Life as a stay-at-home dad is one of constant delay due to interruption. When my wife comes home from work and asks me how my day was, I often say it was good but then I have a difficult time remembering what it was I/we did all day. It’s because my day sometimes feels like a series of lurches and delays of self-assigned then forgotten and then remembered tasks with the occasional moment for myself.
For example, yesterday I finished folding the laundry (which I did after putting my daughter down for a nap), which I managed to do undisturbed, and was about to sit down and read a few pages of the book I checked out of the library that morning when my son decided that was the precise moment he needed to show me his latest Lego creation.
I was annoyed but I could not show that to him.
These are the moments, as tiny as they are, that mean so much to him. He doesn’t know what I’ve been doing, all I’ve been trying to accomplish throughout the day. He only knows that he has spent the last half-hour or hour working on this thing he has created, this Lego pirate ship made from Legos not from a pirate-type Lego set. He tells me it has escape pods in case the ship catches on fire, and he points them out. It’s inventive. It’s wonderful. It’s unique. He’s excited about this thing he’s just made.
As necessary as the many tedious daily things are like doing laundry and cleaning the dishes, they are, on some level, less important than my son’s desire and need for recognition. He wants to share something important to him with me. I know when he hits puberty he’s going to have a part of himself and his life that he is going to be indifferent, or even possibly hostile, about sharing with me. Until then, I want to enjoy the time I have with him, since eventually he’s going to (as he should) stake out a life of his own with plenty that I’ll no longer be privy to know. Hard to believe after feeding him with a bottle and wiping his butt years ago, that he will be independent of me, but that’s the goal; to raise an independent, confident, and self-sufficient person.
If I add up a series of these small moments and deny him that recognition, eventually he’ll become a disheartened apathetic kid. Which is the last thing I want to do to him, so as tired and even annoyed as I was, I told him that he had made something that is inventive and cool, and that he might want to know that big ships really do have escape pods, only they call them “life boats.” He looked happy and was fascinated by that little fact…Then he suddenly became hungry, needing a snack, and the rest of the afternoon disappeared…
Of course, I still wanted to read the book I checked out from the library (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa). But I thought it would have to wait until at least after dinner. I told myself I’d read it after the PBS News Hour. But then I was checking the onscreen guide for Dish network and saw that Andrew Zimmern had an episode of his show Bizarre Foods dedicated to Chicago, my hometown and I said to myself, “I can’t miss that.” I didn’t regret it as Zimmern visited with chefs like Grant Achatz and Rick Bayless, the Viena Beef hot dog factory, and Uncle John’s Barbecue joint on the South Side.
It’s after the show is over that I went up to the study and started typing what would become this blog post. My wife had just put our three-year-old daughter to bed and our son was getting ready. Around 9:30pm, with my wife reading our son stories in his room, my daughter could be heard going “da-da-da-da” along with one of those annoying Baby Einstein music-playing books. Her notes were a little different than the notes being played but that didn’t stop her cute spirited attempts to do the melody…Go the Fuck to Sleep, indeed.)
Then it was time for me to sleep and I was so tired I didn’t even bother to read in bed for a bit. The book would have to wait.