Teaching a Dad to Fish

So… I’m getting a little frustrated with my dad. It’s a kind frustration, not an angry one.

My dad has struggled a lot since my mom died. To be expected, really. He has his good days and his bad days, but lately the bad ones have started to rack up with more frequency. My dad has been increasingly needy in the last few weeks. It all started when two former colleagues of his died- he got word within two days of each other. Now, he hadn’t talked to them in years, but still… it’s sad. My father is at that age where the death notices just start to roll in. Again, it’s sad… but what can you do? Stop 80 and 90 year olds from dying?

His messages to me started to get a weird panicky tone. He emailed and texted me several times a day. Then he texted me that my great uncle died (he was 96.) I got this text in the middle of a meeting. Not exactly the right time or place. Perhaps this is an example of older folks not understanding appropriate communication methods, but that’s just shit you don’t text.

Anyway… Sensing a disturbance in the force, I called him that afternoon. And he talked for 45 minutes mostly about my brother. (Context: my brother basically got fired because he got so depressed after my mom’s death that he stopped going to work. He’s been able to plead his case and is now “on leave” with the understanding that he is supposed to find another job while he is “on leave.” There is more nuance to that, but that summarizes what’s going on.)

Now, I get it. My dad is concerned for my brother. But this was different. It’s like my brother’s depression and all the people dying is proof that the world is a terrible place. He also implied that my mom’s death was easier for me because I’m “okay.” Cue brain boiling. Even though that insensitivity, I did my best imitation of a cheerleader, and talked with him about ways he can get outside, try new hobbies, meet with friends… you know, keep living even when life looks shitty. After the past few years I’ve had, I’m very good at this.

Several times in the last week, I emailed him an interesting article or podcast, and he’d either claim he can’t read it or access it. The end request is “Why don’t you call me and tell me about it/show me how it works.” Today he asked me to call him and tell him about a party I went to this weekend.

He emails constantly, texts me about people dying… Just as I was writing this, he texted me, my brother, and my sister an essay about Beverly Cleary’s birthday, and asked if Ramona Quimby was my role model. It was like an essay question over text. What, what?

Look, I love my dad, but I can’t be on the phone with him for 45 minutes every night when I get home from work. I have dinner to make, a baby to take care of, a house to make less chaotic. I can’t respond to every text and email because I have a job to do (and a big fat project I’m trying to keep from going off the rails.)

In the spirit of teaching a man to fish, I did a little research and found that there is a cooking class on May 14th that I thought Dad would really like. He’d get out of the house, it would give him something to look forward to, and he’d meet new people. Our exchange went something like this:

ME: What are you doing May 14th?

DAD: Nothing.

ME: Great, I’ve found a cool cooking class for you! It’s only 3 hours on a Saturday. You’ll go to a local farmer’s market, meet the farmers, and make fresh food from seasonal ingredients!

DAD: I appreciate what you’re doing but I have to get ready to go to my summer house. So no thank you.

To be honest, this is horse pucky- the man has 6 weeks between now and the class, which is plenty of time to get ready. He just doesn’t want to do it. 

Anyway, this was my epiphany: my dad wants companionship, and the best I could possibly be is a cheerleader. He wants my mom back and is trying to replace that closeness through emails and texts, and it just isn’t going to happen. Every time I make suggestions about how he can find companionship elsewhere (like going to the pool, going to a cooking class, or joining a book club) he finds reasons not to do them. I offer him this support, and he says no, I want that. But I just can’t be the only thing he seems to want.

It’s a no win situation.

In the past, I’ve had to set boundaries with my dad and it looks like they need a refresh. The question is… how do you do this that doesn’t shake his already fragile foundation?

POEM: Everything is Waiting for You

When I was a teenager, I wrote copious amounts of bad poetry.

When I was a young adult, I read fair quantities of wonderful poetry.

As parent, I hardly have time to wash my face.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised listening to a podcast on my commute this morning where poet David Whyte read “Everything is Waiting for You.”

Years of infertility and the loss of my mom made me feel so intensely alone. This poem is a beautiful reminder of how not alone we all are, if we chose to live with intent.

