Last year at this time, I wrote that the best part of my day was going in to get my daughter from her crib, seeing her smile and giggle with happiness. Now that Mia is turning two, I love going into her room and seeing her first thing in the morning. When Mia starts a conversation with me, says "Daddy" and I pick her up and she gives me hugs and kisses, there's no way for me to describe how much it makes my day and how much love I have for that little girl.
The second year was hard in a way Mia's first year wasn't. Things that were hard in that first year started to get easier -- and you better believe that I sometimes miss those golden months where she could sit and was unable to crawl yet, but happy to entertain herself -- while as she grew into a toddler, other things became challenging. She talks nonstop, has become a mush and wants to sit on my lap (or find a way to make me uncomfortable just so she can snuggle) and is really starting to test her boundaries. After a full work week, it's a bit challenging to entertain and manage all the responsibilities that come with being a parent to my daughter all weekend. Sometimes I just want to sit and relax on the couch. But if I do, I'll get lucky and we'll watch Toy Story together and sitting next to me isn't good enough. And because she needs to sit on my lap and cuddle with me, that's the daddy-daughter time that I truly love.
A year later, I still love being a dad and a year later, I still think it's weird to say I'm a dad. I don't think that weird feeling will ever go away, like someone will find me out and call me on it. However, what surprised me a year ago about how complex my feelings were about my life, has only deepened -- both the feelings themselves and the complexity. It was only recently that I felt something I think a lot of parents feel: the desire at times to truly have my old life back. It's not that I don't love Mia; in fact it's the opposite, I never knew how much I could love until I had her. It's just that as a parent, and a single parent, I still wish for the life I had before Mia. I certainly miss it at times. The reality has sunk in more, and as a single father there have been many more days in this second year where I felt like I'm holding on by a thread. I'm figuring it out -- doing things right sometimes, other times making mistakes -- but I never pretended to be perfect. I know making mistakes is a part of life.
What I've come to understand more is just what it means when people say your priorities change when you become a parent. It seems obvious, but for me it wasn't until about six months ago that I began to truly understand this. While it may not be obvious at times, everything I do is to give my little girl the best life I can. Every decision I make is with her best interest in mind. Every day I wake up and try to be the best man I can be for me, so that I can be the best daddy I can for my little girl.
I still have some of the same struggles though and as a single gay dad I still grapple with having to figure out how to have a social life. I am still not great with the balance of having that life along with having my daughter. There are times when we're out together, just the two of us, or with friends and there are a few times where I've been able to see my friends on my own. They're few and far between so as she gets older; I think I'll be able to figure out how to do that a bit more. As a single parent, and as a gay man, my challenges may be slightly different than many that I know, but it's worth every second because of the happiness my daughter gives me.
The year between my first post and this one proved to be challenging in ways I never would have expected, ways I never wished I had to deal with and it's left its mark on me in a way I never would have imagined. But despite the difficulties, it's given me a depth about myself and taught me things I never could have without going through the past year.
I would say that the biggest challenge still lies with dating or, at almost 40, being lucky to share a life with someone who is worthy to become a part of my family's life and who himself is worthy of us. I wrote last year that I knew that the man who is the right one for me, that shares a common dream of a future together, who wants to be a dad and a great husband, that someone I trust to let in our lives and to be a great father to my daughter someday exists (and I'm assuming he'll know how to braid hair or cook or any of the other things that I don't know how to do). I'm not certain about many things these days, but I am of that one. I still don't know if I'll get to share my life with him, but I still have hope that if and when that day comes, I'll be lucky to have him in my life. But I'll end the same way I did this time last year: If it does happen, we'll be a bigger, happier family. The greatest gift I have from being a father is understanding just how deep the love in my heart runs and that's special and meaningful.
For today though, Mia and I make up our family. She's a year older and she's happier, chattier, funnier, smarter, more curious, well-behaved and an even more fun, beautiful little girl. I'm still the luckiest guy in the world that I'm her dad.