By Tania Lorena Rivera
@Tania Lorena Rivera – Writer
It’s 6:00 pm. The witching hour at my house. It’s that cursed time between twilight and dusk when the youngest children become possessed by the tiredness of the day and their hunger for the last meal before bed. They’re rowdy, they’re loud, they act out, they cry. It also happens to be the hour where I stare at the clock like it’s a ticking time bomb. It’s the time where my patience is at its last drop. The time where I might snap more at my kids and have a perpetual scowl on my forehead. The heaviness of the day is wearing me thin.
It also happens to be the time when my husband should be coming up from our basement stairs and “coming home.” Since the pandemic, his office has been his gaming center. With a crying baby in one arm and an ingredient for the evening’s recipe in another, I open the basement door and yell out to him.
“What are you doing?”
A few seconds of silence.
“Nothing,” comes his predictable and infuriating answer.
But the loud, frantic clatter of a keyboard and the rapid swooshing of a mouse sliding on a mousepad give him away. He’s playing. Again. I close my eyes, sigh, steady my breathing, but I can’t conceal the anger in my voice.
“Get up here now, please!”
The clatter stops. The swooshing ends. And he sighs in return.
“I’m coming,” he answers.
I met my husband in my bedroom. I was surprised to see a stranger sitting at my desk, working on my computer. I was twenty years old, and my older brother had called him to clean out a virus I had inadvertently installed.
I was startled but said hi. He smiled and said hi back. And the rest is history.
From the beginning, he established himself as a lover of games. Our first date was at an arcade. Though he was 24 years old and a computer programmer living with a roommate, his bedroom still looked like it should belong to a teenager. Posters of anime movies graced the walls, and an impressive collection of video games and consoles was neatly organized on furniture and shelves.
His gaming never bothered me. Not when we were dating. Not when we moved in together. Not when we got married. Not even when we had our first child. But the day our third child came along, I often found myself fantasizing about cutting the electrical cords of his Alien computer. Daydreaming about smashing every console he owned to the ground and then stomping on them. Every evening, I resisted the urge to hide his phone, so he wouldn’t spend his free time watching YouTube videos of other gamers.
Right after the birth of our third child, a switch turned off in my brain. The one that liked his gaming. And it remained turned off for long months where all I did was snap and glare at my husband. In my opinion, his gaming was getting in the way of him doing enough to help me. To me, he barely did anything around the house. But I was blinded by fatigue and dazed with worry for the latest addition to our family, who turned out to be a preemie.
Our newborn baby wouldn’t sleep laying in my arms. He wanted to be carried around in a vertical position to fall asleep. With my bad back, it was an impossible task, and my husband stepped in. For the next eight months, he lulled our baby to sleep, watching his gaming videos on his cell phone and pacing our bedroom floor. Every nap, every night, every day.
When our son finally agreed to fall asleep in his mama’s arms, my husband took over the bedtime routine of our then three-year-old daughter. Sure, he lets her look at videos on her iPad while he peruses his phone for gaming videos. But now, four years old, our middle child has never cried, never complained and happily goes under the covers with her stuffed animals without making a fuss at bedtime.
Now, while I bathe the younger kids, my husband cleans the kitchen and helps our eldest with her math problems.
It took months to notice all the small things that he was doing. Before, I was only noticing what he didn’t do. I failed to see him picking up the slack, I just saw him on his phone, saw him come up late to help me with the kids because he was playing for twenty minutes on his computer after work. But the truth is he was there, he was present, he stepped up when I needed him the most.
And now after our brood is tucked in and asleep, he heads back down to the basement to play.
Tania Lorena Rivera lives in Montreal with her husband and three children. She writes about her wonderful family, dabbles in photography, and she has no more room in her basement for her husband’s video game paraphernalia.
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