Just Heather

A week of Snuggie kids, not getting dressed and letting my 4-year-old make her own breakfast? In my defense, I’m currently working a lot and still on west coast time.

I’ll be clearing a space for that Mother of the Year trophy now. My days have been hectic and crazy since school began. Today, it all finally caught up with me. My day began with Stacia missing the bus. This is no big deal since we live right down the street, but presents a bit of a problem now that Brenia is in kindergarten across town. Montessori starts 10 minutes before public school so I have that amount of time to drop Brenia off and make it back to the other school. Success!

Then I came home with Lorelai. We are only home 1 morning each week so she usually takes a short nap on Wednesdays—playing catch up from the rest of the week. I laid her down at 10am, thinking she’d sleep about an hour which is the most I ever get from her. Kindergarten ends at 11:30 so I’d have plenty of time to change her and get to Montessori after she awoke.

Except she didn’t, until Brenia’s school called wondering where we were! The last time I looked at the clock, it was 10:30. The time didn’t even register when I realized it was the school on the phone. When she said, “We were just calling because Brenia is still here.” I looked up at the clock and freaked out! I grabbed Lorelai, rushed out the door and cried all the way to school.

Worst. Mother. Ever.

Luckily, they have an afternoon program too so she was well cared for. I felt horrible, even though everyone kept reassuring me that she was fine and I wasn’t the first mother to pick her child up 30 minutes late! I guess the good thing is they were very concerned about us. They see me as typically reliable and Brenia’s teacher was convinced I was in some sort of accident on my way to get her.

Brenia didn’t seem to notice how bad I was feeling and was only told that “Mommy was running late.” Now, I have to go get my other daughter before she gets forgotten too!

Stacia is in 3rd grade now, and there is a huge shift in behavior, responsibility and expectations both at school and at home. I’m even seeing a shift in what she watches on television. Last year she would have flipped straight past any live action shows in favor of Sponge Bob or whatever random cartoon she could find. Now she actually watches shows like The Suite Life of Zach and Cody or That’s So Raven.

The responsibility part is something I’m finding difficult. I have always taught my children to make their own decisions on certain things. I take the whole “pick your battles” to an extreme my mom cannot stand. I pretty much save my arguing energy for health and safety issues—food is a big one for me. Clothing? Not so much. They dress themselves every day and I don’t give much thought to how horribly they match other than to hope their teachers get it.

Her third grade teachers have instructed parents not to direct homework. We are allowed to help if they ask, but it is not our job to check and correct their homework, unload their backpacks or make sure it gets back to school. All of that is their job, including getting parental signatures on certain pieces of homework and their daily assignment notebook. They lose recess time and points if it is not returned properly. I struggle so much with not correcting things I see wrong and I have to force myself not to pickup her notebook and sign it on my own.

I have tried to set her up for success the best way I can—I helped her create a schedule of things to do each day and a list of things to pack, as well as asking her each evening and morning if she is packed for school. A couple weeks ago I knew no one had signed her assignment notebook, so I must have asked her 4 times if she was sure she had everything. Yes, yes, yes, yes! She gets home from school and the first words out of her mouth are “Mom! You forgot to sign my assignment notebook!”

“Did you ask me to sign your notebook?” No, so how is that my fault? We added “get parent signatures” to her afternoon list of things to do. Yesterday, she returned her notebook to school sans signature again. Today it sits, along with her unsigned spelling homework, on the kitchen table. I asked last night if she was ready, and again twice this morning. She said yes every time, but as soon as the bus left I found them sitting on the kitchen table. She got as far as opening them in preparation, but never asked me to sign them. It was all I could do to keep from rushing them straight to school.

I think one of the hardest things about being a parent is letting them fail. Even harder is letting them fail without feeling like a failure yourself.

Only 7 days until the big yellow bus arrives to separate my children for several hours each day. I can’t decide if I’m excited or sad to see the summer go. On the one hand, I am so sick and tired of the fighting, whining, tattling and general siblingness. On the other, in just a few short weeks I will be sick to death of packing lunches, supervising homework, feeling guilty as I place volunteer requests into the recycle bin, and driving to and from just about everywhere. It’s a trade off, I suppose. A competition of which list gives me the largest headache. The delicate balancing act of parenthood.

I am the worst daughter-in-law ever. I dutifully remembered to tell my mother about Stacia’s spring musical, but I neglected to tell any of her other grandparents. I most likely only told my mother because I was on the phone with her when the note came home from school.

