Contrary to popular belief, somewhat pushed by the number of reflective posts I’ve written, we are not totally centered around the loss and changes in our lives. We are not defined by the loss. I don’t walk into a room and introduce myself by saying, “Hi, I’m Dave, the guy who lost his wife.” I write about it (a lot, admittedly) because it’s my way of dealing with being alone.
But let’s face it, she’s resting now. Whether she’s in heaven or the other place; whether her soul is at peace or what have you, she gets to lie in her repose for eternity. We, my children Abbi, Hannah, Noah, Sam and I, have to keep going. We sit now, staring at empty pages wondering what to write. I am not angry (well, not much) because she had so much to overcome and had such a difficult life to contend with. I loved her more than I can describe here. But love doesn’t help me juggle. If you’ll forgive the D-bag 3rd person narrative below:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in the center ring, tossing some flaming bowling pins, a few knives, and hell, let’s make a few chainsaws and bowling balls rotate in there just for good measure, is the Manoucheri family. The first casualty? A knife nearly speared Dave when the now ex-boyfriend of his oldest daughter, broke up with her just a few short weeks after losing her Mom. Dave miraculously avoided cutting his mouth into a permanent smile by gaining help from his father who reinforced for the daughter that some guys are not comfortable with a funny, smart and clever woman. If they’re not? Being with someone just so you’re not alone? Not worth it.
The flaming bowling pin nearly set Dave’s hair ablaze when the middle daughter did some juggling of her own, tossing white lies in the air to avoid the consequences of not turning in her homework and avoiding the responsibility of her chores. He skirted the burns by enforcing the fact that there were no sports, no games, no after-school activities. If she failed, she’d move out of the school that is a financial burden on the whole family. For good measure he also took away all privileges. (For more on how I deal with discipline, stay tuned for next week’s posting!)
The bowling ball nearly crushed Dave’s foot when his son reached the principal’s office for yet another discussion of his behavior. The school helping by giving him a journal to write in started the ball rolling. The guitar and teaching the boy how to play songs he hears on Dave’s radio were there for him as well.
Those chainsaws that were buzzing around gave Dave more than a few close shaves and haircuts as laundry, meals, all of the daily household chores get shoved in-between work hours which are necessary for the family to get food for all those days.
I won’t carry on the 3rd person rant. You get my drift, right? It’s a juggle for any two parents. For one, you’re going to get burned by a few flaming swords and break a few bones from the bowling balls. It’s just reality. The juggle gets more and more difficult as I realize how much of that mantle of responsibility was shouldered by my wife. It bent my already arthritic back, but I stood regardless (I will give you more specific details of how we have to plan and create meals; how we deal with homework; how we dealt with behavioral problems; all of those issues in individual posts in the weeks to come).
What I want you all to understand today though, is that the juggle is what keeps us moving forward, writing so the pages aren’t empty anymore. Sure, we’re going to get cut, burned and hurt while we do it. But being a parent isn’t something we chose because it was easy. In many ways it’s even harder because it’s not just you who gets cut if the knife slips but a little.
The hardest thing was being the figure those four kids needed – the authority whose word was absolute, within reason. They are kids. Sure, my 17-year-old took on more responsibility and has been an amazing help to me in the last year. But she still isn’t making the greatest decisions; she’s 17. When her sister had problems with her math homework and I was not able to help, she told her sister, “you probably won’t be in class, just worry about it over the weekend” without realizing the possibility that math class might be moved up. It was, by the way, and the lesson to both of them? I am your Dad. When I tell you what you should do, like “do your homework now because the teacher said it’s due tomorrow regardless” it may actually save you from losing points and save you from the embarrassment of telling your teacher you don’t have your papers today.
“Who is the Dad in this family?” is my usual line. The eye-rolled mumble of, “You are” is the general response. That’s hard. Remember the line, “Wait ‘til your father gets home”? That was a line my wife loved. She used it ALL the time and it drove me nuts! I was the guy they waited by the door for, waiting to get yelled at, disciplined, chastised and punished. I hated that my role was coming home and being the mean guy and my wife got to do the nice things with them during the day.
Do you do that? I mean, push the responsibility off on your significant other instead of facing it? “Ask your Mom” or “Wait until Dad gets home!” or worse “Don’t tell your Dad!” are lines that I hope you don’t use. Parenting is a juggle. It’s not a balance. It’s not a “group effort” it’s a juggle. You have to keep your eye on so many things simultaneously, knowing which item is in the air and which side of what item to grab as it falls.
So now I’m firm but fair, I think. Still, the juggle is a struggle. It all depends on whether I’ve got on my asbestos underwear, I suppose. After all, those flaming swords and bowling pins are a b**ch!
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.