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Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I need to know something.

I took a day off today, which meant, as usual, that Erin went to daycare and I went on a bike ride and watched a movie. The bike ride was great; the movie was average.

I seem to have a special ability; a sixth sense. Whenever I abandon my daughter to the care of strangers and take a day for myself and guiltily hide from the spying, judging eyes of the world by ducking into a movie theater, I pick the worst possible movie to see given my guilt and my judgment paranoia.

For instance, today I saw a movie called Henry Pool Is Here. Luke Wilson stars as a man who finds out he is terminally ill, buys a house in his childhood neighborhood looking for comfort in the familiar, and tries to drink himself into depressed oblivion before he dies. He is alone, without any hint of family. This is the kind of movie I choose to see, without knowing anything about the plot, on the day when I'm alone. Idiot.

But today doesn't even compare to Erin's very first day at the day care center. The first day when I wasn't home with her. It was a test, to make sure she'd be able to handle daycare if we had to use it in the future. I didn't need a break or have to run errands or anything like that. So I was feeling especially guilty about taking the afternoon off (yeah, it was only 4 hours of daycare, not even a full day). I went to the movies, and I saw two films, back to back.

No Country for Old Men and I Am Legend.

Completely, utterly, insanely bad choices.

The movies were fine, even great. But let me synopsize these two features, selected by me on an afternoon when I had sold my daughter to gypsies.

No Country is the story of man who finds a whole bunch of money at a drug deal gone bad. Someone figures out that he has the money, and they hunt him. So he has to leave his wife and go on the run, holing up in hotels and motels and fleeing from the creepy menace that is Javier Bardem, as well as from some Mexican gangsters. Ultimately, and if you don't want the end spoiled go ahead and skip to the next paragraph.....ultimately, he fails. Despite his competence, he weakens for a moment, and he is killed like a dog. He dies far from his wife, and because he has failed her and defied his nemesis who has promised to kill her for his defiance, she dies too. There is almost no movie that could have been a worse choice to see on that particular afternoon.

Almost. Because I saw the worst movie to see on that particular afternoon immediately afterward.

I Am Legend is the story of a brilliant scientist who is the last man on Earth. He watched his wife and son die in a horrible accident during a panicked evacuation from New York after the cancer-cure he develops starts turning everyone into crazy zombie things. After he watches them die he spends years in insane isolation, trying to cure the zombie things: because he can't bring his family back, but maybe he can perform the near-impossible and make up for destroying the human race and killing his family.

This was not a good, relaxing afternoon at the movies, folks. This was vengeance. Retributive justice. Karma.

I biked away from the theater today feeling as I tend to on these days: guilty. Missing my daughter. Wondering why I need to take even these modest breaks from the routine. I suppose I need to know that these breaks are worthwhile.

But not as badly as I need to know where the 40 year old dude on the bike in front of me was going, in his khaki pants and his loafers and his visor.

And his Bob the Builder backpack.

Just curious, dude.

(Editor's Note: As some people have pointed out, I actually don't really remember the plot details of I Am Legend. Do not count on me for movie reviews. I actually just sit in the theater and tweet.)


Jeremy (Discovering Dad) said...

Maybe the backpack has special powers like the one on Dora and Diego? It could transform and help him through all kinds of tough situations, like when cars swerve toward him trying to catch a glimpse of an old man with a kids' pack riding down the street. That was the first thing that came to my mind. BTW, I know exactly how you feel with the guilt thing, even when we send the kids to the grandparents house for the day to give me a break.

Mandy said...

Boooooob the Builder, Can we FIX it? YES we CAN!

Bob the Builder...

Oh, sorry. We sing that about 500x a week. Love it. Love Bob the Builder.

Good thing I didn't spot him while in my car. I might have had to run him over.

for a different kind of girl said...

The little breaks, however modest, are SO necessary. I adore my boys. I miss them when they're not with me, and am often immediately in their space, begging them to tell me what they did that day. However, if we are around each other as constantly as we sometimes have the tendency to get, we'd make each other crazy. They need the space and the inspiration and play of others, and I suppose we do, too, even if we're just sitting in silence in a darkened room, or praying to Mecca in the clearance aisles of Target. It gives us a fresh slate.

I've got nothing on Khaki Pants Man, which is a shame, really, but I look at this comment and see it riddled with commas fired from a semi-automatic comma gun, and I should probalby end this and reload.

ryzun13 - husband to a blogger said...

Bob the Builder fan club convention, didn't you get the note?

How great is it to see your daughter after taking a much deserved break for the day. Maybe your subconscious makes you see depressing movies so you can enjoy the family even more.

