When it comes to seeing their parents at work, it’s either feast or famine for my kids. Myron, age 7, and Penny, age 5, split their time between my place and their mom’s. Getting a sense of what their mom does for a living is tricky—she’s a midwife, and it would be a bit impractical for her to tote along the rugrats to a home birth, particularly when so many of those births seem to happen at 3 a.m. (Midwives work hard, man.) But at the place I share with my fiancée, Chantel, every single day is take-your-kid-to-work day. My children see us plunking away at our keyboards all the time—usually in our pyjamas, often unshowered, with smeared-up spectacles and hair electrocuted by deadline stress.
Sometimes I wonder whether exposure to the more quotidian elements of a writer’s lifestyle reduces Chantel and me in the kids’ eyes. It can take a year’s worth of disciplined toiling to produce what we create, and I worry that’s too intangible for a kid to grasp. That’s particularly true for the last two books I’ve written—or ghost-written, more accurately, which means they’re published under someone else’s name.
So when the opportunity came along to show the kids the actual result of all that hard work, I jumped at it. It was dinnertime, and the four of us were discussing the impending publication of Chantel’s third novel, a young-adult release called The Rule of Thirds about the adventures of a teenaged photographer. Her publisher was throwing a party to celebrate. I blurted out: “Do you guys want to come?”
Chantel thought it was a great idea. And the kids jumped at it—they love any occasion that requires dressing up. But later that evening, I started to worry that bringing the kids to a book launch would be a mistake. Like any primary schoolers, they become tougher to manage as they get tired and the night wears on. Plus, novelists have so few opportunities to be celebrated. This launch was one of those rare occasions—and what if one of the kids threw a tantrum, or did something else to draw the spotlight away from Chantel?
The appointed evening found all four of us at the photography gallery that served as the launch venue. Chantel and Penny wore high heels and what my daughter called their “princess dresses.” Myron and I were both garroted with neckties. The kids wandered off to explore what was becoming an increasingly crowded room, and I tried to keep track of them while also making conversation with people at the party. “What’s the worst that could happen?” one woman asked, just as, over her left shoulder, I spied Myron and Penny running in circles around the dance floor. A disco ball hung overhead, and they were sprinting in chase of the illuminated spots. What if they collided with each other? What if they took down someone else?
Then it was time for the launch’s final event: the author speech. Everyone stepped back a few paces to create a de facto stage around Chantel. Everyone, that is, except Myron and Penny. I waved them over to join me on the sidelines—but they were too intent on their future stepmom. As the room of friends, family, and colleagues looked on, the two kids pressed closer to Chantel—my daughter hugging her knees, my boy peering up with moon-faced regard.
I wondered if this was how the tantrums would start. But then I realized the kids weren’t drawing the spotlight away from Chantel. Instead, they were soaking up her achievement, an achievement that they’d witnessed over the past year, on the mornings and afternoons when we asked them for quiet. They were just as proud of her as I was—and this was easily the best take-your-kids-to-work day I could have imagined.