Posted by: philosodad | October 8, 2009

Absent Father

So it has been a while since I posted here. This is partly guilt, I still have TickTock’s underwear in a plastic bag in my house, and I don’t want to draw attention to myself. It’s also partly guilt because I’m a terrible blog partner: I haven’t read anything parent related in the last week or so. And of course, there’s the constant, terminal guilt that comes from being the worst father in the world.

I’ll back that last one up, but it’s going to take a minute.

I am a professional student, so my competition is almost exclusively single people, or people from cultures where they aren’t expected to do dishes, ever. These single people have a lot of time to do things like learn new computer languages and read new research and write research papers and hack, and this means that I pretty much never sleep. My twitter stream operates about 18-20 hours a day, from the first “Oh, God, I’m awake” to the last “Go to sleep, you idiot.” And for a lot of that time I’m sitting in front of the computer, trying to learn difficult things.

So when I wake up at 7AM, I am in a bad, bad mood. Every day. Even the days when I’m watching the kids.

The second problem I have is that my daughter, the Dark Phoenix, has the worst cry in the entire world. It melts the brain. It hurts the ears. It causes a sense of panic and dread to overcome you. And lately, it’s been constant. She’s teething, which is part of the problem… but she also just wants to be held, she’s in that phase, and I can’t hold her all day.

This has not been a good week to be my son. I’m pretty much convinced that the damage I’m doing now, by being a barely contained cauldron of rage, panic, exhaustion, and dread, is permanent, awful, catastrophic, and will doom both of my children to a lifetime of pizza delivery and key swapping parties.

The Highlander has started whining, as well. He wasn’t a whiner, but suddenly, he is. He whines for things instead of asking, even though he doesn’t get them unless he asks nicely. Every single parent in the world has encountered this phenomena, and like all of them, I am baffled and confused by this insistence on whining over talking.

I’d do some reading to figure out what is going on, but I’m too damn busy. I have other things to look up.

So I am, essentially, bereft of hope at this moment, doomed to keep screwing up until I manage to create enough breathing space for basic sanity.

Perhaps this is the reason for church. Because you have to share these burdens with somebody, and participate in a culture that gives you some assurance that you aren’t actually the worse parent in the world, that as long as you imbue them with myth “a”, everything is going to be alright.



  1. Best of luck. I sure don’t miss being the absent student father. But I got through it, and I’m sure you will too.

    On the last point, my experience as a humanist & atheist attending a Unitarian church is that it’s not so much the beliefs (Unitarians differ on pretty much every religious claim, including the existence of a deity) as the sense of belonging to a community.

    One of my wife’s reasons for going to church in the first place was to find a supportive environment where she could share the parenting responsibilities a little. (This was back when I was neck-deep in dissertation-writing myself.)

    I suspect that a lot of people go to other churches for the same reasons, and the belief stuff is just a sort of expected background.

  2. I left some clothes at his house when he put me up for Dragoncon, just in case anyone is confused by the reference to my underwear.

    Be careful not to burn your candle at both ends. Take some time for yourself whenever you can. I’m very familiar with constant whining and bickering. For as much as I’ve learned about parenting from books and blogs, I’ve yet to find an antidote to the shrieks of perceived injustice coming from my two year old.

    Thanks for sharing your time on this blog. I really appreciate it.

  3. The other thing that people might find appealing about church is the hour of free childcare while the parents get to sit quietly and do nothing. It may be boring, but at least it’s restful.

  4. First time on your blog– DH has been nagging me to check you out, so you’re on my feed now, for when I have to read stuff (hardly ever).

    For the oddly named child who is teething, two tips:

    1. buy a watermelon, cut it in small square pieces, freeze in a ziplock. Great place to hide tylenol and oragel, plus it tastes good and is cold an crunchy.

    2. have you tried babywearing? It might not look too masculine, but what a difference it makes– kids that just need to be close and parents who need two hands and have things to do should really try it.

    Maybe this is all really basic advice for an expert, but forgive me, I’m new here. 🙂

    • Hi Colleen, welcome to our blog.

      I wear the Dark Phoenix–that’s her nickname, and it is way, way apt–whenever I can. But if I’m cooking it’s just a bad idea to have a bunch of loose cloth around, and she also occasionally cries when she’s in the sling. She wants to be Held.

      I will ponder this watermelon idea. It sounds like a plan.

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