The boy is sixteen months old. We’ve settled into a definite routine which revolves around my flexible work schedule, the better half’s nine-to-five one, two days at nursery plus the contribution of the parents’ who have him for one night a week. Including the composite day on account of my parents’ that give me three solid workdays, if I’m overloaded I’ve early mornings, late nights and the weekend at my disposal too, so it’s all good. But if someone is ill, for example, the whole shebang falls down on its arsehole and being ill is nine tenths of being a parent.
Initially, I was resistant to the idea of my parents’ having the boy for one night a week, as much as I was anti the whole nursery thing. I suppose this was because that for the first nine months of his life we spent every waking hour together and, without realising it, had stepped into a self-perpetuating bubble of Fam. In hindsight it’s a very peculiar environment as everything is dictated by this new entity and one’s inability to deal with it confidently; everything is a learning exercise consisting of an indefinite, unspecified menu of challenges and rewards. This makes it almost impossible to be anything but introspective, aided and abetted by friends and family who’ll accept this new state of being unconditionally and do things like visit when you want them to, with wine.
I’d have remained in this bubble indefinitely if it wasn’t for the issue of money. Nine months after he was born the better half returned to work part-time and three months later she was back to the N to F. Now the parents/nursery role became essential factors in our schedule, so when the nursery closes for a training day or the parents can’t make it I suddenly find myself playing daddy day care to the point of saturation (don’t get me wrong here, spending time with my little boy is just about the best thing, like, evah, but I’ve got shit to do as well, like take an actual shit without having to keep a toddler at bay with a bog brush) as was the case when he was fifteen months old when I was responsible for my son for nine weekdays out of ten because the nursery shut for some training thing and the folks took it in turns to get sick.
It’s pretty obvious that everything you do when you’re in charge of a baby is baby-related, so if you’re not feeding, changing or weakly trying to make ‘em watch CBeebies so you can sit down for a couple of seconds, you’re preparing food, cleaning-up or taking another trip to the shops in the hope they might fall asleep. After four solid days of this, I realised that it wasn’t just the doing-of-stuff that was killing me, it was all the waiting-for-stuff in between the doing-of-stuff.
Waiting is insidious because it exists on so many levels it hides in plain sight and it’s one of the fundamental reasons that parents of young children are permanently shattered. You’re either waiting for them to get hungry, sleep or shit, or for them to stop eating, wake-up or shit again, and all the while you’re doing actual stuff effectively draining the parental battery at both ends.
Then of course there’s the waiting for the missus to come home, the folks to drop by, the nursery to start and finish and within that all the aforementioned elements of the sleeping and eating and so on so forth (and that’s before we’ve even touched on the waiting around inherent with freelance writing) coagulating into a continual never-ending bollock of horror. Nothing is achieved by waiting, it lurks in the background waiting to catch your eye and has the uncanny effect of making the doing-stuff pointless because as you’re doing it you’re waiting for the next thing to do… But there is a pleasant caveat.
Waiting is the mother of procrastination, a catalyst that fuels a creative spark, without waiting until bored the mind would never have a chance to wander into profundity or stumble onto unknown shores. It’s not just a useful device to inspire, solve or reconcile a bit of copy or a design, it’s great for inventing practical stuff too. Virtually all the safety devices around the house, things to stop stuff falling over or out onto a toddler, have come about after identifying an issue and the brain just resolving the matter while waiting for the washing machine to stop or the Naproxen to kick in. In most instances, I’ve been able to actually carry out the work with no more than a drill, a couple of brackets and an old bit of floorboard
I’ve become so efficient in using my waiting moments to procrastinate that nowadays I only have to feed a quandary into my mind box and, as sure as eggs is eggs, rewarded with a solution in a matter of hours, even minutes. Which is why I’m just about to attach a bass guitar to the wall of his bedroom with a length of shoelace.