set up a water toy in the backyard.
There have been plenty of shifts since she came into our lives. I am already way more productive and driven that I was before. I am more patient and somewhat less selfish. But this was bigger than that. This was a fundamental shift in the way I was thinking about my free time going forward. And sure, maybe it was immature of me that it took a moment like that for it to happen. Maybe other parents get this feeling on day one. I have been thinking about why I didn’t have a shift like this when I knew my time was important for my wife, there is a good chance I owe her an apology in there somewhere. When I type it out I think it sounds kind of pathetic that I was still this selfish with my time going into my mid 30’s. Oh well. I am here now. I know I am not going to have a perfect track record, and I know I am still probably going to have moments or hours or even days when the old me pops back up and I want to steal time for myself. But I also know that going forward that is going to be the anomaly, and that most of the time is going to be chasing my daughters smile. My weekends are dead, long live new weekend.
I am curious if other parents have had moments like these, and if they have, what they were. Please share a story or a comment if you have the time. I will probably be posting more things like this going forward as I navigate being a new dad. It will be interesting to look back on down the road to see how things change. I am hoping to have another post up next week but we will see how that goes.