Where The Time Goes: A Typical Day With A 4 Year Old And A 4 Month Year Old
Once in a while, someone will ask me: “How are you holding up?” or “So, how’s fatherhood treatin’ ya?”
I usually shrug off the question and state that it’s all good because everyone is healthy and we can still pay the bills, etc.
That’s the short version.
Do I really need to go into the details? Sure do.
So, here’s the long version, a summer snapshot of what it’s like to have a 4-year-old son (Wesley) and a 4-month-year-old daughter (Simone).
I don’t bother setting an alarm as I know Wesley will wake up sometime between 5:00am and 6:30am. I hear that he is awake through an audio / video monitor sitting on my bedside stand. He usually just repeats “Dada?…Dada?…Dada?…” until I walk into his room. Sometimes his voice is panicky, as if the room is inching up with water, and I rush over to his room. (Toe stubs are common.) I usually just sleep in my boxers and no shirt. This is a common outfit in my house. This is how my son sees me often.
Melissa is still sleeping in our bedroom with Simone in the bassinet or our bed. I block any chance of Wes darting towards them, as Simone needs as much sleep as possible. Wes loves being a brother and waking people up, but it’s too early for him to be tapping his hands at Simone’s forehead or squeezing her feet. He doesn’t understand his strength yet and it’s scary at times, as he slowly learns that he can cause physical harm.
We then walk down the stairs and he speeds up toward the family room sofa to “watch a show”. If he recently received a new toy, that might take precedence over the TV.
Lately, he wants to play the drums and sing his favorites, such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. He immediately became infatuated with this song, just like I did when I was 18, upon seeing the video. Prior to that, he was into Mick Jagger and then created a persona named Mick Karate that jumped around and grabbed his crotch in similar fashion. So, sometimes I have to grab the drum sticks from him as it’s just too early, even for our neighbors’ sake.
Wes patiently waits for me to toggle through the dozens of Netflix streaming content. Beat Bugs is a new one that will ruin The Beatles for you. Each episode features animated bug characters getting in predicaments and then they start singing cheesed out versions of Beatles songs. There are some good shows out there though: Thomas The Train, Daniel Tiger, Noodle & Doodle Bus… At one point, Wes wanted to watch nothing but manufacturing / factory videos, such “How Peanut Butter Is Made”. It only lasted a week, but it was glorious.
I then make Wes some breakfast, usually a piece of fruit and some bread and water. He is really into requesting to eat at the sofa, but I try and get him to eat at the table and pause the show. He continues to ask for food every 10 minutes. No joke. It’s getting tougher for him to eat healthy food, as that’s all he ever ate at one point, but now he’s into carbs, things like “jelly bread” that Dada screwed up and let him have a bite of once. One nibble of the junk is all it takes.
Sometimes, Wes just wants the show on as background noise as he works on one of his many projects, taking on homegrown personas, like Mr. Gun Man or Mr. Sword Man. (He has created a sword by fastening multiple vacuum attachments together.) Or, he dives into the role of Willy Wonka or a Ghostbuster (usually Egon). I join him in pretending to make candy bars or catch a few ghosts.
Still in my underwear, I try to do some yoga or lift weights while he is watching shows. The only other way to workout is to get up before the kids do, which sounds beyond exhausting, but it might be my only hope to stay in shape. Instead, I usually get fixated on killing ants. These fuckers are out of control this year. All it takes is a couple crumbs from a granola bar and you have a dozen plus ants having a party. (Yeah, I know about Terro, but that seems to kill one colony at a time and not focus on the complete eradication of the buggers throughout our property.)
I find time to scarf something down my throat, make a pot of coffee, and start sipping. I usually have two cups before I go to work and two more before noon.
Around 7:30am, Melissa comes down and I take a quick shower and get dressed, dodging the piles of endless laundry and plastic colorful toys. (The minimalist in me begs for mercy.) The morning sun shines on the blotches of spit up from Simone on the floors and layers of dust on the blinds. I vow to clean the whole house one day, but have yet to even try.
