There was a big difference between the first day of school last year, and the first day of school this year, for both me and my kids. This year, they went. I didn’t.
The decision to leave teaching, and pick up my former career as a freelance writer, was made to salvage the ol’ grey matter, and therefore be a more sane mom, woman, wife and friend. I can already tell it was the right one – as evidenced by the fact that not once this morning did I have to do what I call, The Mom Move. That is, when I feel that my head will surely pop off, which usually happens four or five times each morning that my four children and I, and my husband (also a teacher) are getting ready for school, I bite down hard on my tongue. It’s like an emergency brake for my head. I bite hard, hold for three seconds, then release. My head doesn’t go into orbit, no blood is shed, and amazingly enough, whatever ridiculous thing my kid was doing has stopped. It’s like they can sense The Move, even though my mouth is closed. They smell it. Like a wise mouse, they back away from the mousetrap and scamper to some undisclosed location.
This year, on Opening Day, I was just a mom. This year, one breakfast was served at one time – it wasn’t five people scurrying around a kitchen, gathering bowls, plates, spoons and forks while the sixth person asked a variety of questions about the lunches he was making for the whole crew. “Strawberry or Raspberry?” “Who wants ham?” “Who wants mayo?” Who wants a poke in the eye with a sharp stick? Today, I put a platter of scrambled eggs and toast on the table at 6:45. My husband, who loves his title of Lunch Guy, used a list I typed up with each kids’ sandwich likes and dislikes, and made lunches without a game of 200 questions. He didn’t have to stop and pour milk or butter waffles because I was still upstairs trying to create flat hair. I did breakfast, he did lunch, and the kids did great. At 7 a.m., I headed up to change clothes, help out with pony-tails and stubborn cow-licks, locate missing socks, and we headed out at 7:40. Best of all, no tears were shed in the making of this morning.
Fifteen minutes later (ah, the beauty of a small town) I was back home, at my computer, working away. The budget will be tight, but the load will be lighter. A few other things will be different as well. For instance, I picked up the kids from school. They didn’t have to scurry around the play ground looking for the shuttle driver that brings them to the high school. Instead, we walked home, I layed on the living room floor, and one-by-one, my son and three daughters told me about their day. They listened to one another and I listened too – with no papers to grade in front of me, and no nagging worries on my mind. I even asked questions about the things they were telling me. Not so long ago, I often did the auto-nod and “hmm” response when they spoke to me. Or, they weren’t telling me things at all because I was too distracted to notice the “I have something to tell you” look and too overwhelmed to truly do anything about it if I did. Only one of my four will really open up to me without me having to ask. The other three need a little prodding.
So, now, instead of being a cattle dog, herding them toward the tv, or herding them toward the computer so I can get some serious work, or worrying done, I’m a cattle prod. I poke, I prod, I like it.