Eight years ago, I was a single father of two kids under 5. I was doing the usual money-obsessed, workaholic, absentee dad...thing.
Seven years ago, in the immortal words of Will Smith, “my life got flip turned upside down.” I went from single dad of two to married dad of five...no, make that six.
I happily accepted all of the rights and responsibilities that went with the position. For example, did you know that Step-Father’s day is the day before or after Father’s day? Okay, well, it is in our house, anyway. Family tradition and all that.
I had to learn to adapt to two kids whose idea of “fun and interesting” involved more than stacking blocks or laughing at cartoons. They needed to get to school, for example, plus concerts, lessons, soccer practice, and who knows what else.
I never claimed to be “dad,” of course; I understood I was only playing the role, as best I could, and I did try my best.
I actually managed to find a job that was laid back enough to allow me to juggle my schedule around the kids. I came in to work fifteen minutes after everyone else did, so I could drop them off. And I shoved my lunch hour all the way up to three, so I could pick them up after school. Sometimes it was weird, coming back to work for less than two hours, but it worked for us.
I'm sure I embarrassed them. I mean, getting dropped off by step-dad--growing out his pony tail--is one thing, but when he started driving that monster white van with eight seat belts that would fit in perfectly at any nursing home, well...
And I invented my own little family tradition, too. Every morning, when I dropped them off, I would say “So long, kiddo. Have fun learn lots.”
...well, for a couple of weeks, anyway. “Do you mind NOT calling me 'kiddo?' It makes me feel like I’m three.”
No problem. “So long. Have fun learn lots.” I did say I had a lot of learning to do.
We relocated from Phoenix to Nebraska. We switched back to homeschooling, so my brand new family tradition kinda faded away. Oh, there were still activities to cover, transportation to be provided, lessons and concerts and airport trips and all kinds of excuses for spending writing time moving kids around instead.
Don’t think that’s a complaint. There’s no way I’d swap “moving kids around” for writing time. With the world we live in, sometimes that time spent moving from point A to point B is as close as you can get to “quality time.”
We spent last weekend getting the eldest kid safely ensconced in her new apartment. She’s a state away, two miles from school, with her own car, bike, furniture, dishes, cell phone, and laptop. No more running her around to appointments, concerts, lessons, or anything else--not that there’s been much of that lately, anyway; she’s been driving herself everywhere for more than a year.
One out the door...and a few less reasons to blow off writing time because some kid needs my attention. That much more time to write, right...?
So...why the hell is there this monstrously huge, totally silent, completely invisible, and horrendously distracting step-daughter-shaped hole in the air, following me all over the house, sneaking up on me, and attacking me when I least expect it...?
Allan Davis is a writer/photographer/programmer currently getting drenched in a corner of the state of Nebraska. He's got six kids he loves to brag about and write about, but don't tell them that.