Navigating the Sandwich
After Parenting: Asking Myself Who Am I?
Parenting is a heads-down, all-consuming job. Then one day we look up and realize the world has changed
The all-consuming storm of early parenting has blown over.
The boys are tweens now and not needy in a 24-7 kind of way. It’s time to pick through the wreckage of that storm and snatch up pieces of my former life. Time to read a book while we travel, because they are more than happy to lose themselves in a video game on the plane. Time to throw an occasional dinner party, as long as they get their due in mac and cheese first. And time to reconnect with hobbies that once were part of who I am.
In a despairing moment amid twin toddler chaos, I threw out most of my golf shirts, thinking five hours on a Saturday morning would never be mine again.
And it’s not, still. But two and a half hours to play nine holes, stolen from a Wednesday morning, can be. (Even if it means editing stories at 10 pm to make up for it.)
But it turns out the world wasn’t standing still for the 10 years I’ve been out of the hobby loop. Those old cotton golf shirts are passe now. New, higher tech fabrics and cuts have replaced them. The 100 books that have piled up on my shelf during the past decade? An oddity to all my friends slipping Kindles into their carry-ons.
I headed into a ski shop to buy a new sweater for my first mountain jaunt in ages. The twentysomething duuude waiting on me at an outdoor gear store looked at me blankly when I asked for the ski sweater department. “That would be for….?”
“To wear under my coat,” I replied.
Suddenly, as if translating from Middle English, he replied: “Oh, you mean a mid-layer.”
Apparently, that’s what I meant. So I bought a high-tech jacket-like thing and told my sister the story, explaining I needed something thin to fit under the overall suspender straps of my ski pants.
“You’re not actually going to wear overalls are you?” asked my horrified sister, who has apparently skied during this century.
So, back to the store, which of course had no ski pants left, seeing as how it was January and bathing suits were taking up their floor space. Luckily, this thing called the Internet found the last pair of ski pants in North America.
Even goggles have changed since my last iteration as a skier. Apparently, bug-eyed goggles aren’t bug-eyed goggles anymore. Now everyone wears helmets, so the goggles are constructed differently to fit around them.
I’m not saying all this change is bad. Certainly, the popularity of helmets is a terrific improvement. And those golf shirts made of fabrics with genetically re-engineered names really do help when it’s 95 degrees.
But it’s hard to keep up, especially after a parental sabbatical. Some of the change is driven by better technology. But some seems more a product of marketing teams with overactive imaginations and a penchant for separating people from their disposable income.
I’ve never been one for redecorating my house every few years just to be on the cutting edge. And so with hobbies, I can rent whatever skis are available and throw on something warm. (Though not, I promise my sister, the overalls.)
Because the heart of what I love about my hobbies hasn’t changed: Walking through the rainbow of green shades on a golf course with birds singing, curling up with a good story whether it’s on paper or on a Kindle, and standing at the top of a mountain seeing the stunning majesty of the world below.
And each time I do, I love my children no less, but I reclaim a small piece of myself. And soon, they will be borrowing my e-reader, out driving me on the golf course, and beating me down the mountain.
All good stuff Tam. Although I, forty some years past what you are experiencing have had more than my fill of “me, myself time’ and would give the world to relive some of those 24/7 days of long ago. The days and years go by ever faster. Yes, there is so much beauty everywhere around one and so much time to absorb it. But, I think that the answer for me is that I truly, achingly, miss the need to be needed.
Being needed by a child is in a league of its own. Nothing can replace it.
Such a great piece. I have used my (adult) children as my tutors to navigate those areas where I feel alien.
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