Family Practice: Just the two of usWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite a last-minute attempt to not board the bus on the first day of school, Elaine, my unsure-about-school kindergartner, actually settled in quite nicely to her new routine. After five days or so of waiting for the other shoe to drop, however, the other shoe dropped. As the novelty of school wore off and the strain of a very long school day wore on, our semi-pleasant mornings turned into battlegrounds and trails of tears.
After somehow managing to extract Elaine from the comforts of our happy home each morning, my own tears of guilt, exhaustion and the plain and simple empty-heart feeling of missing my middle child each day would flow. We worked through the separation anxiety and the days eventually improved enough to settle into a manageable place. As Elaine’s tears dried, so did mine.
Between the flurry of beginning-of-the-school-year activity and struggling to adjust to my mind and my heart being two different places at once, that first month of school was an all-consuming blur. When the smoke cleared, I came face to face with my next adjustment: seven hours a day alone with just my 2-year-old, Lucy. Considering Lucy’s personality, I assumed I would be just as busy at home with one as I was with two or three. I figured Lucy would either keep me on my toes with mishaps and toddler tantrums or constantly request replacement entertainment when her best buddies went off to school each day.
To my surprise, neither has occurred. My climb-to-the-highest-height, put-the-closest-dangerous-object-directly-in-your-mouth kid is suddenly content to quietly play on the floor by herself. Some book reading here and there, a couple of games and the occasional cuddle in mom’s lap suits my littlest one’s daily needs just fine. I’m just not sure what to do about it.
Do I keep my household chores and personal interests on the back burner? Do I come up with a seven-hour toddler activity schedule? Or, do I actually take the time to sit down for an hour, put my feet up and watch an episode of Bravo’s flavor of the day?
I happen to be of the mindset that my mothering obligations do not include being an all-day playmate or even a cruise director. Yet, now that I find myself actually having the time to even perform such activities, all of those parenting magazines begging me to do so are gnawing at the back of my mind. Whenever I begin to feel like I should be spending even more time playing Candy Land, I think of a quote I once read from actress Patricia Heaton: “I don’t remember my mother ever playing with me. And she was a perfectly good mother. But she had to do the laundry and clean the house and do the grocery shopping.”
To me, that is a perfectly good mother and I now actually have a child who is content to happily follow me around as I perform my household duties. As nice as it feels to not have to battle my way to beds that are made, laundry that is clean and dishes that are done, the idea of just enjoying my barrier-free day of homemaking is still something I’m struggling to get used to. It has become apparent that my 5-year-old’s difficulty adjusting to new situations comes from yours truly.
Just as I’m questioning whether I struck a decent balance of household chores, mother/daughter time and “Millionaire Matchmaker” each day, my older two come home from school bringing with them a fresh bundle of chaos. After some hugs, kisses and school day summaries, the loud household unrest I have become so accustomed to returns and reminds me that a few hours of peace, quiet and sweet freedom may not be the most difficult of hurdles to overcome. I just need to relax and enjoy the run.
Email Shannon Szyperski at email@example.com.