It’s early morning, Departure Day. For the past week I’ve been on the first vacation I can remember from which I will not need a vacation. I’m bloated from good food, rested from good sleep, refreshed from good times. I’m the only parent here, so as usual I’m the first one up. Soon the rest of the house will scrape itself out of bed, grumpier than usual, because today we have to go home. It’s time to tuck in our shirts, lock our doors, rinse the mud off our feet. Resurface into our lives.
Some days, I’ll nip down to the beach and take the kayak for a lap around the island. It’s about eight feet of hollow fiberglas that weighs about three pounds, so on windless days you can skitter along the placid surface pretty quickly after a few perfunctory strokes. When there’s a headwind, however, and the current slaps at the bow, you have to paddle like hell to get anywhere. It’s very good for “engaging my core,” as my sadistic PT reminds me. I thought about taking it for one last go this morning, but screw it. I’m not in the mood. And besides, if I engage it anymore, my core will surely disengage and make a break for it out my backside.
A man gets a lot of time to think out there, alone and adrift. Time to think about how this is the longest he’s ever been away from his children, and how different it feels not to be utterly in charge of them for ten hours a day. How he always identified himself as a family man, even before the family arrived, and how he wonders whether the fact that he no longer lives with his kids somehow changes that self-perception.
Also how referring to himself in the third person gets real tiresome, real fast.
I thought a lot about how I’m going to adapt to this new life, and how important it is to derive some positive spin from it. The first thing that occurred to me was the extra time I’ll have as a part-time parent, and what I plan to do with that time. I’ll always be a devoted father, and while they’re this young my default setting will always be at their side. But I can see how a parent can hide behind that devotion and use it as a crutch not to challenge himself to be better. I’d love to start that project, or take that class, or write that novel. But there’s just so little time, because of the kids.
I feel a bit like the obese person who’s always blamed his problems on his body, then loses 100 pounds and looks like everyone else. You got what you said you wanted, buddy. So now what?
I guess what I’m saying is, maybe I’ve spent too much time skittering along the surface of my life, with minimal effort. And now that the headwind is here, maybe now is the time to start paddling harder and see where I get.