Firefighter Dads Part Deux

If you’ve read my original post entitled “Firefighter Dads” some of this may sound familiar, but as I’ve said before this blog is a bit of therapy for me so it is in this vein that I revisit this topic.

I didn’t win any parenting awards the other day. As a matter of fact I think that I basically just ensured my kids were relatively safe and didn’t destroy anything too badly. I was home, but I wasn’t really present. The call gods had been cruel the night before when I had worked and we didn’t get much sleep. Even the time we were in the rack I was tossing and turning, thinking about stuff, throwing pillows at the guys that snore. Maybe an hour and half is what I got. Then it was off to home to let my mother-in-law get to work. As I have mentioned in my first post my wife and I are truly blessed to have a lot of help and support from both our sets of parents. Since my in-laws live only about 10 minutes from us they often come to our house when my wife leaves for work at 0600 and stay with my kids until I get home from work around 0845 or so. Then it’s off to work for them for a full day. It sure seems that on these occasions the call gods were particularly vengeful the night before.

My MIL had already gotten the girls up and dressed, fed them and done their hair for me (thankfully). They were all gathered at the kitchen table coloring when I walked in. My MIL greeted me first and the girls turned around, broke into huge smiles and ran to me for their hugs and kisses. I love that part of coming home. I love seeing their excitement to see me, of me seeing them and their eagerness to tell me everything they had done in the 24 hours I was gone. Unfortunately, that feeling can’t last all day when I feel like I was run over by a truck. My MIL had to get going so she gave me the run-down on what had transpired in the couple hours that she had been there, relayed a couple things from my wife and was out the door to work. As I closed the front door I almost felt the panic set in. “I feel like shit,” I thought. “How am I going to make it?” I made some coffee, sat down and started coloring with the girls and made up my mind I was going to be fine today. Unfortunately the girls had other plans for me.

For anyone that hasn’t read the first installment or is new to the blog my girls are 4 and 3. They are both very high-energy and active girls. They take after their mother in that way, and would much rather be out doing something or playing than sitting still. They are also both very independent for their ages and are what I guess you would called “strong-willed”. I blame that on my wife too. Of course, she blames that on me. Well, it didn’t take long before a disagreement over a crayon led to an injurious occurrence, which I didn’t see because I was refilling my coffee. That led to my oldest wailing at the top of her lungs, which led to my youngest getting Tabasco on her tongue, our preferred method of “non-contact” discipline. Which in turn led to her wailing at the top of her lungs. I felt my nerves unravelling one by one like the strings that Tom was hanging onto while Jerry sat there watching and waving and Spike awaited underneath (that’s a Tom & Jerry cartoon reference there, in case anyone didn’t get it). Yet, at this point I took a deep breath, took a drink of coffee, burned my mouth, turned and spit it into the sink, and stood there with my back to the two screaming bobbsey twins, and just breathed for a few seconds. I turned back around and settled that particular argument and calmed both my daughters. That was the last bit of actual decent parenting I think I did that day.

The crayon dispute set the tone for the day. After showering and cleaning up I gathered the girls and put them in the car. i had some errands to run and me and my Lieutenant had agreed to meet for lunch later on. So we get to the first store and the girls decide that while I’m looking at a couple products they wanted to play tag in the aisles. I didn’t really mind. The store wasn’t crowded and the aisles were large. Not large enough, evidently, because soon thereafter I hear a crash from the next aisle over. Even quicker two little girls reappear at my side with wide eyes and strangely quiet mouths. I go to investigate and find out that my beautiful off-spring have pulled over one of those free standing cardboard product stands filled with post-it note packages. “Freakin’ great,” I thought. I started correcting the girls and telling them they had to clean up the mess when a salesperson came over and began doing it for them. I apologized and told him I’d have the girls clean it up. He stuck to his corporate training and cheerfully said it was ok and that it happened all the time. “Yeah right,” my inner monologue quipped, but I was too tired, embarrassed and frustrated to insist he allow them to make amends. Teaching moment number 1 foregone.

So then we head to the local mall for another errand. This mall is also where my LT and I were going to meet for lunch and it had the added benefit of having a large play area for the kids, so I thought they could burn some energy there for a while. So we get to store #2, a computer store, and I have “the talk” with them outside. “No touching anything. Stay right by me. No playing tag or running around. This is very expensive stuff, we can’t break it,” etc. Then we went in. At first everything was ok. Then, ¬†as I’m standing at a large table filled with probably 10 display model computers and talking with the sales guy, all the computers go black at once and an ear-piercing alarm starts sounding. I look down and only my youngest daughter is visible, hands over ears looking up at me with a look of shock on her face. Almost immediately my eldest came scurrying out from underneath the table, jumped to her feet, hid behind my legs and wouldn’t come out. The sales guy crawled under the table, plugged the power-strip back in and reset the anti-theft device before crawling back out and rejoining me. For the second time in an hour I made one of my daughters apologize to a sales guy. Then we left and I had “The Talk, Part Deux” outside the store. We then made our way to the play area.

The play area actually went fine, except for me dozing off for a minute and waking up after my head hit the decorative metal fence behind the bench I was sitting on while “watching” the girls play. I got a text from my LT and we made our way to the restaurant. That actually went fine too. My LT has 3 girls, ages 3 – 5, so he’s used to the craziness and was actually a huge help during lunch. Other than the typical spills and mess, we finished up and left without much incident. Even the walk back out to our cars was ok. They actually got into the car, sat in their car seats and waited patiently while we finished up our discussion about a couple work topics. As I was backing out of the parking spot my youngest used her particularly annoying screech to yell, “Daaaaaaaaaaaddddddddyyyyyyyyyy!” “What, honey,” I half-grumbled. “Aren’t you dunna buttle us?” I slammed on the brakes. Put the car in park. Jumped out. Waved to the lady waiting to take my spot. And then actually secured my girls into their personal restraint systems. “Shit!” my inner monologue shouted again. “I need a nap.”

The endorphin rush managed to get me home without falling asleep. Then I made a huge mistake. I agreed to let them watch some TV. I thought I could kind of lay on the couch with them and take a snooze in relative safety. That was the plan, anyway. The constant hitting, screaming, pushing, yelling and general whining didn’t allow that plan to be seen to fruition however. It was at that point I mentally checked out for the rest of the day. I had 5 1/2 hours until bed time and 7 hours until my wife got home. “I’m done. I don’t care. As long as they’re alive when [my wife] gets home, I don’t care what else happens,” I said to myself.

And that’s pretty much what happened the rest of the day. Except for physically intervening in some particularly violent disagreements and doing some yelling, I did nothing to build-into my children for the rest of our time together that day. Again, if you’ve read the first post, the day I described above was pretty much the exact opposite of what that post was about. I hate those kinds of days. I hate feeling exhausted, angry, frayed, frustrated all at the same time and knowing that my kids are being gypped out of a quality day with their dad. It also pisses me off when I read comments by uninformed people who evidently feel we are all overpaid, do nothing but sit on our butts and sleep all night while getting paid, and pretty much rip-off the tax paying citizen. They never even consider times like this. Then agin, maybe firefighter dads (and moms) aren’t that much different than their white-collar counterparts who spend too much time at the office and not enough time at home. I dunno. I just hope I don’t screw them up too much. I love them too much.

Until next time,

Get some sleep and stay safe!

Sledge

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Firefighter Dads

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.

Stay Safe!

Hallway Sledge