Flights of Fancy (Without Oxygen)
by Fred Brill
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I am in my final days of another weekend. Two days of granulated bliss
are slipping through my fingers. I gather the remaining grains of recreation,
stuff them in my pockets, allow them to settle in my eyes, ears, between
my toes. On Monday, these particles of play will be rinsed off, scraped
with a razor, and coated with lotions and perfume.
As the father of two children and the principal of an intermediate school
I find there's not much time for leisurely beach activities or metaphors.
Work swallows a good fifty hours each week, and my children gobble the
remaining moments with lovely walks, enchanting books, unruly wrestling
matches and treacherous cooking expeditions.
I love my children, and on most days, I love my job. So, what can be
wrong during a weekend of peaceful repose? No matter the day of week or
the time of year, I crash violently into the me versus them dynamic. If not
with work, then with family. It's a brutal battle for balance. The hour
glass sands flow swiftly during the weekend.
On New Years I made a resolution to do some personal writing at least
four days a week. I made no promises about my children or my job. They
seem to be in pretty good shape these days. As I poke at the buttons on
my laptop, my seven year old son sits beside me carefully writing in his
journal, beautiful block print. My five year old daughter lies on the couch
cutting out pictures of horses.
A flight attendant appears from nowhere (no, it's not real; it's a metaphor.
We're still in my living room) and interrupts my musings to remind me that
if the cabin loses pressure, I am to put my oxygen mask on first. Then
I can put the masks on my children. The message: I must take care of my
needs first or I will be unable to care for my children.
She doesn't understand that my living room loses pressure everyday,
and magical masks never fall from the ceiling. I am forced to create my
own masks and paste them onto the happy heads of my children. I want my
kids to grow up knowing they are safe and loved and well-cared for. I want
them to be saturated in opportunities for intellectual, social, physical
and spiritual growth.
And I want these same things for myself! But usually, when I am meeting
the needs of my children, I am neglecting myself. And when I am taking
care of myself I am neglecting my children.
Yes, I can watch Michael Jordan and Bugs in Space Jam with my children,
but I would be forced to provide dangerous doses of candy and popcorn if
I dared to drag them to the English Patient. I love to lace roller blades
onto my kids and whiz with them in hundreds of nauseating circles. But
I also like to take solo leaps into the hills and careen down curves at
40 miles an hour. These are things I can't do with my children.
When I began writing about this irreconcilable frustration, my children
were by my side, writing and cutting and coloring. We were sharing a magic
moment. And it lasted all of seven minutes. And then they were ready to
move onto something else, while I was just getting rolling. I wanted to
follow one notion around for an entire afternoon like a puppy chasing a
boy. It is my new years resolution, for God's sake!
So I continued writing and writing, while I glued cut-outs and opened
up a string cheese for my daughter. I cleaned trails of mucous from my
son's nose and I wrenched on his socks which were too tight. But I kept
writing and writing. And I only screamed at my children six or seven times.
It's a wonderful life. Rich and colorful and rewarding. So why does
it feel there is no oxygen coming through when I put my mask on first?
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