How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad
David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice
"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.
Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?
The hamster wheel lifestyle of adulthood — you know, the parenting, working, eating, barely sleeping routine — never seemed that bad to me. It was all I knew. It wasn't until Covid upended our lives by closing down our schools and offices, that I realized how, somewhere along the way, I stopped appreciating the simple things. Being quarantined at home with my family, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, can be super frustrating at times — two words: home schooling — but at the same time, it's also been kind of extraordinary.
For the first time since our son Max was born, we've been able to eat three meals together every day as a family. When Max wakes up, before our day gets started, we take a quick bike ride around the neighborhood. In-between work deadlines and helping Max with his virtual learning, we sneak away for some family workout time in our make-shift gym… and sometimes we play tag in the backyard during "recess" before getting back to our jobs after lunch. By tweaking our old routine, we were able to create a new one that is less rigid, more fun and all about connecting.
When Max talks, I don't just find myself being more attentive, I truly listen to what he's saying and I marvel at how his little mind works. And when he asks random questions — "Dada, who invented Legos?" — I now have the time to look up the actual answers instead of making up something that gets me back to what I was doing as quickly as possible. We get to hear him interacting with teachers and other kids at school over Zoom. We get to see that other side of him we've always heard about. You know, the one where he's actually well-behaved and attentive.
There's no downplaying the chaos, sadness and tragedy that Covid has brought to our lives (my extended family has certainly seen its fair share of Covid-related problems). But through it all, I feel gratitude for the enormous theme of togetherness that has permeated through the walls of our home these past few months. The strict stay-at-home order has brought my husband, Alex, and our son, Max, closer and made us more appreciative of each other. And for that I am thankful.
While, like the rest of the world, I want to get back to our old routines, that doesn't mean I want things to necessarily go back to normal. Because I much prefer the father that this "new normal" has allowed me to be. The one that lives in the moment, has more patience and finally has his priorities in order.
It turns out my dad was right all along. These roses smell pretty damn good.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the beginnings of LEGO can be attributed to a Danish carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932. He was a skilled man who owned a struggling woodworking shop that he ran alongside his 12-year-old son, Godtfred. The name, LEGO, comes from two Danish words 'Leg' and 'Godt,' which when translated mean 'Play Well'.