How To Be Happy (According To My Infant Daughters) – Fatherly

Posted: October 2, 2019 at 4:43 am

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They say, Time flies when youre having fun, and no disrespect to my daughters, but I dont think it was just the fun part that made these past six years fly by so fast. I would include an addendum to that oft-quoted phrase and say, Time also flies when youre incredibly busy. My days are full to overflowing. After my wife and I return from our full-time jobs, our real job begins at home, making sure our daughters are fed, bathed, and dressed and arent causing too much mischief, e.g., tipping our CD tower over. (Yes, we still have a CD tower.)

Despite all the work, theyre worth it. Of course they are. (Can you imagine this essay if I thought they werent?) Theyre not only worth it because I love them, but because Ive managed to learn a lot in the blink of an eye that constitutes the better part of the last decade. Here are the lessons theyve taught me that I think about in my nonexistent spare time.

Unfortunately, Im one of the most impatient people on the planet, and that doesnt bode well when you have children who insist on flipping over on their changing tables when youre trying to replace their diapers or love to sing high notes at 3 in the morningevery morning. There were times Ihad to walk away and take a breather. This parenting thing isnt easy, and its made me realize I am in definite short supply of the thing you need the most when taking care of children. And Im still working on it. I know itll be a never-ending process until they reach their teensand then I may as well give up. I dont know how single parents do it.

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Im one of the most nostalgic people Ive ever known, but the truth remains that nostalgia isnt real. Actually, let me clarify: the feeling of nostalgia is certainly real, but the idea that the past was always great, and the present/future is and will always be rotten is just a lie.

Nothing makes me realize this more than when Im with my daughters. Theyre enjoying life so much right now, smiling at almost anything they see, but thats mostly because theyre nave. (Ignorance is bliss, as they say.) They dont know that gun violence kills thousands of Americans every year, that racism is a rampant problem, and were still at war in the Middle East after almost two decades. But years from now as they grow up, theyll look back at what they can remember and say the 2010s were such grand times, just like I think 1989 is the greatest year in recorded history when it was equally troubled. (Well, the Berlin Wall came down that year, so there was that.)

I once had a conversation with my Dad when he asked me all these questions about the internet, Microsoft Word, and other technological marvels of our Brave New World. At that point, he was retired for a few years, but even if he wasnt, he never really worked with computers anywayat least not how we use them now. So I was dumbfounded by his questions. Why should you care about all this new stuff anyway? I asked, and his answer blindsided me: Because if I stop learning, I may as well be dead.

He was right.

Being a semiserious student when I was younger, I have to admit I was more interested in achieving high grades than in the actual learning process. What I learned any given week in school was just a byproduct of trying to make it to the next class and the next grade, which I realize now really shouldnt have been the way to go about it. It reminds me of the old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon when Calvin brags to his teacher that he memorized some useless information he learned in class just long enough to pass a test and now will happily forget it for the rest of his life. I used to have the quadratic formula memorized, but if someone stopped me on the street and put a gun to my head in order to extract that information now, Id be dead.

But I can see this process, the literal joy of learning, on my daughters faces. Luckily, they dont seem to be so stubbornly lazy as me when it comes to acquiring new information. From working out simple puzzles in their toys to remembering how to spell the word apple, theyre literally learning dozens of new things every day, even if I cant see all of it yet. Of course, one day I will, and it will all be because they wanted to learn in the first place. After all, like my Dad astutely put it, theyre not dead yet.

When I was a kid in 1988, I watched Happy Birthday, Garfield, a television special dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the titular fat cat, and a little after the intro to the show, creator/cartoonist Jim Davis explained that if theres anything to take away from Garfield the comic strip and Garfield the character, its this: Hey, lifes not so bad.

I was horrified.

Of course, Davis was looking for the opposite reaction, but my mind was moving so quickly that I immediately thought, Well, why would he need to say that unless life is bad? What are the adults not telling us?! I grew into that unfortunate mental attitude as I got older, even suffering several bouts of depression.

Still, my daughters remind me of this line every day, and they also taught me that Davis is right. Life really isnt so bad, at least for most of us. I cant speak about people suffering in third-world countries, but for the majority of us, its not exactly a daily struggleor at least it doesnt have to be (and if youre reading this, it means you have both access to the Internet and the money for a computer and/or smartphone, so your life cant be that bad either). My daughters see things in the world that I forgot to marvel about, which brings me to my last point.

Its easy to forget being amazed at magnets and planes flying overhead but easier to remember when youve got a 3- and 6-year-old living with you. After my wife and I put up our Christmas tree a few years ago, I wish I couldve bottled the look on my younger daughters face. Her eyes lit up like, well, that Christmas tree, and she literally opened her mouth and squealed, Woooah! as if to say, Hey, a tree is growing in the middle of our living room! Howd it get here, Daddy?!

There was a time I was like that, too. I was amazed at flashing Christmas lights hanging across city streets and shiny boxes under the tree. When did I lose that? Not sure, but most us do. I suppose us serious adults are too busy working and paying the bills to take notice, but this Christmas, as I walk home from work and pass The Empire State Building decorated in red and green for the holidays, Im going to at least try to look up in wonder.

Just because life goes fast doesnt mean it isnt beautiful.

Michael Perone is an editor based in New York. He has written for The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper, and Long Island Voice (a spinoff of the Village Voice),as well as Yahoo!, Whatculture!, and other websites that dont end with an exclamation mark.

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How To Be Happy (According To My Infant Daughters) - Fatherly

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October 2nd, 2019 at 4:43 am

Posted in Mental Attitude