Mr Lady said...

Next time, follow that poser, K?

I have had kids for 10 years, and none of them have seen the inside of a daycare. I am really REALLY jealous of all of you stay at home parents who had the brains to sign your kids up for daycare. If someone had told me I could've taken a day off 10 years ago, oh, how different I would have turned out.


Also, are you SURE he invented the vaccine that killed off everyone? I've seen it a LOT, and I didn't catch that. I thought he was working for the army, finding a cure for the thing that the independent research team lead by (I think I remember this right) some cook new age chick?

Damn it. Now I have to watch it again. I'm billing you for the sleeping pills and the teddy bear I'll need to cuddle.

And sorry for going all geek on your comment box. I'll shut up now.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to let go of the parenting guilt when I'm away from my kids for any length of time that isn't work. No wok = no private school, no college, no vacation, no health care, and on and on.

Even taking an hour to go to the gym fills me with guilt and worry. My kids know how to punish me for my absences, even though my Homer practically pushes me out the door.

Stefania/CityMama said...

Necessary so you can have a few moments to even collect these kinds of thoughts and ask these questions.

I need breaks to know that I am not just mom or working mom, that I am me. I needed the 10 minutes it took me to run an errand tonight to crank up the stereo and sing at the top of my lungs.

We all love and adore our children. I work from home--hard as it is (you know)--to be near them. But I cannot be with them 24/7 or I start to lose myself. I had kids relatively late (32, 34) so I knew myself pretty well before hand. And I know that I am someone who needs time away from my inherently needy little ones. To go from working solidly for four hours then straight to a pool for 2 hours then straight home to cook dinner and then do the bedtime routine is tough beans! I take my "me time" where I can get it.

Soon, you will be able to enjoy it without feeling the guilt. And that's a good thing.

Swirl Girl said...

Maybe khaki pants dude was feeling all guilty about taking a day off -and on his way to pick up his kid from daycare with the kids' backpack.

Violet the Verbose said...

Um... we get to take breaks? I did not get the memo on that, dammit. Thanks for telling me.

Actually people have been telling me to for years; I just haven't figured out how to do it on a regular basis yet.

Love the image of the 40yo dude with the BtB backpack. Har har! Next time you see him, get his story and report back, please. :oD

Jozet at Halushki said...

"How can I miss you if you won't go away...."

Something like that.

I Am Legend was brutal, even with the kids sleeping soundly upstairs.

Anonymous said...

When I manage to get a break from my girls I do one of two things.

1. sleep - because that way I can forget I've abandoned them in the loving care of their fav. Aunt


2. go shopping and ease my guilt by purchasing things for them and not myself.

Sleep is my preferred option as it doesn't hurt the credit card.

SciFi Dad said...

Understandably, your mind was on other matters by the time I Am Legend started.

I concur with Mr. Lady, it was not Will Smith who created the vaccine; it was the doctor played by Emma Thompson (we see her on a tv interview).

Oh, and you know me well enough to know about all my guilt issues, so I won't go into them here except to say, "I hear ya, tight pants dad."

Anonymous said...

Think of it as your responsibility, not just as a father, but as a husband, to make sure you get the little time off you take. So many of my friends (an I did it too when I was fortunate enough to work from home) NEVER took time for themselves. By the time the weekend rolled around and their husbands were home, they just needed to get away to recharge. Problem was, that took away from time with their husbands....bad plan! Take your quiet time during the week, don't feel guilty, feel good that you are putting the value in your relationships with your daughter and your wife that you all deserve.

Karen said...

Dude, you need breaks. Erin needs breaks from you. It's a win-win situation, truly. Don't feel guilty.

I'm dying to hear how Erin did in daycare!

I think I'm more impressed with the fact that you rode your bike to the movies. Kudos, man!

Write From Karen

Jenni said...

Ugh, I know Bob is in my immediate future, what with a 14-month-old son, but I'm choosing to completely ignore his exsistence until then.

And, I know how you feel about needing some time but feeling terribly guilty for taking it. I know that after I've left Oscar for a few hours, the pure joy on his face when we're reunited makes it totally worth it.

Heather said...

You're jealous of his backpack, right?

Don Mills Diva said...

I think they are worthwhile. The odd time I will take a day off work and take Graham to his babysitter (later than usual, but still) and just lie about the house all day. I NEED to do that sometimes - I just do...

Carolyn...Online said...

Dude you should've seen Tropic Thunder.

Ali said...

ah, but could he fit his kid inside of it..??!?!?!

don't feel bad about taking that time off. you need it. it probably allows you to be a BETTER dad. but maybe you should make better movie choices? see something a little less dark and a little more...erm, Mamma Mia-ish (hehehe)

Heather said...

