Hard Decisions

My textbooks arrived on Friday.

The kids saw the postal truck pull up outside the house, cranked their internal volume way past Eleven, and told me in a rush of jumbled vowels and consonants and bodies moving on multiple linear planes:

THE MAILMAN HAS A PACKAGE FOR US!!!!

And I would have reminded them that we were inside the house.  Let's use gentle voices, please.  Except that I couldn't make words, and my chest felt all constricted.  And I worried that if I opened my mouth the sound coming out of me would be MUCH louder.

I went to stand by the door.

Someone uniformed and surly scanned my parcel and held it out for me.  I couldn't inhale, so I couldn't say thank-you, and he looked at me with that special sneer front-end service providers save for asshole customers.  (I have done my time in customer service purgatory.  I know that look.)  I'm sorry.  I can't-

Breathe.

And then I took the box, and I wiped my face with my arm.  I exhaled while he rolled his eyes and stalked back to his truck.

"THANK YOU!" I shouted after him, my voice all broken and weird.  He glared – too little too late, lady – and clipped our sidewalk with his u-turn.  Asshole.

My Friday crew ripped open the box and held up my textbooks like gifts from Santa, presenting them to me with their tiny elfin hands.  My daughter read the first few paragraphs of the enclosed letter from the Program Chair, and then wrapped her wee body around my leg.

"You're going to be even smarter than my teacher, Mum!"  And then:  "If your brain gets too big, do you think it will start to squeeze out your nose?  Your skull is finished growing, right?"  And then:  "Brains are made mostly of fat and water.  You are going to have to eat A LOT of fat to grow YOUR old brain!"

Right.

My kids don't remember a time that I wasn't at home with them, and available.  Danica's last day at daycare was over three years ago and Shelton has always been with me.  They spend the odd hour in child care at the gym, and have had sleepovers with family.  And they do have a participative, loving dad.  But the vast majority of the time it's me.  Negotiating trade disputes, mediating injustices, encouraging diplomacy, and monitoring resource consumption.  I'm the Head Cuddler, Janitor, Booboo Kisser, and Make It All Better-er.

And for this thing that I'm doing – this thing just for me – they're going to lose me for that evening time that used to be just ours.

(Oh.  God.)

Last week, I said goodbye to standing dates with dear friends because I need this time.  I need to get to physio to fix my defective knee.  I need to learn French and snuggle on the couch with my daughter.  I need pay attention while The Stickbug reads me Bob books and constructs complicated play scenarios for his cars.  I need to go to hockey games with my husband, and just be together in the same space with him accomplishing nothing.  I need to text with my mum and chat with my sister and be present for my family.  And sometimes I'll need to run away and hide from the obligation of it all.  I hope my friends will meet me where I'm running to.

At the symphony on Saturday, my kids and I checked one off the life list (#29, woot!), and laughed together and chatted about what instruments we might learn to play next year.  We made plans to watch Jurassic Park, and talked about dinosaur cloning, and ate donuts for afternoon snack.

And tonight?  Tonight when I have my hot bath with my drink and my book, I might just set aside The Devil's Teeth and crack a textbook instead.

Classes start January 9, people.  I can't wait that long!

www.thevalentine4.com

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