Four Kids and a Father

As I mentioned previously, Kathy took off (at my urging) to New York for a week to spend time with her family at Thanksgiving, leaving our brood of four at home with me. Now, I love my kids dearly — Emily with her creativity, gentleness, and appreciation of sheer, silly fun, Abby’s earnest questioning of life’s meaning, lovely singing, and earnestness, Liam’s boyish energy and growing understanding, and Maggie’s imaginary-butterfly catching and dancing-just-for-the-joy-of-it. They are a tetrad who can, without meaning to, turn my heart inside out with just a look, bring stinging tears of gratitude to my eyes just by smiling, and make all the time I spend earning a living suddenly seem worth it a hundred times over.

That said, I was rather afraid that I wouldn’t like them much by the end of the week of Kathy’s absence. I’m very much an introvert, and tend to get pretty edgy if I don’t have time to myself. (I told Kathy while we were courting that she would have to pass the “48 Hour Test.” If I was able to be around her continuously for two days straight, and at the end of that time didn’t want to kill her, she passed. Most people fail that test.) While there are a bevy of complimentary adjectives which can fairly be applied to my children, “low-maintenance” is not among them, so I expected to be climbing the walls by the time Kathy returned.

But in spite of my fears, the kids and I had a wonderful week together. I determined long ago that the key to enjoying children is to avoid laboring under the false hope that you’ll be able to get anything else done while you’re with them, so I planned to dedicate the week to spending time together, cultivating those relationships, and giving them some good memories to take into the future with them. It was a treat to get to center the day around doing things together as a family, reading books, finding treasures, taking walks, and playing games. Some of our friends volunteered to take the kids at times, and I actually turned them down, as I felt it would have interfered with the family time we were having. Plus, I forgot. (Credit where it’s due: The evenings with Daniel, Jonathan, Halo, Peter Jackson, and the occasional Killian’s Red helped the enjoyment of the week a great deal too.)

What a delight, what a luxury to be able to devote that kind of time to things that are actually, immediately important. So much of my time is sucked up doing things that are a means to an end — living once removed from real life. How refreshing to kick that aside for a bit and have a good long swim in the vital, turbulent, exhilarating waters of child-rearing and people-loving. Now I’m eager for Christmas.