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Shorter days, even shorter fuse October 24, 2010

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

That alarm goes off at 6 a.m., and I can think of no worse fate than to force myself out of bed. It’s that season, I know. The rapid decay of daily daylight really takes its toll on me. I whined about this last year.

Fall is such a beautiful time of year, but it can be a dangerous time too.

But I may be even more in touch with that reality this year, and unfortunately Austin has been taking the brunt of it. I always knew that being a parent would be challenging, but I clearly underestimated just how challenging. I keep telling myself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But then I do—and I’ve been doing it a lot lately.

I think I reached my limits yesterday morning. Austin, having passed his road test a week earlier, had left the house for RIT to attend to his SAT prep class. He will be taking the test for the first time in a few weeks, and I’m hyper focused on how important the results of that can be for his college plans.

Meanwhile, having him out of the house for several hours meant some badly needed quiet time for me along with an opportunity to take care of some housework. I figured I’d start with laundry. Making my way between the upstairs and the basement, I hadn’t noticed that my phone, sitting on the dining room table, rang four times. It had been Austin calling, so I quickly dialed him back. No answer. “Couldn’t be too important,” I thought. “He must be in his class.”

Maybe 10 minutes later, I hear the front door open. “What are you doing back here?” I shouted.

“Why don’t you answer your phone?” he yelled back.

Construction on the expressway forced the closing of an exit ramp, and he didn’t know any way around it. I wasn’t answering my phone, and rather than stop somewhere and ask for directions, he decided to return home. He went on to suggest that it wasn’t a big deal. He didn’t think the classes were that helpful, and he was getting all the necessary preparation at school. Suddenly, I felt all the fight drain out of me, and my emotions slowly took over.

“What’s wrong?’ Austin asked as he noticed my eyes water. I shrugged, not knowing exactly what to say.

“It’s hard,” I said finally, looking away. “It’s just hard.”

At that point, we sat down, and I tried to explain what was happening in my head. I had increasingly been struggling to control my temper over the past few months. Yes, some of it was due to frustration over things he would do—or wouldn’t do. “But I don’t blame you,” I added.

After my meltdown, I decided to take a bike ride along the beach. Sometimes it helps knowing the world is so much bigger than we are.

The truth is I’ve been starting to feel more isolated again. Certainly trying to provide for Austin and attend to his needs has brought greater demands to my life, and things at work had been very busy. But what’s been bothering me most is the lack of outlets I find. Quality time with friends is few and far between. I get discouraged in trying to reach out to people and then realizing how few willingly reach back.

Austin thinks I need to try harder, and I suppose he’s right. He reminded me how difficult it’s been for him to make inroads with friends since arriving in Rochester. “Everyone already has their cliché,” he said, “so few people really make an effort to get to know me.”

At that moment, I felt incredibly selfish. I had been telling him all along that he needed to try harder, and in reality I’d been setting a lousy example. At least he has a girlfriend. And while other teens seem to come and go from his life, he is doing a much better job at finding balance—spending more time out on his new bike, for example, and less time with the PlayStation. And he’s even earned expanded duties at Wegmans, putting in more hours working the seafood counter—and enjoying it.

Fall is a beautiful time of the year, but it can be a dangerous time as well. It’s so easy to get out of sync, and that makes it more difficult to not spiral out of control. Guess I need to follow my son’s example—find my center and regain some balance.



1. Maureen - October 30, 2010

Paul, I know exactly how you are feeling! I hate the dark mornings and short days! It really does have a big affect on me and my moods! I especially despise getting up when it is still dark outside….it is insane!!!

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