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Just Me and My Boy

Earlier this month, my five-year-old started kindergarten.  For her, it means longer school days, longer school weeks and more responsibility than she faced last year in 4k.  For me, it means that she’s away from home seven hours a day, Monday through Friday.  That’s thirty-five hours with only my three-year-old.  Just think how much writing I can get done with so much time!  No fighting.  No playing rough.  No working together to get the cat down off the bookshelf.  With only half the distraction, I should be able to get twice the work done on my next book…or so I thought…

Sometimes it really does work like I’d hoped.  Sometimes it’s quiet.  Sometimes he plays by himself with his toys.  Yesterday, he saw me typing on my laptop, so he went and fetched his little toy laptop and pulled up a chair at the table beside me and began banging away at it.  One day last week, I was working on a scene that I just wasn’t sure about, so I started at the top of the page and read it aloud to myself to see how it sounded.  About halfway down the page, he appeared beside my chair.  I reached the end of the scene, satisfied with how it sounded, and he said, “Thank you, Daddy.  Thank you for reading your book to me.”  These moments are truly priceless.  And with my wife teaching an extra class this semester, I’m spending more time alone with my son than ever before and more than ever before, I love being a stay-at-home dad. 

But life has a way of balancing things out, doesn’t it?  More often than not, I find it impossible to concentrate on my work because he no longer has his sister to entertain him and he wants my attention, often for far longer than I have the stamina to last.  And when I’m finally able to convince him to go and play with his toys, I’m quickly reminded of how incredibly annoying a great many of his toys are.  Between the tambourine (thanks so much, Uncle Gary) and the harmonica (you too, Grandma) and his talking Star Wars Clone Troopers helmet (…okay so I was the one who got him that…seemed like a good idea at the time…) I simply can’t form coherent thoughts. 

Now I find myself constantly struggling to balance work with parenting.  For this, nap times have been a blessing, but they’re starting to get shorter and I’m not sure how long he’ll be willing to take naps.  Of course, if I turn on the television, he’ll sit and watch quietly, sometimes for a considerably long time, but I don’t like to rely on the television.  It’s not a babysitter and I’ve never believed in using it as one…no matter how much I may want to…  The remaining option is to keep looking for things to keep him busy when I want to be writing.  Not too long ago, I brought out some Play-Doh and let him play with it while I worked.  Except for having to stop every few minutes to acknowledge his newest creation, it was quite successful in keeping him entertained…but what a mess!  I’m still finding that stuff!  I don’t even know how it found its way into the bathroom...  And I didn’t realize this before, but if you leave Play-Doh stuck to a hardwood floor overnight, you’ll need a putty knife to clean it up.  Oh, and for any new parents out there who still care to try this, be sure to clean it up before lunch.  Don’t just move it aside so he can continue playing with it when he’s done eating.  It will somehow find its way onto his plate and he won’t like it on his peanut butter sandwich.  Alternately, I suppose I could probably keep him busy with crayons for a while…but every time I do that, one of them vanishes…and a new work of art usually appears mysteriously somewhere in the house within a few days.  I remain somewhat skeptical about the eyewitness testimony accusing the cat. 

I would love to have my own “office hours” for my writing, where I can lock myself in my office and compose and edit my manuscripts in peace and without interruption...but that’s not going to happen as long as I still have a child at home during the day.  But on the plus side, I still have a child at home during the day.  I’d sure miss those little visits I get when I’m working and someone wants to give me a hug and a kiss… 

Kind of makes it all worth it.

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