Our Story Begins:
Spreading The Wealth
In spite of the common theory in my household, I am but a single person with the ability to only be in one place at one time.
But that’s not how the world is set up.
You can tell me about how the world is far better for working parents and that things are set up to help. The reality is that people like me still can’t manage it all. Schools set up parent conferences in the middle of the day, unless you are like me and can set up an early or late meeting.
Worse, the kids want to become part of the extracurricular activities offered by their schools and friends. When you have two working parents that’s a difficult amount of activity to juggle. When you’re alone, like I am, you begin to think Michael Keaton’s movie, Multiplicity, actually sounds like a good idea.
When it comes to my kids, I was always afraid of whether I’d have the ability to spread my time amongst the four of them. When we had one, Abbi, I couldn’t fathom loving my wife and child and add another person into that mix. Then came my daughter, Hannah. Then the twins. I was in a panic when the boys were born that my attention was going to be spread so thin, between five people (wife included, obviously) that I grew withdrawn and made the prophecy come true.
After my wife, Andrea, passed away in March of 2011, we circled the wagons. The number of extracurricular activities shifted to the home. We did more out together, but logistics made it so I couldn’t attend other things so sporting events, practices, all that disappeared.
I tried desperately to keep the attention spread between the four kids as evenly as possible. Where I took Abbi to concerts, I took Hannah this winter to one as well. My son Noah has had one of the hardest times takes a lot of my attention.
My son, Sam, gets less. He never really complains and he’s got the sweetest disposition. I worried about him the most.
Understand, after their mother died, my four children all acted differently. Hannah was joined to her mother at the hip. Sam . . . Sam was her buddy. He sat next to her. He had conversations with her. When she died, the day I told him, I wanted to help any way I could. Sam looked at me, ashen, eyes sunken, and asked if he could go upstairs. He didn’t cry, not really. I checked on him. He’d turned on the Nintendo Wii system, but sat there, almost all day, with the remote in his hand, staring at the screen, the “Game Over” symbol flashing over and over. He hardly ate. He didn’t talk much.
But things changed. I kept checking on Sam and looking to make sure he knew he was safe and loved. Eventually he started sitting by me, having long conversations, and this year asked to rejoin the school choir.
The result? This last week has been almost Sam’s best week. He was in the school play. He was in a choir festival where he sang with a full orchestra and sang with a high school choir that performed a medley from Phantom of the Opera. Sam was smiling from ear-to-ear.
We aren’t perfect. I had to have my daughter, Abbi, drive Sam to the festival and I met them there. Next year, I won’t have that second driver to help.
Still we’re learning how to adjust to the one person. I learned a lesson: it’s not spreading the attention the same or loving any one person any less. It’s knowing that you love them all equally . . . just differently.
What about you? Do you wonder about the time you spend? Are you stretched too thin, or do you let the kids’ activities dominate too much of your lives?
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.