Sick Daze

My friend told me her children had been on holiday break for 17 days – 17 days!!!

I can’t believe we didn’t hear about them on the news.

No, that is not a judgment on my friend’s parenting style. Nor is it a commentary on her children’s behavior. But Good Lord, 17 days – out of routine, out of school, in each others’ faces!

Today is my first day of vacation.

School started back up Monday in these parts, but my eldest decided to vomit all over her bed Sunday night. She looked miserable Monday and Tuesday morning, saying her stomach hurt and she felt like she’d be sick again. Wednesday morning when I threw down the gauntlet of ‘no vomit, no fever – go to school’, she dressed and ate breakfast only to vomit it all over the kitchen floor. Shortly thereafter, my youngest awoke with an earache, glassy eyes, and continued congestion. My middle was not a happy camper as the only one of her trio boarding the bus that morning. She announced that she wanted a sick day. I told her we’d quarantine her as the only one who wasn’t sick.

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So today, Thursday, fourth supposed day of school – my whole crew returned to routine. I’m as giddy as a school girl myself. Well, maybe one who skipped school. For I was able to return to a quiet house, which even with its piles of detritus left from stretches of sick days (did I mention I’m sick, too?), seems somehow calmer, cleaner, more zen.

I don’t know what I’ll do today. Maybe get started on pulling down those Christmas decorations that have overstayed their welcome. Maybe de-germ all community surfaces. Maybe turn over a New Years’ leaf and write some more pages of my lonely manuscript.

But right now my eye lids feel heavy. I might just take a nap – and wait for the call from the school to come pick up a sick child.

Big T-chart in the Sky

There is so much push and pull, pro and con about everything.  

Wandering around my house last night, I thought how much easier it will be to keep the house free of kid schmagma now that two out of three will be at school everyday.  Not bad 😉

Yet, that was after the recovery from my heart-in-throat entry at the bus stop that afternoon.  Checking out at a store twenty minutes from our house took fifteen minutes (think chicken broth carton sliced by razor leaking all over pants to be purchased at bottom of cart – and that was before the coupon fiasco).  I got stuck behind another bus on the way to meeting my own children’s.  Luckily those little kindergarteners boarding the bus after their first day of school took awhile getting sussed up, which bought me four extra minutes.  Two of which I sorely needed.  I said hello to my already waiting neighbors by way of, “I hate this.  I liked when all three of them were with me all the time and I knew they were safe, I was responsible for them.”  

Which is really just another way of saying: “I can’t prioritize and hate when someone else is in control.”

Ah, but there’s the rub.

Part of me rejoices in the quiet calm that comes with sending them off to school.  Another part of me misses having that easy breezy schedule.  Part of me (specifically the migraine-sensing one) is glad to have the on-going scream and sumo matches done for the season.  Another part of me is bummed the other two aren’t around to play with their little sister.  I can save on grocery delivery fees now that I can go to the market without plucking my eyes out – as I would do bringing all three along.  I can’t keep up our weekly midday library dates.  

I realize why it’s always been so hard for me to make a decision even when I’ve filled out the pro/con t-chart my father first sketched for me so many years ago.  It’s almost always going to be a near-equal amount of items on each side.  The trick is how much each item weighs in its importance to you.  

Alas, I do not have the choice whether to send my kids to school or not (and, no, I will not homeschool for all you smart alecks thinking of suggesting it.  Their socialization with peers is much more valuable than the sailorspeak that would bring out in me).  I cannot weigh the pros and cons of a decision not mine to make.  I can only shift things around, add, subtract, and try for the ever elusive balance hovering somewhere around the center line of that t-chart in the sky.  

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Back to Nightmares

I taught for seven years seven years ago.

I still have back-to-school nightmares.

It’s the first day of school.  My new charges have entered the room, sitting wherever they want, class begins and they won’t stop talking.  I try all the little tricks in my arsenal.  Waiting silently in the front of the room, a glaring sentinel.  Looking at the clock.  Greeting them in my let’s-get-to-business tone.  Finally resorting to screaming at the top of my lungs while the party continues and I go red in the face.

What kind of year will this be if I can’t make them quiet down in the first minutes?

Now, I have this dream randomly whenever I’m experiencing a stressful time or approaching any event or new beginning with anxiety.  Seven years out and this is still my psyche’s go-to when it needs an exemplar of anxiety.

Last night, though, it changed.  I’m sure I had some flavor of the back-to-school dream because I’m anticipating my daughters’ return to school next week (any nerves they might have with the unknown of a new year and my own worries about the onslaught of morning rushes, homework duty, adhering to schedules).  And the start of my baby’s preschool, which I suddenly was wracked with guilt for last night (i.e. Shouldn’t I just keep her home with me?).  But it was different.  Decidedly so.

I’d gone to a school event with a colleague with whom I still keep in touch regularly.  Groups of kids ranged around a large space, seated at tables with staff interspersed.  They seemed to be grouped by their team designations.  The main event was food.  It was some sort of eating contest, as in who could eat the fastest or the most or something like that.  I bounced from table to table with no real spot to land.  At one point, I found myself in front of a turkey dinner, but quickly abandoned that when I found not one, but four consecutive strands of hair in it.  I asked if I got extra points for eating the hair.  Yes, this is the point at which I got increasingly snarky.

My former colleagues kibitzed together or mixed with their students in a way I could not as I no longer belonged to that club.  I didn’t know the students; I didn’t know the ins and outs of their day or of the school building at large.  I was no longer privy to the culture of the school and tenor of its staff.

I ended up extremely cranky and ornery, off to the side by myself under a tree.  Yes, the setting had morphed outside.  And the game had changed.  Apparently now it was some sort of role-playing game.  And I got to watch as my husband mock-proposed to another woman.

My psyche just threw me under the bus!  It went for the insecure jugular of losing connections, people I care for and who care for me.  My close ties.  My sense of belonging and acceptance.

It was no mistake that my subconscious served up this dream on the eve of another school year.  As my career and profession, teaching was (and still is) a large part of my identity.  At a time when structure is supposed to ramp up, I float listless.  Yes, mothering is a vocation.  But my charges are headed off to something other than them and me while I sit at home.

I need to find something new on the menu – other than hairy turkey dinner.

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