There’s a song my brother wrote, which I have attached here, that I know has a different meaning for him but I listened to the track the other day and realized that whatever inspiration it gave him, I’m living the thought behind the song.
Tell me why, I want a reason
Just what am I supposed to find?
All through the days uncounted
Like the Blind Leading the Blind
I remember the day he came to our house with the demo – he had put it on a cassette (you know, a cartridge with two tiny reels inside that hold magnetic mylar tape that . . . oh, nevermind. If you don’t know by now you never will) and I was blown away. I mean, he wasn’t even old enough to go into a bar but had written this amazing song that even then I saw as insightful.
But now I truly do feel like I’ve gotten pulled into the inspiration of his song. Successful holiday or two aside, most days I’m making this up as I go. I wait for the day that I shrink some important piece of clothing of my daughter’s. My middle child is failing numerous classes and I can’t seem to get anything to sink into that head of hers.
I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s pretty clear to me I am making this up as I go, and I wander through the forest of inevitable problems that we’re lost in and realize that I’m leading the kids along like a blind man in the dark. It scares me that they are looking to me to be the solid foundation for them and I’m feeling the ground moving underneath me, destabilizing the foundation I’ve tried to pour.
Now Christmas season is coming. Andrea always had specific ideas for how things should go. In the last few years, she’d relented, letting the kids decorate the tree the way they wanted or sitting back and allowing the holiday to come to pass. I have major issues with what’s on the horizon. I LOVE Christmas, always have. Not the presents, not getting things, I was never that way. Sure, as a kid, I loved to get presents and look under the tree on Christmas morning but I just liked the whole season. I loved the snow, the trees, the smell of pine in the house, the lights and tinsel and presents and all of it. When my Dad decorated the house and put up lights the running gag was that planes would land on our lawn instead of the airport because he had so many. I inherited that from him and loved every minute of it.
Andrea hated that. She loved Christmas, but she was a control freak when it came to decorating. What I hated more was that she was always right and it looked so great. She never liked all the lights or the clashing colors. She was a decorator at heart and she wanted simplicity in action, mixed with a touch of color and light. She kept me in check and prevented me from making the landing strip on our lawn. Where she didn’t pull back was with presents. She always paid too much, put us in debt and bought too much stuff, out-doing it for major gifts every year. She wanted to give her kids what she had or more. I’ve said it before, but I just couldn’t tell Andrea “no” and we always ended up paying for Christmas for months later until we had to find a way to pay for it all over again.
Now, my kids are looking at Christmas as a way to get all the stuff they wanted. Sure, they know the reason behind the season, they understand that they should be just as excited – or more so – to give as to receive. But last night we were at the dinner table and I made the mistake of asking what they wanted for Christmas. My oldest, always the conservative kid and not wanting to ask, said little. The other three:
“I want a Nintendo 3DS”
“I want a guitar, and a bike, and a Spyro video game with a different character and a Mario brothers game and a new controller and a laptop and an ipod and . . . ”
I told them all how much it would cost to buy all that stuff.
“But I’ll just ask Santa for it.”
That was the problem. They have these memories of asking for their one big gift and Santa brought it.
“You realize, guys, that Santa brings you what he thinks you need and deserve, not always everything you want.”
They get that, but they don’t “get” that. Last year we didn’t have a lot of money at all, (not that I do now) and they had to come to terms with a lot fewer gifts under the tree and a lot more stress from Dad and Mom. But they thought it was the greatest Christmas ever and for the most part didn’t get everything they wanted.
This year is the same way.
It’s not that I’m complaining, I’m not. I don’t want more money, the kids don’t need more gifts. What I need is self confidence and peace of mind. I stare at the houses in the neighborhood, the lights popping up, the trees erecting in the windows and I realize I’m so far behind. I get to work around 8:30 each day, leaving at 5:30, if I can. Some days it’s later. I get home and dinner has to get on the table. We clean off the kitchen table, put away the leftovers, only to see it’s time to get the kids into the shower and the bedtime routine started. I help them find their PJ’s, their new underwear, and go downstairs while the hour or more process goes and get their “midnight snacks” together – usually Rice Crispies with banana and a little sugar. Once they’re finished, we go upstairs and read a chapter of the latest book we’re reading – this one is “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. We say prayers, get out the clothes for the next day and put them on the foot of their bed, then I head out, put a load (or two) of laundry in the washer and go downstairs. I make lunches for the next day, make sure I have something ready and on-hand for breakfast, and usually end up having to make something for a sweet snack for the lunches – cookies, brownies, something like that. Switch out the laundry, separate the clothes . . .
You get the picture of my day. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything more than get the kids from today to tomorrow and then the next. I’m not saying my only reason for mourning Andrea is that she helped with the daily grind of chores, but she did. She also helped me figure out how to decorate for the holidays and knew what they kids wanted for Christmas, what to ask Santa for so they got their one big gift but didn’t get an overload of stuff so that I can’t follow up next year. I’m so lost in the trees I can’t see the forest any more.
My children are amazing. I have to admit that. They laugh, they smile, they tell stories, all of it without Andrea here to help them. People look at me and say that I must be doing something right or they wouldn’t be doing this well. I look at them and realize that they’re not doing well in school or are getting into fights or are obsessed with video games or just get quiet and spend most of the night in their room.
At the end of the day I feel like I have to stick to the routine – sticking to the same time, the same things every night will make them happy and feel stable. But walking through the day in that routine when their guide, the Dad who’s taking them through the woods, has no map and isn’t sure where he’s going feels so wrong. I feel some days like I’m lying to them, acting like I know what I’m doing but really I’m just as lost as they are. My son, Sam, looked at me last night after prayers as I was tucking him into his bed and – with the twinkle I remember in Andrea’s eyes, he says: “I love you daaaaady!”
I love you too, buddy.
“You’re the best Daddy ever, you know.”
“Well, there are a lot of Daddies in the world, kiddo.”
“I know that. You’re still the best.”
“I appreciate that, Samwise. I love you, little man.”
“I don’t care how many other dads there are. You read to us, take care of us, even chase us around and tickle us and laugh with us. You’re the best.”
You see, like my brother’s song, “it’s a waste of time to keep on looking back but it’s a pain I can’t resist.” I keep thinking and wondering how they’re able to cope so well when I’m still glancing over my shoulder.
But I keep blindly stumbling along hoping I’m getting it right but never really knowing. Why?
I couldn’t bear it if I looked at my kids . . . at Sam . . . and saw that he didn’t feel that way any more.