So right off the bat I want to say that I'm not 100% okay with the title of this post. I wanted to make a funny play on word with the movie RoboCop involving some sort of dad to dad tie that will make much more sense after you read the actual story. The best thing I could come up with was "RoboPop" which feels more like a nod to the idea of a robot father. I have nothing against robots or robot fathers and just in case a robot overlord reads this in the future, I want to add that I LOVE ROBOTS, but this story involves dads and cops, so that title didn't really seem to work either. After some thought, the officer involved in the following story was being a bit of a bro, so the title stands. Enjoy.
It can't be overstated. When you are an at-home parent, getting out of the house is a must. You need to find adult connections, and have adult conversations. If that means meeting for coffee with a friend once a week, that's better than nothing. Most of the time though, I'd recommend something a bit more lengthy. The first full year of being home after William was born, I found I had done all the normal things to keep my mind occupied. I had made detailed lists of smudges on the wall from dirty kid hands. I had found all the places in the carpeting that was trampled down to make a recognizable shape. I began the process of diving far too deep into the world of the cartoons that William liked and created back stories which lent themselves to the interactions of the characters on screen.
What I wasn't doing was keeping up relationships with real people over the age of one year old. It's something I still struggle with doing. I even feel a little self-conscious talking to adults lately because I'm not sure I remember how exactly to interact. After that initial year, I was concerned that while I may not be losing my intelligence (for whatever that's worth), I was losing the ability to communicate adult thought with adult words.
Eventually, Melissa was very aware that I needed a break. So we came up with a plan for me to take an extended period of time to get out into the country and relax. The idea was for me to take a few days to get out and go camping. I was going to be joined by one other friend, and after two days of camping and exploring Idaho, we'd meet up with our wives and kids at another friend's cabin in the beautiful city of McCall. After another night away from real life, we were going to head back as a happy, relaxed group. A great plan. This would be where I say something like, "What could go wrong?"
After a whirlwind, two day tour of the mid-area of Idaho, we made our way to McCall, anxious to see our friends and family. I tried my best to shut out the world while we were out exploring, but after a year of nothing but William, I already missed him. Our reunion was bitter-sweet in a way. I was excited to be with my family, but I was instantly back in my role of dad. Don't get me wrong, I understand that, in a way, you give up the right to be truly selfish when you begin your life as a parent, but I had not quite cleared my head after two days. C'est la vie.
Bedtime for William came quickly that night. A sudden realization for me that before I knew it, we'd all be back in reality. I had no clue how true that was. William was situated in our room in the upstairs of a little cabin. We had brought along his "Pack N' Play" for him to sleep in, which he had done several times without any issues. We put him down, said our good nights, and listened as the cries and fussing turned to quiet. We spent a few more hours with everyone before making our own way up to the room. There, quite happy, was William. Wide awake and playing games that babies play when they're alone. As we entered the room as quiet as we could, he saw us instantly and began to make a lot of noise.
The next few hours were painful. He grew louder in protest to the fact that we had not engaged him and joined in his baby games. So, we tried to rock him back to sleep, nothing. We put him in bed with us, which made him all the more riled up. William, it seemed, was far to excited about his new surroundings to simply go to sleep. I'm sure if he had been able to talk at the time there would have been a great deal of, "Dad! Did you see this lamp?! This isn't our lamp! I like it! Knock it over Dad! Dad! Mom! Did you see how this room isn't one of our rooms in our house?! Where are we?! I like this room! Let's scream at the walls and see if they make different noises than our walls! YAY!"
As the hours passed, and people had definitely gone to their rooms to try and sleep through the noisy little boy upstairs, we began to feel very self-conscious. No one had said anything and no one came to check on us, but we couldn't help feeling like this situation was going to keep everyone up through the night. At 3am we decided to pull the plug. I packed everything up and loaded the car, while Melissa dressed William and put him in his car seat where he instantly proceeded to cry. We said very brief good-byes and began the two hour trip back home.
McCall is a very small town. Small enough that the speed limit on the main street is, I think, 25 miles per hour. At three in the morning, with a screaming child in the backseat, and exhaustion setting in from the past three days, I just wasn't paying attention. In the sea of darkness, very suddenly we were illuminated by color. Red and blue. I look behind me to see a police car in tow, and check my speed, only to realize I was doing almost 40. This was gonna hurt.
I'm sure he heard William before he was able to see much of anything in the car. He surveyed the car's interior with his flashlight before asking politely for my licence and registration. Without much of a glance he asked what was going on. I explained that we had made an attempt to stay with friends at their cabin in the area, but our little boy was just a little too overwhelmed with the exciting new surroundings of McCall to go to sleep, and that mom and dad were too tired to keep the party going.
Keeping in mind that all he had done with my licence and registration was hold them, he turned back at William and smiled a little. I wish I knew exactly what he said at that point, and I wish I had grabbed a photo with him because it was one of those moments you think should happen all the time. He looked at me and told me that he knew exactly what we were going through. He was a father of two kids and had to make the early am trip a few times over the years. He reminded us that we have especially precious cargo now, so to remember the need to be extra cautious since we would be heading along a dark road that runs by a nasty river. He made sure that I was with it enough to last for the two hour drive home and sent us on our way without so much as the typical, "Watch your speed, now."
I didn't get his name, and I'll never be able to let him know that he did a really great thing that night. It's not about skipping the ticket. If he had given me a ticket, I certainly couldn't have argued against it. Parents need to be there for other parents sometimes. Offer a reminder to slow down and collect yourself. Parents need to have each other's back a little more instead of judgemental comparing of what you think you do better. I hope, really, that someday I can pay it forward. Maybe this blog will allow me to do that for someone. Maybe it will be as simple as offering a hand to the frazzled parent on the playground.
We've all been there, and we will all be there again. Tired and stressed. Hopeful for a little slack from people. So when we're on the outside, we all have to decide if we're gonna be the people who roll our eyes and say, "Too bad, I got through it with no help" or be the BroboCop who knows that even a few thoughtful words might get that mom and dad back on the right track.
I fricken love robots.