Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kid-free traveling and other sure fire ways to feel guilty...

This is it. I am on a plane. ALONE. I have read nearly 130 pages of my novel that is pure drivel designed to give my weary mind a break. I have sat comfortably in my window seat for nearly two hours without having to sing a song, make up a story, or play I Spy. I have not have to dig thru my purse for a magic way to entertain my children with nothing more than a safety pin and expired gift cards in my wallet. I have not had to give apologetic murmurs to the passengers around me because of the alternating crying and shrieking with delight emerging from my row. I am traveling as an independent, quietly content grown woman, perfectly able to sit still and mind my own business.

Everything is perfect. Everything, of course, except the small, nagging voice of mother guilt. There are lots of things about motherhood that are totally wonderful, totally amazing. But the thing is, with this wonderful job you give up your ability to have a mind independent of thoughts about your children. Gone forever are your days of totally guilt-free moments. Case in point, as the plane ascended, instead of thinking about the fun I would have the next few days exploring beautiful Colorado with my husband, I found myself thinking remorsefully about how my daughters would be thrilled beyond description at the adventure of riding a plane. And there it is. The seed is planted. And just like that, I suddenly see three little faces, all doe-eyed and pitiful, staring at me, pleading silently to be included in the fun. Asking me with mournful eyes why, oh why, has their mommy abandoned them to have fun without them?

I push these thoughts from my mind and focus instead on what the next few days will be like. For starters, my husband and I will be able to eat several meals and actually take the time to taste the food. Between drink spills, bathroom breaks, and holding Leighanne as she climbs up our bodies to escape our table, it is quite difficult to enjoy food at home or when eating out. It’s more like a survival mode where the adults take turns eating. One puts their head down and gobbles a few bites while the other keeps a wary eye out for predators seeking to snatch your meal by causing some distraction. It’s a team effort to get an entire meal eaten, really. They don’t call spouses “team partners” for nothin’. You’d think this would ensure my size 6 figure, but somehow not eating works only for Hollywood personalities.

Next, I will sleep. Seriously. I WILL SLEEP. Some women like to take advantage of every moment of a getaway to explore, to shop, to take in the local culture. Not me. I will snuggle down in my comfy king size bed and sleepily wave at my husband as he heads out for an early power breakfast with colleagues. I will sleep with the glorious knowledge that except for the trumpet of the archangel, nothing short of an act of God will suddenly pull me from bed.

Also high on my list is taking advantage of time to exercise in the hotel fitness center. This may sound odd to some of you, but only those of you who have no children. Exercise, in my little world, has become a privilege, not a drudgery. To burn calories on an actual piece of exercise equipment instead of by chasing my four-year-old whom I just saw dart around the corner holding my brand new MAC lipstick, mascara, and her little sister by the hand, would be heavenly. To lift weights that involve barbells and machines that give rewarding little clanging sounds instead of hoisting my 60-lb. 6-year-old up the stairs because she has a leg cramp is almost more than I can imagine. To run for half an hour and not come home to my children crying and clutching a picture of me as if I will never return (producing more mother guilt, by the way) is a scenario I haven’t enjoyed in quite some time.

Right. That is what I envision.

And then reality hits. MOTHER GUILT. This is what it will really be like:

Michael and I will sit down to a delicious meal that contains no chicken fingers, applesauce, or grilled cheese of any kind. We will take our time and actually walk away without indigestion because we sucked down our food. We will say things that would qualify as complete sentences. Five whole minutes later, we will look at one another and say, “That was good. What do we do now?” as they take away our empty plates. It will take more than a few days to let go of our survival mode instinct when it comes to eating.

I will wake several times during the night wondering if I just heard the baby cry out. Or was it Olivia dreaming again about the giant rat that taps on her window? I will remember where I am and smile as I settle back down into the covers, looking forward to hours and hours more of sleep.

At exactly 5:45AM I will jerk my eyes open, fully awake, ready to go make breakfast for someone and plead with my kindergartener to let me dress her in something other than her “I love Chick-fil-A” t-shirt for the third day in a row.

