Monday, February 25, 2013

In The Vacuum

Wife: Some people like to release slugs into their house. When I was a little girl we did that. And then I got diarrhea.

My daughter goes back to school today after an entire week off. I thought she'd be more ecstatic about it. Last time she had time off she subtly pointed out that staying home with Daddy is unbelievably dull now. But this time I asked her a few times and she said she had a good week. Topped off by that random quote that her mother blurted out yesterday. I forget the reason. I do recall that we weren't talking about slugs or diarrhea at all. It's echoed the moment earlier in the day when the whole family were lazing on the bed and my daughter offered her mother a, "pillow and a wanket." Took a pass on that one. Actually I'm surprise we were all up on the bed after my daughter had announced on Saturday morning how she'd had a, "sleep over" in our bed. Only to be corrected right after by her brother who said it was actually a, "sleep odor". Time to clean the sheets there, I think.

Actually it's moments like that which help remind me why my kids have their own inappropriate verbal ticks. Between their mother and me they certainly take in plenty of odd stories and moments. My wife was just telling me actually that when she recounts our life story from the last near-15 years it does sound absolutely ridiculous. Almost to the point of unbelievability. From day one of us meeting it makes no sense in how not normal it is. From meeting her in the middle of the night right toward the end of her study abroad at university it's just been a weird, exciting ride. My wife quickly mentioned it yesterday - reeling off a few things a coworker had said don't happen to most people. About moving to Europe and back - and then doing it again! - and pretty much just giving away everything we owned when it was time to leave and just going to a new place with no jobs or place to live and seeing what was what. About buying a derelict house for next to nothing at an auction without even looking at it - and one that was filled with bees, despair and seemingly everything the family had ever accrued still in it - and that now it was a nice, almost-complete brand new home. And about how we'd just gone down there - I'd stuck my hand up with paddle in it to say I'd buy it and that was it - we'd bought a house and a few acres with that much ease and bollocks to the physical risk involved. About she (and I) had randomly worked in a chocolate factory in the bowels of Wales run by live-in South Africans during college - and how the families'  bedrooms were adjacent to the machine that put foil on the chocolates. And how she didn't work anywhere for four years to be a stay-at-home mother. But then randomly turned her car around in the parking lot of the place she know manages at and said, "I'd like to work here", and just applied for any old job there just so she could talk with the CEO about how she should be a technical manager there.

Oddly enough I had just been remembering how she'd randomly applied for a university position at University of Bristol in the Guardian and got it. Nobody gets a job like that. And how we both had cushy civil service jobs in the UK educational field and - at the height of the economic collapse - quit them to move back to the US on a whim. I recalled how I'd worked in a museum program archiving stuff for a ninety-something year old prominent-and-proud socialist photographer who went before the House Un-American Activities Committee and basically told the McCarthyites that they could suck it. And how we'd both randomly worked for a retired multi-millionaire inventor in an old post office in Western NY who's ultimate aim was to fly a rocket ship to the moon which he'd designed to mine it for Helium 3. None of that sounds like anything other than bollocks. And it;s just the tip of a very large, weird iceberg that is our life together so far.
All of which has led to a solid concern that life has become staid and dull. Not really even in a comparative sense to the oddness that went before - but the sense that we're coasting and not doing anything. After we bought this house things got odd. The house itself was a lot of work and a lot of stress. My wife was pregnant with our son at the time. Then I lost my mind. A year later I'd lost my job and was working at a weird phone company position that was really interesting but paid sod-all. My wife had ended her four-year hiatus out of employment and was doing two college-teaching jobs in completely different places during the evenings. We didn't really know what was going to happen next. After my wife got the job she has now and I settled down to be a stay-at-home Dad everything seemed to calm down considerably. Calm to the point of intentionally avoiding raising the heartbeat at all. Eighteen months later this had actually become an odd inverse to our outlook on life. Now we took no risks to the point of not doing anything. This isn't a middle-aged, life-is-boring so I'm buying a porsche thing. It's that genuine thing that plenty of parents experience where one day blends into another until you realize a year or two has gone by and you haven't done anything but work and wipe dried cereal off the chair. And now you aren't even bothering with the second one. In which time you've stopped doing much of anything because if things get to exciting before you know it it's all snowballed and you've randomly decided to move to another country, bought a house at an auction without even looking at it and have lost your mind.