I am gone from the house about 10 hours a day, usually 8:15am to 5:45pm. I sit in an air conditioned office and wear a buttoned down shirt tucked into Dockers and work on digital marketing projects. It’s not really work, as I enjoy it. My wife is home alone with the kids all day. That is work. Anyone that is home with kids all day is working extremely more (emotionally, physically, mentally) than someone sitting in a climate controlled office with favorite albums streaming through earbuds.
When I am back home, Melissa sometimes has dinner ready. It’s extremely difficult, as she’s not just heating up chicken nuggets and plopping down apple sauce. She’s usually creating a masterpiece derived from organic seasonal Lancaster CSA produce.
When I walk through the door, Wesley starts talking to me as if I had been in his shadow for the entire day, as if I never left. There is no “Hey, Dada!” Simone is positioned on top of the dining room table and watches us all eat, if there’s time. Wes is super stubborn with food, even with the faves he used to devour, so it’s sometimes a lot of convincing for him to achieve a nibble. The worst scenario is he throws his food on the floor. Game over.
I take Wes and Melissa takes Simone.
For Wes, this is usually a two hour period from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. It can go longer though. It’s usually a bath, pajama time, teeth brushing and story time or special videos. Depending on whether he took an afternoon nap or not, the outcome can be smooth to chaotic. Baths can have buckets of water on the floor, snacks can have tossed food, and teeth brushing can have a toothbrush stabbed in my eye.
Finally, I then sit with him in a glider chair and hold him the same way that I did when he was an infant. He requests this. Sometimes he conks out and I can put him in bed. Lately, I then have to lay down with him in his bed. He likes to use my bony arm as a pillow. If I leave too soon, he’ll just call me back. Our creaky floors make for a tough escape and require ninja prowess, but thankfully we use a sound machine set to crickets to help aid with his sleep. The crickets make it tough for me to not fall asleep. As I lay in the darkness with him, I usually come up with topics to write about, define some short story characters or craft a melody.
This is a usually a 2 hour period from 8:30pm to 10:30pm. At this point, I can finally glance at my massive “to do” list. The majority of it is draining, boring homeowner responsibilities like re-spooling the weed trimmer, organizing the cluttered basement, vacuuming the cars strewn with crumbs, figuring out what the hell is wrong with the dishwasher, adjusting the front screen door.
Melissa and I usually eat some more, as dinner was likely rushed or missed, and plop down in front of the TV to watch CNN pundits talk about Trump and Hillary, cities on fire, cities flooded, ISIS and other soothing topics to gently wind down the day. This is often muted and we then ask whether we want to watch a show. Energy is so low, so that’s often the ticket. But there are just too many fucking shows in our bloated Netflix queue. Gone are the show binges of five episodes in one sitting. Ken Burns documentaries? Ha!
My antisocial hobbies of writing and music (me in the the basement with a keyboard), combined with my creative juices being zapped, keep putting these projects on hold. Improved willpower is helping though. I keep thinking, if only I had five free hours in a row. How fathers find time to do things on their own for hours at a time is beyond me. I’m convinced that they either shackle their wives in the basement or have them brainwashed into thinking that their way is the only way.
In short, Saturday and Sunday are all about the kids, as they should be. Hanging out with friends and family that have similarly aged kids is fun and more enjoyable, as we’re all going through the same scenarios (crisis) on a daily basis.
If the four of us can do something together, it’s usually the best time. We strive for those moments. But it’s difficult as weekends are prime time for Melissa’s photography business.
From touring area playgrounds to grocery shopping, the kids are with us and we try to be outside if possible.
Hanging out with friends (which are now old friends) seems to be a seasonal activity, but highly relished.
So…whoopty freakin’ do! Right?
I know all families of young kids are different, but maybe this will help mentally prepare a future Dada that is reading the same vague “what to expect when you’re expecting” articles that I read before kids.