Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

A Crumpled Last Will and Testament

by | Nov 13, 2023 | Parenting | 0 comments

What stands behind picture-perfect parenting

Petaluma, California. Photo by author. I’m not really sure how my oldest thinks soccer is played or why my youngest is celebrating it.

“When you die, can I get your PlayStation 4?” I asked my wife’s cousin as she handed me her last will and testament when we met at our daughters’ summer soccer camp.

“Yes, it is all in there.”

Of course, I don’t want her to die, but I do love joking about everything dark and taboo. Also, spoiler alert, the will does not mention anything about me getting her husband’s PS4 in the case of their untimely demise.

Five minutes later, the whistle indicating the beginning of practice went off, and my daughter tackled me. I fell to the ground, and between our bodies, we crumpled the testament, which was neatly folded when it was handed over to me.

My daughter didn’t want to join her teammates at practice or want me to leave.

I walked with her over to where her group was. She had already made friends. The day before, she had told me how much she loved being there. The coaches liked her and kept coming over, trying to invite her to join them, but she wouldn’t budge. Thirty minutes later, after sitting down with her and trying to convince her to have fun, we decided to leave as I had to return to work.

We walked to her lunchbox and jacket, picked it up, and left.

On the way to the car, I found out the zipper on my pocket had gotten stuck, I couldn’t get my car keys, and I had to rip it open so I could start the car. It ruined my favorite jogger pants — I mean, they were fairly new but had quickly made it into the top.

I was comfortable following her lead once my daughter’s decision was made. She got three days out of four, and when I saw her dribble that morning, I saw not only the improvement but also the joy it brought to her.

One afternoon I took her to a soccer field by our house. She crouched in the corner of the goal playing with the gravel. I decided to kick the ball to the opposite corner, which was more than twenty feet in the other direction. I kicked the ball with a confidence I should no longer have in my skills, and I watched in slo-mo how the ball flew towards my daughter, smacking her square on the face.

That she still wants to play soccer at all is bewildering to me.

That’s parenting; some days are good, and almost all days have their challenges. Don’t believe me? Ask my daughter’s cheek.

It’s mind-blowing that these little creatures, with their cute bodies resembling adult bodies but in a Happy Meal toy version, come with a strong drive to establish their identity and their way. It is healthy developmental growth but depleting since one minute of conversation can have sixty acts of defiance and opposition in them.

It slowly eats at my patience, which I always do my best to keep with my daughter since if there is a person in our interactions who can have tantrums it is her and never me.

I cope with it by making a lot of jokes. I don’t worry so much about what others might think of my jokes, but sometimes I wonder what my daughters will think if, in the future, they run into my writing. Would they get hung up on the front that jokes are?

Or would they see the subtext? Would they see that their father is just a human being trying his best to show them love, kindness, and respect? Even if he makes a lot of cracks about it?

I hope that, at the very least, they give me a chance to explain myself, to tell them how much I’ve loved them since even before they were in their mom’s womb, and how much I waited for them when we started planning for their arrival.

All parenting coaches, gurus, and writers like to skip to the end; they show you the highlight reel, and they talk about how easy it all can be and don’t mention all the help they can afford behind cameras. They don’t show the messy parts. They repeat a kind of narrative they can display on their social media feed and then still be approached by brands so they can promote products.

I have those picture-perfect moments. They seldom make it into my social media because my profile is public, and I don’t care to be posting them.

But with my wife’s permission, I have posted them here so we can talk a bit more about what is not in the picture-perfect portraits of my family.

Kauai, Hawaii. Photo by Meg Brady Photography.

What the picture doesn’t show?

The agonizing months we spent during the pandemic deciding whether or not we should have a second kid at a time when it looked like the world was going to end. My daughter not wanting to be there to take those pictures. The three hours I spent looking for a shirt in Kauai because my wife vetoed my initial choice of a Hawaiian shirt with scenes depicting Godzilla destroying Tokyo.

Petaluma, California. Photo by Mallory Miya Photography.

What the picture doesn’t show?

The post-viral fatigue we felt at the shoot since we had just recovered from Covid.
My daughter having to pee five minutes after this shot and me having to pull her pants down so she would pee on the sidewalk because there was no bathroom in sight.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Photo by some dude.

What the picture doesn’t show?

The creepy photographer asking my wife to take a picture without any of us in it. “Okay, take it easy dude. I’m not paying almost $100 per frame, so you can go home, twirl your fat mustache and flap your Mexican chorizo to my wife’s solo picture.

Or the two weeks it took us to regulate our oldest after one week of overstimulation in the way that only an all-inclusive Mexican resort knows how to do.

Petaluma, California. Photo by author’s wife.

What the picture doesn’t show?

The two stains I’ve gotten in the hour before this picture because I can’t own one piece of clothing without a stain on it.

My kick-ass wife, who is an incredible partner to go on this journey with. The books, audiobooks, and podcasts we spend hours studying to attempt to become better parents. The meetings at the kitchen table after we put both of our daughters down to sleep, where we huddle and talk about what happened that day, the cute or funny things our girls said, or the days when we simply go, “what the FUCK was that?”

What the picture shows?

What my life looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Piles we still have not been able to get to because there is no such thing as time. The clothes hanger, where there are always clothes waiting to be dried, folded, or hung.

All that is background.

What’s in the foreground is how funny my daughters are, how silliness permeates everything we do, the pure bliss they can make me feel.

On the days when I’m in it, when things feel particularly hard, I play an audio loop in my head, wondering, “How the hell do other people do it?” If you go to social media, you will find no support to show you that others are struggling with it, too.

But if you talk to other parents, you will find out they are also going through it. It is comforting to know that we are all going through similar challenges and that it doesn’t mean anything about us as parents or about our kids as human beings.

That knowledge is enough to pick myself up every time and be ready for the next time I’ll be tackled.

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