Doing Work with Kids

Not all my work

That’s a pile of bricks. We’re redoing our patio, removing the bricks that collect dirt and then seeds and then weeds, in favor of something a bit tidier. We’re also knocking down our patio walls and extending the entire area. It’s a big project.

We started this project on a whim, my wife deciding that this would be her birthday gift. In the  beginning we made great progress. Both my daughters were wielding screwdrivers and helping pry the pavers loose while my wife and I picked them up and relocated them like a pair of Egyptian slaves  building their own mini-pyramid. Then her parents showed up and the pace accelerated.  We finished the entire patio area in one afternoon and evening. Over pizza that night, each of us remarked that the project was going faster than we would have guessed.

The next day it was just my daughters and me. Knowing my wife wanted this done and waiting for a contractor to return my calls for concrete estimates I started doing a bit more. Then stopped to make lunch. Then I moved  a few more stones. Then stopped to check on someone crying after their bike fell over on them. I did a bit more. Then stopped to make dinner for everyone.

During the moving of stones and moving to check on the kids, it occurred to me that parenting while doing anything is like having an additional gravitational pull.  The same effort will produce less movement or extra effort is needed for the non-kid level of work.

It’s taken a long time for me to realize this and it feels pretty dumb to only now understand it. My sister-in-law does this really well. We visited her over Easter and she sort of sweeps through each day in an airy set of movements. She never seems hurried but never wastes a moment.   As a stay-at-home parent it looks like she’s figured out that live moves a bit slower with kids.

This was one of my biggest challenges early with children.  I felt like I should be doing more, often a lot more. It was a bit like planning a long hard run only to start and realize your legs feel wooden and there is a strong wind.

Maybe moving slower is a good thing. If I wanted to just be moving blocks all day I could find a job doing that. Instead I get to mix in projects with the fun stuff I do with my daughters.

Life is like the patio we’re creating. Things move differently when kids are around, but that’s part of the reason kids are so great.


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