Midway through scrubbing a month of soap scum from the sides of the bathtub, Noodle jumped off my back, ran into the living room, shredded a full roll of paper towels on the freshly vacuumed rug, and insisted that he was a bullfrog — from the tips of his toes to the top of his lungs. I probably should have put the scum scraping off until his mother got home, but this is what ambition looks like for a stay-at-home dad. I can’t say I recommend it.
If I had been sitting in the living room, quietly doing nothing of consequence, the rug would have remained neatly vacuumed. Noodle would have played with his toy ambulance. I would have joined him on the floor with a fire truck and a box of blocks. We would have built a fire station from the blocks. The EMTs and the firemen would have had conversations about the crash to which they were responding. I might have even gotten to be the fireman this time.
Of course, the bathtub would still be a slick of old brown soap, the cleaning of which I have put off this long because I knew — I just knew — that a cascade of disasters would follow. And I knew that I wasn’t ready to handle the disasters; I hadn’t the energy to keep up with the inevitable room-to-room slop rotation that only a three-year-old can manage. Until now, I had procrastinated. It was my defense mechanism.
In a way, though, it’s not really procrastination. It’s self-preservation. Parenting is about timing, and putting things off isn’t always about not wanting to do them. It’s about not wanting to do all that accompanies doing things that your Noodle doesn’t want to do. When you focus your attention on cleaning up a mess over here, you can be sure that he’s making a mess over there, away from your watchful eye.
If you don’t want to spend your day chasing messes from room to room, don’t start tidying them. Why not put off what doesn’t need to be done now? Laid Back Dad’s tip: clean up after they’ve grown up. Don’t put off joining your kids in making chaos. You’ll be missing out.