It had been a tiring day. With four kids under the age of six every day is a tiring day, admittedly, but yesterday had been particularly tiring. The kids were off school because of the Eid holidays and all the places we would normally take them – the mall, the park, the other park – were all closed. All of our Pakistani friends were visiting their families around the country so most of our friends were away too, but our families live in the UK and Canada and so we were on our own. The kids were tired and irritable and fights kept breaking out.
Eventually, reluctantly, we put on a film for them to watch while my wife prepared dinner. I collapsed onto the bed and opened my laptop to answer some of the many emails that were waiting for my response: funding proposals, meetings, requests for board minutes, and so forth. I tried to get my brain into order, to assemble my thoughts, but it was like trying to round up a gaggle of hyperactive squirrels. They kept wandering off. This state of perpetual fatigue is, I think, going to be my salient memory of parenthood. The other week my watch was showing the wrong date, and I only noticed ten days later. I opened my laptop and started to type.
As if on cue, our baby boy, only six weeks old, opened his mouth and started to scream.
“Sweetie, can you get him?” called my wife from the kitchen where she was, by some kind of alchemy, turning fish, spinach and potatoes into something delicious.
I sighed. My one chance to get something done today. My one chance. Once the kids are in bed and we have the house to ourselves all we do is collapse in front of a DVD, and often fall asleep halfway through an episode of the West Wing. All of the work I was hoping to do today would have to wait until tomorrow. It was frustrating. I felt angry. I felt tired. I felt a whiney sense of injustice: why did we live so far from family and friends who might be able to help us? Why had we gone so long without a day off? Why had it been two years since our last decent holiday?
And then, as I picked up my new son and held him close, his eyes fixed on mine. He pulled his head slightly back to get things into focus and stared at me. And then, slowly imperceptibly, a tiny smile started to curl at the corner of his mouth.