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Don't get me wrong, I love my wife and all, but I enjoy bach'ing it on those rare occasions when she takes a trip out of town by herself. (Even more so when she takes one or more of our sons along--not that I don't love them all, too!) This weekend she drove with her dad to Owego, NY, for the funeral of the first of any of her aunts and uncles to die. A sad occasion, to be sure. Uncle John was a wonderful guy and I'm sad that we won't being seeing him any more.

Nonetheless, I expected a nice Friday evening where I could rent a movie that the boys and I would enjoy without worrying about its appeal to feminine tastes. And after weeks of monsoon weather, Saturday looked to be a picture-perfect football day, with cool, sunny weather. And Penn State's opponent looked like a team that would give us an interesting game, as opposed to the patsies we usually schedule at the beginning of the season.

Then everything went terribly wrong when school let out. My youngest son, Patrick, came home on his bike right after school, but older son Paul was not with him. I didn't think much of it, because Paul often likes to talk to his friends after school. But by 4:00 I began to wonder, so I asked Patrick if he knew what might be keeping Paul. To my surprise, he said Paul had come home about 20 minutes ago with a friend, had hung around for a while, and then Paul said he couldn't find me so Patrick should tell me that he went to his friend John's house. I had no idea how I missed him. I was in my home office where I ALWAYS am the whole time. What was worse, I had no idea who John might be.

I made dinner and Paul still hadn't come home. I began to worry, only a little bit about Paul, but more about having to report what had happened to Carolyn when she called to check how things were going. Which could be any time. Not knowing what to do, I went out and rented the movie Basic. Just after we had put in the disc and popped some popcorn, Carolyn called. She wasn't very happy. I felt like the world's worst incompetent parent. She suggested calling some of Paul's other friends to see if they might know where he was. I spent the next two hours doing this and occasionally calling Carolyn with updates which made her more and more unhappy. I have no desire to recount the details of these tortured hours. Finally Paul showed up around 11:15. Turned out he was with his friend Joe, not John. At least I knew Joe existed, even if I had no idea where they were all night (Playland, some other places in downtown State College, part of the high school football game, and Freddie vs. Jason, it turned out). What a wonderful evening it had been. For them, that is.

Saturday morning I was still not in a very good mood, feeling stupid and incompetent and knowing how much this had upset Carolyn. I hate making other people feel bad. I could just die. I started getting ready to go to the football game anyway, when Patrick told me he wasn't interested in going any more because his cousin wouldn't be at the game. Now, I could not very well go to the game by myself, leaving both Paul and Patrick home alone after last night, could I? So on this absolutely gorgeous sunny day, I watched Penn State get thrashed by Boston College on TV, unable to help them with even the tiniest cheer. Goodbye wonderful bachelor weekend.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
elusivebyte
Sep. 7th, 2003 01:33 pm (UTC)
I don't think you were stupid or incompetent. It sounds more like your sons were the incompetent ones for a) not being able to remember the difference between Joe and John, and b) for not being able to find you in your home office. :)

Not to try tell you how to raise your sons, but damn, if my hypothetical son stayed out until 11:15 without telling me where he was going personally, or leaving me a detailed note, I think I might skin him alive. Although, I have no idea how old your sons are. I'm glad that by the time I have any kids, cell phones will be that much cheaper and I think I'll get one for each of my kids. Oh and I just saw this device on a technology show that is a difficult to remove wristband with a gps locator and cell phone built in so you can always locate your kids. Talk about no privacy! :) It's aimed at young kids though.

Also, it's not at all your fault for "making" your wife feel bad. She is responsible for her own emotional responses. You honestly told her your situation which was in no way a result of your incompetence, and she got upset. You shouldn't feel responsible for that. Your son who didn't tell you where he was going is responsible for that.

It sucks too that your son didn't want to go to the game the next day, and I know how hard it can be to go to an event like that on your own. But you shouldn't feel any less inclined to leave your sons alone simply because of the proximity to the events of the previous night. Each choice you make should be based on a reasoned decision, not on the shame or guilt you felt from the previous night. Submitting to your emotions like that only made you feel worse when you denied yourself the chance to enjoy a nice day at a football game. And even though you made a decision not to go, for better or worse, you shouldn't beat yourself up over it. (Yeah, easy for me to say :( )
hostirad
Sep. 7th, 2003 06:53 pm (UTC)
Hey, I'm supposed to be the psychologist here!

You are absolutely spot on correct with your observations. It was my 16-year-old's irresponsibility, not my parenting incompetence, that triggered the problem. My wife, just like everyone, is responsible for her own feelings. My decision about whether or not to go to the game should be based on reasoning, not shame or guilt.

