3 min

Fuck the clock watching

A little hedonism goes a long way

Summer is waning, the light is fading, the days have been getting shorter. At our house, it means losing the warmth of carefree holidays and tightening into the clockwork routine of school, school activities and lessons on evenings and weekends.

It’s a bustling time, full of potential, learning and newness (especially the clothes). But it can also be very trying. If you slip in the routine, ignore your servitude to the clock, you pay the price. Like letting your kid stay up a little too late, even if the program she’s watching could justifiably be described as educational. You’ll have a grumpy morning to look forward to or a crabby evening at the end of the next day.

Then there are the days when your budding black-belt says she doesn’t want to go to karate. You make her, because you know it’s important to attend classes regularly. Same thing for school.

But even if you’re liberal enough to think a day off once in a while is okay, there’s usually not any choice. You can’t take her to work and you can’t stay home yourself. So you convince her to go and, on mornings like this, especially, you’ll have to yell at her to hurry.

Despite the stress, all this clock watching, running and rushing can feel very purposeful. You’re doing what you’re supposed to, living by the routine. You’re accomplishing something, even if it’s only getting her inside the classroom before “Oh Canada” and getting yourself to work before lunch.

But the moments we treasure in life are not often governed by the clock. I confess to learning this mostly as a member of the gay community. I confess to learning how to party, to celebrate, to loosen up and allow myself pleasure. Gay culture, let’s admit, tends towards the hedonistic.

But a hedonistic parent is reason to call Children’s Aid. You’re supposed to be the guide and navigator to your little one’s life. You’re supposed to teach them about commitment and responsibility, that learning is important and necessary but not always easy, that life isn’t just about watching The Simpsons.

One breezy evening last May, warmer weather stirred a dormant desire to be outside. I decided, as I rushed to finish some last minute task at work, to squeeze a little bit of fun out of the regimented day. We’d forego the usual dinner-making and take our new kite to the beach. If we were quick about getting there, we’d have just enough time to run the nylon thing-on-a-string madly down the sand a few times before we’d have to head back to karate. It was not my intention to skip that part of the routine.

It was lovely. And hilarious. We took turns at either end of the bright nylon and its miles of string wrapped on a red plastic handle, jumping to catch the kite in the wind or running backwards over sand, rocks, stumps and other people’s picnics. We got it up, but never high enough to just stand and hold the line, like two human anchors to an airborne skiff. It circled and dove, circled and dove while we yelled at each other, “Pull up! Pull up!” or “Run this way! No, this way! Faster!”

Several times it nearly landed in the water. But that wouldn’t have been as bad as landing in the trees, none of which had branches low enough to make climbing up to the rescue even an option. I was particularly fussy about the trees and yelled at her to keep the kite away from them. So it was me, of course, who got the thing stuck in some of the highest branches. And it was my daughter who figured out how to get it down.

We never made it to karate class. The importance of being on time somewhere and for the benefit of instruction vanished in the evening sun, the lakeshore breeze, in the burgers and french fries we ate on a log and in the hysterics of trying to fly a kite. I let the evening draw on, pulled slowly by the sun down towards the moment when we’d have just enough light to ride our bikes home.

For a parent, evenings like this can be hard to justify. You’ve skipped something, played hooky, and frolicking on the beach is not going to impress the karate instructor. You also haven’t produced anything. You haven’t helped with homework, returned any phone calls, chipped away at social discrimination or made lunches for tomorrow.

But these romps through the sand, these breaks from routine, are life too. If they are no more than what they are – breath-catching laughter, shrieking excitement, sand in your french fries, salt on your fingertips – they are also no less.

Coming out of a straight, pre-patterned lifestyle, being gay has helped me learn how to experience a moment, delve into an event and then let it go. Since this is also the nature of children, being a parent has helped with this too.

But being a gay parent has made it easier to resist the whispering voices of guilt, the reminders of what a responsible mother should do.

It’s allowed me to let my child know it’s okay if we don’t always do everything we’re supposed to. If, for an evening, everything we’ve accomplished is not much more than the breeze that lifts and buoys a kite, but tomorrow is nowhere to be found.