There is an eerie quiet in my home this misty Saturday morning. My daughters stayed over with my in-laws last night so that my wife and I could go out on a much needed date. Things seem thrown all out of kilter. I actually managed to read the Saturday paper, something that was a singular pleasure of mine in my former, pre-parent life. Nowadays I end up having to throw half of it away without having read it, my attempts interrupted by little voices asking for something, wanting to play, or me looking up to see my daughters about to deface something with a Sharpie or put stickers on the wood floors.
I ate a simple breakfast, but I could savor it without having to hear the strands of Peppa Pig or similar entertainment in my ears, or without assembling a breakfast for my daughters and pleading with them to actually eat it or not get it all over the table. Instead I'm playing an old favorite folk-rock record (Rod Stewart's Gasoline Alley, to be precise) and feeling something on a Saturday morning I haven't felt in so long: relaxation. My wife is sleeping in, enjoying the opportunity for once.
In my younger days, I never felt more at peace at any point in the week than I did on Saturday morning. My shower washed the working week off of my back, and the next Monday morning was still a rumor. When I lived in Michigan I had a well-developed practice of walking two blocks to buy a copy of the Times, then strolling a few blocks more to a diner, where I would read the paper while quaffing coffee and devouring corned beef hash or some similar concoction. I'd then walk home, totally at peace.
There are the days when I long for the boredom of youth. Long stretches of empty time are actually good for the soul. My current day to day existence resembles a kind of spiritual trench warfare. I get up at 5AM, wake my daughters up (or at least start them stirring), get dressed, and then walk the dog while my wife and daughters get dressed. Right before leaving with the dog at 5:20 I get the coffee going, and when I get back, I feed her and get breakfast ready for my daughters as my wife helps them get dressed. They come downstairs at about 5:35. I eat with and supervise them while my wife prepares their stuff for school. Then my wife comes out of the kitchen for her breakfast about 5:50 while I put shoes on the girls, brush their hair, and make sure they don't have yogurt all over their faces. I am often unsuccessful in the latter endeavor.
About 6:05 we get up to leave, with varying levels of resistance from my daughters. We walk down the back steps, with varying levels of resistance, then strap them in their car seats, also with varying levels of resistance. At 6:10 we back out of the driveway, so that I can be dropped off at the train station at 6:18 so I can catch my train that picks me up at 6:22. My wife then drives the girls to preschool before going to her own job.
We've managed to perfect the routine to the point that it rarely fails to get us all out of the house when we need to be. But man is it exhausting, and after it I still have to do my arduous commute, great but demanding job, and then another duel with the New York commute on the way home. Sitting here writing a blog post (which usually only happens after dark) while slowly drinking coffee and listening to old records in the morning light is so astounding to me that I can barely believe that I am actually experiencing such a once mundane thing.
I am desperate for my wife to wake up. I so so badly want to get in the car and pick my daughters up from the their grandparents. Being in this home without them feels wrong. I want to see their smiling faces, I want to build Lincoln Log cabins with them. I want to watch old Batman episodes and play around in the sandbox. Before being a parent I did not know I was even capable of these feelings. As much as I can appreciate the taste of my former life I'm getting this morning, I wouldn't trade what I have now for anything.