Me & the Boy

I doubt this post will be of must interest to anyone but future-me, and maybe Kathy, and maybe my folks in a sort of I-knew-he-would-eventually-feel-like-this sort of way. But that’s cool with me. ­čÖé

Kathy’s been gone to Kentucky for a few days for her grandmother’s funeral (and celebration of a vibrant life well-lived), which means that SPL and I have been on our own. It’s the first time that he and I have been on our own for more than about a day, and it’s been a really interesting experience. And really good for us, I think — I’m coming to a bunch of different realizations.

First off, a prosaic one that’s going to sound completely obvious: being the sole adult responsible for a child is an incredible, consuming responsibility. There are no real breaks, there aren’t any times when you’re able to totally think about non-kid-related work. You’re always either just coming in from dropping him off somewhere or about to pick him up, or wondering whether you remembered to put his lunch together or reminded him to wear socks or some other damn thing. It’s constant, in ways that I’m not used to. And it’s a lot of work. So many things to keep track of.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I know that lots of people deal with lots more complex lives than my life with just one essentially well-behaved five year old. I’ll tell you candidly: I have no idea how single parents with more than 1 kid do it. Profound, profound respect for those that do.

Second, also obvious: Kathy makes everything go here; she makes everything possible. I feel like I’m a very involved dad, but man, the stuff that she takes care of all day long every day is just about rocket science for me to remember. Let’s just say that SPL would be a significantly hungrier, more sunburned, and more hatless kid if I were in charge. Kathy’s everything here.

But beyond all the details of making a kid’s life work and balancing that with your own work, I’m learning a lot by being with SPL so many more hours each day. Since it’s just the two of us, we sort of process our days with each other exclusively (he does it by talking about which super-villians we’re pretending to be, but you know, he’s five. It’s cool.).

I’m finding that without Kathy, I tend to be too focused on getting things done, getting all our chores done, making use of the time we have. Today was a busy day and we did a lot, including ordering new glasses for me (5 years overdue), replacing my 9 year old car, getting haircuts for both of us, doing a workout, and various other chores. We played a little Lego Star Wars, too, which is good, but I can’t really figure out how to get past this one level in Episode 1, so I might have to do some research tonight. SPL did amazingly well throughout, but by the end of the day he was a little more fragile emotionally than usual. I think it’s because I didn’t build in a bunch of down time in the schedule just to play and be five. There’s a harder, more focused edge to the way I think about time that probably doesn’t give SPL everything he needs. So I’m a little too focused, I think.

Interestingly, I’m finding I’m also not focused enough — that is, I’m not focused quite enough on the right things about some of our interactions. I’m too distracted, thinking about too many other things.

My takeaway here, other than the obvious one that Kathy does so much to make our family work, and that the three of us form a really special and functional unit, is that I want to reorient what I focus on, that I need to struggle again (and always) to be more present and in the moment. None of this is that new, it’s just more profoundly and acutely felt when you get a few days together with another soul — and that’s another takeaway: dedicated, exclusive, coherent time with your family moves relationships ahead unlike anything else.

So: we’re missing Kathy and are glad she’ll be back tomorrow; have gotten a ton of stuff done; are planning on not doing much at all tomorrow until Kathy gets back into SFO; and: I’m a lucky, lucky guy, for lots of reasons, chief of which are Kathy and SPL.

2 comments

  1. Awesome post. Single Moms (still mostly Moms) have the toughest job in the world. Imagine if they don’t even have the bare necessities to take care of their children? That’s why we’re starting Outgrown.it!

    What car did you get?

    I was just looking at my Lego Star Wars and waiting till my son can play with me. He’s only 3.5. I can’t wait!

    Cheers,
    Hong

  2. Theresa Harnisch

    Enjoyed your post. And totally agree on the single parent respect. Hats off to them.