Parenting

Can I tell you a secret? I was terrified about spending the summer with my son.

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This dispatch is both disgusting and amazing. There. I warned you.

I have always loved the word serendipity. Ever since a teacher in grammar school taught me the word and its meaning, I’ve looked far and wide for my “unexpected pleasures,” or, my serendipity. This summer, I’ve been spending huge swaths of my ‘sabbatical’ (it sounds so much nicer than layoff, don’t you think?) hanging out with our three-year-old son, James. Talk about unexpected pleasures.

I’ve worked outside the home pretty much since I was 14. As such, James has been in a childcare setting since he was around five months old. But, even special needs preschool takes five for a few weeks in the summer. So, rather than pay for full-time childcare, we opted to put him in a morning program so I could get some work done, and spend our afternoons together.

Can I tell you a secret? At the beginning of this journey, I was counting the number of days we were going to spend together and I was absolutely terrified. Would he listen? Would we go crazy? Would I lose him at Starbucks? Would we somehow burn the house down together? Silly me: thus far, it’s been nothing short of amazing.

‘Terrified?’ you might ask with a wise chuckle, ‘Why were you terrified of spending copious amounts of time with your own child?’

Such a great question. And, in order to fully understand why, we need to go back in time to a far off place called the 80s, where a young me preferred to play Office over House. At the ripe age of six or so, my grandparents got me a typewriter, and I just knew that was it for me. Babies? Bah! Husband? Yech! House? Hard pass! What I wanted most was a career as a writer.

And, I’ve pretty much kept to that program (if you don’t count falling in love and getting married, having James and moving from the city to a nearby leafy green outpost). But, after James was born, the catch-22 that many a parent goes through loomed: to return to the office or not to return to the office? I returned, but with a flexible schedule. Even so, he spent a lot of his life hitting milestones with people other than his parents. Our lives called for it and success followed, but we were missing out on the day-to-day operations with him.

Flash forward to present day–summer 2015–where I’m laid off (er, on sabbatical) and hanging out with James  in the small bathroom off the kitchen. Your writer has chosen to tackle potty training (dubbed Project Potty) before the summer ends, because why the heck not? Sensory issues? Whatever! Autism spectrum? Step aside! Brave souls have gone before me and succeeded–I got this.  James may have spoken his first words, taken his first steps, and sat up for the first time at childcare, but that was then and this is now. DADGUMMIT, that first successful poo had to be mine. Mine. ALL mine!

To make a long story short, after a few stumbles, James has rewarded me in that department. No. Wait. He has richly rewarded me in that dept. And here’s the thing: I’m excited to do this with him. It’s disgusting, but it’s amazing. It’s teamwork with my son–it’s something he would have done for somebody else, but instead is doing for me. Sure, I’ve had victories throughout my career, but they are like apples and oranges when it comes to hearing your child tell you they really have to pee. Trust me!

The other thing is that I’ve come to see that this precious time is so very short. Soon enough, that cheery yellow bus will come bumping down the street to pick James up and take him to preschool (where, he’ll undoubtedly continue to work on what we’ve been doing here). Soon enough, it will be mega quiet and scary clean in the house for extended hours at a time. I’ll be cranking out resumes, going to seminars, and figuring out my next career move. Soon enough, this moment will fade into another and another. And, another. We can’t slow time down, but we can savor the pleasures it brings to us: expected or unexpected.

So, for now, I’m cheering potty-side and being chased through the house by James with creatures like ants and dead flies (he’s all boy, friends, all boy). And, I’m loving it. There’s no other place (including an office) that I’d rather be.