“When I grow up, I have gum…and beer.”
The other day, I was at the gym during my usual morning workout. I noticed that one of the patrons with whom I used to chat was back from down south. I think he and his wife spend their winters there. We’ll call this man Al, because that’s his name.
I was in a fantastic mood because I was rocking my workout and I had enjoyed at least two cups of coffee already. I welcomed Al back to the north country and asked how his winter had been. Although he isn’t in *great* health, he reported that he was feeling fine, and was happy to be back. Excellent.
So, I’ve always enjoyed talking to Al. I know he has grown children of his own and he was always interested in talking about my teaching career, which, right now, is on the back burner so I can raise my children at home. Al knew all this, but he asked if I was back to teaching. Thinking it had been a long few months, I smiled and reminded him that I was now a stay at home mom. “Not even part time teaching?”, he asked. Nope, not even that. “But I thought you really liked teaching?” I did. I do. “So, how long do you think you’ll not work for?” At this point I broke the news that Ella was only 13 months old right now, and I planned to wait until she gets to kindergarten. I can only describe his face as filled with great disappointment. He did the math in his head and decided to let me know that meant I had four more years. (I am definitely no savant at math, but I had that number figured out). He then told me that four more years was a LONG time to “not work”.
So many thoughts ran through my head as we had this conversation. I am usually met with sighs of relief and smiles of elation when I tell people I am a stay at home mom. “You’re doing the right thing.” You’ll never regret this time.” That’s what I usually hear. I also know lots of people who don’t stay at home and tell me they love working. But never has anyone even implied that my “not working” came as a disappointment to them.
Let me also say that this man wasn’t grieving over the loss of my expertise in the field, as he has never seen me teach, never met my students, and never conversed with any of my teaching peers. It’s not like the guy was going to miss me working side by side with him, and it’s not like his children (or children’s children as it may be) had wanted me to be their teacher next year, and were suddenly disappointed that I was no longer in the work force. He was simply unimpressed that I was not working.
I was annoyed. Irked. Pissed off. Who was he to come sauntering back from Florida after THIS WINTER of pure snowy hell to tell me that I should be working instead of “not working”? Did he not know how much WORK Harrison and Ella are?? Did HE clean the crayon off the walls?? (Truth be told, no one has done that yet) Did he schlep people in and out of the car in subarctic temperatures? Did he put on little coats and little hats and little boots, only to have mittens lost minutes after stepping outside? Did he potty train one kid while keeping the other from fishing in the toilet? No. He simply thought I was just sitting around, not working.
This interaction then struck me in a different light. I have been so very, very lucky to have had such supportive friends and family members over the past year of my life. Being a stay at home mom is not always rainbows and butterflies, but it definitely is worth it. And even though I often miss teaching, I know I’m doing the right thing for my family.
I grabbed that damn frog off the living room floor for what must have been the millionth time in a week. Why did all of Harrison’s sleeping tools never seem to be in his bed when it was time to go to sleep?!
Stopping to look for a minute at the small green figure, I noticed how, even after only a short time, his plush coat was faded and slightly matted down. The polka dotted bow around his neck was surprisingly still in tact, but had I chosen a bow for this creature rather than gifting him in his original store-bought attire, I think I might have opted for a different hue. Green on green wasn’t exactly my style. His black yarn smile peeked through some fuzz around his mouth, and his beaded black eyes looked relentlessly happy for a Wal-Mart purchase. Did he know he was from a bargain bin in a big box store? No, Katie, of course not. He’s a stuffed frog. I had even lied to Harrison when giving Froggy to him for the first time. “He came from a special frog store,” I replied, when he asked where this new toy came from.
And why? Why did I lie? Why didn’t I say that I bought the toy at Wal-Mart? Would he have cared? Surely not. Initially Froggy was cast aside and crankiness ensued. No airplane? No Lightning McQueen? What about legos? Legos would have been awesome. I explained to Harrison then that I bought the toy because I knew he didn’t feel well and I thought a new surprise would cheer him up.
