While my husband coaches, at home we cope with dark days without daddy
By Maryan Vander Woude
As the days get shorter and the nights longer, our family also enters the season where the days grow short on Daddy and long on Mommy. Some people call it winter, our family calls it basketball season.
My husband coaches high school varsity basketball, and we are his biggest fans. My boys love to go to Daddy’s games and cheer on his team. However, most varsity games and practices are at night, past most of the children’s bedtime. So Mommy and the boys spend a lot of evenings by themselves during basketball season.
Although my husband makes it home for dinner at other times of the year, during those four months I have to fly solo in the evenings, and join the throng of other parents who try to land their little passengers into sweet dreams without their wing man.
Over the years I’ve used many different survival techniques.
Serve meals that Daddy doesn’t like. When Daddy returns home from work is one of the most joyous moments of the day for the kids and Mommy. So his absence at dinner is felt. So I try to change up the menu. I remember as a kid we hardly ever had grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner because it wasn’t one of my Dad’s favorites. So on the rare evenings that Dad was away, my Mom pulled out the Campbell’s tomato soup can! Likewise, I also have fond memories of when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to one of my siblings, and my Dad would pull out breakfast foods for dinner. Yum! I try to imitate them to make dinner more fun without Daddy.
Hit the dollar menu. Eating out with seven little children and one adult is challenging, so we usually hunker down for the four months. However, sometimes cabin fever hits! So to make it feel like we got out and did something different, we would hit a drive-thru and bring home our fast food menu and supplement with side dishes and drinks at home. We didn’t break the bank, but we went “out to eat.”
Listen to books on tape. Daddy puts the kids to bed during the other eight months of the year, and it is a full hour affair complete with books, wrestling and prayers. I confess: bedtime with me isn’t as fun. Reading bedtime stories and holding tired babies at the same time can sometimes be tricky. Usually, the baby wants to teethe on the book, and the toddler wants “to see,” so both of them prevent actual reading of the page. Yet books on tape have rescued our evenings! They bring Wilbur and Charlotte right into our bedroom, while I rock the little ones in the chair. My kids also like the novelty of someone else’s voice besides mine at the end of the day.
Say night prayers in bed. We used to pray in the living room as a family in front of our Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart images, but we discovered it was easier to keep little bodies focused on praying – and not wrestling – if they were bundled in their beds. Sleep comes easily to little boys after the rhythm of the rosary.
Have a game night with the big kids. Sometimes I secretly let the big kids stay up to play a game (or watch a movie or football game) with Mom. The treat takes the sting out of missing Dad, and it gives me a chance to do something special with them.
So November is coming, and we will celebrate Thanksgiving. But, for us, true thanksgiving comes in March when we know how blessed we are to have Daddy home with us for dinner again.
Maryan Vander Woude lives in Virginia with husband Dan and their seven children, and blogs about their adventures at A Lee in the Woudes.