I mentioned several posts ago how babies are basically localized black-holes that wander through your house and crash into your coffee table, sucking up space-time and stuffing stale Cheerios in their mouths, those slobbery, germy little event horizons. So time has no meaning in my house at all right now. Basically, if it’s daylight out, we try to remember to eat and wash the stale sweat off ourselves. If it’s dark out, we try to put the kids in their beds so that we can put ourselves in our beds.
But that’s life as a new (repeat) parent. (As soon as I typed “repeat” before parent, just there, it immediately struck me that the phrase was not so very different from “repeat offender.” Which is horribly apt. Parents of multiple children should be referred to as repeat offenders: obviously they didn’t learn their lesson the first time around and they need to go into the penalty box again. The penalty box filled with poop, urine, vomit and tears.) I’m down with that. Trouble is, I’m also a teacher, and for teachers, a similar phenomenon takes place annually.
That phenomenon is summertime. Summertime for teachers is every bit as good as it is for students, except it’s probably even more awesome. We get to sleep in, we get to work on other projects, we get to spend time with our families, we get to fix things around the house (what’s that honey? Yes, I’m getting right on it). But it’s also a problem, and the problem is this: punctuation.
Okay, so I’m an English teacher and maybe my metaphors are a bit specific. What I mean is, the day of a teacher while school is in session is like a well-constructed, brutally efficient paragraph that you read every day, and it’s organized and broken up by a litany of markers that signal when you’re done teaching seniors what the fargo Beowulf is all about and you now have to teach a bunch of freshman how to build a character who’s properly motivated by his scene partner. Or, you know, whatever you teach. Example:
- 5:00 AM: my alarm goes off, I get up, suit up, run, hop in the shower, and hork down some breakfast.
- 7:15 AM: Time to get in the car and go to work.
- 8:25 AM: First bell means wrap up whatever lessons I was working on (or blog posts I was starting or novel ideas I was jotting) and get ready for first batch of kids.
- 12 PM: Lunch. Write and prep the rest of the day.
- 3:40 PM: Last bell. Wrap up the day’s work, make some notes about what to do tomorrow, wait for the parking lot to clear out, and head for the hills.
- 6:00 PM: Start dinner if I hadn’t already.
- 7:00 PM: Sprout’s bedtime. Put him down and enjoy a few blessed hours with the wife before it’s time to wash, rinse, and repeat.
See? It’s a well-oiled machine, a clockwork sculpture that encourages productivity and fends off aimlessness. Sure, there’s the weekend, but those are just two days amidst a steady stream of rigidity and they pose no threat to the equilibrium.
Then summer hits. And there are no more alarms, because I don’t have to go to school. And there are no bells, because there are no classes and no students. So the schedule looks more like this:
- 5:00-8:00 AM: somewhere in there, the sun comes up and the kids wake up, so… feed them, and then… I dunno, go to the park or watch Spongebob with them or something.
- 11 AM-2PM: God, where did the last three to seven hours go? Did I watch that many episodes of Spongebob? Um… I guess it’s time to feed Sprout #1 and put him down for a nap… if he’ll take a nap, that is, because he’s seriously Barnacling on me right now.
- Basically from then until 8 or so: Oh god the toddler only napped for an hour and I didn’t get any writing done and I didn’t get around to fixing that thing in the room with the stuff and now the toddler is awake and I can’t get ANYTHING done, how long is it to dinnertime? Guess we’ll let him play in the yard or something and now ohmygod it’s so late let me make a sandwich for dinner and make some mac and cheese for the kid and maybe I can have him in bed by nine and now wow I’m exhausted where did the day go BLARG.
There is no punctuation to the day, nor do the days themselves matter — the only thing separating a weekday from a weekend for me at the moment is the fact that the banks are closed — so the day is like jello without the mold, just spreading everywhere and covering the fridge in rubbery, indifferent goop. This, combined with the baby-black-hole phenomenon, means that for the immediate future, we’ve moved past time having no meaning. No, my house actually exists outside of time. Like a spaceship traveling at the speed of light, you can step into the front door of my house, stay for a few hours, and find that weeks have passed in the real world.
I am sure there are scientific implications and exploitations to be thought of for this phenomenon. Like, say your mother-in-law is coming to town, you could come visit and then it’s all “whoa, the time really got away from me, sorry you have to leave so soon”. Or you just can’t wait for the next season of Orange is the New Black to come out; step into my front room and spend a few days, surely a year or two will pass outside my walls.
If only it worked in the other direction, then, THEN I would be on to something. I could get done all the writing I want, all the housework, and still have time to go out into the world and pretend to be a member of society. I wonder how I’d have to reverse engineer that (okay, I know that’s not what reverse engineering means). Maybe put the kids on an inverted Moebius strip making rotations at the speed of light, powered by dark matter harvested from my son’s diapers. What’s that? That’s not dark matter?
I beg to differ.