**Serious Warning** This particular posting contains serious content. If you are a reader of this blog for something light to do on a break from more serious things, then be forewarned.
I have been debating including a recent change in my situation as a Stay at Home Dad, but it will be hard to write about my days without explaining the difference. I have recently been looking for a part-time job that didn't interfere with my being the primary caretaker of my daughters or my wife's work, and since my wife doesn't get home until six p.m. or later, that doesn't leave many options outside of working overnight. I applied for overnight operations at Lifetime Fitness, overnight stocker at Target, and overnight stocker at a grocery store. Much to the detriment of my ego, Lifetime and Target didn't think I was a fit for those particular positions, at least that is what the emails said. But, recently, I was lucky enough to be hired at a grocery store as an overnight stocker. The manager who interviewed me said, "We are just going to go ahead and hire you right now because you are the first person who said anything more than ""I like the Cubs"" when I asked them to tell me about themselves." High praise.
So now, on three to four nights a week, I make the short drive to the store, clock in, and commence opening boxes, putting cans on shelves, stacking toilet paper and making sure everything is orderly and facing out. It is perfect in that it is physical enough to keep me awake, but brainless enough to allow me to think about other things. During the week, I work from eleven p.m. to five a.m., so when the end of my shift approaches, I stop what I am doing, push my cart of broken down cardboard boxes back to the bailer, load the boxes, compact them, collect my things, clock out, walk out from the fluorescent brightness into the light blue pre-sunlit sky. I make the short drive home, quietly creep up the stairs, trying to keep the dog from making too much noise. I wash the store off my hands, take the store uniform off, sneak into bed in the minutes before my lovely wife's alarm goes off. I wake a couple hours later to my little girls playing in their room.
The day after my second shift went exactly like that, but when I woke up, everything made me angry. IR was yelling "Daddy! Daddy!", so I jumped out of bed and ran into their room to find her distraught over a thread that was unravelling from her favorite blanket.
After making our way downstairs, I realized that the house was abnormally cold. I checked the thermostat and it read sixty-four. It was set to sixty-nine and the furnace wasn't running. I spent the morning running back and forth from getting the girls breakfast to trying everything I knew how to do to get the furnace running again. I didn't feel irritable, but I was snapping at the girls.
"I want more ice christies." ML said as she spooned some milk into her mouth, dripping it all down her pajamas.
"What do you say?" I snapped.
"You have to say please." IR whispered.
"Peas I have more ice christies?" ML whispered, following her sister's example.
Later I was getting them dressed and they were happily playing with each other and not paying any attention to me. "ML, please come get dressed."
"IR go first!" She said and went on playing with her fairy dolls.
"IR, please come get dressed." I said. She usually dressed herself, but I didn't have the patience to wait for her to do it.
"Okay," she said but continued to push a car across the floor.
"IR, get over here right now and get your clothes on!" I didn't feel as angry as it sounded, but the effect was immediate. She dropped her car and slowly walked to me. I expected her to start crying. This is the girl who cries when we calmly ask her to cover her mouth when she coughs, or completely melts down when I tell her that she needs to practice writing her J again. And this latest outburst was just the last of many impatient requests. She didn't cry. She walked right to me and as if trying to balance herself while putting her pants on, put out her skinny little arms, but instead of putting her hands on my head, as she normally did, she wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me on the cheek.
"I love you Daddy." She said and smiled.
"I love you." I said and returned her hug. I know it is fairly cheesy to admit this, but it seemed as if a fog was lifted and I was happy. I can't imagine being more proud of my daughter than I was in that moment. Many people are sympathetic, or empathetic, but that sympathy usually gives way to defensiveness and anger when faced with someone who is mean to us. I was mean to her and she had every right to be upset with me, to cry, and to pout, but she was strong enough to forget her feelings and worry about mine.