Friday, November 2, 2012

Evenings are Not For Ourselves

When husband comes in from a long day at the office, I know the thing he'd like to do most is flip a switch and turn himself off, just focus on something, anything mindless for a half hour or more.

Before children, he could do just that.  Each evening's routine involved him shelving the wingtips and exchanging the decorative hangman's noose, crisp white straight jacket, and knee-high black compression tubes for threadbare jeans, a t-shirt, and white Hanes socks.

I cooked supper while he collapsed in his easy chair before an old episode of MASH or a football game.  With a chilled can of Dr. Pepper in hand, he simply disappeared for a half hour.

Now with twin four year olds and a kindergartner, disappearing is not an option.

The children go outside most evenings ostensibly to play, but I know what they're really doing--watching, waiting for daddy to turn the corner of the driveway and make his way across the hay field to them.

Mommy is expected to be here always.  But Daddy?  He is special, the much-awaited one whose coming is celebrated by squeals of delight.

Long before husband turns the knob to come inside, he has been mobbed.

Even from the kitchen, I can hear those knock-down bear hugs and loud clamoring for attention, for the chance to tell daddy something about the day first

These short spaces between our days and our nights no longer belong to husband or to me as individuals but to each other as a family.

And so, the five of us gather most nights of the week around a home cooked (or at least can-opened / defrosted / reheated) meal where we take turns sharing the best and worst  (or "baddest" as the twins call it) things about our day.

We speak aloud our joys and those parts we wish had happened differently, our successes and our failures.  While one good and bad thing is required of all, some days, a whole list tumbles out across the table.

On one particularly hard day, Amelia stopped my more-than-one-thing bad list, saying, "Uh....that's enough."  The good days, though, are filled with little ones struggling to find a worst part to their day.  When that happens, Emerson always says, "The baddest thing today was that I didn't get to go to the fair."

Then, in that short space after dinner but before bath, book, and bed time, my six foot plus man folds down to little people size.  In this three foot tall world, he gives horsie and piggy-back rides, races die cast cars, plays hide and seek, puts on or takes off a pile of dress up costumes, or referees a board game.

My children's faces have glowed especially bright this past week as they've laughed at daddy's inability to play a new game from Emerson's fourth birthday party.

It has been an absolute riot to watch two boys try and set up the hardest layout possible for their father, then their sister climb on daddy's shoulders for a bird's eye view of a valiant attempt to aim and fire three rubber birds at a tower of plastic wood and pigs.

Misses are met with taunts from the boys while direct hits on the plastic green pigs are met with uproarious celebration.

I know it would be so much easier for him to just say, "Daddy has had a hard day.  Go play with your brother and sister."  It would be easy to just sit them before a Charlie & Lola or Veggie Tales video or to even simply hand over the Ipad with the electronic version of Angry Birds.

But this?

This is a choice to invest in one another, to invest in family, to invest in joy.

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