I’ve been alone with these two girls enough that I now have enough confidence that 3 or 4 days without Casey doesn’t worry me, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I dreaded my wife leaving the house for more than a night, because I couldn’t handle Addie on my own. Me and a three or four-year-old did not mix.
Back when I was in law school and Casey was just getting going with this blogging thing, she decided to take a trip to Chicago to attend a “little-known” blogging conference called Blog Her. I had never heard of bloggers traveling to conferences and it didn’t make much sense to me. But law school had commanded most of our time the previous year and Casey deserved to have a little time dedicated to her needs and wants, even if I didn’t understand why it was important.
Casey headed off to Chicago leaving me with a 3-year-old Addie. I’m pretty sure Casey was just as nervous as I was to have Addie for the first time all by myself. Truth was, I hadn’t been a good enough father up to that point to even know how to entertain and care for a child for more than a few hours at a time.
Casey’s trip was a real eye opener. It would be an understatement to say that Addie and I didn’t get along. We butted heads the entire time and I had no idea why Addie was so difficult that weekend. She seemed to be cry the entire time and nothing seemed to go the way that I wanted it to go.
By the time Casey got back, I’d silently decided that Casey couldn’t leave for a weekend without taking Addie again. I just didn’t have what it took for those types of trips to happen.
A little later that year, Casey had the opportunity to go to another blogging conference and I saw the writing on the wall. These conferences were necessary and they were good for Casey’s career. And that meant that I had to learn to take care of Addie all by myself while Casey was away.
I reflected back on that weekend and realized I did two major things wrong. After working in the oil field for a summer, I developed a very demanding way of relaying instructions to Addie. I didn’t yell at her and I certainly didn’t use any physical force, but I had almost zero tolerance and that was a terrible attitude to have with a 3-year-old. The other thing I did was I plopped Addie in front of the TV for about half of each day. The TV shouldn’t be used regularly as a babysitter, especially not for long periods of time.
Addie and I both loved watching TV, but what I didn’t understand was that while Addie sat there and watched TV all of her energy was being pent up inside her and she had no way to release it. So by the time the evening came around, Addie’s head was practically bouncing from wall to wall just trying to find a way to let her energy escape and that led to her getting into mischief and trouble.
I changed both those things for Casey’s next trip. I showed far more patience that second time around and we only watched TV for an hour a day. When we weren’t watching TV, I tried to find physical things we could do so Addie could let her energy loose. I also made it a habit of playing 4 or 5 games of Candy Land each night–I kid you not, the kid won 9 games in a row. That weekend went much better and things have only gotten easier with each trip Casey has taken.
Since that weekend I’ve tried to pay attention to little things that help my kids while Casey is away and I’ve added those things into our routines while she’s gone. With each trip Casey takes, little by little they seem to go better for all of us. Addie doesn’t cry as much with Casey being gone and Vivi isn’t nearly has hard to handle on my own, and I’m no longer afraid to be alone with the kids.
More on Babble Dad: