Balancing the time, talent, attention and love four four kids has never been an easy prospect for me. My wife never quite understood my confusion and frustration with it. She always felt you just did your best and sometimes one got more than another. That’s the right way of looking at it.
This comes to fore with the fact that I knew there was going to be something tonight. I wasn’t sure what, but it always happens.
Why? It’s ratings in the television world. I work a number of hours in the ratings times, nearly always. It throws the house into a bit of a ruckus. Then there’s Sam, who is the only child who is in the elementary school play.
I wasn’t too late tonight, right around 7pm getting home. But then I had to inhale some food, jump in the car and – like most every other Soccer Mom/Dad out there – had to run and get Sam from his play practice. When I got there. . . Sam was tired, a bit run down, still had homework, but wanted to inform me how excited he was.
He’d gotten a Presidential Fitness Award.
Here’s where the balancing act starts.
I would love to believe that I’m Philippe Petit, walking a wire between two buildings hundreds of stories tall.
In reality, though, I’m more like the guy juggling chainsaws too early and missing a couple digits.
I knew what today would breed. I really did. Today . . . Sam was excited and needed the adulation that would come with what I never achieved – the fitness and exercise equivalent of a medal.
But Noah, Sam’s brother, was desperate to get one. He wanted nothing more than to hold that award. It was what he craved and he did, I swear, work really hard for it. The little guy tried doing more exercises at home – not at my prodding – and everything. The problem is . . . some people are just more athletic. That’s Sam. Sam is built like a wrestler who excels at being a linebacker. Noah, poor kid, is built like his old man. That makes his athletic life far from stellar.
So the balance? How do I show excitement for one and not upset another.
I kept that thought tickling around in the back of my brain. When I got home, Noah was fine.
It was the point of getting him to bed that things went haywire. He’d already had some medicine for a slight cold he has – courtesy his brother Sam. Then he asked if he could have a Tums for his tummy ache. I obliged.
Before going up to bed he decided to tell me he didn’t feel good . . . and then he burst out crying. They had given all the kids a treat at school – a giant cup with a combination of vanilla and chocolate pudding, some cookie crumbs . . . and he said he didn’t want to waste it so he ate it all, but it made him sick to his stomach.
But I know what was really happening.
It was a perfect storm. Noah certainly did feel like he needed to eat the treat, and it probably did upset his little stomach a bit. But he also had a cold, drainage coming into his stomach, too. But I know what was really wrong.
The fitness award.
Sure, he’s 10, a big kid, but as he stood there sobbing I put my arm around his shoulder and pulled him onto my lap. I gave him a great big hug.
“It’s okay, monkey. If you don’t like something, you can tell the teacher, they’ll listen.”
“And it’s okay to be upset,” I said, knowing that it applied to more than just an upset tummy. “But I’ll take care of you, it’s fine.”
To his credit, Sam, went and told his big sisters, in another room, that he’d won an award. I congratulated him again, gave him a big hug, and told him how proud I was of him. He still deserved an accolade for his achievement. But he was also kind and empathetic enough to not do a victory dance in the living room.
I gave Noah a Benadryl for the allergies and cold and everything bothering him. I put them to bed and came downstairs to make their lunches. I still had to balance real life with emotional life, too.
I take a breath, realizing this time I’ve managed to keep the chainsaws in the air – and kept all my fingers.