White Coat Underground

Walking away

Mrs. Pal registered the kiddo for kindergarten this week. What a kick in the gut. The first time she went to a pre-school class without us, I cried, so what’s going to happen when she gets on the bus?

The other day we were watching TV, and she said, “You know that Jonas brother with the straight hair? I love him! He’s. So. HANDSOME!”

Ugh.

Of course, she still insists that I cuddle her at night. What do you do with this kind of love? The other day I told her, “I’m so happy we’re having so much fun this weekend. What about you?”

“Me too, Daddy, cuz we never see each other during the week, right?”

Ugh.

My wife feels guilty when she is too busy to spend a lot of time with the kid during the day. I feel guilty when I don’t see her for a couple of days, but I also feel guilty if I skip work to hang out. The economy sucks, right? You can’t just blow off work.

But I know soon enough she won’t really notice if I leave early or come home late. She’ll have her own thing going on, whether it’s singing a song I didn’t teach her, or swooning over some other Jonas brother, or worse, a real boy.

This is the first time I’ve been a dad, so I don’t know all the right answers. I only know that when I’m not with her, it hurts. But I know that some day she will walk away, smiling.

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Comments

  1. #1 Rev Matt
    March 12, 2009

    That is indeed rough. My 5 year old was telling me yesterday she had a boyfriend, and I was worried it was one of the kids in her preschool class, but it turned out to be Danny Phantom.

  2. #2 D. C. Sessions
    March 12, 2009

    This is the first time I’ve been a dad, so I don’t know all the right answers. I only know that when I’m not with her, it hurts. But I know that some day she will walk away, smiling.

    And then she’ll look back over her shoulder and you melt all over again. Time to play Joni Mitchell, PAL. If you can take the time, read Kohelet too — it winds up to some very good advice.

    I’ll say it again: my own daughter somehow acquired the great wisdom very young to simply live the stage of life she’s in — she has never wanted to be older or younger than she was at the moment, and has made the most of each phase as she traveled through it. She taught that to me, and it’s a gift beyond price.

    May yours be as wise, and may you have joy in every moment of your lives.

  3. #3 Dianne
    March 12, 2009

    But I know that some day she will walk away, smiling.

    It hurts but remember that having your kid walk away smiling is success.

  4. #4 darlene
    March 12, 2009

    “But I know soon enough she won’t really notice if I leave early or come home late. She’ll have her own thing going on, whether it’s singing a song I didn’t teach her, or swooning over some other Jonas brother, or worse, a real boy.”

    Trust me, she will notice. You may not notice her noticing, but she will.

    My Dad used to tell me that no one, on their death bed, wishes they had spent more time in the office. So take time off when you can.

    They don’t listen to what we say, but they always notice what we do… :)

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    March 12, 2009

    My Dad used to tell me that no one, on their death bed, wishes they had spent more time in the office. So take time off when you can.

    The industrial variant (and I’ve had several good bosses who told us this) is:

    “Everything we’re doing here will, at best, be in a landfill ten years from now. Don’t you have something more important to do with your time?”

    OK, so Our Host’s work is on a higher level. Still …

  6. #6 The Perky Skeptic
    March 12, 2009

    :sniffle:

    I know just how you feel. And then on the converse, I wonder if my boy will EVER get to a level at which he will be able to live on his own. And then I feel guilty for feeling suffocated by parenthood. And then I remember I’ve got a RAGING COLD and to lay off myself! ;)

    I’m going to go play with Facebook Pet Society now. It’s so much simpler than real life.

  7. #7 Donna B.
    March 12, 2009

    The photo reminds me of a painting I bought at a starving artists sale, when my daughter was about the age yours is now.

    In the background was a large city, tall buildings. The foreground was a small girl with a doll in her left hand facing the city. The painting “spoke” powerfully to me. Unfortunately, it was lost in a house fire.

    But I never forgot that I had to prepare my children to face the world without me. For a few years after the last child left home, I thought maybe I’d done that too well. They came back for short visits on holidays, but it was obvious they didn’t need me and I definitely suffered empty nest syndrome.

    Now they are in their 30s and I call them for advice.

  8. #8 MarkH
    March 12, 2009

    You’re such a softy. We’re going to have to toughen you up Pal.

  9. #9 Steve S
    March 12, 2009

    She’ll always be your little girl and you’ll always be her daddy. Same thing with boys.