I will don my workout clothes, arm myself with my iPOD, and just as I hit my stride on the treadmill, the shuffle songs option will select Lauren’s favorite Barney song. Again, the three doe-eyed faces will appear in my mind and I will hurry thru my remaining exercise time so I can get back to the room to call them.

And after day two, I will begin fidgeting. The girls must be SO distressed without me. They probably aren’t eating. They’re probably waking up crying in the middle of the night because I am not there. I bet they are wandering the house aimlessly, looking at my picture and missing me so much they can hardly take it. I bet the baby is looking around everywhere, wondering where her mommy has gone. I will practically run home from Colorado to get to them as they must be pining away for me, the most important person in their worlds.

And when at last I arrive home and open my arms to receive what will be their tackle hugs, I will suddenly be thrown back into reality when they ask if I could move over a little as I’m blocking Tom and Jerry on t.v.

That’s mother guilt, people. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting Dressed Is Hard to Do

At our house, there are a few things that are givens. I can count on these things just as confidently as I can count on the change of seasons.

The first given is that my children will have quite different reactions to the change of season wardrobe. My middle daughter will be on cloud nine, for this is an event she has waited for since the day after all her pants, long sleeved shirts, and jackets were packed away last year. There is something about clothing in a storage bin tucked away that makes them much more desirable than the appropriate season clothing folded neatly in your dresser drawers. She will dance and sing, twirling around as she holds her “new ” clothes against her with glee. She will try on every item and

declare it beautiful, and I will sigh with relief that some items still actually fit.

The next given is that my oldest child will be quite appalled at the thought of parting with her summer clothes. You must understand this is the girl who much prefers animal costumes to princess gowns, dinosaurs to baby dolls, t-shirts to sequins.

She also seems to have absolutely no sense of temperature b/c she wants to wear a t-shirt and shorts even in 20 degree weather. Jeans are too restricting, she says. It’s impossible to sit "criss cross applesauce in pants and anything that even loosely

touches her arms is “too tight”. She will watch mournfully as her t-shirts (all with cartoon animals or logos from chick-fil-a and her school) are packed away and replaced with what I consider cute little girl fall clothes.

She will try in vain to hide a couple pairs of shorts and her favorite shirts, hoping that I won't notice her bare arms and legs when she emerges in the morning for school.

Each evening we put her clothes out on her bed for school the next day. We alternate whose day it is to choose the outfit, b/c frankly I have given up my pre-motherhood dreams of having little girls dressed to the nines. I do draw the line when she chooses a t-shirt that has a ripped collar and faded Texas lizards. Every other day I am allowed to choose something that actually has pleats or, dare I say it, something not available in the little boy’s section of the store. She understands this agreement, though we do have occasional discussions about my choices for the day.

After getting dressed (a process that’s either joyful or filled with sorrow depending on whose day it is to choose), it is time to face the hair brushing scene. The makers of the de-tangle spray we use have stopped selling to anyone but my family because Olivia’s hair alone provides enough business for them. Like every good parent, I turn on the television to distract her while I pull and tug on the tangles that have magically appeared overnight. There will be no hairbows allowed and no headbands. She simply endures the brushing and if I am very lucky, allows something besides a ponytail.

Time for shoes. I find it very strange that the exact pair of shoes that fit so perfectly and were so comfortable in the store somehow morph into objects of torture to my little girl’s feet. She currently has one pair of brown tennis shoes that she wears every single day. This is something I have come to accept and offer only weak resistance on my days to choose her outfit. As these shoes become more and more worn, I am sometimes concerned that a well-meaning, compassionate stranger will offer me money to buy my little girl new shoes.

The Bible tells us to not worry about what we will wear. My daughter seems to grasp this command in ways that amaze me. Vanity is not a demon she wrestles with, and I am grateful. I am learning to put less emphasis on my children’s appearance. And actually, if you see my child in public wearing a ratty t-shirt with jelly stains and her good ‘ol brown tennis shoes, her hair obviously not brushed and a big smile on her face, you can smile knowing that I am in the middle of a lesson in sanctification that day. Either that or I didn’t catch her before we got out the door.

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