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  • Marcus Bickler, husband and father

I Have a Confession to Make. I Have a Favorite Child...

I have a confession to make.  I have a favorite child.

I’m a father of three.  I live for my kids- they bring immense joy and laughter to my life.  But, in this COVID isolated world, I have my favorite.  Now, it’s not what you may think, my favoritism changes from day to day, hell, it changes from hour to hour- okay, let’s be honest, it may even change from minute to minute.

Since the pandemic enveloped the States, we went from normalcy on a Friday to complete chaos, sheltering in place by Monday.  This is nothing I’ve ever faced- this is nothing any of us have ever faced.

I’m lucky to have an incredible partner, my wife is a Rockstar!  I fell in love with her tenacity and passion, her big dreams and enormous heart.  Soon after we met, her dreams became mine and mine became hers.  But, when the pandemic hit and our beautiful children became permanent, day-long fixtures in our home, the days became incredibly long.  Before mid-March, my days seemed to fly by- I would blink and school would be ending.  From one week to the next I was now expected to work full-time, fulfilling my clients’ needs and home-school our children until the school board developed a remote learning routine.  

We’re now in this, a little over four months, with no end in sight.  My businesses (of which, I have two) have monumentally declined.  I’m stressed.  I am exhausted all of the time, yet at night, I’m wired.  It takes me hours to fall asleep.  I’m probably sleeping most nights by 2am.  I’m awake again at dawn, as the sounds of early morning cartoons begin to stir in the other room, which then, undoubtedly leads to the sounds of tiny, whining voices, which then leads to arguments and finally screaming cries.  This is how I peacefully start my day- most every day.

I no longer go to my gym.  The virus saw the end of that. The stifling heat makes it near impossible to get on my bicycle… and I’m also exhausted.  I make poor decisions when eating and I’m exhausted.  I know I’ve mentioned now on several occasions how exhausted I am, it’s now been said 4 times.  I say this to drive the point home- a literary tactic to draw importance to this detail. 

My children are needy AF.  I love them so much, but holy shit I didn’t sign up for three kids at home, two struggling businesses, a wife with an ever-demanding career and a worldwide pandemic.  I used to be one of those people who had dreams- nothing crazy, simple dreams, like a weekend away or a nice summer vacation… we were hoping to see family in Paris this July, but you know, plans changed.  I love my kids, but they may be trying to kill me.  I say this in jest, with a certain amount of truth. 

It’s not their fault after all, they’re stuck here, in the house, with me too.  I would be pretty miserable as well.  They are resilient- and frankly, they have plenty to entertain themselves with.  We have a couple dogs, a bird and a dozen tropical fish, they have their toys, a 75” television, stocked with Netflix and Disney+ and a swimming pool.  We’re in a quintessential American suburban neighborhood with quiet streets and friendly neighbors- the place where my eldest finally learned to ride her bicycle, with her little sister soon to follow.  Admittedly, they’re spoiled- I’m spoiled.  I have so much, when others have so little…

With all of that being said, I hate the parent I have become.

I find myself yelling all of the time.  I hate that my five-year-old says I’m the “mean parent.”  This is not what I wanted.  I want to be the father my children will remember with a smile on their faces.  I want to read with them more, I want to be patient and play with them when they ask, I want to let them paint my toe nails with neon pink nail polish and let them tie my hair up with every elastic band they can find.  I want to build forts and push the sofas together to create the perfect seating for optimal movie viewing.  I want to pop popcorn and bake cakes- letting them lick the bowl of course!  

But, I’m exhausted (that’s 5 times, if you’re still keeping track).  While teaching them geography and math, I’m writing e-mails and sourcing items for client needs.  While making them lunch, I’m looking over budgets and speaking with colleagues via zoom.  While changing diapers, I’m on conference calls.  I expect a lot from them, as they do of me.  I can’t possibly get everything done during working hours, so I continue working long after they’re in bed.  Which, again, aides in my (let’s say it together) exhaustion.

I’m not the best husband I could be, either.

Sex has been slow… to my wife’s disappointment.  I’m disappointed as well, but let’s face it, being stuck at home, answering to the needs of three kids, my clients, two dogs, a bird and a dozen tropical fish is no easy feat.  That’s also three beds that need making, a crib, 2,900 square feet of tile needing vacuuming, pet hair and feathers, a kitchen counter that I swear, needs to be cleaned several times a day and a dishwasher that’s continuously running and lest not forget the seven to ten loads of laundry that piles up on a weekly basis.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife is an active participant in all of this, but she’s a telehealth provider and her (two) careers are both incredibly demanding.  When we finally get into bed at 11 or 12, I just can’t.  I’m not fun.  I know this.  But I’m stuck in this place that I believe many of us are.

My children want to return to normalcy, as do I, but the virus is raging on… Here in Florida we have hit record positives, with 15,300 positive cases on Independence Day.  That’s certainly nothing to celebrate.  School will be remote come the fall and we’ll continue sheltering in place… that will be half a year at that point.

Smiles become tears in a fraction of a minute.  Hugs can turn into kicks to the face, just as quickly.  I challenge anyone to say my kids don’t fight better than the most violent of video games.  They are intense and the girls are the worst!  I’m astonished.  But, they can be incredibly kind and nurturing to one and other.  After all, when I’m gone from this world, they will have each other, they will have this time to reflect upon.  Granted, they are young, but I’m certain this time will leave a mark on their hearts.  

Sure, I may have a favorite child, but, it’s only for a moment and it changes all of the time.  I’m not exactly sure why I decided to write this piece- maybe it’s cathartic, maybe it’s a way for me to sort out my thoughts.  Maybe it’s a form of self-care, to acknowledge my thoughts and the moments we’re living, during these extraordinary times.  Maybe there’s someone else out there that needs to hear this- maybe it will help to know that you’re not the only terrible parent out there.  I have to believe this will pass, I am holding on to the notion that this will ultimately make me a better parent and husband.  When life returns to normal, I’ll have these moments to reflect upon- I won’t take the simple things for granted. I’ll look back on this time in our lives with love and understanding.  Maybe I’ll forgive myself and give myself a pass for the years of therapy I’m undoubtedly ensuring for my children.  I’m simply doing the best I can I do and I’m sure you are too.

Peter Cade—Getty Images

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