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Dad and baby smiling together

Home Alone (with Keira!)

Recently my wife went to visit family in Florida, leaving Keira and I alone together for a few days. Not only was this the longest she’d been apart from her mother, but it was also the longest that I’ve had to be her sole caretaker. I’ve always felt competent in my ability as a father to take care of her, but had never been tested for more than a few hours. Though I was confident that we could both survive the three days together, I’ll admit that there was some slight anxiety brewing the closer we got to my wife’s departure. Often, fathers are portrayed as incompetent or lacking the ability to care for their own children. We’ve all seen depictions of chaos erupting once mom leaves the home for more than a few minutes. Though I don’t usually give credence to those beliefs, the thoughts lingered in the back of my mind. I’m thankful for the time I had with her, because it helped me put those thoughts to rest completely and also taught me a lot about my daughter. This is what I learned:

She’s resilient.

Things did not get off to a great start. Though we’d prepped her for a few days prior, reality set in for Keira on the way to the airport. She burst into tears as we were driving and cried so hard that she threw up. My initial thought was “Uh-oh! What have we done?!” I anticipated the next few days being filled with outbursts and cries for her mother. I got myself mentally prepared to spend a few hours every day soothing her. However, she surprised me in her ability to cope with the stress of being apart from her mother. The first time we video chatted, Keira cried as she got off the phone. As the days progressed, she would have moments of sadness, but was quickly able to cope and find ways to improve her mood.

She’s independent.

When watching a toddler on your own, you have to always be aware and alert. I’d made sure that I’d completed all my work responsibilities prior to the trip so that I could be vigilant at all times. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get much work done because she’d need me to help her with certain things or constantly keep her entertained. It turned out that she’s a pretty self-sufficient toddler. Most of the time, my requests to help were met with a “Nope. I got it.” She’d get a tissue to wipe her runny nose, put her dishes in the sink and played on her own. By the end of it, she had to be the one entertaining me!

She’s pretty cool.

I’ve always known that she was a great kid, but this time with her helped me get to know more about her personality. I tell most people that I really like her at this age because we can now have back and forth conversations, develop inside jokes and just hang out. Whether she intends to be or not, she’s a pretty funny person and I enjoy our banter. As parents, we often look forward to the calm and quiet of bedtime, but I found myself being bored and missing her. I’d thought about waking her up to hang out with me, but I knew that’d be a bad idea!

All in all, it was an interesting experience that reaffirmed my abilities as a father and allowed me to learn more about my daughter. I encourage parents to take opportunities for that extended one-on-one time and see what cool and exciting things you learn about your child.

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Mylemarks, an online company that develops social-emotional resources to use with kids and teens. Through that company, he creates content such as digital downloads, workbooks, and children’s books. He’s an adjunct professor in the Human Services department at Old Dominion University, and serves as the Fatherhood Consultant for CHKD’s Dads in Action program. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and listening to music.