Thursday, April 16, 2009

Never Prepared

I try to stay away from the woe is me stuff these days, but I'm just feeling it this morning.

This morning was especially tough to begin with. I awoke early from a bad dream and stayed up to get the kids' lunches ready. I got them up at their usual time and went about the morning routine, laying out clothes, making sure teeth were brushed, making breakfast, etc. There was something a bit different about Ari today. I came into her room happily surprised to find her already awake. I smiled at her and wished her a good morning and was met only with silence and a deep stare into my eyes. She then moved to me and gave me a hug. I hugged her back and as I moved to let her go so that we could start the day, she held tighter and said, "Hold me." Okay. Happy to oblige.

After a good twenty seconds or so, I played the role and got her started on her morning routine without incident. We were all dressed and ready to go at 6:45. Out the door and to our van, with lunch bags, backpacks and all was well. They played quietly and happily in their car seats while I drove and enjoyed the new Prince CD. (It's a good one.) We arrived at school and made our way inside, first to Ari's class and then to Joshua's. Again, Ari seemed a bit melancholy. Kneeling down to wish her a good day, I was met again by her arms around my neck. I hugged her back getting more sad and concerned by the second. Finally, I pulled away, gave her a kiss and wished her a good day. She told me she loved me, I told her I loved her, and I went about the business of getting Joshua to his class.

Five minutes later, I walked by Ari's class again on my way out of the school. Her door was closed but I peered in hoping to see her laughing with her friends, hoping for a reason to smile. However, I spied her looking just as sad as before, shuffling from the coat area toward her seat. The instinct was to walk in and give her another hug. Maybe take her back home and play board games all day or maybe just chat with her teacher for a bit. Fighting instinct, I just continued on my way to the van wondering what in the world was going on in my little girl's head.

It's less that she was somehow sad today and more that she was just so tight-lipped about it. Her hugs were clingy and desperate. She wanted something from me and maybe I was giving it to her and maybe I wasn't. This dad just doesn't know.

And... on top of all of that, while driving home I noticed a brief flicker on my dashboard. The "D" for drive would alternate between dim and bright. As soon as my attention was fixed, every single red light on my dashboard came on for a quick second. My heart sank realizing that at the very least, a battery or alternator might need to be replaced. At worst, who knows? (Here comes the woe is me.) We've got no money, no credit cards, no room for this.

It's our own fault, but I'm still left with a feeling of despair which angers me somewhat. The facts are that I have four wonderful children: one adult and three little ones. I didn't go to college and don't make a lot of money but I work steadily and diligently and I don't mess around with drug or alcohol abuse. I go to my job each day and I come home each night, never stopping anywhere to spend money or placing my attention anywhere but toward my family. I'm a doting dad and a loving husband.While I'm smart enough to know that these things don't guarantee a life of riches, I'm just so tired of the struggle. It's such a grey sky life these days. Had I gone to college, maybe I'd have a skill which would help me more in the workforce. Or if I had the gift of gab, maybe I'd at least make good money selling cars or whatever wares are desired. But here I am, smiling politely and carrying bags for travelers, a great job for a single guy, but no career in this economy.

It doesn't help that, while I love my kids with all that I am, I feel so irresponsible for not being more careful. (Our latest and greatest was quite the surprise. The Pill was no match for whatever was in the air or water that night.) Before I married Paige, before I proposed to Paige, I sought out counseling to answer some questions I had. When I mentioned Paige and how much I loved her, but added how afraid I was that I wouldn't be able to financially afford having more children, he suggested that no one is really ever "ready" for the financial aspect of parenting but that the other intangibles more than make up for that. With that, I started shopping for rings.

We don't lack for love around here, but the financial hardship is staggering. I've got one car whose battery seems to be dying. It's parked at my workplace while I save up for a battery. But that's the less important vehicle. If and when I can't drive it, I walk to work or get rides from friendly coworkers. The van, however, is the big one. It takes my wife and kids down the interstate to her work and their school. She makes the larger income and the van is what keeps us going. I can't afford not to afford to fix it, but here I am. Broke. As is most of my family. As are most of my friends these days.

I just want to hug my kids and be a better provider for them.

Pardon this post. It's just what's in my head. Advice welcome.


Cabbage Babble said...

I understand. There is a feeling of helplessness in the air these days. I wish I could offer advice, but I'm afraid Judge and I are in the same boat as you are, although not with four children, just one. Money, capitalism, the broken nature of this country - it is getting to me, too. I wish the best to you and your family.

christinajade said...

I've had too many days just like that in the past several months. The daily routine has turned into a daily struggle. I wish I knew exactly what happened. I lack words of wisdom, my friend.

As for Ari, could she be having "new baby" syndrome? Perhaps you could talk to her about that. Sometimes, and I know because I remember feeling the same way when my little brother cam home, there's certain amount of loss that the older siblings feel. Of course, I was 5, and I didn't know that's what I was feeling, but looking back, that's exactly what that was. Loss. Not jealousy, but a real fear of losing some of the love. Perhaps some Ari/Daddy alone time would do the trick?

