Thursday, July 1, 2010

“Super” Dad to the Rescue

By Guest Blogger: Ariel's Dad

Last time Ariel asked her mother to write about being a supportive parent to an out-of-work adult child. This time she's asked me to give the father's point of view.

As my wife said, parents want to fix things. Like most men, I prefer problem-solving action to hours chewing on a problem and analyzing it. I like things nailed down. Uncertainty is not happy territory for me. I like to know.

My career has always revolved around numbers. I like numbers. They're predictable, dependable, unchanging. You go to bed knowing that two plus two equals four; you get up in the morning and two plus two still equals four. Certainty: I like it.

Admittedly, when it comes to careers, I'm a dinosaur. I went to work for the federal government; 35 years later, I retired. I had different jobs and titles over those 35 years, but I got up every morning knowing I had a job. Now, every month when my retirement check arrives, it is further proof of all that was good about "the way things used to be."

In fact, after my federal government career, I took up a new one in county government. I've now worked 13 years in that capacity, with another retirement pension soon to come my way. Boring? Maybe to some people, but I like certainty.

Ironically, Ariel and I accepted our jobs at approximately the same time. Now, at age 68, I still have mine, and she is scrambling to find one. It just doesn't make sense to me.

These days people no longer have what I had: a secure job (two, in fact) with a pension—a job you can keep until retirement. Ariel, who knows all about human resources stuff, tells me that in the future most people will have multiple careers in their working lifetime—not multiple jobs, but totally new careers. I can't even imagine such a thing.

Accordingly, I had no idea how to help Ariel when she lost her job. At first, I searched job listings, but I soon learned two things. First, she is quite computer savvy and knew all about RSS feeds and how to have them delivered to her electronic inbox. No matter what I turned up, she had it first. Second, I didn't seem to do well at scouting job leads. Both Ariel and her mother have master's degrees in human resources and sometimes when I'd find what I thought was the perfect HR job, they'd patiently deconstruct the listing for me, explaining to me how it was for a completely different kind of job than what Ariel is qualified for or seeking even if the title sounded similar. Finally, in the interest of family harmony, I gave up sending her job listings.

For me, giving up that role as job listing provider meant relinquishing my role as the Daddy who fixed things. Now, I was just the guy who couldn't even understand the job market. To tell the truth, when, Ariel and her mother start slinging HR jargon back and forth during our daily phone conversations, I just quietly hang up the phone and go outside and listen to the birds. Their tweets and trills make about as much sense.

Then one day, Ariel's clothes dryer stopped working. Not having money to repair it, she called and asked if I could help. In December, I spent several hours lying on the cold concrete garage floor of her laundry area trying to repair it. I thought I had it fixed, only to find that it stopped again. I tried once more—more hours on the garage floor. It was definitely broken. She bought a clothesline and strung it up in her garage. That's all we could do.

As the months went by, more household items have broken. Each time Ariel calls and most of the time I've been able to help. I may not understand "HR-speak", but I know wrenches and shut-off valves and circuit breakers and car noises. I know a little about plumbing and air conditioning and mechanical things, and I can fix a leaky toilet as well as the next guy.

Consequently, when something jams or freezes up or breaks—which seems to be more often than I'd have thought possible—Ariel calls me, and I do what I can. When my wife answers the phone on these occasions, Ariel always says, "I need to speak to the 'Super'." By this, she means the building superintendent, or in other words: me.

It's like my wife told you last time: we encourage Ariel, support her, hug her, and do all that feel-good stuff, but sometimes when you're Daddy, you just actively need to do something. A man just feels more useful changing the outcome—and "saving the day". I leave the job hunts to them, but I keep my cordless drill and screwdriver charged and ready to go. This I can do.

Besides, there are some perks. When I arrive to repair something Ariel rewards me with a home-cooked meal. Of course, she invites her mother, too, who deserves rewards for her hard work as well. And, since Ariel has more time to shop for the freshest ingredients and to cook meals from scratch, this has turned into a pretty nice perk.

To be honest, I like taking an active role and knowing I can occasionally do things to make Ariel's life easier during this stressful time.

Besides, it's not half bad being the Dad whose grown-up daughter still calls him "Super".

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Photos Courtesy of:
Man on Computer (note: not Ariel's Dad):
Super Dad:


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