Thursday, June 18, 2015

So THIS is what it feels like.

There was a time I thought I could be a stay at home mom. I fantasized about the idea of getting to spend all day with the kids I was dreaming about, teaching them everything, playing with them, taking them to farmers markets and watching them feast on fresh fruit that they craved, doing art projects with them, and taking lots of pictures of all of this and putting those photos in organized albums and showing the kids those albums on rainy days.

And then I had kids. Or... in my case, GOT kids. 

And also? It doesn't rain here.

So I haven't had even the tiniest urge to stay at home with my children since they became my children. This isn't a lack of love. In fact, it's love that makes me know I need to be away from them during the day so that I can tolerate them at night. They are beautiful, perfect girls, and I love them so much it makes my heart ache, but they are difficult and stubborn. And, it turns out, so am I. And life is incredibly difficult and isn't what you see on Pinterest or even Facebook. 

Something else I've learned about myself is I like working. And I think it's important for my kids to see me happy and fulfilled, and for me, having a career is part of that. This is also why I don't feel guilty for taking a sketch-writing class, or taking a full Saturday away from them to direct a play for an instant theatre night. I know I need to be creative in order to be happy, and I want my kids to have a happy mom. 

I was not a happy mom this morning.

This has been a big transition week for us. Isabella started at a new pre-school and Maddie started summer camp at one of the elementary schools in our new neighborhood. Isabella has taken to her pre-school like a duck to water, but the transition has been a little more difficult for Maddie. Maddie is a creature of habit and structure. Those are the things she needs for her life to make sense to her. I have started her at a daycare and then a pre-school, and I have never had any real qualms about leaving her at those places. I knew both places well, I knew how their days were structured, and I knew she would thrive there and I was right. And I love being right.

She starts kindergarten in August and I've been EXCITED for this. People have asked me if I'm "ready" for it, and I'm always like, YES, I'm ready. Are you kidding? She's going to learn how to READ and we get to shop for school supplies! This is going to be amazing! I've gotten her excited about it. Any time anyone asks her about it, she grins widely and starts jumping up and down: "I'M GOING TO KINDERGARTEN!" I didn't understand why everyone was asking me if I was ready for it, or if I was okay with it.

And then we dropped her off at her first day of summer camp. Gone were the gentle pre-school teachers who bent down to say hello to her and held her hand into the classroom. Gone were all the kids littler than her, younger than her. She was the youngest there on the first day we dropped her off and the classroom was FULL of kids of all ages, up to maybe 10. The teachers were really just monitoring their activity. We had to sort of encourage one of the teachers to take Maddie under her wing so she was okay with us leaving. They assured us that she would break off into her own class with kids her own age at 10am, and that this zoo of a classroom was only a morning and late afternoon thing.

It occurred to me that day that this would be her life now. She's a kid. She's not a baby. This is the deal. And we picked her up that day and she'd had SO MUCH FUN and she was exhausted because GUESS WHAT? THEY DON'T MAKE THEM NAP! (HASHTAG AMAZING) She couldn't tell us about any friends she'd made, but she did say she had fun, so yay! No more worrying on my part!

And then this morning happened. She had a rough morning. Which made Gina and I have a rough morning. (Oh and also, Gina and I didn't sleep well last night, and not for any fun reason, just because sleep can sometimes be an elusive bitch.) She told me she didn't want to go to summer camp because it's "too long." (That's where the lack of a nap is biting us in the ass - she's at summer camp the same amount of time she was at pre-school, but now she's not sleeping through any of it.) So when I dropped her off this morning, I hugged her and she held on tighter than usual and told me she didn't want me to leave. I finally got her to walk away from me, and Isabella and I made it all the way up the hill and almost to the car when I heard Maddie SCREAMING for me. I turned around and saw her running toward me with her arms out, screaming "MOMMY! MOMMY!" The teacher explained, "She said she didn't get to say goodbye to you." So I picked her up and held her and she cried and said she doesn't want to go to summer camp anymore, she wanted to go home, she didn't want me to leave, and on and on and on. This lasted for maybe 10 minutes. She's never been this reluctant to leave me, ever. And when I finally got her to let me leave, she walked back to the classroom with her teacher, crying for me still, and I had to walk away from her, and I was crying, and some dad said hi to me and my broken voice managed a "hi" back but I'm SURE he knew I was crying... 

And what I felt in that moment was guilt. Full mommy guilt, unlike anything I've felt before. Sure, I've felt like I'm doing the mom thing all wrong. That's not what this was. This was me feeling like she needed ME and I couldn't be there for her. This was me, for the first time, wishing I could stay home with her during the summer, wishing I could let her have a lazy summer before kindergarten, watching cartoons and playing outside and going swimming. Wishing I could let her have ME all to herself. That is all she wants. And I'll probably never be able to give that to her. I know it'll get easier. I know she just needs to get used to this new place and new friends. And I know this is what the rest of her life will be like. She'll be in new places plenty of times, and will need to use what she's been taught by US to manage those situations. 

Still - this is not an easy day.

First day of summer camp - 6/16/15