Oct 19 2008

Househusband Axiom #1 – Quantity Time Is Quality Time

Filosofo, my 9 year old and the eldest of my three boys always tries to engage in deep, meaningful conversation with me in the morning, when I am in the kitchen busily juggling the tasks of making them breakfast, preparing their school meals and getting them ready for school.

It always starts out the same way …

“Dad?” He’ll ask with a mouth full of bread and peanut butter while I’m chopping up a cucumber for Exacto (my 6 year old, who eats vegetables and fruit, but not cheese, salami or eggs, unlike Destructo, the four-year old, who eats everything in his lunch box, including the eggs I’m boiling in the stove while toasting the bagel for Filosofo, who likes toasted bagel with cream cheese and salami sticks but won’t eat vegetables or eggs).

“What?” I ask tentatively, bracing myself for what I know is about to come.

“There’s just one thing I don’t understand …” he says, throwing me the bait.

“What’s that?” I bite and he’s got me now … hook, line and sinker. Here we go …

“How come if you travel for twenty years into space beyond the orbit of Pluto then come back to Earth, you’ll only have aged 40 years but everyone else will have been dead on this planet for over 700 years?”

“Son, please eat your breakfast. We’ve talked about this before … eat your breakfast, brush your teeth and wash your face, get dressed for school and then, when we’re in the car, you can ask me anything you like, ok?”

“Ok!” He goes back to eating his breakfast while I glance at the kitchen clock and then frantically try to get their school lunches finished and packed. We have less than 20 minutes before we have to leave the house to get to the school in time and all the boys are still in their pyjamas. Filosofo is silently pondering the problems of the universe, Destructo is staring blankly at the corn cracker that’s still untouched on his breakfast plate, and Exacto is eating his bowl of cereal, but one grain at a time.

15 minutes later, I’m yelling at the boys in the bathroom to stop mucking about, finish brushing their teeth and start getting dressed.

Somehow everything comes together and 5 minutes later we’re all in the car, reversing out of the driveway on our way to school. And today’s only Monday!

Filosofo does not forget. He never forgets. And neither do I. As soon as we are in the car and moving, he asks me the question again.

“Dad?”

“Okay … let’s see then. You are wondering why the astronaut will only have aged about 40 years, but everyone on Earth will have been long dead when he or she comes back …”

For the next ten to fifteen minutes (that’s how long it takes to drive the kids to school), we discuss the problem. I call him on a technical issue and we end up discussing Ptolomy’s theory of concentric circles versus elliptical orbits, the curved nature of space and time due to the effect of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“So Einstein is real?” Exacto cuts in.

“Yes, he is real. Einstein was one of the greatest geniuses of our time. He revolutionized mathematics and physics, and he is your mommy’s favorite mad scientist.”

“So did he really have screws on his face?”

I don’t understand what Exacto means, but Filosofo gets it straight away.

“That’s not Einstein … you’re thinking of Frankenstein! And the screws are in his neck, not on his face!”

At last, the time-space debate comes to an end, just as we arrive at school, relatively on time and straight into a parking space.

After dropping the boys off at school, wishing them a great day and kissing them good bye, I drive out of the school car park and turn on the radio to catch the 9:00 am news.

As I was driving home, I heard that a new research conducted at a leading Australian University has found that most fathers spend less than one minute a day alone with their children during weekdays. The research also found that, although most fathers will spend a little more time with their children on weekends, what they actually spend their time on is “play” activities, not “maintenance” tasks like feeding them, getting them ready for school, etc …

I guess that as a househusband, I really am very blessed. I spend hours every day with my children, not minutes. Even though looking after my boys full time can be fairly exhausting (I’m usually zoned out by 8:00 pm and my wife then has to take over), I really am grateful that the kids and I are spending all of this time together. As all parents know, kids grow too fast and this is something we’ll never be able to get back. There is no greater privilege or treasure than spending time with your children.

The Lazy Househusband

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