Saturday, November 6, 2010

No Time for "Joe Time"

I was talking on the phone with my friend Sheldon the other day. Somewhere in our conversation the topic of free time came up, and I whined--- I mean, pointed out that now that I am the father of two, I don't have much of it anymore. Sheldon laughed in my face. (Yes, it was over the phone, but I could tell he was laughing in my face.) And I don't blame him. I deserved it.
I didn't get married until I was 40. Back when I was single, I used to hang out a lot with Sheldon and his family. Often, when I went to go home, I would say I needed a little "Joe time." Unbeknownst to me, this would make Sheldon chuckle under his breath. (Sheldon is the father of four, with a grandbaby. Two of the kids are officially at home, and the other two are most often still at home. Sheldon hasn't had any "Sheldon time" since 1988.)
What is "Joe time?" It's just like "Hammer time," but without the big baggy gold pants. (Sorry. Bad joke, but I had to go there.) (Word to your mother.) No, "Joe time" was the time I used to get to spend lounging in front of the television, doodling around on the internet, cultivating my large comic book and vinyl record collections, hiking (I threw that in so you didn't think I was a total slug), and any other time-wasting, non-important activity that I used to enjoy. (I'm beginning to think "sleep" falls into that last category.)
I graduated college when I was 25 years old. That's when I was freed up to have all the "Joe time" I could handle. (While still in school there was always a nagging "I should be studying" feeling in the back of my head that could cut into pure "Joe time." True, I was usually able to beat that feeling back and do what I wanted, which was always something other than studying, but the nagging feeling was still there.) So, for a full 15 years, from the time I was 25 until the time I was 40, I had a wealth of "Joe time," limited only by the 40 to 60 hours a week that I was working. That's a lot of "Joe time."

Graduating college with my parents by my side. The beginning of "Joe Time."

And then, I got married. Suddenly, there was a lot less "Joe time," but there was a good amount of "Joe and The Wife time," and that was generally more fun than simple "Joe time." Then, The Wife got pregnant (do they know what causes that?) and "Joe time" was negatively effected. (Or is it affected? Either way, there was a lot less of it.) When the baby came, "Joe time" took a serious hit. Without warning, "Joe time" almost completely disappeared, surfacing only in congruence with "baby nap time."
And then came the second baby. And there went "Joe time." (You can hope that Baby 1 nap time and Baby 2 nap time can occur at the same time, but you certainly can't depend on it.) Pure "Joe time" is gone. Instead of the "I should be studying" nagging from school, there is the "I should be watching the kids" nagging in the back of my head. Even as I am writing this, I'm ''watching" the kids. They are both playing contentedly (a rare occurrence), but I worry that at any moment he'll start screaming for no reason, as he is often wont to do, or that she will get into something she shouldn't, as she is often wont to do.

So now, Sheldon can laugh at me. He knew this would happen. "Joe time" is gone. But, I love my wife and kids. How much? I love them so much that I'm willing to let "Joe time" go forever. Instead, I'll settle for the smiles and laughs and hugs and kisses. Yes, I think I'll settle for "Family time." (And I think I came out way on top in that trade off!)

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