Tag Archives: children

The Chaos

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I’m still in the midst of playing catch-up after my New Orleans trip and getting a handle on my freelance work. The above page of doodles is something I dug out of a drawer. It’s from 2002 or thereabouts, and it represents, well, chaos. There’s also a rare hand in the middle there.

In the midst of my busy schedule and tapped mental state, I haven’t wanted to post just for the sake of posting. But every day that goes by without an update on this blog makes me antsy.

Today I had my son with me at the office for a spell, and then all three kids for a particularly busy stretch after a co-worker’s program crashed and took a chunk of work with it. It was a marathon day, a nonstop day. And now I have my work at home. Still, I wanted to post tonight.

Journalist Josh Levs is writing a book, titled Stretch Out, about “American fatherhood” and ways life can improve for families. I talked to him at length while in New Orleans, and he’s looking for more dads and moms to contribute to his research. You can find a list of questions here.

I was happy to be able to give him some potentially usable material, and I can’t wait to read his book. I’ll have to wait until 2015, but I have enough to keep me busy until then, I’m sure.

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Almost … There

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As I write this, I’m about an hour away from the penultimate leg of my journey back from the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans. I’ll write over the next week about the amazing experience I had at the conference and in the city, but for now, I’m just anxiously waiting for the final several-hour flight that stands between me and my three kids. We have a big drive ahead of us tomorrow, but that’s no big thing to me.

I really can’t wait to see my children.

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Reality Week: Resource allocation

Reality Week: Resource allocation

There’s only so much of me to go around.

Admittedly, there’s more of me than there used to be. Somewhere in the comments on a prior post you’ll see that I took ballet instead of PE in high school, and I was the fittest then that I’ve ever been. College, too, was a good time for my body, as I walked everywhere and participated in some organized physical activity multiple times a week. I didn’t have chiseled abs, but I also didn’t have much of a gut.

Then I got a desk job and fell in love with a woman who cooks with real butter, and, well—the drawings of myself on this site are more flattering than you may think.

But the point is that I’m finite, even if I have more mass now than I used to. I can’t be in multiple places at once, and I can’t expend more energy than I’ve got. (For too long, anyway.) My day job as an editor is mentally taxing, riddled with ethical dilemmas and frequent fires that need putting out. Parenting three kids is even more taxing, as is secretly trying to figure out how, exactly, to do that parenting on the fly with my equally drained wife.

I was all set to write today’s post about sleep deprivation, but I found myself lacking the energy—not from being physically tired (though I am), but from being mentally and emotionally stripped bare, like my work and my children are gangly, co-conspiring, deadline-hammering and tantrum-throwing giraffes methodically devouring the leaves on my tree of will.

To be honest: I hate that. Admittedly, it’s not every day, but it’s a lot of them. And I hate that. I don’t want this blog to be my personal complaint desk staffed by you, but I hate that.

Yesterday afternoon, my 6-year-old daughter staged a major fit (Threat Level: Midnight) at a friend’s house, insulting her best friend and my other daughter in the process. Oh, and she deliberately broke a meticulously constructed model bridge her friend had built.

When I arrived to pick her up, I was far more embarrassed and contrite than my cranky daughter was, and I felt the will to do anything later in the evening slowly sap away as she subsequently fought me about: leaving the house under her own power, leaving the house at all, getting in the van under her own power, getting in the van at all, getting into her seat, staying in her seat, getting buckled, staying buckled, refraining from shouting at her sister, refraining from shouting at me, refraining from justifying her behavior as appropriate, refraining from telling us all that she wished she were the only person in the world so she could do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted.

The van had been in for a routine maintenance check earlier in the day, and it began wobbling and pulling a bit to the right as I drove home.

I have grand plans each morning. I wake up with the day vast and shimmering in front of me like a fresh whiteboard, and I proceed to fill it in with tasks and duties, hopes and goals. Life necessities (food) come first, followed by luxuries like showers. (I joke, but not much.) Then come the work obligations and mandatory chores (like buying groceries or getting the car smogged). Quality time with my children and wife—and friends, occasionally—goes up, though farther down the list than it should be. And then come my own writing projects, hobbies, and the like.

As the day goes on, I start erasing items on the board. Not because of lack of time, but because I start petering out. Some days I only erase a few things; some days I get all the way down to the essentials necessary to maintain consciousness.

Several years ago, I wrote a single line on a scrap of paper: “How strange and easy it is to go from living to simply existing.” I wasn’t in a good place when I wrote that, and I’ve been fighting it ever since. But the fight takes energy, too.

I’ll be honest with you again: I hate that I can’t do everything. I want to date my wife and spend time with each child individually and collectively and read my book club book and write the blog post I’d planned and chip away at the young adult novel bouncing around inside my head and call my parents and just zone in front of the TV for a while. Some of those things require discipline, yes, but some just need the sort of mental energy I don’t have in ready supply these days. The bad thing is that I tend to leave zoning on the whiteboard.

Because zoning is easy—and easy to justify—especially when my mind is still reeling from the day. And I love Andy Dwyer.

I’ve been finding, though, that the more I leave on the whiteboard throughout the day—even if I don’t feel like leaving it up there—the more often I get more stuff done. Like writing this. Here I am, a week into the Shallows, and I really didn’t feel like blogging. As I work on this, I still have some editing work to catch up on, a freelance deadline to meet, and (shh … don’t tell my wife) two anniversary presents to complete by Wednesday. And, oddly, I feel like I can handle that—despite the nuclear daughter-splosion and the shimmying van from earlier in the day.

Productivity breeds productivity, I guess. When I actually sit down to do the stuff on my whiteboard, I get a sort of momentum going. Yeah, I guess it is discipline. So this blog is probably good for me.

And here’s another thing I’ve learned: Time alone with my wife is always a good choice. She’s got a whiteboard, too. And I’m usually on it.

Do you have a whiteboard? How about a giraffe?

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Reality Week: The things we say

Reality Week: The things we say

As I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, my wife and I went into marriage with—we believe—expectations that acknowledged romance while making room (quite a bit of room, actually) for challenges. But a relationship isn’t all highs and lows, swinging between candle-lit dinners out and fights ending in tears. In fact, the bulk of it is spent in between those poles, even if the extremes make for more indelible memories.

So we get conversations about me buying new jeans at Ross, to replace the ones with a large hole that clearly shows off my underwear, which I nevertheless wore to church yesterday (true story); questions about scheduling trips to the mechanic and dentist on the same day; and triumphant announcements regarding fruit-fly-breeding-ground discoveries.

Children certainly contribute to the proliferation of these middle-of-the-road talks. My wife wouldn’t have been searching for the source of the fruit flies if we hadn’t packed a peach into a snack bag for my oldest daughter, then gone about our lives for a full week assuming it had been eaten and the snack bag put away.

(Children certainly contribute to the proliferation of fruit flies, too.)

These everyday words are necessary. I now own a pair of jeans that doesn’t display my choice of boxers (they had “love” written all over them, literally) to the congregation. Logistics have been worked out so that my wife won’t develop a cavity and the van’s airbag light will (hopefully) stop flashing at us. And we won’t have so many fruit flies around anymore.

These are the words our days are made of.

But there’s something more there, despite these words’ mundanity—or maybe even because of it. Choosing to spend each day with someone—knowing that most of those days will be filled with dishes and debates on bedtime and minor negotiations and all the rest—is an act of love itself. Which can make even the typical extraordinary.

Well, “extraordinary” may be a bit strong, but you get what I’m saying. My wife’s “I figured out where the fruit flies are coming from” is just like Westley’s “As you wish.”

What’s the word around your home?

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