To be completely honest, I enjoy life when my husband is on a business trip. Granted, he doesn’t go on them very often, and he is never gone for more than a week, but still. There is something about having the house all to myself at night – putting the girls to bed then not having to speak to anyone. I can read a book without interruptions, watch whatever I want on television, hog all of the pillows, and sleep in the center of the bed (at least until the 5-year-old climbs into bed with me in the wee hours of the morning). This might not sound like much, but to a woman who spends 99.9% of her time surrounded by other people, the solitude turns our bedroom into my own private island post bedtime routines.
This past week my husband has spent a few days in Chicago, leaving me to manage after school activities on my own. This sounds simple enough until you consider the fact that I also homeschool the kids, meaning that by 3 pm I’m typically a over-caffeinated basket case with children who never seem to chose activities within close proximity to each other. This leaves someone vulnerable to missing practice when only one parent-mobile is in operation.
Last night swim practice got the axe over ballet, and simply because ballet is much more expensive. After a completely full day, which had involved a field trip downtown to see a play, we were all a little frazzled. Most moms – the ones who have it all together, which I do NOT – would have been prepared by planning accordingly considering that not only was the field trip downtown, but so was ballet class. The thought crossed my mind in Lala Land that I should have packed a nutritious lunch, snacks, ballet clothing, and bun-making accessories ahead of time, meaning that we would have made just one trip downtown yesterday. Me…me? No. Of course that didn’t happen. See, I envy the moms who occupy Lala Land. They are the ones who homeschool with smiles on their faces and would never dream of threatening to send their kids back to school 400 times a day like I do. I’m pretty sure they wake up with a full-face of perfectly applied make-up and daytime hair. Those moms are a different breed and we don’t even remotely swim in the same gene pool. There are several variations of mom that spans from put-together to disheveled, and I suppose I hit somewhere different along that line depending on the day, the hour, my mood, the weather, and how much I care. We have pajama days, days where I’m demanding everyone put on daytime clothing, and days when I would rather crawl into a cave than start the day.
By the time dinnertime rolled around last night, we had been from home to downtown to home to run an errand in our hometown back to home and then back downtown. Needless to say, by 5 pm I was operating in survival mode. Although my outward appearance on this particular day would have given me approval for residence on Lala Land, a brain scan would have more properly placed me into a mental institution. I wonder how many other homeschooling moms who look put together are in the same boat. Obviously appearances can be deceiving, but I always assume that I alone occupy a space in between normal and getting-ready-to-jump-off-a-bridge. I’m fairly certain that I no longer even have adrenal glands in my body. They have shriveled up and forsaken me saying, ‘Screw you, woman! I have given all I have and all you do is take and take and take!’
As the girls and I made our way down the congested, rush hour city streets from the only store in the city that sells the ballet tights we needed (they were out of stock and any other mom would have called before driving all of the way there) to Panera, I gripped the wheel with both hands as I feverishly reminded the kids to be perfectly quiet and still because otherwise I would certainly sideswipe a city bus or hit a careless, naieve college kid as she travelled the crosswalks in that I-have-my-whole-life-ahead-of-me stupor. Not to mention that I was driving my husbands SUV in favor of the minivan, which added to my nervousness. My husband is a kind and generous man, but driving his car is like driving your husband’s man-cave. My husband doesn’t have a real man-cave, so in a house full of women, his car is his get away. We have to be extra careful to neither leave trash in the cup holders, or run over pedestrians. We also have to be sure to park his car in the back of every parking lot to avoid the inevitable dings left behind when careless drivers and passengers open their car doors. However, this isn’t an option when parking anywhere downtown considering that parking is tight if you are even lucky enough to find a spot.
I pulled into Panera’s lot, carefully circling the parking area twice before deciding amongst the few available spots which one provided the most space for opening and closing doors, and reminded the girls not to open the doors prematurely as I pulled in and backed out, pulled in and backed out, and pulled in and backed out the proper number of times to ensure I was in the best spot possible between the neighboring cars to prevent the slightest chance of a car ding. If I had been in my van, I would have simply pulled into the lot and chosen the one that was big enough to wedge the barge in, reminding the girls upon exiting not to knock out any of the toys, paper, or books that carpet the floorboards.
