I feel a little ashamed to write this next sentence, but I won’t let that stop me. Sometimes the highlight of my day is leaving my kids behind and driving to work. I’m not saying that work is the highlight of my day. I’m not even saying that driving is the highlight of my day. I’m talking about leaving the kids behind—that part is the highlight of my day, sometimes.
Like this morning. Stump woke me up at 6:20. It was early and I didn’t have to leave until 9, so I tried to be an optimist. Maybe I would get some laundry done. Maybe I could pay some bills. Maybe I would find Stump’s missing shoe. Smoke still slept in my bed. He had crept in during the wee hours, taking advantage of the fact that Kellie’s out of town. I decided to do something kind and make him bacon, because he had requested it the night before. By 7:00 the house smelled like bacon and I had a load of laundry going in the washer. Stump, busy eating blueberries, hadn’t destroyed anything yet. I was rocking this solo parenting gig.
I was forgetting that it typically takes ten minutes or less for our house to descend into chaos. Smoke woke up, and as I prepared the toast to go with his bacon, Stump climbed on top of the kitchen table and systematically tossed all of the papers onto the floor. I gave Stump his own toast to keep him busy. He sucked the jam off of it and tossed the bread onto the floor. Smoke’s crusts wound up on the floor as well, and when I asked him to pick them up, desperation already creeping into my voice, he acted as if he couldn’t hear me. I looked around and did an assessment: in addition to toast on the floor, there was a crusty, greasy bacon pan to clean, dishes to wash, and laundry to move to the dryer; none of us was dressed and I still hadn’t found that missing shoe. My blood pressure rose.
“Smoke! Please stop tuning me out! Please pick your crust up off the floor, now!”
Smoke just looked at me. “I know you’re going to apologize later for yelling.”
Somehow, we made it out the door fully clothed. I may have even managed to remove the toast from the floor before we left, though I know I left the greasy bacon pan behind. I dropped Smoke off at preschool, got back inside my car, and breathed. I was alone. Smoke’s preschool is two blocks away from my favorite coffee shop and so I drove there. There was a parking spot for me. Inside, there were no children, only grownups. The barista asked me what I wanted, and then when I told her she gave me that, exactly. I said thank you, and she said “Have a good day.” I was amazed by all this civility. No one threw toast on the floor. And then I continued on my quiet drive to work, sipping my cup of coffee.
These days, so much of the pleasure in my life is based upon what isn’t there.
Exactly!! Oh, yes. It’s just having someone smile, ask you what you’d like, and then hand it to you politely. heaven! Because every single other person in my day is yelling at me to wipe their butts, ignoring my pleas for help and walking behind me throwing whatever I’ve just straightened up like it’s confetti. I literally am finishing a post about imagining being the kids’ babysitter so I could be paid by the hour for what I do and then leave at the end of the day. Beautifully written.
(P.S. Love that you tagged “bacon.” Ha!)
Like confetti. That’s it, exactly.
We finally had another five-year-old arrive this afternoon so that I can have my break. I sit here in the backyard while they play and the babies are playing and I look at my phone and read your blog post because that is the only leaving behind I get to do. Oh fuck finding that balance- is so hard ! Especially when you are working full time and your partner is out if town ( my current situation as well ). This morning was thinking… I should have made sure I got a “break” – time to myself – before he left town .
I spend a bunch of time just calculating how many months or years before things could conceivably be easier.
When Collin was little, I opted to have his daycare schedule include my weekly day off. It was my day to be productive, or squander. My therapist concurred, but in our small community, the two women who provided Collin’s daycare, (paid for by the week), discussed what I was up to, and subsequently signaled their disapproval. My therapist granted me permission to mentally invite them to take their judgement and suck it. On the weekend, Collin had an engaged and enthusiastic me, rather than someone dazed and emotionally dulled. I loved being with little Collin, but without one restorative day to be the selfish me I’d always known, Collin would have missed out on the best of me, regenerated and truly giving. I completely understand why you savor some time and space to call your own.
I’m familiar with those judging (or puzzled) looks. People at the daycare center at my work often seem surprised when I drop Stump off during the breaks, since they know I’m off. I play it off like I’ve got planning to do, but I just write in my office for a while and go out to lunch.
Oh man, I remember those days. Sometimes the highlight of my week was going to the grocery store – alone. It was like a mini-vacation.
P.S. Did you apologize for yelling? Hahahaha!
“No one threw toast on the floor.” 😀 Isn’t it amazing how children alter our expectations of reality? I work from home, so for me, that moment of peace comes after I drop my son at school and return home to an empty house. Loved this!
An empty house is such a rare and lovely pleasure.
When my kids were little i was an at-risk pre-k teacher and I loved nearly every minute of it. Yes I was still with small children but it was a break from the ones that belonged to me. Also I had 2 co-teachers so lots of adult interaction.
[…] Kellie was out of town most of the week and I haven’t been at my best. I’ve been having a hard time discerning whether Smoke is suddenly acting out or whether I’m just incredibly grumpy. I’m pretty sure it’s both. […]