When I was considering full time employment and fretting about the children having to leave the house at 7:35 instead of 8:40, coming home at 5 instead of 3 pm, I consoled myself by thinking about how nice it would be to walk the ten minutes home with them, downhill, as it happens, chatting about our days and regrouping before hitting the house for dinner/video games/wrestling etc.
We’ve been blessed with extraordinary dry, sunny weather since January; only a few terrible rainy days, so the walking-down-the-hill part has come true. But the conversations often veer more towards Pokemon, whether I can go to ebay with my credit card and buy them (OK, Eli) rare Pokemon, how tired our legs are, how we wish we had gum or snacks or licorice in my purse (also Eli) –in other words the kind of grousing that happens when children are tired, hungry and out of their routine.
I get it. I sympathize. I often sit on the bus before I get off at their daycare, and think Well, I could just stay on the bus and go home and leave them at daycare until 6. Technically. But I don’t. I pick them up.
The last two days Arlo has asked me very complex questions. Yesterday it was about tax. Today it was about wages. These conversations carry us all the way home. Trying to explain adult life to a child is this heart-rending event, where I want to explain it just right so he’ll have the Right Idea about things, but in terms he can understand, while still imparting my values.
YES I overthink everything always. Yes.
Today, he mentioned vacations. “I only get so many days,” I explained. “People only get so many days for vacation. It’s a trade-off. We work, make money, get vacation days, have money to pay for vacations…”
“Well,” he said. “You could work at Subway!”
“But I wouldn’t make as much money.”
“Because Subway pays .. not very much money.”
“Because it’s not a very hard job. And you don’t need to know anything special to work there.”
“You have to know how to make change. That’s hard.”
Eli interrupted to mention how much he would like to take more vacations. I started following that train of thought but Arlo said, “Anyway, go on. How much money do YOU make? And what are YOUR qualifications?”
Indeed. How did I end up where I am? Luck; some good, some bad.
We ended the conversation when we arrived home. I told him that I started out working for minimum wage in the cheese shop, slicing meats and cheeses.
“Where you cut your finger almost off!*” said Eli.
“I’ll probably do that someday,” Arlo said.
“Oh yeah?” I’m not arguing. The child is … inattentive.
“Well most people do, injure themselves somehow, at some point.”
“Like a broken arm, or a gushing wound!” crowed Eli.
“Yes like those,” I said.
And then we shut the door behind us, and started in on dinner, video games, and wrestling.
*meat slicer, meet pointer finger, 1994? she said, tentatively?