Emily Just Asked to Come Home

Emily turned 16 on November 15th and told me the next day that she was moving out and didn’t come home after school.  She spent the next two weeks at a couple of friends houses and she had very little contact with her mother and sister, and even less with me.  Just over two weeks had gone by and in that time I have done a tremendous amount of research on parenting, mental health, the effects of drugs and alcohol on the teen-aged body and a host of reading on legal issues with regards to a 16 year old leaving, rights, financial responsibilities etc…

It has been a very tough few weeks.

I could see the effects on her mother, she was crushed.  I have full time custody of my girls but Mom has remained close and talks to them everyday.  This experience has drawn us closer together in terms of a united parenting team even though our marriage ended many years ago.  And seeing first hand the effects on her younger sister Megan as she has been struggling to understand why her sister left in the first place.  Megan asked to come home from school early this past Friday as she had been sitting in the bathroom crying.  Both are beautiful young ladies, raised in similar environments but have turned out completely differently.

I’ve written a few blogs posts so far about the experiences I have had over the last few years that have led me on a path of self discovery, and also recently realized that the mental seeds to this journey were planted before I even realized it.  In the post, A Letter to Emily I actually foreshadowed what exactly happened a year and bit later when I stepped back from work to re-establish my relationship with her.

The other post of note, The Power of the Nothing I knew I needed to fix me and the way I reacted to and dealt with any and all issues that life would throw my way.  Emily leaving derailed all the progress I’ve made at the gym in the last month, the nothing had me!  It’s been an amazing journey so far, but I am just getting started as I have so much that I want to write about and share with whomever is interested.

I had hoped and prayed that Emily, when she was ready would want to come home and as hard as it was to watch her walk away, I gave her the time and the space she needed to come to that decision on her own.  There were perhaps some legal way to force her home, and force her to get the help she needed, but I feared it wouldn’t last and would only cause further distance between us.IMG_3148.png

So as hard as it was, I patiently waited…

This morning I received this text message from her, and instantly started to cry.  It wasn’t the first time that I cried today.  That happened this morning around 6:30am when I was down in my basement hitting my heavy bag, and dancing around like no one was watching.  A song came on and within seconds I started to cry…

This Song Saved My Life by Simple Plan.

I was dancing around with tears streaming down my face and in truth I’ve never felt more alive.  I missed my Emily terribly but connected with the lyrics in a very powerful way.  Emily was the main motivating factor for me to change my life, she doesn’t know it yet but she saved me.  She really did, you only ever will have one first child and I could see my beautiful baby girl slipping away from me right before my very eyes.

The life choices that I had made, and the things (at the time) that I thought were important to me were the very thing(s) that were pushing her away.  The older she got the faster the divide started to grow, and she was already gone long before I realized that she was gone.  Her leaving the house forced me into old habits and inaction and I started second guessing all my reasons for wanting change.  This kind of thinking in the past has led to long term disastrous result for me, and thankfully a lot of the things I have learned recently kicked in and I was able to get back on track.

No the pain of Emily never went away or lessen in intensity, but I was able to live with it. 

I have so much to live for, three other amazing children who were getting the short end of the stick as their fun loving father has been emotionally crippled and they deserved so much better.  Pain, emotional turmoil and other negatives emotions will always enter our lives, it is how we deal with it determines our strength of character.

IMG_3151.pngI will have setbacks along the way, hopefully minor in nature but I continue to move forward to grow as a father and a man.  To gain a better understanding of how to unconditionally love everyone in this world, to grow spiritually and emotionally and intellectually.  To show my children to do the same.

Emily comes home tonight, I am a little nervous but I am ready to talk about her experience, and to let her know what my expectations are, I need to be to her parent and her friend.

Ready to love her unconditionally, to parent her to the best of my ability, to get her any and all the help that she wants or needs.

To rebuild our relationship and revel in the love between a father and his daughter, the road may be hard and bumpy at times but I know now that I have the strength to stay the course.

