Wish you were here!
A friend called yesterday afternoon. “So what are you doing?” she asked.
“I just waved goodbye to MapKid as he drove off for his five-day stay with his Nana in Oklahoma City,” I said.
“Oh, you must be so sad,” she said.
Um, sad? Not exactly. I was thinking more along the lines of gleeful. Relieved. Delighted. Overjoyed. And the heavens opened and angels sang. If this makes me a bad mother . . . I’ll get over it.
It’s been a looooong summer. To have the last five days of it without a single tantrum? Bliss.
Honestly, I’ve never been the kind of mom to get worked up over handing my child over to someone else. I love MapKid like crazy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want some space now and then. I did not, in fact, weep the first day I left him with the babysitter. He was eight months old, and I had one more semester of grad school. I was thrilled to have found part-time childcare and freaked out that four hours a day wasn’t going to be enough. (It wasn’t.)
I didn’t cry the first day of preschool, either. We were broke, I was just getting started freelancing, and my most prominent emotion on driving away was panic I wouldn’t make enough money to pay for it. Furthermore, I had had it Up To Here with Dora the Explorer and really needed some professional help with potty training.
Nor did I cry the first day of Kindergarten. MapKid did Kindergarten twice. The first time was at the same preschool where he’d been going for years, so it wasn’t much of a transition. The second time, at the public school, was, well, the second time, and my greatest concern was that I had bought the wrong school supplies.
If I really think about it, as far back as MapKid’s birth I wasn’t that worried about him going into the hands of others. I remember when we took our childbirth class and the teacher talked about all the stuff they do in the first few hours after birth–weighing, measuring, bathing, etc. The instructor said the nurses can go do this on their own, or you can stay with the baby the entire time. She felt strongly that (of course!) none of us would be so unnatural as to be parted from our precious infants for more than instant so soon after delivery. I agreed with her absolutely.
Well. An hour or so after birth, after they wheeled us both from the delivery rooms to the newborn rooms, the nurse popped in and said she needed to take the baby to go do their thing. We could come along, or we could rest. We handed over that kid faster than a hot potato. I was utterly exhausted from the night of labor and emotionally wiped out, not just from having just given birth but from nothing going as planned [short version: MapKid was six weeks early, and the epidural didn't work]. My husband and I collapsed and proceeded to take the single best two-hour nap of our entire lives. I remain eternally grateful for that nap.
I guess some moms feel like they are the best caretakers of their children, the most knowledgeable and competent. I, on the other hand, usually think other people probably know more about parenting than I do. They can handle him if not as well as I then better.
Others seem to feel sad because departures from their children are often associated with rites of passage. “My baby’s growing up,” they sob on their way to their cars from the first babysitter/preschool/kindergarten drop-off. I don’t know why, but this doesn’t bother me. Of course, I sometimes mourn the passage of time. When I packed up baby clothes, I felt a pang that he wouldn’t ever wear that adorable bear onesie ever again, and when I removed all the Thomas the Tank Engine paraphenalia, I felt sad that he was too old to play with it–but I’m more likely to get weepy on these private occasions than at the designated Moment of Transition. Maybe I get too caught up in the externals (did I pack the diaper bag right? did I buy the right school supplies?). Maybe I’m woefully lacking in sentimentality. I’m OK with that.
I talked to MapKid this morning and he’s having a great time. He described their route in detail–which is an achievement since most of it consists of unbroken stretches of I-35. He told me about how excited the dog was see him, named the exact exit they took to Nana’s house, and conveyed the thrilling information that McDonald’s has chicken nuggets. Yes, I miss him. Of course I miss him. But I’m also absolutely delighted to have this time to myself. It’s a chance to recharge my batteries, take some monumental naps, have a few lengthy, uninterrupted dinners with my spouse, and luxuriate in tantrum-free days. It’s also a chance for me to take stock of ways I can manage things better this fall, since God only knows I didn’t manage very well this summer. New strategies will be developed. New plans plotted out. I see charts in my future, and schedules written on whiteboards.
When MapKid gets back, another rite of passage will, er, pass, and he will enter first grade. I’m here to tell you right now: I will not weep when I drive away.
If on Monday morning you see a slightly deranged-looking woman skipping down a Fort Worth sidewalk singing “Oh, Happy Day!”–that’ll be me.