This is not to complain; this is the life I've chosen. My work is demanding on my time but it returns it to me by giving me good, tough problems to solve, and difficult tasks to master. I love doing geology for a living, and I accept freely that this means that sometimes I will have to put my work before my family.The part about this that slips the blade-tip of guilt into the hollow place in my throat is that it's not always so difficult putting that work first.
Because the work, you see, is grown-up work, an adult's profession, and my day is spent with other adults, many of them other professionals and scientists. The demands are always there, but so are the limits.
And children are, by design, born with vast emotional boundaries that are the bright mirror of their early physical limitations. Long before they can walk they can run you down, pull you back on your heels, shake you from sleep, and food, diversion, dissipation, from money making and lovemaking.My friend B has written a good little article about this neutron star of need; I feel the painful jab of truth when she says;
"Never enough of those perfect moments to store in our memories forever, or time away to take mental breaks so we can be fully rested for the continued onslaught of cleaning, cooking, straightening, and serving the little tyrants we love."Because at the same moment I am feeling overwhelmed by the relentless sameness of my children's days (how many mermaid/Star Wars games can you play? How many times can you walk the same path, visit the same pool, the same arcade, the same playground?) I can feel far away a vibration, almost a sound but just below the edge of hearing; the distant drumming of the hooves of the horses of the night.
Faust's night-horses; the frantic spinning of the earth around its pole, of the planet around the sun, that will take those child-days and put them away forever. The little boy and little girl I loved yesterday, that I took to the Nickel Arcade Sunday, that I cuddled with last week, will be carried away in the turning race of the night-mares and gone from me, forever.The little people who take their places are almost the same...nearly perfect replicas...but just that tiny bit older, that microcosmic fraction smarter, more skeptical, less candid with that confiding, loving openness of their baby-days. They are another day, another week, closer to being adults. Perhaps loving, hopefully wise...but never again the sweet-smelling hugs of seven, or the chuckling cuddles of four.
So while I desperately want to claim those moments when I can be with adults and be an adult...I desperately want to hold on to those little people, the ones who can be, as B puts it, like ice cream, both too rich and yet a rich delight, an embarrassment of riches, a surfeit of love and loving. Because when the courses are run, the ice cream will thin away and be replaced with a more complex and more mature concoction; more tart, a tad astringent, perhaps. Not worse, not better, just...different. And without the vanilla sweetness of childhood.
So I sit at the screen tonight and wonder at the hint of vanilla at the back of my tongue. The seeds of tomorrow are already planted tonight, they lie in the dark ground unfruited and yet already reaching towards the light, and childhood is going as the night-runners hasten towards the morning. What is it I regret, I wonder; that in the hastening darkness there is never enough of me, or never enough of them?
"Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon."
(from "Frost at Midnight" by Coleridge)