 

Quick to Anger, Starting to Fade…

I have a temper. It can get pretty bad at times. It was unfortunately how I raised my first two children as they were afraid of me. I never hit or mistreated them but I did yell and get angry a lot. Far too much…

Io_Anger_standard2

It was the main reason I had to walk away from my job of 20 years as it made me incredibly angry and frustrated. I am sure it is the main reason that Emily has left the house…

This summer I got my first speeding ticket just due to anger of the guy driving slowly in front of me…

I’ve been changing these past few months and I’ve slowly starting to see it go away. My youngest Austin is starting to take other people’s things and do dumb kid things around the house that in the past would get me fired up.

This morning I found myself in a situation where normally anger would be first reaction. I calmly asked him to sit down in front of me and I got down on the floor with him and in a real quiet and comforting voice talked him about what he was doing and offered suggestions how he could behaviour better. I had to repeat myself several times but at no point did an ounce of anger enter my body.

When I was done he looked at me said sorry and jumped into my arms to tell me he loves me and give me hugs and kisses.

The lesson I learned was that if you give out calmness and love to a child it comes back ten times over.

I continue to make and look forward to these small victories everyday.

A Letter to Emily

This is a letter that I wrote to my daughter before her 15th birthday in Sept. 2016

First off I want you to know that this letter is not because you are in trouble or have done anything wrong. What it is, is a letter to my beautiful and ever-growing daughter as she transitions into a woman leaving the little girl she once was far behind.

What I want this letter to be is me sharing my thoughts and feelings with you. I am not very good with my words as they often come out wrong or I get tongue-tied very easily. I let my emotions get in the way of my ability to communicate. I let my emotions get in the way of playing fun family sports like our cottage Olympics.

And very recently, like in the last few days I’ve suddenly realized how my actions as your dad have in turn effected the girl/woman you are right now. Watching our lack of interaction yesterday made me cry. At the end of the day, my oldest daughter wanted to spend her entire Saturday at home staring at tiny 2.5 inch cracked screen. I asked if you wanted to play cards, I asked if you wanted to watch a movie, I asked and stopped by your door several times to see what you were up to, and if at the very least we could talk.

You wanted to do your own thing I will always respect that. A little later that day I started to vacuum the house, and Austin stopped what he was doing and grabbed his vacuum to copy and follow along and help Daddy.

Watching him copy my movements and actions I had a moment of clarity as it is called. That is a moment when you suddenly completely understand something. Truly understand and get what the meaning of your direct actions are.

Looking at Austin and then looking at you I had that moment of clarity.

You have watched for years your Dad ignore you so he could stare at a tiny 2.5 inch not broken 🙂 screen, playing Clash of Clans or whatever other waste of time stupid game I was currently playing.

What I should have been doing is playing with you and Megan.

Instead you watched your Dad stare at a screen, and you learned from watching that well, that is what you do to entertain yourself. Stare at a screen.

Emily let me be perfectly clear here. There is nothing wrong with your actions. You are not doing anything wrong. It took me 44 years, and the entire invention of and development of computers and technology and right up through into and including yesterday to finally understand.

I cannot blame my lack of relationship with you on anyone else but me. You learn your behaviours from the world around you. When you were young and in your formative years. These are the years where you pick up habits, learn to handle your emotions and a billion other things. But a lot of how to behave and how you will act in society or out with other people is also formed in these years. So in other words the girl that you are today is in part because of how I was as a Dad. Yes there were other factors involved but I was one of them and I should have been the biggest.

The last few years I have had many thoughts about life and kids and family and how it all worked together, how they all interacted with each other. When I was a kid like yourself I had pretty much a very similar to the life that you have today. A similar upbringing if you will, the way you were raised. I see myself much like my parents were, and are today. Definitely some differences but I find that those things were we are different were choices that I had made somewhere along the way when I was old enough to understand why my parents did some of the things that they did.

You my dear are definitely your father’s daughter. In the way you handle your emotions, your inability to communicate what is going on inside your head, to the words you use, to some of the choices you make.

This is very hard for me to admit.

The easiest thing for a parent to do is do nothing.

It’s easy. Nothing. It doesn’t take any work to do nothing. No effort required to do nothing. Nothing today… nothing tomorrow…

So as I sit here and type this letter. It would be easy to do nothing.

Just let you be. Do nothing.

