“I HATE coming over here now!” my oldest daughter screamed at me. “I hardly even get to see you anymore! Then, when you do finally get here, all I hear is ‘Make sure your homework is done. Or, did you take a bath yet? Oh, hey, have you done your reading for the night?”
I hear sniffling from beneath her covers, and gently pulled them down over her face just in time to reveal a single teardrop falling down her cheek. I sat next to her on her bed and pulled her head into my chest. She burrowed her face against my shirt and whispered “It’s not fair, daddy…”
Her voice trailed off and I just held her there, snuggling with the near identical (female) copy of myself (twenty years ago). My head raced with what seemed like a thousand thoughts, trying to think of all the right things to say to her. Sitting here, almost a week later, I still feel flustered about where I’m going, what I’m doing, and if it’s going to be worth it in the end.
A couple of weeks ago, I started a new job. I have been waiting tables and bartending for the last few years. I have worked in numerous jobs over the past 15 years ranging from factory work, fast food, grocery store clerk, for the post office, installing cable, and waiting tables and bartending. I like to consider myself a modern-day renaissance man. As you may have noticed, I like to dabble in a bit of everything (including writing).
I try to keep myself busy, stimulate the minds of my children, and ensure my family is heading in the right direction. I’m not always successful in these endeavors, but at least I try.
After toying with the idea of a new job for so long, I actually went out and got one a few weeks ago. I sent out a resume, I got called in for an interview, I dressed up, and I even covered up those awful tattoos of my children’s names (didn’t want to offend anyone, you know). Before I went to my interview, I researched the company, read reviews of customers, and even read reviews by former (or current) employees.
My interview went very well, and less than fifteen minutes later I had a new job. As I drove to pick my kids up from school that afternoon, my heart swelled with pride. I remember hoping that they would be proud of me, and happy that I was doing something different than just waiting tables. I hoped my wife would be proud of me for taking on a “big boy” job once again, and doing something different than just waiting tables. I remember wishing that my parents would be proud of me for doing something positive with my life, and hoping that they would be thankful that I wasn’t in jail somewhere instead.
When the girls got into the car, the first thing they noticed was my flipping sweet outfit. I almost never dress up, and believe me—I was looking mighty dapper that afternoon. I couldn’t hardly contain my smile, and spilled the beans not even five minutes into the car ride home.
“CLEANING CARPETS?!!, one of them exclaimed. “Really dude?”
I’m going to fill you in on something about me here, because I’m going to make an assumption that you have not read every single blog of mine.
When I was younger, my dad fixed appliances. To a kid, having an appliance van parked in front of your house wasn’t the coolest thing that could have happened to you. In fact, I thought it was downright embarrassing that my dad was an appliance repairman. In hindsight, I know he had a good job. He was doing a service for people who needed help, and he was providing for our family the best way he knew how. He started the job when he was 16. He is now in his fifties, and guess what? He still works there. My dad showed me by example what it’s like to be a grown up, be a man, and how to handle responsibility from a very young age. Unfortunately, I was just too stupid to realize it until recently.
Trying to explain “why” I’m choosing to clean carpets for a living now (in addition to waiting tables) to an eleven and almost nine year-old isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done. Believe it or not, but I’m thinking about doing that whole “teach by example” thing my dad did. However, when they don’t start to get it (refer to the very beginning of this blog), I’m going to have to do some good old-fashioned talking.
“Shhhh,” I tell her. “It’s going to be OK. We are all going through some changes right now, and believe me—this one is for the better.”
“How?! How is it better that I see my dad even less?! I already don’t see you that much because I’m in school over half of the time I’m supposed to be over here!”
I really had no answer to give her, except to try and explain how the world works. We need money to survive. Plain and simple, we need money for groceries, for gas, to buy clothes, go out on occasion, etc. We also need to feel important sometimes. I tried to explain to her that Daddy hasn’t been himself recently. I’ve been going through some things deep down inside, that I don’t always portray to everybody else. I tried to explain to her, that I NEED this job, and she NEEDS to understand.
While I’m comforting my oldest, my next oldest comes along the other side of me and rests her head on my shoulder.
“I love you daddy” just happens to be my most favorite sentence I’ve ever heard these little girls say. I put my arm around her and ensured them both that I love them very much too.
I hope they understand why I did what I did, and why I do what I do. I tried to explain that it’s not only them I am responsible for. I remind them about their two younger sisters. Hopefully, soon they’ll realize I’m trying to be the best dad I can be for all of them. Eventually, they will see a change in my attitude, and I hope they change theirs, as well.