The truth of the matter is that I wasn’t feeling well that day either. Having spent several of the previous days in fits of tears over the somewhat sudden and gut wrenching loss of the family cat, whom I had been in the company of for all of his thirteen years, I was very very sad. My husband did not love the cat the way I loved the cat; my daughter only thought he was worth chasing; and Harrison, being scared of anything on four legs, did not notice he was gone for more than a month after the fact. Although I was wallowing deeply in my own sorrows, I had been on that shopping trip to clear my mind of all sorts of troubles, but, as a mother never could, I couldn’t forget that my son was at home with a sitter, and very under the weather. Thus, I had to come home with something for him. I had thought if I could cheer him up, perhaps my own spirits would lift.
Somehow, and not surprisingly when coming from my son, the sentimentality of this object came clear after I explained its purpose. His old soul seemed immediately to turn course and find joy and love in his new present. It was now an imperative part of all comfort routines; bedtime, car rides, couch snuggles. Despite its apparent importance in all of my son’s activities, he is always an after thought, forgotten until the last minute, and then NEEDED before any further actions can proceed. Perhaps this is on purpose. Perhaps, it’s my chance to stop and go “search”, literally, for that frog, but also for a way to bring happiness and love, the way I was able to do to Harrison, even though I was hurting so much at the time.
One glorious day about a month ago, my lovely mother-in-law came to spend some time with the children and give me a few hours to myself. She’s fantastic like that, and I really appreciate how much she does for us. She, like grandmothers do, adores my children. She adores Harrison to the point that he can do no wrong. When he’s having a bad day, she pities him and fusses over him while I am frantically thinking up a new punishment. But, alas, this is the way of good grandparents and I love that he is loved so much. It is for this reason that I am exceptionally happy Susan was at our house on what will henceforth be called the “Baby Powder Day”.
I was getting ready to head out to go to the gym, as I work a child care program in the evenings so parents can exercise. I usually have to leave at about 4:40 to get there on time. Susan remarked that it was amazing that Harrison, at such a young age, could entertain himself quietly in his bedroom for a period of time. I puffed out my chest a little, and smiled, thinking that some amazing parenting techniques had to play into this ability my son had. After all, it must have been me who taught him to self-entertain.
At 4:38, my husband came home from work, kissed us, and asked where Harrison was. Susan and I replied that he was in his bedroom playing nicely. Justin gave us a funny look and reported directly to Harrison’s room. He opened the door to find it filled with a fresh coating of baby powder. All. Over. The. Room. Sheets. Clothes. Train table. Floor. Windowsills.
There were tears. There was laughing. There was disbelief. And there was Harrison, letting us know that there was still a little more powder in the bottle, if we wanted some.
If it weren’t for Susan, who thought this was indeed the most brilliant thing my little tyrant had done, I would have definitely lost my mind on that very day. Luckily, she stayed back and vacuumed while I went to the gym. She changed the sheets. She dusted the windowsills. When I came home, there was my happy little boy, all fresh smelling, and a clean bedroom. The vacuum still smells of baby powder when I start it up, but other than that, I suffered very little from that day. And guess who told me last week that I should pick up more baby powder at the store???
Thank you for joining me! Here, I will share with you the treasures of memories and parenting experiences that I enjoy inside the walls of my house…and sometimes, if I’m lucky, out in the world so all the general public can witness the dysfunctionality of my daily life. (Yes, I am aware that “dysfunctionality” is not a word, and although, as an English teacher by trade, I probably shouldn’t be publishing non-words in my first ever blog post, I figure this is the one space where I can do whatever I want, so dysfunctionality it is, thankyouverymuch.)
If you’re new to the scene, let me set it for you. I am the happy stay-at-home mother of two small children, Harrison and Ella. I’ve put my love of writing on the back burner to change diapers and pour milk in recent history, so I’m really looking forward to having time to express myself. Just kidding. I don’t have time. The kids are watching TV. We live in midcoast Maine in a tiny tiny house so that we can share all of our time RIGHT NEXT to one another. It’s cozy, really. My incredibly talented and handsome husband renovated the place so we could move from our middle of nowhere home into town, which has been one of the biggest delights of my life. We simply ran out of space after Ella was born into our two bedroom home, and I’m sure we’ll be moving soon. Until then, she enjoys the luxury of a closet-turned-nursery.
This blog is part of one of my new personal goals, which is to write for a half hour each day. So far, I haven’t been doing so well with that goal, but hopefully this will motivate me to keep going. I’m so excited to share my stories with you, and I can’t tell you how much it means that you’re reading them.