Father Time: Dad is In the Zone
A father takes a humorous look at new adoptive dads in this article from Chao Ban Newsletter for Vietnam Adoption.
While there are families of all different kinds and experiences, when a child first arrives home from Vietnam their world often revolves around Mommy. Food, medicine, bathing and most other routine maintenance activities are primarily-though not exclusively-handled by the mother. The father certainly does important functions, but the child usually doesn't have an immediate need for congratulatory cigars, flowers, or instruction in how to run a video camera. Consequently, Dads love their child completely but may feel a little left out of the party. No matter how many times they change the baby and play with the child, Mommy seems to be everything.
'Never fear!' I say to adoptive fathers who might ask me (not that anyone does). 'Just be patient, support your spouse, and pay attention to your kid. Because sooner or later, YOU will be 'in the zone.' Now many will recognize that term from sports where it refers to a moment when a combination of skill, timing, and luck come together to make one a winner. Here I refer to a period of time when your child discovers (or rediscovers) you and suddenly you are overwhelmed with compliments and requests for attention. You become the person they most want to walk with, ride with, play with and try to sweet talk.
For a Dad, this is the ultimate ego trip. It is a time of magic. Suddenly you are the focus of so much attention and seem to have hit your stride as a full-fledged parent. The simplest gestures seem to mean so much to your child.
Over time, you develop a routine for doling out this attention without driving yourself crazy. Also with experience comes an understanding that this burst of enthusiasm will wane but return periodically throughout the course of childhood. It seems like part of the perfect plan-you can conserve your energy and attention when you are not 'in the zone' and be prepared and fresh when you are. What's not to like?
The problem - if being intensely loved is ever really a problem-comes when you have more than one child. I have discovered that our three kids do not have the simple courtesy of coordinating their desires for my time and attention. With irritating frequency, they all want to hang out with you-and do wildly different things of course-at once. When they are fighting over who gets to go and buy tires with Dad, you instinctively know that your reservoir of patience and attention is not going to last. Further, it is often the case that the kids aren't the same age or gender. That makes things even worse when they are older since your son, no matter how devoted, is not very excited by an excursion to Claire's jewelry store for an hour of earrings, bracelets, and incessant demands for cartilage piercing. However, your daughter (who certainly has you wrapped around her little finger if you take her on such an outing) will be most happy.
I have no simple solution for all of this. If you ask my kids, they will tell you that I am utterly unsuccessful in attending to their respective needs fairly. Even worse, I take Mom out on a regular basis and they all have to stay home and eat frozen pizza. Notwithstanding that whining, I do the best I can. When I know that I am in one or more 'zones', I make a game plan that tries to accommodate everyone while giving preference to those who seem to need me at that point the most.
This is often harder work than my paid job. But I highly recommend it. For no matter how loudly unsatisfied my children are with the game plan for the weekend, for some reason they keep coming back for more. And since life is altogether too short and childhood fleeting, we Dads better enjoy it while we can.