We are near the end of the tunnel, but I don’t know if I can see the light.
Oh, I think it’s there. It must be. I mean, if it isn’t, I’m screwed. That’s because there’s no way of turning around inside of here. This tunnel has lasted four weeks so far and there is one week to go until I get to the proverbial other side. And the racket inside of it has been deafening, nerve-shattering and non-stop.
What could be the source of all of this?
My kids. Specifically, my six-and-four-year-old daughters, Maddo and Little Sis.
This last month has been the longest time I have ever continuously spent with them since they were born. In the last four weeks, I have been away from them for all of two hours, not counting sleeping. And the only reason I got that short break was because my wife took them out of the house on a recent Monday night so that I could have some peace and quiet and finish a last-second work assignment. It took 20 solid minutes before my brain could process the realization that one of them wasn’t going to suddenly barge into my home office and interrupt my train of thought by tattling her sister because she dared to call her “fancy” for no logical reason.
The reason why my daughters have literally been in my face every waking minute of the last month is simple and will come as no surprise to anyone with kids: It’s summer break. In our case, that has meant 10 weeks of them at home, and destroying our home, until school starts on Aug. 24. My wife, who teaches at a year-round-school in a different city, was home for five weeks and dealt with the girls as best she could while I, who now works at home, would try to accomplish something meaningful in my downstairs home office by noon and then make myself available to help separate our daughters from one of their typical, and multiple-times-daily Ali-Frazier-style brawls.
This, plan, of course, fell apart on Day One. My wife, bless her heart, did what she could to keep our daughters away from me, but there’s a reason why I say Sherman marching through Georgia was a garden party compared to what Maddo and Little Sis get up
In the past, we have kept them at their pre-school during its summer session. This year, because we are sending them to a different, public school less than a mile from our home in Oakland, and we wanted to save a few bucks, we decided to just keep them at home and try to keep them entertained, and from killing each other, as best we could.
Well, no one has been murdered. But anyone walking by our front door during one of my vocal eruptions of the past two-and-a-half months would have described the sounds they heard as “murderous”.
Especially since my wife’s school started, and she went back to work, in late July. Without her, there has been no buffer during the day. And, thus, no one to keep our daughters from constantly coming into my office to do any, if not all of the following:
–Tattle on each other for innumerable, insane things
–Ask to get dressed
–Ask for the iPad
–Ask for me to turn on the TV
–Tell me they are hungry, even though they inevitably have just eaten within the last 20 minutes.
–Tattle on each other, again, for innumerable, insane things.
As a result, any momentum I get that is work related becomes stunted almost immediately as it begins. The projects I am on, which shouldn’t take more than two hours, tops, end up dragging over four, five, six hours or more. I go upstairs to get someone a cup of water [because our kids are ALWAYS needing a drink] and 45 minutes pass before I am back at my desk. That cup of water turns into needing a snack, or someone knocking over someone’s Lego creation or me seeing the three loads of laundry that haven’t been folded and feeling like I need to attack that mountain before we run out of clothes and have to dress the girls in Hefty bags.
I tell them over and over that I have to work, but if they leave me alone for a few hours in the morning, I can finish up and then take them to the park or the zoo or do something else with them. This doesn’t matter. My daughters may speak English as their native tongue, but they do not understand at all the phrase, “Daddy needs to work! Stay out of here!” regardless of my vocal tone or volume. They just barge right on in. And locking the door wouldn’t make a difference, because they know just the perfect level of whining to reach that makes it impossible for me to focus on any tasks in which I may be engaged.
Some people we know have asked why we don’t give ourselves a break and send our daughters to one of the many day camps offered in our area. My response is the same to every one of these know-it-alls: “You got $275 a week, or more, per kid to spend on this? Yeah, didn’t think so.”
When I finally get back to work, I usually have lost whatever little direction I had in the first place. Not that it would matter I had any direction at all, because within minutes, they are hungry, again, and it is time for lunch. And woe be it to the parent who doesn’t respond to the call of the four-year-old who has to have her daily PB&J.
In four weeks, they have broken me. My nerves are utterly shattered. Sometimes, I find my right hand twitching on its own. I have no doubt I am developing an ulcer the size of a manhole opening. It probably doesn’t help that I wake up most days around 3 a.m. and consume a pot of coffee by 10 o’clock. To top it off, my kids have given me so many gray hairs that I have used one of those Just For Men kits three times in one month. And I still have one week to go before the girls go back to school, which will be in late August.
Oh yes. One week. I’ve always questioned why school begins so early now because when i was a kid, we used to not start school until after Labor Day. But now I know.
Because parents need it to.