It's 6 am in Virginia. The sun is up, the temperature is rising and I'm awake an hour before my alarm goes off. Last night, just like every other night, I made myself believe I'd get a full night's rest: you know, eight hours of deep slumber, only to wake up to the loud sounds of my iPhone alarm.
But no. Not this morning. Not any morning.
This morning, I'm awake. My 1-year-old, Kennedy, is lying on her stomach, her blanket far from her body. My 2-year-old, Cali, has her head on my arm. She's sleeping so quietly, I'm scared to get up and begin my day.
I can try and quietly get up, shower, get dressed and maybe even start breakfast before the babysitter arrives. I can head to my office.
Usually, as soon as the shower starts and the water starts to fall, Kennedy wakes up and knocks at the bathroom door. “Daddy, juice,” she innocently screams, not knowing there's such a thing as an inside voice. So, she awakens her sister.
Cali is older, but acts younger. She wants to be held and babied. I'll either have to rush this shower or tell them to watch cartoons while daddy finishes. Either way, they'll cry or argue with each other until I'm out.
It's funny. Before I became a father, when I'd see parents let their children cry, I would assume some type of lack of attention or care. It seemed important to me to cater to one's children and make sure the children are aware of their parents' efforts to keep them happy.
Now, I'm a father to two. I've grown used to the sounds of cries and whines for juice, hugs and things that sometimes make absolutely no sense, like ribs that are really ice cubes. Hey, when a 2-year-old says a piece of ice is really a rib from a cookout she went to, you'd better smile and get her that rib.
This shower is the closest thing I've had to a getaway in two years. At first, I feel bad for wanting 20 minutes alone. I just want to think and breathe for a second.
Yesterday, I had to run to Target for one thing. I could've run in, checked out and been done with it in five minutes or less.
But I have two daughters. By the time I change the diaper and clothes on my 2-year-old, my 1-year-old is running away from me because she thinks changing diapers is some type of sport, and that whoever runs away the fastest, wins. I can't let her win today.
Twenty minutes have passed, and they're both dressed, hair brushed and photo ready. We're headed out to the car. I'm walking behind them as they hold on to the railing to walk down the stairs. One step at a time.
I can literally check my texts, respond to an email and even update my apps as I wait for my kids to reach the bottom of the staircase. We finally reach the car. Each child is seated, buckled and told, “Yes, we can listen to 'Hello'” after they ask if Adele will be on the radio.
We reach our destination, where the youngest girl wants to sit in the cart, while the oldest prefers to hold the cart and walk with me. One step at a time.
“Daddy, I want this,” says Cali, as she shows me a colorful pack of flash drives that are on sale for $14.99. “Cali, I'm not sure what you would need that for, but we'll get you some later,” I reply. She looks at me with her round eyes and continues to hold the package as we walk around Target, looking for what we came for.
Aisle one, aisle two, aisle three. We finally get to the aisle I was looking for, grab the product and head to the register. One step at a time.
By the time the cashier greets us, I realize there are toddler clothes, candy and probably even two forms of ID in my cart. I search through what's actually needed and what isn't. Then, I pay.
The cashier compliments me on my children and calls them "beautiful." I thank her and place the bags in the cart.
It has now been about two hours, but I've finally gotten the iPhone charger I needed. Needless to say, my children have also gotten a few outfits, some Airheads and a colorful pack of flash drives. I'm drained. It's only 2 pm, and I have to figure out lunch.
Luckily, yesterday is gone. I've been in the shower for a while, and none of the babies have woken up. I'm glad for this time, but I also use it to recollect and refocus.
Today, I'll be more understanding with them, and understand that parenting is about patience. Today, I'll do my best to hide my stress and smile at everything they say and do.
I won't get upset when they cry for juice or rib-flavored ice cubes. I'll understand that their imagination is pure and needs to be protected. I'll remember the sky is whatever color they say it is because they're artists and their minds are beautiful.
It's been two years that I've been a father, and today, I want to become an even better one. One step at a time.