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Megan got a promotion and all I do is complain

Today was a special day.

Let me back up.

My wife was recently promoted at work—which has meant many things, all of them good. We’re very happy at home now. The change from hourly to salary work has brought in more money, and all four of us have undergone positive lifestyle changes since. The only downside is that she travels for work now, and is home less. Currently she's in Los Angeles, learning a brand new system for a planned rollout of new stores under a new name, and a new ground-up internal approach. Saying too much about it here might not be good for the company, so let me approximate by saying it's an ambitious idea, and I personally hope it gets off the ground, because it sounds like it's going to be beneficial for not only the public, but the employees. That's just an example of the kind of stuff Megan's been doing in her new position. It’s all been new, and really good for her, our kids, and I.

I’m very proud of her. Megan has always consistently knocked it out of the park at work. During her seven years on the receiving dock, one block from our house, her average shift began at either 5 or 6 a.m., and she was never late. All the while, she supported me as I pursued musical projects. I scheduled those so that I could be around for bedtime as much as possible. Meanwhile I'd work four nights per week at a pretty average job, during which she'd have to put the kids to bed herself, then go to bed directly afterwards, and still miss out on sleep. Weekdays I'd get up to get Lucy ready for school, because invariably, Megan would be gone—except for two days out of the middle of the week, which she'd have off.

Now Megan works weekdays, travels all directions, goes to all these new places, deals with all these new people, learns all these new things, and comes home for weekends. It's great. It means that, even though she travels, she’s home more often when the rest of us are home. And since I’m not working, that makes me a Houseman, home all the time. We all are getting a lot more quality family time together.

A few weekends ago, we got to go to a weekend neighborhood get-together! Imagine! It was at a neighbor's house, invitation only, really fun—full spread of food, cooler of beers, kids running everywhere, big house, the works. Lots of people. I felt like an adult there—one of the young ones, but still an adult. Learned that people are awkward at all ages, and appreciate a calm, nice, open person of any age. So I talk to all types of people, is what I'm saying.

Man it's been good. Not to sound like a jerk, but I kind of like being the sole adult a few days at a time. It's been centering. When I'm The Guy, as Houseman, my impetus to snap into action and stay busy, and to keep my temper in check and stay nice and sensitive to my sensitive daughters, has been greater—the inspiration has been really more clear, right there in front of my face. And it's good! It feels really good. I feel like I'm in charge of my house, I make the decisions, and it's mine to shape, in a way. I can't like go out and get new furniture all the time or anything, but that's not the end goal, to be the Fight Club guy, ordering out of a catalogue until his home represents a storefront. It's psychological for me. Pleasing.

Then when Megan comes home, I can relax, let her do her thing, and I benefit from having a woman in the home, the mother of my children, who loves me and wants to make me happy, appreciates my work, and gives it right back to me. She is a loving lady. Plus, her hair is awesomely curly, eyes awesomely green and almond-shaped.

Around the house we rent, things naturally fall apart, so I've been coordinating with my landlord and this awesome indie contractor guy and getting stuff fixed and remodeled. So even though it’s not my house, I can still make it look and feel fundamentally better. That gives me a sense of freedom I wouldn’t have in an apartment building, for example.

So this has been a fun and exciting three months. Life has changed for the better.

Back to today. Today was a special day. Today is Megan's third day in LA out of four, and for the kids and I, the third day without Mama. We're not alone, but we’re a little emptier without her presence. The kids miss her of course. The first week was hard on Lucy, she was quick to cry and sensitive. I was having a hard time too, and all the chores and stuff lining up really stressed me out for a few days. When I got thru the first week and saw that it was not only totally doable, but kinda cool, the stress lifted for me, and vicariously for the kids.

There was a moment during the first week, where I was being all huffy and saying something like, "Lucy, I have all this work to do, and I’ve got no one to help me!"

About a day or two later, Lucy says to me, "I don't want to be an adult, because I don't want to do all that work. You do a lot of work, dad." So naturally that hit me in a special place. She's been totally awesome this whole time. She misbehaves more when mom's home, to be honest. Something about the two-parent dynamic makes it easier, or more attractive, to misbehave in certain ways. I'm sure my dad has some theories here, dad I know you're reading. My mind leaps to the fact that I'm a big scary man and not a nurturing mom—less of a type of person to want to piss off. Mom, on the other hand, reacts more calmly to stuff, but that just makes the kids not know when to stop sometimes. I fear I’ve set the bar too high by yelling as much as I have. Now unless mom yells they don't stop. Is that logical? Maybe the same thing would happen if I were never around, or if a more nurturing person was their dad. I dunno.

This isn't all the time. We all have our shortcomings as parents. I feel I've tried to be honest about that on this blog. Silence is the friend of people who’ve done bad things—with stuff to hide, that’ll get them in trouble. Usually rightfully so. IMO if I’m brutally, viciously honest about my shortcomings, it’s all in the spirit of transparency and that’s good. It’s a journalistic stance.

Oh look at me, am I suddenly defending myself? I did kind of blow up at Megan for no good reason last weekend, and she talked me down from that. She's good for me. I'm not sure if I adequately made up for that one either. More couples issues. They seem to never end. Why? I don't know. Life is never perfect. You have to ask for what you want. But it's hard to ask! Being a dad and husband take more patience than I’m used to exercising, but I’m getting better.

I could say that most of the time I'm cool, and it's true, but that doesn't make my bad moments okay. So I'm working on it. And I want to be honest and open about it on a public place like this blog so people can read it and be like, 'Hey I have the same kind of problems, I'm glad someone else understands.' Or so that they can tell me I’m a genius, either way is fine.

