like an amusement park wave pool.
As you approach it, you sense a giddy nervousness; the people behind you, as well as those already in the pool, enthusiastically encouraging you to run in. The only people not noticing you are the one's who are way up near the paddles. They're either daredevils feeding off masochism, or so desperate not to drown they're focused on nothing other than keeping their heads above the waves.
Parenting's shallow end is basic survival:
eat, sleep, be clothed and have shelter. As you advance further into parenting,
the waves increase in frequency, speed, and magnitude: sleeplessness, office
work, laundry, play dates, schooling, home repair, medical emergencies, and
tantrums. Wave after wave after wave.
But, every so often, breakwaters can be installed; projects can be delayed, play dates can be rescheduled, and family obligations can be (occasionally) offloaded and reassigned.
Our family is in the middle of another phase
of home renovation. This chapter is scheduled to last 4-6 weeks. Truthfully,
this is part of an lifelong ongoing process which has left various
corners of our house in need of "cosmetic" retouches. Every homeowner
is familiar with them: mouldings which need to be replaced, baseboards left
unpainted, a basement carpet which, one decade soon, will qualify as 'retro'.
This current renovation seems to coincide with a convergence of 1.4 million birthday parties, including our son's. (November and December fall 9 months after Valentine's Day and March break - this explains parents drowning in parties this time of year.)
These birthday parties seem perfectly planned to allow just enough travel time between them: both my kids can attend all of them, as long as I give them lunch at 10:30 in the morning, and keep the car twelve mile per hour above the speed limit.
The parties also seem to end at an hour just early enough to for me to still have to make them supper. They will invariable refuse to eat my meal - they've been taxidermied with cake and juice - but they will complain at bedtime they're hungry since they haven't eaten since 4 o'clock.
And with two elementary school-aged kids, I'm only halfway into the wave pool.
The pool deepens as winter approaches:
appointments must be made for flu shots, winter tires and tune-up,
rust-proofing, gutter cleaning, digging out the winter clothes and shelving the
Then I read tweets from people boasting they've already completed their Christmas shopping; that makes me want to stop fighting the big waves, and just let the paddles knock me unconscious.
This Saturday, however, I'm pulling myself out of the wave pool.
I've declared Saturday a Daddy holiday.
I'm going to find some sport I don't care about on TV, and watch it purely as an excuse to nap on the couch. When I wake up, I'm going to groggily reach for the remote control and fumble around until I manage to reach the movie channel. Then, I'm going to fall asleep to something else.
Knowing that day has been set aside has already made me a better father and husband. I feel energized, more able to put in extra effort, and have more patience because there is a break in sight.
It's as though I'm in the deepest part of the wave pool, but someone has fifianlly signalled to me: "only 5 more minutes", then I can climb out.
It is vital (and difficult) for a couple to maintain a connection outside of parenthood. It is just as important to find solitude for yourself and recharge; it may also be more difficult. When life already threatens to drown a parent in daily duties, making it clear you need to be left alone for a day can be a risky pronouncement. But mental health is as important as physical health. Time to yourself is the psycholigical flu shot during this busy, tiring season.
Tonight, as I tuck my kids in, their night-time
questions will be met with more patience. Once they're asleep, I'll be more
willing to entertain my wife's ideas about the ongoing renovations. When we all
wake up tomorrow, I may have the energy to be more creative with breakfast. All
this because I see an opportunity to be selfish, and I'm taking it.
Wave pools can be playfully refreshing on a hot summer day; but, eventually, you have to pull yourself up a ladder and go sit in the shade for a few minutes - alone.