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This is the first week in 31 months where I’ve had to make myself look presentable before 7 a.m. Three days in a row. And counting. So now you know it’s true: I’ve made the leap back into paid employment.
KidsVT, that esteemed magazine whose editors kindly publish words I’ve written, printed an essay where I did some reflecting. On my life. And the lessons I’ve learned recently. Follow this link to read it: From Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Mom… and Back Again.
To prepare myself for the shock of reentering the workforce, I spent the last 30 days of my “mommy sabbatical” focused not so much on my family but on myself. I hosted and went to mommy coffees, sweated liters of water during Body Combat, lunched out, went skiing, practiced taekwondo, attempted yoga, caught a few shows, ran a 5K, went on a Downton Abbey sleepover, and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the company of an amazingly wide circle of women (and a few men) who I am so incredibly fortunate to call “friends.” It was an amazing month. Thank you all!
Oh, don’t worry. I hardly neglected my family. I also made
elaborate dinners (a departure from my usual scrounging around in the fridge for edibles), scrubbed the house, hoed out the kids’ rooms and spent quality time with the OINKdaddy. On three Wednesdays in a row, I let Small, Medium and Large play hooky (One child at a time – I’m not totally insane!). We spent our days together doing whatever they wanted to do (snowboarding, arts and crafts and skeet ball – guess who wanted what). We had a ball and I hope they will forever remember our “Mommy Days.”
Because they weren’t just these last three Wednesdays.
Take a deep breath. Blow it out. Good. Now take another.
That’s what I’ve been doing since returning from trick or treating: reminding myself to live in the moment and breathe. It’s remarkably hard to make myself do this – I tend to get caught up in the details when I ought to be focusing on the big picture.
Last night, instead of enjoying what is likely to be my last trick or treating adventure with Large (he’ll be choosing friends over family all too soon), I was obsessed with Small.
“Did you say, ‘Thank you’?”
“Slow down. Wait for the rest of our group!”
“Freeze means don’t move a muscle. It does not mean walk slower!”
“Stay on the sidewalk!”
“You don’t always have to be first.”
“Wait for your cousins!”
“Have we lost your sister?”
“I didn’t hear a ‘Thank you.'”
I was already teetering on the brink of sanity by the time Large tattled on Small: “Mom, Henry got a granola bar at that house and he said, ‘What the heck is this?’ instead of, you know, ‘Thanks.'”
When the kindling is dry, it doesn’t take much.
I pulled Small aside and scolded him. He was sullen, as most people are in the face of direct criticism and a strongly worded reprimand. I kept him back from two houses and under the pressure of my scowl, he promised to do better.
He’s excited, I told myself as he ran off. Don’t ruin his Halloween.
He bounced back, remembering to thank a whopping 60% of the candy distributors at the rest of the houses we hit and refraining from running over his younger cousins. But I didn’t. My grump cloaked me as thoroughly as Medium’s vampire cape. I couldn’t wait to get home.
My heart hurts at my own idiocy. Why do I let the little things bother me so much? Why can’t I enjoy the moment more?
I’ve got a year to redeem myself. You’ll remind me, won’t you?
“Chop, chop, chippity, chop! Cut off the bottom and cut off the top! Whatever’s left, you put in the pot!”
“Hey! Where’d my butt go?”
When was the last time you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe? When was it that you couldn’t speak because your body was in paroxysms of G-rated pleasure? When can you recall being so full of joy nothing else in the world mattered except your own happiness?
My children are in that moment, right now.
It’s a beautiful day outside but the two of them are inside, repeating this obnoxious song ad nauseum, talking about their butts, and laughing and laughing and laughing.
They’re about 30 seconds to one minute away from someone having a meltdown but I don’t have the heart to stop their frivolity. They’ll learn all too soon that moments like these are fleeting and precious and that they should enjoy them whenever they can.
I want to laugh so hard I can’t breathe.
Maybe tomorrow? Will that work for you?
It’s day seven of the school year and the first morning I am alone. I spent the other six mornings in a whirlwind of friends and exercise and field trips (yes, they’ve already begun!), giddy and grateful that my three children were all off at school. Reveling in the long-awaited free mommy minutes, I was unprepared for the melancholy that sneaked up on me and which, even now, bleeds my joy. Adding generous helpings of spare time to my already full plate of responsibilities has been like Christmas dinner: fun to anticipate and delectable to the very last bite before the bloating begins and I realize with uncomfortable certainty that I’ve overindulged.
Our summer was of beaches and books, swimming and hiking, camps and playdates. Every moment that I was in motion, I dreamed of resting and yet, when I rested, I planned activities to keep us all in motion. In what seemed like the span between heartbeats, summer was over.
