God bless my kids, they’re always there. I mean literally, I spend most of my waking time with them. Distance learning in the age of Covid only further exacerbated this dynamic over the past year. Since I work from home and my wife leaves the house to see patients, at least she gets some away time throughout the week. As for me, in between shuttling the littles (our 2 and 5 year old) back and forth to pre-school and checking in (or trying to avoid) the bigs (our 8 and 11 year old) who are home with virtual learning, I often need space by the end of the day.
Which makes this past weekend all the more interesting. My wife went away for a weekend trip with her girlfriends and in my infinite wisdom, I decided to plan an elaborate road trip with the girls on my own. These things start off simpler in my head, but I tend to end up doing the most. To help, I enlisted one of my good friends to meet up with me (as it turns out, his wife was on the same weekend trip so we were both game for a little adventure with the kids),
It helps that lately I’ve been really working on adopting a new mantra…let me be open, flexible, and gracious. Open to new ideas and experiences. Open to new ways of seeing things. Flexible and adaptable, so that when life inevitably happens, I’m nimble enough to adjust course. And finally, the hardest part for me, gracious. First, gracious with myself because I’m my own worst critic. Second, gracious with others. As a parent that means forgiving my kids for simple mistakes, being patient with them, and generally operating with a spirit of generosity. All of this I would need in full measure on my trip, and just generally getting through the weekend in one piece with the girls.
My plan was to leave at 9am Saturday morning to get on the road. The girls woke up at 7am (per usual) so we were on track. However, due to staying up late to pre-pack all the items I wanted to have just in case for our day trip (doing the most), I ended up sleeping in until about 7:30. Still, after taking about 30 minutes for myself to have some meditation and journaling time (more on that in a sec), making breakfast, packing snacks for the road, loading up the bikes on the bike rack, getting the littles dressed, and cleaning up… well it was 11am when we finally pulled out of the driveway. I called my friend who was meeting us in Chattanooga and told him that we were officially behind schedule. Fortunately, he understood.
One quick note, I’ve been thinking about this issue of self-care, particularly for parents who are semi-stay at home parents + also work from home. That’s the bucket I put myself in since my 8 year old basically told me recently, i thought you were a stay at home dad… Dads can be both, apparently. As a father who both works from home and is a primary caregiver for our young kids, taking time out for journaling and meditation, biking, reading, and catching up with my friends is an important outlet away from both work and the kids. And I have a great partner in my wife. I still marvel at how my mother (and many other single parents) both took care of themselves and their children. I’m exhausted from just a few days doing this on my own. So, before I left to go on a day long road trip that would bring the inevitable joys and pains of road-tripping with kids, I knew that I would need to get my mind right (hence the quiet time before we left).
Once on the road though it was mostly smooth sailing. We arrived and had plenty of fun biking around downtown Chattanooga with our friends. We stopped for ice-cream, played near the waterfront, and took a few risks that undoubtedly mom would have opposed. But, even though I usually bring and have to use our first aid kit (cuts and bruises tend to happen on my watch for some reason…), we didn’t even have an accident yesterday (well, at least my kid didn’t…). Our only real moment of contention was finding a bathroom. Always the adventure, we finally found one inside a Walgreens (story of my life…try to find a restroom as a dad out and about with 4 girls).
By the time we were on our way home, it was late and I was tired, but it was a good kind of tired, one that I’d earned from all the fun we had. Usually my tired comes from the end of a long day cajoling kids (or perhaps adults) to do something I want them to do. But this one came from making memories that I hope will last a lifetime. As I crashed in the bed last night, I knew two things to be true: I missed my wife and I’d better rest up for tomorrow because they’re coming for me again.