You should know that I appreciate your invitations. I’m sure Saturday night’s fiesta was killer and I totally understand that the teach-ins, book readings and other club meetings and activities are wonderfully enriching opportunities to increase the value of my college experience. I get that, I really do — but there’s something you should know…
I have kids.
That’s not an apology but a statement that carries with it certain expectations and understandings. While it may seem like I’m not interested in hanging out, or that I always have an excuse, the truth is that having a family is the life I chose and I’m happy with it.
It isn’t easy being a parent and a full-time student, but a little patience and a good beer go a long way to help ease the stress of busy schedules and lack of sleep and doodie diapers. In fact, the way I see it is that I have two full-time jobs: I work for my kids and I work for my professors.
A typical day starts with one of the screaming kids waking up before my alarm is set to go off. Usually, my four-year-old will jump onto the bed like a cat and crawl to within inches of my face.
“Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Dadddddy. Daddy. Wake up. It’s time to wake up. Daddy, you have to get up now.”
And of course, after that, there’s no getting back to sleep…
Since I refuse to have an eight o’clock class, I have to have the kids clothed and fed with their teeth brushed and out the door by 8:00 to make my 9:30 class. My wife is a middle school Life Science teacher with a longer commute, so the responsibility is mine.
If there are no interruptions or tantrum meltdowns on the way to preschool, I can be parked in my favorite parking spot by 9:00 a.m. with just enough time to enjoy my coffee on a brisk walk through Aldrich Park. I generally stack my classes on Tuesday and Thursday so that I’m able to spend most of the rest of the week with the kids.
By the time I get home from school, my wife will have already picked up the kids and started dinner. That leaves me a half-hour to run around, play catch or ride bikes in the street before eating. The after-dinner routine, which never changes, is bath and shower time, story time and finally, bedtime. If the routine runs smoothly, I can be downstairs with a beer or a glass of scotch to wind down with before diving into the books at around 8:00.
That leaves me with four to five hours each night to get homework done. Forget about TV or video games — not when I’m taking 17 units. I’m not complaining, but you can see why I make little effort for social hour at the pub.
So what’s it really like being a parent and student? First of all, kids’ snotty noses run all the time. They’re just sponging up germs and colds from other kids at school, which in turn gets passed onto me. When they’re sick, I’m sick, and guess who misses class to take them to the doctor? Try e-mailing that to your TA: “Hey dude, I know I look 22, but I’m really the same age as you and I’ve got kids, and they’re puking all over the place. So, um, I guess I won’t be coming to class today.” And then there’s always the difficult weekend decision: laundry and house cleaning or homework? Of course, you would be correct if you answered “sleep.”
But it’s not all bad, either. My four-year-old has a sweet lefty swing like Griffey and a 150 average in Wii Sports Bowling. He laughs when he farts, which is often, and he’s answered the philosophically challenging question of having a comeback better than “your mom.”
But most importantly, being a parent changes you. A lousy day at school is erased when my six-month-old girl smiles when I walk into the room. When her eyes light up and I take her in my arms and everything in the world seems perfect for just that moment — the wife jumps in to say, “Oh, honey, can you change her diaper? She just pooped. Thanks!”
Doodie diapers and homework, I love it nonetheless.