2011 came to a close for me squished between my kids while we watched the fireworks at the Space Needle on an air mattress that was slowly losing air. The safety tag warned against using the mattress as a floatation device, and I understand why.
It was a fitting end to a year that I’ll remember most for the amount of time I spent with my children. I don’t know when it hit me how lucky I am, but it may have been the morning my daughter left her lunchbox at home, and didn’t realize it until we were at the bus stop.
For a split second I thought about lecturing Anna. About how it’s not my job to make sure her homework is tucked inside her backpack. How maybe if she’d spend less time selecting an outfit, she’d have more time to make sure she had everything she needed, including her lunch box. Behind all that pseudo fatherly advice was fact that it was simply a personal inconvenience to the driver.
In the time it look me to turn the van around and head back home to retrieve the lunchbox, I realized how most fathers would love to be in my position. I get to see my kids run towards the van each morning in various stages of readiness. Backpacks a size too large are dragged across the driveway. Jackets seldom match the season . Some mornings I’m convinced Anna got herself dressed in a pitch black cave.
But none of that matters.
This year I got to see my children every morning. It’s a view into a slice of their day that, until last year, was not part of my day because my commute was over an hour each way. I stirred chocolate milk for them, buttered toast and hung around long to figure out which flavor of Pringles each of them prefer.
In the past I’ve told myself that I was providing for my family. That a long commute or travel requirements were just part of the job, but that I’d make it up down the road. I nearly began to believe the lie myself.
It took losing my job to realize I was losing touch with my children. I left before they were awake and often returned home well after dinner. My free time started after they were in bed.
And that’s what I’ll take from 2011. A loss turned into a gain for me and my children.
Having to go back home to retrieve a forgotten lunch isn’t such a bad thing either because it gives me a few more minutes to listen to Anna’s wacky jokes.