Thursday, July 30, 2009

Matthew and Me In a Rut

I’m beginning to feel bad for the boy. Since Natalie started school a couple weeks back, she is gone from before he wakes up until about 4:30 every day. This is the first time Matthew has been without his sister to play with (and torment and torment some more) the entire day. Last year, it was acceptable because she was home by 12:30 and it was only a couple of hours without her. Now, when she comes home, she’s not surprisingly tired, but Matthew just wants to play with her and craves her attention. Being that he’s related to me, his way of playing is to bug her to tears until she bans him from her room in a raging fit.

As well, all day, Matthew has found in me a surrogate Natalie, as someone who he can tell jokes to, laugh with and play games with. He loves me. How do I know? He tells me all the time!

Unfortunately, some days I have to work during the day, as there are meetings to attend, phone calls to make, files to edit, emails to respond to and a host of little things that have to be done. Not all day, mind you, but there are a few times during the day that I have to be in the office for an hour or so at a stretch. This means that Matthew is up to his own devices during that time, something I know he must find dull and boring.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed the time alone. I could make my own rules; I didn’t have to share; and I never had to adjust my game for someone else’s ideals and suggestions. Matthew is not that old yet, so he still loves the interaction with other people. That’s all well and good on most days during the week when I can postpone many of my responsibilities until when Kara comes home, but on those certain days… Thursdays in particular… he sits around the house while I attend conference call meetings and take care of work things that have to be done during working hours.

He usually watches TV downstairs, which is great because there are no noises when I’m on my phone calls, but ever now and again, he’ll spread out his toys in the bonus room outside my office and play away. Some days, in fact most of last week, he would spend a couple of hours on the Internet playing games on Playhouse Disney, Noggin, PBSkids, or Nick Jr. He’s entertained for hours.

But lately, I feel like he is bored. More importantly, I feel like I’ve been neglecting him, pushing off my responsibilities as a father to him and his primary care provider during the day for my work responsibilities that I can take care of later when Kara comes home.

Granted, “neglect” is a strong word, and it isn’t as if I leave him in the closet while I go out to a bar and tie one on. It is just that sometimes he’ll spend a couple of hours by himself while I’m putting out a fire at work or handling an important meeting, and I’m feeling guilty about not spending as much time with him as I’d like.

He’s such a happy boy, too. He doesn’t ask for much, just that I get off the phone and come play a game of HoneyBee or Fishes or Don’t Break the Ice… the list goes on.

Also, we don’t normally go anywhere during the day. We have all of this time during the day, time we could be spending out somewhere, even if it is at the store or the library. Something just the two of us together could do.

Oh, but you’re saying that he won’t even remember any of this period of his life. He’s only three years old and he won’t recall the day-to-day activities… but I will. I’ll remember that I stayed up until three in the morning on Tuesday night because I had 30 files to edit, and the next day, I spent the whole morning dozing on the couch while we watched TV. That’s just an extreme example, but not an atypical one, as sometimes my work does keep me up until the small hours of the morning. I’m one for a good deal of sleep, and if I don’t get a full compliment of at least seven, I’m nearly useless the next morning.

So, where does that leave Matthew? Bored, I’m guessing. He doesn’t know what the word means or how those feelings equate to him running around the house looking for something to get into, but I can see it.

Basically, we’re in a rut. I like to stay close to home because I don’t want to miss a phone call or an email for work, and frankly, I can’t think of anywhere cool to go that doesn’t cost a fortune. We spend the day in our pajamas, me in the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing since I last showered, and we have nothing to do, nowhere to go, no friends to visit and nobody to visit us. We need a class or a sport, an activity to give us a break from the monotony.

The worst thing about all of this is that there isn’t much time left. In September, Matthew will be in pre-school three mornings a week… and after that, half days at Kindergarten all week, and then the first grade all day every day of the week! Pretty soon he’ll be in high school and college and married on his own with his own family.

Okay, after that, who started humming “Cat’s in the Cradle”? Raise your hands. I know, I know… I just packed the next 25 years of his life into the span of 50 words, but there’s a kernel of truth here. Regardless of the relevance of time, life doesn’t slow down and if I don’t take the time now to selfishly cherish the moments I have with my son, to build a foundation of loyalty and trust, who will avenge my death. No, just kidding. How will he be around me if I don’t foster this relationship at an early age? Distant and secluded?

I want him to be able to tell me anything, and he should be able to, because it is my job to make sure he follows along the correct path and does the right things for the rest of his life.

It starts now. It starts with trips to the library and to the store, or hiking or camping or maybe just kicking a ball around in the backyard… but it’s got to be something. I just need to get my lazy ass off the couch in the mornings and make it happen regardless of how few hours of sleep I got the night before.

Tomorrow, we’re going to the Splash Park, so that should be fun. I’ll take pictures to show him when he’s older and has forgotten.

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