The Little Man, who turned four back in June, is definitely becoming more aware of what is going on around him. He notices more and understands more which is both wonderful and frightening. To illustrate the latter, let me give an example from yesterday (or possibly a few days ago; I am not certain.)
We were planning to go somewhere. I think it was the Falls Church Farmer’s Market. I was in my home office, at the computer, catching up on email or something. I was ready to go, but the kids were still getting ready.
The Little Miss said, “Daddy coming?”
The Little Man replied, “No, Daddy’s working all the time.”
Well, that got me. Actually, I was going–we all went–but the fact that the Little Man was noticing how much I was working, either day-job related stuff, or writing-related stuff, hit home a bit. If he was noticing, how could anyone else miss it? It is a tricky position to find yourself in. The Little Man is old enough to see that I am “working all the time” and his default expectation is that I am not going on an outing, which makes me feel good about his sensitivity to others and his ability to pick up cues; and it makes me feel bad about not going out with them as much because I am “working all of the time.”
On the other hand, I don’t think he is old enough to understand that I am attempting to do something I have always wanted to do, which is write. I have to work a full time day job in order to help pay the bills; writing certainly doesn’t do that. But writing, like anything else, requires lots and lots of practice and I still hope that all the practice I put in will one day pay off. I have tried to adjust my writing schedule so that it interferes as little as possible with the kids, but there are aspects to being a freelance writer that really have nothing to do with writing that take up time and that fills on those gaps that I’ve tried to keep clear. In a way, it is like bailing out a sinking ship. You can get it clear of water, but only temporarily. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself bailing again.
If nothing else, it has alerted me to the fact that the Little Man, at least, is noticing how much time I spend working, and that some of that time is at his expense. It means I need to make some adjustments, to make sure that I am spending enough time with him and the Little Miss and that the writing does not appear to get in the way of that. More than likely it means being more flexible, both in when I write and when the Little Man (or Little Miss) wants to do something. I have to write. It is in my blood. And yet, the last thing I want to do is look back on these years and regret not spending more time with the kids.
As Billy Crystal said in an interview this weekend on NPR (I really think you’d like it, Jamie), you definitely don’t want to turn into “Uncle Daddy”