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

The One Where I Spend Waaay Too Much on Baby Clothes

As I’ve mentioned before, when things in the Ostrich household are running smoothly, life with a 9 month old is totally doable. When things hit a bump, things get a little out of hand and someone usually ends up crying.

This was a full weekend. We had plans on Saturday night to see friends, including my former-potential mom friend (who I had a lot in common with than last time. Potential fire re-kindled.) Then we slide a visit with Mr. O’s cousin in the morning. All this was happening about 45 minutes south of our city, so we piled in the car at 11:00 am and didn’t get home until 11:00 pm. The next day we went to see friends who have just recently had twins.

I have posts about this, because it was a lot of baby time. And for the first time, I didn’t feel like a mama-impostor. But that isn’t what this post is about. That post requires a little more introspection that I have the bandwidth for at the ‘mo.

No, this post is about what happens when you have no clean laundry.

Typically, we set aside one day of the week to do our hausfrau-ing– Mr. O does laundry, sterilizes everything, gets Chick’s bag ready for the week. I do the grocery shopping, meal prep, and occasionally clean the bathroom. (I have mostly given up on cleaning the rest of our home, but the bathroom is non-negotiable.)

This weekend left no time for our usual chore deep-dive. So Monday morning rolls around, and I realize Chick has one clean outfit left. Sweet! I put it on, get him ready, and realize (just as we’re about to get out the door) that someone has unleashed a toxic mess in his diaper (Hint: It wasn’t Mr. O.)

So I take Chick over to his changing table, and in the process of disposing of said hazardous waste, Chick pees ALL OVER himself. Luckily (or lazily, depending on how you look at it) I hadn’t yet put his 3-6 month clothing away, so I crammed my 9 month old in clothing he has no business being in. Chick struggled and complained, all while looking like a stuffed sausage (admittedly an adorable stuffed sausage.)

My strategy with Chick’s clothing has been to buy as few pieces as possible. It is the cheapskate in me- why would I spend money to have tons of clothes around that he will at best wear once? I now have an answer to that question. Because when your kid pees all over himself when you’re already running late, you really do need a spare.

It does not help matters that he pretty much swims in anything but Carter’s and Hanna Andersson. Nope, no cheapo Target brands for this kid. (Aside: If you all know of any brands good for long and lean babies, feel free to share.)

giphy (4)

#dreamcometrue

All this means is I just put down some serious cash on clothes for Chick. And I feel bad. Yes, I said it. I feel bad about buying clothing for Chick, though I must admit that I feel this way buying anything. I rarely buy spur of the moment- I like to visit things in the store (or online) several times before I actually make a purchase. If possible, I would hoard money like Scrooge McDuck and swim around in it (after being properly sanitized, of course.) Then again, I really didn’t want to end up with a naked baby because Mama Ostrich is tightfisted.

Sure, I may have bought a few pairs of pants, extra onesies, and some pricey pjs. But what I really bought was a little more peace of mind. (Or that’s what I keep telling myself every time I do the mental math on his wardrobe.)

On Controlling my face

This is not baby-related, but life-related. In case you find office politics boring, you can skip this one.

I just learned that this guy on my team got a promotion, one that I cannot fathom he deserves. This person has been mostly innocuous– I don’t have to deal with him on the regular, and he is pleasant enough as a person. Just not someone who I think is terribly good at what he does for a living. But my “live and let live” attitude towards things has made this bearable.

Recently, he has been poking his nose into a lot of my projects. Not in a judegy way, just asking for updates which seems odd since I don’t report to him and he manages a different side of the business. After it happening again this morning, I pulled a coworker aside and asked what the deal was. And this is how I learned of my mediocre coworker’s rise to power.

(Aside: Dear senior management: you really need to do a better job about announcing promotions and changes in responsibilities. I shouldn’t have learned about this from my COWORKER.)

There is more to it– this promotion was available because my good friend left, which I’ve found difficult professionally and personally. The idea that this person has moved into her role makes me nauseous because she is ten times more talented than he is.

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Totally afraid my face will get me into trouble… 

I know the world isn’t fair, workplaces aren’t meritocracies, etc. But for the love of Pete, how am I supposed to control my face every time he says something pointless, which is pretty regularly? I’m gonna have to work on not rolling my eyes every time he says something.

We’ve all run into this at one point or another. How do you deal with situations like this without completely losing it?