“Would you rather vomit out your eyeballs or your nose and ears?”
My nine-year old boy has taken to asking such questions lately. It reminds me of that scene in the movie “Parenthood” when the kids are in the back seat of the car singing disgusting lyrics to favorite camp songs, and Steve Martin says, “This is what we get for sending them to that expensive summer camp?”
My wife and I both chose to vomit the nose and ears and keep the eyes. I realize that I’d rather vomit the whole shebang than lose the hair.
It’s been heavenly coming home from work every night to spend time with my family. For years now I’ve been doing the day job then going to the café to spend another five or six hours writing. And my weekends have been ten to twelve hour writing days. But the second book in my two-book deal is done and when I come home now I see my wife and my kids and there’s simply nothing else I want to do but hang with them.
I’ve been playing chess with my nine-year old and he kicks my ass every time. I finally got one win from him a couple weeks ago and I’m holding onto that feeling with everything I’ve got. I don’t expect to be able to beat him again. It was a fluke, it took all my mental energy and I didn’t have a clear thought for days after. The kids have also got me onto their internet game-making site called Playcrafter. They design and publish these cool little video games, and now I’m part of their world.
And I’m just listening. Hearing what they have to say, on a whole host of subjects. My eleven-year old reads Scientific American and Discover and Night Sky and he tells me about the shrinking stars and inflationary expansion of the universe and the evolution of species and String Theory and I don’t understand half of it. They tell me about the world of their Imagination, which is an actual creation, a story they’ve been building between themselves for years. They add characters and adventures and they’ve put together this long family tree that covers a half-dozen generations. They spend some time every day on this, and it’s like watching “story improv” to see them going at it. I told them someday we’ll put all of that into a cool, YA book, written by them, with the help of their parents.
And they both take violin lessons and, home from work yesterday, I watched them, with their long hair pulled back to keep from getting caught in the bows, and I felt warm and wonderful inside, with the rain pounding on the roof and the labradoodle like a lump of black sugar at their feet.
This time is fleeting. I have to begin work on a proposal for my third book, which will be a standalone. And I have to sweep up the mess of my life, what fell between the cracks while I wrote the first two. There’s a foreclosure in the works, and maybe a bankruptcy, and the likely, looming loss of my day job, and more and more and more. What I’d really love to do is make a clean break and go straight to writing full-time, which is what most of us would like to do, I’m sure. Maybe a writer-in-residency program at some artist colony, a place to keep myself and the family for six months or more. If anyone has any ideas…I’m all ears.
I’ll take my time on the book proposal. I don’t want it to get in the way of daddy time. I know that, soon enough, I’ll be back in the trenches, with deadlines and page-count expectations hanging over me. My boys will see me with my head buried in the laptop and they’ll wonder what happened to the guy who used to end up at the bottom of every dog pile.
Tonight, instead of burying myself in research, I’ll curl up on the couch under a blanket with the wife and kids and watch “The Witches of Waverly Place,” or my favorite, “Phineas and Ferb.” Their world is simply much more fun than anything else I can think to do. Sure, there’s a lot of crying and stomping of feet. But, once I’m done, the kids always find a way to make me laugh. We’re in that perfect, magical time, the time when kids actually want their parents around. And their perspective is always refreshing. We’ve had a huge “Happy Birthday!” banner on the wall for two years now, because the kids didn’t want to take it down. Because, as I’m told, “it’s always someone’s birthday, somewhere.”
They keep the Peter Pan in me alive. I don’t ever want to take them for granted. After all, this is the good stuff.