Why we have children

Role playing in paradise
Role playing in paradise

When I was pregnant, I used to joke with people that we were having kids so that my husband would have a built in gaming group constantly available. Anyone who has ever been with my husband on a quiet evening and seen the glint in his eyes and he pulled out a dice bag and asked who was up for a Cthulu one shot knows that I wasn’t really kidding.

Still, kids have had more of a dampening than enhancing effect on our gaming life. Our weekly game has survived (the fourth kid has recently been added to the table in the person of a wee little boy born on Christmas Eve), but… well… let’s just say that Adam missed Gencon hotel reservation because he was picking up a sick kid. If anyone has an extra spot in a Gencon hotel let me know. He’ll only be there from midnight to 7 am.

But lately the kids have been getting old enough to do some real actual gaming. Grey is a full on reader, and pretty patient with games. What Thane lacks in literacy he makes up for in spacial reasoning genius. I refuse to play the game, but I bet he’d whup me in Ricochet Robot.

Adam has been playing games with the boys for years. He’s taught them to roll dice and simplified systems. He’s drawn maps and created compelling npcs with silly voices. Grey has played “Eric of the Golden Sword” for years. Thane calls his 1:! game with dad “Lord of the Rings” (it’s not).

On the plan to Cozumel – in which tropical island I currently find myself – Grey read a 7 page Fate rulebook. (Reading a rulebook cover to cover puts him one up on me…) And right now, on the front porch, Grey is running a game he’s been working on all day. There are puzzles and NPCs and monsters and props. Thane and Daddy are sitting with the GM, enjoying the story. Grey is doing a great job – I’ve played in worse games than he’s currently running.

Adam may not have been waiting for this QUITE his whole life. But he has been waiting for it all Grey’s life. Let the gaming begin.

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want. As soon as I figure it out.

I was sad when the schedule came out so that Adam and I could not spend Camp Gramp week in wild hedonism together, doing things like “sleeping in” and “playing board games”. BOTH weeks this year where my parents would take the kids, there were gaming conventions. I could hardly ask Adam not to go to Gencon, so that was just the way of it.

Is this what relaxing looks like for me?

The brilliant upside was this: I would be alone. All alone. No one else in the house. No cat, no dog, no kids, no husband. I even decided to take a day or two off from work, to do whatever it was I wanted to do. Just me and my desires to attend to. I wondered, in the cold days of spring, what amazing thing I would do with my free time. I imagined driving up the Atlantic coast, stopping to stare out at the wild waves of Maine. Or maybe I’d manage to find a friend and go backpacking! (That is actually what I really wanted to do. The problem is with the find a friend part. I’m reckless, but not that reckless.) Maybe I’d finally hike Mt. Chocorua. Maybe I’d slip my passport and a change of clothes into a bag and just go wherever the road took me. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I had a tumultuous lead time up to my great liberty. It went something like this:

Friday – work full day, pick up farmshare, drive 6+ hours to New York
Saturday – fail to find Appalachian trail
Sunday – hike Appalachian trail and drive back to Boston
Monday – work full day then fly out to Los Angeles on the redeye
Tuesday – have meetings in LA, watch Elysium with the sales team, fly back on redeye to Boston
Wednesday – all day company outing at Crane Beach. Buy plums.

Thursday I had originally planned for a day off, but I was so behind on stuff that I ended up working. Thursday evening arrived, and I relaxed by cleaning the kitchen, buying a new weedwhacker, getting my nails done and making 2 batches of plum jam.

Pie, red plum jam and golden plum jam – two night’s of labor laid deliciously out.

Friday was supposed to be the prime day of my great relaxing. But. Well. I started with an earlyish morning appointment at the chiropractor. (See also: twelve hours of long haul driving and two six hour redeyes in a five day period). And then I came home to a house that was a DISASTER. The kitchen was a mess. The living room was a mess. The dining room was a mess. The kids’ bedrooms made the rest of the house look downright clean. My bedroom was appalling. The carpets needed cleaning. And so that’s what I did.

I mowed the lawn. (I still need to edge it. Sigh.) I cleaned out Thane’s room. I cleaned his carpet. I cleaned out the upstairs hall. I cleaned the carpet. I cleaned my room. I cleaned the stairs carpet. I organized the living room and removed stuff we didn’t need any more. I cleared off surfaces in the dining room. I did the dishes. I cleaned the kitchen. I picked up the farm share. I cleaned the ‘fridge. I prepped all the farmshare food. I made blueberry pie. I invited friends over for a glass of wine and blueberry pie. Then I was GOING to SIT AND WATCH THE BASEBALL GAME, but it was a bad game and I practiced my trumpet and guitar instead, while flipping between the Sox and the Patriots. By 11 at night, the house was cleaner, but hardly done, and I was completely exhausted.

Saturday morning, I cleaned Grey’s room properly. (That was the hardest of them.) I dropped off dry cleaning. I went to the bank. I did the bills. Finally, I left to New York to go pick up the boys.

So what did I do with my precious, precious time of liberty? I caught up on chores. In fact, I pushed myself HARD to attempt to get as many chores done as possible.

“What” says the extremely ardent reader who has made it so far through my litany of “ohmygosh am I busy!” – “What makes you think we’re interested?” It’s this, oh Ardent Reader. It was something of a revelation of my sense of self. I think it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that being busy and engaged in satisfying labors is part of who I am. It’s not a small part either, and I think it’s growing. That’s no bad thing, because I am satisfied with being satisfied by labor.

But I think it also sounds the warning gong of a person too busy. I may fully utilize my time to be productive, but in exchange for what? Would I have been better off reading a book on the (overgrown) back lawn? Would my life be richer if I had gone North and left my farmshare to fend for itself? Or would I be less happy, heading into my busiest time of year in a chaotic and unrestful environment? How many days would I have to have off in order to feel like I was done with what needed doing? Or is that a goal that can even be accomplished? How do I draw the line between true work that needs to be done, work that I think needs to be done, things that I do that are like work but are also hobbyish (like canning), and true leisure and rest?

I’m curious how you, oh Ardent Reader, navigate these decisions. How do you draw the lines?