Free Time? No Time? All The Time.

Let me just get this out of the way now. I have been an utter slacker with regards to writing for this blog.

Looking at the blog over the last year or so, I don’t know if I have averaged one post a month. I used to crank out stuff on an almost weekly basis. But, what can I say? As my kids have gotten older, they have taken up more of my free time. Free time that I used to use to write up about their crazy behavior.

Oh, their behavior is still nuts; if they aren’t being best friends, they are finding ways to brawl like Conor McGregor and whoever is next to beat up on Conor McGregor. And as they have gotten older, their behavior at times still leaves me wondering if my wife or I accidentally dropped the kids on their heads when they were babies. Believe me, that would explain a lot about why Lily can spend a week filling a trash can under her desk to the point of overflowing with tissues, look at the mess, and legitimately ask me how she is supposed to empty the thing.

Maddo, who is 12, now has soccer practice twice a week, which thanks to the pandemic, is held at a field that, depending on traffic, takes 30 minutes to an hour to get to. That takes time. Lily, even though she is now 10 years old, still has to ask how to make a piece of toast. That takes time, and patience. Maybe we did drop her on her head? That might also explain her issues learning how to add and subtract fractions.

And then there’s my wife, who is a kindergarten teacher trying to educate about 22 five-and-six-year-olds via a daily Zoom session. If you have kids who have been in kindergarten, you know what it’s like to get them to sit still and concentrate on anything other than their bowl of Crunch Berries. Imagine trying to get almost two dozen versions of your kid to learn the difference between “Tuesday” and “Wednesday” when they would rather tell you very important things like, “My dog has four feet!” and, “I like Crunch Berries?”

I don’t get too much time to myself. But when I do, I am serious about it.

The three of them are online and “Zooming” with their classes by 8:30 every morning. And by 9, at least one of them is calling upon me for tech support. Usually, this involves getting Lily’s headphones connected via Bluetooth, or showing my wife how to get her entire class back and visible in “gallery view” after she has hit some keystroke combination never before seen in the history of Zoom. I’m not saying the woman doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she’ll admit that she has extraordinary skill with disabling almost every piece of electronic equipment she simply walks by, much less touches.

All of this cuts into my free time during the day. Free time that one might thing would be nearly endless since I was laid off from my job almost eight months ago.

Annual layoffs at the company I worked for were not uncommon. At least once a year for the four-and-a-half years I was there, the company shed about 20 to 25 employees via a combination of layoffs and buyouts. These were the marching orders from the company’s hedge fund owners in New York. Every year the layoffs came around, those of us still on the job would joke about surviving for another day, but knowing that our time on the chopping block would soon come. And with a company that was hit hard by the start of Covid-related economic shutdowns—We had furloughs in some divisions and were all told to take a week of vacation by the end of the fiscal year in June—The timeline for my company exit was only sped up. I wasn’t surprised when it happened, and, to tell the truth, there had been some philosophical changes toward what we were doing that I wasn’t on board with, and which had been causing me a ridiculously unnecessary amount of stress. As such, it was actually a relief when I got that layoff call.

Still, the fact that the call came just two days before I was already slated to go on vacation only added to the “This could only happen to me” scenario of the situation. So, instead of being off for a week and half, I have now officially been “off” for almost a year. And while I haven’t been working daily for “The Man”, I still have three bosses that are just as demanding as any corporate chief executive: My two daughters and my wife. And with these three, “not working” is not an option.

“Not working” doesn’t mean that I just get up in the morning, put on my bathrobe, stick my hands in my pockets, and then sink into the sofa for eight to 10 hours of watching reruns of “Jerry Springer,” Maury Povich’s baby daddy DNA tests and innumerable commercials for ambulance-chasing lawyers. I spent years working East Coast hours on the West Coast and I have become programmed to waking up and getting into action by 5 a.m. Even if I wanted to sleep in, I can’t. I have to get moving early. Kids need to be rousted. My wife, who will admit to not being a morning person, needs to be rousted. The only ones who don’t need my prodding to get up are our cats, who follow me around as I’m getting my coffee with a look of, “Where have you been? Now, get us our Fancy Feast.”

The next couple of hours are a mix of goading the girls into getting off their butts to eat something, get dressed, stop watching re-runs of “The Office” and get online in time for their daily school Zoom sessions. My wife will ask me to read some comments about her students’ work, figure out why her students can’t hear her (you have to unmute yourself, honey) and do things like install a new set of wheels so that her rolling lesson board can actually roll.

All that takes place before 9 a.m. From then, a typical day is a mix of run-of-the-mill boring activities that, due to their sheer number, all tie together into a David Lean-like historical epic drama. There is cleaning up dishes, picking up clothes and turning off the lights in every room that the girls have just left. There is folding laundry, trips to the hardware store and pleading for the girls to get online for their piano lessons. There are trips to the dentist, calls to the city about trees leaning over the street, and furious efforts to get my wife appointments for her Covid vaccinations.

All of that was over the previous two weeks. As I write this, it is 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and already this week I have started searching for a German-made diverter that we need to fix a leak in our shower, made several calls about how to get rid of an old, broken down elliptical machine, met with a locksmith about a jammed latch that kept us from opening the door to our garage, met with a guy about adding solar panels and putting a new roof on our house, gotten my back cracked by my chiropractor, written a letter to one of Maddo’s teachers, and taken Maddo to the orthodontist. (Good news: She doesn’t need to wear her headgear any more. Bad news: She now has to wear her retainer nearly all the time, the next phase in our contribution to the orthodontist’s new Porsche.)

Things might be about to slow down a bit. I don’t have much on my schedule over the next two days, or until I have to take Maddo to her soccer practice, which due to Covid fears around Oakland has forced her team to take to a field 20 miles away. At least when I am there I can pick up ribeye steaks at the nearby Costco or kill off 90 minutes by taking a parking lot nap in my car. I’m not saying I set the bar low for myself, but with my schedule, getting to do either one of those would leave me feel like I had just won the Super Bowl of free time.

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