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Small woke up crying. This is uncommon and in my sleep fog I wasn’t sure if I had dreamed his cries or if he was truly sobbing. I waited. His cries intensified. I staggered out of bed to go to him.
“Did you have a bad dream? Are you sick? Did you pee?”
“No!” He wailed louder.
“Henry, buddy, what’s the matter? Are you sick? Did you pee? It’s okay if you did. Just tell me what’s wrong.”
“Why are you sad?”
“Cause I’ll never have a real dragon!”
I stood next to his bed, simultaneously amused and annoyed. “Is that really why you’re crying?”
“Yes, and even if I got one, you’d throw it away!”
I glanced around his recently cleaned and purged room. Ah.
“I’m sorry, buddy. I understand you’re sad. Do you want to come into my room and cuddle?”
The rejection pierced my haze like a knife. “Ok, then. I’m going back to bed.”
A minute later, I heard footsteps in the hall. I pulled back the covers. He tossed Piggy onto the mattress and climbed in beside her. The tear stains on his cheeks were a testament to the depth of his feelings. I hugged him close. “I’m sorry about the dragon,” I whispered. “If I could get you one, I would.” I paused. Unable to stop myself, I tacked on a redemption clause: “And I wouldn’t ever throw it out.”
“Thankth, Mom,” he mumbled around his thumb.
“I love you.”
He sighed. “I love you, too.”
I have been debating whether or not to post this as I want to maintain custody of my children. I’m only half-joking. No judging.
The babysitter hasn’t shown up, the older kids are still in their pajamas, and I am running late. Although I managed to get Henry dressed, he found—and is enlarging—a previously unnoticed rip in his pants while regarding his uneaten breakfast, now congealed and unappetizing. Today is Henry’s first day of preschool; the one I picked based on the school’s reputation (excellent) and proximity to our house (close).
I am feeling a bit apprehensive on his behalf in spite of my confidence in his social skills. After all, until recently, he has attended an all-day daycare, four days a week. He’s a social butterfly—I’ve witnessed it. No, my butterflies must stem from something else. Perhaps my awareness that a responsible parent eases her child through the transition to a new school. Henry missed both of the school-sponsored playdates due to our family’s packed summer schedule. He knows no one and hasn’t even seen his classroom. The closest we came to visiting this school was to look at the outside of the locked building from the inside of our vehicle. Sure, I talked with him about leaving his old daycare and tried to excite him about going somewhere new. But talk is not action. Any anxiety he is now experiencing is my fault. My plan is to make-up for my deficient parenting by spending the morning with him exploring his new space, facilitating conversations with his peers, helping him accept this change that was out of his control.
Of course, things do not always go as planned. Reality dissipates my vision. My choices: 1) Leave Medium and Large seated comfortably in front of the television at home; or 2) Bring Medium and Large with me and allow them to bicker and complain in the school’s parking lot. Neither of these options appeal, but I am out of time.
I hastily run through the list of admonishments: Lock the door behind me; do not answer the phone; do not answer the door; do not operate the stove; do not touch the computer; stay away from the windows; and remember to dial 911 if there is an emergency.
Henry protests that he wants to stay home and watch TV too. Tossing him into the vehicle, I buckle his seatbelt (I am not wholly irresponsible) and then recall that I have forgotten to tell Liam that I will be back in half an hour. I race up the front steps and ring the doorbell. I hear the patter of little feet and then the door is unlocked and opened. “Yes?” Liam asks.
I unthinkingly do a poor imitation of Edward Lewis: “I told you not to open the door.”
“Oh, right,” he says, before slamming the door in my face.
I knock and yell for him to re-open the door. When he does, I tell him not to worry and that I will be right back.
Henry sucks his thumb in the backseat. He clutches Piggy to his nose and inhales what I suspect is the scent of sweaty little boy with undertones of yesterday’s entrees: pizza, peanut butter and banana. He is silent.
Starting the engine, I murmur a brief prayer to whomever might be listening to protect my children from the monsters that hide in plain sight.
My guilt is monstrous. I have never left my children alone in the house before. I know that if my husband did this, I would be furious with him. I try and convince myself that the kids are safe; that I am not a bad mother.
Is it acceptable to assuage one guilt by accepting another?
Even if my children are fully engaged in projects of their own, I can count on at least one of them interrupting me with someone’s urgent need the minute I sneak off for some time to myself.
I consider this psychic phenomena to be one of Life’s small mysteries.
I was busy with a project that I wanted to complete before dinner. As my stolen minutes slipped away, I became increasingly irritable. Determined to complete my task within my self-imposed timeframe, I quietly asked for reinforcement.
My obliging husband came over to help. Ungraciously, I disapproved of his action plan and we bickered over how best to proceed. This is when I heard the phone ringing.
“Don’t answer it!” I shouted to all persons within earshot. “Let it go to voicemail!”
Unwisely, Liam approached me with the phone.
Seeing him coming, I warned him away. “Whoever it is, please tell them that I will call them back.”
“It’s Nana,” he said.
“Liam,” I said, grasping at at a civil tone but not catching it. “I am busy; tell Nana that I will call her back.”
He returned fifteen seconds later. I dropped the heavy object I was carrying but managed to avoid stepping on his foot. Totally exasperated, I yelled at him to get out of the way.
“Nana just has one question!”
“I. Will. Call. Her. Back.” We glared at each other.
“Jeesh,” he muttered as he slunk off with the phone. Taking a deep breath, I knew that the Catholic principles I had spent my childhood steeping in were about to resurface. Guilt lapped over me.
A shower, followed by a glass of red wine, improved my mood significantly. The phone rang. I went out onto the porch to take my mother’s call. I apologized cheerfully for not calling her back right away. Was it something important? What did she need?
Her voice was frosty. “I just wanted to know: Did you watch Kennedy’s funeral?”