I remember when our son was in his infancy, and his routine seemed to shift from week to week. Just when we’d get used to a new sleep/nap/eating/whatever schedule, it would get thrown off until a new schedule emerged. As he got older, the frequency of changes lessened, and we as a family were able to settle into a very nice routine.
The routine gave me that most precious of parenting commodities: alone time. I tend to wake up rather early, between 4:30 and 5:30 am, and typically my son and wife sleep in well past 7:30. That routine was precious. It gave me a great big chunk of time in the mornings to do whatever the hell I wanted. For the longest time it was writing, writing, writing. I’d set up shop with my laptop and coffee and blaze away. That’s how I got though my first novel. Eventually, I diversified my schedule to include meditation, working out, and all the things that I otherwise don’t have time for.
Lately, it’s been physical therapy. I have a terribly screwed up back, and have never really taken very good care of it. At that beginning of this year, after literally being picked up off the ground at work by two coworkers after my back seized up (not pretty), I committed myself to getting better. My family went gluten free to help me resolve my gut (not easy…I miss you, pizza), and I entered treatment with a chiropractor and exercise therapist. I was dealt the typical array of exercises (apparently my glutes and abs are woefully out of shape). But how to do them regularly? I found that if I carved out time at the end of the day, I was way too tired to maintain my motivation by the time the sun went down. Plus, they were so damn boring.
My answer: Battlestar Galactica. For most all TV shows, my wife and I have the same tastes, but I was the one who put BG on the Netflix instant queue, and it was sitting there forever. So finally, I popped it on when doing my exercises in the morning, and it was perfect. I love the show, and it’s become one of those very few media outlets that’s just for me. It actually makes me want to do my exercises in the morning, and my ass and abs are getting all the stronger for it.
Problem is this: my son won’t stay asleep. As he’s emerging into his seventh year, he isn’t sleeping as long, and has started waking up at around 6:00 some mornings. I’ve become hyper-vigilant now in the mornings, listening for the pitter-patter of little feet on the floors above me. I’ll be sitting down to turn on Netflix, or sometimes sitting down to write a blog post, and I’ll hear the upstairs toilet flush or the a bedroom door creak open. Then comes the silent “f*&ck!” in my head. I turn off the TV. I close the laptop. My time is gone.
Here’s the shitty thing. As a father who’s out of the house anywhere from 9-11 hours per day for work, who the hell am I to be disappointed by my son’s wakefulness? What kind of shit bag would prefer a sleeping son over an awake and engage son? Right after the expletives in my head, all these questions flood me and I feel like a selfish bastard.
I think that’s the push and pull of parenthood. As parents, one of the greatest joys in life is spending time with our kids. That seems to be one of the primary motivations in our lives. Getting home to have dinner together, working hard during the week to be able to spend quality time on the weekend, saving up for family vacations. And yet, alone time is such an alluring commodity.
I guess we all need a balance. What I don’t like about me is this set up for resenting my son’s wake up time. When I’m 80, I’ll remember making him eggs or sitting down with him for breakfast more than I’ll remember how Lt. Starbuck captured the Arrow of Apolo from Kobol. Even though it’s easy for me to reorient myself this way, there’s still a pang in my heart when the time that I thought was “mine” is cut short. Especially since I wake up damn early so things like my writing, work outs, or Netflix binges don’t encroach on family time. There’s no simple answer to this. I know that time with my son is golden, and at the same time, if I don’t take care of a few of my needs and interests I won’t be any good when I’m with him.
I think I’ll just have to roll with the punches. Just like when he was a baby and everything shifted constantly, I have to expect that things will change as he gets older. Somehow we made it through his infancy and toddler-hood with our (partial) sanity. I’m going to start expecting that my son will wake up, so that when he does, I can relish my time with him. I’ll find a new way to carve out some time for myself, and Commander Adama and I will sail once again.