There are definitely days when I want to run screaming from my house. As any parent will attest, to avoid this kind of mental breakdown, there are times when it is necessary to get away from our children. The consistent chaos our children can produce could break even the toughest Marine. As parents, we need time. Time to recharge. Time to not be ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy’. Time for ourselves. Time away so we can avoid telling our kids they were adopted.
I get about eleven and a half minutes daily. Eleven and a half minutes to find a private cove just for me. I have, on more than one occasion, willingly traveled to the drug store for tampons, pink Bic razors, and birth control pills. I don’t have a shed, or as some of the men in my neighborhood call theirs, their man embassies, to escape to. My father liked to retreat to the basement. We would hear him banging and clanging down in there and when he did, my mom told us we weren’t allowed downstairs. Where I thought, from the noise he was making, surely he was at work on some sort of experimental engine for NASA, I later learned all he did was bang his hammer on the vise and open and close the drawers to his toolbox (and have a few beers too).
My bathroom puts up a barrier, but it still doesn’t keep the chaos away. My kids will wait at the door, like the birds from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, until I finish. Our typical banter between the closed door goes something like this: “Daddy, what are you doing in there?” “Well, Daddy is trying to finish the last chapter of his book while he goes to the bathroom.” “What book? Can I come in?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because there is nothing in here that you can play with.” “But I have to wash my hands.” “We have 4 other sinks in this house.” “But Daaddddyyy.”
Between the kids and the dog who has yet to meet a door she couldn’t burst open with her snout, the bathroom itself, isn’t quite the man embassy I crave. But the shower, the shower can provide me the temporary hiatus from being Daddy. When my kids were babies, it was one thing to have them with you at all times, just so you could keep an eye on them. Now, at ages 8 and 5, their long term memories don’t need to be filled with images of me coming out of the shower. That’s just plain creepy.
So I get my 11 1/2 minutes to myself before the birds begin to circle around my door, in the shower. Eleven and a half minutes to not be Daddy. That amount of time to escape the ‘Honey Do’ list. Eleven and a half minutes to wash off the day. To sing poorly. To ruin my wife’s frilly sponge thing. Eleven and a half minutes to figure out why the hell my wife needs three different types of shampoo. And eleven and a half minutes to just, let me stress JUST, hear the sound of the water bouncing off of my head.
I don’t need a watch to let me know when its time to shut off the water. I start hearing the muffled shouts of the kids approaching. It’s not hard to hear either. Its like the sound of an approaching tornado. I’m called for by my wife (or ‘howled for’ depending on who you ask…namely me) to restore order. The dog bursts into the bathroom and sticks her snout into the shower. Looks like its time to be Daddy again. I don’t mind. Its what I have happily given in to and how I am defined, as Daddy. But despite all of that, I’m still looking forward to tomorrow’s eleven and a half minutes.