Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Double life

I don't think I realized initially how splitting child custody would result in an extraordinary feeling of my life being so compartmentalized.

Ever since we shifted to our current schedule, every two weeks I'll have five days with the kids followed by five days off, then two days with them and two more days without them.  The five days-five days are significant chunks of time, and the respective five days are so extreme in their differences that it's like I'm living two different lives.

My 5 day mama life involves me being on and in caretaker mode all the time.  I get up, exercise, shower, get dressed, get them up, get them dressed, make their lunches, put their extracurricular accoutrement into their backpacks (drum sticks, karate uniforms, etc.), hustle them to school, park the car back at the house, and walk to work.  After work I pick them up, make dinner, play with them, make sure they're bathed, read, sing songs, and put them to bed.  I referee fights, put band-aids on ouchies, dry tears, figure out how to fix wayward Kindles, locate errant stuffed animals.

And I clean.  Holy shit, do I clean.  Doing dishes, putting them away, wiping down tables, sweeping popcorn off the floor, putting toys and clothes and books away, sorting mail.

I do get the kids to help out, but the truth is, they're pigs and they suck at it, so I still end up cleaning after they "clean."  It's fucking endless.

Throughout the five days of mama time, it gets progressively worse.  For a couple of days, I'm able to maintain some semblance of order.  And then at some point, we reach a tipping point, and then I've lost all control and it's a total shit show.

And the shittier the house gets, the higher my level of agita.  With every passing mess - and my children's ability to generate creative new ways of making astounding messes is reaching epic levels - I become more and more short tempered, and sometimes lose it altogether.

The other night, the tipping point was reached via the following incident.

I was in my room practicing the banjo.  Zeke was playing Wii in the playroom, and Josie was in the bathtub.  At some point I heard him go into the bathroom with a big empty cardboard box that his giant Lego set had come in.  It sounded like the two of them were playing.  They chattered and giggled as they do.

Then at some point, the chatter became more frantic and nervous, and I heard a "we need to fix it before Mama sees."


I walked into the bathroom and proceeded to lose my fucking mind.

Because what I saw was the bathroom floor, sink, and parts of the bathtub covered with water, clothes, toys, and little shredded pieces of wet, soggy cardboard.  I can't even imagine what could have possibly possessed them to think that whatever they had done to leave the bathroom like that was a good idea.

The aftermath was not pretty.  It involved a lot of yelling on my part and crying on their part.  I threw an empty garbage bag in the bathroom, closed the door, and told them they were not to come out until every speck of cardboard was in the bag, every drop of water was mopped up, and the dirty clothes were in the laundry.

They got it done, crying the whole time.  I heard Josie repeatedly sobbing, "we need to tell Mama we're sorry!!"

After everyone had calmed down, we had a talk about how they needed to be better about not making terrible messes like that, and about helping out more generally.

"When you guys are playing or sitting on the couch watching TV or something, what is it that you see me doing most of the time?"

"Cleaning," they responded.

"Exactly.  And is it usually my own mess that I'm cleaning up?"

"No."  They were sheepish.

"No, it's not.  And that needs to change."

And they agreed and we hugged it out and everything was harmonious again.

And I reminded them of that incident when they were making pom-poms out of yarn, leaving little bits of fuzzy yarn all over the place, and when they were eating popcorn while watching a movie and much of it didn't make its way into their mouths, and when they found the bag of Halloween candy and were depositing candy wrappers around the house.

"Remember how much trouble you got in the other day?  You don't want that to happen again, do you?"

Their eyes would grow wide and they would shake their heads vigorously.

This morning I dropped them off at school, ending my five days with them.  I will see them again on Monday morning, when we leave for Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

I walked out of the house as the cleaning ladies were walking in.  There were dishes in the sink and pieces of popcorn and yarn and god knows what else on the floor.  Beds that needed to be made and rooms that needed to be tidied up and bathrooms that needed to be scrubbed.

I went to work, got a massage after work, and walked into a quiet, clean house at the end of the day. I'm drinking wine and watching hockey and enjoying the solitude.  And for the next five days, I will live a different life, with a clean house and free time and no one to wait on but myself.

After that, I'll be ready for the messiness again.

No comments:

Post a Comment