this is more about the wedge-like quality of offspring in a marriage that begins with conception. the gap just grows wider with every hammer strike, or life event (keep in mind, of course, that this is my experience as a stay-at-home parent while greg works full time. we are recreating the henry ford assembly line right here in our own home. i have no idea if the same occurrences, well, occur when both people work). take our daughter, for example, who is like a physical wedge in our bed, driving us apart, on top of being a metaphorical wedge also.
it just struck me the other day while i was doing something that i haven’t done in a long time that there are probably many more things that i just hadn’t thought of or realized that i never do any more (um, any english professors out there reading this, please excuse my run-on. (who says run-ons are bad? i like to see them as a literary tool of expression. they are my go-to tool of choice when i want to really drive home a point. the point being that i don’t have a point, or that i have one, but i just can’t remember where i last placed it)). i was taking doofy, our dog, for the LONG walk around a nearby middle school and back which we, at one point, when we had time to do things like this, clocked with our car to be 1.2 miles. as i was out there in the cold night, greg home with ruth, not a soul was out. dearborn in the winter is like that. a ghost town. it occurred to me then how long it had been since i had gone on the long walk. i was suddenly hit with the memory that, before ruth, nearly every day, greg and i would get home from work (oh, weren’t we on the same page back then?) and immediately leave on a long leisurely walk with doof, who at that time was our daughter. as i power-walked through the crisp, cutting night air, i remembered the leisurely strolling pace we would walk, just chatting, going over our day, things we were thinking about, or just silently walking. wow. a different world, to be sure. not only do we not take walks like that together any more, would we, even if we had the chance? i am surprised myself to realize that, no, we wouldn’t. we have entered a different phase of our lives and have become different, just by the sheer lack of time and freedom we now experience in our daily lives. if ruth was gone long enough for us to leisurely walk the long walk, we would probably be too busy cleaning or running the many neglected errands or just zoning out to “the bachelor” to waste time walking our dog, who is now, to her great disappointment, just our dog (this is another instance where i wonder what my past and future selves would think of each other upon meeting).
some other things occurred to me while i was on this train of thought that we don’t do any more:
1) this may be a little tmi, but take baths together. yes, our bathtub would seem to have been taken out of the set of the wizard of oz munchkin land, but we used to make it work. i wouldn’t describe baths together as romantic, but intimate. the kind of intimacy that comes from being crammed together in a small place, hunched over, every crease, wrinkle and bulge exposed by the harsh bathroom light fixture. now greg and i take quick showers when we can and the only one who takes baths is ruth and she hates them with gusto.
2) drink lots of beer. recently, we had some people over for new years eve and at one point, i looked into the kitchen sink and saw that the lower half was completely full of beer bottles. “whoa,” i said, “this looks like three years ago.” we used to have a weekly tradition of watching hockey night in canada and drinking lots of beer. these days, our tradition is to eat dinner with greg’s parents and watch elmo’s world videos. the only thing our sink is full of are dirty dishes that i never seem to get around to. i dunno, i guess that some people might think it irresponsible to simultaneously care for very young children and drink lots of beer. whatev.
3) avoid greg’s parents like the plague. i am still a firm believer in screening calls, but i am more than likely to instantaneously call my in-laws back to take them up on an offer to take us to the museum or invite us for dinner, whereas, a few years ago, i would probably have half-listened to the message before deleting it and then never calling them back. actually, these days it is more likely that i would be calling them to ask if my mother-in-law would like to join us on some activity (for those who know me in real life, i never go anywhere without one or both grandmas, sometimes even papa thrown in there too, just for extra support. my posse). i tell people all the time that my mother-in-law is like my bff. she is probably the only one, besides greg, who knows blow-by-blow, what ruth is doing these days, what new thing she says, her activities.
4) watch movies. i always say that coffee-drinking is my religion, but if i had to pick a second one, it would be watching movies. i grew up in a house where we watched movies like it was our job. we didn’t talk so much as let the actors in movies communicate for us. (no one could put the loss of our first family dog into words, but we all cried watching “chip, the war dog” at the end). so, you can understand that, by not being able to watch movies, it’s like missing a piece of myself.
5) disappear all weekend without really knowing where we were going. greg and i are not the best planners. most of the time, we have a vague goal in mind, throw everything into the car that we think we might need and then just leave. quickly (as though by lingering some fatal flaw in our plan would come to light and we would have to cancel. either that, or we would just lose the motivation to go). this is also how most of our summer camping trips would commence. we have been known to forget such important things on these trips as pillows, underwear, flashlights and not have anything in mind for food. one thing that i find particularly unnatural about having kids is that so much is planning and forethought (two things that make me cringe as though saying a particularly dirty word). there is the comfort of the child to consider. how long is the car ride? how many stops will we have to make? the naps. will her sleeping be thrown off? supplies. do we have changes of clothes? diapers? wipes? cream? a thermometer? tylenol? toys? books? not to mention food. what will the baby eat? is it healthy? of substance? and so on and so forth ad nauseum.
6) go out to eat. with ruth, it is out of the question. she would no more sit in a high chair through a meal than she would actually eat an entire human-sized meal (see: ruth doesn’t eat and i’m convinced must have the ability to photosynthesize). i miss the senate and flamingos and all of my other favorite cheap greasy spoons.
- greg at flamingos drinking coffee
7) spend a lot of time and money on coffee. i’ll bet you didn’t know this but at one point, greg and i were both your friendly neighborhood baristas at starbucks. that’s right. i could foam milk with the best of ’em, pull perfectly timed shots, add your extra caramel with a flair. greg also has a friend who writes a coffee blog and we were on her tasting panel for a hot second. so, there were many mornings where we would grind just the right proportion of carefully selected beans to the corresponding amount of cold tap water brought to a boil in a french press, wait three minutes and then sip away through a relaxed morning of conversation and coffee critiquing. nowadays, it’s like dump in the pre-ground cheap costco blend as fast as possible and get my brain going so i can forget about my terrible night’s sleep and spend a couple of blissful hours high on caffeine before ruth wakes up and then i’m on.
there are probably more that i’m not thinking of, but for now, this list will do. these are just some of the superficial changes that have taken place since becoming parents. to all the parents out there: what did i miss? to everyone else, have a big french-pressed coffee in my honor while watching a movie and not calling your in-laws back.