A soft huff escaped from Chadwick’s nostrils as he tossed his cell phone on the desk in front of him. The pressures of work were attacking him from all angles and he was finally at his wit’s end. If the email he received from his writing partner didn’t;t set him off, the text message with the unfortunate news that he’d have to return to Atlanta for a third round of reshoots was the nail in his proverbial coffin.
While he angrily tapped at the keys on his computer in an attempt to write away his frustrations, Micah’s giggling in the hallway drew closer. Soon, she was peddling her way into the downstairs office on her hot pink tricycle.
“Daddy, look! I’m riding a bike.”
“Mhmm,” he grunted, not bothering to look up from his iMac screen.
Sensing that his attention was elsewhere, Micah used her legs to scoot closer to the desk and peer over the edge.
“What kinda work? The dress-up kind or the boring kind?”
“The kind that means that you need to go find your mama until I’m done. Bye.”
“But I wanna be with you.”
When Chadwick heard the slight quiver in his daughter’s voice, he looked up to find her round eyes staring back at him. Though much of her face was hidden below the edge of the desk’s surface, he could tell Micah was frowning by the slight furrow in her brown.
Sighing, he rolled away from his desk and motioned her over. “Alright. Come on over here and sit down.”
Micah squealed her excitement before running around the desk to jump into her father’s lap. As always, having her in the room made him smile through his tough moment as he kissed her forehead.
“I need you to stay still and quiet while I work, okay?”
“Okay! I promise I’ll be the best helper ever.”
For much of their time together, Micah was the perfect companion. While she busied herself with “office helper work”, Chadwick continued to cross items off of his to-do list. But, instead of feeling the relief of accomplishment, he grew more frustrated. Every email conversation or new set of information opened the door for anger to settle into his body.
“Micah, stay still,” he requested when he felt his daughter wiggle to the point of shaking his body. Her movements stalled for a moment, but ramped up a second time, adding to the mountain of things bothering Chadwick. “Noelle, stop it!”
When he glanced over to see what had Micah so riled up, he couldn’t contain the anger boiling inside of him. Every paper scattered across his desk was now bound together with copious amounts of clear tape. Further exacerbating the situation, the papers she’d unleashed her crafting abilities on were drafts of a script that he was manually revising. There was no option to request the PDF version of the document. He’d have to wait another week for a new copy to arrive in the mail if the current version couldn’t be saved.
Before he could process what was happening, he shot up from the chair and planted Micah on her feet.
“Micah, get out! Why did you do that!”
The corners of her mouth began to droop, “I was trying to put them back together for you and help.”
“You didn’t! Go in there with your mama and don’t come back!”
The volume of his tirade grabbed Tasha’s attention, leading her to round the corner into the office the second Micah’s breakdown started.
Both parents stood frozen as Micah’s whimpers turned into a full-on sob. She stood frozen in place, making her hurt known to anyone within earshot.
“Are you serious right now,” Tasha questioned as she took long strides toward Micah. “What is your problem?”
“Tasha, I didn’t mean to-”
“Nuh uh.” Chadwick’s attempts to explain fell on deaf ears once CoCo made the decision to ignore him and transition into “mommy mode”.
While she worked to calm the distraught child, he stood there experiencing the moment outside of himself. He didn’t understand how he had allowed stress to make him lash out at one of the most precious people in his life. And, though he knew the issue wasn’t beyond repair, he couldn’t imagine the kind of lasting impression he’d left in Micah’s impressionable mind.
He stewed in guilt well into the night, choosing to remain in the office to avoid the wrath of his wife. Tasha paid a visit as midnight approached to drop off a stack of papers with more attitude than he’d seen in a long while.
“Here. The tape came right off because she’s a child and can’t do that much damage.” The thick files hit the desk with a loud smack followed by a death glare from Tasha.
“Just say what you’re gonna say, baby,” Chadwick sighed as he ran his hands down his face. “I’m sorry.”
“No, you don’t get to apologize to me and make it all better. That’s not how this works.”
“I know. You’re right.”
“Stop trying to make me be quiet! I’m not stupid!” Chadwick knew that his intentions were to show that he understood where he went wrong, not to undermine CoCo. But, he also knew that any further attempts to speak while she was upset would only incense her. So, he quietly sat back in his chair to prepare for the verbal storm.
“Look, I know that work has you stressed. I never want to overlook the amount of effort it takes to do what you do. But, I will not allow you to take that anger and spew it toward our child. Send that shit to them, not her! She is four. So what she taped some papers together? Was that worth the way you made her feel by shouting in her face like she’s some random on the street?”
Chadwick watched his wife rant for several minutes while he silently thanked God he had a partner that was hellbent on advocating for their child, even if he was the offending party.
Midway through her speech, he stood and attempted to grab her hand.
“Absolutely not,” she responded as she drew back and created space between them. “You may not touch me or sleep in our room until you apologize to the person whose feelings you hurt. Her bedtime has passed so you’ll have to figure something out for here and now. There is a spare bedroom and blankets in the linen closet in case you decide to devote more time to work. Ya know, since it has you acting a damn fool. Good luck.”
Knowing that the backlash would be severe still didn’t prepare Chadwick for a total shut out. Long after hearing CoCo dramatically shut the door, he quietly transitioned to the upstairs guest bedroom to contemplate his next move before bed. To apologize for such uncharacteristic and unwarranted behavior, he would need to think completely outside of the box.