This is my Dream: No Parenting After 8pm

Several years before I had children, I attended a panel discussion that featured five successful authors. I remember next to nothing about the main event, but I do remember that when the moderator asked for questions from the audience, someone spoke up. She asked:

For those of you who are parents, how do you find the time to be creative?

Four of the five panelists were parents, and their answers were surprisingly similar. They woke up early. By early, I mean four in the morning, or five. But the most striking response came from poet Frances McCue who also woke up early, but added, simply: “I don’t parent before nine am.” This got a laugh of course, but she meant it. Her daughter was nine years old at the time, old enough to get herself dressed and pour her own cereal. If she wanted something at 8:45, she was reminded of the policy.

I believe there’s a reason I’ve been remembering that for the last ten years.

Dre

Currently, waking up early and enjoying time to myself isn’t an option. These days, Stump sleeps relatively well between 8:30 pm and 5 am, but between 5 and 7, he insists on sharing the bed with me. If I get up, he gets up.

Smoke is demanding on the other end of things. Lately he stays up past nine most nights, in part because it’s summer and light outside until ten, and in part because his bedtimes are still elaborate affairs. We can’t simply read him a book and kiss him on the cheek. He wants to read a little, and talk a lot, and read a little more. Then he wants one of his moms to lie with him until he falls asleep. We grant him this because it is the only hour where he doesn’t have to share our attention with his wild and willful little brother.

HarHar

It’s no wonder then that I stay up late most nights. It’s often 10 pm before I catch a moment to myself, and the moment is too precious to sleep through.

This summer I visited a friend with one child, a baby who goes to sleep before seven each night. I tried to imagine what that would be like, to have a quiet house at an hour where it was conceivable that I still might have some energy. I decided that would feel sane. I decided that was something to strive for.

And I will; I will strive for that. It won’t happen next week or next month, and I don’t think that seven is our hour. But I’m imagining the day when Stump is just a little older, when I can read both of my boys a book or two in bed together, then say goodnight and leave them to keep each other company. I will turn out the light and close the door, claim two glorious hours to myself and still wind up in bed at ten.

Please. I’m telling myself that this can happen. Allow me to dream this, okay?

We are lazy but it works for us.

 

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When I was growing up, my favorite holiday tradition was decorating Easter eggs with my family. We covered the dining room table with newspaper, and then set out all the materials: cups of white vinegar, paintbrushes, watercolor kits, and Sharpie markers. I’ve got an older brother and sister who are both artists, and they’d spend an hour on one egg enacting the entire creative process right there before my eyes: they began with a concept, then sketched it on the egg in pencil, then painted layer upon layer of watercolor, and then added the final permanent details in Sharpie. My father too, had artistic skill that often manifested in macabre final products, like a skull or an alligator’s head. My own eggs were just regular Easter eggs, maybe dyed a couple of colors or painted only half-successfully to look a little like a cat. I was less than happy with my own work, but joyful to be part of the process.

Every year, I hope to recreate this experience for my son, to cover our own messy kitchen table with newspaper, and lay out all the materials. Every year I come up short.

This year, I bought white eggs on Friday, and on Saturday, while the baby slept, I enlisted Smoke to add vinegar and food coloring to water. We dyed our eggs in batches of four: four green ones that came out pale, four red ones that came out hot pink, and four yellow ones that turned out disappointingly brownish, like we might have simply bought brown eggs at the store. Smoke was excited to paint ninja faces on them, but the day got away from us and this morning, before he woke up, I hid them all as-is throughout the living room.

Since this weekend included two other Easter events, I had decided to minimize the candy. Hidden along with the hard-boiled eggs were two Cadbury caramel eggs, but that was it. No jelly beans, no Skittles, no Kit-Kats. Smoke should have been disappointed, but he wasn’t.

The highlight of his Easter? Under a pile of bills on the kitchen table, Smoke discovered a stray piece of Trident gum. “The Easter Bunny hid some gum for me!” he cried out, delighted. And then he proceeded to line everything in a neat row. In the end, I guess, Smoke provides his own creativity. If he misses his chance to draw faces on eggs, he’ll make art out of the hunt itself.

Besides, those eggs are still in our fridge. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get around to drawing ninjas on them. Maybe.