Figuring it out

Since we first picked our knuckles up from the ground, lit a fire, and covered our nakedness, mankind has been grappling with the Big Questions. Pondering the meaning of life, the flow of time, and the movement of the sun and stars has resulted in brilliant moments of philosophy, creative works that stand the test of time, and great leaps in our scientific understanding. And yet, we don’t have all the answers.

Despite thousands of years of philosophers, poets, and scientists putting their minds to the task, I still can’t explain “tomorrow” to my kids.

“Is it tomorrow right now?”

“It’s today.”

“But yesterday you said that it will be tomorrow in the morning.”

“Yes, and that was true yesterday, but this morning is today.”

“When is it going to be tomorrow?”

“Well, never.”

“There is no tomorrow?”

“Oh, no, there is one, but when we get there it turns into today.”

“I’m going to die before I ever get to tomorrow.”

“ACK! Don’t say that. Yes, well, I guess you will. We all will, but that doesn’t mean we’re dying today. Look, something shiny!”

Time is an all-consuming and entirely confusing concept to children. They hear us talk about it constantly so they want more than anything to master it. Don’t we all?

Master Time

“Is it once in a while yet?” my daughter wants to know.

“Um, what?”

“Is it once in a while yet? You said I can wear my flip-flops once in a while, so is it once in a while?”

I did tell her that. She can’t walk in those things but she adores them. So I put her off with the classic, “Those are once in a while shoes.” She figures it out though. “Oh! I know! I can wear them when we eat french fries, because that’s a once in a while food!” Move over Immanuel Kant, we’ve got a new master of Reason.

They know that minutes can be long or short but haven’t figured out how to control which type of minutes they experience. My, “OK, in a minute,” response to a request for something invariably means the long kind, whereas, “Bedtime in 5 minutes,” usually involves the short ones. I might have revelled in my power over Time once, a power not meant to be wielded by mortal men. I stretched and shortened minutes, bent hours and days to my will. And then Luke learned to tell time. Damn that school of his! 

Parents control time

Children spend their days trying to understand the world around them. They come up with explanations for the weather, lunar cycles, why they can’t see their eyes in their shadows, and how people in Antarctica cope with being upside down all the time. Bigger kids explain the mysteries of the universe to littler kids, making up for lapses in knowledge with profoundly unfounded confidence.

Now my daughter tells me that wishes she was a boy so the sun wouldn’t always be in her eyes in the car on the way home from school. And I find myself explaining the Earth’s rotation to someone who is not listening or getting it because her mind is full and otherwise occupied, figuring it all out.

There’s only one reason

It started out happily, before I came to the realization that the gulf that separates me and my husband might be too big to bridge. Finally liberated from the long hellish winter, we began the process of readying our house and yard for spring. We spent the weekend raking, clipping, and trading out snow toys for warm weather gear. The kids “helped,” mostly by begging us to pull them around the yard on sleds. Which is hard. So I said no.

Lucky for them, Tim is much more fun and less lazy than I am. He stood sweating and catching his breath after finishing his umpteenth run around the yard dragging the kids behind him on a sled, when he suggested that I give it a go. “It’s actually a lot of fun. After all, running around, being active, and playing with the kids is the whole reason we work out at the gym.”

Um, what? This is when I fully understood the immense breadth of the chasm between us.

I don’t exercise so that I can just exercise more with my kids. WTF? Who does that? The ONLY reason I work out is to not be fat. That’s it. End of story. Any health benefits are secondary side effects. Certainly ‘the ability to run around at other times’ would never make a list of Reasons I Work Out if such a list needed to exist. Which it doesn’t. Because there’s just the one reason.

I wondered if I’m the only woman living with a fundamentally strange and misinformed man, so I asked my co-authors from I Just Want to be Alone what they thought.

Stephanie Jankowski from the blog When Crazy Meets Exhaustion understands: “My goal is to not have my thighs rub together as to prevent starting forest fires; his goal is to be ‘heart healthy.’ Meh.” 

Robyn Welling who blogs at Hollow Tree Ventures said, “I started a regular exercise regimen last week – exercise every day! So far I’ve stuck with it – and I have gained 4 pounds. My husband wants to lose 5 or 10 pounds too, but he figures the weight will come off in the spring when he starts working in the yard again. What pisses me off is that IT WILL.”

Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying gets me, “I work out because sugar and cheese.”

Suzanne Fleet blogs at Toulouse and Tonic and she’s with me too. “Oh it’s all about not being fat. Otherwise, I’d just sit here and read a book instead of sacrificing that time to something so unenjoyable.” EXACTLY!

Christine Burke from Keeper of the Fruit Loops adds, “I run to support my eating and drinking habits. Case closed.”

Lynn Morrison from The Nomad Mom Diary definitely gets it. In fact, her essay in I Just Want to be Alone is called, “My Obnoxiously Skinny Husband,” in which she quips, “I’ll do almost anything to avoid conversations about my weight, but I draw the line at actual exercise.”

Rebecca Gallagher writes over at Frugalista Blog. She shared this story to demonstrate just how much her husband has no clue. “Once, my husband and I after dinner were arguing over the last bit of wine. I said, ‘You have it, it will save me some calories.’ He’s like, ‘Pfft, what’s a couple hundred calories?’ I’m all, “WHAT’S A COUPLE HUNDRED CALORIES?!! Says the man with Michael Phelps’ metabolism. Fuck you! I have to count calories or I’ll be a size 20. Asshole.’ He’s like, ‘Gosh, didn’t know it mattered.’ And this is why men can be douchewads.” That’s pretty much exactly what I think every night as my husband sits down to his after dinner bowl of cereal, and then his after bowl of cereal bowl of ice cream.

So I’m not alone in the world, just in my house. Between the children who choose running over walking in just about every scenario and my husband who confoundingly exercises so that he can better exercise at other times, I am an island in my limited tolerance for working out. If God wanted me constantly running around, he wouldn’t have given me so many bouncy parts.

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