I thought Will Smith's kid in I Am Legend was a girl.

Nancy said...

Try not to feel guilty for your down time .. more parents should try it if possible. The upside, Erin is slowly experiencing time away from you rather than an instant schedule change.

You just need to work on picking those movies better, oh and getting yourself a cool backpack.

WickedStepMom said...

Even if you feel guilty for taking a break they are always needed. Bear and I work two jobs most weeks and take care of the kids too. Its a lot and sometimes we just need some time away from everyone. Yeah, we always feel guilty and we always come rushing back from the break that wasn't as good as we thought it would be, but it still helps.

As for the khaki dude... I think he was smuggling Taiwaniese midgets?

Must Be Motherhood said...

Jeez. Next time just be done with it and spend your afternoon off reading "The Road" and slitting your wrists.

Relax. Enjoy yourself a litte! Go see "Pineapple Express" or porn...:P

Tami said...

Might I suggest a comedy for the next day off you need? Seriously - Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, - both of which sound bad but I've heard mixed reviews - methinks you'd walk out at least having giggled a few times.

Man on a bike with a Bob the Builder backpack - Wow! just...Wow!

Undomestic Diva said...

Don't you know by now that parenting is just a tool to make us all learn the art of handling guilt? You, my friend, are in the same boat as all of us moms. DON'T GIVE IN TO THE GUILT.

Momo Fali said...

Well, let's hope the guy with the backpack wasn't going anywhere near a childcare facility.

Big Sky Girl said...

When my uncle was the mayor, he had a bob the builder doll on his desk, because he got tired of people coming in and bitching about everything. This particular Bob the Builder doll had a feature where you could squeeze his hand and he would say "Can we FIX it? YES WE CAN!!!" very enthusiastically. Really has nothing to do with what you said, but the BtB reference made me think of it. :) You're welcome. :)

Avonlea said...

The dude with the BtB backpack was obviously smuggling Chinese gymnasts!

The last few times husband and I have had movie time away from our little guy, we too watched good, serious, depressing movies. I told him we've got to see a comedy next time.

caramama said...

There is nothing wrong (and so much right) with taking breaks.

Your only problem is that you need to find out more about the movies before you go to the theater! Dude, find a comedy or some fun action adventure! There have got to be some playing. Do a little research!

Aunt Becky said...

You poor thing.

And that was me in the Bob The Builder Backpack. Sorry I've been lying about my gender this whole time. I'm actually a dude. Who bikes. With a kids backpack on.

Redneck Mommy said...

I have a Bob the Builder backpack. Left over from the days of Bug.

I use it as my purse. I'm classy that way.

And I'm not going to point out your horrid taste in movies. Why toss fuel on an open fire?

Loralee Choate said...

I had a long bout of bad movie Karma, too.

For the longest time after Matthew died it seemed like EVERY DAMN MOVIE I SAW had a kid die in it.

Seriously. It made me stop going to movies for a LONG time.

Issas Crazy World said...

I actually saw I am Legend and only remember Will Smith with no shirt, so I think you did fine.

How does Erin like daycare?

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

This is why I only go see movies like "Stepbrothers".

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Note to self: Get Chicky into a daycare but contact Backpacking Dad first to see what movie he would see in my situation and then avoid it like the plague.

Okay, got it.

Anonymous said...

Please, from now on, how about you ask me for movie advice, I'll make sure you choose the best film for your guilt ridden afternoon...

kittenpie said...

You've got to give yourself a break, man. Daycare is NOT selling your child to gypsies, or my whole life would look different. EVeryone needs a break from their daily stuff now and then. It doesn't mean you don't love it/her, it just means you are not a machine. But for god's sake, pick a better passtime, okay?

BabyShrink said...

BPD, we must be on the same karmic wavelength this week. First, we both used the word "idiot" to describe ourselves in our blogs. Second, we have tremendous child-related guilt.

It's been a tough week all around. My mother says that "the moon must be in feces"!

Dto3 said...

I'm with Momo Fali. Bob the Builder backpack, khakis, and a bike? I don't even want to think about what might have been in that backpack. Creepy!

Anissa Mayhew said...

I'm thinking there's a really good chance you should just pick another day-care-day picking scabs or trolling for aluminum cans. On one similarly celebrated free day, I went to see the "Bucket List". Nearly drove my car in to a tree after that one..on purpose.

T. said...

We all need a break sometimes, even when it doesn't feel like we do. I think even our kids need a break from us, too. And as long as you aren't the one with the Bob the Builder backpack, you are going to be juuuust fine.

