31 August 2011

The Return of Debbie Downer

This post is dedicated to anyone who has bothered reading this on a regular, or semi-regular, basis in the past. So, to all six or seven of you, I want to offer an apology. And explanation.

This lengthy absence was unintentional and unfortunate. And it’s not as though the Doozer hasn’t done anything remotely interesting in the past two months. He has. And though I wish I could say that we’ve been living the high life and having a summer of nonstop activity and excitement, I can’t. Sure, there was some fun stuff here and there. The Doozer’s first out-of-town vacation, our annual visit to the zoo (where our son got to see—and roar alongside—ginormous, life-sized dinosaurs), his third birthday celebration (dinosaur-themed—sensing a pattern here?).

The Doozer has been enrolled in preschool and starts next week. Which is crazy. He has mastered 48-piece puzzles. We tried and failed repeatedly to convince him to go and see his first movie in the theater (Winnie the Pooh). He peed all the way up the bathroom wall. (Yes, that happened. Seriously.) He got a sandbox. And a backpack. And a miniature house for the backyard (my biggest assembly project to date—becoming a parent has forced me to tap into my non-existent engineering skills more than I ever have in my entire life).

He also started wearing underpants. With Marvel superheroes on them. Time really flies.

The truth is, that despite all of these wonderful occurrences and developmental advancements, it has not been the greatest summer for me. For several different reasons which I won’t bore anyone with (anymore than I already have), I have spent most of the summer suffering from some pretty serious depression and anxiety. As if parenting wasn’t a difficult, arduous journey already, this experience put a serious crimp in my parenting style.

If I had any to begin with.

Being depressed and being Dad 24/7 can be a complicated balancing act. You don’t want to bum your kid out by being bummed out yourself. You don’t want to seem to your kid as though you are not interested in them or committed to whatever activity you’re engaged in. And just try explaining to an inquisitive toddler where you’ve been when you come home later in the evening than usual, because you’ve been seeing a therapist. Try to avoid telling them that you went to see a doctor, a term they are obviously more familiar with than therapist. “Why did you meet the doctor? Do you have a boo-boo? Did you get a sticker?” Uh, sure. Yeah. I got a sticker.

So, for me, this summer has been about putting on a happy face and trying to be normal (whatever that is anymore). And it hasn’t always been easy. But you learn when you become a parent that you want to keep your child safe, not only from actual danger and harm, but you want to protect them from harshness and cruelty and the generally crappy nature of the outside world. They’ll learn soon enough that life isn’t perfect, that the world is a pretty messed-up place. You should at least try to let them enjoy themselves for a little while before those realizations sink in.

At least until they’re five or so.

When I lamented to my wife that I worried about passing along all this stuff to our son (which is ridiculously cruel and unfair of us), she poignantly observed that if you’re smart and you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the world, chances are, you’re going to end up depressed. “And he’s already extremely smart,” she added with a sigh.

So, we’ve screwed him. Basically. Sorry, Son.

But, to move past the relentless gloom and doom of this post, there is some good to report. Well, first of all, I’m writing this, so that’s positive. My wife has been chastising me for weeks about posting, setting deadlines that I have been unable to meet. If nothing else, writing this will get her off my back. Kidding, kidding. But I feel comfortable and confident in writing this now (and I wanted to, I’ve missed it). I experienced something of a breakthrough recently. The dark clouds are starting to lift and I’m finding it less of a Herculean effort to simply be relaxed and happy and content around the Doozer.

In fact, this past weekend, we were playing in his grandparents’ yard with a bouncy ball. Playing “kickety kickball,” as the Doozer likes to call it. We ran in circles and he couldn’t stop giggling. Then I taught him how to drop-kick the ball. And he actually managed to replicate the action! Sure, sometimes it snapped back and smacked him in the face, but he didn’t mind. Sometimes he got it to sail straight through the air, up above both our heads.

“I knew I could do it!” he exclaimed and I swear I have never heard anything funnier in my entire life. And in that moment, watching that ball sail above us, seeing the Doozer smile, hearing his laughter ring through the air, everything else disappeared. Everything dropped away. It was pure, unfiltered joy. At least I think that's what it was. And for a few minutes I wasn’t depressed. I was just Dad.

And it was kind of awesome.

1 comment:

  1. I'm one of the six or seven that's really enjoyed your blog (via RSS on my Google Reader), and I just wanted to pipe up to commend you on a few things:
    1) Being honest. People tend to clam up about mental illness, and there's a lot of shame that's associated with it, so being open about the reasons behind your absence is brave. Bravery is something else that you'll pass along to the Doozer, and it will serve him well. If I learned one thing from "Babe: Pig in the City", it's that's fortune favors the brave.
    2) I'm happy you recognized that you needed help and sought it out. That's not easy to do, and that's speaking from experience.
    3) Congrats on the successful drop-kick lesson! Can you teach me sometime?

    All the best.