Sunday, April 5, 2009

On the Single (Dad) Life

Most days I trot through my now somewhat ordinary existence and follow whatever series of motions transports me from the opening of the day to its close. And most days that is fine. As often as I still miss my wife, and as much as I have posted lately about my said grief, more often than not I make it through the days relatively unscathed. And while I still miss her immensely, I have adjusted rather well to my life as a single father. So much so that I do not often dwell on the “single” part of my status nearly as much as I focus on the “dad” part. But then there are moments that thrust me right back into my own reality and I am forced to deal with situations much differently than I did just over two years ago.

Hello. My name is 3SF, and I am a single father.

Thursday started out like most of these ordinary days of mine, with both of us up and ready in a timely fashion, but still somehow managing to run late on the way to daycare/work (and with no increase in traffic on which to blame it). The initial “reality check” came as I walked through the door of my daughter’s classroom and found myself in the midst of a conversation regarding how many days the daycare would be closed for Easter (her preschool program is within her daycare). Now, I believe that everyone deserves time off now and again. Especially teachers. And especially those teachers who still wipe noses and bottoms on a regular basis (in the younger classrooms). The problem is that, unlike last year, my lovely employer opted not to give us a day off for Good Friday, so I have to work. This would normally not be a problem, but I am (overly) selective in who I ask to watch my daughter, especially for an entire day while I am off in another county earning my paycheck, and most of the people on that short list also have to work that day. The one woman who I would ask in this instance is a stay at home mom, but she is visiting family out-of-state and will not be back till after Easter. I would take the day off and move our trip to visit family in the Midwest up a day, but I have to save my days off for our upcoming adventure in May and a couple of other my-daughter-is-growing-up-too-fast occasions, one in May and one in June, respectively. I have a couple of other friends in mind, but I still need to call and see if one of them will actually be able to watch her. Crises-not-averted-but-in-check-for-now.

Later that morning, my cell phone buzzed in my pocket as I was finishing up with a group of students. Now, I am not a traditional teacher in the sense that I have the same set of students day-in, day-out. I instead see a rotating group of kiddos within each week, but I always pull from the same set of 55 or so. Point being that I have a bit more flexibility in listening to a voice message or returning a call than a traditional teacher would. I did not recognize the number, but I did know the voice on the message. “This is your daughter’s teacher. Your daughter is complaining of a sore throat and has a low-grade fever”. Great. My daughter is typically not a complainer, so I felt that if she was making these ailments known she must not be feeling well. Surprisingly, it was the second call that really reminded me that I am somewhat isolated in my single-fatherhood. Most men would just call their wives and decide who would stay at work and who would pick up their sick child. I couldn’t exactly do that. Many other people would call Grandma or Grandpa or Aunt So-and-so. Since we chose to follow my dream and move 800 miles away from the nearest relatives, I couldn’t exactly do that either. As it turns out, I called the teacher back, who said she thought my daughter was okay and that she would call me if the symptoms worsened. They did not, but I called back about an hour later just to make sure. I was feeling extra guilty since I had an appointment to have a non-essential item on the car fixed after work, but I kept the appointment and she was fine with being picked up later than usual. Crisis-averted.

Fast-forward to Saturday. The weather had morphed from cool and rainy into something out of a travel magazine photo, which could mean only one of two things for me: go to the beach or do some yard work/therapy. Since we are going out-of-town next weekend, I did the responsible thing and worked in the yard. You have probably noticed that I love working in the yard. I enjoy pulling weeds and planting flowers and cutting grass. I love to get my hands dirty, and more importantly, I love to be able to look at something I’ve done in the yard and feel that sense of accomplishment it brings. One such ego-boost for me comes in the form of mowing my entire yard. My property is a bit over an acre, but is very long and runs at an odd angle, so it takes several hours to mow. None of this would really be a problem if it wasn’t so very loooong. Sometime last year I developed a system wherein my daughter will play in a certain area of our yard that is within eyesight while I mow. When it is time to move to another area of the yard, I command her attention and she moves to that area and commences playing. I came across this system by accident when I was in a bind last summer and needed to get the yard mowed, but didn’t have time to call anyone to watch her. It works fairly well, and she is perfectly safe the entire time. The hitch in this plan is that there is no convenient place to play toward the back of our property, and no shade in which to play back there either. So rather than get the entire yard mowed in a day, I will have to complete the task one afternoon between work and picking her up from school. This is not the end of the world, but I could not help but notice how nice my neighbor’s yard looked when he finished mowing it yesterday. A petty reminder, but a reminder nonetheless that I answer to a different set of rules than my married and/or childless friends and neighbors. Not-a-crisis-but-not-exactly-averted-either.

Then tonight, my typically well-behaved child decided to let her alter-ego emerge during the evening service at church. It was not pretty. What began as a pleasant evening, ended with a quick spanking when we arrived home. It is a very rare occasion on which I find myself faced with having to spank my daughter, but that’s how bad things were throughout the service. I will spare you the details in this already very lengthy post. Suffice it to say, spanking is always a last resort and is only used when she can derive meaning from its employment as a disciplinary tactic. Crisis-not-averted-but-solved-nonetheless.

Though my single-parent reality is always present, it is not always at the forefront of my mind. But as it has been this week, I have been reminded that I can confront each “crisis”, however minor it may seem, on my own. Because I have to, but also because I want to.

And I have also been reminded that I really, really love those days when going through the motions gets me from Point A to Point B with some play time, and some snuggle time, and maybe a blog post in-between.

1 comment:

  1. I know several strong single fathers who didn't really choose to be that, but circumstances forced them into it. They handle challenges with humor, strength, and confidence.

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