Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When I Grow Up

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Today I'm spending the afternoon walking in a figure eight through my house picking up backpacks, shoes, and the six hundred piece marble set that was abandoned in the middle of the family room. I can see my girls out the back window soldiering up the sled hill, mittened fists clenching their sled ropes. I don't know why, but the urge to strap on my own snow pants and boots and run after them is overwhelming. I love to sled. But today is not that day. I hear it is frowned upon to leave your infant unattended inside the house while you go sledding and besides, a half diced onion is waiting for me on a cutting board in the kitchen.

Truthfully, a part of me wants to forget about putting away the rest of the groceries, cooking dinner, and spending some quality time with the clean laundry waiting patiently on the couch. I'd prefer to forget about scheduling James' four month check up (he's now five months) or mopping up the lumps of snow melting by the sliding glass door that the girls kicked into the kitchen on their way out. If I can't go sledding at the very least I'd still like to watch TLC until it's time to go to bed. But the problem with watching day time television is that not only do you have to deal with the prissy little voice in your head that is telling you that you are wasting your life away, you also have to endure the inconvenience of pausing every thirty-nine seconds to soothe the infant or to remind the kids not to track snow in the house on their way to the bathroom. Some people have no respect for other people's couch time!

Instead, I continue my laps through the house. I've long since learned that when I reach the end of my rope it is usually the wrong answer to let the house fall apart, to forget about dinner and plug into the television. Ignoring it makes it worse. Methodically putting the pieces back together and making sense of the chaos...now that's a better way through the tunnel! I pause at my computer every so often to type a few words before resuming my figure eight clean up circuit. If someone steps on the marbles in bare feet it could be bad news. The words bad news hover. I studiously avoid watching the news but even so the world of bad news persistently knocks. Rare cancers, cars flipped over in the snow, children damaged at the hands of adults. We can't move through life with our eyes closed. We can't plug our ears when people share their stories because it is often the telling that makes it feel better. As if we're all silently saying to each other, Here, could you hold some of this for me. The weight is heavy on my shoulders.

I am at a loss to understand why there are two pairs of soaking wet socks on the kitchen floor when the girls are still outside. Yet another domestic mystery.

We all keep a list in our head of how sunny our life will look and feel a few blocks further down the road and today I'm dusting off my list every time I finish another lap. No wet socks on the kitchen floor, for starters. No melting glaciers near the sliding glass door. The Hansel and Gretel trail of breadcrumbs through the house will permanently disappear, and maybe someday I'll even be able to watch the news without my heart pounding and my brain reeling the words, That could be my child. Because someday my children will be safe and grown and tucked in their beds somewhere far away. Now that is something to feel sad about. Can you imagine peeking in to check on a sleeping child and remembering they've grown up and gone away?

When I grow up I hope to have more quiet time. When I grow up I will spend entire days writing, so engrossed in my work that my chamomile tea will become cold only a few inches from my elbow. When I grow up I'll have more time to watch the news, but probably I won't because I don't like hearing about all the bad things that happen to complete strangers. It never makes me feel informed, it makes me feel discouraged, which is not how I like to feel. When I grow up I'm pretty sure I'll miss my kids. I'll miss the idea of their messes and the happy chaos those messes represent. And when I grow up I'll take my grandchildren sledding because at that point it will no longer be my infant unattended in the house.

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