Tag: stay at home dad

I’m supposed to be the adult

Luke and I are in the basement playing with the wooden train track he and his brother constructed a few days earlier. One section continually falls over and I move some pieces around to make it more sturdy. Luke warns me that Noah is going to be really mad. I don’t listen. I should have.

Early one morning a few days later, Noah comes down into the basement to play trains. Immediately he sees that the track has changed and begins to cry. It is the latter part of the school week so his coping skills are low, and to compound the situation his mom worked late the night before and was not able to be home for bedtime. The latter always upsets the balance of the house. I quickly offer to help change the track back, but it’s too late. He no longer hears me and begins to take out his frustration by wreaking the track. I take Luke upstairs to have breakfast. Noah follows crying and tries to rip up some of Luke’s schoolwork. I lose my cool, snatch the papers out of his hand and yell at him.

I’m supposed to be the adult in this situation, but I’m not doing a very good job of holding it together. My coping skills erode by the end of the week as well it seems. Getting upset with Noah and yelling accomplish getting my heart rate up, causing Noah to dig his heels in more, and scaring Luke, who at this point is covering his ears and hiding behind the plant in the corner (something I did as a kid when there was yelling). If I’d just taken the papers out of his hand and said nothing and gone about the morning, the situation would have defused a lot faster. That’s not what I did and now I feel horrible that Luke is clearly scared and the morning has crumbled so quickly. However my stubborn prideful self causes me to stand my ground. I should just stop and give Noah a hug and admit I lost my temper. That’s what will work, but instead I continue to be an ass.

I called my mom to see if I had tantrums that were as colorful as Noah’s are. She said she couldn’t remember, though she did say that I stood at the top of the stairs and screamed when I was mad.

“We just ignored you when you did that,” she told me.

Recently my wife and I decided to have a code word for those times when one of us is getting out of line. Coconuts, is what we are supposed to say, the idea being that this will cause the other person to take a step back. It has been working with mixed results. What we really need to do is re-read the book called If I Have to Tell You One More Time. In it the author talks about how bad behavior is often just attention seeking behavior, which is what was clearly going on with Noah on this morning. In hindsight I should have just started putting the track back together the way he had it.

The remainder of the morning is a roller coaster but I manage to keep calm and use phrases like­–When you leave your bike there, then I am not going to help you put it away. Emphasizing the when and the then (we also learned this from the book) lets children know what the consequence will be and gives them a chance to make a choice. This works better than giving a command.

By the time we head off for school everything is back to normal.

 

 

 

 

 

Long days short years

On November 2, 2009, two weeks after Noah was born, I was laid off from my job as the creative director of a living-history park in Utah. The day had started off like any other for two new parents- hectic.

Shortly after I arrived at the office that day, I found myself sitting across from my boss as he blew sunshine where it did not belong, telling me how this was an extremely hard decision and he had been up half the night and blah blah blah. They wanted to go in a new direction, get someone with marketing experience. I was completely blindsided.

Not quite two years earlier I had been hired as the graphic designer for the park. I never pretended to be a marketing genius; in fact, I had told them I did not know much about it. I only took the role only because they had fired the marketing person for not doing her job, and with the understanding that I would only do it for a short time until we could find someone else, someone with more training than I had. Nonetheless, I loved my job, and I was excited to go to work. I may have been learning on the fly, but I was giving 200 percent every day.

I left the office mad and scared. The park is over 400 acres with dozens of buildings and I headed for one I was sure would be empty. I sat on the porch exhausted. I looked out over the valley, wondering how I was going to tell Erin. After a short time I got in my car and drove home. Thankfully I’ve never been the breadwinner in the family. Still, the pain of being out of work weighed on me.

By the time I pulled into the driveway my plan was set. I would get a job in a restaurant. Since college it had been my standard fall-back plan when times were lean. That way I could at least contribute to the household income. I was the man of the house after all. I stood outside our front door, staring at the lock, trying to find words. I walked inside and right away Erin knew something was wrong. I told her what had happened and of my plan. She told me there was no way I was going to wait tables, I hated waiting tables, and I could stay home with Noah. The running joke since the beginning of our relationship was that I had found myself a sugar-momma and someday I would be a househusband. We had stayed in Utah because of my job. Me staying home had never really been talked about when we found out we were having a baby.

Now we were at a cross roads and I had a choice to make. Did I really want to be a stay-at-home dad? At first I was on the fence; I figured I could go out on my own. I had a healthy list of contacts and the experience. We figured why not give it a try, and I set to about creating a company. Soon Erin went back to work and I was a full-time dad, trying to juggle starting a business, caring for a baby and doing some consulting work for our church. The day it took me an hour and half to write a ten line email was the day I realized I had a choice to make. I could be a stay-at-home dad or I could be a graphic designer, but I could not be both. It did not take me very long to make my decision.

The last six years have been far from easy. I’ve learned so much about who I really am that at times I sit back in pure amazement at all of the changes that I have gone through. Several times I have told Erin that I could no longer handle staying at home and needed to find a job outside of the house. I’ve made two more attempts to start my own business each resulting in me spiraling into a stressed-out anxiety riddled state that leaves me short fused and unable to deal with the little things that come with raising two very strong willed rambunctious boys and running a house. No amount of money is worth that.