By the way, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Beautiful post, and I feel less alone in the daily struggle so many of us seem to be going through lately.

Hang in there, my friend. :)

chez bez said...

Cabbage: Thanks for your kind words. I feel like I need a life coach or a career counselor. Of course, first I need a bit of room to breathe. My best to you, too. Good people like us need to get some awesome luck and soon.

christina: Yeah, that seems to be the pulse of the nation these days. Scary.

Regarding Ari, I wondered about that, too. The tough thing is how to handle it. One thing we've noticed is that the more people (teachers, friends, etc.) ask her about the baby, the more she clams up. So we're sensitive to that and give her lots of extra attention, but there can be overkill there as well. She's such a four-year-old version of me sometimes, it's interesting/strange to watch.

LeBlanc said...

I get it completely. I ahve quetioned myself/ my life in the same way many times and still do and know I will going forward. Thanks for sharing.

Melissa said...

I have no words of wisdom or good advice so instead I will just say, don't let yourself be determined by your income, it's often no reflection of all the depth of an individual, you are, like you mentioned, so much more than that, a wonderful husband and father. While it is hard to keep everything together, trust that your children will be thankful for the wonderful father they had, and will doubtfully care what your line of work was.

So things are tough for you, they have been for a while and likely they will be for a while to come but that does not mean that they will always be. Opportunities will come and your life will change and things will be better, of this I am sure.

Don't be too hard on yourself either, okay?

chez bez said...

LeBlanc and Melissa (and everyone for that matter): Thanks so much for your support. It means so much just to vent a bit here and there and receive kind words in return. Your friendship is invaluable.

I'll post more baby pics soon. That's a lot more fun.

eric dolphy said...

the beatles were certainly right when they said "love is all you need". but with things as they are these days some cash at hand doesn't hurt... :/... :)

and yes as melissa said don't be too hard on yourself. the choices we made influence our life but ultimately do not determine our life's course.

much love sir.

Busy Mom said...

No advice, just wanted you to know I was thinking of you and that I hope things look up for you soon.

The Old Man and His Dog said...

A very wise person told me "It doesn't matter what you do for a living, only that you do it to the best of your ability." There are many out there with what society has deemed "very important" jobs that do not do them very well and yet get rewarded for them very well. These people are labeled successful, but only because of the money they make. They aren't usually happy or loved. They then attempt to buy happiness and love......unsuccessfully. Only then do they find out that happiness comes from within and from those that love you for who you are. That is true success. You sound pretty successful to me.

By the way that person that shared her wisdom with me was my grandmother who died in her nineties. She went from being very poor and working from sunrise to sunset on a potato farm at the age of 7, because her mother and father needed the income. They ate nothing but potatoes many days. She became a registered nurse very late in her life and I know many patients and hospital employees that thought she was the best nurse ever, even though she never went to college. She never judged success by the size of her pay check, only by the love returned to her by her patients and her family.

If there's one thing I've learned getting through some really tough times, it's that things always work out for the best. Though things may end up differently than you thought you wanted. Sometimes we just don't really know what's best for us.

The Old Man and His Dog said...

monstermash said...

It seems that my usual brand of humor and sarcasim might not be appropriate right now.

Everyone has responded to you so beautifully, it's heart warming.

Just wanted to let you know you are not alone in your feelings. Just yesterday, I surprised myself by making the statement "I'm not even happy when I'm happy".

You are braver than most of us for sharing the way you do.

chez bez said...

Indeed, all of these words are heartwarming. I've got lots of love to be sure. I just need to focus on figuring out a new "strategery" for a less-stressed life.

In short, you guys rock!

cherrie said...

I know times are tough and things can look down at times, but you have to look at the positive things in life. You have an awesome wife, who loves you very much, you have 3 beautiful children, who adore you very much (I can see that in the blogs), you have a family that cares about you very much, you have a job, that takes care of your wife and children. Right now, I agree times are tough and things are not easy, but you are doing the best you can and that is what counts the most. Give your wife and children hugs and love all you can because believe me that means a lot to them.
I live by a rule that my great grandma use to tell me when I was young and I never understood it until I became an adult, "Everything in Life happens for a reason, even though at the time you don't no what it is"
Hang in there and hug those kids all you can, because one day they will grow up and not want a hug from you because it won't be "cool", believe me I know, but I still do it anyway. :):):):):)

cherrie said...

Sorry, I know you have 4 children and I put three, but anyway give them all the love and hugs you can every day, that is what matters the most in their lives. It is the love they will always remember, trust me

Momo said...

Good luck to you and your fantastic family...

I know that sometimes I wonder what I spend my money on when I'm thinking: "Oh yeah, the car needs ______." What have I been doing?

We all get by the best we can. And you have been so resourceful! Walking to work, etc...You work hard for your family!

I hope it starts to look up for you guys...

LisaMM said...

I don't have any advice but want you to know that your family is so lucky to have you. Your heart is clearly in the right place. I wish you and yours the very best and pray that things will start looking up for you.