Thursday, September 8, 2011
It's amazing how things change when you become a parent and get to the point of sending your children off to school for the day. It's a nerve-wracking experience, but also one that comes with a strange feeling of being free and not quite knowing what to do with that freedom. I've been a stay-at-home mom for a little over 2 yrs and other than those years I worked out of the house, I can't think of a single day I've gone more than 3 hours without my children. Before I had the children, I relished my days off, always thinking of 1 thing or another to do, to pass time. I relished the quiet that came from vacations and holidays, enjoying a work-free day without phones to answer, computers to repair, and things to type. I'd shop, take a nap, play in the yard, go for a hike...there were endless possibilities. I think back to that time, now, and can't imagine such a stress free and easy existence. Having children in my life has changed my viewpoint in ways I could not have dreamed.
When I first learned our local school would be switching to full-day Kindergarten, I was apprehensive, but happy to have the chance at some much needed "alone" time. Last year, with my son in 1/2 day Kindergarten and my daughter going to Preschool for 3 hrs, 3 times a week, I juggled errands in a limited time-slot, shuttling children back and forth to school, as needed. "This year will be a great chance for me to get lots of things checked off my to-do list and really focus on myself," I thought. The kids had been fighting quite a bit and so the idea of having long stretches of quiet seemed so needed. I could feel the stress lifting as I pictured myself running through the grocery store with a regular shopping cart, checking things off my list at the speed of light - no children begging for sugar-laden snacks, no wide-turning car cart, and no one asking me to read every sign and box.
The night before the first day of school, the reality started to sink in as I packed their bags and laid out their clothes for morning. "This feels so strange," I thought. "I'm losing both of my babies. Life will never be the same." I got them to bed at the correct time and no one complained or stalled about the process. They were excited to go and I had no idea why that bothered me so much. The next morning, I put them on the bus, walked back in to the house, and stared at my coffee. I didn't cry, even though I felt like I should. I really didn't know what to do. I must've sat there for at least an hour, waiting for something, anything, to happen. The house felt so quiet.
I was in a bit of daze that day. I did some cleaning, folded the laundry, and tried to get to that to-do list. It was all very surrealistic and without motivation. I slumped through the day, checking the clock multiple times, wondering when the kids would be home. It was just so quiet. I turned the radio on, turned the TV on, played the piano...It wasn't the same. I caught up on blog reading, flipped through a magazine, checked the weather...I looked at the clock. What time is it, now? It's only noon. What am I supposed to do with this day? All my plans of leisure and productivity and "alone" time went completely out the door with the kids. I forgot everything. Back to staring at my coffee...
Now, on day #6 of school, I'm thinking back to my college days and how my mother reacted when I, the youngest of 4, left the house for the 1st time. I remember my mother called me, every day, for at least a month, checking in and asking when I'd be home to visit. I remember laughing about it with my friends. It was a bit annoying, at the time, and felt intrusive as I set out to discover my adulthood. These past 6 days have made me understand her actions a bit more, as I struggle with new-found independence after being without for so long. The quiet is deafening and it seems strange sitting here, no one asking for anything or striking up a silly conversation. I even miss the fighting, just a little bit. If I could, I would most likely act just as my mother did, checking in with them constantly, partly out of curiosity and partly to make sure they're okay. Maybe it's instinct to be like this or maybe, it's just a selfish need to be needed. Either way, it's a strange, nagging feeling.
I'm sure it will get easier, but right now, as I sit here at 10:00 am with my 2nd cup of coffee, I miss my kids. I miss their personalities. I miss their conversations. I miss my daughter's random, made up songs about everything. I miss the noise. I hate the quiet. I know that 3:00 pm will come much faster than it did that 1st day and I'll be once again breaking up fights, dishing out snacks, and lecturing them about leaving shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor. As with every night before school, I'll dream of quiet and think about how nice it will be once they go to bed, until they do. It's at that point, as I pack their backpacks and lay out their clothes for the next day, that it will all begin again. I'll send them off to school and start counting the hours and days 'til Saturday comes and the house gets back to a normal din. It's the thing I relish as a parent. It's the thing that makes me realize I have the best job in the world, because it's a job I don't want to be away from. I don't relish the quiet, but relish all the wonderful noises my children produce, ear splitting and all. I reserve the right to complain when someone's screaming a foot from my ear, but in the end, I don't mind it that much, because it's still better than quiet.