In the beginning it was all so easy.
The kid watched three, maybe four shows with any regularity. She had a handful of reliable toys. She had her go-to books. It was manageable.
But now? It seems like she's discovering something new every day. "Daddy, can I watch My Big Big Friend?" What the hell is a big big friend? Wait, what's she watching now? And why does that rolling elephant sound like Fry from Futurama?
And it's not just television shows. Have you heard of Lalaloopsies? Did you know there were no fewer than 821 different characters? I do - cause my daughter apparently has each and every one as a miniature action figure.
And so it happened. I turned into Dopey Dad.
"Well well well, who do we have here? Sprinkle Sugar Cookie?"
<Heavy sigh that has no business coming out of a three year old>
"No Daddy, that's Crumbs Sugar Cookie. Her sister is Sprinkle Spice Cookie."
"Oh. Well which one has the pet cat?"
"Oh Daddy, the cat belongs to Harmony B. Sharp."
It's at this point that she usually decides I'm too far gone and wonders off to find Mommy.
I remember being a kid and wondering how on earth my Dad could run a pulp mill but not know the difference between a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis. Or being embarassed when he'd ask about a band I hadn't listened to in years. "How could be be so clueless?" I'd wonder. Now I get it.
Dad, I'm sorry.
I travel for work. Not nearly as often as I used to, when I used to try to parent via webcam several times a month, but even since changing roles earlier this year I still have to travel from time to time. This week was one of those times. And boy was it a poorly timed trip. The kid has been ... challenging, to say the least. Especially when it comes to bedtime (we're told that her difficulty is likely to due to a severe case of being three).
Wednesday night, after another epic bedtime showdown that my wife had to handle solo, she (my wife, not the kid) admitted that she was feeling a wee bit of resentment given that I got to escape the madness for a couple of nights. At first I was kind of taken aback. The novelty of work travel has long since worn off for me and I tend to view each trip away as an abdication of responsibility. I don't like being alone in a hotel. I miss being home with my family and I tend to feel like crap every time I get an update on the madness at home because I'm not there to help.
But to Amy, I'm getting off easy. She's the one trying to wrangle the ball of energy and stubbornness that is our lovely daughter, I'm off in the relative peace and quiet that is my downtown Toronto hotel.
I hear a lot of parents talk about needing a break. Wanting an escape. And I totally get that. Hell, I wish I could send Amy away for a few more nights off myself. But there's something to be said for being at home in the trenches too.
I feel sometimes like I'm missing out on some parenting merit badges or something.
There's a lot that's great about being a dad. The joy and pride you feel when your daughter learns a new skill; the heart-swelling awesomeness of hearing her first "I love you, Daddy." You take your lumps as a parent, to be sure, but almost every day there's something that reminds you how freakin' cool this gig really is. But a lot of it is, really, kind of predictable. That doesn't take away from it's power, mind you, but it's sort of ... cliche.
Which makes the items on the following list even more remarkable. Not only are the following things amazingly cool, they are — for the most part — unexpected joys of parenting. The stuff they don't tell you in prenatal class.