Back to today, I had a special thing planned—we wake up slightly early, head out the door to Top Pot for doughnuts and coffee for me, and we hang out there, amongst all the books, eat doughnuts, and drop Lucy off at school. I grabbed two books, and almost got my saliva on one of them. "Three Came Home" and "A Matter of State," I think they were called. We talked to another mom and her kid.

Beatrix mentioned the day I said "Shut up," last weekend, another of my overly-angry outbursts that probably broke some of my kids’ trust in me. That was the day I blew up at Megan, that's how it started.

This morning I asked Bibi, 'Where did that bruise on your forehead come from?'

"It was the day you said, 'Shut up,'" she said.

That made me feel pretty bad. I had apologized that day, and said that I would try not to say “Shut up” anymore and it was wrong of me, and I said it again today in the cafe. She had fallen, hit her head, started crying, and I just yelled, "Shut up!" Mom promptly came in, sensing danger, assessed the situation, and applied love when I was just being a big ol' bitch in the other room.

Man my family must have to walk on eggshells around me sometimes. I really want that to not have to happen. And it sucks that I have to learn this while they're young, and impressionable, and sensitive.

Anyway, we didn't have a bad time at the cafe. Beatrix said that to me and I said, "You know what? Instead of yelling, I should have come over, given you a hug, and asked what was wrong." And she said, "Yeah," and then she or Lucy asked a few more unrelated questions because that's what they do, and after that Beatrix actually told me how she got the bruise. She said she fell on the floor. Her and Lucy were making a bit of noise, rough housing in the house, when I always tell them not to, to do that outside. Not an excuse for my behavior. Not even the root of my frustration. Just an easy target. Megan helped me get to the root of it afterwards, by asking me questions and gently prodding me to talk thru my thick shell, like a good partner should. I was wooden at first, but then I got to talking, and then I felt better, and I said I'd rather be trusted than feared, apologized to her, and then apologized to the kids. Then later I apologized to her again when she said she didn't like being yelled at earlier and I had to be like, 'Yeah. Yeah I hate being yelled at too. That makes sense. I'm sorry.’

Even later that day, I blew up again when the kids were fighting while brushing teeth together. They couldn't be in the bathroom together without yelling at each other and making loud banging sounds. It made my blood boil a little. I can't imagine what it must be like to have sons instead of daughters.

Mom quelled some of the fighting, went downstairs to tend to laundry, and not five seconds after she walks out the door, does the fighting start back up in the bathroom. So I'm getting pretty pissed, there on the couch doing something lazy (I wasn't lazy all day, I swear!). I go in and look pretty pissed probably and I say, "Who cares who has what cup? Why are you fighting what are you doing etc. etc. dad tripe," and the kids are like, both teary and not liking this, and Lucy tries to run out of the bathroom but I stop her with a hand on her chest. I proceed to spew more tripe, then tell them to throw the cups over which they were fighting in the trash. Lucy promptly complies, eager to leave the bathroom and my presence.

Luckily someone fished them out of the trash and put them on the dirty dishes counter. Bad call on my part to go right for the trash. Too harsh. Unnecessary. Megan came back up from doing laundry to way more fighting than she had left, and was confused, and then naturally she patched things up.

Even later, we're about to walk out the door to go somewhere as a foursome, and I must have been standing there pretty rigid or with a weird look on my face or something, cause she looks at me and asks, "You okay?" and rubs my tummy, which made me feel better, and I'm like, "Yeah, I just feel like I have to extra watch myself, I got pissed twice today." Then her and I talked more and I realized that whenever the girls fight with one another or with mom, I always get really pissed, really hot, really quick. I want to go like, flatten anyone who's not being cool to one of my family, especially if it's another family member. Ya know? You have to quash that behavior quick, or precedence is set toward an acceptance of fighting—of abuse, no matter how light. It's not okay. But then I have to ask myself if a hugely angry reaction to abuse, is abusive in and of itself, if the reaction is harsher than the action prompting it. Tough call. Parenting is hard.

So yeah, not only did I have an outburst at my wife, but at my kids later in the same day. I asked her if I should have just let the kids sort it out themselves? She thought so. I kind of think so now. But also, like, could there be a better, in-between solution? Like, I'm envisioning me as a benevolent monitor, not an overlord, but an equal—just with way more experience, who is patient, sees thru the fighting and the evolutionary instinct to attack those who would start other fights (now I'm envisioning dogs barking because other dogs are barking).

Yeah so okay then we ate our doughnuts and I drove them to school (mind you Lucy's in school, Bibi has until Sept), and Bibi didn't want to leave the playground when the bell rang, and started crying about it, and I'm a pushover right? So we go in with Lucy, through the downstairs gym door, up the stairs with the rest of the kids. Bibi went into the other lane of stairs and an older lady talked to her and told her she had to stay in the going-up-lane of the staircase and Bibi looked embarrassed, and then I caught up with her and said, "Just do what all the other kids are doing, yah?"

Then we go to Lucy's classroom and hang out in there a minute, in the back, and I get a mom's contact info—she has a kid Lucy wants to have a playdate with and talks about somewhat. The mom and I were already familiar with one another; most recently we saw each other at Starbucks, and talked about kids and bullying. Before that, outside on the playground before the bell rang, I got a teacher dude's contact info—he was holding a guitar, so of course I went up and introduced myself. Asked him about the parent band situation, turns out there's teacher band, and parent bands, and at some auction you can buy a $50 ticket, as a fundraiser for the school, to see them play. So naturally I want in on this and he's going to get me in touch with the parent bands. I talk to all kinds of people is what I’m saying.

It was a really good day.

-written initially May 2016, edited by my wife and mom early June, lazily unpublished until today