On Frustration, Coffee, And Stoics

First things first: if one is going to start a blog, one should really add new content regularly. I have not done so. Why? I’m a stay at home dad with a toddler. Quiet time to write is not exactly in abundance, so I take the time when I can find it.

That being said, as I write this, it is just after 2 in the morning. I’ve just gotten back from my workout at the gym (good news – there’s virtually nobody there; bad news – it’s 2 in the freaking morning). The girls are asleep, and I can actually hear myself think for a brief, beautiful moment.

Why, I hear you asking incredulously, would anyone go to the gym in the middle of the night? Clearly, you say, I must be some fitness obsessed, steroid riddled muscle head. You would be wrong. I workout at ungodly hours for one simple reason: so I’m not taking time away from my wife and daughter, so I can be present in their lives as much as possible. I might ingest enough coffee to kill a horse, but it’s worth it to be sure my girls know that I’m going to be around for them when they need me. I want Daddy’s presence to be Little Bit’s normal.

It’s important to me to be sure my daughter’s sense of normality is good healthy. Mama and I want her to grow up with a better relationship with food than we’ve had (turns out, a balanced meal is not a taco in one hand and an equal amount of bacon in the other). I want her to see Daddy being healthy and strong, not pudgy and couch potato-y. And I feel like I have a handle on the physical side of my journey to better-ness. It’s the mental side I’m struggling with.

As mentioned earlier, we made the move to sunny California to help take care of my wife’s family. This involved a LOT of change all at once, especially for this midwestern boy. In my prep for being a stay at home dad, I noticed an overarching theme: a loss of identity and a lack of community. While stay at home dads are becoming slightly more common, it’s apparently still an odd concept for society at large. So, we dads can start to feel isolated and even looked down upon at times.

Couple that with moving cross country to a place where you know practically no one, and taking care of a toddler who’s not quite ready for longer outings without Mama’s magical milk making mammary on standby . . . well, you can see where one might have a rough day here and there.

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” I forget this so often. In any given situation, good or bad, rested or exhausted, I was never meant to be tossed by the whim of circumstance. I can choose my response to any frustration and see it as an opportunity to grow. So, when my daughter flails around like an electrocuted octopus when I’m trying to change her diaper, it’s probably better to think that I’m fortunate she’s alive and kicking, rather than being frustrated because toddler poop has become a projectile weapon. My lack of sleep means I’m exhausted, yes, but it’s also an excuse to have more coffee. Besides is there a better reason to wear myself out than giving my daughter a better outlook on life by watching Daddy make his life better?

And that’s what I want a big part of her “normal” to be; choosing to be positive and productive, even when she’d rather be sleeping. Which, lately, is never.

I’m going t crawl into bed now, wake up in the morning, fix my coffee and chase my toddler all day. Again. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.