Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
It's a lot easier to become a dad, then to be a dad -- Anonymous
I'm reheating some chicken vindaloo and saag paneer when Erin wanders in, opens the fridge, then a couple of cabinets and then the fridge again, and in her usual overly dramatic fashion announces with a heavy sigh, "Dad, there's absolutely nothing to eat in the house."
A house filled with food but nothing to eat? It's an age old mystery and complaint, and for me, it's deja vu with the roles reversed. I can vividly recall the incredulous looks my mom gave me as I opened and closed the fridge.
"Sorry sweetie, sadly the Food Fairy is on vacation and therefore unable to wave her magic wand and transform the pathetic selection of food we have into ramen, beef jerky, White Castle burgers or pizza. Want some vindaloo?"
Kelly makes her entrance singing, "What I did for Love" from "Chorus Line" and immediately tells Erin about this really cute guy she met at work.
I treasure these late night chats in the kitchen, when it's just me and my daughters. The conversation and laughter flow easily and I always go to bed with a smile on my face.
I look at Kelly and Erin as they start cooking up a pasta dish and flash back, in my version of a movie dream sequence, to that moment I learned I was going to be the father of twins.
Time seemed to come to a standstill as my wife came toward me in the waiting room. She had a smile a mile wide and her lips were moving in slow motion forming the words, "we're having t-w-i-n-s." My mind reeled and rocked between reality and "The Twilight Zone." I swear I saw Rod Serling, with a big grin on his face, mouthing the words, "Imagine if you will, Barry, life as you know it is now going to change forever!"
I knew my wife well enough to say that she doesn't joke in situations like this, unlike myself who might have said, "Doc says it's sextuplets and the Enquirer wants to do a front page story on us."
In my oncoming state of shock, all I could respond with was a feeble, "Whaaat?"
I was definitely having an existential meltdown and knew without a doubt that it was really happening: I had joined the ranks of official adults, something I had spent a good part of my life trying to avoid. However, I was intent on not letting the child in me disappear; that hopeful, curious, fun-loving and rebellious side of my personality would always live on. In fact I considered it vital in relating to kids, especially my own.
Overwhelming joy, panic, laughter, horror, ecstasy, tears and a minor funk took hold of me all at once. I even invoked the spirit of the '60s by mumbling a few "Far Outs!" and "Oh wows!" Onlookers later commented that my body moved as though I was doing a classic variation of the Indian Rain dance, channeling the Alvin Ailey Dance Company or doing a 1985 version of the Peppermint Twist. At the same time, I turned a shade of green not on any color wheel known to man. I finally regained my senses and hugged my wife, my mind awhirl with thoughts of impending fatherhood.
As my daughters and I devour the delicious dinner, the conversation ping-pongs from relationships to careers and psychology to music. I smile and think how truly special, magical and multifarious the dad-daughter relationship is.
Below are some of the things I've learned about being a father of two fabulous girls, whom I absolutely adore, through one crazy, joyful and at times mega-stressful ride on the king of all roller coasters -- fatherhood.
It's the little moments, often impromptu, that make a big difference.
Being with my daughters with no goal in mind but the pleasure of spending time together is ultimately what it's all about.
Father doesn't always know best.
Talk, listen, take time and display your love.
Express your emotions so they feel safe expressing theirs.
It's OK to say you're sorry.
Choose your battles wisely and respect your children.
Your children do want your guidance.
Actions speak louder than words.
It's been said that being a parent is like walking around for the rest of your life with your heart outside your body. For the past 26 years I've loved being a dad in all my multiple personas and parenting styles: Softie Dad; Geez! So I Occasionally Spazz Out, I'm Only Human Dad; Super Hero Protector Dad; Boyfriend Consultant Dad; Cheerleader Dad; and This is Not a Lecture -- These are Words to Live Your Life by Dad.
Most of all I love being just dad, especially when I'm chatting, snacking and laughing the night away with my daughters.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the county-wide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Check out his blog at http://blog.ctnews.com/halpin/ Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.