Actually, I was aware of all of these things throughout the ordeal. (I am a trained psychologist, after all.) Nevertheless, in a "crisis" situation (anything out of the ordinary), challenging irrational thoughts that are causing bad feelings can be a real battle. Here's an even closer analysis of what went on during that time.

I was not particularly worried about my 16-year-old son's safety. I didn't think he would be getting into any trouble, and I was right. Here's what really bothered me. First, I was baffled about how I missed his entrance and exit, especially since I was expecting him home. I have no door on my office, and I *always* hear the front door open and shut because it is only 10 feet from my office. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how my senses could have failed to pick this up. It is not cool when you feel like your brain is failing you.

Having no idea where Paul was exactly or when he would be back, I grew more tense as time passed and it was getting closer and closer to when my wife was going to call. I had no idea when the call would come. It was like waiting for a bomb to explode and not knowing exactly when it would happen. That is nerve-wracking.

Try as I might to rehearse what I was going to say when the phone call came, I had no idea how to explain how I missed Paul's entry and exit. I knew that from her perspective it would seem like I cared more about my work than my children, that I was concentrating on my work too hard such that I didn't hear him. It is difficult to defend yourself in this situation without sounding defensive, especially when you yourself can't figure out what happened. I don't remember being especially engrossed in my work. I certainly heard Patrick come in. It was very disorienting.

Concerning the football game, I did not begrudge Patrick for changing his mind about going to the game when he heard his cousin wasn't going. I knew that he and Paul would be fine at home if I wanted to go to the game. It was that the last thing my wife said before she hung up the phone the night before is that she felt like she could not leave town with the boys in my care for a long, long time, and that she was going rush home as soon after the funeral as she could. Not knowing how soon that might be, I mentally pictured her arriving home, distraught and exhausted, and finding I had gone to the game without Patrick, leaving everyone home alone. After the previous night, I could not risk that. It was a reasoned decision to give up the game. I did not want to look like a worse father than I already appeared to be. Appearances are important because people treat you based upon the way you appear, regardless of what you really are, and I care about the way significant others treat me. I knew I would be unhappy about missing the game, but I also knew that I would get over it. And I have. It is all water under the bridge.

There is another, much bigger problem now: How is Penn State possibly going to be ready for Nebraska next weekend? But that is Joe Paterno's problem, not mine.
elusivebyte
Sep. 7th, 2003 09:30 pm (UTC)
"I grew more tense as time passed and it was getting closer and closer to when my wife was going to call."

I don't really understand this reaction. Why were you worried over your wife calling? Why did you feel the need to tell her that you missed your son's entry at all? I mean, if you weren't worried about your son, why didn't you just tell your wife "he's out with some friends"?

"...she felt like she could not leave town with the boys in my care for a long, long time..."

Eek! That sounded harsh. Just because your son didn't tell you where he was going? Again, your wife's issue should be with your son, not you!

"How is Penn State possibly going to be ready for Nebraska next weekend? But that is Joe Paterno's problem, not mine."

I've never followed college football, or really the NFL for that matter, and I don't intend to! :-P
hostirad
Sep. 8th, 2003 06:47 am (UTC)
I don't really understand this reaction. Why were you worried over your wife calling? Why did you feel the need to tell her that you missed your son's entry at all? I mean, if you weren't worried about your son, why didn't you just tell your wife "he's out with some friends"?

Ho-ho! My wife, like most mothers, wants to know at all times (1) where our kids are and (2) whom they are with. We're not talking here about GPS exact coordinates and audio eavesdropping to produce complete transcripts. Just something like, "At Joe's house with George and Will, playing the new PS/2 game." "Out with friends" just doesn't cut it.

Furthermore, if I had somehow managed to avoid talking about the fact that Paul wasn't home or pretended that I knew where he was and then Paul DID get hurt or picked up by the police or whatever, my credibility and her trust would have been seriously damaged. No matter how small the odds, it wasn't worth the risk. Married couples do not have to share every single little detail of their experiences with each other, but when the parent-in-charge loses track of one of the children, this is something you don't hide from your spouse.

"...she felt like she could not leave town with the boys in my care for a long, long time..."

Eek! That sounded harsh. Just because your son didn't tell you where he was going? Again, your wife's issue should be with your son, not you!


Harsh? Maybe. But nothing is more important to a mother than the well-being of her children. That includes her husband's feelings. That is the harsh reality of evolutionary psychology. The truth is that this incident would probably never had happened if my wife were home. When school lets out, she stops what she is doing and starts looking for their arrival at home. If someone isn't home by a certain time she will call our son's friends or drive down to the high school to look for him. It is a level of vigilance that I prefer not to maintain when it is my watch. Whatever level of vigilance we choose, there are consequences, and that's life.
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