That's where we've found ourselves at, anyway. My kitchen has been shocking. And even though I do have fun with my kids I have avoided a lot of things and summarizing the reason for doing so as, "ah - sounds like work." Well yeah. That's why I decided to take the job. But as I and my wife have agreed my son needs to do more structured stuff - whether he wants to or not. Because otherwise he really may as well be in day care. Honestly I'd been avoiding even the little stuff since Christmas either through lethargy or because I think he's been a turnip about things we do go to (it's called being two years old). If we went anywhere he either hid on my shoulder and kicked me until we left twenty minutes later. Or he'd just decide from the get-go that he has no interest in it - especially if he'd shown any genuine enthusiasm for doing it in the first place. A nice opposite-example is yesterday we all loaded up into the car to go for a walk somewhere. My son angrily rejected the idea and wanted no part of it. His sister wanted to go. When we got there we lasted about 15 seconds before my daughter threw a tantrum about how cold it was and demanded we go home. Her mother - not a fan of cold at all and actually surprised by how much colder it was - thought that was a fantastic idea. Me - I'd already been out running in it so didn't think it was so bad. My son had reversed his earlier opinion about how taking a walk in 30 degree weather was the behavior of idiots and angrily mewled about how we'd come all this way and were losers if we give up so fast. But we did. And honestly that's been how a lot of things have been for a little while. But I've ignored the obvious point which is you have to keep doing it. Instead I braced for him either hiding or refusing to actually do it even though nine times out of ten he enjoys whatever it is.

Oh - and sometimes he bars at other people. Yeah - I forgot about that. Thankfully the other people haven't been able to understand what he's actually saying. But I've seen him stood there ranting theatrically, "out of my way Bossy Buffers" before attempting to shoo people out of the Story Time we'd gone to because he has better things to do. But because he didn't ever do it in a total ranting tantrum way it always seemed to come across like a two year old kid being unable to retain attention rather than being an angry bastard about stuff. So no bridges burned. More to the point whenever I've ever been somewhere and seen someone elses kid being a kid I've never made a pissy judgment about it. Because it's what three year old children do. But bizarrely I'd done the opposite with my own kid and decided that I didn't feel like making the journey somewhere only to leave ten minutes later. Which is precisely what I should have been doing anyway. Because admittedly I've just not bothered either. Stuck in a rut and all that.

Which I'm now rolling out of because it's dull and not beneficial to anyone. Certainly not my son. And it self-perpetuates into a thing where you don't want to do what you're doing as a stay-at-home parent and seriously wonder about going back to work because it just doesn't seem fun or fruitful any more. Which is odd because it's based on the fact that you aren't doing anything. Of course that's dull and fruitless. Mostly though I want to get my son out of his shell so I can watch him play the weird games that he does when he is having fun. At the indoor park on Friday his sister played with an 18 month old girl the whole time. And by played I mean she pretended they were postal workers who had a bouncy castle filled with magic beans that they traveled to by roller coaster. The 18 month old kid just followed her around and compliantly did everything my daughter not-quite bossily told her to do to make the whole fantasy world a reality. But for the 90 minutes we were there my son did mostly one thing. And that was pretend to vacuum the entire building - including all the toys. He particularly enjoyed vacuuming the ramp behind him in the photo below, and all the things that were difficult to get to.

We're going back on Wednesday so he can give it another vacuuming. Which is what I have to go do myself now. And to get the bloody cereal off the chair. It's been there so long now it's like a Sean's Show opening bit about a sock or a saucepan.

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