Premise of column…the abridged version: The theory behind this column is that, unlike most advice columns, I will not be dispensing advice. I have more issues than a magazine stand, so I feel that it would be rather disingenuous (as well as mildly dangerous) for me to offer anyone advice. So what I am doing is offering up my problems to you, the constant reader, so that you may share with me, and the world at large, your sage advice and wisdom. Who knows? You may even actually help me with one of my problems or even become the next Dr. Phil, which would entail an outpatient surgical procedure to have you welded to the megalomaniacal monster that is Oprah Winfrey’s ego.
Well, my debut column kind of went astray rather quickly. I began it with all good intentions, but that damned dog was just preying on my mind, so there wasn’t too much in the way of advice that anyone could offer beside “train it,” “give it away” or “play fetch with it on the roof of Kettering Tower.” This column, I assure you, will give you an opportunity to not so much give advice, but lecture me about what kind of horrible person I am.
There is nothing like a good ice storm to bring things into perspective. As evening draws night and I see the steel grey daylight fade from the vines hanging off my office’s window (the vines I meant to remove this past summer before they manage to pull the window out of it’s frame). I ponder the imponderables, such as what color does a Smurf turn if you choke him, how does the guy that runs the snow plow get to work and, while watching back to back reruns of Full House, how did two bug eyed girls, who resembled my vision of what trolls must look like, turn into two skanky globe trotting trollops in such a short time? I never seek the answers to these questions as then they would cease being imponderable and I would have nothing to do while sitting in my house, snowed in.
Another thought flits through my head as I sit here with three kids annoying the living crap out of me, the youngest talking while I am trying to write, the middle one going through all the drawers in my office, borrowing whatever his little adolescent fingers fall on…without asking, of course. The third kid isn’t even mine, but one of my older son’s friends. He just stands there laughing like a mook, knowing that his mere presence makes me yearn for a time when adults were allowed to clout a kid upside the head for irritating them. The thought that careens through my cranium is, “How many people who espouse the wonders and sanctity of family have actually been forced into close quarters with them?” I don’t think they ever have. They are too busy making speeches across the country, dictating their familial beliefs to others, then going back to a Holiday Inn, getting room service and then settling down for an evening of in-room porn.
I believe that most people who are trapped with their family all day turn into Jack Nicolson’s character from the Shining before Oprah even airs in the afternoon. There are only so many times that your better half can pop awake from their almost continuous catnap to berate you for not spending enough time with them (and then dropping back into a blessed catatonia) before your thoughts cast themselves towards the garage, wondering where you put the axe this past fall and was it sharp enough?
I love my family. My kids are the absolute beginning and end for me and I would do anything for them…except watch four hours of mind melting Japanimation cartoons while my eleven year old does color commentary. It’s not that I don’t like spending time with them…but dear God, small doses please! My kids and I have a great time when we are out and about, but that is when I am safe in the knowledge that sometime soon, they will go back to school, allowing me to sit in my office, lulled by the sounds of silence as I look up at pictures of them…pictures that don’t ask questions like, “Can a Jedi lightsaber cut through Superman?”
Do you have a spouse that begs you to stop working and sit down with her to watch some television…and then proceeds to flip back and forth between RuPaul’s Drag Race and Bizarre Foods until you get confused and start wondering which thing fluttering by on the screen would be worse to have in your mouth? She single handedly will turn your television into a RGB colored strobe light if you give her the controller. Either that or you’ll be locked onto the TLC or the Oxygen network watching some graphic retelling of some “based on a true story” made for TV movie that makes you consider how lucky Hellen Keller was.
Perhaps the problem lies with me. I have always been somewhat of a loner and not really able to relate to people, so maybe I should be able to open myself up to the experience of domesticated living. I should embrace the Snuggie and kick back in the Laz-E-Boy, quaffing down a six pack of beer while watching and laughing through the American Idol audition shows…
…see? I can’t write more than a sentence on certain subjects without seeming to be a mean spirited, smarmy a-hole. It’s not that I dislike my family. It’s just that I believe there should be a separation, like there is between Creationism and logic. For example, in the short time that I have been writing this, my kids have interrupted me innumerable times and my wife has been in here three times. Once to use my lighter, even though her lighter was concealed in her other hand. The second time was to…I’m not making this up…talk to me about our relationship because she feels that I need to spend more time with her. The third time was so she could have me look up how to make hand made soap which, while an admirable aspiration and hobby, she only seems interested in because I am on the computer. This has been interspersed with random yelling matches between the kids and her and her and the kids, peppered with random observations yelled out to no one in particular.
Now that the ice is melting away, everyone is breathing easier, knowing that, if worse comes to worse, they can run screaming from the house if the youngest child wants to play charades for the millionth time (a game which, after having the instructions told to him a billion times, he still cannot truly grasp) or if their mom wants to go into one of her long winded stories about her youth, stories which a.) have no end or meaning and b.) grow in breadth and depth exponentially with each telling. As I sit here at the computer as my wife begins a tirade about missing hair ties, I wonder if it’s the forced confinement that creates these feelings or if society has played up the importance of “family time” so much so that you feel guilty if all you want to do is have a moment of silence and eschew yet another discussion with your children about how is it possible for a squirrel to live in Bikini Bottom with Spongebob…a discussion that invariably ends with me screaming, “Because it’s f#$%ing cartoon!” and my son throwing something at me and calling me a meaner.
So, I guess what the question is, buried within this convoluted rant, is how do you balance family time and personal time? What is the basis for time spent with the family/children/spouses? Is it based on the factor of quality or quantity?