Let me begin by debunking a few common myths about having a child: first, the so-called "Terrible Two's?" They're not that bad. Really. Ask any parent. Things truly take a turn for the worse when they turn three (which not too ironically is half of one of the numbers of the Beast). At two, kids are just beginning to exhibit their independence. Them saying "No" is not the problem. It's when at three, when they can better articulate their argument about why they don't want to wash their hands, go to bed, or eat anything other than French fries for dinner, that parenting gets frustrating.
Also, from the time they become self-propelled (wobbly though it may be) to the point when they are entering the preschool phase of life, as a parent you feel like you almost needed to watch them like a hawk else they stage-dive into an empty bathtub, try to eat to dog food kibbles, or finger-paint their own episode of GO, DIEGO GO onto the flat screen. Again, by the time they reach age three, things change and a little alone playtime isn't a bad thing. You're not going to single-handedly re-codify their MBTI Personality by letting them fly solo for a little.
Just remember: moderation, in all things, is the key.
Recently I've caught myself in the bad habit of saying "wait," or "not now" to Kai with much greater frequency than I ever anticipated I might. Part of this comes from the way he and I have interacted for the last three-plus years: I'm always there, always playing with him, always reading to him, always ready with yet another pack of Gummy Bears. As such, he expects me to be a readily-available plaything 24/7. Because I'm trying to instill in him a moderate sense of it being okay to be alone for a while, I've been trying for both of us to be okay with, for example, me being in the kitchen while he plays with his Legos in his room for a few minutes. But I'd be lying if I didn't also say I've at times "deferred" portions of our playtime because what he wanted to do wasn't convenient to my time, to my plan of what was supposed to be done then.
This isn't me being cruel or ignoring my child, nor is this me intentionally choosing something as more important than him. Both of us taking a break every so often isn't a bad thing. What I've come to understand is that when I do this with such alarming frequency, I'm acting like a parent.
Not like a dad.
And yes: there is a difference.
Kai is simply looking for someone to play with, to spend time with, and he is choosing me. When I continually say "wait" or "not now," those seconds count. They add up to minutes, hours, days when we're not involved with one another - and I know when he gets older, I will regret each and every time I put something that COULD wait before him. There's a world of difference in being dependent on me and being codependent with me. I need to not carve out a gulf between us physically or chronologically, else it becomes an emotional one. Again: taking a break every so often isn't bad.
But nothing...nothing...should be more important than my family. Nothing.
My lawyer has advised me that love does. I've also come to realize that love acts.
And sometimes - love is just plain silly.
It's still appropriate for me as his dad to say "wait" or "not now" to some things - when I've been handing raw chicken and he wants to climb up me, for example - but saying "yes" is much more fun and much more prone to making lasting memories between us. Dress up like a superhero before we head out to the grocery store? Yes. Go on a spy mission in the backyard? Yes. Have a parade on the front porch of our house to celebrate Crazy Thursdays? Yes.
These memories will last longer in our hearts than they will as a blog post or Tweet, anyway.