The drive home from preschool usually goes like this:
Take 20 minutes to walk up or down half a flight of stairs, depending on which exit we take.
Wander semi-aimlessly down the sidewalk adjacent to an extremely busy downtown street.
Stop to look at “treasures” along the way — stuff like acorns and rocks and the occasional bug or cigarette butt.
Coax children into the truck and buckle them into their seats.
Slip into driver’s seat and drive off [after checking email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram].
Half way through our 10-15 minute drive home, The Boy falls asleep. The Girl complains that I’m not playing enough “girl songs” on the radio before nearly falling asleep.
And that’s it. We rarely dig into deep conversations. The kids each refuse to discuss what they learned at school. The drive simply is what it is — a ride from Point A to Point B.
But not today.
The Girl [calling out over Robert Earl Keen’s “New Life in Old Mexico.”]: Daddy.
Me: Yeah, babe?
Me [turning radio down and glancing in the rearview mirror]: Yes?
Her: I have a question.
Her: Hey, Daddy, why don’t you go to work?
Me: Umm … Hmmm … Well, uh … [Quick! Think of something, dumbass!]
Not many adults ask why I am an at-home parent, but when they do I usually give them some line about how it wouldn’t have made financial sense to send the kids to daycare if most or all of my salary would go to pay for it. Truth is, the money I was making editing and doing a minimal amount of freelance writing work wouldn’t have paid for daycare anyway. Plus, The Wife’s income is head and shoulders and probably another whole person’s body above what I would ever make writing and editing.
Add in that I’ve never had a career in the true sense of the word, and the decision for me to stay home was a no-brainer for us. That last point may complicate things once the kids are all in grade school, but that’s a blog post for another day. A day far, far in the future.
Me: Well, I stay home with y’all instead of going to work because Mom and I decided it was important for one of us to be home to take care of you and your brother. We agreed that Mom would go to work.
Her: But I think Mommy should stay home. I wish she would stay home and you would go to work.
Me: I know. Having Mom at home would be nice, but that’s not the deal we made.
The answer was as simple as I could make it without replying, “Just because.” I don’t know if The Girl was satisfied with my answer, but that was the end of it. She didn’t ask any follow-up questions. She didn’t whine about the way things are. It was almost as if she had a question, got an answer, and was satisfied — which is definitely a first for my 3.5 year old Li’l Miss Asks A Lot.
The drive home today was a reminder that tough questions are coming soon … about everything. The questions will probably never stop coming, and I’d better have answers as often as possible. I want my kids to know they can ask me about anything at just about any time.
I put The Boy, who had slept through the whole conversation, in his crib and walked to the living room. The Girl was sitting quietly on the couch.
Me [nearly whispering, so as to not wake The Boy]: Hey, that was a really good question you asked in the truck. You know you can ask me questions anytime you want, right?
Her [loud kid-style whispering]: Yeah. Can I have a snack and watch TV?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Norman, organizer of our recently created Austin Dads Group, explains to his children his role as a stay-at-home dad. A version of this first appeared on And So It Has Come to This.