I am supposed to talk about how my kids annoy me. I can probably write you a hundred different stories about my son waking me up at five in the morning by throwing giant puzzles into the hallway or my daughter waving her hand in the air to dismiss me from her room. I can give a snarky sarcastic glimpse into the plight of the exhausted father that everyone will surely nod along to because, well, we all experience it.
It’s a world of “take my wife, please” and TV sitcoms where the father is perpetually mocked. My entire life, if presented through the correct lens, can be seen as a Disney XD show where the tweens put one over on me every step of the way as I struggle to fix the garbage disposal.
We don’t, however, get to talk much about the flipside to all of that. My kids, in many cases, save my sanity and help make my day into something much better than I could ever do on my own. They lift me up when I’m at my lowest and they turn my mood around without even knowing it. For all their aggravating moments, it’s the uplifting ones that make them more than worth it.
I’ll be honest. Some days, I’m just not feeling it. It could be environmental. It could be whatever is happening around me. Maybe things are going badly and stress, although something I try to control, creeps into my rebuilt heart. I wake up in the morning dazed and unsure of where I am and what is happening. Sometimes, I remember where I am and I’m relieved. Sometimes, I’m not. It all depends on the day.
Then there are good times. I may have just started a new gig writing somewhere or released a book that I’m very proud of. I’m getting praise from friends, love from others, and a general feeling of positivity. Yet, there is still a nagging sensation that brings me down inside. There’s a voice that says, “You’re just going to fall on your face soon. You always do.”
I hate that voice. Sometimes it sounds like people I’ve known. Sometimes it sounds like me. It’s there, though. It sits there during my darkest moments and creeps in during my happiest ones. It puts me in a state of uncertainty when I should be at my highest peak.
Then, with the world on the outside of my brain so unbalanced from the one inside, Lucas will show up. My non-verbal nine-year-old son will hobble over with his big ham hock legs, take my hand, and lead me to the couch so I can watch him clap along to his favorite Raffi video. As I sit there, suddenly grinning, he’ll stop over and press his cheeks to my lips, forcing me to kiss him. Before I know it, I’m laughing and hugging him. Everything is better. I don’t know how he knows I need him, but he does.
Olivia, my twelve-year-old daughter, is a tougher nut to crack, but that only makes our special times all the more special. Just when I seem to have forced my self to accept that she’s outgrown TV time with her dad, she walks into my office and asks what we have to watch on television. Before I know it, we’re sitting down for a Big Brother Canada marathon or she’s finally watching one my favorite, albeit inappropriate, movies, The Fan. She makes me feel loved, just like her brother does. Also like him, I don’t know how she knows that I need her there, but there she is.
I love my kids. I really do. Sure, there are eye-rolling times and days where I can’t fathom how their brains work. There are chewed up t-shirts in my laundry or screaming fits that make no sense, but those are more than worth it. Without them, I would wallow in my own mind during times when my own mind is the most dangerous place to wallow in.
Mental health is important and I, like everyone, struggle with negative feelings. It’s finding those times of happiness that brings you through them. Whether it’s taking a walk or loading the birdfeeder out back, I try to find those momentary escapes. I find joy in life when it’s hard to know what joy truly is.
That’s where my children come in. They’re always there to remind me. I might not have all the answers and I might not be able to pull myself out of the mental holes I dig, but they are always there to throw me a lifeline. Sure, my kids can drive me crazy. But more often than not, they drive me sane.