My life sometimes feels like a rollercoaster. I rise to peaks and fall to valleys. My mood, like my circumstances, can change with the wind and it all can feel pretty drastic at times.
It could be adulthood or it might just be the way I’m wired, but that’s how it is. While the outside world might not see it, I can feel it. There are some days I wake up and spring out of bed whistling the theme song to 227. There are other days when I don’t want to get up at all. I usually balance out somewhere in between, but ultimately I have ‘em all.
The down days are rough and life doesn’t put itself on hold for down days. Worries and responsibilities don’t take a break. Lingering messages don’t return themselves. Work piling up doesn’t suddenly disappear. The leaves don’t rake themselves. You still are expected to perform on the world’s stage and, depending on who is watching, do it with a smile on your face.
I go through days like this and they can string themselves together. I crawl to the finish line without really knowing when the next peak is rounding the corner. It’s tough because, in many cases, I don’t even realize it’s happening. I forget that I have up times and that it’s not always so difficult. I tell myself this is life. Life is hard. Keep crawling, pumpkin. Maybe Marla Gibbs is around the corner.
Inevitably those bad times do end. It could be due to a change in circumstances or just my inner self slapping me like Cher in Moonstruck with a pronounced, “Snap out of it!” Next thing I know, I’m up. I’m good. I’m the best me I can be.
And that’s when I set my sight on dem kids.
Yeah, there is nothing more motivating for my children than a motivated Dad. They might not agree, but I do. The first day I get my groove back, Stella, look out. I’m ready to spread the good times around.
It happened yesterday. Lucas wasn’t prepared for it when he came ambling into my office to ask for his iPad. He’s non-verbal with autism, but he has a way of expressing his needs that can be pretty hilarious with just a tinge of attitude. You can’t help but laugh out loud.
Hi new thing with iPad requesting is that he will walk up to you with both palms out like he’s holding an invisible bible. He looks down at them and then looks back up you as if to say, “Why are these hands empty? What should be here? Huh, Dad? What?”
Snide would be a good way to describe it, considering he has a talker device that can ask for the iPad and even a hand gesture that we created together for when he needs it in a pinch. When he does the bible stance, it’s usually because he’s already asked and the answer was already no. Whether it’s charging or just a break in screen time, he knows it’s out of his reach. It’s his non-verbal way of being cheeky, so to speak.
So he knew the answer before he asked. No iPad, buddy. I do however, have a hug, a kiss, and a few hundred selfies to take of us. Oh, and I have this Xbox. That’s something I have been trying to get him to interact with for years. I sat him down, figured he might like horses, and started Red Dead Redemption, the famous cowboy game. I set up the controller in his hand, showed him how to move things around, and sat back. He held it, sat up straight…and stared out the window. Ugh.
I took it back and then I started playing myself, all the time narrating every movement to him. It seemed pointless at first with his gaze fixated anywhere but the television. On a down day, I might have given up or not tried at all. On this day, I didn’t and before long, he was watching. It wasn’t much but it was more than he had ever done in terms of gaming and, for me, was a huge victory. He stared at the screen as I galloped around the open world for 15 minutes, before he suddenly got up and walked away. I called out a goodbye as I heard his feet going up the stairs and smiled to myself. Job well done, Dad. Check the boy off the list . Now, the hard part. Thing 2.
I went up to my twelve-year-old daughter’s room, where she camps out on her days off from school typing to her friends while watching TikTok. COVID restrictions had made hermits of us all and this constant camping needed to come to an end. The fact that I was in her room was enough to annoy her by itself and it was only compounded by my gall to offer her a ride to do something with her friends. To this eye-rolling bed monster, the words “play” and “date” together was painful to even hear. She repeated “no” and told me how happy she is to do nothing.
Not on my watch, kiddo. This is a 227 day. I used my unwelcome presence to my advantage and refused her pleas to “get out of my room” until she promised to make plans with someone, whether a friend of (fingers-crossed) me, that involved leaving the house this weekend. Visibly irritated but ultimately defeated, she agreed. Sweet victory again.
You don’t usually read blog posts from parents like this. Most times parenting victories are about test scores, bike rides, or feeding the homeless. Me? I made my son watch me play video games and bargain with my daughter to not lay in bed all weekend. When you say it like that, they seem like nothing. But that’s not what they are at all.
My kids have things that need to be done and they get done. Laundry, bathing, schoolwork, and everything that keeps them functional are constantly on the checklist. These were the extras. These were building blocks for the next time. Most of all, though, these were things I didn’t do yesterday. They were things I couldn’t do yesterday. They were reminders that I needed to be OK in order to make sure my kids were OK.
And today, I was OK.
Small victories like this have to linger in my brain so that the next time I’m down, I remember what I can do when I’m not. Self-care, self-love, and self-worth are all wonderful but, unfortunately, I sometimes don’t see myself as a big enough motivator to foster those things. My kids, though, are a different story. They are the ultimate motivators. I claim I’ll do anything for them. Taking care of myself is more than anything. For them, it’s everything. So, for them, I will.
(JG Note: For those who don’t know, I am the new Breaking News Analyst and a writer at BabyGaga.com, a site dedicated to pregnancy and new parents. From research studies to Chrissy Teigan, I’ve been covering it all. Please check it out and bookmark my author’s page at this link to see everything that I have been working on.)