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.

18 responses

  1. I am crying. Well written and a beautiful testament to a darling girl who has some amazing “best moments” still to come. ENJOY!

    • Thank you Chris! Dry your eyes, dry your eyes. A happy moment is most often followed by my daughter referring to me as “Old Guy”

      Used in a sentence:

      “Hey Old Guy, I need 20 bucks!” 🙂

  2. Roy,
    That was a wonderful tale of on-going love (and unremitting happiness). May you have many more “happiest moments in your life!” Congrats to Chelsea! She’s so beautiful!

  3. Congrats to the graduate, Chelsea!!

    Another creative and beautifully written piece!

    DePaul was just down the road a bit from Evanston, Ill. where I went to high school, I know the area well. Like two ships passing in the night, I left the area to seek my future, Chelsea will no doubt, discover hers there 🙂

  4. This was such a sweet story. You must be very proud of your daughter!!! It is really hard sending them off to college, but then you get to see them grow in new and amazing ways. I know that you are in for many more “happiest moments of your life with her.” God Bless you…e

  5. Roy –

    Great article. My dad told me years ago that to have a heatlhy life, it is important to often evaluate rearrange one’s priorities on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Roy,
    What a beautiful piece of work.
    There is nothing more special than the love and pride a father has for his child.
    You are a wonderful Dad and it is obvious Chelsea has thrived having you as her father.
    You are so right about taking time off every so often. It does help to focus on what is important and goes a long way to prioritizing what is truly of value.

  7. Dr. J — Why would anyone ever leave the Chicago area? The most livable city in the nation. Thank you. No doubt, Chelsea will find her future there. It will just be a cold future.

    Eva – Thank you! Each tomorrow comes with new potential for more “happiest” moments. In fact, there may be one in store for us today!

    Joanne – Thanks for stopping in — Open mind and all 🙂

    Sally – I appreciate that. Love and pride of a dad notwithstanding, it is secondary to that of her mother who should get a lion’s share of the credit. Daughters are God’s gift to the world — I am grateful I have not a son, for I have been one, and know all too well…

    Candace – Thank you for the kind words! Miss you too — deadlifts and all 🙂

  8. Wow! Honestly speaking, this post is amazing. And I believe one of the greatest piece you’ve ever written. Well, that I read thus far. (Obviously, I have lots of catching up to do.) But definitely on the money with this post.

    I was reading a book, sometime last year, never finished it because it was too much for me to digest emotionally (that damn inner child thing! ;)) and it spoke about how there are many myths on being a parent and having a child. Some claims went as far to say some parents didn’t fall in love with their babies until a few weeks to months in. I know this doesn’t have much to do with the post, you know directly. But I like to ramble on what entries make me thing about along the way. So there. 🙂

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