Menard and his daughters.
There I was, curled up in a ball on the living room floor as
they circled me in pursuit.
"Meow," I cried meekly as they swooped in for the attack.
They both paused in mid-pounce.
"Aww, how cute," my oldest daughter said as she stopped and
stroked my hair, her younger sister chiming in with a "kitty" of
This is my lunch hour, the best 40 minutes of my day.
But it wasn't always like that. When we first started our
family, we lived five hours away in the Detroit suburbs. I was a
reporter at one of Detroit's two competing daily newspapers, and my
wife was pursuing a second degree with plans to become an
elementary school teacher.
My job demanded a flexible schedule and lunch was usually a
burger at my desk as I pushed against deadlines. There were nights
I worked until 3 a.m. for things as mundane as waiting for local
school election results or as dangerous as being just behind the
police line at a hostage situation with an armed gunman. I flew in
a sheriff's helicopter over a drowning scene and sped down Woodward
Avenue in the back of a Detroit Police unmarked cruiser in response
to an officer in need of assistance. My reporting took me into a
fiery building during a controlled burn with a group of volunteer
fire recruits, my hand fumbling along for the same hose as theirs
as we navigated the blackness of fire, its sounds crackling all
The erratic schedule, paired with a 56-mile, round-trip commute
and dangers both real and perceived, suddenly felt out of place
after our first child arrived, quite dramatically, one Saturday in
October. After sharing a 27-hour labor and witnessing the birth of
my daughter, sitting in the back seat of a speeding cop car seemed
rather pedestrian-and stupid.
So by the time our second daughter was born just 20 months
later, we had made the decision to move back here so our children
would grow up with the bulk of their extended family. But the move
came with sacrifices. With the current state of newspapers, finding
a job paying a living wage proved fruitless, which was probably for
the best, considering the schedule and occasional risks.
Instead I took a job in sales. It was a leap of faith, but came
with its rewards. My commute, just six miles each way, affords me
the luxury of coming home each afternoon for 40 minutes to share a
sandwich, milk and a good dose of living room playtime with my
daughters, who will turn 3 and 5 later this year, as well as our
newest daughter, who was born in January.
Horsing around, I have taught my girls important lessons like
teamwork, showing them the only way they can get me down is if they
work together. Sometimes we play dog, other times cat, and still
other times there is a crocodile or shark in the middle of the
living room floor, and we all have to work as a team to get away
My colleagues, especially those without children, don't get it,
and occasionally poke fun at me for going home for lunch instead of
joining them for eat-out lunches. I've gone a few times, especially
days when the wife and kids are out for the afternoon, and it is
fun sharing a meal and conversation with the other adults from the
office. But it doesn't beat 20 minutes of trying to escape the T.
rex hiding under a pile of blankets on the couch.
Afterwards I drive back to work, my hair disheveled and a grin
from ear to ear, with both my belly and my heart full and
Joe Menard is a freelance writer who lives in Glen Ellyn
with his wife, Dawn, and three daughters, Ava, Maya and
Joe Menard lives in Warrenville with his wife Dawn and daughters Ava, Maya and Olivia.
See more of Joe's stories here.
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