When three (unexpectedly) became four.
In the early fall of 2009, we were just starting to get a sense about what our little family would be like. The now-six-year-old was a then-almost-three-year-old, and around three is where life with a child starts to settle down a tad. Don’t get me wrong, three-year-olds are exhausting (they have opinions), but you can have a conversation with them and they begin to express to you how they are experiencing the world.
One week that September, Kat (my wife) was feeling ill–ill enough to schedule a doctor’s appointment. A day before the appointment, Kat took a pregnancy test and then canceled the doctor’s appointment. Our second daughter was on the way.
With this news, something unexpected happened: we mourned a little bit. We were simultaneously happy and sad. We were happy that our family was going to grow and we’d get to meet a new person, but we also cried tears for the end of our family as it was. We liked our life with our kid, and that life was going to change.
I was also scared. Before my first daughter was was born, I had no idea of the intensity of love I would feel for her. One day, my wife was pregnant and the next, there was a new human being that I loved more than anything. With the second on the way, I could not imagine how I could possibly have enough love for this new person. I loved my wife and daughter so much, I didn’t feel like I could possibly do a new person justice.1
When our second child arrived, my heart grew immediately. There was enough love, but little time to bask in it. With our first child, the orders were clear: keep this human alive. We now had to keep two humans alive, which is twice as many humans. With the newborn requiring most of my wife’s attention, the amusement and care of our older daughter fell to me–at least for a couple of weeks.
In the second week of my paternity leave, my employer asked that I join an “all hands” call, the kind where you play Tetris on mute while the CEO talks to all the employees about the new “mission statement.”2 Management was restructuring the organization, with divisions merging to maximize synergy while reflecting the new paradigm in the vertical. About 45 minutes into the call, they showed slides of the new org charts. I wasn’t on them.
By the end of the day, I was unemployed. By the end of the month, I was fortunate enough to have a new job, but one that had me traveling four days out of five. During that time, Kat did a nearly impossible job of raising our children largely by herself. I missed most of it. When I was home, jokingly calling myself “weekend daddy,” I spent as much of my time as possible with my family—either the four of us together or the oldest and I running errands. Anything I could do to make up for the time I was missing.3 I felt guilty taking any time for myself since I was away so much.
A little over a year ago I found a new job that required me to travel significantly less.4 Since then, things have settled down at home while still being completely crazy. I missed a large part of the youngest being a baby, but thankfully I get to be here now. She is about the same age as her sister was when she was born. She also has her own opinions and is interacting with the world in the way only a three-year-old can. I consider myself lucky that I’ve gotten to know her–the way she is afraid to try things at first, the way she doesn’t know that she does want to be picked up and hugged, the way she will forcefully move your hand to where on her back she wants to be scratched.
And I can’t possibly imagine our family without her in it.
— ∮∮∮ —
- It was comforting to know that Penny Arcade’s Tycho felt the same way (jump to 3:07). ↩
- Not a memo. A mission statement. ↩
- This is largely why, despite being a Richmonder for six years, I still don’t know where anything is. ↩
- Ironically, the first draft of this post was completed in a Hampton Inn. ↩