So, Greg was out of town for about three weeks just recently, and, anyone with a couple kids might understand how hard that was for me. I said to him over the phone one evening as the kids went wild in the background, “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through with either my sanity or my relationship with my kids intact.” Being far far away from the everyday craziness that is my life with two kids, he laughed in good humor like I was making a joke and offered, “Well, if it makes you feel any better, while I was OUT TO DINNER (???), I started talking with a couple of older ladies and told them our situation and they said that some of the hardest times of their lives were when their husbands went out of town for work and left them alone with the kids.” It did. But it didn’t. His tone was still much too light-hearted.
Well, I am pleased to say that my sanity is still as intact as it ever was. My relationship with Joel is pretty much unfazed. That relationship seems like it might always be that way. My relationship with Ruth, though, pretty much always feels on the rocks in one way or another. I am baffled if it’s a first child thing, a mom-daughter thing, or purely a personality thing. One day I’ll figure it out.
Staying home alone with the kids is hard for many reasons. Maybe I will list them in a later post, in case anyone is wondering or wants validation from another person that has been through it, but I’ll just say that when greg finally did return home, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.
After the first full day that he worked at his normal job, he came home and we had a really nice day and a bit of daylight left, so we tethered the kids’ trikes into the trunk of out tiny Corolla (bigger, five-person family van soon to come) and drove over to a nearby park with a track around it that the kids could practice riding on. It was, as I said, warm enough that everyone seemed to be having the same thought and the park was pleasantly crowded with kids and families and teenagers all giddy with the lengthening days and the promises of the coming warm season.
And after an initial hard spot that we always seem to hit after arriving someplace new where the kids need time to adjust and warm up to things, they started having the time of their lives. Ruth rode her cheap pink and purple plastic trike up one hill and then turned it around and coasted down with no feet, screaming with delight the entire way. Then Joel, not being a very coordinated peddler, opted to run back and forth over one of those bridges on a play structure, laughing his head off even when he fell. Soon, Greg walked off following Ruth down the path while I stayed behind with Joel, who at nearly two, is much more coordinated and resilient than he was last fall, and really really enjoyed climbing all over that play structure. Finally, I thought to myself, balance is restored. Because, though I am capable and willing to take them to the park alone, by myself it’s just not the same mood. I am a bit more stressed, having everyone’s well-being solely on my shoulders, having bedtime back home looming, having no one to take one of them (because they never want the same things when you want them to and they both want 100% of someone’s attention 24/7), and having no one to just laugh at shit above their heads about. It affects the mood profoundly, I’ve found. Though I do value my time alone with the kids, it is just simply SO NICE when it’s not all on me. When I have a partner to collaborate with, even if our “collaborations” sometimes sounds an awful lot like fighting.
Finally, Ruth and Greg came back over by where we were and the kids played sort of together for a while. Then they were both on the swings. “Well,” I said, looking at the setting sun, “should we head back for bedtime?” greg nodded. But before we did, the kids randomly found a great hill nearby to run up and down on (yes, joel fell on his head more than once but he bounces surprisingly well) and then to roll down. They were both covered with dirt and leaves within a few minutes and were both laughing and tackling each other while greg and i stood and watched. It’s the stuff parental dreams are made of, the way you THINK your life is going to always be after having kids, but very rarely is.
Being 6 months pregnant, and feeling very large, I can’t stand in one spot too long so I plopped myself down into the grass, feeling the damp cool earth beneath me and finally smelling what they were smelling. Thawed dirt, old leaves, new green grass. Getting down on the ground is a different experience than just standing up on it. “This is what kids love,” I thought to myself. Being free to explore, run, climb and play with no rules somewhere the robins are singing that spring song they sing in the dawn and dusk, somewhere the light from the setting sun lengthens the shadows all around them, some place where they can smell and feel the earth. It felt so good to watch them. Especially ‘cause I wasn’t alone. I was with my family. We were all back together in the earliest spring on the warmest day yet.