Friday, January 4, 2008

High/low vs. flat

After almost three weeks of Christmas break as Mr. Mom, going back to work has been not unlike someone with extreme bipolar disorder getting a quick lobotomy.

I have an interesting job, mind you, counseling ninth graders at a school serving the roughest section of a very poor city. We can count on fascinating drama at work every day. Still, held up against the nose-bleeding mountain-highs and subterranean lows of spending time with my three young children, even a dramatic day at work is like rolling pastureland.

Where could a body find work that provides low moments like those we parents have? Zookeepers clean messes rivaling those at our home, and have to deal shrewdly with the wild animals under their care. Restaurant servers hear a
constant stream of demands from hungry, fickle customers, absorbing complaints for minor imperfections that were not their fault. And I suppose an asylum offers the kicking, screaming and refusal to groom or take medication that daily grace our lives.

By the same token, what occupation could offer the breathtaking heights of parenting? Who's ever found a gig that includes tiny high-fives, hugs and victory dances to celebrate a bowel movement? What line of work gives you such a front-row seat on life's miracles--amazing displays of language, coordination, curiosity and cunning performed by the creature who just yesterday was that indistinguishable outline on a sonogram? Show me a job where your flesh and blood speaks back to you and says, "I love you, Daddy."

So that days and nights with the kids are like the Matterhorn at Disneyland, complete with dips, dives, thrills, jerks and horrifying appearances of the abominable snow monster. I feel out of control, hanging on and praying for protection from impending whiplash as I laugh and scream. And work--as satisfying and delightful and challenging as
is mine--is like the Peoplemover, a nice break from the dizzying drama of the roller coasters, but all in all, a trifle tame. It's interesting and you see a lot of things in the park. But spend all day there? You've got to be kidding.

You can have your lobotomy. Give me my bipolar.


Questions I'm asking myself:
  • Why is this so hard for me to remember when I'm so irritated by the difficulties of child-rearing? How can I remind myself?
  • Why do I so often choose excellence at work over excellence as a dad? Am I seeking control, comfort, peace, safety, ease, praise, or what?
  • In what other areas of life might I benefit by letting go of blasse Peoplemover predictability in favor of something more volatile, more passionate, and potentially more hair-raising?

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