(Courtesy of the author)

We all know the cliché when it comes to kids: time flies, so be careful not to blink or you’ll miss it. I took that to heart from the moment my daughter, Iris, came into this world. Shortly after birth, her mother and I decided that we would each dedicate an entire work-free day to her. I got Tuesdays, and “Iris Tuesdays” became our day. For 138 Tuesdays since the day she was born, I have spent that day with her and have not gone to work. I only missed one, last year, while climbing to the top of Mt. Whitney. But if I could have taken Iris up to 14,500 feet on my back, I would have and would still have a perfect record.

Iris’ mom and I divorced a year after she was born, a decision that was not easy for either of us. We are great friends and doing the best we can. As a single parent, I have Iris half the week, plus any extra family meet-ups. This is my modern family.

Iris is now almost 3. I have that much experience as a father, but, no matter how many classes or seminars I take, books I read, parenting groups I participate in, I still feel like a rookie. It is one of those jobs that requires experience at the helm and no amount of training fully prepares you for what will come.

My dad was the sole provider for our family, which meant I didn’t get to see much of him outside of dinners and weekends. He worked very hard and raised four kids under the same roof. I missed out on a lot of quality one-on-one time with him.

I knew I wanted it to be different for Iris. To make my life work well, I moved  from a sales position in a large communications company to co-owning a small business. I gave up more money for more flexibility so I could spend more time with my daughter. I still work a lot, and there have been financial sacrifices by not working on Tuesdays, but it’s been worth it.

Being a single dad with limited time, this reality and concept really hit home for me. A typical “Iris Tuesday” starts at 6 a.m. when she wakes up. We stretch a little bit and she likes her back tickled for a few minutes. She’ll drink a little bit of milk before she gets out of bed, we play, I’ll make breakfast, and then we’ll dance in the living room. Lately, Iris has made the genius decision to put on our socks to slide across the living room floors. Iris still takes naps during the day and yes, from time to time, I will join her. Let’s say that ups the attractiveness of “Iris Tuesdays” a tad.

“Iris Tuesdays” are all about hitting local parks and all the other cool locations in Los Angeles. Surprisingly, I’ve learned that Iris is a great workout partner and is always willing to tag along. That is, until she decides to jump on my back as I am doing push-ups and then becomes my bossy drill sergeant.

We decided to do something special a recent summer Tuesday and we checked into a hotel for two days. We ordered room service, danced to Mary Poppins’ “step in time,” attempted to do 20 minutes of yoga and outdoor exercises on our mats, then spent endless hours in the pool learning to swim without floaties, until both of our fingers and toes looked like prunes. The day ended with a wonderful dinner where she demanded to sit on my lap for the second half and eat from my plate before we both passed out around 8:45 in the plush hotel king-sized bed.

“Iris Tuesdays” have given me the gift of really getting to know my daughter. I know my Dad did the best he could, just as I am. And “Iris Tuesdays” are my best. I feel like I know what she likes, what makes her tick, and every Tuesday I get to learn about her more and more. This has been the best gift I could give myself. She’s too young to appreciate it but I’ll take care of that for the both of us. I hope one day she can say that she really knew me, too.

I know my “Iris Tuesdays” will soon come to an end, or at least morph into “Iris Tuesday Afternoons” as preschool approaches. I’m aware that as she gets older, the Tuesday adventures might turn into conversations over dinner where I sit and pretend not to be uncomfortable as she tells me about her newest crush. I’m also well aware there might come a Tuesday where she would rather just be with her friends. But whatever happens I am forever grateful for these Tuesdays spent with the best person I know. They have been unforgettable. I always knew I wanted to be a father, I just didn’t know how much I would love being her father.

Manuel Lozano, a single father of a 2-year-old daughter, outdoor enthusiast and entrepreneur/co-owner of two music schools in Los Angeles. Manuel is dedicated to inspiring and motivating other dads to be more hands on and involved with their kids. To follow his adventures with his daughter Iris, check out @happierdad on IG and Twitter.

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