How does Erin like Stanford?

Elisa said...

That's totally how the universe is arranged: we give up our career and social life for our kids, but when we take a morning off we somehow manage to feel guilty. Ah, the joys of parenthood ;-)

greg said...

oh so YOU'RE the guy who sits in the theater and tweets...

Burgh Baby said...

The whole two times that we have sent Alexis to daycare when we weren't working, I felt AWFUL all day. The guilt, oh the guilt. I swear I think she somehow knows we have sent her to that place she usually goes to every day for no reason and is going to hold it against me for the rest of my life. Can't do it ever again.

BTW, I totally have worn a Dora backpack. *hangs head in shame* It's the only kind in our house these days.

dadshouse said...

I can relate to the guilty feeling of leaving your kid with strangers the first time. But let me tell you - Day Care ROCKS! My kids both did day care from an early age. They're now 12 and 16, happy, healthy, social, confident.

They picked up a lot of skills in day care that other kids didn't so easily get - like how to meet new people, how to resolve differences, how to engage your mind in a million different ways. They learned to talk sooner, read sooner, write sooner. And they had a blast just playing with all those kids.

I have no regrets, and in fact I think every child should get the opportunity to spend time with other kids in day care.

That said - I can see why those movies sucked for you on that particular day. Know that the feelings change and get better!

Backpacking Dad said...

jeremy: ah, it's a magic backpack. I need to find that store.

mandy: I wish you would have :}

FADKOG: I didn't notice, any, commas.

ryzun13: which blogger are you a husband to? And are you a Niven fan?

mr lady: it's a geek forum. go crazy

fear and parenting: vicious circle

stefania: you are so organized and on top of your stuff that sometimes I want to crawl into a hole :}

swirl girl: you are too kind to him :}

violet the verbose: apparently we get breaks :}

jozet at halushki: word.

leechbabe: it's a good thing I'm not a big shopper.

scifi dad: yeah, my mind was a tattered wreck already.

anonymous: That was such a nice comment that I am bummed that you remained anonymous. I want to shake your hand. Or give you a Bob the Builder backpack that I found.

karen: oh, she does fine in daycare. She's all "daddy who?" when I leave.

jenni: I'm putting Bob off for as long as possible.

heather: I totally am. That dude was rockin' with such confidence that I just need him to teach me.

don mills diva: oh, but I lie around the house all day when she's home with me. My breaks are so I can get out of the house :}

carolyn online: oh, but I already saw it. :}

ali: I hope there was no kid in there.

heather: oh hell. You all got me. I never saw the movie, apparently :} Maybe I'm confusing it with his son in The Pursuit of Happyness

nancy: I know, right? Maybe I'll get a Transformers backpack next time.

wickedstepmom: that's exactly right. the break is never as good as we thought it would be. It's still good, though, I suppose.

must be motherhood: laughing my ass off.

tami: I'd seen them both already. It was slim pickins at that time of day.

undomestic diva: you got it. No more guilt. The guilt won't win. I don't even know where my daughter is right now. I think she's in the kitchen playing with knives.

momo fali: yikes.

big sky girl: I want every one of my stories to start with "When my uncle was the Mayor"

avonlea: First Taiwanese midgets, now Chinese gymnasts. You people are killing me.

caramama: I spent 20 minutes going through moviefone before I finally, reluctanly, considered that last one. It said it was a dramedy.

aunt becky: I thought he looked familiar. Shaped like a bottle of Grey Goose.

Redneck Mommy: call me sexist, but I think you can pull of a Bob the Builder backpack more easily than this dude.

loralee: I can't handle violence against children or accidental deaths anymore. I saw "The Orphanage" (again, alone on a day off) and almost had to leave.

isaas crazy world: she loves daycare. It's me who hates it.

jenny the bloggess: I can't believe you saw Stepbrothers. And I didn't.

chicky chicky baby: lol. Glad to be of help :}

loudange: deal.

kittenpie: they sure look like gypsies.

babyshrink: your mom is awesome :}

dto3: and now I'm thinking about it too. Thank you.

anissa mayhew: yeah, I saw the Bucket List too. I think I brought Erin with me to that one though, so I wasn't quite as suicidal.

t: oh, she doesn't start at Stanford until October. This is just the backup daycare at Emily's office.

elisa: word.

greg: guilty! but I do sit in the back row....

burgh baby: I have lost all respect for you :}

dadshouse: yeah, I can see a difference after she comes home from daycare. She loves it there.

Anonymous said...

and THAT RIGHT THERE is what the primary caregiver/parent feels ANY DAMN TIME they do something for themselves. GUILTY. it sucks!!!!