Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What I don't have to miss

Saturday night, I took my daughter skating. There's an outdoor rink in our town square, very close to home, but far enough to feel like an adventure to a little kid. It was magic: she's so rarely out after dark, the moon was clear and nearly full, the rink was all lit up and full of teenagers and families and people on dates, with my five year old the only little kid wobbling around the undisturbed middle of the ice.

She's a new skater, in the sense that she's only figured it out this past week--and I know this precisely because she learned on a field trip with her kindergarden class that I attended. I've been on several of these "sorties éducatives" with her, ever since she started daycare actually. I figure I miss so many weeks to conferences, so many evenings to public lectures or job-candidate dinners, so many weekends lost to grading binges at crunch time, and every single year since 2006 I miss her birthday because I teach at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria. In the face of all that not-around, I like to compensate by attending these mid-day, mid-week events that the professorial life affords.

It's a balancing act, home versus work, daughter time and husband time and alone time, negotiated daily. Sometimes it doesn't work so well when the borders between Professor and Mom/Wife are too porous--not three minutes ago I snapped at my darling husband because I'm trying to do too much at once. He's bathing the girl and I said I'd take care of the post-supper mess, but he came downstairs to find me typing away at this post and I wasn't too pleased he doubts I'll do the dishes. He's none too pleased with my tone. I'll go up in a minute and apologize, and try to remember that work, even blogging work, is best handled during the day, when I'm all alone. I seem to have to learn that same lesson fairly frequently. But sometimes, as in the case of the field trips and the skating, the balance can work, the lesson is easy, the reward immediate.

When I'm on the field trip, my daughter formally introduces me to everyone; she licks my hand because she's a kitten who loves me; she sits next to me on the bus; she tells everyone her mom is the best skating teacher in the world (I'm not), or the best french story reader (maybe true). She's thrilled to bits to have me there. I wouldn't miss this for the world, and, hallelujah, I don't have to. There's lots I have to miss, but at least I get this:


video

She's been trying to skate for years. She has her mother's athletic gifts (minimal) and violent impatience (in spades) but it finally--suddenly, completely--clicked. And I was there.

Which meant we could go out together Saturday, holding hands under the stars, on a mild, clear February night, singing skating songs in French. When I'm old, I know this is what's going to matter most to me. The research trips, the articles, all of it? I'm proud of that work and I enjoy it, but what melts my heart are these times, something new and surprising, shared with my family, going around in circles maybe, but keeping our eyes on the stars.

4 comments:

  1. Love love LOVE this post Aimee. I perpetually feel that the borders between my various roles are being blurred/strained. Your post struck such a chord that it made me well up--in the midst of the constant go!go!domore! thank you for reminding me that while my work is fulfilling, and I am proud of it, it isn't what matters the absolute most in my life.

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  2. As a new mom who just returned to work part-time after a too-brief four month mat leave, this post is wonderful to read. I hate feeling like I'm missing out on even one thing in my daughter's life, and it's good to know that I won't have to miss out on everything.

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  3. This is a great article. Finding the right balance is always a struggle. A few years ago, I was able to work full time, as well as take three or occasionally four courses in a term, and still have family time.
    With two kids, I've dropped down to taking a maximum of one course a term. My littlest is now starting to cruise along the edge of the couch, and will stand unassisted for about 5 seconds.
    As much as I enjoy my academic studies, this is not something I'm willing to miss out on.

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  4. Erin -- thanks. It's good sometimes to just pause and try to remember what's going to be worth remembering in years to come, I think.

    Jana -- hang in there. I find I'm feeling more and more comfortable in my dual roles as the years start to accumulate. A good idea when you're feeling crunched, I find, is to do daily, deliberate quality time where you just focus on your wee one, even for 10 minutes. Because that 10 minutes can be really powerful for both of you. The full beam of your love and attention, not doing a chore, just peek-a-boo, or tickling, or (later) playing My Little Pony, or "pretend I'm a baby chipmunk and you're an animal rescuer."

    Nick -- it's good to have some perspective as well as a sense of your own limitations, right? The courses will still be there next term ...

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