greg’s eyes had an unsure shaky quality about them as he fumbled with joel’s boots and then his sweat shirt as he helped us get ready to leave the house. it was uncharacteristic and surprising to me, his life partner. it’s rare that I see greg falter and it always throws me. I caught his eye and raised my eyebrows. he looked a bit caught red handed and admitted, “what am I going to do with the forty five minutes ’till my dad gets here?”
greg was going on a rare outing with his dad while I took the kids and met some relatives at the museum nearby for a visit and he would be home, alone, approximately 45 minutes between the time we would be vacating the house and the time when his dad was scheduled to pick him up. and those 45 minutes were weighing on his mind.
“I don’t know the last time I was actually home, in this house, by myself. it’s been years. I don’t like it. I feel overwhelmed.”
It’s always gratifying when someone echoes my sentiments back to me regarding this life that I lead with my small children. mostly, greg is so busy adulting in the “real world” that he doesn’t have the foggiest what I’m talking about when I say things like, “I can’t stand it when your mom takes the older two kids for the day. I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do with myself. the house is too quiet.” our lives are so different that it seems like we are driving by each other, each doing 60 miles an hour in the opposite direction, shouting out the window at each other. that’s the kind of communication we jive these days. drive-by communication. believe me, it gets lonely never being able to connect with your spouse. but that’s a post for another day.
however, working for the government sometimes has some perks, one of which being vacation time. it just so happens that greg has a large chunk of time to use up and has been home for over a week. this makes for a narrowing of the gap that we shout across in our daily lives. it just gives him a small taste, is what I say, of what I deal with. my life, as it were.
I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again that being home with small children can sometimes be like military torture. like waterboarding, it’s a constant bombardment of the senses pretty much from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. it’s like living life in a war zone. and, as hard as it is to deal with the constant yelling and cacophony of it all, I guess I must become acclimated to it to some degree because I’ve found that, when the kids are gone for some reason or I am otherwise away from the three of them, I falter. the silence is deafening. my thoughts, free from interruption, gallop forth at a panicked and alarming rate. I often find myself whipped up into an anxious frenzy and I don’t know what to do with myself. I literally feel agoraphobic and dizzy at the endless possibilities of things I could do with myself. it’s frightening.
as sad as it may seem, I’m used to my life. I’m used to my children and the confines of my small existence. taking it away from me must be something like people living in a concentration camp suddenly set free. I’m convinced you would find many of these people huddling in a tiny curled up ball, unable to cope with their new freedom. ok, that’s probably a bit dramatic but you get the picture. me: fetal position. that about sums it up.
“take a bath. read your book. watch a movie,” I said to greg, “you’ll be fine.”
and he was, though I don’t think he was able to actually relax for one single minute while he was alone. we came back later to find he had caulked the bathroom tub. luckily, we don’t often have to face life without kids at this point in our lives. and when we do, you can count on us doing one of two things: moving mountains or staring transfixed at the wall, unable to move in one direction or another. this is life without balance. this is life with small children.