Lately I’ve been losing focus. Life is busy for pretty much everyone when you live in capitalism, when you live in a culture that glorifies being busy, when productivity is seen as more important than love and joy and connections. It gets even busier when you have a small child, and when you sit squarely on the poverty line. Babies find a way to extract time out of you that doesn’t even exist. They do it in perfect love and perfect innocence, but they do it all the same. And time is money, and we don’t have any of either. Add to that the fact that I’ve been freelancing, meaning I’ve been working in all the small spaces of time I can find (when the baby naps, when his Ma has him, when I’m breastfeeding and a good idea strikes), and it’s basically a recipe for constantly feeling addled, constantly feeling behind, constantly being consumed. We’ve been missing more and more family meetings, getting more behind on housework, feeling the stress of it all pretty much constantly. It’s a good life, but it’s also no way to live at all. So I lose focus, I drop metaphorical balls, I have a harder and harder time returning to myself.
A lot of this, I think, comes from being forced to live in some semblance of the nuclear, no matter how hard we fight it. Maybe fighting isn’t the answer, and maybe one day things will be better. But for now we live in a small two bedroom apartment, and most days it’s just the three of us. And even when we were living at the collective, we still often felt isolated as a family. I don’t have answers, just questions. I suppose one could move to an established commune, but that’s not where we’re at right now.
And so I take a second to edit something that’s past due, I take a second to start dinner, I take a second to make silly noises with the baby. He is crawling now, and saying “hi” to every person, cat, and book, he meets in our living room. It’s a thrill.
<short intermission for a diaper change>
But it also means a new level of parenting, wherein he is insistent on being independent, but actually needs constant help navigating even our mostly baby-proofed front room. It’s not that I wasn’t engaged with him when he was younger, I was, it’s just on a different level now. Yes, I can set him down to play on his own for five minutes while I pee/type something up/grab a snack, but in just a few moments he will need me again. He doesn’t know that eating paperback novels is not, in fact, a thing that we do. He doesn’t know why the baby gate is there. He doesn’t know that if you crawl under the dining chairs, and then sit up, you’re liable to bonk your head. So he needs me. So I go to him. I take the books out of his hand before he can eat (very much) paper, I try to encourage that he play with his toys while also giving him the freedom to choose which ones, I sing to him and kiss his bumps and bruises.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. There’s this phrase: “make time,” as in, “well you just have to make time to see your friends.” But it’s so ridiculous because you can’t actually make any more time than there is. Before you know it the day is gone and you’re reading Goodnight Moon for the five thousandth time. Before you know it, the time is gone.
My kid turns one at the end of May. Last year, I had a thousand projects I wanted to do before the birth. I didn’t do any of them. I had all the time in the world, but I was too sick, too tired, to depressed, to do even the most basic things, and everything else waited until after the basics were finished (which, they never were).
So I’m making him a quilt for his birthday.
I’ve never made a quilt before, but I’m fairly certain my plan will work. I’m making the quilt primarily out of the many flannel receiving blankets that we were gifted for him, the ones that were too small to swaddle him in by the time he was two months old. Those ones, and the one we took home from the hospital. You know the one.
I’ve been thinking about this for ages, trying to find the time or make the time to get started. After this load of laundry. After this article. After the baby’s down for bed. After my wife is home from work.
Then it hit me. You can’t make time, but you can take it.
You can decide to take time, even if you don’t exactly have it.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I steal moments to cut pastel fabric into triangles. If he’s up, I can’t get much done, because he inevitably finds what I’m doing more interesting than any toy for babies, and he will try to take the scissors. But that’s ok. That has to be ok. When I cut the flannel it makes this satisfying sound. It feels strange to be dismantling the bits of cloth we used to wrap him in.
There is no time. There is never any time. But take it anyways.
I have to go, he’s after the books again.