My rationale for pursuing financial independence and reducing my clinical load (almost typed cynical load – what do you make of it, Dr. Freud?) has been largely to have more time for my family.
I now realize this might be mistaken by readers to suggest that my family time is in some way more tolerable than theirs; that my children are better behaved; that every board game we play has a loser who conducts himself with grace and “Jolly good show, old chap!” mumbled in an affable British accent; that we spend every evening singing together around a piano like wealthy Victorian families in Jane Austen novels.
This is not the case. Lest you mistake me for another hyper-curated online presence, I’d like to reveal the unblemished version of that togetherness.
40% of our time together involves flatulence humor.
20% of our time together is spent separating the children from one another so they won’t fight, and encouraging them to alert us instead if the other child is provoking them.
10% of our time is spent regretting that we asked them to do that. We are not referees, we explain to them; the stripes we wear represent the prison of parenthood that confines us, rather than the impartial administration of justice.
Not wanting to lose a teachable moment, we use the opportunity to impart useful idioms such as, “Stop throwing your sister under the bus.”
10% of our time together is spent wishing we were apart. Recently this has come in the form of a sudden unexpected leap onto my abdomen as I lie on the sofa following a night shift. I attribute this hazard to reading my kids every Calvin and Hobbes treasury we could get our hands on, where inevitably Hobbes the stuffed tiger pounces on an unwary Calvin.
I’m making an effort to remind the children that Houdini died young from an unexpected blow to the abdomen. This elicits the desired expression of remorse, followed by “If you die, can I have your computer – to remember you by?”
10% of the time is spent drifting off to troubled sleep while wondering how the kids unerringly knew to knock on our door after bedtime, interrupting our final opportunity to fool around, so that we have only enough energy to add to the list of shows we hope to cram into watching on netflix when we take advantage of the free subscription month someday.
The final 10% of our family time together? That’s reserved for unicorns and rainbows.