June 18, 2015

I was a Pissed-off Dad.

Angry toddler looking into camera.

Free fall—it was like I was looking up at the sky and nothing moved.

It was “March in Costa Rica” when I found out. (In San Jose that means the weather is nice—not quite rainy season, not quite hot—jeans and t-shirt kind of days.)

Sara called and told me to meet her at Applebees. Her mom was there when I walked in, but she left shortly after I joined them.

Sara told me she was pregnant.

Free fall.

It wasn’t even a scary free fall. It wasn’t like I looked down and saw the ground coming at me—I hadn’t turned to look yet. It was more like I was looking up at the sky and nothing moved.

I didn’t have any immediate thoughts—just blank, lost, silence…


I had a plan—I had a f*cking plan.

I mean, now what am I supposed to do?

I just went through a divorce, I’m having fun with a great girl and—oops?

“You just pop into my life — just like that — uninvited? WTF?”



“You can be as much of a father as you want,” Sara said to me. We were sitting on her bed after we’d told her parents.

That’s when I saw possibility in a world that was crashing down on me.

The implosion became an explosion.

I don’t know if a switch was activated, or a metaphysical entity acted.

I did not know how or even if I could.

This baby needs love.


I was still pissed.

There were so many things to be pissed at, but they were just my things, so they really didn’t matter.

Now they do.

Now it matters if I succeed—now it matters if I am kind, or a jerk, or kind of a jerk.

Right now everything about me matters.

It matters if I am happy.

It matters that I be happy.


Today Oliver is three. It’s taken time to develop some patience — for both of us.

He’s a handful, like all toddlers—curious , outgoing, smiling, fearless.

Overall, I guess I’m doing okay as a parent.

But I still get pissed. He does things, and I think like an adult—which can be rather unforgiving.

In some ways it’s easier now than before because I can relate to the child he is becoming. But mostly, it’s the lessons learned. Any other child will benefit from what I learned with Oliver—mostly, to relax.

Someone told me that long-term memories aren’t developed until around this age. Thank goodness. I’d rather forget the mistakes I made in the beginning.


Oliver turned and yelled at me, “You ruined my life!”

He mustered up as much adultness as he could—puckering his lips, putting his hands on his waist and leaning over me on the floor.

Sara and I laughed pretty hard—at three? Already?

But seriously, where did you hear that Oliver? God, I hope it wasn’t me being an ass.


I look forward to this stage you are growing into. Not just to what you’ve got to say about ketchup, but to what I have learned as a dad.

Like knowing that your defiance is best curtailed by subverting your intentions and turning it into a game. Or that your impatient energy can be directed at understanding what is going on. I’ve learned that laughing is preferable to severity and that play prevents the need for punishment.

But most importantly you are teaching me to chill out with the “Adultness.”

You are teaching me to have fun—to be happy.


Relephant Read:

Restless: A Dad’s Midnight Fears.

Author: Richard May

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Richard May

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