Dear Dave

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Dipping a toe in the temporal sea

Dear Dave,

I'm still feeling peculiar.

Yesterday was just strange.

I mean, totally odd...

Marie finally had her first full day of education. I gave her a hug, shoved her towards the school door and then waved at her fruitlessly as she ran off to join her friends without a backward glance. Once she was inside I didn't know whether to shed a tear or let off a couple of party poppers. There was a temptation to simply lie down on a bench and groan quietly to myself.

I've been working towards having all three children at school for so long, I found myself at something of a loss once they were actually there. Six child-free hours stretched before me like a vast ocean of possibility and yet every drop of time felt precious and not to be wasted. As ever when faced with such opportunity, I was paralysed by indecision.

It wasn't that I couldn't think of things to do. Far from it. I just didn't know where to start. So much has been put on hold for the nine years since Fraser was born, six hours didn't feel like very long to catch up on lost time.

On the other hand, it was far longer than I felt capable of dealing with effectively. Nine years of small children has accustomed me to sprinting through everything. It started when Fraser was a baby - he'd often nap for three hours during the day but I never knew when those three hours would be or whether they'd come all at once. Sometimes I'd get an entire afternoon to myself; sometimes I'd get half an hour here and there. On occasion, I'd get nothing. I became expert at grabbing opportunities. I'd leave tasks set out, ready to go, and launch myself into them the second Fraser's eyes closed. I didn't faff around checking my email or drinking a coffee first. There wasn't time. I dashed through chores, hoping to get them finished before I was onto the next round of milk and nappies.

As the number of children in the house increased, the windows of opportunity shortened to the point where they disappeared and I seemed to be running through the day merely to stand still. This situation has obviously eased greatly as the kids have got older but, nonetheless, I've rarely had large chunks of time to fill. When the kids are all home, they can entertain themselves for hours... but they seldom do. I'm left to scavenge the time scattered between family activities and requests for help and attention. Meanwhile, the two hours or so I got each morning while Marie was at nursery were wonderful but they were also frustrating. I only had long enough to do one significant task in a hurry. Then it was a case of gulping down a coffee while skimming my email and putting on my shoes, before having to jog along the road to arrive promptly to collect her. I had a short stretch of time and I always raced along it...

Then suddenly, yesterday, I had six hours all at once.

I was a 400m runner presented with an open road. I was mesmerised.

Unable to decide between all the glimmering alternatives for relaxation and productivity, I went home and had a nap. Then I pottered about the house and ate some crisps. I didn't achieve anything. It was great.

I did feel a bit guilty, though. I'd give you a list of all the stuff I'd planned to do with the time but it would be the same list as when when Marie started nursery. Thanks to one thing after another, I'm not sure I've done a single activity I mentioned then, apart from go for coffee a couple of times and buy some clothes. Those clothes are now starting to look a little shabby. I could really do with buying some more... Drat.

I have a huge backlog of chores and tasks. When it came time to collect the children, I'd enjoyed myself but it was as if so much potential accomplishment had slipped from my fingers. What with Sarah at work slaving over a hot keyboard, and plenty to catch up on round the house, I felt that I should have had more to show for my day than an empty packet of salty snacks...

Today is different, though.

The thing is, I woke up this morning to realise I had another six hours. Tomorrow there'll be yet another. Next week there'll be six hours for four days running. I can weep, shower myself with streamers, groan quietly on a bench and still have time to go for coffee and then buy clothes.

It'll take some getting used to, but the road just keeps on going...

Right. I'm off to buy a huge telly to celebrate.

Yours in a woman's world,



Jenk said...

Man, I am so jealous. We we thisclose. One more year and I was going to have an open road for myself. Now we're looking at FIVE more years before I get there. Yeesh.

Enjoy your time!

DadsDinner said...

Thanks, Jen.

Congratulations on the new arrival, by the way! He looks like a cute one. (Not anywhere near cute enough to make me want another bundle of slime and dribble myself, obviously, but still pretty cute...)

Hope you're managing to get some sleep.