On his first day of Kindergarten, Small thumped down the stairs, more excited than nervous. He ignored the outfit I had laid out for him in favor of a generic football jersey and shorts. I said nothing, being thankful he was not wearing his favorite shirt: a navy button-down with thermal shirt-sleeves and a numbered patch on the chest. I call it the Shawshank shirt because it reminds me of prison garb. I hope it isn’t prophetic.
The house buzzed with energy emanating from the kids and surprisingly, from me. Putting out their breakfast, reminding them to wear their sneakers and not flip-flops, I fiercely told myself not to cry. I hate it when I cry. Not that there’s anything wrong with crying – it just doesn’t work for me. It probably has something to do with a repressed childhood memory but who knows? I haven’t had enough therapy to remember it.
Large went first, needing to take the early bus for middle schoolers. He burst through the storm door, cramming the last bit of an english muffin in his mouth. “HafagreatfirsdayinKinnergarden!” he called to Small over his shoulder. An hour later, the rest of us walked to the bus stop. Without looking at me, the OINKdaddy nudged my arm. I followed his gaze. Unprompted, Medium had put a reassuring hand on Small’s shoulder while we waited. This small kindness threatened the dam holding back my tears.
When I opened my eyes, the bus was roaring toward us. Brakes screeching, the yellow child compactor stopped. Small hefted his too-large backpack on his shoulders and trotted toward it without a backwards glance. The bus driver thoughtfully asked him to turn around at the top of the stairs so I could take his picture and – just like that – they were gone. My babies were gone.
I am so proud of my children. They are confident and independent and funny and loving and while they drive me to the edge of distraction (and over), more often than not, they amaze and delight me. I have been truly blessed to have had these two years at home with them. I’m not sure what the future will bring but I’m terribly glad that with this blog, I’ve kept a record of some of the special and some of the ordinary moments in our lives. Someday, I hope that Small, Medium and Large will read these words and be reminded just how much I love them.
Last week, I went to the “Welcome to Kindergarten” meeting that our elementary school puts on for parents of incoming kindergartners. When the principal asked parents to raise their hands if they were sending a child to kindergarten for the first time, more than half the people in the room had air in their armpits. When he asked for a showing of second-time kindergarten parents, the rest of the room responded. My battle-scarred, oven-burned, cuticle-gnawed hand waved alone when the principal asked for third-timers. I felt like a grizzled veteran.
Five minutes into the presentation, a young woman slipped into my row with her small son. I smiled at her and nodded when she asked if the seats next to me were open. She sat down. Her son scampered away to play. I have a surprisingly high tolerance for children when a) I don’t know them, b) I have absolutely no responsibility for them, and c) they aren’t close to my person. So, when he started rolling his monster truck across the linoleum ten feet away from us, it didn’t bother me a bit. It bothered his mother.
When my kids do something in public that embarrasses or otherwise annoys me, they get the Mommy Glare. It’s a freeze-you-in-your-tracks look that can be thrown over great distances such as across a crowded cafeteria or it can be focused like a laser beam such as when employed in a restaurant or a church pew. My Mommy Glare is given with a furrowed brow, gritted teeth and cement-lips. It is normally followed by a just-wait-until-we-get-home speech. I won’t guess at its rate of effectiveness since I use it, regardless of its efficacy, 100% of the time.
The mom next to me fidgeted in her seat, sighing. Here it comes, I thought. Instead, she did something surprising: she leaned forward and smiled. She held this position until her child looked over at her. When he did, she wagged her finger at him while shaking her head and mouthing, “No, no, no.”
The little boy paused before he shrugged and resumed his monster truck rolling.
I stopped listening to the principal so that I could concentrate on watching this woman without appearing to watch her.
Where was her Mommy Glare? Why wasn’t she springing out of her seat? Which Mommy tactic would she pull from her toolbox?
Without taking her eyes from her son, she waited for him to look at her again. When he did, she smiled and crooked her finger at him. He picked up his truck and walked over to her slowly. She continued to smile benevolently. I waited for her to rip off her mask but the moment never came. When he reached her, she whispered in his ear and kissed the top of his head. He rolled his monster truck on the palm of his hand and leaned into her.
I tried not to gape.
I’ve thought about this mom many nights since. I wish I had her patience. I wish I was quicker to smile and less quick to scold. I wish it wouldn’t bother me when my crazy–as it inevitably does–shows.
When I first started blogging (lo, twenty-one moons ago!) I posted about how quickly women – and particularly moms – judge one another. What I didn’t mention is how harshly we judge ourselves.