Familia Ante Omnia
This summer has had its fair share of both extraordinary and forgettable moments, as I’m sure many of you have also had. The thing is, I expected it to go a certain way, but as often happens in life, things changed and I was forced to adapt. To preface this, when my kids asked to move in with me two years ago, I hesitantly agreed, knowing that it would affect my ability to finish my doctoral study and causing great stress on my pocketbook. Thankfully, my wife is amazing and advocated for them to move in, so that we could be responsible for their education and opportunities for the future. They were 8 and 10 when they moved in. Their mother only agreed, because I assured her that she could have them weekends, holidays, and the majority of the summer.
That was the deal. I figured, I could become the stay-at-home dad my kids needed, do my work when they were at school and at their mom’s. In the beginning, things went that way and we even had to negotiate a way to keep the boys maybe one weekend a month or every other month to be able to do fun things with them. Soon after those negotiations, however, their mother and step-father canceled weekends more and more. He was going through a rough patch income-wise, and I understood, but I found it very difficult to do the work I needed to do. I started putting things off, and basically only doing the work I was paid to do, which meant no doctoral work (ironically, the work I was paying to do). I figured I’d get back to it soon, but as it stood, my boys came first.
This summer, my boys were supposed to spend the summer at their mom’s and return to me for one weekend in the middle of the summer, so Mason (my oldest) could go to a DeMolay party. Then, they would return for good the week before school started to acclimate them back to the academic life, as they’d be starting a new school in the fall. All was agreed to and I went about the summer trying to get as much work done as I could, catching up on the doctoral work I hadn’t been able to get to, as well as doing the paid work for the two jobs I held. Additionally, I had recently joined Scottish Rite and wanted to complete the Master Craftsman correspondence courses. I had also begun to work on returning my proficiency for my third degree, so that I would be able to move up the line of officers in my home lodge.
All went as it should at first, except my job had to cut my hours, so things got a little tighter than expected. Then, my ex-wife told me that a job opportunity came up and they would need to go to Kentucky for a week or so. Of course, I told them I would gladly take the boys. This was a great opportunity for them, and I missed them already. It would be fun for us to get to do some stuff, since we usually didn’t do much during the year. Unfortunately, money was getting tighter and tighter, so we didn’t get to do much, as one week turned into two, three, and then a month. I felt bad that my ex-wife had lost so much time with the boys, so I said they could just get them to me a few days before school started rather than a week.
I spent the next couple weeks working as best as I could, but I had lost so much time that I planned on working on doctoral stuff. I was still way behind. Hours picked up at my job, so I was able to do more and more work for them, so things wouldn’t be so tight at home. All of this affected my ability to do much of a dent on my doctoral work, extended the time it took to work on my proficiency, and eliminated any time really for anything else. I missed two stated meetings for Scottish Rite, as well as two philosophy discussion groups. I was able to travel for a couple education nights at the South Pasadena Lodge and the stated meeting for the Southern California Research Lodge. These were only made possible, because I was able to travel with brothers from my lodge.
One week before my sons were supposed to return to me, I got a call from their step-father asking to take them with him on a road trip, which would possibly make them a few days late for school. I said that I did not think it was a good idea for them to miss any school, especially being at a new school. He didn’t want their mother to lose any time with them by having to bring them early, so he assured me that he would put them on a plane if worst came to worst. Without a long story about, worst came to worst and my boys were stuck outside of Austin, TX a few days from school starting. Their mother and step-father could not get them to the airport, so I had to fly to Austin, rent a car, pick them up, and get back to the airport to fly home. It was so disappointing to be in Austin for only an hour and a half. My eldest son was born there, and I wanted to show him so much. Luckily, we had some miles saved up, so the cost of doing this was minimal, although it used up about $1400 worth of miles that we were saving for later use this year.
Above all else, family. I am trying very hard to abide by that. Obviously, I have my own ambitions and needs, but those of my wife and kids should take precedence over mine. That’s what is truly important. When we can put others before us, we are truly internalizing those Masonic values we are taught. We move beyond us, and it begins with family, but extends to others outside of our inner circle, making our circle bigger and bigger as we include more and more others within it. We are the point in the center of the Circumpunct, and the Compasses draw that circle around us wider and wider as we include others.