Sunday, March 27, 2011

Quick (Spring) Break

As your kids get older, you see them less -- it's just part of the bittersweet bargain of doing the job of parenting. They gain their own social life, independence, and workloads; as teenagedom hits, most weekends, even if you're a city family, your only way to achieve quality time is often during transportation to an event.

But the school calendar does carve out a few oases to look forward to -- Summer, Christmas, and Spring Breaks. In New York, while public schools get a week in February and a week in April, private schools give two conjoined weeks at the end of March.
A nice chunk, but I always wondered how easy  it was for families with two working parents to manage.  It was one of the few things that divorce actually made easier.

Well this spring, through a peculiar set of circumstances -- including plans to visit colleges with my older daughter, being needed at work, and my younger daughter being invited by a classmate on a great trip leaving 36 hours after finishing her vacation with my ex -- I found myself looking at a spring break with my younger daughter totaling only 12 hours, on Friday.

In my head, I immediately concocted a super New York day: maybe welcome spring to Central Park with a rowboat ride?

Bouchon Bakery Grilled Cheese

Maybe lunch at someplace she'd never been like Bouchon Bakery [right], a trip to a museum (though she doesn't like to stare at paintings, MOMA has a design history of the kitchen she'd love, as a budding chef, below.)
Instead, I had a textbook case in managing great expectations. First of all, it actually snowed the day before, the temperature was in the 30s and even the robins told me to stay out of Central Park.
Then my request for a day off didn't go through because so many other people were already out, so I had to go in for several hours to produce a segment.

My dauhgter was jetlagged, slept in, and when I picked her up from her mom's, she wanted to go out to her favorite breakfast place -- a diner [right]. 

Ironically, as I told her what to expect at CNN -- we found ourselves sitting across from Joy Behar.

Then it was off to work. She enjoyed meeting everyone and, because she's made her own YouTube videos on her laptop, I introduced her to a kind editor -- Jon O'Beirne -- who let her sit in as he deftly produced an 18-second piece on Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli.

At lunch she opted for the CNN cafeteria. She came into the control room to watch my piece tape, and then I suggested we head over to MOMA.

No dice. She was wiped and wanted to go home and hang out.

We watched the Modern Family with Nathan Lane she'd missed while away, then Aaron Sorkin's cameo on 30 Rock, where Studio 60 (on which I'd worked) got teased. She quite enjoyed it, and hopefully she didn't focus on the episode's stellar joke about fans of Entourage mailing HBO douchebags as a campaign to save the show.
Then I made her spaghetti and meatballs,  the clock ticked down to when I had to drive her to her friend's apartment where she'd be leaving the next morning. I didn't think I could suddenly interest her in March Madness basketball, and she seemed too tired for Scrabble.

Then I remembered: right before break she took exams which included an English section on Great Expectations -- maybe she was interested in seeing the classic David Lean film version.

Now, at this point you may fairly accuse, what kind of Dad are you? Your poor kid already got dragged into 4 hours at your office and you wasted another hour of TV! Why didn't you read to her, or find out what her hopes and dreams are?

Well, I've written about my occasional dunderheadedly inappropriate movie choices for my kids.

But the fact is that I've learned that sharing the right movie at the right time can be a meaningful experience. And my kids, god bless 'em, love black and white movies (at least good ones). And who could not be gripped by this opening?

She totally got into it, welcoming each new character by name as they showed up -- though she was disappointed by a few casting choices; she'd pictured Jaggers as slick instead of portly, and found grown-up Estella lacking.

When it was done and I drove her and her suitcase to her friend's house, I thought back over our twelve hour spring break and realized that my own great expectations hadn't been quashed, just modified. Which is always how it goes. Bon voyage, honey!


Laura said...

That's a really lovely day, David! I always think life brings the best stuff in between what you planned.

Robert said...

This all sounded so wonderful and perfect I (briefly) wished I was your child. (no jokes, David!)

Cara said...

Ditto what Robert said: This all sounded so wonderful and perfect I (briefly) wished I was your child. Cheers to you!