Afterbirth…

Like other parents, I have actively sold my daughter’s birth as the happiest moment of my life; a graduation, lottery win, and Olympic gold medal rolled into one. To suggest anything else would be to isolate me from my social peers. Though this action may be unpopular, I now choose to confess an emotional perjury and state for the record that the moment my daughter was born was not the happiest moment of my life. It wasn’t even near the top of the list, and yes there is a list.

For both mother and father, child birth is frightfully magnificent, exhausting, fantastic, grotesque, and profound, but not altogether happy. Least of all, the happiest moment of one’s life. Happiness would come later on.

The happiest moment of my life came just days after my daughter’s birth, as I watched my tired wife carry our weighty bundle into our new daughter’s apartment home for the first time. Chelsea immediately burst into tears, succumbing to the stress of the flashbulbs, the family, the commotion, and the barking dogs. My happiness soon did fleet.

Soon after, the real happiest moment of my life would appear when Chelsea demonstrated an exceptional commitment to human conveyance and, like an inch worm, transferred herself from one end of the living room floor to the other. I later discovered that Chelsea had not crawled at all, but had been pushed by my dog as he was searching out his favorite chewy toy. My happiness soon did fleet.

Months down the road my daughter chose to speak her first word; “Dada”. That was the happiest moment of my life – no doubt! I was more proud than euphoric, until my wife pointed out that the word my daughter spoke was actually “Dahgcock”, and was the sinister result of a bad mixture of formula and rice meal. My happiness soon did fleet.

I’m sure the happiest moment of my life came weeks later when Chelsea again proved her physical prowess by standing tall, and taking her first steps in our living room. My wife would later explain that first steps don’t count if the hands of the parent are attached to the behind and the shoulder of the child. I guess this makes sense. My happiness soon did fleet.

The happiest happiest moment of my life came a couple of years later when Chelsea prepared my lunch for the first time; a peanut butter and M&M sandwich. Actually, the M&Ms fell in by accident, and she burst into tears when I made mention of them. My happiness soon did fleet.

Seriously, the happiest moment of my life turned out to be my daughter’s very first day of school. Actually, my job hijacked me from that moment, but I’m sure it would have been very happy, though it fleeted before it had ever arrived.

I guess the happiest moment of my life came when Chelsea was seven, and announced that she wanted to be a professional drummer – I was so taken by this I actually called some friends and family to share the good news. Three hours later, she said she wanted to be a professional waitress. My happiness soon did disintegrate.

Without a doubt the happiest moment of my life came in 1995, age 5, when Chelsea stood in the ocean for the first time and announced that she had never felt so “at home” before, and vowed to never leave. Moments later she sprinted to the sand screaming “shark shark” and did not set foot in the water again that day. My happiness soon did fleet –though  I am grateful to say that she now plans to earn her keep in this world, ocean-bound.

Probably, the happiest moment of my life was last Winter when Chelsea, now 18, prepared my dinner and on a whim and chose to make peanut butter and M&M sandwiches – this time the M&Ms were included intentionally. We giggled and laughed as we ate, right up to the point when we realized we had eaten moldy bread. Our happiness, along with our suppers, soon did fleet.

So what does all of this have to do with fitness? Not much really except to remind those who prioritize fitness above all else (myself included), that in over prioritizing exercise, we may miss out on some of life’s happiest moments.

This week, rather than taking in my usual Friday, Saturday, and Sunday onslaught workouts of kayaking, trail running, weightlifting, and sprinting, I chose to skip the weekend of Roy and take my daughter to San Francisco for two days of non-Roy. We ate breadbowl chowder, fancy cupcakes, shopped, discussed philosophy, faith, and South Park along the way, and when we were all done, we ate some pizza and some truffles. Two days of being together without the benefit of exercise. It was the best weekend ever! In skipping my weekend workout regimen, I really did experience some of the happiest moments of my life.

An ill-conceived American edict suggests that the moment that a child is born, should be the most joyous and blithe moment of one’s life – that so long as we live, nothing will exceed the happiness experienced in the first moments of parenthood. This lie is a frivolous distortion, destined to disappoint.

The moment I became a parent was not the happiest moment of my life. It was just a step in the cumulative experience of discovery, education, laughter and adventure that is parenting. A process which will only be complete as I draw my final breath in this world; at which time my happiness will have defined my legacy, and my spirit will fleet.

Chelsea in a rare snow in Temecula, CA -- 2006

Chelsea in a rare snow in Temecula, CA — 2006

On this my day my daughter graduates from high school, enroute DePaul University on an academic scholarship. Best day ever! I won’t even sniff a workout today, and I am so okay with that. I can’t be sure, but tomorrow may provide the happiest moment of my life. I hope I don’t let the gym get in the way.