I can't lie, when the idea was presented for Caden to come live with I was apprehensive. Probably even more than that though I was scared as hell. So many thoughts went through my mind. How was I going to take care of him AND Shawna? How do I keep my bearings? What am I going to do if I need help and the nearest available is 4 hours away? What if this and that? Up until that time we'd had Caden with us for 1 summer break and some vacations. I had been Shawna's caretaker for a year but was still learning the ropes for handling that and the idea of having the 24 hour, 7 day a week responsibility for Caden frightened the hell out of me to be honest. It had only been a little over a year prior since I'd been a single man with virtually no responsibility for anyone but myself and now I was a caretaker, husband, and step father. There's no doubt, I was reeling.
I can't say everything was smooth in the beginning. I was frustrated, warn out, stressed out, and unsure of myself the majority of the time. I felt completely overwhelmed. We had a few months before winter hit and in that time we worked to try and come up with a game plan for living life. Caden was still scared of Shawna's seizures at the time so when she had them I had to take care of her and try to comfort him at the same time. After a little over a year here much of that has settled and I'm extremely thankful.
Caden began a new school and the accompanying problems of being a new kid quickly surfaced. I don't know if it was fortunate or unfortunate for him but our response to the bullying bullshit all around us is that it's been overblown so when he came home to us about it our response was not the typical. We had discussions about being confident, standing up for yourself, and we even showed him a few self defense moves in-case any of the kids stepped over the line from verbal to physical attacks. We also let him know that if he was in the right we'd defend him no matter what the school said but if he was in the wrong he'd suffer the consequences. He began to handle the issues himself and by the end of the year the talk of bullying had slowed considerably.
He played hockey last winter for a Canadian team and if people don't know what hockey is like in Canada let me just tell you, it's huge. Think football in the southern part of the US and you'll get a rough idea. Many of the kids play year round as many of the rinks are left open even through the summer and teams play continually. For Caden's team the season went from October until April. Practice two evenings per week and games every weekend. Tournaments on some of them. Most of the games were a minimum of an hour away and some up to 3. This is made the season feel incredibly long. In combination with that, Shawna's health last winter was awful. She could barely get out of bed for the whole month on February, which also happens to be the coldest month we have here. To top it off last winter was one of the worst in years between snow and cold (temps were below 0 for days at a time) in awhile. By the time we hit March I was burnt out. I was exhausted and the end of hockey season and beginning of spring couldn't come quickly enough. It had been a long hard winter and not one I was wishing to repeat.
Reflecting back a few months post, I see now how worn I really was. I would get frustrated pretty quickly, would tune people out, and had trouble sleeping and shutting my mind off. This was until Caden was released from school for the summer. At that point Caden went to his dads for the summer and it felt like I could get a deep breath. Hell, for the first few days after making the exchange I did nothing but sit in front of the TV playing Fallout: New Vegas and drinking Coors. I put something like 48 hours on it in 3 days! Shawna was feeling decent so I just sat and completely zoned out on it and I felt great! There was really nothing to worry about, to think about. My responsibilities were limited and the tension of the past year dissipated into thin air. That lasted for a few days until Shawna had an appointment we had to attend in Boston (a complete waste of fucking time, thanks Army for that one.) and then we found out that football up here essentially starts when school gets out. So, only two or three weeks into Caden's summer vacation with his dad, I had to run back down and get him as he had been talking about playing football for months.
While I was annoyed that Caden's vacation was cut short, both because I was enjoying the break and because it cut into him and his other families time together, football has been a great thing for both of us. I was able to become an assistant coach and Caden has found a sport he really seems to love playing with kids that he's very happy to call teammates. Our season went very well (from no wins the previous 3 years to 4-2 this season!) and I found out how much I enjoy teaching and coaching football. While I'm not sure I'd enjoy other sports as much it certainly opens the door to the possibility of getting involved in others for I found something in coaching that I believe I needed. It was a release. A chance to focus and concentrate my attentions to something that mattered but wasn't directly related to my family life. It turned into an outlet for aggression and an opportunity to push issues aside for a few hours a week and in the end I'm thankful for it. I had the opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people and hopefully make an impact on some fabulous young men.
While Caden's coming to live with us certainly created some apprehension on my part in the beginning, I have to believe it was a natural reaction. New fathers and mothers bringing their child home for the first time must feel something similar as do new step-parents. I want so badly to do what's right by him; to teach him new things and to insure that I do my small part in insuring that he not only grows up to be a good man, but a better man than I am. The truth of it is it's a wonderful opportunity that I've been given and while my being scared of certain aspects are likely natural, they're also not a bad thing. Nervousness and apprehension can serve us well if harnessed appropriately. They make us slow down, they make us think, they make us consider multiple solutions to problems. They also make us very thankful for the simple things.