Photo by Bonnie B. Photography
My wife and I have three boys. Their ages are fourteen, twelve and four. Yes, that is a pretty good spread between the last two. In case you were wondering, no, it was not an accident (you would be surprised how often I get asked that). This year, all at the same time, we were able to experience one son starting high school, another starting middle school and the third going to preschool. The range of experiences around our house is amazing.
Having such a large spread in the age of our children has its advantages. First, we have an automatic babysitter for short-term needs. Second, some of the competition for items around the house is less severe since they each are at different points in their lives and have different interests. Third, we as parents are older and wiser than we were when our first two boys were young so maybe we can actually get the third one right.
There also some disadvantages. First, as a parent we have become older which makes keeping up with a four-year old a little more difficult. Second, we have ventured back into the toddler stage, which is not always a fun stage. Remember all those difficult times you had with the first two boys? Yeah, you get to do that all over again. Third, we now have even more years before they all move out.
by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography
The past two years have been the hardest two years of my life. When I say hard, I literally mean hard…physically and emotionally hard. The type of hard that can drive you crazy. The type of hard that keeps you so busy it can make you wonder if you are loosing your identity as a person. The type of hard that makes you want to warn all others who might be entering a similar situation to flee as fast as possible. I can’t complain too much about it because it was mostly self-inflicted. I had some input into the situation and maybe could have had some things work out differently but I made the choices I made for one simple reason: I love my wife.
It all started just almost four years ago. My wife had recently given birth to our third son, Luke, and we were talking about the future. Did we want to have a fourth child was seriously on our mind. At some point over the weeks we were talking, she made a decision. Three children were enough. I think for her that matched her family experience as she came from a family of three children. I was on board with her decision as well, except for the fact that now our family would have only five members, which for someone analytical like myself means that we would have an uneven number. Four or six is a much more logical number. For instance, whenever we ride a ride at an amusement park, someone would have to be a single. That bothered me.
One of the questions I had for her was what did she want to do once all three of our children were in school. I could see the look of concern on her face when she thought about the future. She was pretty sure she wanted to work somewhere and in the past has had several different types of positions but none of them were what you would call fulfilling. At some point in our discussion, she decided to share with me one of her dream jobs. “You know, something that I would love to do, is to be a nurse.” Great! I loved that idea. Go for it. She would be a great nurse. She is a really good mother and is wonderful at taking care of our special needs son. (Now, when I am sick she thinks I am a baby, so that attitude might need a little work.) Working as a nurse would give her a rewarding career, flexible schedule and good monetary income. Think about all the golf I could now play!
Photo by Seth Rader
“I need a break from our children.” That is what my wife greeted me with when I arrived at the house yesterday after work. My initial thought was “Yes, absolutely. You have been with them all day long.” Then, I began to live out the last few months in my mind. Actually, I am the one who has been with the children the most by a significantly large margin because of her nursing school schedule. After nicely pointing that out to her, she rephrased her statement. “WE need a break from our children.” Ah, yes, to that I completely agree. It is critical for parents to find times to be together without their children.
Now that she and I are in total agreement, we will continue our daily life and will most likely never set aside time to get away together, even though we know we need it. Is it because we don’t love each other? No. Is it because we don’t like spending time together? No, that is not it easier. Is it because our children are so horrible that no one wants to watch them? Well…I don’t think that is it but sometimes I wonder. The truth is all parents have a hard time spending time together but for parents of kids with special needs, it can sometimes seem downright impossible.
Attribute: Koshy Koshy
I am going to let you in on a little secret. Now, I have revealed this to a very few select individuals so the simple fact that I am telling you should make you feel pretty special. On top of that, it is probably one of the most unmasculine things I could say. So, here goes…deep breath…I love Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies! Whew. That was hard. I am so glad I got that out. The mounting pressure was unbelievable. I don’t know why I like them, I just do. Yes, there is often more cheese in there than a bowl of queso. Even stranger is the fact that I watch them by myself, not forced to watch them by my wife. Hallmark Christmas Movies make the holidays great.
