In a lot of ways I have a very traditional marriage. I work full-time, Veronica works part-time. She cooks and does the vast majority of the housework. She does the grocery shopping. I manage the finances. I used to cut the grass until I got lazy enough to pay someone to do it for me.
It’s not right or wrong, but it works for us — and I think she’d agree. Even if she would like me to fold the laundry a little more often. (Alright, a lot more often.)
But parenting — that we do together. When one of the kids is home sick, we trade taking days off to watch them. Same thing during the gaps in summer camp. Most importantly, when there is an issue with Ryan, we work together to deal with it. When one of us is depressed or struggling, the other is strong. Again, this is what works for us.
Ryan has been struggling lately, with anxiety and an explosive temper and some difficult behaviors, and it has added a lot of stress to our household. In the middle of all this, we have been trying to enjoy as a family what may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch the Devils in the Stanley Cup Final.
As Veronica so well recounted in her guest-post Monday, even that has not been easy. The phrase she used that sticks with me is that hockey games are our “safe time” — the time we don’t have to worry, the time we get to be just a normal family — and Ryan’s anxiety has threatened to get in the way of that.
Not only has the series gone poorly for New Jersey — the Devils are down 3-0 and face elimination in Los Angeles on the day I write this — but we haven’t exactly been together. I am working at the games. Hey, I’m not complaining. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have a career in a field that I love. But it would have been nice to sit together as a family for the games in New Jersey.
But now, we are a continent apart while my son is struggling — and I am not there to help. Ryan has developed a habit of popping his ears that he can’t seem to break, and it is pushing his anxiety into overdrive.
We’ve been through similar issues before and they are among the most trying times we have faced as parents. Somehow, some way, we know we’ll come through this and find a solution, but until we do it is just incredibly difficult to see him struggle so. It’s doubly so to watch — or hear about — it from afar.
I checked in with the family from Staples Center in L.A. before the start of Game 3 on Monday. Ryan was really struggling with his ears. Veronica was doing her best to keep him calm but I could tell how difficult the situation was. It only got worse — for both Ryan and the Devils — as the night wore on. They would go on to lose 4-0 and Ryan would cry himself to sleep.
It was such a helpless feeling. I wanted to reach out and offer a long-distance hug, some sort of soothing words, some reassurance that everything would be OK. But I had nothing. Tuesday was to be Ryan’s big year-ending class trip, a celebration of his impending graduation from elementary school. The trip was to a familiar water park that we know he enjoys. But with his ears causing him so much pain and frustration, the trip looked far from certain.
With the time shift, I would find out if he made it on the bus only after I woke up. Veronica reported a tentative yes, that he had wanted to go and felt better. I was relieved that at least we had cleared that hurdle.
A few hours went by before the miracles of modern technology delivered an update to me in my hotel room. Yes, Ryan was enjoying himself. He was enthusiastic and having fun. Then the picture arrived. A smile! A genuine smile.
My mood improved somewhat. The problem is not behind us, but at least it had not caused Ryan to miss out on such a memorable class trip.
The best thing about today is that tomorrow I will be back home with my family. Between Ryan, the Devils, and the impending end of another hockey season, my mood has been as gray as the “June gloom” marine layer that greets us each day in L.A.
If the Devils can just find a way to defy the odds and pull off a win tonight, we’ll have one more game to attend. One more chance to offer this incredible hockey season a fitting goodbye. We won’t be together for the entire game but we can visit.
Whether or not this season ends tonight, I don’t have the same fear I did last year. I know that this bond will still be with us when next season begins in the fall. Still, I’ll be upset. This has been an incredible run with memories to last a lifetime. I’m loathe to see it go.