These past two weeks are like a throwback for me. They’re a throwback to a time before school, when I had my kids with me nearly all day, every day, juggling work deadlines with domestic duty, all the while trying to keep a careful and loving watch over my children.
It not quite the same, of course. I no longer have toddlers likely to careen head-first down a flight of stairs or to run blindly out into traffic. I don’t have infants to hold and nurse every two hours and to gingerly, frustratingly try to coax down to sleep. Perhaps most critically, my kids are now almost entirely independent in the toilet department.
At ten, seven and nearly five, in fact, you might imagine children who can prepare a reasonable lunch for themselves, pick up their things, play games together and only really need a cursory supervision. I imagined this and it’s the reason I thought, eh, it will be all right. We can hang out for a couple weeks after the family vacation while I catch up on work. They’ll be fine.
But I can’t really just let them languish in front of the television screen for days on end. One child has a couple hours of tutoring in the morning, for one, so it’s a process just to get them all fed and dressed and out of the house. Running into a store to pick up some groceries is like an epic adventure. How had I forgotten that?
The five-year-old is still headstrong and loathe to leave her own imaginary world at any given time; dismissive of the rest of the world’s desire to (if not quite keep to a schedule) at least finish tasks within a reasonable time frame. They still need time for running around outside and connecting with friends. There are baseball games and practices to attend and dinners to prepare.
My biggest sense of déjà vu is when I find myself feeling suffocated while lounging at the park on a lovely summer afternoon, chatting with neighbourhood friends. Or maybe I’m watching over five-year-olds as the roll around in the grass while their bigger sibs play baseball. These are relaxing and enjoyable moments; arguably one of the great perks of parenthood. But I can’t fully relax, constantly playing in my mind all the million other tasks that need doing, that I can’t get to because I have been forced to spend the afternoon at the park. It’s like someone barging into a productive office and decreeing a mandatory two-hour recess every afternoon: nice idea but what about all the work that needs doing?
And just to make sure I’m fully ready to send them all off to school next week, my two girls spent the better part of last night bent over the throw up bowl. I’d rub one’s back and wait for her to be done, wipe her mouth, get her a drink of water, and watch her settle back into sleep. Then I’d rinse out the bowl and place it back beside her pillow just in time for the other girl to wake up with start and begin the process all over.
So I’m calling it a sick day, even though they both seem fully better now. And on sick days they do get to lounge in front of the television for hours on end and I’ll see if I can’t get caught up just enough to make it through until next Tuesday.