I take Riley to school, I go to my new job at Cole’s school, I take Cole to a friend’s to be watched while I go to my second job of the day, I pick up Cole, I go home, I eat dinner, I go to bed too late, and I get up too early. I’m tired.
The long version –
I take Riley to school, where she is in love with her friends, learning, and her teacher. I get out of the car, where I hug her, kiss her, look her in the eyes, tell her how much I love her, and that I hope her day is as good as it is going to be. I watch her run across the grass and up the front steps, with her too big book bag askew and her lunch box flailing, full of anticipation, and appearing both tiny and so big. I feel fullness and a very healthy ache in my chest.
I drive Cole to his school, where I have worked in the toddler classroom for four weeks now. We listen to Cole’s favorite music, and he tries to convince me that today he must be in my class! We go in, and he hugs and hugs me and eventually, reluctantly, enters his own class. I sneak next door, where I am greeted by our small flock of students and I get down to business making myself small so they will feel big, gentle so they will feel loved, and firm so they will feel safe to explore and learn.
After lunch, I take Cole to my friend’s house, where he is welcomed graciously by her three little daughters. There is crazy fun there, with space, a view of the mountains, a sweet dog and cat, and horses. He loves my friend so much that he often pretends he is her when he is playing. Seriously.
I return to my second job, where I am redefining how I provide psychiatric care to children in my community. I am digging deeper into an integrative model of care, and calling on families more assertively to address things like alcohol use, internet addictions, and the ways we accidentally stress our kids or teach them we don’t trust or believe in them. I’m supporting people to make hard decisions and put their own mental health needs on the table, if there are any, before we assume those of their children are the primary problem. I’m doing all of this as lovingly, as respectfully as possible.
I pick up Cole. He cries because he doesn’t want to leave his paradise. My friend and I smile, catch up quickly around the edges, and I’m grateful for her help. My son is happy here.
We go home, where warm soup (most nights), piano practice, homework, snuggling, and reading happen at a well-tempered pace. Kids in bed, I stay up too late, to sneak in some time with my husband, sneak in some writing, drink massive quantities of tea, and think about what tomorrow might look like. One of us sneaks little boy in for one last potty. I make a face at the clock, wishing it were 9 pm instead of 10:30 or 11:47. I set my alarm for three different songs I love, to go off within 10 minutes of one another; Man on Fire by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Hey Mama by Mat Kearney, and True Love by Pink.
I know I will be tired tomorrow, and that the dog is going to wake us up wandering the house at 3 am, because she’s old and lost and confused, then again at 3:30, and that every few nights one or both of my children will cry out for one of us. Sometimes, there will be puke or a bloody nose or a fever. Sometimes just tears, bad dreams, or the occasional night terror. Sometimes nothing, they’ll have just as quickly returned to sleep, and I’ll get the unexpected opportunity to stare at their soft outlines in the dark, knowing this just won’t last, and even when I want to cry because I’m so tired, I am stilled, calmed, and renewed by the pout of their lips.
Cole will wake up just before 6 am, certain it’s time to get up. He will be asked to lay back down, where he will yell repetitively, “Mommy!?! Mommy!” until I get back up, and come down, and crawl into his tiny toddler bed, and attempt to hold the day’s start off as long as possible – until I absolutely cannot spare another second.
In the dark kitchen, I will look at a little slip I’ve hand written that reminds me where to focus in my overwhelm, “feed the children, groom the children, love the children.” And some mornings, I will put on lip gloss before we walk out the door to do this all again, and the promise of consistent mascara is somewhere ahead.