I saw an email notification on my iPad a few days ago from my son’s teacher. Nothing really out of the ordinary; they are a commutative lot at his school but the subject heading, Assembly Awards, caught my attention.
To put some context in here…my wee me’s teacher flagged that she thought he was falling behind in some areas of reading and writing. Sighting attention related issues, his mother and I think tanked this and with us both knowing how hard he tries at everything; explored a few avenues we thought would help.
Long story short; he got custom glasses for class work which seems to have helped. For the last few weeks all the little guy can talk about…besides his blossoming MotoCross career is how well he’s doing at school.
So, back on track. I opened the email not knowing what to expect and was overcome by so much excitement and sadness; literally all at once. You see, his teacher was writing to tell us that he was getting an award in school assembly for outstanding performance in that weeks test.
Turns out he’s gone from an average of 3-4 out of 15 to 14!!
I know how hard he was trying…know how disappointed he was that he was not working well enough; and know how scared he was of not moving up to grade 3 with all his friends.
I could feel every ounce of frustration that came with me, his mother and teachers telling him he could do it but wasn’t trying hard enough. All the while struggling with why he physically was not being able to do what he was being asked.
It was almost pure elation thinking about how proud he would be, how relieved he would be and most of all knowing that any confidence he lost would now be back in spades!!
But…throw in the FIFO lifestyle and this becomes a double edged sword. I was only a few days into my swing and knowing that I was still over 3 weeks from giving him a big hug and kiss, telling him how proud I am of him and…again, how sorry I was for questioning his efforts; was gut wrenching.
I’ve spoken to a few people about this particular situation; all of whom know me well enough to understand the relationship I have with my kids and how I would feel…even my ex-wife.
But here’s the thing; and really the motivation for this blog. All of them asked, “….but you miss events all the time; why is this so different?”
It’s a fair question. It’s one I’ve asked myself many times over the past few years. Am I only making it different…am I over thinking it?
I think not…and here’s why.
In my time working away; I’ve missed countless notable occasions.
Christmas 3 years in a row, Easters, school holidays, weddings, anniversaries, buck’s parties, births, deaths, poker games, Iron Maiden concerts, beach trips, surfing holidays, school concerts, Jnr Ballet recitals, first tackle junior rugby games, parent / teacher meetings, school re-unions, mates visiting from O/S….hell I’ve been away for 9 of the last 12 kids birthdays!!
But you know….the thing is; while as disappointing as planned events are to miss, you kind of get used to it. You know your roster (because you have a fantastic app…One Minute Closer) and when these kinds of events come up, you can say yes or no and move on with it.
With the exception of the deaths I guess; leave that out of the above statement.
Missing special occasions is part of taking this lifestyle choice…it is what it is. I always flag this with my kids as soon as I know; explain to them I will be at work but will make it up when I get back. They say they understand and it’s a chat we have more and more often now….eeks!!
This assembly award though…was a slightly more bitter pill to swallow. Yes part of the choice; yes you can’t be at all of these but in my mind, this was the time when my little man wanted to look out over the audience and see his Mum and Dad smiling and chapping for him.
This was the time that he wanted to hear how proud I was of him and that I knew he could do it. I couldn’t stop thinking that this was the time when he wanted me to look him in the eyes and say “mate wouldn’t have missed this for the world’.
So…what’s my point here?
Besides likening the disappointment of me missing a Year 2 assembly to that of The Expendables Part 3; what can we take from this? I’ve had a good ponder and come up with a few things that help me with missing special events while away.
I haven’t written a point based blog in a while; so here goes. These may not be applicable to everyone or all situations but some food for thought none the less:
8 of the ways I use to take the sting out of missing important occasions:
Importance of the Occasion
Communicate this to those close to you…especially the mother of your children. They are the ones who can represent you there, pass on massages and / or capture timeless moments for you.
Talk to those who you will disappoint
For me, this is almost always my kids. When I’m back and I know I will miss an event, I’ll tell them as much in advance as I can so they start chatting about it. In all seriousness, I am finding One Minute Closer great for this as it shows them I will be away and they can count how long after I will be home.
But it’s not always my kids. Recently I had to decline going my best mate’s major milestone party. I was back and forth for a couple of weeks trying to plan to get there and am sure he knew how devo I was by how much I wanted to go!!
When you are away, getting photos in real time is a fantastic feeling and makes you just the bit more connected to the occasion. If you are away, ask for picture. If you have friends and family away; send them pictures. Even a tag on FB can boost the moral!
I got this one on my girls 5th birthday a few days ago and it was just the nicest thing.
Random pictures at random times are a great way to know the real world still remembers you. Good rule of thumb – any picture, from anyone, anywhere someone else would rather be; is a good picture.
Caught on Camera
When I arrived back at camp the day of the assembly, the first thing I did was check for a video of the award. I knew his mother would take one and send it. She does this at swimming days, cross country, ballet, rugby and most enjoyably at tantrum time!! She knows how much I love watching my ninjas at play.
One thing I do look forward to when I get home and have videos of the kids on my phone, is to stream to the TV. We’ll watch it together on the big screen; over and over….and over….
But, this doesn’t need to be kid related. A video of the drunken uncle at the birthday party, the crying dad at the wedding or just some good old random Saturday soccer Mums at the morning game will brighten the weekend.
The Pre-Game Pep Talk and the Post-Match De-brief
Make a call before the big event and get a de-brief after. I try to FaceTime if I can but at least a call. Send your love and wishes of good luck and then get all the excitement of coming 19th in the Cross Country after the fact.
“That’s OK Dad, I didn’t want to do well because if I did I’d go to zones and I’d have to run 600mtrs not 500!!”.
Channel Arnie – be back when you say “I’ll be back”.
When I’m back on R&R…for me it’s all about making up for lost time and the un-avoidable disappointments of the FIFO life. Volunteer at school, help coach the rugby team, skate parks, motorcross lessons…when the kids are not at school it’s all about them.
I guess that is the same for other events. Making it up to parents, mates, partners…Bruce Dickenson for that special occasion that you could not be at.
But this is a do as I say, not as I do thing as I am known for re-occurring friend fails. “I’ll make it up to you in mud and petrol mate!!”
The Monthly Postcard
Every time I get back to site, I send each one of my ninjas a postcard with all the photos from my R&R. I use TouchNote which is a great tool and simple to use. My 3 look forward to their card every month and are now saying when I’m home “can we take a post card selfie Dad?”
I guess this is a way of showing them how much I value our time together and gives them a visual reference that they all keep next to their bed at Mum’s. For the occasions I miss they have a reminder of the times when I’m back.
Calm ‘ya Farm
Try not to make a big deal out of being away and / or beat yourself up. Yes it’s a moment missed but an opportunity to plan and make so many more special ones. The people who matter enjoy your company whenever they get the opportunity.
Weather it’s a couple of beers over a counter lunch or a day off school at SeaWorld; they’ll take whatever is on offer and like the sh*t out of it!!
And remember – you can only do the best you can with what you’ve got at that particular time; and if you do they’ll love you for it!!
Ok, so I’m over my imaginary quota of 1,500 words and may have lost your attention about 264 words ago. But if you’re are still with me then A – well done; and B – what are your thoughts on this?
What else can you suggest to me and our small but growing community to help them through this working away business?
Shot me an FB message or email at firstname.lastname@example.org with all of your suggestions as the more we share, the easier this might become.
Until the next instalment; keep safe and stay connected!!