    Mine are 30 and 32 and have kids of their own…. but they’re still my kids and I still have the same emotional connections to them I had when they were toddlers. Fortunately, they still love their old dad, too.

  10. #10 Isis the Scientist
    March 12, 2009

    Pal, this is beautiful. I have had some of these same thoughts while I have been traveling this week. I know I don’t have much time left where my baby wants to cuddle at bedtime or enthusiastically cries out “Mommy” when he sees me.

    They are amazing little creatures, aren’t they?

  11. #11 DLC
    March 13, 2009

    Haven’t got any kids, nor chance of ever having any, but I have to say — be Daddy while you can, Pal. The next thing you know you’ll be hand holding her down the aisle at her wedding.

  12. #12 ScientistMother
    March 13, 2009

    they do grow up way to fast. One minute they are cute little baby boy, the next minute that baby is gone and he’s all boy. I don’t know when it happens..

  13. #13 Candid Engineer
    March 13, 2009

    I don’t have any kids, but I can sympathize with your post, and I’m sorry you have to make these hard choices between work and family. Your daughter sounds lovely.

  14. #14 Epinephrine
    March 13, 2009

    It hurts to have to leave your kids when you go to work. A few years ago, my eldest (then 4) nearly broke my heart when she told me that she knows that I love work more than her. I could help crying, and sat and talked with her about why it is that daddy has to go to work. Being a parent is tough.

    Don’t worry though – kids are very loving, and very understanding. A few years later, I still get a kiss when I leave for work and sometimes if I’m lucky she gives me another one to put in my pocket, for later. Arriving home I get mobbed by my children, who all want to climb/hug/kiss/talk incessantly at me. Those are the wonderful moments that bring a tear to your eye, and that make it possible to do nearly anything to keep them happy.

    Great to see dads blogging too…

  15. #15 eruvande
    March 13, 2009

    ::blub::

    I think I need to call my daddy now.

  16. #16 UnlikelyGrad
    March 13, 2009

    PalMD: don’t worry; you’re clearly a good father. Very few parents can spend as much time with their kids as they want. (I even know stay-at-home parents who feel guilty because they leave their kids for volunteer work/hobbies/whatever…)

    I read somewhere that girls tend to retain attachments to their parents after reaching maturity more than boys do. After watching my siblings grow up, I believe it. So count your lucky stars that you have a girl; I only have boys, and I can already see them drifting away. *sniff*

    If it makes you feel better, my dad still calls me his little girl and I’m 37.

  17. #17 Russ
    March 13, 2009

    PalMD: I’m a father of a four month old little girl and during a recent trip every time I looked at my phone and saw her picture my heart broke. But on coming home, she had a big grin waiting for me and that made everything else disappear. My daughter has made me want to make the world, her world a better place, and I find myself working harder and sometimes a little longer than I want to, but my only hope is that one day she understands that it’s all for her.

    But, when I leave work, work stays at work.

    Great post and when I leave work early today, I’m going to blame you.

  18. #18 Xenia
    March 13, 2009

    How cute. I wish my Dad felt this way. He moved back to the U.S. when I was 12. (My sister and I live in Germany with our mother.) He recently remarried, and calls for 2 minutes on my birthday. I was such a Daddy’s girl: He’s the first and only man who ever broke my heart, and I’m 22 now. I still try to get his attention. You should be glad when your daughter has “her own thing going on”. That means she’s not craving for youre love and can pursue her own goals, and live her life. I’m sure she would never blame you for beeing a hard working father as long as you do spend quality time with her. And make sure you show her how much you care.

  19. #19 Abel Pharmboy
    March 13, 2009

    I’ve been back three times to write a comment but could never come up with one.

    I am so in awe of how dedicated you are as a father with all the challenges that come with practicing medicine today. I don’t think many people understand how demeaning being a doc can be these days with pay cuts, corporate oversight (e.g., MBAs telling you how to practice medicine), and the fact that salaries are far below what the general public might think.

    I spent about ten years of friendship with two, dual-MD families and lived with one for a few months during my divorce and “year in exile.” I know how tough your job is and how hard it is to be the parent you want to be – you are doing great and she’ll be really happy to come back in 15 yrs and read these great posts her Dad wrote about her. Mega-props to Mrs Pal – with all the other stuff kids do compared to when we were little, even two parents aren’t often enough.

    When you and Mrs Pal write, “Parenting While Professional,” I’ll be there to buy it.

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