Today is, unequivocally, the greatest day of my life. My first instinct was to qualify that remark with a spineless “thus far” but the greatness of this day sets the benchmark pretty damn high. Yes, events on some future day might surpass today in greatness but the odds are thinning as rapidly as the once glorious volume of my ever-greying hair. Sadly those far-fetched, but theoretically possible, sexual fantasies of youth, while undoubtedly still desirable, have become all too unlikely as Mother Nature’s sniggering toll reduces a once inexhaustible machine gun to a single load musket.
Greatest days in one’s life come in a broad assortment of flavours. Some are as obvious as a zit on the prom queen’s forehead while others reek of Facebook motivational memes. Winning an award that recognizes the pinnacle of achievement in one’s chosen field of expertise, be that sport, entertainment, or academia is pretty straightforward, whereas “the day you found yourself” should probably be left on Pinterest. A greatest day can also be extremely personal, say for a former addict as an example, but losing one’s virginity probably does nothing more than indicate you’re too young to be making greatest day proclamations. And likely male.
Married people will almost invariably choose their wedding day as the greatest day of their life. I suppose this makes sense considering the social nature of humans and the significance our society still places on these unions. That is, of course, until a divorce day arrives which has the magical power to either eradicate the greatness of the wedding day altogether or, in some cases, surpass it.
And then there are parents. You needn’t be a member of Mensa to know what these people claim is the greatest day of their life. All parents the world over will claim the birth of their first child (sorry subsequent children) was by far the greatest day of their life. Even if that kid turns out to be a serial killer or politician, Mom and Dad can’t help but claim their birth was the greatest day ever. And for the most part, they’re right, with one glaring exception.
If a stay-at-home parent tells you that the greatest day of their life was the day their first child was born, they are lying. The fact is, the single greatest day in the life of any stay-at-home parent is the first full day of school for their youngest child. For me, that day is today!
My son started Grade 1 this morning and joins his sister in spending 6 ½ hours at school while I remain at home, alone, unburdened by parental responsibility eating frosted chocolate fudge Pop Tarts and watching Matlock reruns all day in what can best be described as a clothing optional environment. The magnificence of this day cannot be understated and yet putting this elation I’m feeling into words escapes me. I offer this visual instead.
Today, I achieved a personal milestone. In a sense, I’ve graduated. The first stage of parenthood is now complete for me. It’s been 7 ½ years since I quit my job to do this. 7 ½ years that seemed so daunting when lying before me but now seem so fleeting as they lay behind me. I’ve watched and guided two one-year-olds from diapers and naps to walking, talking and counting to preschool and kindergarten to, finally, all-day grade school.
I did it. They did it. We did it! It wasn’t always easy or smooth. There were days I was ready to quit and go back to work just to escape. I’m sure there were days my kids wished I had. I’m glad I didn’t. There were also days of such joy and wonder and fun that even my darkened soul couldn’t help but smirk. I am proud of myself. I’m proud of my kids. We survived each other and created a period of our lives that all three of us will cherish more and more as the rosy fog of memory engulfs these years and erases the tough moments.
I now face a new stage in my life. I am experiencing the same excitement and anxiety that my kids felt this morning as we prepared for this first day of school. Anticipation and apprehension locked in an epic battle of tic tac toe. I now have a meaningful chunk of time each day to be a bit more selfish; to do things for me. All those “what are you going to do when” questions can now be answered; need to be answered. It’s time for me to do something with myself. Each afternoon I’ll return to being Dad and I’ll savour those shortened work hours to their fullest but in the preceding 390 minutes it’s all about me and that sounds pretty awesome. This is the greatest day of my life! Time to chase some dreams.
Dammit…I miss my kids.