I’m not sure when it happened, but I have lost all semblance of personal time and space.
Who am I kidding? I know exactly when it happened… when I had my first two kids just over a year apart. Adding two more over the next few years didn’t help.
The realization that I’ve lost all privacy occurred to me this morning when I finished my shower and opened the curtain to discover a 5-year-old. Not peeking in or misbehaving, just there, needing to talk.
This in itself is odd to me since as a child I couldn’t have been found within a hundred yards of a family member in the shower, let alone looking for a little quality time with someone in the buff. When I was growing up, my views on nudity were almost Puritan. I was aware that others likely had private parts; I just wished to avoid the topic. Completely.
Once, I walked in on my grandfather… I still have nightmares. A bathroom intrusion was unheard of. If the bathroom seemed occupied in any way, made obvious by the fact that the door was closed, you held it. It didn’t matter if you were about to have an accident or go into some kind of poop-related toxic shock — you held it.
Believing that my kids would feel the same, I mistakenly thought that I could maintain that one little bit of privacy, the final, sacred space for “me time”, the bathroom. Clearly I was wrong.
My kids, well, they seemed to have missed the privacy memo.
With each child I, like every parent, have sacrificed little bits of those joyously selfish moments alone that serve no other purpose than to recharge and rejuvenate. Getting clean is important, too, I suppose, but the fact that the noise of the shower drowns out all others (read screaming, fighting, crying, whining) for at least 5 to 10 (20 if I’m lucky on a Saturday) golden, blissful, damn-near nirvanic minutes seems to trump the cleanliness factor these days.
In reality, I have no right to complain since my wife has it worse. She surrendered her last bit seven years ago and, both figuratively and literally, has had at least one child constantly attached to her body like a barnacle since then. As a dad, though, I still feel it – that need for just a bit of space carved out for me and only me.
Now, please don’t misread this observation, my wife and I love our time with our kids and strive to enjoy every moment with them… even those that are challenging. We go out of our way to spend lots of time with them and to give them what they need when they need it. I’m not saying that I hard schedule two hours a day with each of them individually, but I try to recognize and meet their needs.
It’s just that sometimes those needs are oddly timed. And, I’ll be honest, sometimes they simply interrupt my previously planned moments alone – like those on the toilet.
Of course, I will not completely give up the hope for a little “me time”, even now that I‘m a dad. But I must also recognize the limitations. I have four kids, a 60-hour workweek, and a marriage… those quiet moments alone are pretty fleeting.
And that’s OK.
In a few years, when my kids have grown, I will miss those oddly timed heart-to-heart talks.
Chris Donnelly is married with four children. You can read him every Thursday on momaha.com
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