AT RANDOM: Back on the job

Everything I can say about being a father is cliche, but it’s hard not to gush

Well, I’m back. Nine months away on paternity leave and not much has changed in The Morning Star newsroom since I returned.

Sports editor Kevin Mitchell is still suffering from a perpetual head cold, our ongoing battle over control of the thermostat rages on – half the room thinks it’s too cold, the other half, too hot – and at least one person at the Wednesday morning editorial meeting mimics managing editor Glenn Mitchell’s go-to pep talk: “Good newsy paper.”

I’ve got a new Mac computer (well, new to me) and my desk is adorned with a few more toy farm tractors, thoughtfully placed there by my colleagues to remind me of my alternate life on The Omstead Farm.

Believe it or not, I did have a handful of people come up to me during my hiatus asking if I was still at the paper (it’s nice to be missed), and said they looked forward to once again reading about my tribulations as a newbie farmer (and father) upon my return.

Before I get into that, I first need to address a point of public safety, one that, for whatever reason, really gets my goat (I actually own sheep, but that’s beside the point).

I live out in Spallumcheen, on the north side of Armstrong, and more often than not, there has been a thick blanket of morning fog on the valley bottom along Highway 97A when I commute to Vernon. It can be especially bad from Armstrong right through to Swan Lake.

The number of people who don’t think to turn their headlights on while driving in this murk is alarming to me. Yes, most modern vehicles have automatic daytime driving lights, which allows oncoming traffic to see you. Great, but what about the people behind you?

At the very least, you should have your tail lights on because the visibility is usually very poor. It’s a simple common courtesy just to let people know you’re there, and to potentially avoid a rear-end collision.

And before I launch into my diatribe on slow drivers in the passing lane disrupting the flow of traffic, I will switch back to family and farm life.

Those 35 weeks off were a godsend, but to call it time off would be a bit of a misnomer. I have never worked so hard in my life.

Among other things, we built half a mile of post-and-page-wire fencing, upgraded our windows, planted a bunch of lavender, worked a full summer of farmers’ markets (three a week, plus other craft fairs), and our latest project is a woodchip running track around our big field.

Oh, and we’re raising a very busy toddler on top of that.

Everything I can say about being a father is cliche, but it’s hard not to gush about my not-so-little guy, who turns one early next month. Whether it’s watching him vibrate in exhilaration as we feed apples to the neighbour’s horses, or listening to his devilish cackle as he crawls headfirst at our cat like a battering ram, he is a joy to be around.

I never fully comprehended once I returned to work just how little I would see my son. I get him for two hours in the morning, and for another hour-and-a-half when I get home. It’s better than nothing, and it has really made me appreciate the time I had with him over the past months.

I’m just fortunate it worked out for our situation that I was able to take paternity because I am sure I am an exception in this.

Because of it, I was able to see some of Narayan’s major milestones. I was there when he learned to crawl, I was in the room when he took his first real steps, and I watched in amazement as he reprogrammed our voicemail message after just one minute of pushing random buttons on the phone.

I really feel for fathers who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to be around their children. Whether they’re no long with their partner, or are away for extended periods for shift work, they’re missing out on something special.

Their sons and daughters are missing out too.