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With both kids in school, father cherishes the early years

September 23, 2014

Kindergarten is a rite of passage – for parents. So I wrote when our eldest, Zoe, boarded the big yellow school bus for the first time.

Even though Zoe had been attending pre-school three days per week, it was both exciting and unsettling to think that she, and we, had crossed a new threshold – the beginning of a 13-year journey of public schooling.

Now – two years later – our youngest, Adam, has begun this journey too.

On the first day, my wife Lori and I stood waving as the bus pulled away, Zoe beaming, Adam a bit anxious. Then, we strolled home, hand-in-hand, wondering – what now?

For eight years, Lori and I have precariously balanced at-home parenting and income earning roles. A perfect balance has eluded us, Lori wanting more time at home, me less, but the approach offered both of us precious time at home with Zoe and Adam. We have no regrets.

Still, the prospect of 35-hours per week when we are not directly supervising our children – excepting Teacher In-Service Days, School Holidays, Sick Days, Snow Days, weekends and summer break – is also exciting and unsettling.

As we individually and collectively imagine the next stage of our parenting journey, we are resisting the urge to immediately fill the space with the many activities that at-home parenting has kept at bay. This is not easy. Every item on the list is preceded by the word “more.” More work, more house projects, more exercise, more time for us, and more time for me.

It is easy to see where a lifetime of busyness will lead us, if unchecked. I am under no illusion that with both Zoe and Adam in school full-time, parenting and life will be simpler. To the contrary, we witness – daily – the flow of family life for those further along the parenting journey.

Still, I see two opportunities. First, to ask the question, “How do I, us (as a couple) and we (as a family) want to be in the next stage of our family’s journey?” Second, to devote time, to reflection and conversation that will illuminate a forward path.

Holding to a lighter schedule, leading up to and following the start of school, has allowed for important family time, and for me, the space to feel sadness about the end of the early parenting years – a letting go. This has ushered forth feelings of joy about parenting choices, shared experiences and bonds forged along the way.

Reflecting on the early years, one of the lessons – perhaps the lesson – that Zoe and Adam teach me, again and again, is the importance of being present with each moment. Whenever I am with one or both of them, they want to feel that I am genuinely with them in the experience – not sending an email, talking on the phone or thinking about my to-do list.

So, on the last day of summer break – the day before Adam climbed aboard the big yellow bus – excitement filled our home at the sound of heavy machinery rolling down our quiet, dead end street. Adam raced to the window and announced, “Daddy, there’s a bucket truck…and an end loader… and a really big dump truck – let’s go see.”

Together we strolled to the end of the block, taking a seat in a neighbor’s yard – the yard with a gentle slope where Adam learned to ride his bike two years ago – for a closer view.

As Adam sat on my knees, his legs dangled ever closer to the ground. I wrapped my arms around him and felt his warm body relaxed against mine. Together we watched with excitement as one worker chain-sawed a dead tree to the ground, another loaded the pieces, and a third drove the full dump truck down the alley.

When it was over, Adam was done, satisfied with our shared experience. As we walked, hand-in-hand, back toward the house, Lori approached and asked Adam if he wanted to go grocery shopping with her. And just like that, he was gone – fully immersed in his next adventure.

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