My wife is finishing up her last year of nursing school. To say she has been busy is an understatement. In the past two years, she has either been working, studying or sleeping most evenings. I think that is how I came to enjoy the Hallmark Christmas movies. I have spent many nights taking care of our children as a way to support my wife as she pursues her dream of becoming an RN. I have successfully watched all Christmas movies released for the 2013 season and, as of this writing, have watched all the movies released for 2014. Plus, I think I have just about seen all the reruns from previous seasons as well. The love stories are the ones I like the most. There is something about watching everything fall apart for almost two hours, then in the last 5 minutes, everything changes for the better and the two realize their love for each other.
(Man, I am having a hard time writing all this mushy stuff. Camo, guns, tools and trucks! I just had to throw those things in there to get me back on a more masculine line of thinking.)
Attending church is hard work as a parent of a special needs child. In fact, most of the time I don’t even want to go to church. It’s stressful and my mind is usually not engaged in what is taking place. If it wasn’t for the fact that my oldest son loves going and being with his friends we would probably skip church much more often. Now, this is probably really surprising to hear from someone who has a seminary degree but maybe my honesty will benefit someone else.
From the start, I want to give props to our current church, Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. They have been great and have an excellent program for special needs children. That was one of the main reasons we decided to become members. It is a 30 minute drive from our house but we feel it is worth the extra driving time.
Though our church does a great job at involving Austin, I still worry every time we attend. For two of our sons, church is easy. We just make sure they get to the correct location at the correct times. We never worry about them or what will happen when they are away from us. Austin on the other hand is a completely different story. I am always wondering if Austin is going to have a breakdown, is he disturbing the other kids or teachers in his class, is he going to try to lay down in the worship center and prop his feet up on the lady sitting beside us! (Yes, he has tried that on multiple occasions. You should see their face when this twelve-year-old boy lies down and props his athletic shoes in their lap.)
Austin at the age of 8
Free Kid’s Meals nights are amazing. Where we live in the Raleigh, NC area, restaurants offer free kid’s meals with the purchase of an adult meal to drive sales. In fact, I know families that have it all mapped out, having a prearranged plan on which restaurant they will hit on a given day. We also have our favorite locations and visit them on a regular basis. The problem with the free kid’s meal offer is that you have to bring your children!
Having three boys (a teenager, one with autism and a four-year old), we often use those restaurants that allow us to get our orders to go. In fact, almost every Tuesday evening you can find me standing in line at our local Moe’s Southwest Grill picking up dinner for the entire family. Sometimes I have a kid or two with me but most of the time I am by myself, stopping by on my way home from work. Employees there often ask me, “Where is Batman?”
(Now, as a side note, my youngest son, Luke, loves, loves, loves Batman. Every single day he asks if he can wear his Batman shirt to school and goes to pieces if you say no. In fact, we had to buy four pairs of the exact same Batman pajamas so he could wear them to bed because he refused to wear any others. As a side to a side, if he has a Batman shirt on and a jacket, he will walk around with his jacket slightly unzipped so that he can walk up to people, spread his jacket open like Superman spreads his shirt, showing his Batman emblem and with a four-year old’s deep voice and say “I’m Batman.”)
Last week, we had family in town and decided that it would be a great idea to take all the kid’s to Moe’s for free Kid’s Meals. Just to count, that was 6 adults and 8 children. Everyone on the north side of Raleigh must have had the same idea as us that evening because the place was hopping. As we were standing in line to order our food, my son with autism, Austin, began to get a little agitated. He had left his iPad in the car and he did not want to stand in line any longer. Austin can be a sneaky little thing. When he wants something or does not like something, he knows how to get our attention. He was trying the typical walk-away and hitting himself-in-the-head approaches but saw that it wasn’t going to work. He needed to employ a new tactic.
Lately we have been hiring for quite a number of positions at the company where I work. I have been conducting interviews on my own open positions plus I have also been asked to sit in on other interviews for other groups to provide some added expertise. As I have been sitting in on these interviews and hearing the questions being asked, one thing really struck me: when you ask stupid questions you get stupid answers.
I can remember some of the questions I have received in the past when I have interviewed for different positions. Yes, you get the technical questions such as “How many bytes are in an Integer?” but you also get questions such as “When was the last time you made a mistake?” What is the interviewer trying to determine about my skills? Do these questions really give them a clear picture of my ability to do the job?
When I choose interview questions, these are some of the guidelines I follow.