911 Never Stops

fatherhood job change restoration

My job requires me to frequently be on call. My company provides phone systems to 911 call centers, which require high levels of support. My kids have often heard me say, “911 never stops, it has to work”, many times.

Many times when we have been engaged in family activities,  those getaways have been interrupted by my customers needing something fixed. On more than one occasion when I’ve been skiing with my son and daughter at Copper Mountain, or Winter Park, or Steamboat Springs, I have taken a call from a customer. This usually means I have to tell the kids to go take a run or two without me while I pause and help get some aspect of a phone system back online, or I have to take a break and go to the car to get remote access to a system and resolve an issue.

Somehow, I have just accepted this aspect of my job, and embrace solving problems for my customers. The kids have been pretty good about it, and make the typical “Dad, work is lame, why don’t you ski?” comments. I always brushed them off as typical teenage comments.

With that stage set, let me backup several months. Earlier this year a former boss reached out to me, informing me he was retiring at the company he was working for, and they were looking for his successor. Not only was it an honor that he asked me to succeed him, he started a hard sale that he thought I really needed the job. He knew the long hours I was working, and described in detail the work environment I would enter if I took over for him. 

Things like company disabling email accounts during time off, mandatory working out during lunch breaks, and earning additional time off through community service and team challenges. The was the polar opposite of my current 24-7, always on, wear multiple hats, current work environment. In the end my former boss and current employees convinced me to take the job. 

Now it came time to tell the kids.This is where it gets interesting, condemning, and restoring all at the same time. I did not realize that my focus on my job was also a non-focus on my kids. I did not realize how disapproving they were based on their comments that I simply brushed off. I was about to know truth and start a healing and restorative process. 

First I talked with my daughter, and said I was changing jobs, and taking on a new position with a different company. I explained that the new job would be different. That’s as far as I got before the unexpected response: “So, Dad, does this mean that when we go skiing you won’t have to take calls and you can actually ski with us?”

Wow.

The looks my wife and I shared spoke volumes as I tried to hide the flood of emotions prompted by her response.

Fast forward a few minutes, and my son enters the room: “What are you talking about?”

My daughter: “Dad got a new job.”

Me: “Yes, I’ve accepted a position with a different company, but won’t be transitioning for several months.”

My son: “Is it still in 911?”

Me: “Yes, but in a different role...”

My son: “So do you have to work all hours of the day?”

Me: “No, it’s more a nine to five job, and no work on the weekends.”

My son: “Cool, so when we go skiing you won’t have to take calls anymore, and can focus on us”

Double Wow.

Somehow I held it together and although the kids did not mean to condemn my historical record as a father, it became apparent to me in an instant how good intentions to do noble work and provide for my family has had unintended consequences. Consequences that I will never be able to repair/restore, and consequences that lead to a story of restoration and redemption.

I know I can’t repair the past experiences, but the path to healing and restoration is taken one step at a time. For example, simply verbally and intentionally acknowledging my oldest son’s perspective on my lack of focus on him when we did things like skiing, has led to some of the best, authentic conversations we have had in years. When I was on a recent business trip, we had several phone conversations that I didn’t think were possible months ago.

The story continues. Due to the nature of my role in my company, we had to engineer a multi-month transition. We have a few weeks to go until I transition to the new company full time, and my wife is counting down the days. I find myself navigating new waters and writing new, unexpected chapters in my family’s story as we anticipate unforeseen plot twists. Plot twists that are most welcome!

What can I say... my kids are much more observant and aware than I thought, and can teach me a thing or two about being a better father.

Can’t wait to go skiing!

 

Robin Erkkila 
Restoration Project Advocate