Home > Essays > You know we’ll have a good time then

You know we’ll have a good time then

Sometimes in my current pre-divorced state I find myself kicking the tires on single parenting: going it alone on shopping, meal preparation, laundry, getting kids out the door in the morning, checking on homework and all the other things that don’t sound nearly as important as going to the office and pushing out a report on the US Immigration Courts but nevertheless become my primary focus when my soon-to-be-former partner is out of town.

While on daddy-duty I tend to focus on the tasks at hand, and frequently feel too harried and put-upon to listen to a synopsis of the latest book in the Warriors series or a preview of the features expected in Portal 2. At times like this I wonder if I’m sounding a little too much like the dad in the Harry Chapin song who never had time for his kid.

But once in a while I manage to step out of what I’m doing and really pay attention. And then I wonder what life is going to be like when seeing them get up in the morning and go to bed at night is the exception and not the routine. Sometimes I admit I’m impatient for the day when I’m on a predictable schedule of responsibility. But there are some moments when the enormity of the coming change smacks me in the face and I get maudlin for the kind of idyllic suburban family life that I occasionally glimpsed but never really had.

This morning I had one of those pauses. The two younger boys had just gotten on their bus, which was mercifully only ten minutes late. It’s been as much as a half hour late, and when that happens I have to choose between leaving the kids sitting outside so I can get to my bus, or waiting and giving up on getting to work at anything close to my normal time.

So they got on their bus and I had twenty minutes for the thirteen minute walk to the bus stop. I like this time because it gets me exercise as well as time to think or even, if it’s not too snowy or rainy, do some reading (yes, I read while walking). I also get to watch the parade of yellow buses go by: besides the three public schools in the vicinity, there’s a private school just down the street, and I’m always amazed to see all the far-flung school districts represented by these students.

One of those buses turned out to be the very one my kids boarded a few minutes earlier. I looked up to see my eleven year old flashing a toothy, goofy grin while he waved at me. The bus stopped at a light and I caught up with it, creating another waving opportunity. It passed me again, only to stop at the intersection to make a left turn. As I walked by a final time, I turned and caught one more wave from my youngest and that’s when it hit me that I’d probably have a lot fewer of these wonderful silly interludes. Of course I’m already having fewer as the kids get older. Even if I weren’t moving out, I’ve always made it clear that I expected them to.

But what I’m realizing in these countdown days is that while I shouldn’t idealize my parenting experiences — there have been plenty of frustrations all around — I nevertheless want to cherish my kids and the good times we have while I’m still part of their daily lives. Whether it’s cooking something like broccoli quiche that they like so much they’re too busy stuffing their faces to tell me so, or trying to appreciate the various kinds of music they create or consume, or watching with satisfaction as they make friends and little by little go about the task of replacing their parents as their principle avenues of companionship and support. Basically trying to Be Here Now. And of course, avoiding those “Cats in the Cradle” moments.

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Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,
  1. March 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I wonder if men of our generation parent differently (as a whole) because we grew up hearing that song?

    • March 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      My guess would be “yes.” I don’t know because I never asked him, but I doubt my dad felt guilty about missing out on parenthood joy because of being too busy working himself into a grave supporting us.

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