I've been on a bit of a roller coaster for the past 36 hours or so. I've had amazingly positive things happen that have left me awestruck, wondering what I have ever done to deserve such luck. But there have also been a number of moments, some stretching into longer periods, where I have simply been off my game. Nothing major, I'm sure, but something inside just isn't quite right just now.
For me, it's important to take stock of these mood swings. To some degree or another, I've always had some minor lows to go along with my incredible highs, which I strongly suspect puts me square in line with just about everyone else in the world. There was a time when these bad or sad moods were nothing more than a rough patch that I could drink or otherwise 'medicate" myself through, but those years are long behind me, thank goodness. Then there was a period where I could simply escape from the world for a little while and sleep for a few days, or spend hours at the bookstore, or just sit and watch TV; for some reason, that little rest always worked out well for me. But once I had children, those breaks became a bit harder to come by, at least for the first several years. Being married to a saint helps, of course, but it was still hard at times.
So, back to yesterday. Suffice it to say I was not quite able to be as "there" as I wanted to be for the boys. We actually did do a number of things together during the day: we built an amazing indoor fort, wrestled up a good lather, went to a friend's house to watch Zombieland on a screen so big it could only be defined as "compensatory", and played Mario Kart and Go. But I had several moments where I just felt like I had nothing else to give, like I was running on absolute empty.
Paradoxically, as my emotional reserves decreased, the emotional needs of my boys increased at a similar speed. Let me be clear, I am not talking about meltdown-type needs here; I am talking about basic "Daddy, can you watch me do this" kind of things. It could have been that they needed more because they sensed that my reserves were running low and they wanted to get some of me before the well ran dry. It could have just been that we had a great day and they wanted more. And it could have just been my perception as I grew gradually more tired and unable to be perfect anymore. But either way, their requests increased to the point where I couldn't find the strength to meet them anymore. And that just sucked. After all, I am supposed to be Super Dad, I am supposed to be the Master of All That is Fun and He Who is Constantly Present and Available. The fact that I felt unable to be those things last night made me feel guilty, insufficient, and incomplete. So I did the only thing I knew how to do.
I asked them to come into another room with me, took a deep cleansing breath and calmly told them that I wanted to be near them, but that I needed to just be quiet and read by myself for a while. I told them that I was available to help them get food or overcome a problem with the TV or computer, but that otherwise I needed to recharge my batteries. Then I apologized.
And, to my great relief (but not to my surprise), my kids said "You don't need to apologize, Daddy. We understand. You can read if you want. Should we get you some water?"
They knew, they just knew, that all I needed was some time alone and everything would be okay. They would have preferred that I was able to be everything they wanted me to be, but they also recognized that I needed some time alone for a while to recharge. They knew that if they gave me this time, I would soon come back ready to go again. They know I have warts, and they have seen most of them. But they don't see my warts as warts, they are just part of a Daddy who they know loves them and does a pretty great job most of the time. They know that when I am "off", it's never for long and that it's nothing personal. They also know that if I can be off once in a while, they can too - and that I won't take it personally either.
They don't need me to be perfect, they just need me to be real and honest and the best Dad I can be. I can manage that.