Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dreams of My Children, Part 1

My wife and I found ourselves in an unusual situation. The kids were in bed, her work was done, the dishes were washed, neither of us had a meeting to attend. There we were, face to face, with nothing to do for about five minutes before we collapsed into bed, exhausted.
"Maybe it's my imagination," she said, but wasn't there a time when we could sit down on the couch and talk for a while?"
A distant memory, from when the children were younger, began to form in my head. "You're right," I said. "I do faintly recall that. And I remember… golf."
Alice's eyes glazed over. "Back then, I could lie in the yard and get a tan and read a book. What happened to our lives?"

What happened to our lives is what happened to all parents: Our children hijacked them.
Normal conversation hasn't been possible for years in our house. A person can say only so many words in a day, and most of those are taken up with "For the fourth time, Brody, feed the animals!" and "If you don't stop sucking that thumb, young lady, I'm going to soak it in Tobasco sauce!"

A typical conversation between grown-ups goes like this: "I'll pick up the kids at school and take them to the dentist and then take Cait to Brownies," she says… "But will there be enough time to feed them before soccer practice?" he asks… "Will you be able to leave them at soccer practice and do the grocery shopping?" she asks… "How can I? I'm the coach," he replies… "Well, then I'll have to buy groceries tomorrow night when you take them to swimming lessons," she adds… "You can't because of that meeting at school and Boy Scouts," he says. And on and on and on.

We didn't know parenting would be like this. When we were younger, all we could think of was the joy of a new living being. Sure we had diapers and middle-of-the-night feedings to deal with, but babies sleep a lot, and they don't have to be ferried to dance classes and choir practice at the church. School plays and ski trips and hoagie sales were far from our minds back then. When you become a parent, you give up your own life. The new life you assume doesn't belong to you anymore - you only own a share of it.

I thought about this the other night as I stayed up until dawn, helping my son get through the worst night of the chicken pox. I kicked off my shoes and stretched out on the bed beside him. He was too feverish to sleep, and so we talked, and pretty soon the birds were chirping. Eventually, his fever subsided and he drifted off to sleep. My eyes burned with fatigue, but I felt good, as only a parent can feel good, about having a life that's no longer my own, but that's shared by others.

Happiness doesn't come cheap.

- March 1985

4 comments:

Monique Ringling said...

I'm so happy to have the opportunity to read your writings. I was in 5th grade when you wrote this. If I had read it back then, which I doubt I would have, I wouldn't appreciate it like I do now. Now, being a mother and wife, I totally relate to this lifestyle. Back then, I only read the 'Mini-Pages' and looked at the pictures.
Thanks for sharing these.

Anonymous said...

I was 18 months old when you wrote this. Thank you for digging this stuff up. Obviously, I would have had no opportunity to read this upon its initial publication... You wouldn't have any way to cross-tab this with OR news stories from the time, would you? What was going on in the world in March of '85 while your son had chicken pox? I know google will give me what I need, but here's to making the OR my one stop info shop.

-Ellipses

Park Burroughs said...

Well, in March 1985, Ronald Reagan was in his second term as president, and Mikhail Gorbachev had just taken power in the Soviet Union. Wrestlemania was born that month, and "Amadeus" won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins were denying rumors that the team was to be sold and moved to Hamilton, Ontario, and Mario Lemieux, in his second season, was on his way to scoring 141 points, second only to Wayne Gretsky. Waynesburg College's basketball team went to the NAIA championships in Kansas City, and lost, and Wash High's basketball team made it to the state finals again but failed to repeat as champion.

Ellipses said...

That's awesome...

Your google is cooler than mine.

-Ellipses