Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Good Dad Day vs. a Bad After-School Day

Last Saturday was a pretty busy/crazy day for our little family, but for me, I look back on it as a "Good Dad Day".  Why?  Because I was able to spend quality time with each of my children:
  • I studied with my oldest son for a test he was to take on Monday for an hour -- alone with him, with no distractions.
  • I watched my oldest daughter compete in a karate competition, winning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in various events.
  • I watched my middle son compete in the same karate competition, winning 3rd place in two events.  I also helped him sand his boat for his upcoming "raingutter regatta".
  • I participated in my youngest son's soccer "game" (we mostly just practiced soccer skills and then he complained how he didn't want to chase the ball during the "game" portion of the hour).
  • I played for about an hour with my baby girl before she went to bed.
Generally, there just isn't enough time in my day to spend individual, quality time with all 5 of my children, so when the stars align and I'm actually able to do so in a single day, it's pretty amazing.

And then ...

Monday came.  It was back to the grind.  The after-school routine is a real challenge for my wife, as she has to manage a toddler who gets into everything and get the older kids to do their homework while having to actually sit down with our 4-year-old because he won't otherwise do his homework.  If you know my wife, you know that she doesn't really sit -- busy moms don't -- so this is a real challenge for her.

This after school routine conveniently lands right on top of the time when she usually needs to be making dinner, or when we need to get the older kids off to some extra-curricular activity.  Usually, I'm able to be home before it gets too crazy so that I can take some of her burden while she gets dinner together, but last night I had work that needed to be done, and so didn't become available until it was too late.  By the time the night came, my wife was so stressed out she was nearly in tears.  Then she found out one of her best friends is moving away, and that really did make her cry.

I was unable to provide much comfort.

The hardest part is that this after-school routine will continue like this for a very long time.  And all of the stress of this is greatly multiplied by the emotional difficulties of our youngest son, who comes home from school stressed and tired and quick to explode.  If all the kids were well-behaved, it wouldn't be an issue, but when our oldest son starts whining about wanting to play on his iPod, our oldest daughter hides in a corner reading a book (thus being unhelpful in every way), our middle son outright refuses to do his homework, our youngest son starts in with tantrums, and our baby girl starts pulling things out of every cupboard that isn't locked ... wow.  Stress!

We often remind ourselves that "it won't always be this way."  After yesterday afternoon's Bad After-School Day, that is a cheerful thought indeed.

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