Free time is wasted on the childless. Someone said that to me once, and I believe truer words have never been spoken. When I was in graduate school, with five children under six years old, I would have exactly two hours to write a paper (the average nap time in our house), and I’d get it done! My childless classmates would take weeks to finish the same paper. Many other things were accomplished in two hours in those days: cleaning the entire house, writing Christmas cards, sewing a new skirt, making dinners for the week, with an occasional shower and shampoo thrown in. It felt like those scenes in Bewitched when she’d wiggle her nose and everything went into fast-forward. My goal was to have everything cleared away without a trace before they woke up and I heard the four most dreaded words, “I want to help!” When I hear those words now from my darling grand daughter they evoke a totally different emotion. Now, it’s pride and wonder at her skills and enthusiasm for learning! But I must admit, when my kids were that age, it was pure dread. The worst sound in my life was that kitchen chair being dragged over to the counter to “help!”
I had visions of accomplishing monumental things when the kids were grown and gone. I thought if I kept up that pace there would be no end to the volumes I’d write, the masterpieces I’d create, and the books I’d read. Well, it didn’t quite work that way. My vision of the productive winter, tucked in a warm cozy home, with a lovely man equally as productive, have been less, shall we say, impressive than I imagined. Very nice, mind you, but no where near the productivity I envisioned. I don’t think I work well without time constraints. Give me the whole day to write the blog, and I’ll take most of it. Is it any better than the ones I feel pressured to crank out in an hour? Not necessarily. Most of the day gets spent worrying that I’ve offended someone. Well, part of the day is spent worrying, the other part is talking myself into posting it anyway.
So here I am, early morning, in my daughter’s house, having gotten the three-week old settled down, anxiously awaiting the two year old’s morning call, thinking, “I wonder if I can get this written in a half hour?” My daughter needs some sleep. She has a new baby, a toddler, and a husband urgently and unexpectedly in the hospital. It’s a lot for being postpartum. And I think back to my early days of motherhood before microfibers and decent strollers! How did we do it? Those mornings of just getting the baby settled after a long night, sinking back into the pillow with relief, closing your eyes hoping against hope to get maybe an hour of sleep, when you hear “mommy!” from the next room, and your eyes snap open and your heart sinks and you wonder why you ever thought having children would be a good idea. It’s those tired, exhausted moments when I wonder how women on the prairie did this? With the nearest neighbor a mile away and husband out hunting bear for weeks at a time? How did our species ever survive?
It’s really a gift to be able to spend time with these little ones. I think about how different it is as grandmother, how easy it is to let things slide. I wish I had done more of that as a mother. There were so many stupid power struggles I got into thinking it would be for their own good to eat every meal sitting at the table. Most of the world doesn’t even have a table so why did I make such a big deal about stupid shit like that? There are a million more examples I could give, but it’s too painful to recall them. I just want to wallow in the fuzzy love I get from these little beings and pretend everything is alright. It’s all been forgiven.
As I contemplate going away again for a year, I look at these little darlings and wonder how I could leave them for that long? Then think, there are little darlings like this all over the world who don’t have half of this. Not a fraction. Aren’t they just as precious? I try not to think too hard about what kind of world we will leave for them as they grow into adulthood. The bitterness and hatefulness I see now deeply saddens me. I wanted to believe those days were gone; that we’d evolved somehow. But it’s not true. We have not evolved. It’s the same old cycle repeating over and over again. For women and minorities it’s always open season.
I am working hard not to get pulled into the hatefulness, but it’s hard to hear educated people promoting it. It’s shocking, actually. It makes me want to pull in my own anger and be a better person.
Yikes. Nap time is over.