Looking to Fill the Free Time?

April 7, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

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I found myself back at the endodontist’s today, getting some stitches removed from the spot where my back molar used to be, and making small talk with one of the assistants there.

She asked if I had any fun plans for the weekend. “Trying to stay awake past 8:30” didn’t seem like a socially appropriate response, so instead I said, “No, not really – how about you?”

“Well, I’ve been looking for more ways to fill my free time lately…”

[At this point my suspicions were firmly confirmed: This young, cute woman is not a parent of small children.]

“…so I think I might do some of those planter terrarium balls that you hang in your windows. Of course, that will only take an hour or so, so I’ll need to figure out a few other things, too.”

Lorelei would love that sort of project, I think to myself. This girl has a fun-aunt kind of vibe; maybe she’d like some help. Lorelei’s brand of help would almost certainly extend the project beyond an hour. Heck, I could send Nicholas, too – he would probably destroy everything and double or even triple the project time, not including clean-up…

I actually said nothing of the sort, of course. But it did get me to thinking about the last time I felt like I had extra free time to fill. I think it was sometime before the Obama Administration.

Casting my mind back, I could vaguely recall ideas of taking an adult tap class, and even learning shorthand (because, you know, I need yet another way to illegibly remind myself to “buy milk”), but these never came to fruition. And now it will be several more years before I can squeeze in anything extra that involves more time or brainpower than, say, a nightly fluoride rinse. (This may be why I wound up at the endodontist’s in the first place, but that’s a story for another time.)

As all you parents of small children out there know, your free time – what little scraps of it remain – is readily and fully absorbed by those little monkeys, as if they were magical time Shamwows.

Yesterday alone, for instance, Eric and I collectively dealt with the following:

– A Mommy/Lorelei project involving the drawing of many crayoned flowers, to eventually be turned into floral crowns

– A trip to the playground (where there were, unsurprisingly, several other stir-crazy parent/kid combos there, despite the raw 15-degree windchill)

– A real-time, on-the-potty request for prunes to help move things along (from Nicholas)

– An impassioned yet short-lived hypothetical commitment to vegetarianism, by Lorelei, until she realized this would necessarily entail giving up pepperoni and chicken skin

– Separate requests from Lorelei to become a Girl Scout, have Daddy teach her soccer, have her birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and for Daddy to turn off the Red Sox game (in the fleeting few minutes he had between returning from work and collapsing into bed)

– An ongoing to-do repair list that includes a broken Sponge Bob figurine, a barrette that has lost its plastic flower, a well-worn-yet-much-loved pair of holey little-girl leggings, and a broken dryer handle (which isn’t directly kid-related, but for the fact that they necessitate astonishing amounts of laundry)

– 20 fingernails (10 tiny; 10 mid-size) that needed clipping

– A talk with Nicholas about the importance of nixing potty talk (except when he is actually on the potty and in need of prunes; see above)

– Nicholas’s modeling of Lorelei’s nearly-outgrown fuzzy pink sweater, known to us all as “the Muppets sweater,” which Nicholas claimed made him look like “Mrs. Pig.”

– 4 children’s books read

– 1 cup of spilled milk (which Nicholas was quick to blame me for, accusing me of overfilling his cup)

– Numerous hugs and kisses (some of which involved elbows to sensitive body parts and yelling in ears – and mouths – but all well-intentioned)

And that’s just it. No matter how exhausted or exasperated you get, you’re always ultimately very glad these little guys are around. Even if they do cut into your terrarium ball-making time.

(And all your other time, too.)


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