Something has happened recently. Ever since the boys returned to school, I’m living in some kind of alternate universe – maybe a black hole. I’m starting to fray at the edges. I’m holding on for dear life but the drain of fatherhood is circling and sucking me down.
Maybe it’s because summer was so laid back. Lots of staying up late and sleeping in. Midday matinees, beautiful beach days, and falling asleep watching a favorite TV show. No schedules. New experiences every day. Fairs, carnivals, Disneyland, and our annual summer trip. Lots of walking to Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream. And all of it with Daddy & Papa, who were more available themselves because of all the daylight hours. Life for a kid couldn’t have been better.
Then, SLAM. That’s the door closing on summer. It’s August 22nd, the first day of the boys’ school, and suddenly life is one big schedule to stick to. Up at 6:45am, no matter how tired you are. Eat a good breakfast. Brush your teeth. Wear nice(r) clothes. Leave the house no later than 8.
Smile at the teacher. Be nice to your new classmates. Try your best. Act your ages (6 and 5), not your shoe sizes (2 and 1.) Eat your lunch – all of it. Remember to go to the bathroom. Keep your shoes on the entire day.
I have to give the boys credit; they are really trying. Even when they don’t feel like it, they continue on after school to the activities for which I signed them up (which was over the summer when, unlike now, the minutes seemed endless.) I just have to remember that in these transitions from school to swim lessons or school to basketball practice or school to dance, I must always have FOOD available. The fuel gauge is always on empty by the time I pick them up, and if there is not an opportunity for them to refuel, it’s not a pretty sight. I know how I can be when I get even a little bit hungry; children, on the other hand, cannot even begin to modulate their emotions adequately.
Ahhh, emotions. We’ve seen them all in this first month of school. Some bouts of ecstasy and joy, as demonstrated by the way they skip to school, say hello to a classmate that they might run into from a previous year, or even greet us when they are in a particularly loving state. But mostly they are extremely FRAGILE. Crying like the world has come to an end. Sobbing like a car has accidently backed over their most favorite stuffed animal (ok, that has happened.) Screaming at the top of their lungs, as if it’s a contest to see who can shatter glass. Standing in front of you pounding their heels into the ground (haven’t seen that since they were 2!), and crossed arms banging down to their chest with a simultaneous NOOOOOOOO!(another favorite of days gone by.)
It’s no wonder that lately Papa has had that “deer in headlights” look when I return from an errand with the boys left in his hands. Or that, when I say I’m going to go out for a little workout or shopping, his first words are “how long?”
I’m sure that these same scenarios are playing out in millions of homes across the nation. I don’t think my boys’ actions are pathological whatsoever. Nevertheless, I plan to hug more and yell less. Feed more and scold less. Because this is obviously a rite of passage to the preteen years, and this is what I signed up for. I need to stay strong for them. Just give me my snack first.