Sunday, July 18, 2010

Slave

I remember being single and free in Salina, Kan., where I worked for five years before spending the last 11 in Colorado.
I also remember an older co-worker living vicariously through me, usually in conversations we'd have that Saturday morning about what I was going to do that night.
"Eh, I dunno. Maybe go drinking, maybe go to a movie, maybe hang out, maybe go for a bike ride," I'd say while his eyes glazed over. "What are you doing?"
I didn't really understand how cruel I was being. Hey, I was naive. Elementary school kids probably don't really know how awful they're being when they make fun of another child's hair. I didn't get why he wanted to know so much about my free, easy and uncomplicated life. I know now that's precisely why. His life, one with two small children, was quite the opposite.
I thought about that as I raced around Friday to care for my three small children while Kate sat in a recliner. I am a parent, and so Friday should have been a joyous occasion for me, according to things like "The Family Circus." It would be the first time in nearly a week I'd get to see my kids and Kate.
I was happy to see them at first. Kate had hernia surgery - that's what carrying twins will to do you, even three years after they were born - and it was nice to see her out of the hospital, even if recovery will take six weeks. The kids stayed with her parents in Denver while I worked in Greeley and she spent a couple days at her sister's.
But that six weeks of recovery was the problem, for now my mother (who came down to stay with us thank God) and I were stuck with unpacking and dealing with kids who were unloading and far from understanding about the fact that Mom can't do, well, hardly anything with them.
I honestly thought they would get it, that Mommy had an owie - we showed them her goose-bump-inducing, black bellybutton - so Daddy and Grandma would have to carry them, put on their shoes and get them their meals. I was naive yet again, and the result Friday was two severe, brain-melting tantrums that, coupled with everything else I had to do, were so stressful that my mother and I had our first fight in years.
Parenthood is not what you think it is a lot of the times. It's not playing catch with your son and watching your daughters at a dance recital. A lot of it is exhausting slave labor that isn't fun or even very fulfilling.
Laundry. Clean-up. Wiping shit off their bottoms. Getting them juice. Dressing them like dolls, then making sure they've got their shoes on when it's time to go somewhere. When they're uncooperative, it makes it all twice as hard, and lately they've all been uncooperative a bit too much.
The labor continues outside the house. You have to go somewhere, every day (on my days off too) because staying inside doesn't work. I realize I should have 10 different arts and crafts for them to do, and 12 types of sporting equipment (including mountain climbing and running, of course), and a good computer so they can practice their writing skills. But you know, what we have is a bunch of cheap, crappy toys from McDonalds and birthday parties (along with a few cool toys, we're not sadists here, though most of those are from their grandparents) and a TV that shows mostly bizzare cartoons (what the hell happened to Bugs Bunny?), and all that keeps them entertained for about 3.4 minutes before they start acting up.
So it's off to the park, or a soccer field, or an indoor mall, or the zoo, or the neighborhood pool if it's summer, or many other places we've already been, where we unload them from the minivan and expect them to burn through breakfast.
Sometimes this is fun. One of the best things about being a parent is you get to be a kid again and go to, say, a carnival without any hint of regrets about doing something more important, like going to a museum. But many times these activities only add to the grind.
When we do have quiet time - though that's increasingly filled with noisier time now that the girls, at age 3, have decided naps are too sedentary to fit their active lifestyle - it's usually accompanied by a movie we've seen 75 times. I pulled out "Star Wars" to try to break that up the other day, but he - SIGH - got bored with it after a while.
It's really, really hard not to resent it all. I understood every second of the parents' comments in the New York Magazine story "Why Parents Hate Parenting."
Some have called it just another screed by "whining" parents, but most of those comments are from people who don't have kids or think they have kids because they have, like, a dog and a cat.
Now of course I love my kids. Dearly. That's one of the other things about all this is when you do "whine" about the demands of having children, people assume you're a selfish loaf who doesn't enjoy being a parent and questions why you had kids in the first place. I don't question it. My life is much, much fuller with children than without.
But while I love my kids, I am really coming to terms with the fact that I do not enjoy everything that comes with my kids. In fact I don't enjoy half of it. Maybe more. I find myself longing maybe a bit too hard for the days when I didn't have to chose between an hour of reading, playing a video game or watching a movie - I could do all three in one night. I find myself wishing I didn't have to give up softball this year just so I could continue to train for big races. I find myself wishing I could go to bed later than 10:30 p.m., and then knowing that if I do, I'll be dead the next day because there's no sleeping in any longer.
So maybe I don't enjoy being a parent. I enjoy being a FATHER. I cherish the hugs and kisses. I love hearing the word "Daddy" escape their lips, even if it's to ask for more juice, which is usually is. I adore their cute little faces and live for their laughter when I'm spinning them around.
Only then they want to be spun around again. And again. And again. And then, after a while, I get really dizzy from it all.





5 comments:

Drizztdj said...

It's a rough gig no doubt. I even threw a second job and full-time school on top of it, but just to a see a smile from the faces makes the hour long tandrums about going to bed at 8pm worth it.

Slavery is about an uncontrolable situation, you DO control how you perceive each kiddy outburst. It's taken me years, but 95% of the cries for attention/snacks/bathroom go right by with a smile on my face because I know soon they'll be older and I need to enjoy these times when they can't wait to see me after work.

The 5% I'm still working on :)

AtlTaxPro said...

My true parenting days are behind me now, since my youngest is 17, but it was an experience that I would NOT trade anything for.

Be firm, be critical, be exacting, and expect great things from them. Do NOT be their friends! You and your wife are their PARENTS, so act like it! Not enough people who have kids are in fact responsible parents.

楊儀卉 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AtlTaxPro said...

I leftout something in my earlier post:

Be sure to give them LOTs of love and hugs! While you have to be firm, you also have to offer endless encouragement!

Robert Heinlein (probably the BEST SciFi writer EVER) said: Keep your kids short of pocket money, but NEVER short of hugs! That was the underlying strategy that my wife and I used, and I think t worked out rather well!

AtlTaxPro said...

One last item: It is true that, sometimes, being a parent is being a slave.

However, ENJOY your kids while they are little. Eventually, they will become that horror to all parents, TEENAGERS, and they will consider you to be "the enemy" until about the time they graduate from high school.