Parenting

To While Away the Hours

Stop doing the dishes. Stop picking half-digested food off the floor. Stop changing that diaper. Well, no, keep changing the diaper. And while doing so, ask yourself, "What is it we do all day?"

This is a question I get a lot, be it from my wife or my family or my friends, usually preceeded by one of these: "Why isn't the house clean? Why didn't you e-mail me back? Why didn't you mail that birthday card to your Great Aunt Isabella? Why are you so tired? Why didn't you answer the phone when I called?" Excuse me, but did you really want me to answer the telephone with a screaming toddler doing gymnastics on my leg and ten-month-old child wallowing in an overflowing diaper? Didn't think so.

So what is it that we do all day? Because, obviously, as most others would agree, we certainly don't work.

We don't wake up to crying in the cold winter months, long before the sun is up. We don't spend, on average, three to four hours each day walking through the house carrying ten or twenty or thirty pounds of toddler or infant or screaming devil child bent on destroying our eyeglasses or ripping the left cheek off our faces. We don't spend all day wondering, given today's technology, why someone hasn't invented a translator for baby-speak. If it's not a dirty diaper, or hunger, or exhaustion, causing that kid to scream, what the heck is it? Ask anyone to spend an hour answering that question, while a baby blasts a high pitched, glass shattering serenade into his ear drum, and he, too, will understand how lackadaisical and uneventful our days can be.

What else don't we do? Well, we don't beg children to eat their food instead of catapulting it from a high-chair to the floor. We don't pick up the same toys ten times a day, only to watch them spontaneously reappear when we turn our backs. We don't scavenge through the carpet on hands and knees for every piece of paper or lint or cat hair, every pointy object, all metal coinage (whatever the currency, it doesn't matter), or any McDonald's Happy Meal toy that came with parts "Not Intended for Children Under 3," just so that our chipper, ignorant children won't suddenly regret their decision to play javelin with their lunch and decide the paper clip they found under the coffee table will do just fine satisfying their hunger. We simply don't do those things. That would be too tiring.

So what do we do all day? I don't know. Apparently not much. But whatever it is, it's difficult and painful. And I have the rug burns on my knees to prove it.

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This post was originally shared on my at-home parenting blog, The Daily Writer, which has long since vanished. I’ve migrated many of the posts to this site for sentimental reasons.

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