Thursday mornings I am the crossing guard / traffic cop for our elementary school. You see in our area of California we have what they’ve coined “community schools.” At community schools there are no buses everyone is supposed to live close enough to be able to walk, which is a good thing, but most people end up driving their cars to drop off their kids. There are five of us who share the duty, and Thursday just happens to be the day that I do it.
It’s funny. You get to observe the different patterns that people inevitably establish for themselves There are those families who regularly arrive ten or more minutes early. There are those who all consistently late, and when their children get out of the car they certainly don’t make a mad dash for the classroom.
Well this morning one mother walked up to me to talk, which is one of the other benefits of the job. You get to see all of the other parents with whom you are friendly. You get to have a periodic check-in with folks with whom you rarely cross paths otherwise. Parenting has a way of augmenting an adult’s schedule in ways you could never imagine before having children.
So this mother asked,”how are you?”
It wasn’t just a passing comment. We’ve been friendly for a couple of years, but her kids are in different grades than our, and her kids have gravitated to different activities than our kids. These two elements alone are enough to keep adults from hardly ever crossing paths without a significant amount of effort.
I was a bit surprised by my instinctual answer, “uh, OK, I guess.”
No, not convincing, but it was honest.
I really don’t have a lot to complain about. Really, in the grand scheme of things I don’t have a single thing to complain about. I’ve got a great life, except for one nagging little thing. Sex.
Yes, the typically unmentionable in parenting conversations.
Thing is, my wife and I have the same problems as practically every other couple in their later 30s and early 40s. Her career is really taking off. After three years of focusing on the kids I’m putting a lot of effort into creating my career. Those two elements are enough to draw a couple into their own little bubbles of seclusion. Now we also have two kids: active and curious boys. Steal a moment in your bedroom on a Saturday afternoon, and like clockwork, just as the kissing is getting hot and heavy, you hear off in the distance, coming closer and closer, moving down the hallway, “dad?!?!”
And on those times you make the extra effort to get the baby sitter, or better yet, sleep-overs, where we can even get away to someplace romantic that is not home, and on more than one occasion after a lovely dinner, and long walks before and after dinner, we simply fall asleep holding onto each other, because we are both so tired, and because so much time has passed since we had just done that: connect.
Maybe that’s why the “we-have-two-kids-and-two-careers” excuse for an anemic sex life actually makes us laugh. We know we’re still attracted to each other. We have a ton of fun together. There are the infrequent but periodic times where we’ll tear each other’s clothes off and take care of business in record time, finishing just before one of the children starts his trek down the hallway.
We’re realized after 15 years together our problem is that we’re both afternoon people, and with careers and kids that’s an issue.
Well, after a lot of effort, we also know that we have each other, which makes those casual, flirty glances over dinner with the kids, or during dinner parties, or at swim meets, charged with so much more anticipation: exciting reminders that given time and opportunity things could be a lot different.
With all that we have to do — driving kids to guitar lessons, and swim team, and soccer, and play dates, and tutoring, cleaning the house, bringing the car to get an oil change, cub scouts, volunteering duties at the elementary school — all on top of the work needed in trying to foster careers, it’s no wonder that we ever get together with friends, or find any new friends. And through all of that we’re supposed to find time to have sex when we both prefer to indulge in the afternoon?
I guess I should feel happy that my wife and I laugh (pathetically) about our plight instead of blaming each other. The alternative could be ugly.