The heartbeat within the walls pounded around me, as the walls pressed closer and closer with every beat.
Boom boom … boom boom … boom boom.
The kids were fighting. Homeschool papers and books were scattered across our large table. The baby was crying for affection. Dishes overflowed from the sink onto the counter. The 4-year-old kept turning on the TV, after I repeatedly turned it off and told him it wasn’t TV time.
Usually I can shrug these things off, but the burdens I was carrying on my shoulders kept me from shrugging. Maybe I was still tired from a long road trip. Maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling worn out from New York City lately. Or maybe, I was simply depressed.
But I was done.
I needed to go.
The rain poured down outside, but I had to be out there. Every drip called me.
Drip … Drip … Drip … Run … Run … Run …Drip …Drip …Run … Run
The walls beat louder. They pulsated. My heart beat harder. My kids grew louder. My ears wanted to explode. My eyes wanted to explode. Every bit of me was ready to explode.
Drip … Drip … Run … Run
I breathed through puffed up cheeks.
Drip. Run. Drip. Run. Drip. Run. Drip. Run. Drip. Run. Run. Run. Run. RUN!
I stood up and paced. Took a deep breath and picked up the baby. She quit crying as soon as my hands settled under her armpits. She was happy to be in my arms. She looked up at me with her loving blue eyes. We gazed at one another. I love her and she loves me. But … the walls … the walls continued to beat. The walls under the chipped paint. The walls with dirt and fingerprints on them. Beating.
I walked with the baby, holding her close. The other kids questioned me and revolted against my instructions. I continued to walk with her. I gave her a bottle and she fell asleep in my arms. Slowly, I placed her in the crib, and then I put on my shoes. I walked by the dirty dishes and past the paper-covered table. I grabbed my keys and told my kids I was going for a walk, leaving the oldest in charge.
“Where,” he asked. “Out,” I responded. “I need to be alone. I need to walk. I won’t be gone long, only a little bit. Call me if you need me.” And with that, I walked out the door and into the rain.
I expected the rain to welcome me and wash off every bit of depression and anger that coursed through my body. But release did not come. I looked to the right and to the left, unsure of where to walk. Knowing that I couldn’t go far, I weighed my options. I had none. My responsibility as a stay-at-home dad was in the house, but I couldn’t go back inside. I took a deep breath, and turned to the right. My feet slowly walked as the rain quickly beat upon my head. I walked to the corner and turned, passing others that briskly walked by me in the rain, shielding their bodies with umbrellas. I didn’t bother grabbing one. Didn’t want one.
I arrived at the next corner, and made another right. Then at the next corner, and made another right. Soon, I was back in front of my house, still not ready to go in. And so I continued to walk to the corner, then the next, then the next .
Here’s what I noticed about others as I walked in the rain. Most people walk quickly when the clouds dump down on them. Those that walk slowly are avoiding something. Not many people enjoy walking in the rain on a cold day. And you must really be avoiding something if you are walking slowly in the rain without an umbrella. I was avoiding my home. Which holds the people that I love more than anything else in the world.
I turned the corner for the last time and walked up to my house. I dipped my head and walked inside. My clothes dripped from the rain, as I shut the door behind me. My oldest met me at the door, but I couldn’t look him in the eye. I love that boy so much. He asked me where I went. “Around,” I answered. And I wasn’t avoiding the question, I really was walking around. My daughter stood up and hugged me. I love that girl so much. I set the keys down on the table and placed my hand upon my 4-year-old’s head. I love that little boy so much.
I have rarely struggled as a parent, struggling in that I feel overwhelmed at my responsibilities. I’m a dad. A homeschooling parent. A stay-at-home parent. I am around my kids almost every minute of my day. It’s what I do.
Walking around the block didn’t fix things; the frustrations are still there. I could still be walking. But I stopped because my duty as a dad called and I had to answer. I had to go in. You see, they need me. And I need them.
Being a dad is everything to me. I love my role as a daddy. For a brief moment though, I had a really bad day on the job. Good thing stay-at-home parents do not get performance reviews or I would have failed. It was one day and tomorrow will be better. And if it isn’t, then the following day will be better.
My baby girl woke-up and I picked her up out of the crib. I love that girl so much. She smiled at me with her blue eyes beaming. “Dad da,” she spit out. She can’t say, “I love you,” but I could see it in her eyes. I placed my nose next to her cheek and told her “I love you.” I squeezed her close to my heartbeat and let the pounding of my heart merge with hers.
The walls were quiet.
A version of this first appeared on One Good Dad.