Once situated in our spot, I took a deep breath, quickly fixed my hair, and got the kids out of the car. I told them to remember to behave because we were downtown and the restaurant seemed full of college kids and people wearing business suits, meaning that they wouldn’t take kindly to frazzled mothers and her triple brood. Of course it didn’t work out that way. I sent my ballerina into the bathroom to put her leotard and ripped tights on underneath her clothing while arguing at the counter with my preschooler over whether or not she could have chocolate milk with her dinner. Then there is my oldest child who, while on the cusp of being a teenager, perceives herself to be on the cusp of adulthood, thus she is in this constant dilemma when eating out over whether or not to order from the kids or adults menu. As the cashier waited for her to make up her mind over the vast expansion of new choices available to her, I tried to make her selection easier.
“You like grilled cheese. Get the half and half grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup.”
She responds in an embarrassed tone of voice, “MOM, it’s called two and two, not half and half.” She nervously looked around her at the people in line who must have been thinking, ‘How could she? What an idiot calling it that, and in front of her young daughters!’
“Whatever it’s called. Who cares! Just order something.” I looked down at my phone. We had exactly 30 minutes to get our food, eat, get a bun in the ballerina’s hair, and get to ballet school.
I’m sure I was a confusing specimen to the young, obviously childless and obviously not married college kid behind the register. On the outside I looked completely put together, like perhaps I had just come from working a full day in my corner office doing something important and impressive, but once my mouth opened and my eyes darted around the menu and at my children like a deranged bird, it seemed I must have broken out of the hospital, stolen these children, ripped of a Banana Republic, and was trying to move in and out before the police caught up with me. “Good luck,” she told me as she handed me the change.
“Thanks,” I responded. All the while thinking that she has no idea what the next ten years of her life would bring. She might not remember me 10 minutes from leaving her register, but there is a good chance the memory of me will resurface when she is in her late thirties and responsible for not only her schedule, but the schedules of four other people while driving around in a car that you need to treat as though it belongs in a plastic bubble instead of on the street like all of the other normal cars. I really should have driven the van.
We sat down, we ate quickly, and I debated for a moment whether or not it was okay to put a bun in my kid’s hair at the table in the middle of a restaurant. I have never heard otherwise. I mean, I know the basics.
Things not to do at the dinner table:
1. Blow your nose
4. Use crude language
5. Pick your teeth, nose, or ears
Nope. No rules about putting up ballet buns that I have ever heard of.
As the girls finished up and joked around with one another, I looked around to scope out the surroundings, trying to assess the likelihood that I would end up on someone’s Facebook page or You Tube.
‘Just witnessed a mom putting bun in kid’s hair at the table in Panera. Can you say GRODY?’
We had exactly fifteen minutes until ballet class started. I took my chances. I pulled out the bobby pins, the brush, and a pony tail holder and proceeded while ordering my oldest daughter to take our dishes and trash to the bins.
‘Just witnessed a mom ordering her child to labor over throwing away entire family’s trash all by herself while she put a bun in her kids hair AT THE TABLE! I will never do that when I’m a mom.’
‘She just handed her smallest kid a cell phone to occupy her while she put up a bun and sent her oldest child to dispose of everyone’s trash and dishes.’
Surely these people know that my oldest child is on the cusp of adulthood because she is, but only when it’s convenient to my needs as a mom. Surely they know that my preschooler is likely to end up in the parking lot if I don’t keep her occupied for five minutes. Surely they know that I’m putting up a bun because my middle daughter probably has dyslexia so we homeschool her, have brought her reading level up two grades in less than a full school year, and invest in ballet classes in the most prestigious ballet school in the city!
Once it was all said and done, we got to ballet class only ten minutes late while managing to keep the preschooler alive and the oldest child only mildly embarrassed. Win-win!
What was it I said up there about loving it when my husband goes away on business? Did I mention that it’s much easier to say that the day when he returns home? I can’t help but to think of the awesome moms out there who send their husbands to war, managing their households on their own for over a year’s time. Some of them even homeschool multiple children. They probably don’t care if they look disheveled or put together because their minds are occupied with real worries. They probably could care less what people think if they let their oldest child step in as an adult to clear the dinner table in a restaurant, or if they have to put up a ballet bun at the table. Me? Well, I suppose I’m a total wiener who looks put together on the outside, is a complete disorganized mess on the inside, and obviously I care too much about what people think as I circle parking lots, mess up the Panera menu, and dodge pedestrians. I suppose I’m just a put-together, disshevled mess of a woman. That’s not so bad in the grand scheme of things. I could still be a naive college kid thinking that I knew more than everyone else about how to solve the world’s problems. Even worse, I could be an adult who thinks that way. You definitely swallow your pride when you realize that not only do you have a hard time solving your own problems, but there is a very good chance that you never will. That’s okay. That realm of having it all together is already occupied by Lala Land inhabitants, and things can get a little too predictable over there for me. I like to keep things exciting. Obviously!