If only I was a stay-at-home mom…for the school.

Sometimes I wish I was a stay-at-home mom. I would get the Legos picked up off the floor. I would have the clothes actually put away in drawers. I wouldn’t get so wrapped up in trying to decide whether to crate the dog and keep the floors clean or chance it that maybe she won’t pee today while we’re gone.

And if I managed to get all this done during the day, I’d actually look forward to hugging the boys after school and sifting through their artwork and crumbs and broken pencils to find the one sheet of homework crammed into the torn folder in their backpack. I’d pull it out and gently guide them through a relaxing session of learning at our comfy “homework” snowman2station, reviewing their scattered errors on the week’s spelling or math test, finding the blue crayon to color in the weekends and yellow crayon for the weekdays of the calendar, and cutting out and pasting a photo of something beginning with the letter “N.”

Life would be so different if I was a stay-at-home mom.

It’s 4:17 pm. I leave a meeting at a local university. I’ve been in and out of the office all day. I’ve been trouble-shooting via email. I’ve been writing up grant ideas. I’ve been designing our new website. I’ve been answering phone calls. I’ve been learning how to merge scanned pages into a single PDF document. I’ve been shaking hands, smiling and thinking up grand ideas for collaboration during a two-hour meet-and-greet session. And I’ve been sweeping all that into the corners of my mind during the harrowing drive on snowy roads to get to the daycare center to gather the two youngest boys.

I rush through inches of snow in dress shoes to check on the driver of a car crash right  beside the center. I put up cones “borrowed” from the day care center to warn other drivers. I meet the parents of my middle kid’s new best friend. I commiserate on how not all day care centers are perfect. I find coats and back packs. I forget (again) to empty the papers from the boys’ mail slots which overflow until the teachers just hand them to me. I buckle the boys in with fingers numb from cold exposure and stubborn carseat buckles. I turn on track #8 so we can listen to it for the thousandth time. I breathe.

Home – gather up and take out trash and recycling. Move the clothes from washer to dryer and start the next never-ending load of soiled torn boy clothes (and just spray a couple of those stained white items – who ever bought white!?!). Take the dog out and beg her to pee because my ears and legs are frozen standing here with you. Open and close the fridge looking for left-overs. Open and close the cupboard doors looking for something mildly nutritional. Greet the second-grader dropped off by my mother who helps with after-school care. Warm up the chocolate milks. Monitor the math homework of the eldest child. Stop countless battles over Legos, time with the dog, who broke the train set, flashlights, Spy Gear goggles, books, basketballs, stuffed animals. You name it – it’s scattered on my floor and ammunition for whichever kid doesn’t have it in his hands at the moment.

Bathtime. Pajamas. Mama’s glass of wine.

Book reading. Teeth brushing. Really – put the pull-up on!

Settle down. Stop joking around.

Be quiet

Lay still.

By the time the oldest and youngest are asleep (and I awake from my mini-nap on their bed), I find the kindergartener wrapped in his special “blue blanket” sacked out in front of the space heater. I sigh. Lifting him gently and tucking him into bed, I kiss his forehead and pat the dog who cuddles in beside him.

Quiet.

For a moment.

I’m sorry, dear kindergarten teacher. Thank you for your kind email this morning. Yes, I know that homework at age five “is important to set a good foundation to carry through in the upper grades”….but I just didn’t get to it last night.

Forgive me.

And yet, this single working mother of three wild, delightfully rambunctious boys is going to do better today. I think…..

Smitten by a Kindergartener

“My baby girl fills a place I didn’t even know was empty. I am positively smitten.”  (K.H.)  I love this line that I “borrowed” (with credit) from a friend in her Facebook stream.

I also love vicariously reliving the “smitten” stage of the first-born child.  There is something so wonderful and special about those magic moments.  Those moments when time stands still and you realize that you have sat on the couch for two hours listening to the uneven yet peaceful breath of your baby and your mind has been still and content.  Those moments when you stare into your baby’s face and realize you never knew love could be so powerful and so peaceful and so strong.  Those moments when you realize your life has changed forever and you’re so thankful for that.

I watched my friend cuddle her 2-year-old son on the subway during our recent trip to New York City.  Her arms wrapped around him.  Her face bent forwards to snuggle against his cheek.  She spoke softly, whispering. Smitten. Blissful.

I was on the other side of the train – restraining a one-year-old with one arm, “spotting” the three-year-old as he bounced around looking out the window into the darkness and jumping back to look at all the people on the train, and verbally reminding the 6-year-old to “hold on,” “sit down,” and “be quiet.”  There was no quiet within my brain.  And yet, I was still okay with it all the chaos and the madness of my three.  (Alright, actually….I was thinking “yes…just you wait until baby #2 is born and then all of that lovey-dovey-attentiveness will change.  Just you wait.”  Not in an evil-haha kind of way, but in a reality-is-coming kind of way 🙂 .)

You see, I have a great friend who has 4 little boys about the same ages as my three guys (poor dear – she’s amazing!).  And we are good for each other because we are honest with each other.  And we agree that we absolutely love our boys.  No questions about it.  But we don’t always feel that love.  Sometimes, I’m just going through the motions of care-taking. Sometimes I’m just changing another diaper, wiping another snotty nose, putting on another pair of shoes that I just put on and that he just took off again.

And sometimes, I am “not happy with your behavior” and the love feels far away.  Present, but currently unavailable.  But then I sneak into the boys’ bedroom before I go to sleep each night, and lean over to kiss each one (a blown kiss to the little guy whose crib mattress is too far away), and whisper I love you.

Yet, it is in some of the “big moments” of parenting when I am overwhelmingly reminded that I am still, 6 years later, smitten with my boys.  This week Micah started kindergarten.  I stood along the wall of the church’s gymnasium and watched as he made new friends with the boys sitting beside him as they waited to go to their classroom.  I signed “I love you” whenever I caught his eye, and I gave him a kiss as he walked away from me.  The tears flowed by the time I reached the anonymity of my car.  My boy.  Kindergarten.  The start of the journey of school.  And as I drove to work through the fog of my eyes, the chorus of a song played over and over in my brain – “well done, well done…” (Moriah Peters).  It just seemed to sum up my love for him, all the work that we’ve done together over the past six years, all of that – well done – you got him to kindergarten!

I did much better the next two days of dropping him off, until I opened his backpack Friday evening and found a card that Micah made at school.

A Handful of Love

(by D. Conway)

It was my first week of school,

And now that it’s done,

I can’t wait to tell you

About all the fun.

We read a book called The Kissing Hand

About Chester, a sweet raccoon.

He went to school up in a tree,

Beneath the shining moon.

Chester was scared and a little shy,

Until his mom kissed his hand.

It sent the love right up his arm,

Towards his heart for it to land.

Just like Chester, I was brave

Because of love from you.

I made this gift so I can show

How much I love you, too!