Every six to eight weeks my job requires me to work a night shift. Because I normally rise around 5 a.m., this creates a strain on the entire household.
On Mondays of those weeks I try to sleep in, but often I’m up by 6 a.m. anyway. Because I don’t get home until 1:30 a.m., I’m crankier than usual much of the week.
On those weeks, my wife has to keep our toddler son from waking me up at 6 a.m. while coping with our 6-week-old baby. I usually need a nap in the afternoon to make it through the night. Then she has to put both kids to bed while I’m at work. During normal weeks, the Empress takes care of Lael, while I put Seth to sleep.
And putting my boy to sleep is a big deal. We have a ritual of reading two books before I tell Seth the “new beach story,” which essentially is about our most recent trip to Aliso Beach. During the story, he clearly relives details of the entire trip: what we loaded into the minivan, the color of the Laguna Beach Trolley buses, which way we turned on the road, and how much we paid for parking.
The highlight in all the stories is poking anemones at the tidal pools. He closes up every last one up with driftwood sticks we find washed up along the shore. Our most recent trip had the added bonus of me digging a trench, which he used as a fort.
And we both laugh about the couple who borrowed the shovel, dug a huge hole and had me bury them standing up. At this point, Seth laughs and says, “That’s kinda funny.”
But working nights means no beach story. Seth seemed okay about it on Monday, but when I was saying goodbye before leaving for work on Tuesday, Seth began crying. Hard. He really was inconsolable.
After 15 minutes of reassuring him that I had to work and explaining that’s how we have a house and a car, etc., I was no closer to leaving. I finally promised to take him to the pool the next morning, which seemed to do the trick and I left for work.
Sadly, as soon as I left he apparently burst into tears again. My wife spent the next couple hours trying to calm him down. As it turns out, Seth thought that I went to work as punishment for him being bad. I don’t know where he got the idea, but he clearly has a vivid imagination.
Fortunately, my wife quickly invented a “why-dad-works” story, which seems to be working. And this afternoon, after Seth and I went swimming, no meltdown. Of course, he left before me for a play date.
The best news is, Seth and I are going to the beach again this weekend, so we’ll have a whole new story to tell over and over again. Even better: the next night shift isn’t for another eight weeks.