You seem to be happy on the surface level. I cannot seem to get a good deep heart to heart talk with you, but then again I’ve never taught you, or heck, even talked to you in that way. Part of me hopes this letter is the first step in repairing that relationship and ability to talk with each other.

I just saw you cry because you think you have no friends. It’s seems to be a tough weekend for that. And by that I mean feeling lonely. I am pretty sure that after yesterday and not having any real contact with your friends or even your family you will feel lonely.

This is Dad being totally honest Emily. On Friday night and for about a half an hour on Saturday morning I cried because perhaps like you were feeling today I feel incredibly lonely right now. Dad doesn’t really have any close friends right now either. It has been a really tough summer for me in terms on doing things that I enjoy with my friends at work. Much like me, lots of things to take up your time. Too many in fact.

I didn’t get to play baseball this year which I always enjoy. I didn’t get to play volleyball last week because of my back. I was going to have a party here last Sunday but decided to cancel it the last-minute so I could come to the cottage with you guys and was really looking forward to an awesome week there with my family.

But it just didn’t happen like I had wanted it to. That first Monday morning I woke up and had no strength in my lower back. We never really talked about it much but my back kept me from swimming a lot, from going kayaking, playing sports, etc…

That one game of catch we played I couldn’t even bend over to pick up the ball, and I am sure that to you I appeared irritated and angry. NOT WITH YOU Emily. But with my inability to play catch with my daughter. That is what I was upset with.

And this is what I have been talking about the last few paragraphs of this letter. I couldn’t talk to you about my back and just explain what happened, and perhaps come up with some other activities we could have done together. And spent that time that I really, really wanted to spend not only with you but the other guys as well.

The cottage was relaxing. But again Emily, I was lonely there. Danielle spent most of her time with her family and sister, the advantage of having them there from her point of view. And let’s look at Danielle’s family real quickly. They are all still a apart of each other lives now that they have grown up and are raising their own kids.

Look at Dad’s side of the family. We don’t really see Julie or David much anymore. My Mom and Dad even less than them. But it didn’t always used to be this way. Over the years it seems that my family just drifted apart. People kept moving just a little bit further and further away. We started to see each other less and less. And now it’s like once a year. You had the chance to see Sydney and Morgan earlier this summer for a swim date, but you didn’t want to get out of bed. Why? I am guessing you were tired cause you were up late with a face buried into a 2.5 inch screen.

Social media vs the real world.

OR?

Is it because you have watched your dad not put much effort in over the years to see his family, and just act the same way. A behaviour you learned from watching the life around you unfold. It is not something you would ever pay attention to but your mind and the way it works would pick up on it, it is what I called a learned behaviour.

If for example, my family was around all the time and we saw them often and had dinner there on a regular basis then you would grow up with the same ideas, the same thoughts on how this is how a family works, and that is how most likely you will interact with your family when you get older.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Danielle does this with her mom and sister on a regular basis.

Dad doesn’t seem his parents or sister much at all.

So here I sit as a 44-year-old father of six kids. And I can tell you that I WANT, I need my family interaction to be like Danielle’s family is and continues to be. Much more so than what I have with my parents and my brother and sister. I miss them all very much, and wish we did things more together as a family. What we don’t have is that one person that will continue to make sure everyone stays in touch and organize and works to make sure the family stays in touch. Even if you live 1/2 way around the world.

Look at your mom quickly, she still makes a point of talking to you at the very least every couple of days even when you are on vacation. It is important to her to maintain that communication with you because she wants that to be a part of her life as you ladies get older and develop lives and families of your own

Emily so do I. This is what doesn’t let me sleep at night, is the fact that why am I not doing the same thing? Why am I not the guy that makes sure his family stays together, stays in touch and talks to each other.

Why am I doing nothing?

The answer is because it is easy to do nothing. As stated before nothing takes no effort, especially when you are afraid. Emily I am very afraid.

I am afraid I am too late.

I am afraid that by trying to create a stronger bond I will push you further away.

I am afraid that I will lack the conviction to follow through with what I say, or in this case type.

I am just afraid. Big tough grumpy old Dad is afraid. I am afraid to try.

Or least I was.

You know what I am more afraid of than any of that?

Being alone.

