I found myself at the park. The park is not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in my apartment, at my desk, doing some writing on my new story. Not 20 minutes prior to this very moment, where I found myself standing in ankle deep snow feet protected only by a pair of cloth sneakers, I had suggested to Dave that he take the child for a bike ride.
I’d suggested this because the child was repeatedly climbing inside a box on the couch and then jumping off the couch while enclosed in the box. He did this several times, and although he didn’t get hurt, it was clear that he had more energy than could be properly contained within our two bedroom apartment. Dave was the one who pointed this out. Hence my suggestion that he take the child for a ride.
The suggestion was not met with overwhelming joy and enthusiasm. Instead Dave pointed out that he was exhausted. I pointed out that for sure we were both exhausted but that the child still needed to go out. He’d already noticed the excess energy, as evidenced by the box bouncing across the floor with child contained within it.
An argument ensued, as one so often does, with one party attempting to convince the other party that their own personal need to sit alone at home in peace and silence was greater then the need of the other. Dave, it turns out, wanted to sit and do some writing. He hadn’t had much time recently, he said, and therefore the need was great. I pointed out that I too had this need, that this need was also great, and that the amount of time I had alone in our house in which to do work was shockingly limited, to the point of being almost nonexistent. Dave pointed out again that he was tired. I rolled my eyes, I said “for sure we’re both tired, that’s so irrelevant.”
In his defense, I know that he was tired, but level of exhaustion, as I pointed out to him, does not negate the parental responsibility to get the child out of doors when the child requires it and the weather, amidst this frigid winter, permits. The box by now was nearly destroyed, and the child had managed to unearth some Starburst candy that must’ve been between the couch cushions. Said Starburst would only serve to exacerbate the problem, and the fact remained that the child still needed to get out of the house.
We then took ourselves to one of the bedrooms and went back-and-forth. My “are you going to do the grown-up thing and take the child to the park” was followed up with “if you can’t be bothered, and I’ll do it myself.” Phrases like that ran back-and-forth in the bedroom where we found ourselves, the door partially ajar, the sounds of boxes and bubble paper continuing to be hurled about the living room by the child. In the end, I took pity on Dave, perhaps positioning myself as some sort of park-going martyr, and realized Dave would just as soon watch the house come down around him than go outside. I took the child to the park.
In the confusion, in the turmoil, and with all the frustration, we neglected to put on C’s boots, and I neglected to put on my own. When we got to the park kids were sledding. I completely forgotten about sledding, it was a mild day, a bunch of snow had melted, plus I had signed up for a bike ride not getting soaking wet on the melting hill. C was a little annoyed, seeing the kids sledding and shouting and screaming and in general having a gay old time. I had to think fast, we had to turn the whole thing into an adventure. We took the trails past the snowed-in skate park, around the hill we call a mountain, down to the pier. It was a gray day, and rather late in the afternoon after all the arguing was finished and C and I finally and embarked for the park. But we managed to work it out okay, despite the soaking wet sneakers.
By the time bedtime rolled around and C was well ensconced under toasty covers, I was glad I’d gone with him. We’d had a fun time, and I told him so. I know he’d heard Dave and I arguing about it, and while my initial impulse was to pretend he hadn’t, I decided to address it.
“I’m really glad I went with you to the park,” I said.
“You are?” he asked, surprised.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to go at first, because I wanted to stay inside where it’s warm and do my own thing, but I had a great time with you.”
“Well I had a great time too!” he said.
I hoped I hadn’t done any permanent damage.
I don’t know quite how I became master of outings. If there’s a birthday party, bike ride, play date, beach trip, that’s all my job. I don’t begrudge it, necessarily, I like doing that stuff with C, I like taking him around to do stuff, even though getting out the door is so complicated. All I’m really saying I guess, is that I could use a little time alone in my apartment. Or even anywhere. Even in a closet. Or the shower. Or the toilet. The subway doesn’t count as alone time.
I feel like there’s just no time. I don’t know how other people do it. I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. in hopes that I will rise, pull on a sports bra and sneakers, and go to the gym. But by 5:30 a.m. C has woken up and climbed into our bed and I’m faced with the choice of snuggling my sleeping child, who will not want me to snuggle him forever, or go exercise so that I have a better chance of being around forever. By 7 a.m. we’re getting breakfast together, and I’m faced with the choice of getting ready for work or sitting to eat with my son, knowing how fleeting time is, and having read studies about how essential it is that one eat breakfast with one’s child to ensure that said child not become an ax murderer. By 8 a.m., if I didn’t go to the gym at 5:30, I’m faced with the choice of going to the gym and being late for work, or just running off to work. In the meantime, Dave and I have so many interesting things to talk about, and we each vie to transmit our ideas between teeth brushing, lunch making, and pulling the car around to drive to school.
Once at work I start wishing it was my day for school pick up, or conversely I realize how much work I have to do in so little time because it’s my day for school pick up. After work there are more options. Have I made plans to see friends or a play because I know Dave is home tonight to watch C? Or am I rushing home to see C before dinner and bedtime? If I’m heading out I feel grief to not be home with C, if I’m rushing home I feel penned in. It’s a constant conflict and I never feel like I make the right decision. Do I embark upon a new art project knowing that it will mean less time with my son? Do I not do the project knowing that I will feel a void? There’s a void either way; which one is more tolerable? I want to work. I want to play with C. I want to talk to Dave. I can’t do them all at once.
After C’s bedtime Dave and I eat together. Dave likes to have dinner just the two of us, and since we’re so surprised 16 years into this marriage, 20 years into the relationship, 24 years into knowing each other, that we still like being together, we eschew the family dinner most nights and dine alone. After dinner, and clean up, I am faced with another set of options: go to bed and get enough sleep so I can hit the gym at 5:30, stay up and talk to Dave all night, or watch him go to bed and stay up myself until 2 am to write, or watch movies that no one else wants to watch, or clean the bathroom, or idle on social media.
I can’t shake this feeling that everything will come crashing apart any second, that despite my best efforts something horrible will happen to one of us, to all of us, or that my artwork is not as communicative as I want it to be, or that something will happen to me and that all my son will have left of me are memories of the time we’ve spent together thus far. The thing is, as far as the latter goes, that will be true at some point. Or, piercing my heart to even think it, the reverse. How fiercely I guard my heart against contemplation of these things.
Because I have this virulent need to comprehend and plan contingencies for the worst possible scenarios, I have it all sorted out, what will happen when the worst happens. I have this all sorted out so I can get through the day, so that I can say goodbye in the morning.
I’m vaguely sorry for being so direct with you, reader, but I’m having trouble maintaining under the pressure of modern life. I know I’m not the only one. And that’s why I let you know. I’m trying my hardest. I am really, most sincerely, trying my hardest.