Anyway, back then, I used to field calls from my sister-in-law, a stay-at-home Army wife and mother of 2 very young kids and another on the way, every day at about 3:30 PM, when she knew I’d be home from work.
I would roll my eyes, sigh heavily from the spot on the couch where I was lounging and watching Maury Povich (“You are NOT the father!” “Bleep bleeeeep! Bleeping bleeper!”), and click the cordless phone to TALK.
I would chat with my sister-in-law for a few moments, and then we’d hang up. When my husband would return home at around 5:00 PM, I would complain to him from the exact same spot on the couch, from which I hadn’t moved in the past hour and a half. If I remember correctly, it was at about this point that my ass would start hurting from the constant pressure it received from the couch cushion as I reclined on it.
“Oh my gosh,” I would say. “Tell your sister that some of us work for a living and don’t have time to talk on the phone all day.”
Then I’d adjust my position on the couch a little bit to alleviate the ass pain; I’d maybe fold one leg under the other before flipping the t.v. to the next show in my regular lineup. I might go so far as to stretch my arm to the coffee table so I could grab the novel that I was leisurely making my way through at the time.
At around 10 PM, I would make my way to the bedroom, where I would lie down for a good 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Life was so hard, you see.
And then just a few years later, the hubs and I decided that we’d eliminate the “Pull” part of the plan, and that we’d pray really hard—this time, that we could have a kid. When it finally worked out for us, I took about a year off of work to be a stay-at-home mom. To one child.
And I called my sister-in-law and apologized.
“I know I never actually said those things about ‘some of us have to work for a living’ and all of that out loud to you,” I explained, “but it doesn’t matter. After a few months of being a stay-at-home mom myself, I feel that the fact that I even had those thoughts is evil enough to warrant an apology. You just…you never stop moving, do you? Do you? “ She didn’t answer. I sighed wistfully. “I remember days when I would literally sit on the couch from the moment I got home from work until the moment I went to bed…think of all of the things I could have done with that time…
“What I’m saying is,” I continued, “please tell me there will be a time in my life again when I’ll be able to watch one 30-minute t.v. show…”
I know better now, but I guess you could say that before I had kids, I was a lofty bitch, totally insensitive to the things that mothers had to go through.
So it should have come as no surprise when my sister-in-law returned the favor during a phone call a couple of weeks ago.
Had you had a eagle-eyed view into my house during the few minutes before I called her, you’d have witnessed me tearing up over a plate of melted cheese with salt sprinkled on top (my new favorite snack because I’m totally fit and healthy).
The culprit for these emotions: My first-born son is going into Kindergarten.
I used to internally make fun of all of the moms who would cry or complain that they were going to miss their babies on the first day of school. Anytime I came across another Facebook status update with another picture of another little guy or girl posing on his or her first day of Kindergarten with the caption, “Sniff, sniff. Where has the time gone? Mama’s not ready!” I would roll my eyes and hide the offending sappy status update from my feed.
Get a fcking grip, dude, I would think to myself.
But now it’s my baby.
And dear God, I’m finding myself doing the exact same shit because sniff, sniff. Where the hell has the time gone? Mama’s not ready!!
So I was nose-deep in this pile of salted cheese that night when my husband walked into the kitchen to find me blubbering. I could tell he wondered if I’d seen him; he was about to turn and flee when I called out to him.
“Ba-a-a-abe!” I wailed.
The kids were asleep; I haven’t been letting myself lose it until after they go to bed.
I saw my husband try as hard as he could to suppress an eyeroll, but he didn’t quite manage. And I didn’t quite care.
“You don’t understand!” I said, prying the plate of cheese out of my own hands and tossing it into the sink. Then I thought better of it and reached back in and rubbed some of the melty Colby Jack off the plate with my fingernail. I shoved it into my mouth, but I made sure to let another sob escape, lest my husband think that my voracious appetite signaled that I was feeling better about the whole Kindergarten thing. I wasn’t.
“It’s all over from here,” I whimpered. “He might as well be 18 years old and moving out because it’s going to go so goddamned fast. WHY DO WE HAVE TO GET OLDER? WHY DOES TIME HAVE TO JUST KEEP TICKING ON?”
My husband stood there, although I could tell from the positioning of his feet that he was going to try to shuffle out of the room backwards to escape my madness. So I quickly rambled on, eager to make my point.
“And don’t even talk to me about his belt, that godforsaken thing. Why did we pick a school with such a strict dress code—it’s so fcking elitist of us!”
My husband opened his mouth, and I knew that if I let him, he was going to kick me when I was down by reminding me that this school was my choice and that he would’ve been more than happy to forgo tuition checks in favor of public school. I cut him off before he could remind me of this (again). “DEAR GOD WHAT IF HE CAN’T GET HIS LITTLE BELT UNBUCKLED ON TIME AND HE ACCIDENTALLY PISSES HIS PANTS?” I bawled.
“I’m a failure,” I sighed, collapsing into my husband’s reluctant embrace. “I should have bought him a belt 5 years ago and held belt-buckling classes in the living room in preparation for this moment. He’ll never forgive me.”
Sensing that I wasn’t going to receive any sympathy at all from my husband, whose retorting line was so familiar to me that I could parrot it (“We all did it Shay. My mom sent me to Kindergarten when I was 4 just so she could get me the hell out of the house…then again, I’m not sure I’m the best example of what to do right in child-rearing…”), I called my sister-in-law.
I’m not sure why I decided to do that; she’s normally best described as a bloodless vampire with little to no emotion, and anyway, she owed me for what an unfeeling bitch I’d been to her when she’d had young children and had only wanted 5 minutes out of my day to talk to another adult.
“SHAY,” she said, and I could hear the eyeroll in her voice, “get a fcking grip.”
“I know!” I sobbed into the phone. “Those are the exact same words I’ve been telling myself all night! But I can’t! He’s too young for the whole rest of his life to start!”
My sister-in-law sighed on the other end of the line. “Shay, mothers have been sending their kids to Kindergarten for hundreds of years. You’re not the first one.”
“Wait,” I sniffed. “I’m not? You mean—people have gotten through this before?”
“Holy shit,” my sister-in-law muttered. “Listen, I’ve got to go. My show is on.”
She hung up, and the irony of the situation was not lost on me: Her kids are all a bit older now. They can entertain themselves while she has time to watch all of her favorite shows in real time while I’m left to deal with this all by myself.
Lofty, insensitive bitch.
Oh, dear God. Wish me luck, you guys. I do not enjoy this.
I love being a mom, but I do not enjoy this part.
Update: I write with laughter, because that’s the way I deal with life. But I swear, I had major issues sending my kid to Kindergarten. I cried 3 times that day. (Once was when the guy in the drive-thru window at McDonald’s asked me how many sugars I wanted in my coffee. It was tough.)
But yesterday was Day 2, and when I brought my son home, he set his backpack down and asked for a snack. It was as if nothing had even happened…like it was just another day.
I wanted to squat down, take him gently by the shoulders, and look deep into his eyes to say, “Don’t you know how HARD this whole growing-up, different-phase-of-life thing is for me, child? Don’t you know?!”
But I didn’t. I got him some Cheez-Its and a box of raisins and then sat down to listen to him tell me all about his day. And I totally held it together.
But don’t expect the same when he graduates from high school. Or even 8th grade. Or Kindergarten.
I’m totally gonna lose it then.