Sunday, January 27, 2008

There Will Always Be Conflict

I remember being a little relieved when "The Sopranos" quit its run as perhaps the best show ever on television.
As much as I loved the show, I'd always feel drained at the end of it, sort of like my soul got the shit kicked out of it. I'd feel dirty, too, like how it must feel to visit a porn shop with slick floors and peek shows for a quarter.
I felt the same way Saturday after seeing "There Will Be Blood."
The movie is a remarkable achievement, thanks mostly to the performance of Daniel Day Lewis, who plays an oilman with a soul as black as the crude goop he covets.
The oilman creeps through most of the movie friendless and alone, plainly ignoring questions about a wife and cutting down anyone who dares to show anything less than perfection.
The most heartbreaking part of the movie for me, however, was the relationship he had with a boy he claimed as his own after the boy's father is killed in a brutal scene (and there are several, though not as many as the title seems to imply).
At first Lewis' character, named Daniel Plainview, seems to love the boy, but after he loses his hearing in an accident, Plainview takes his inability to communicate as an affront and cuts him off emotionally, treating him like a shelter dog, something that needs only food and shelter.
It was hard for me to watch him break his son's heart over and over.
Mainly because I could relate to him.
I've been guilty of thinking of my children as a burden, rather than the blessings they are, because of the way I crave time alone.
I crave time with a book, a movie, a video game, a run, a climb, even at an online poker table, which is proof to me just how internal poker is even if it is a game played with others.
As an introvert, I get my energy from being alone, and so I constantly struggle with the fact that part of me would rather be writing or spending time on my computer than roughhousing on the carpet with my son or holding my daughters.
I knew this about myself, and for many years I hesitated to have children because of it. I didn't think I'd be a good father because I knew I'd struggle with the time it takes to do it right.
I surprised myself. I love my kids far more than I ever thought I would, and I miss them when I'm apart from them. But I still struggle more often that I should admit here.
I struggle the most at times like this morning, when I wanted Kate to go to church and yet slightly resented her leaving me with two cranky, teething, fussy girls.
I sat them between me and enjoyed their company, until that part of me cried out for something to do rather than just be in the moment, and when I fired up my computer to read about my Jayhawks, the girls started fussing and I internally started whining myself about soothing their red eyes.
They are so cute these days - and I promise to post a video or pictures soon - so it only takes a pouty lip and teary eyes to melt my heart, close the computer and cuddle them until they nap. Twenty hard minutes later, after trying to get one down while the other cried out, I was glad when they did fall asleep rather than stay up and play.
I defend myself, maybe to a fault, by telling myself that we're at a hard stage right now, and the care is almost constant until the few golden hours that they're down before my bedtime.
When something like free time is taken away from you that much, you're bound to miss it, even crave it, the same way people crave cookies when they're on a diet.
But I've always been this way, and it seems like for me that I never get enough time to myself, even on the days when I get three hours or more.
Still, my heart hurt as I walked out of the theater, as Daniel Plainview was reduced to an old, bitter hermit whose only pleasure was hurting others, even the son who still loved him.
I hope one day it's not that hard to love me.
When I got home, I listened for Jayden's heavy breathing behind his bedroom door, and I gave a peck to the girls' heads. Then I went into the bedroom, anxious to relieve my craving for an hour of online poker, before the girls interrupted it with their midnight feeding.


Kris said...

I firmly believe that any parent who says that they don't struggle between needing to take care of the kids and needing to take care of themselves is lying. We all do it... I think the only thing that differs is in how we take care of ourselves and how we fill the gaps.

TripJax said...

I agree with kris.

I've let my kids and myself down in the past because I didn't understand how to juggle everything at once. I'm still learning, but I'm much better now than I used to be. Realizing you are the world to them through these early years helps.

Good luck to you and the fam. Take your time because it is yours, but cherish the rest of the time...

Riggstad said...

AFter we got married, and just before we started thinking of having children, A business partner of mine, an older gentleman of 10 years on me, had stated that I was too selfish to have kids, and that I would only be doing it for the wife.

He was right in more ways than even he could have imaginged. We now have 4 children, and although I need and take my own time, they are whats most important. I blame them for a lot, which is, well selfish, but I too am getting better.

Whats more, I don't blame or expect the wife anymore to pick up the slack when I want to take a hop to vegas, or North Dakota, or wherever I like to go.

The reality is that children are amazing. Not just mine, but all...

And because of that, I easilt change my mind on plans that I might have had in order to spend time with them...

PokahDave said...

Your heart and your head are in the right place...we all need out time though. That's how I got to wife knew I was itchin' for a weekend away. You can always see it a different way (a few of my friends were in a awe that I could get away with going) but time alone is only human