Freaky Fortnight

I Have an Epiphany While Watching Shaun the Sheep
Watch as a husband and wife switch places.
Oct. 6 2009 11:38 AM

Freaky Fortnight


I have an epiphany while watching Shaun the Sheep.

The first hint of trouble was the shower. Normally, I get the first shower. After all, if anyone needs to be clean, it's the person who's going into the office. But, in the ragged mayhem of the morning, it was somehow 7:30 a.m., and Susan jumped in first. Then she got way too dressed up. I explained to her that Slate's office is J. Crew casual, not shopping-at-Bergdorf's-with-your-mom casual.

The freakiness definitely set in when Susan left with Nick for school. Sure, I have spent some mornings alone with Will, our younger child, but not a work weekday. He seemed to be getting a little bored around the apartment—I assume that's why he started throwing blocks—so I popped him in the stroller for a walk. Outside, everyone was going to work, and it felt as if the world was revolving away from me. I passed a newsstand and saw the Post headline about David Letterman's "Love Guru." Normally, this is the kind of story whose details I would savor over a carefully rendered latte at my desk. I sighed.

Still, it was a beautiful day, and Will is especially fun to be with at the moment. You can tell him any word, and he repeats it back in a distorted yet cute baby way. He will also occasionally scream, "Yay!" for no apparent reason. We rolled up to the Garfield Tot Lot, a playground in Prospect Park reserved for the littlest kids. (Sometimes a big kid shows up, and everybody scowls at the offending parent.)

Will was crawling around doing his thing, but I wasn't so content. I'd spent a lot of time at the Tot Lot with my older son. Being there with the second kid is like re-entering the dating scene after a divorce. You're just not as psyched to share with other parents how many months your child has lived on this earth, or to commiserate about sleep schedules, or to enthuse about how cool it is that you are raising Mary to be bilingual. That first-kid glow only comes around once. There must have been some other two-kid-plus parents there, because everyone was standoffish. We pulled our iPhones out of our pockets like hip flasks—an e-mail scan providing a little shot of the adult world.


I also realized that I really didn't know Will. He appeared to be getting tired, but I wasn't sure. I'd forgotten how being with a baby is like learning a foreign language. You need to spend a lot of time with them to pick up their cues and subtleties. When I come through the door in the evening, I'm the king with both boys jumping all over me. My time with them is usually short and intense. But this stay-at-home thing requires a different pace. I had to remind myself that I did not have to pay attention to Will all the time. I would have to slow down and be less of a spaz.

Every 20 minutes or so, I thought of Susan at work, but mostly I thought of work itself. A colleague once described working at Slateas "great" but "a little incessant." The Internet is relentless—deal with it for a living, and you start to become like those mariners who tell you that they can't stand the sound of the ocean because it never stops. All day, I felt the pressure of things building up, happening, getting analyzed—things I was unaware of. I felt my own intellectual currency fading. What is an editor/writer but someone who lives by his wits?

In the afternoon, I picked up Nick from school and took him to a movie with his best friend. (Will was safely stowed with the babysitter.) A Monday afternoon movie is just one of the many fun kid things that you get to do again as a parent. I checked mail a few times but started to feel like an idiot. It didn't matter. The whole point of this experiment is that I don't have to worry about work. It's Susan's responsibility. So I sat in the dark, doing my job, tending to our older son. It was a nice feeling. I leaned back in my chair and grabbed a handful of Nick's popcorn.


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The NFL Has No Business Punishing Players for Off-Field Conduct. Leave That to the Teams.

Meet the Allies the U.S. Won’t Admit It Needs in Its Fight Against ISIS

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Medical Examiner

How to Stop Ebola

Survivors might be immune. Let’s recruit them to care for the infected.


America in Africa

The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.

New GOP Claim: Hillary Clinton’s Wealth and Celebrity Are Tricks to Disguise Her Socialism

Why the Byzantine Hiring Process at Universities Drives Academics Batty

Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM The Fascinating Origins of Savannah, Georgia’s Distinctive Typeface
  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM America in Africa The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM Why Your Cousin With a Ph.D. Is a Basket Case  Understanding the Byzantine hiring process that drives academics up the wall.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 23 2014 11:37 PM How to Stop Ebola Could survivors safely care for the infected?
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?