As a dad, 2020 made me incredibly thankful for what I’ve got & what I can control
School’s out, the kids are back home, Christmas is only days away. Where did the year go? With the kids yelling in the background and the news about what’s happening in Sydney, I’m having feelings of PTSD. With a bit of perspective though, I know this will pass. After Melbourne’s lockdown where I spent four months locked at home with the kids, limited to a single hour of outdoor exercise and one necessary trip, I’m probably feeling less apprehensive about the Summer holidays than I otherwise would.
2020 has made me incredibly thankful for what I’ve got, for what I can control, and for all the other small blessings I’d taken for granted. Above all else, this past year has taught me gratitude. I was mistaken to think that merely having taken parental leave for each of my kids had fully prepared me for what was to come.
In hindsight, attempting to maintain a full workload while squeezing in half a school day (my wife and I tried sharing) was probably optimistic, if not foolish. Without our usual support arrangements, keeping our three young kids (8, 5, and 2) on track with their schooling and out of the cupboards proved more difficult than it looked in our calendars. Looking back at it all now that the post-hibernation shyness has worn off, there’s a certain nostalgia for simpler times when we didn’t have to worry about who was dropping off or picking up the kids, or what we would be doing on the weekend.
Parenting in 2020 has undoubtedly brought me closer with my kids. For much of the year, outside social interactions were limited to Teams or our local barista. Life had been stripped of all but a few distractions, leaving me with what I notionally knew was most important but hadn’t been prioritising.
Thinking back over the year on how much my youngest’s bedtime routine has changed, from having him sit on my lap while I read to him before going to his cot, to falling asleep on my shoulder while laying on the bed. Over the years, there have been many ‘last times’ that have passed unrecognised. Having the luxury of slowing down and realising in the moment what was ending and wouldn’t come again was precious.
It’s easy to focus on and remember the ‘big’ milestones, first steps, first words. We tend not to recognise those other ‘little’ things, those more incremental in nature such as going from a few words to sentences, from walking to running. Reflecting on how much each of my kids have grown these past nine months, I notice how much I have too. After gratitude, my second greatest learning has been to be adaptive and resilient.
Through the constant daily battle in managing my diary and attempting to home school my eldest two while trying to minimise the disruption of the third, I’ve discovered how to be more accepting of not only others but also of myself. You can never be everything to everyone and sometimes that means showing vulnerability. It may mean admitting you need help. And sometimes, you just need a hug from a little one to put everything in perspective.
Considering what I know others have been through, I count myself extremely fortunate and while at the time I felt most days were a struggle, I can now see how rewarding they truly were. I am a far more confident carer than I was before and far more cognisant of the importance in being truly present when with my children. Hopefully, in the years to come, my family and I will look back on 2020 and recognise it as a turning point which bound us closer together.