Friday, June 22, 2012


As a parent, you often lie in bed at night, exhausted and worn out, too tired to follow through on all your mid-day promises to your spouse about spending some time together that night after the kids are in bed. 

But you think about your day, and you can't recall ever actually accomplishing anything. You know you were busy, you know you were moving all day long, but you feel like you didn't actually DO anything. 

So where did all that time and energy go? It went to schputtering. 

A big part of daily schputtering: preparing
food, then cleaning up all that's left over. 
Schputtering is an ancient yiddo-germanglish word - and not something that I just made up (really, what sort of cad do you think I am to just make up words and then try to pass them off as real words with an ancient history?). It's what you do when you can't do anything, because you're constantly doing everything. 

As a parent of young kids, you have to run two (at least two) lives. And I don't mean that you get to be a spy or a secret agent here. You have to RUN two lives (again, at least two): you have to brush two sets of teeth, comb two sets of hair, make two sets of meals, dress two bodies, etc. etc. etc. But the second life you run, doesn't want to do all these things. Your kids don’t want to brush their hair or go to school or put on their pajamas. So, you have to push it all, Sisyphus like, up The Hill of Personal Hygiene everyday - twice (not to mention the Get to School Hill, then the Stop Teasing Each Other Hill, and the What Do You Want for Dinner Hill, and all the others in your own little daily mountain range). You are constantly pushing those boulders up all those hills... only to do it all over again the next day. 

So, with all this pushing of stones going about, you don't have a lot of time to do all the work on your home, on your life, on your relationship that you'd like to get done (much less stuff that you actually WANT to do, like read a book, go to a movie, hike, etc.) But, inevitably, a sudden and entirely unexpected quiet will come over the house. Suddenly the children are playing quietly (and well) together, or engaged in a craft, or engrossed in a fantastic story of princess-mermaid-ballerina-Taylor Swifts who go to the world's most amazing mall filled with all the cookies and candy in the WHOLE WORLD. Suddenly, you have no stones to push up any particular hills, for a moment. 

So what do you do? 

You don't dare start a project or try to get anything done, because you know, you KNOW, another stone is about to roll right down another hill, and it will come crashing right into your chest if you're not looking for it (generally, RIGHT at the moment when you've pulled the entire garage apart because you finally wanted to straighten it out, or you have realized that you just super-glued your fingers to the broken princess Barbie that is wearing a ballet tutu atop her mermaid fin). So, you know – from too much experience – that you can't dare start something that you really want to do. 

So, you start schputtering. 

You start walking around the house, sort of in a zombie-ate-my-brain stupor, just sort of looking around... 'What do I do? What do I do that is productive but is going to take no more than six minutes to accomplish and can be left completely mid-stride when the next boulder runs down the next hill at me?'

Sylvia, chowing down on some pancakes,
wondering what next she can to do keep
her folks schputting along. 
You wander about, until you see some toys that the girls didn't put away. So you put them away. ‘Ah, that feels good. Something accomplished!’

Then you see three-days worth of mail is stacked up on the counter. You sort it and put it all in its respective piles for the recycling, bills to pay, and coupons for cool things that you'll keep and put in the drawer with every intention of using to do something nice with your spouse, only to find them again a year and a half later, long after that business has gone completely belly up. 'Ah, mail sorted. More accomplishment.'

Then you see the kids' coats on the floor, try to put them away, and are immediately hit by a suffocating wave of other coats, mismatched boots, and single mittens. You spend a whopping, precious eleven minutes cleaning out the closet. ‘Productivity!’

You stop, unsure of what to do next. You listen for the inevitable fight or crying from the kids' rooms upstairs, but not yet. It's still happyville up there for now. So, what next? Ah, the laundry! Check it! Because, surely, SURELY, there is a load still in the wash that needs to dry, or one in the dryer that needs to go into the hamper, or one in the hamper that needs to be folded, or one that's folded that needs to be put back in the kids' closets… where you'll find another load strewn across their floors, ready to go into the wash.

That done, you're feelin' GOOD. You are a machine of productivity! You start to wonder if you really could be so bold as to actually knock something off the three-month old 'To Do' list and maybe clean out the car, or replant that shrub - or even be so brash as to take a moment and sit down on the couch with that book who's plot and characters you've forgotten three weeks ago.

But… you've been burned before. You have to keep it short. You reset the couch cushions, refill the dog and cat food, maybe straighten up your office, always waiting, waiting, for that next stone to come rollin' down at you, which it inevitably does as a fight, or a cry of 'All DONE POOPIN'! or an immediate need for a peanut butter and honey sandwich with extra honey on soft bread with no crusts. 

Thus, after a full day of this over and over again, you're in bed, exhausted, and you can't remember all the 126 little tiny, incremental things you got done today. You're all schputtered out. 

So, what did you ‘accomplish’ that day, since you didn’t get to finally uploading the photos from Easter, or get the car washed, or rearrange the living room furniture, or get to your gymkata class? Not much. Just a whole lot of caring for, supporting, and taking care of some awesome little kids – which is, of course, also called simply ‘parenting’.  

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