Why we do it

I was in kind of a mood yesterday. I wasn’t rocking the full-blown mopiness or anything; it’s not like I felt the need to lock myself into a room, put on black eyeliner and spend all night listening to the collected works of The Cure. I was just a little blah.

Now, I know I’ve said this before, but it still surprises me when I catch a mood because I never used to get that way back when I was primarily a nerd. But now that I’m a part-time creative type that writes words and stuff and has come to appreciate that perhaps sunlight isn’t the root of all evil, well, when the weather turns nice, I sort of want to be freed from my daily responsibilities.

Seriously, life was much simpler when I was all up into maintaining my own Linux server and crimping my own CAT-5 Ethernet patch cables just because I could.

Anyway, it was nice out yesterday and I was pining to have class outside, if you know what I mean. As it turns out, though, when you write software for a living, there’s really not much opportunity to spend the afternoon under a tree. Something you undecided college kids might want to consider. Looks like that Arts program your mother isn’t a huge fan of because she thinks it means you’ll be living under a bridge (or worse, in her basement for the next decade) does have some advantages.

Unfortunately, by the time I left work, an overall sense of blasé had firmly taken root. So with a cloud of moderate grumpiness hanging over me, I went through the motions at dinner, helped the kids with their homework, and cheerlessly saw to the standard Tuesday night routine. Before I knew what happened, as is usually the case on weeknights, I realized it was time to put The Attitude in his pajamas and get the nighttime cycle going. I looked at where he was playing with his cars and his trains on the family room floor and said, “Time to put your jammies on.”

He stopped what he was doing and looked back at me. He then stood up, smiled widely, said, “Noooo, Daddy, silly,” and took off across the room, eventually jumping onto the couch while giggling uncontrollably.

This is clearly the better of the two potential results for when it’s jammie time. Occasionally, he will instead demonstrate exactly how he earned his nickname by throwing himself on the floor and engaging in a two year-old toddler fit of epic proportions. So, yes, a little bit of coyness and a game of chase is definitely the preferred option.

I intercepted him at the couch, which is our custom, and he laughed and laughed as I picked him up.

I might have even given him a tickle or two for good measure.

As I carried him upstairs to let him pick his PJs for the night (doggies, spacesips, THOMAS!), I realized that my cloud of grumpiness had almost instantaneously disappeared. And that’s when it struck me: THIS is why we do it.

Being a parent is hard; truly harder than anyone ever warned you about. And the Puddinette and I are finding that each year it seems to get even harder, not easier. Sometimes I wonder how I’m going to make it through the next two decades without locking someone in a tower, completely going The ‘burbs on my neighbors, or being reduced to a mumbling shell of myself, clinging desperately to a lime green balloon named “Francisco” for comfort.

But then I’ll hear something like that laughter, the innocent, unrestrained, full-body giggling of a toddler. There are no sounds I can think of exactly like it, and I can’t imagine there’s a way to mimic or duplicate it. It immediately brightened to my day, obliterated my gloomy mood.

If there is a Heaven, that’s the sounds I expect it to be filled with.

That said, though, I’m not suggesting it’s a panacea. Dr. Puddin’s Toddler Laughter Tonic is not necessarily the cure that’s gonna fix what ails ya. What I can promise is that life is not always simple, and rarely goes exactly the way we want. Sometimes every last one of us needs a little something to lighten the load and remind us why we put up the fight every day. In order to survive that fight, you need to recognize the things that fix you when you’re broken, and surround yourself with whatever that turns out to be.

For me, it’s hearing The Attitude’s laugh, my eight year-old saying “I love you, Dad” just before bed, when he thinks no one else is paying attention, or a dozen other simple things.

What is it for you? Figure it out and keep it in your life.

Otherwise, you’re looking at a long-term relationship with “Francisco”.