words: stoney stamper
images:courtesy april stamper
I enjoy being alone. I do. I love silence. I can go hours at a time without speaking to anyone, without any human interaction at all. Now, this revelation makes me quite a ball of complexities, I will admit. Because anyone who knows me knows that I can talk as much as anyone you’ve ever met. Put me in a crowd or at a party, give me a beer, and watch the stories begin to flow like Niagara Falls. As a matter of fact, how much I talked as a child is still fodder for conversation at many of our family gatherings. By most accounts, the only time I wasn’t talking was when I was asleep. And I didn’t sleep very much. And not only do I talk a lot, but I have a very loud, deep, boisterous voice that can be heard from a mile away. So, I suppose it is odd for someone like me to cherish silence and serenity as much as I do. Albeit, I’m not a quiet person, but as the old sayings goes, silence is golden. Often, I will drive for hours in my truck and never turn on the radio. My wife and daughters think that’s just craziness, but I soak up all of that nothingness like a sponge, every opportunity I get.
But here’s the deal; it doesn’t happen as much as I’d like anymore. You see, now I’m a dad. I’m a family man. I have a wife and three beautiful daughters, and they need me. At any given time, I am needed by one or all of them, and the things that they need from me are countless. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my role as their dad and husband. I am the provider and protector of my family, and that is not a responsibility that I take lightly. However, every once in a while, a little break wouldn’t be bad. Does that make me a bad parent? I sure hope not. I love these girls more than life itself, but Geez Louise, they can work a man to death and ask questions until the cows come home.
Case in point, I got home one night last week after a long day at work. It was already dark outside as I walked in the door and sat my briefcase on the floor, ready to grab a drink and sit in my recliner. But oh no! These girls had other plans.
First, Gracee, our youngest, sees me. “Dad!” she yells, and with her arms wide open she runs to me. With complete trust, she leaps into the air, knowing that Daddy will catch her. I catch her under her arms and pull her up to my face. She smells clean, and her hair is wet from the bath. I kiss her soft cheeks and neck with a fervor that always makes her giggle. Unfortunately, it also makes her squirm and kick. Just like clockwork, her little foot of fury connects solidly between my legs. There’s a big groan from me as I sit her down, and she yells, “Sorry, Dad!” over her shoulder as she runs to her bedroom to play.
With my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath and get this sick feeling out of my gut, I hear my other two daughters sauntering up to me. “Hey, how was your day?“ I ask, and they tell me it was fine. It’s the same answer I get every day. My wife April comes in, gives me a kiss and asks me about my day. All in all, it was a warm, welcoming homecoming.
And then, it begins. Emma has algebra homework in her hands and a look of frustration on her face. “Stoney, I have no idea how to do these problems. The teacher hasn’t even shown us how to do them!” I tell her “Emma, the teacher is not going to give you homework on something that she’s never taught you.”
“Yes, she would! I promise,” Emma says, “I don’t know how to do these! I’m going to fail!”
We sit down at the kitchen table and begin to go over the list of equations that has Emma nearly in tears. After fifteen minutes or so of arguing, fighting, crying and laughing, we finally have the right answer for the first problem. She finally understands. But before the ink is even dry on that algebra nightmare, Abby is standing next to me, and she is talking. “Stoney, we’ve got to have my speech presentation completed and turned in by Saturday! We haven’t even started!”
I say, “Wait, wait, wait. You’ve got to get the presentation done by Saturday, not me.”
“But Stoney! I need your help! Can we please start writing it tonight?”
“OK, give me a minute. I grab a drink. We then spend the next hour discussing the topic of her upcoming speech that she will be presenting at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We have a good plan coming together, and I’m pleased with what she’ll present.
“I love these girls more than life itself, but Geez Louise, they can work a man to death and ask questions until the cows come home.”
But I can feel the tiredness beginning to drag me down. I can feel it in my shoulders and neck. I am ready to relax. Just then I hear, “Dad, I need you to read me a book before I go to bed!” Now you may think that reading a three-year-old a bedtime story would be an easy task, but you don’t know what kind of kid you’re dealing with.
If you refer to the first paragraph, you’ll see where I say that I was a loud kid who never stopped talking. Well, Gracee is a carbon copy of me. Reading her a book is a marathon of reading and intermittently having her own stories thrown in. So, I’ll read for a bit, then she’ll talk for a bit. And then when that’s over, she’s ready to read another book. And another. Until finally, I have to put my foot down.
“No ma’am,” I finally say. “No more. It’s time for bed.” After a few tears, she is snuggled into her bed, and I am headed back to the living room. My recliner is in sight, and I cannot wait to get into it. I sit down, close my eyes, let out a long exhale, releasing all of the bad from my day. Ah yes, there it is. The silence I’ve been waiting for all day. Sweet, beautiful silenc… and then, ”DAD!” Aw, crap. I guess there’s always tomorrow.
is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Daddy Diaries. He and his wife April have three daughters: Abby, Emma and Gracee. Originally from northeast Oklahoma, the Stampers now live in Tyler, Texas. For your daily dose of The Daddy Diaries, visit Stoney on Facebook or on his website, thedaddydiaries.net.