I am very afraid of being alone. I often think of my Dad at the age of 86 sitting in that condo all alone. How does he think and feel? How alone does my Dad feel? He was afraid to do anything to change the relationships in his life. Maybe he didn’t take the time to realize and understand how his actions now would affect the rest of his life. I know my Dad was all about work and I don’t have many memories of us doing things together.

I am afraid you have the same thoughts and feelings towards me.

Emily I love you so very much. As a child and parent relationship is takes a lot to damage or destroy that relationship. We will always love each other.

My parents never ever once talked to me about how they felt. What they were thinking. They were mom and Dad and that was that. Even to this day they have never talked to me about raising kids, what they thought and felt. What they wanted out of life, how they struggle with time OR lack of it.

None of these things. Today kids just aren’t like that anymore. I can see it through working at the Keg for 20 years. And working with a 14 to 30 crowd of people over a 20 year span you can see the differences in the way I talk to, relate to and manage a 14-year-old girl from 2016 than I would a 14 year old girl back in 1996.

The world in which you currently live is way different in the way we communicate with each other. It used to be a phone call and actually talk to someone… Back in 1996 there was no Facebook, no Instagram, Snapchat, etc… And somewhere in this transition from actually talking to someone transformed to sending a few words on a screen.

I can live with and will certainly continue to use technology as society dictates it goes, but what I will not do anymore is stare mindlessly at a screen when there are many, many other wonderful things that I could be doing with my time.

Taking my beautiful daughters shopping is certainly one of them. I hope we can and expect that these things will continue to happen between us.

At this point in our lives. I want us to be friends. I want you to think your Dad is cool and you want to spend time with him. That’s it.

If we can do that, then everything else that I want out of life comes along with that. We need to have a bond between us that transcends time and distance. Meaning even if life takes you to the other side of the world I want you and I to have a connection that only a father and daughter who love each other, are friends and can talk to the other person.

Emily I want to be your biggest supporter in your search for your dreams.

I want to be the shoulder to cry on when things don’t go your way. When life isn’t fair. And Emily, it’s often not fair.

I want to be there for advice, for support, to help pick you up when you fall. And to be there to celebrate your greatest successes. Whatever that is. Where ever life may take you.

I want to be a better Father. A better Dad. And a better friend.

Do Nothing. That’s easy.

You are worth every single effort it takes from this second forward to be a Dad. I love you.

The Last Year of My Life

Hello world, my name is Ed Dillon and I am a 45-year-old father to four amazing children.  And there was a number of years where I had the pleasure of being a Dad to six kids and at times it was very chaotic.  I came up with the #SixKidChaos and it has kind of stuck ever since, so when I was trying to think of a clever name for this blog, well I already had one in place.

Life happens to all of us, I’ve been married twice and now divorced twice.  And at times it seems to be more than I can bear.  I struggled with addiction in the past, and I’ve spent many years battling the nothing.  That feeling when life is dragging you down, everywhere you look it seems as if despair and heartache are around every corner.  You just cannot seem to shake that feeling and it paralyzes you in doing nothing.

This past year I have learned more about life than the previous 44, it started with the decision to separate from my second wife as things were just not working.  That was in September of 2016, and I instantly became the happiest person in the world.  Everyday was an adventure, I was exercising more than I ever had, I was posting on social media my workouts, my runs.  I took my son on many great adventures through the woods, hiking and seeing some amazing things.  I was literally on top of the world.

In November of 2016 the world seemed to crash in on itself.  Two things happened in a short amount of time, first I decided to try to reconcile with my wife.  She was not the least bit interested and what was originally my decision to separate, I had given her back the emotional control and now it felt like I was getting rejected and the emotional pain became more than I could bear.

I immediately became miserable, stopped working out, the addiction worsened and I no longer was the happiest man on the planet.  It was like going from the highest of highs to suddenly the lowest of lows, had I known how this would all make me feel then I never would have suggested a reconciliation in the first place. It did, however teach me a valuable lesson about being in emotional control of your life.

It was shortly after this that I found out that I as being transferred from my job.  I was the Kitchen Operations Manager for the Vaughan Keg Steakhouse and Bar, and I had worked at this location since it first opened in 2006.  We were one of, if not the busiest dinner location in the company, I worked hard and I played hard.  My 10 years there I was able to experience so many amazing and wonderful things above and beyond the normal aspect of the job.

