Nothing to do

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My kids are finally out of school, and I'm finding my bearings again. My four-year-old son was only in preschool a couple days a week, but on those days the pressure of figuring out what to do with myself often seemed too much. I have some projects I'm working on unrelated to what ends up on this blog, but those few hours away from them every week often felt too decadent to get much done. I have some friends with kids in daycare all day who have flexible schedules or summers off and I see them out doing things for themselves and I try to remember what that feels like. Every time I did something ordinary (like housekeeping or shopping) without my kids I'd think, This time is too valuable to be doing this. I could do this with the kids here. I should be doing something more important. And yet nothing seemed important enough. I went from measuring my days with coffee spoons at a law firm to near paralysis when presented with a few minutes where I didn't need to answer questions about whether a pirate could kill Robocop or the IMMEDIATE NECESSITY of pouring somebody another goddamn glass of orange juice. I heard some hippie idiot on the radio a couple weeks ago talking about how there are only a handful of places left on earth where you can experience true silence; if he loves silence so much he just needs to ride with us to school in the morning and wait until I get back into the car without them.

I am not trying to say that I don't enjoy them. I mean to say that I have simply forgotten how to function without the cacophony.

But back to today, fielding absurd questions about buried treasure and slinging OJ. I love being with them. This is my purpose. This is where I belong.

The kids are giddy with the possibilities of nothing to do. My son slept until 10:00 a.m. yesterday---an act I would find contemptible in a teenager---but when he emerged bedheaded and adorable from this well-deserved slumber, I picked him up and swung him around and buried my beard in his neck to sleep-throaty giggles. Where have you been all this time? Does anyone really remember what it feels like to be a kid in those first days of summer vacation? It is a marvel to see it from this side.

My daughter just finished the first grade. Already I see her slipping into the mentality and rhythm that school brings to life. Next fall means a new grade to look forward to, with new things to learn and do. After all those new falls there will be more falls, and then there will be college. After college she'll move someplace new for a new job. With the job there will be other things to look forward to: career success, perhaps, and marriage. Even kids, eventually. We spend so much of that part of our life looking forward, wondering about the excitement right around the next slight curve. The big promotion. The proof you've made it. It's weird when you get somewhere and all that stops. You look down at where you're standing and think I have arrived. I am happy here. I should enjoy this, and not worry about what's around the next corner. We're not conditioned to be content.

Next year both my kids will be in school all week. I am acutely aware of this, I think, because for the last several years I haven't really had to worry about the horizon. Dropping out of the grind to spend my days with them has been the luckiest and best thing that's ever happened to me. Somewhere in July every kid feels the anxiety of summer's eventual end. But we have a little bit of time before that happens. Right here, where we're standing, right now: we're going to enjoy this day.