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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.
I think Nora has been sneaking extra TV-time. C-SPAN, to be exact. Or maybe just a little MSNBC. It’s either that or Congressman Wilson astrally projected onto my five year-old last week.
“You lied to me! You lied!” Nora shouted, stomping her Mary Janes. Her eyes glittered with outrage.
“Honey, honey, no. I didn’t lie!” I was practically stammering in the face of her fury.
“You did so! You lied!”
Heads swiveled in the elementary school cafeteria. Other parents were turning to watch the drama—surreptitiously, of course. No parent wants to admit it, but it can be gratifying to see someone else struggling with their child in public. It’s like watching an episode of Supernanny—your problems seem small compared to those people’s.
And Nora was staging a good show. When she has a tantrum, she pulls out all the stops. I am thankful that they do not occur frequently because when they do, my embarrassment is a 10.0 on the mortification scale.
“You said I could ride the bus home!”
“Nora, I didn’t! I told you that I was picking you up today. You only needed to take the bus home on Wednesday. Come on.” I tried to sound soothing. “We’ll talk about it in the car.”
“NO!” She maintained the vowel until it collapsed into a wordless scream.
I could feel the sweat beading on my sternum. “You can’t ride the bus home today. You can ride the bus home tomorrow.”
“NO! You’re a liar!”
“Oh God, it’s Friday. You’ll ride the bus next week. Let’s go.” Grabbing Henry and M, my carpooling kid, I fervently hoped that Liam and Nora would follow me.
As I weaved through the masses towards the exit, we suddenly became invisible. No one wanted to make eye contact (me, least of all).
By the time we reached the car, Nora was winding down. She hiccuped. I fixed her with a glare. She sniffled, hugged me, and apologized for her “fit.”
I accepted her apology. Because unlike Congressman Wilson, I think she meant it.