Friday, October 3, 2008

Nursing the Baby Stage

Ben started preschool right after Labor Day. He goes Tuesday and Thursday mornings for two and a half hours. His teachers are Miss Jenny and Miss Ruthie, and they greet him with big smiles and hugs. He gets a snack and does all kinds of cool stuff - they've hunted for hidden things in sand, painted a picture with actual grape jelly, and sat under an umbrella to hear a story. He's charmed all the girls in his class (surprise...) and plays Star Wars and Indiana Jones outside with the boys. When I get there to pick him up, he runs to me and says he had "SO MUCH FUN! THAT WAS AWESOME!"
So why does he work the tears from the minute I get him up until Ruthie or Jenny steer him away from my side and into an activity?
It's not like he's bawling from bedroom to classroom, it's more like this uber-big-kid thing: his eyes get red and teary, but he scrunches up his mouth and looks anywhere but at me, and clears his throat a lot. He's five, for goodness sake, and I feel like I'm watching Matt Damon gear up for a funeral scene. And even though this does have an effect on me, I help him get dressed and find his shoes and buckle him up, drive him there and walk him in the door. If I say, "I wonder what letter (of the alphabet) you'll get to learn about today?" he answers, "maybe M for Mom." If I wonder if any of the little girls he's introduced me to will be there, he sniffs and says, "yeah but I'd rather stay and play with you."
It's a 10 minute drive, and by the time we've crossed the state line and entered town, he's asking for details on our afternoon: "Are you going to come and get me? Are we going to spend the rest of the day together? Are you going to be busy or will you read to me? How many minutes do I have to stay here? Can you bring my lunchbox with a surprise in it when you come back?"
Tuesday and Thursday are not very productive afternoons - Ben "helps" with everything, so things that may have taken me 30 seconds are now taking 30 minutes.
But we are having fun, this last year of being full time mom and kid, just the two of us. I missed out on some of this with Elliott and Abby because I had them all so close together, and it's only Ben's late birthday that has kept him from being in Kindergarten now, granting us this one last year. In a lot of ways this is nice. He's potty trained, verbal, and of all the kids he actually does what I ask him to (I have to re-do it sometimes depending on the chore, but he tries). We spend more time reading and playing games than on housework or any of the other things I need to get done, but that's okay. I have the days when he gets to sleep in to get to that stuff. And now I try to get as much done as I can before I go pick him up; then I don't feel so bad sitting for an hour reading every book he brings me.
But boy, those first few days after I dropped him off? Well, okay the first day I stayed in town, close to my cell phone just in case. There were actual tears that morning. But the second day and that next week? Oh, bliss...
I came home and went to the bathroom and NO ONE KNOCKED ON THE DOOR OR SCREAMED FOR ME! It was awesome! I fixed and ate a bagel with cream cheese, and NO ONE INTERRUPTED ME! I GOT TO EAT THE WHOLE THING IN ONE SITTING! I made coffee, watched the weather channel and actually got to see the important part, and then...
Well, by then it was too quiet in the house and I wondered where everyone was. For the next 90 minutes, I felt like I was missing something, like I'd forgotten something somewhere. I talked to the dogs, the cats, held the guinea pig, played with the bird, picked up toys from the kid's floor and grumbled to myself about being the maid. I found stuff to do that was great - I read a magazine, organized some craft things, drank coffee - but I still felt a little lost.
I realized that when the kids are around, I have a schedule set by them. I have to feed them, dress them, clean them, untangle them from each other occasionally, and make sure they get where they need to be. When they are all gone... wow. I can do my own thing. But what is it that I want to do? Of course there's stuff that has to be done, and since that first week of aimless wandering, I've gotten much more organized. But I still have some flexibility and can do those things that I want to do. I've worked in the garden, researched some things for church and scouts online, sorted through kid clothes and gotten lots of toys ready for a garage sale (shhhh). I have also started turning all the televisions on in the house while I'm here alone.
It's just too darned quiet without all the kids. Remind me of that next summer, will you?

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