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Solo Dad Part 6

Some of my friends have generously said, "Can we be of any help?", but they back away as soon as I ask them to vacuum, do the laundry, meet with my youngest kid's teacher and work on my taxes. Seems to me if you make an offer you should be willing to follow up on it.

Meanwhile I got this email from a California reader named Betsey about my post on the kids never turning out a light:

A day after the Kyoto treaty went into effect, with most of the world agreeing to try to prevent further climate change from wasteful emissions of CO2, etc, and this comment about your childrens' lack of education shocks. It should have been quite simple to teach your children in pre-school one plus one equals two: natural resources (for the most part, so far, non-renewable) plus human technology results in household electrical power. In grade one, they could have learned that power generation and usage have side effects on all and should be used respectfully, cleanly, thinking of others, in the same way, I assume, you and your spouse taught them not to do their droppings throughout the house. Shame on them - and on you.

I do not feel shame about that. I do feel some shame about turning my life into a 24-hour self-promotion machine. I feel shame that I don't know how to use the blogging tool correctly. I feel stupid about having a "wireless" broadband network that functions only when I plug a cable into the laptop. I feel anger that all my books have reached Number 1 on the New York Times Worstseller List.

When it comes to the kids and the lights, it's important to put that in context: I've never taught them a thing. And I'm not proud of that. I feel guilty when I look at my 8th-grader and realize she's holding a book upside down. Perhaps I should have read to her when she was little.

The other day I sent my middle child to clean the interior of my car with Windex, and she found a bottle of "Windex" with a yellowish substance inside. I assumed it was new Lemon Scent Windex (or whatever), and dispatched her to the car. The interior is now fully coated with furniture polish. I drive through a world enveloped in a dense haze. I see shadowy figures, and fuzzy glowing lights that may or may not be traffic lights. It's a terrible way to go through life, but I'm too busy to track down the real Windex, and have chosen simply to adapt.

Same thing with household fixtures, appliances, pipes and other things that break, or begin to leak, or show signs of being at the end of their days. You could spend a lot of money bringing in a pricey professional to fix them, and you could also try to fix them yourself. But sometimes you just have to do nothing, and hope that these things somehow manage to heal.

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 20, 2005; 9:44 PM ET
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