A father’s responsibility

. December 20, 2012.


“Your only responsibility is to keep them alive.” That was the sage advice of my friend, who is the father of four adult children. My wife had left for a couple of days on a trip for work and that was his version of encouragement. 

At that moment, based upon my morning, it sounded like the only achievable goal on my to-do list for the day.

The day had started benignly enough. I woke Elizabeth, our six year-old. She was initially reluctant to get out of bed, but I enticed her with the promise of pancakes. Two-year old Noah soon followed and we seemed off to a good start.

With breakfast finished I chased the kids upstairs to get dressed and ready to go.

Elizabeth and I haggled over what color shirt she would wear with her required school uniform.

Noah seemed fine with his choice of clothes but shoes were another matter. I chose a pair he said he liked. Once on, though, he was not so sure. I took them off and went hunting among the pairs strewn around closets for a pair that met his approval.

During this search I asked Elizabeth to brush her teeth. (A little daddy multitasking.) Her first response was “I don’t want to.” I ignored this and asked her to please brush her teeth.

While I was trying to assert parental authority with Elizabeth, Noah informed me that now he, in fact, wanted to wear the previously rejected pair of shoes. As I was bouncing back and forth from child to child I noticed that I was running out of time. The nine o’clock deadline to get Elizabeth to her first grade class was only ten minutes away.

“Elizabeth, brush your teeth!”

“Bring me my toothbrush!” was not the response I was looking for.

At that same moment Noah ran in screaming that he wanted his shoes taken off. He had now remembered why he originally did not like them. With his cries still in my ear, my cell phone rang. Instead of ignoring it in this conflagration I decided to throw gasoline on my personal fire. It was a colleague’s office asking why a document I promised last week was not finished. While trying to explain my situation — both related to the document and my kids — I picked up Noah, still screaming, and placed him on our laundry room counter.

I hung up and pulled Noah’s shoe off simultaneously. I flung the shoe with no particular care for its destination and immediately heard the sound of breaking glass as it hit our bathroom window. The sound shocked me; getting to school on time was no longer my biggest concern.

Elizabeth was ultimately late for school and a spelling test. All day long, I beat myself up for losing my cool, breaking the window and destroying my daughter’s perfect spelling record.

In the midst of this self-pity is where my friend offered his wisdom. But, based on his standard, I had met the minimum requirement. I had also learned three things — replacing a broken window: $70; replacing a lost shoe: $20; calm in the midst of the storm: priceless.