Getting to meet my childhood hero, and World Series champion might top the list, getting to cook him dinner and then sit down afterwards sharing a beer and some great stories..

What other job has things like that happen on a regular basis?  There eventually will be a section of this blog telling all of these amazing adventures!  However, just surrendering the emotional control back to ex-wife, and then finding out that I had to leave the place that I loved, well it became far too much to bear.  I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone I was leaving, as the company wanted to keep it quiet as we were about to head into our busiest season of December and it needed to be business as usual.

The reason I was asked to switch locations revolved around what is called a QWL, or Quality Worklife Survey.  The Keg would generally do them twice a year, and it allowed all the employees to rate where they worked, rate the managers (to which I was one of them) and a variety of different topics.  Some I scored well on, and others I did not…  As it turned out in a company of over 100 locations I had been rated the lowest of any manager.

This building, and the staff (well some of them) no longer wanted me in the building, and the company’s choice was to let me go, or move me to another location to start over if you will.  And so it was on December 31st, 2016 after working a long shift where we did over 1000 meals I walked out the door shortly after midnight, without saying a word to anyone I was done.  I gave that building almost 11 years and I was no longer wanted.

That month of December was the hardest month of my life.  I never really shared or talked to anyone about month but I did spent the next six months dancing around with the nothing, feeling oh so sorry for myself.  Just as I had spent the middle part of 2016 not happy with myself and my relationship to which my attitude and demeanor towards other people was noted and no longer tolerated.

This whole experience taught me some very valuable lessons on how to deal with other people, how to interact and talk with employees on a greater scope than boss to staff.  It also taught me about being in the driver’s seat of one’s own life and what can happen if you give that control to the wrong person.  I tried very hard at my new location to fit in and let the past go but I found it almost impossible to emotionally connect with this staff after what the previous staff had done.  I just could not see the difference in the two.

In May of 2017 I finally  moved out on my own, taking my oldest two daughters along as I had full-time custody of them, and saw my little ones every day that I was not working.  It was in the summer that I started to feel good about myself again, and I tried to re-establish some lost connections with Emily and Megan.  When school started in September I had already seen changes in my eldest daughter as she was getting into trouble and withdrawing from family life at every chance she could.

My experiences from the year before taught that I needed to change something if I wanted to connect with these children again, working an evening and weekend job as a single parent is not the way to raise teenagers.  Far too much freedom, and freedom to make the wrong choices became crystal clear, I had tried to quit but was talked into working a part-time schedule of three days a week.

Honestly if I had the knowledge today that I had back then it could have worked, but trying to run a kitchen on a three-day a week schedule only works if you have the support system in place to make that happen.  We didn’t and work stress increased immediately as things that I would normally do when I would be working on a Thursday or Friday were often left unattended and for me to deal with on Saturday when I would go back in.

And so I walked away completely from my job, I went in on a Wednesday wrote my resignation letter, left my keys on the desk, gave my buddy a call and went golfing.  I knew I had time to figure things out, from the sale of my house earlier in the year I had been living the high life, the Summer of George is you will but then realized that I could use this money to re-establish and reconnect with my kids.  After all my youngest was only going to home for one more year before starting JK, and that is exactly what I have been doing over the past 10 weeks.

I can happily say that I have overcome the addiction, got a therapist, joined some support groups, opened myself up to my neighbours and friends and started to create a system of support for myself as I have felt very alone living here with no family or friends around.  I started writing emails to my neighbour about my experiences and she suggested that I share my experiences with others, to help inspire change in their own life as I have started to do in my own.

The journey I’ve started on is a lifelong adventure, with real destination just the desire to enjoy the ride as much as possible.  What I really want is to find that happier than life guy that existed from September to November of 2016, he is living down inside me somewhere… I just have to dust him off and get him back out there.

I will be as open and honest as possible here, I will share intimate and detailed stories on my life and my experience.  I find the entire writing process to be a very good outlet on my mental well-being, and if I can help even just a single person in some small way then it is more than worth it.

Have a great day everyone, and thanks for visiting Six Kid Chaos.

Ed Dillon