I’m sitting here thinking about the two little girls that are asleep upstairs and the day we have had already. I worked yesterday so I was gone for my usual 24 hours. My wife and I are very fortunate that we do not have to use daycare for our kids because her job allows her to self-schedule, which usually works out o.k. On days when we both do have to work we are even more fortunate that my folks are both retired and help us out by watching the girls for the bulk of the day until my in-laws come to relieve them after they get off from work and until my wife gets home around 8:15 P.M. Other days, like today, my awesome father-in-law gets out of bed early and comes to our house to watch the girls when my wife leaves for work at 5:50 A.M. until I get home somewhere around 8:45. He then heads off to work to put in a full day. We are truly blessed with all the help we receive.
Today was kind of nuts. I ran home from the station (thank God the on-coming shift took the call that came in 5 minutes before shift-change), grabbed the two girls who my father-in-law had already gotten up, cleaned up, fed (up), dressed up and packed up and ran right back out to get them to their respective “schools”. The youngest is in a one day a week pre-school type program and the oldest goes two days a week. Both in different locations and about four towns away from each other. We made it with plenty of time to spare for both.
After dropping the last one off I went back home, let the dog out, fed the dog, glanced through the paper and yesterdays mail and ate some awesome pumpkin-spice bread my wife had evidently made just for me to eat all up this morning. Ok, the two end pieces are still left. Then I went and got cleaned up and dressed. By that time I had about enough time to check out a couple of my favorite fire service blog sites (you can find them on the right, Firefighter Basics and Fire Geezer) before I had to run back out to collect my oldest, since her school is over first. When I got there I met a friend of ours whose daughter is in the same class. We decided it was a good day to take the kids to McDonald’s for lunch and then we could chat. In between the spills, fights and shrieking we managed to discuss marriage, politics and just the general frustration of life. Then it was time to go get Daughter #2 (no, I don’t refer to her as that to her face, but even if I did I really don’t think it will give her a complex and end her up on a therapists couch someday, so back-off all you amateur child psychologists). After driving three towns over and four towns back home I read them stories and settled them into their beds for nap time. That was a couple hours ago and it has been blissfully quiet as I sit and play on my computer. So that’s what got me thinking about firefighter Dads.
We miss a lot of our families lives because of the nature of our job. We can be gone for twenty-four, forty-eight or sometimes more hours at a stretch. If you are part-time or volunteer you might need to leave just as you are sitting down to the first family dinner everyone has actually decided to attend in nearly a month. Sports activities, recitals, birthdays, holidays, dances all get missed at some time or another and it hurts. It hurts us as well as our families. But then there’s the other side.
Since I am full-time I have forty-eight hours off between shifts and for the first time in nearly 15 years I am not working a second job. I get to come home and do all that running around I mentioned earlier. I get to go to the park and the swimming pool and go on walks with my girls. I get to play with them, bond with them and at times (much more frequently lately it seems) discipline them. All necessary things a father must do to hope to have any kind of real relationship with his child. It’s awesome and I love it, well most the time anyway. There are those days…..
I guess what really got me thinking about this was the conversation my friend and I had a McDonald’s. We’re pretty tight and share just about everything. During the conversation about marriage my friend was telling me about the demands their spouse, a 9 – 5-er who works more like 5 – 9, was under at work and how there just didn’t seem to be enough time for family when they got home. It was leading to a lot of stress in their marriage which in turn affected the kids because the spouse who was staying at home never had a break and was under constant demands from the kids. My friend kind of half-marveled at the fact I could manage the day’s schedule and successfully get the girls where they needed to be, be with them all day, feed them, give them baths etc. etc. I told my friend I was sure that their spouse could handle it too. This comment was met with a chortle and a roll of the eyes. Turns out my friend’s spouse can’t even give the kids a bath if they aren’t home to help.
I have tremendous short-comings, just ask my wife. But in addition to being in a very honorable profession I think being a firefighter has made me a better Dad too. Hopefully, it will make my kids better people also. I get to raise my children and spend so much more time with them than most other dads, even with the 24 hour shifts. They probably won’t grow up to be the next Mother Theresa’s, especially with my genes running around in them, but I think they’ll be ok and I hope that me being around a lot has something to do with it.
Well, I see a little face peeking through the banister at me so I suppose I should wrap it up. I think I’m gonna go be a pony or something now.