Getting laid off brings out the well wishers in droves. It also seems to be an automatic funnel for advice of every imaginable kind, including those appropriate yet cliche words, “welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.”
I got a text within an hour of walking out of my old office that said just that.
No advice can prepare you for the issue of how to tell your kids that life just turned upside down.
After calling my wife and inviting her to the next great adventure in our already adventure-full marriage, my thoughts turned to how my kids might handle this news.
We decided to meet at a brewery about a mile from our house. The thought being that an hour or so prep over a beer or two would provide all the answers we needed in this new and untried parenting situation.
Unfortunately beer is a depressant and doesn’t always provide the inspiration one might hope.
Just to note, my wife is absolutely amazing. She might be cooler under fire than anyone I’ve ever seen. Not much surprises her, but when you’re married to me, nothing should surprise you. It helps that we’ve known each other since third grade. Something about the consistency of years has tempered us into best friends able to handle some crazy turns. I don’t like to test those boundaries, but I have to say that Cheryl has withstood more challenging situations in her life than anyone should have to. She is my hero.
Still, we stood around a standing table at the brewery and sipped half-heartedly on a couple of Imperial Pilsners trying to float some ideas on how to approach the kids.
Straight up: Dad got laid off today kids, we’re up shit creek without a paddle.
Downplayed: Dad’s job is changing, and he’ll be spending more time at home, yay!
Around the Bush: Dad got laid off, but we were really looking for a change anyway, right?
Soften the Blow: Hey, dad won’t be working at the newspaper anymore, but that means you can run track, because now dad can pick you up after practice.
In the end, we sat the kids on the couch and invoked a practice my family has done since my grandparents escaped the Soviet Union some 60-years-ago. Something that could easily smell of desperation if it wasn’t so consistently fruitful in our lives. We prayed together.
Then we talked together and tried to assure each other that all would be all right, but we were pretty straight about all the uncertainty, and we committed to being understanding even if we have to cut privileges in our lives for a while like cable television and eating out at restaurants.
The kids, like their mother, are resilient, and perhaps more important, they believe in me absolutely. It’s enough to bring a dad on the brink of some kind of new day to tears, but I figured we had enough drama for one day.