When I wrote this I was, at best, estimating a parent’s reaction to their kids growing up. I did it based on testimonials of men and women who went misty-eyed at the mention of their children and how they’d fallen prey to the inexorable march of time. Preserving each memory of their children into jpegs and mpegs, struggling to find more storage, more space, more pen drives, more hard drives. Anything that could bring them closer to the myriad ways they knew their kids. I thought growing up sounded pretty hard for a parent.
I was wrong. It’s much worse.
The other day the missus and I were compiling some videos for the folks back home to see. It was a collection of 60-70 videos taken over Tyke’s first two years. I found myself staring into the past with much fondness which gradually morphed into frustration and a little anger. Tyke’s grown so much. He’s a preschooler now, not a toddler or a baby. As a toddler he behaved differently. It was the way he gurgled more than laughed, babbled away with unselfconscious abandon. Or the way mundane everyday items like spoons and bouncing balls were objects of wonder, eliciting coos and gasps from him. Frustration over all that lost time where I didn’t see him do those things.
I spent that time at work and to some extent, online. I can’t avoid work, and to be honest, don’t want to. Apart from the livelihood bit it’s also helped me develop as a person and build my knowledge and confidence. Work consumes 10-12 hours of every weekday; that’s half of the day given up to it. And not all of it is intellectually stimulating or helps augment my knowledge, but I’ll roll with it for the reasons mentioned above.
Time online. It was a boon and curse discovering Twitter in my first year in the US. It was a strange time in a country full of strangers and ironically it was a bunch of other strangers who helped me cope with my disconnect at the workplace and in my new environment in general. But it’s so addictive. I got regularly sucked into games of hashtags and endless conversations of camaraderie with a hundred different people, all leading to la petite mort – validation. I made lots of friends, some closer than others and although I limit my conversations today to this smaller group, the time and effort it took to get there is inexcusable. It’s inexcusable because it meant time away from my son. He would patter around near my legs hoping to engage me in a game but I’d be busy trying to be witty for the world. Now don’t get me wrong. Everyone needs a break, different people to talk to, different interests to pursue or just some time to waste watching gifs of meaningless but very funny shite. I just wish I knew where to draw the line, that’s all.
Even today, I’m addicted to my online life, but less than I was a year ago. Instead, I try and utilize some of that extra non-work time to play soccer with Tyke or go work out or read a book (I always felt we spend SO MUCH TIME in front of screens everyday and some printed matter would be a pleasant change, but I’m happy to say I’ve found a way to fuck that up by buying ebooks). So now I’m trying my hand at a couple different things. Tending to a garden, growing veggies and cooking. Yep. Cooking. It’s great fun to get lost in a different kind of creation, that of food, and then to enjoy the expressions of those who partake of it, in this case my family. Cooking is actually the best of two worlds. I get to spend more time with the family (especially Tyke who’s now at that age where he wants to do everything I’m doing) and developing some life skills. I’ve started off learning practical, everyday offerings like upma, poha, chapatis, parothas, etc. Anything I can do to help out in the kitchen during a busy day. I made some chocolate cake the other day and it turned out amazing. Even without the frosting it had this sweet, sticky layer on top with a warm, crumbly base. I was so proud of myself I got our DSLR instead of my iPhone and took lots of pictures (Facebook brethren, thou shalt suffer these soon). Tyke kept me company when I was preparing the batter by preparing some nonexistent batter of his own in a smaller bowl with fictional eggs, fictional flour etc. It was an amazing experience and one I’m glad I didn’t miss in favor of crafting a 140 character critique of Rupert Murdoch (instead I crafted that critique when Tyke was asleep, haha).
Possibly in a bid to rationalize my muddled priorities a couple years ago I asked myself whether it’s easier to connect with your child when he/she’s a little older and able to communicate. Maybe. Then I lapsed back into my blue funk when I realized the difference between “connect” and “bond”. Those videos of me and Tyke when he was a baby or a babbling brook weren’t of vedic instructions repeated flawlessly by an eager ward. They were of delight, joy, warmth, bonding with your child and discovering what it means to be a dad. Unfortunately, there’s only 60 videos worth of me getting there.
Today, I’m heavily invested in things I’m always going to hold on to for the rest of my life; a family, children, work and friends – online and offline. The first two will always deserve more than their fairshare and the other two will always demand more than their fairshare. It’s up to me to balance those inequities before time runs out.
Isn’t time zero-sum? The time you wish you had with your children will always equal the time you wish you’d given them.
This post was selected by BlogAdda as part of its Tangy Tuesday Picks.