A few weeks ago
I was standing in a pack of parents
In the dark, hot gym of my son’s elementary school
Watching my son and his kindergarten friends
Get down to the latest Top 40 hits
At the annual dance and “fun-raiser.”
And as I leaned against the stage,
Something occurred to me:
I was having
Just watching Victor and the other kids
Get crazy on the dance floor,
Their small bodies twisting,
Faces upturned to the D.J. on the stage,
Hoping he would toss a glo-necklace or
Mardi Gras beads their way.
At that moment,
There was nowhere else in the world
I wanted to be than in
That sweaty gym,
Watching my kid lose himself utterly to a
Katy Perry song.
Parenting could be this fun.
I remember in my 20s
Making absolute proclamations:
“I’m never having kids!”
Realizing with existential wonder one day that
Kids are just
Small human beings,
Not another species.
Cautiously hypothesizing to my dad that,
If I did end up having kids
I wouldn’t change my life much.
“I’ll just take the kid with me
Wherever I go.
They can just hang out.”
(I think my dad just chuckled,
Didn’t even bother to respond.)
The desire to have kids came on like a
24 hour flu:
One summer day in 2004 I didn’t want kids,
The next morning I woke up
To be pregnant
A year later,
The kindergarten dance phenom was born.
It took me a few years to
I adored my son,
Cheered his accomplishments and
Squeezed his small body with a ferocious kind of love.
But get inside his experience?
Lose myself in his sheer joy of physical movement
I was kind of too busy.
I would take him somewhere,
The zoo, say,
And optimistically bring along a magazine
Hoping to relax in the old way
With him just
Victor disagreed with my methods
And rarely allowed me to read.
“Oh, okay,” I would think as I eased myself down on the floor
To play a seemingly pointless game of
Car chasing or
Block-tower stacking and
15 minutes was about my limit
Before I would contrive a chore:
Gotta get dinner ready,
Or make a phone call.
“Two more minutes, Buddy.
Then Mom’s gotta go.”
Change happened through my campaign to just
“Be in the moment,”
That hippy-dippy phrase that’s the subject of
Books in the New Age section of the library
And shares in my 12-step meetings.
Go on someone else’s timeline.
Busy yet bored nearly all the time,
I thought, “What the hell,”
And gave it a shot.
Planned only through the rest of that day,
Then the next hour,
Then the next five minutes,
Until I got there:
Instead of coming up with an excuse to
Sit on the pool deck in a chair
While Victor swims and asks me
Over and over again
To get in the water,
I just get in the damn pool and splash around and get my hair wet.
Now one evening a week after work,
I try to just
Hang out with Victor,
Whatever he’s doing–
Instead of rushing him through his evening routine:
So I could have “me time” before I went to bed,
Which usually consisted of aimlessly surfing the Internet.
We were leaving the school dance–
Victor wanted to leave before I did!–
And we walked down the hallway where
Chairs had been set up for parents.
A few were doing that bored-waiting-parent thing:
Elbows on their knees,
Tapping around their smartphone.
Every few minutes,
They would sit up straight and stretch a bit,
And heave a deep sigh.
Still do it.
But for that one night,
I managed to relish this
Whole new experience I’ve discovered,
That I can have,
When I want it,
If I let it,
As long as Victor will have me.