Today was a really great day for this particular Daddy. Well, it didn’t start out great, but it turned out great. Except for my suit. My suit had a lousy, lousy day. More on that later.
Okay, so here’s a quick summary of the not so good part that came before the really great part of the day. In the wee hours of the morning, after my wife and I finally got our fabulous four year old girl and our tough two year old boy to bed, did all the clean up, put the garbage out, and got to bed ourselves, instead of falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, like usual, I had a taxing bout of insomnia. And not just typical insomnia from indigestion or being upset about something someone said or did, but a quasi panic attack type bout of insomnia, full of anxiety, worry about career and finances, and wondering whether the choices I’ve made in life have been the right ones, or at least, the ones right enough to keep paying the bills for the foreseeable future.
The last big panic attack I had was in 2006, when I found myself locked in the vestibule of a closed office building in New York City late on a Saturday night, and thought I would be stuck there until Monday morning. That was full on, hyperventilating, almost call the police level claustrophobic panic. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs since then, and thankfully haven’t had that extreme level of anxiety again until last night. Last night’s panic attack also had some of the same “I can’t breathe” feeling as I felt a decade ago, but fortunately, it didn’t last nearly as long, and wasn’t nearly as acute or intense. When it was over, it was over, but 12am – 2am was still a rough patch.
Sleep was fleeting, as around 7am, the human tornado known also known as our two year old boy was up, full of energy, and ready to roll. Contrary to what you might imagine, this was actually the starting point of my really great, memorable day.
On weekdays, I’m up and out of the house pretty early for work, so I usually don’t get to spend much time with my kids until I get home from work at night, when the routine is drop everything at the door, tag team the kids with my wife to them seated in one place long enough to eat dinner, and then start the nightly steel cage match that is called putting two toddlers to bed. So while weekend mornings are early, I love the chance to wake up and spend some quality time with my lovely little ones, despite my bleary eyes and grogginess.
My son and I had a good half hour or so of a combination of both play and affection, with him giving me plenty of hugs and kisses between playing with his toy cars, his little parking garage, and his building blocks. Honestly, this alone would have been sufficient to make for a good day, but the day got even better.
My daughter was downstairs soon after this, and she also gave me a nice dose of affection, with plenty of hugs and kisses in between my attempts to corral the two of them for breakfast. This too, would have been fuel enough to carry me through to a good day, but again, the day got even better.
The next hour or two were a whirlwind of getting everyone fed, cleaned up, and then dressed in their finest clothes, as we were going to synagogue to celebrate a family member’s simcha. I put on my navy pinstripe suit, which is usually reserved for weddings and such major events. My wife looked radiant, as usual, and she quickly got the kids dressed up in outfits that were ridiculously cute.
Here’s where the day got really great for me, if not for my suit. Usually, when we go to synagogue, it’s a mix of good and bad with my kids. Good in the sense that they learn to appreciate synagogue services, and that they socialize a little with other children their own age. Bad in the sense that I spend most of the time they’re in synagogue with me chasing after them to keep them out of harm’s way, that their socializing with other kids is generally brief and haphazard, and that they consume so many cookies and candies while they’re in synagogue that they’re on a manic sugar high for hours later.
On this particular day, yes, there was still a sickening overabundance of sugar consumed, thanks to my family members who have zero perspective on how much chocolate is too much, and yes, I still did a lot of chasing, but the cool thing was that my children’s socializing with other the other kids in synagogue was really, really amazing! My daughter kept finding different friends, and instead of playing with them for a minute before flitting off somewhere else, she spent a long time playing with each girl. She even became the common friend between different sets of girls that would occasionally blow off the others, and would hold the hands of the ones who were being left out, and pull them back into the games. She was like a little four year old magnet, pulling all the other girls together, running this way and that, and keeping everyone involved and happy to play.
This was such a thrilling thing for me to see, because I always worry that she won’t find the right friends, or will be left out of the rapidly forming cliques of girls from this group or that. She showed me very clearly that when I back up a little and let her run free, she does so gracefully, confidently, and proudly. And the other girls love that in her, and run along with her.
Just when I thought I couldn’t be more proud, my rambunctious two year old boy decided to join the mix. I braced myself, waiting for the frolicking four year old girls to cast him aside as being too young, being a baby, or being a boy (yuck!), but absolutely none of that occurred. My daughter took his hand and pulled him right into the fun, and they all giggled and ran for the remainder of the day.
I was beaming with pride, and so happy that my girl and boy, who often get along about as well as a cat and dog, had not only played so well with others, but also played so well with each other! The simcha in synagogue was also a treat, with plenty of good food, family, and friends. All in all, it was just a really fantastic day, with a proud papa watching his children maturing before his eyes. And getting gunk all over his suit.
If you recall, I mentioned the tons of chocolates candies that were consumed, aided in no small part by my oblivious family members. Well, some of the gooey chocolate and icing from those candies invariably ended up on my navy pinstripe suit. That was to be expected, really, and the big smear of chocolate on my sleeve came as no great surprise. The surprise was why a dark wet circle of who knows what kept on showing up on my thigh. Every time I would see it, I’d quickly dab it with a napkin, but I kept on getting distracted from it, until it kept on reappearing.
When I finally took off the suit at the end of the day, I checked my pants to see what manner of obliteration I was about to witness; would it be food, or maybe drink, or maybe even my children’s excrement that I hastily cleaned in a cramped bathroom stall?!? I looked at it up and down, and couldn’t figure out what it could be, other than that it was wet, sticky, and dark, and would surely soon be the greatest challenge my dry cleaner had ever experienced. Then came the moment of truth. I reached into the pocket, and pulled out the offending item.
The source of the mystery stain was a pair of Lindt Chocolate Balls, filled with liquid chocolate, that some family member or other had stuffed into my children’s hands earlier in the day, but that I had quickly taken and hidden in my pocket to prevent what was heading toward early onset diabetes. I had forgotten the chocolate balls sitting in my suit pants pocket for the next several hours, during which they had, of course, melted, and extruded their liquid chocolate goodness all over the inside of my pant leg.
I should take a camera with me when I take it to the dry cleaner, just to capture the look of horror and despair on his face when he sees this stain from hell, and his life flashes before his eyes. In that moment, I might just see someone else entering into the same kind of breathless panic attack that started me off on this wild, chocolate stained journey through the highs and lows of fatherhood.