Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's better than digging a ditch

My 7yo is one of the world’s workers. He is the always-helpful child, never complaining when he’s asked to carry in groceries, or to put away his clean laundry. He offers to set the table for me. He’s happy to run and get anything his father asks for. He likes to work. His little brother, on the other hand, is the lily of the field. He toils not, and neither does he spin. The 4yo is the child who becomes very tired when it’s time to pick up the toys. Threatened with a nap (“if you’re too tired to pick up toys, you must need to go to sleep…”), he’ll reluctantly carry one Lego piece at a time, sighing as he drops each tiny piece into its plastic bin. In the time it takes 7yo and me to clean up the entire family room, 4yo will exhaust himself into utter prostration with the effort of picking up and carrying 6 Legos.

Recently, our swim team held its annual fundraising carwash. While a few of the teenagers had to be coerced into actually washing some cars, my industrious older child was right on the front line, wielding a sponge and clamoring for a chance to man the hose. He scrubbed, he sudsed, he rinsed, and he dried, with the studied nonchalance of a boy determined to let spectators know that this, right here, is just routine. Another day, another dollar. Yawn.

One of the older boys told him to wave the next car through. This he did, without the slightest trace of a smile. He was clearly enjoying this important job tremendously, but was determined not to reveal that to anyone. He adjusted his features into a look of settled workday boredom. This was a face that said “hey, this is no big deal, OK? Maybe other kids would get all excited about hanging with the big kids and doing totally important stuff like waving the cars through. Because they can’t have just anybody wave the cars through, see? You have to know how to do it. And I do. Because this is my job. I’m not playing here, OK? I’m working at the carwash. So stop smiling at me like that. I’m trying to work here.” Cars were waved through, washed, and dried with efficient dispatch, thanks to 7yo’s industry and skill.

Do you know what’s funny about this? I’m exactly like him. When I had a job, I was always the person with the answer, and I loved being the person with the answer. I never made a big deal of it, though. Anyone would have thought that I didn’t care one way or another if you asked for my help, or if you asked the person next to me. But I cared, oh yes I did. I was busy and important and I wanted to keep being busy and important. Adjusting to the relative lack of busyness and importance has been the predominant concern of the last six months for me. Of course, I’m still busy. I’m taking a class, the kids just started swim team, I’m writing and doing part-time work from home, and of course, my house isn’t going to compulsively clean itself. It’s not the same, though, as putting on work clothes, and sitting at your desk, so busy that you’re responding to the emails which arrive almost every minute while you talk on the phone that’s wedged between your head and your shoulder.

Now that summer’s here, though, I’m starting to embrace the enforced leisure. After swim practice last night, I sat in the pool pavilion chatting with neighbors and friends, while the kids played. When we got home, it was 7 o’clock…7yo had homework to do and I hadn’t even thought of what to make for dinner.

Last summer, I’d have had those kids dry, dressed, and into the car within five minutes of the conclusion of practice. We’d have been in full homework and dinner preparation mode by 5:30. So really, this is quite a change for me. I realize that hanging at the pool until *gasp* 7 on a school night doesn’t exactly qualify as debauched languor, but it’s a shift nonetheless. Maybe just for this summer, I’ll be a little less of the person with the answer, and a little more of the lily of the field.


Steve said...

While there is a time and place to have the phone, email, and voice mail going on there is also something to be said for enjoying life and it's moments as they occur.

i believe there is a phrase that has something to do with stopping, smelling, and roses but what the heck do I know? :)

Matty Boy said...

"The house isn't going to compulsively clean itself" is worthy of becoming a label.

dguzman said...

I like "debauched languor" for a label. Of course, that pretty much covers my entire waking life.

Anonymous said...

Take your time and chill out. Be more like me and your younger child. Let me tell you, picking up a Leggo "IS" exhausting work.

affinity said...

I am an attorney and I work on a contract basis about 20 hours a week. I have worked at the same company for years, but I am no longer "important", not in a running the company sort of way but in a contribution sort of way. I work hard and I still care but my opinion just does not matter as much. I was shocked to discover that it mattered to me to be needed.

I LOVE working part time and being flexible but did not expect it to be impactful emotionally.

Lisa said...

A shift? A SHIFT?!!!??? I'd say you're becoming downright shiftless!

And isn't it about time?

I love you, Lily. Thank you for making me laugh out loud today.

CDP said...

Steve--I do recall hearing a phrase to that effect.

Matty--That is a very good idea!

Dguzman--That wasn't meant as advice, missy!

Suze--It is when you're picking up hundreds every day...but that's better than stepping on them.

Affinity--exactly! I didn't think that being "out of the workforce" would bother me, but it has been quite the adjustment.

Lisa--I LOVE the word "shiftless". I call people that all the time, and I quite enjoy being called that! I love you too, sister.

Dr. Zaius said...

Why should your four year old do any of that nasty old work stuff, and thus deprive your older son of something that he truly enjoys? He is just being considerate.

Awesome stortytelling, BTW. :o)

CDP said...

Thank you Dr. Z!

Freida Bee, MD said...

You painted the picture of the lazy lily so perfectly, with the 6 legos descriptor. I have a child like that, my 6 year-old, unless he's by my side helping me.

My 14 year-old is more intrinsically motivated as you describe your 7 year-old. Now she's organizing parties and benefits and is saving her babysitting money for college. We've suggested she spend her own money on the superfluousities, but then she brings in the "I'm saving for college" line and there's no arguing with that. That's why I call her The Future President on my blog.

Have a great summer!

Gifted Typist said...

Oh, I love this post. Good for you. Embrace the leisure and enjoy the life

CDP said...

FriedaBee--Of course, the "saving for college" thing could backfire on the Future President...when she asks for money when she's in college, you can always just ask her where all the money she saved is...and I hope you have a great summer too. I'm still taking a class, of course. Being an adult student is AWESOME, right?


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