Sicker Than Me

I needed a day to myself.  A day when I would simply set aside the list, even if I felt compelled to make a list in the morning just to take these items out of my mind and put them on paper instead.  List: Made.  And then: set aside.

Please forgive me, mothers of small children.  I know you don’t get a day to yourself unless someone gives it to you.  I know you don’t even get a few hours alone unless you work it into your budget, exchange a favor with another mom in captivity, or – in all humility – ask for help.  I know it well.  So when I say that I intended to take a day alone, you might want to chuck board books into my shins and gouge my eyes with your rubber-tipped baby spoons.

I understand.  And I hope you’ll get an afternoon alone.  Soon.  I know they are precious and rare, few and far between.

Weekends are my most intense stretch as a single mom.  Three days of ‘being on.’  Like a wedding photographer who works through the weekends, or like a pastoral staff who serves on Saturday and Sunday, I look forward to Monday.  Everything settles down just a bit.

Or just a lot.

I drop them off at school, and then I inhale the scent of coffee and exhale a breath of peace and quiet.  That’s what I was looking forward to on this Monday morning.

But then my son got a cold.  I gave it to him.  I’ve had this froggy voice since the middle of teaching at The Greenhouse on Thursday, which spilled into speaking at The Well on Friday night, which left me with little voice of parental authority over the weekend.

And bless his heart, his first words to me yesterday were, “Mommy, I’m sicker than you.”

Of course, it is a competition, you know.  And there’s little sympathy for the mom.  If she can get out of bed, with or without a choice, then clearly he’s sicker than she is.  (I won’t mention any names, but he reminds me of a certain father of his, who was always, invariably, sicker than me.)

I kept his gunky little self home today, because Show and Tell shouldn’t include this situation.

“What an opportunity to serve my family,” I said to myself.  I may or may not have gritted my teeth.

And now my day has an underscore of Tom and Jerry, popsicles and clear fluids, interruptions and suspicious requests for desserts.  And I’m realizing too late in the day that he really could have made it through his normal routine.

Moms of preschoolers, my heart goes out to you: this is what you do every day.

I remember it well.  And it’s a tough gig.

Take an hour off today. I certainly intended to.

Thesis Statement

Recently, I met with a friend to coach her through a professional essay.

Tell about the most important professional decision you’ve made within the last five years. How did you make the decision, what was the plan of action, what were the ramifications, and what did you learn?

She balked a little at that word ‘professional’, since she has been a stay-at-home mom for two decades.

I quickly asked her think differently about that. She is the CEO of Family Enterprises, and that title includes financial officer, menu planner, chauffeur and chaperone, keeper of the calendar, supervisor of homework, referee of all disputes… the list goes on. Don’t think for a second that job doesn’t require some professional skills!

She told me what she had chosen as her topic: her decision to get a family dog. A yellow labrador.

She told me how she had delayed the process for three years. She kept telling them no. She was sure the responsibilities would land in her lap, and as the mother of five children, her band width was full. The children were finally old enough to be in school, and she was beginning to find her freedom to leave the house. A dog would tie her down again.

Then she thought further: if she maintained a consistent no until the children moved out and could get dogs of their own, then she would simply go down in family history as the One Who Kept Us From Getting A Dog.

When her family began researching and looking at dogs on the internet, she asked them in turn to research the tasks involved in keeping such a pet – and show her how this would, for sure, not become solely her responsibility.

And then she agreed to see the dog they wanted. And she knew, in agreeing so, she had ultimately said yes. Because one does not merely visit puppies.

She hadn’t wanted a dog because she hadn’t wanted the mess. She said, “But then we got her, and then I fell in love, and the mess was worth it.”

She told me her ultimate realization:

“Mess brings joy.
And that’s just not something I am ready to give up in my life.”

Now if that isn’t a great thesis statement, I don’t know what is.