This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter Viva, who has declared that her preschool Spring Break shall go on ad infinitum.
Professor Foster, (my wife), calls it “feeling fetal.” It’s that feeling you get at the end of a vacation, or the end of summer, or the end of Christmas break, or … every Sunday night. That feeling where you want to curl up into a ball and melt back into primordial soup and never ever go to a morning staff meeting or check your e-mail or see your clients or students and coworkers again. Yeah, you know the feeling. And the longer the time off you take, the more fetal you feel when it’s time to go back to the mines.
Viva (my daughter) is 5, so her sense of behavioral inertia is strong. A junior kindergartener in motion tends to stay in motion, a junior kindergartener watching “The Lion Guard” tends to stay watching “The Lion Guard.” And the longer she’s doing one thing, the less likely she’s going to want to do something else.
I certainly recall that feeling nagging me my entire life. Ending holiday breaks in grade school was absolute torture – from playing with Decepticons and HISS tanks all day to long division and the food pyramid all day? Bogus. Heck, going to bed was torture, even though there was nothing left to watch on TV by 10 p.m. but reruns of M*A*S*H, which had a laugh track but seemed to be mostly about the horrors of war. And now? Well, switching gears from pleasure to business is like riding a roller coaster or digesting dairy products – it only gets more difficult with age.
Yesterday my daughter had to come back from her Spring Break which was, for some reason, two weeks long. I’m told that more schools, particularly private ones on the North Side and North Shore, are taking longer breaks – presumably this is so people aren’t forced to have their travel days cut into their time in Aspen or St. Barts. And really, one week will barely get you a decent base tan, let alone a deep, silky Bain de Soleil look. After two weeks spent in camps and at Grandma’s and on getaways and eating takeout and watching cartoons and playing Legos – learning to read and social/emotional development just didn’t sound appealing to Viva anymore. Can you blame her? No one likes social/emotional development, that’s why most of us don’t do it.
On the odd occasion I get two days off in a weekend, the thought of Monday morning is so daunting I stay up all night Sunday binge watching TV, which makes Monday morning (and the rest of the week) that much more difficult. A holiday weekend comes and I lie in bed checking Tweets to stave off morning. At the end of a holiday or academic break I’m in full existential crisis – considering career changes and aggressive tattoos.
So, I ask you: is it worth taking a break if the hangover is that painful? I mean, we rarely stay up all night watching Netflix on Tuesday because we’re so upset about Wednesday, but Sunday night is murder. A great answer would be to stop going to work, but since we all need our jobs to get health insurance so we can be merely crippled by medical bills instead of destroyed by medical bills – we must go to work.
A more realistic choice is to never take a day off. We’d make more money, and rarely have time for the kind of introspection that allows us to realize that we’re wasting the best years of our lives toiling mindlessly for the man. Those kinds of thoughts are best buried under mountains of spreadsheets. Mindfulness is simply a way to keep your mind on your problems, and even your Apple watch telling you to take a moment to breathe is only a moment in which you realize that you’re developing allergies and hypertension. The Buddha must have a been a wreck, sitting under the Bodhi tree remembering how much he still owed on his student loans.
American schoolchildren have the shortest school year in the developed world. The result: a populace too ignorant to know when they’re being bamboozled by a micro-pawed orange Manchurian candidate, and too many hours for our kids to watch YouTube video of adults unboxing toys instead of sitting in a classroom forgetting how to feel joy. China, Japan, Nigeria, Australia, South Korea and North Korea all have more or less year-round school, and their kids are far too miserable to realize how unhappy they are.
Next time you’re feeling fetal, consider getting a third or fourth job, and if your kid doesn’t want to go to school, double down on the clubs and activities you sign them up for. Days off merely lead to freak outs, and there’ll be plenty of time for mindfulness after we have fatal grabbers at our workstations. Also, don’t watch M*A*S*H – total downer.