Friday, February 4, 2011

Cabin Fever

We've been snowed and iced in for the past few days, and I have to say that I am really starting to get cabin fever. Our house isn't very big, and aside from chores, there isn't much to do, so when we are forced to spend a lot of time in the house, a few things happen: the laundry gets done, the dishes get done, we watch an unhealthy amount of television, and we find excuses to go to the store. Yesterday, my two oldest children and I went to the store to get stuff for my daughter to make her valentines for the upcoming Valentine's Day festivities at her school. If we weren't snowed in, would valentines have been cause to make a special trip out twelve days before Valentine's Day? I highly doubt it, but we needed to get out of the house, so we went.

Once we got to the store, it took about five minutes to have everything we needed for Valentine's Day, so we decided to just walk around and look at stuff. With two small children, the obvious place to kill time is of course the automotive department. Just kidding. We went to the toy department. We stopped in each aisle for a few minutes to peruse the assortment of colorful playthings. I loved watching their eyes light up as they moved from one item to the next. I remember being a kid and doing this same thing with my parents. I loved imagining the things I could do with those toys. I would have so much fun playing with this or running around with that. I used to do the same thing when the Christmas catalogs would come in the mail. I remember being kind of sad that my parents couldn't afford to buy me many of the toys I spent so much time looking at. I knew they loved me, though, and I never did anything but love them for what they did provide for me.

Having said all of that, there was still a moment when my son had spotted something he really wanted- a Power Wheel four-wheeler. I know he would love it because my parents have one out at their house that he loves to ride. He asked if I would buy it for him. I told him we couldn't afford it. I felt horrible. As a father, I want to give my kids the world, but in reality there is a very real limit to what I can provide for them. He asked why we didn't have enough money. This is when I really started to feel crummy.

I explained to them that we didn't have enough money because I am a teacher, and teachers don't make very much money. I told them I was sorry that I picked a career that didn't pay me enough to buy them all of the things they wanted. Some reading this might take that last sentence to be one of sarcasm, but it is not. I am a fairly intelligent man, and I began college with the intention of becoming a Certified Public Accountant because accounting was something I was good at, and it was a career in which I could earn a substantial salary. Life, however, does not always go the way we expect, and in my freshman year of college, I fell in love with two things: my future wife and English. I quickly changed majors and my new career was to become a high school English teacher. I did it because it was something I really liked and knew I would enjoy. I made the decision for my own enjoyment, which is why I felt so guilty about telling my kids I couldn't afford to buy them the things they wanted.

I didn't feel crumby for long. My kids immediately said, "That's okay, Daddy. We love you." Then, I remembered something else from my childhood. My dad was my hero, no matter what. I never thought less of the man for not being able to buy me all of those toys. If anything, it made me appreciate it even more when he and my mom were able to buy us a really extravagant item. In fact, shortly before I was born, my dad left a career that he really enjoyed and was very skilled at doing in order to go work in the factory in which he still works to this day because it provided a more dependable source of income. I always regretted that my dad had not followed his heart because he felt the need to make money for me.

So, that is how I came to an understanding about the love between parents and children and the nature of sacrifice in the middle of the toy department on a snow day. I promise the next post will be funny again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All I Wanted For Christmas Was My Sanity Back

I guess I should begin this post by explaining the lack of any new posts over the last several months to my vast and impressive audience. Honestly, my life just accelerated to the point that keeping up with my blog became impossible. The school year got into full swing, I was coaching junior high baseball, my wife was working full time an hour from our house (my job is about an hour from home, too), our youngest son was past the "easy" phase where you can just feed them and put them back to sleep, and I was spending most evenings and weekends as a single parent.

My days had become endless blurs of attending to the needs of others. As soon as I woke up (sometimes sooner), I would have three children relying on me to get them ready for the day. There were breakfasts and lunches to be made, kids to get dressed, bottles to make, diaper bags to pack, diapers to change, and that is on top of getting myself ready to go. During the commute, I usually tried to wake myself up while answering an endless barrage of questions from the backseat assuming I wasn't mediating fights over the color of the sky or which town we were in. Once I got to work, my day as a teacher consists of dealing with the attitudes, insecurities, questions, and needs of around 130 teenagers. One thing I think a lot of people don't realize about teaching is that there is no fifteen minute break as a teacher. Every forty-three minutes, there is a four minute passing period and a fresh set of eager minds walks through the door in various combinations of eager curiosity and righteous indignation. Immediately after work, I would drive back across town to pick my daughter up from school, listen to her talk about her day all the way to daycare to pick up the boys, and then the questions and arguments of the morning commute were resumed. Once we got back home, I immediately made my way to the kitchen to throw together something that vaguely resembled an adequate dinner (mostly) and then begin the battle of "But, Daddy, I don't even like this stuff!" The complaints I got at home were very similar to the ones I got at work now that I think about it: "But, Mr. Ogle, I don't even need this stuff!"

After dinner, it was time to get everyone bathed (assuming it was bath night), into pajamas, my daughter's homework done, break up fights over toys not being shared or air being recklessly breathed, and finally to bed. By the time all three kids were in bed, I was so exhausted, both physically and mentally, that the idea of reading a book or writing a blog or anything other than staring mindlessly at the television for a couple of hours until I collapsed was ridiculous.

Each day, I could feel my patience for my children and my students wearing thinner. With every passing week, my enjoyment in life diminished. I tried not to complain or think about it too much, because there really didn't seem to be much point; there was nothing anyone could do for me anyway. It all finally came to head on Christmas Eve at my parents' house. As is the case with most family gatherings, there were a lot of people having a lot of different conversations all over the place. There were kids running around all over the place. The noise and chaos level in the house was at a ridiculous level, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I went back to the guest room and closed the door just to keep my head from exploding. My wife came looking for me. We talked and decided that something needed to change. I felt selfish for wanting to have some time to myself to do what I want to do. She made me realize that in order for me to be a good father, husband, teacher, I have to make time for myself. I have to allow my own battery to recharge and my own needs to be addressed.

Luckily, this meltdown also coincided with my wife making a career move to begin working as the school nurse at my high school. This would mean that we would be able to work together to take care of the kids before and after work, which would be a huge load off of my shoulders. My wife also agreed that it would be a good idea for me to take one night a week to leave her at home with the kids and go spend a little time taking care of myself. I am happy to report that this is one of those outings. So far, I have gone to a movie by myself, taken my wife on a date, and today I am sitting in a peaceful coffee shop writing this blog. With any luck, I will be using my "free time" to come up here once a week to write. This blog has become the most enjoyable hobby I've ever had, and I look forward to getting back to it. So, in spite of getting a Wii, and my wife claiming my sweet Droid X as a Christmas gift, the best thing I got for Christmas was given to me on Christmas Eve and wasn't even wrapped. My wife gave me the gift of my sanity. Thanks, Lady.