Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Looking ahead and behind

August 28, 2017.

This date is looming. Just 180 days away. 

It's the first day of school.

On that day Lily will start first grade and Jovie will start kindergarten. 

Boom. Boom.

I'll walk them both to school and then walk home (no doubt sobbing) to my empty house. For seven hours, all will be quiet and still. Kind of morgue like, but without the dead bodies.

I know I'm supposed to look forward to the sudden peace the school year will bring. I'm supposed to relish the hours I can do what? Grocery shop alone? Go to yoga? Read a book? 

I can do all those things now. 

I was supposed to have another year before they were both gone the whole day. I'd been planning on that. Up until we moved that is. 

In York, Jovie would've only been in kindergarten for a half day. We would've been able to ease out of our mutual co-dependence and ease into days where we didn't get to take impromptu naps together on the couch or play Legos for hours. 

And sure, we'll have summers and vacations, etc. There will be weekends. But it won't ever be the way it's been. 

Their little years went by so quickly. Too quickly.

It's been 2,175 days (nearly six years) since I left my job at the York Daily Record. In that time, I gave birth a second time – just 19 months after the first time; changed thousands of diapers; potty trained two children; and painted everything from walls to cabinets to tummies to carpets

I've made snow forts and pillow forts and read stacks and stacks of picture books about princesses, talking bears and Seussian creatures. I've broken up fights, brushed away tears, zipped coats, buckled carseats, doled out fruit snacks, mopped up spilled drinks, scrubbed dirty feet and cuddled tired girls. 

I've rushed to the emergency room with a baby who'd fallen down the stairs and rushed to the pediatricians with a toddler who needed stitches. I've walked miles and miles around neighborhoods pushing strollers or pulling wagons. I've attended dozens of playdates and had dozens of awkward conversations with moms covering everything from sleep habits and tantrums to picky eaters and where to find deals on children's clothing. 

I've sighed in exasperation, screamed in fury and cried over how futile it all felt.

I've muddled through days and days and days where nothing much happened except the magic of witnessing childhood. 

Back in 2011, when it was just Lily and me, the hours felt so long. They'd yawn on as I'd marvel at her little toes, the way her eyes sparkled as she looked at me and the soft coos she'd make when something caught her interest. It was the best kind of tedium. And then Jovie arrived and time quickened. They went from being babies to bumbling toddlers to opinionated preschoolers in what had to have been just a fraction of a second. 

I feel so far removed from the person I was six years ago – that woman who wore dress clothes and sat in a cubicle and attended meetings in an always-freezing conference room. That woman gave and received performance reviews, spoke in newspaper jargon and wrote meeting agendas. She thought who she was professionally was the same as who she was in life rather than just a part of the spectrum of her personhood. That her worth could only be measured by her success at work. 

Who was she?

I think about having another baby. Pushing off the next stage just a bit longer. Returning to onesies and swaddling and kissing the top of a downy-soft little head. The girls have been asking for a sibling. With two trial kids under my belt, I might finally be the cool mom I've always wanted to be.

But, I don't know. It just doesn't feel practical. And anyway, I'd just  be back in this place again in six short years. I don't know that that's the solution. Though it's painful to think about – no more babies. That's a doozy.

How do mothers navigate this phase of life? The school-aged years? I'm at a total loss.

For a while there I figured when the girls were at school full-time, I'd just be a writer. I did finish that novel after all. And I've done all this freelancing for the past six years -- newspapers, websites and magazines. And this blog and all. I could be, like, a Writer writer. The one with a capital "W." But with the depression has come this death in me where words are concerned. At least the words required for the types of books I thought I'd write. I thought I could write books. And that thought seems kind of absurd to me right now. 

So if I can't write my way to a solution, then what's next? I'm not sure I had a fallback plan. 

It's probably too late to become a veterinarian, right? 

That I have this problem is a luxury. I understand that. It's a luxury that how I fill the hours my kids are at school isn't a matter of survival for our family. I have time to figure it out. Instead of whining, I should be grateful and just enjoy these last six months with the girls. Get excited for the prospect of new beginnings. 

I am grateful. So grateful for the past six years at home. They have transformed my life. Molded me into a better sort of person. They have taught me so much about what matters most during our short trip in this life. 

Each other. 

So maybe that's the answer for now. Focus on them rather than the question of what's next. Somewhere in there I'm sure I'll figure out what it is I'm meant to be doing. If I'm not doing it already.

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