It didn’t even dawn on me that I needed to inform anyone else until Mom called just now— from the road, on her way here for said musical—and asked who else was coming. Oops. My bad. Perhaps I can console myself with the fact that they saw the exact same musical last year, only she’ll be wearing orange instead of navy blue.

I’m pretty sure that would never in a million years fly with the mother-in-law, and I bet telling her it’s okay because I didn’t even remember to tell the in-laws I actually like would only make it worse. I repeat—I am the worst daughter-in-law. Ever.

Here’s hoping they sell DVDs again this year.

I wear so many hats: wife, Mommy, chef, maid, Brownie leader, business owner. Why do I feel so guilty if I take them all off for an hour to just be Heather? We have a routine at our house. Every night at 8 p.m. we give each girl a kiss and tuck them into bed. Hubby heads off to the office—which is now a corner of our bedroom. I take a nice, long bubble bath. This has been going on for about 3 years now. Yet every night, I feel like I should spend what little time we have in the evenings as his wife.

We don’t have a lot of alone time as a couple. Stacia came along 4 months after the wedding. Go ahead, do the math. Now that we have 3 kids, there’s rarely a moment’s peace. A part of me feels like our quiet evenings should be spent together. Then I remember why I do it. It rejuvenates me. It restores my soul. I can truly be his wife, instead of sitting next to him on the couch all evening as an exhausted shell of a mom. I spend an hour each evening washing the mom off, and the next two being a woman.

Bathtime isn’t the only time guilt sets in. Last year, I left town all by myself. Spencer played single dad for the first time ever. Oh, I’ve left for an evening or afternoon, but never before had he been in charge for a full 2 days. The girls wanted to go with me, and when they clung and pouted as I walked out the door I had a hard time remembering all the reasons they shouldn’t. Brenia was sick. Three hours in a car would not be fun. Stacia gets so emotional that she did not need to go to a funeral when she didn’t know the person. I needed the time to say goodbye when I wasn’t surrounded by others who needed me. But none of those reminders did anything to quell the guilt.

I think Mommy Guilt multiplies with each child. I worry phenomenally more about being a better mom. It filters into every aspect of our lives. I stress now over splitting my time even further and end up over compensating. Case in point: learning to sew in 3 days so I could make 18 aprons for my daughter’s Baking Birthday Party. I was successful, by the way, but at the expense of added guilt over how little time I spent planning the last birthday—nevermind that she’s only 3—and the feelings of abandonment the wee one suddenly developed while I spent several hours hunched over my new sewing machine.

She has now figured out the bathtime ritual and begins a preemptive tantrum as I start the water to prevent me from leaving her. She is not usually successful, though I do tend to rush out when her screams begin to waft up the stairs. My baths have gone from over an hour to barely 30 minutes, but I still manage to squeeze it in-guilt and all. Plus I get to feel guilty that he no longer gets to spend his alone time because he’s too busy dealing with our spoiled rotten mommy’s girl. I have decided to ignore that pang because I need it more.

Today I walked to the mailbox in my pajamas—greasy, I-haven’t-showered-in-two-days hair and all—just to get a break. I had an extra child yesterday so I have cuddle time to make up for baby. She cries if I set her down for a minute—even in her beloved swing. So off I went to get the mail as if my life depended on while she wailed her teeny head off inside. Now she’s snoring and I feel guilty that I have to put her down so I fix something to eat, but considering that both our bodies depend on that sustenance I’d best get to it.

I tell myself it will get better. One day she’ll outgrow the need for constant reassurance. One day none of them will even remember the things I guiltily stress over. One day I will sleep again. One day I will have the time to devote to my husband. One day I will see my children all grown up and realize I didn’t do so bad afterall—I hope.

  • when I glance at the clock and wonder if 6 o’clock is too early for bedtime?
  • to sometimes think I was crazy for taking on this whole stay-at-home mom gig?
  • to hit snooze in the morning and think she doesn’t really need to go to school today, does she?
  • that I just buckled my kids into their grandma’s car for a sleepover, went back into the house, closed the door and breathed a sigh of relief?

No? Me either!

Stacia’s teacher called a little while ago. Apparently she had a minor outburst at school. This was normally not worthy of a phone call as the teacher has sufficient behavior management plans. However, since she had recently heard about our premature baby she wanted to talk about how Stacia was handling things.

Stacia shared the story of her new baby sister during “community circle” at school this morning. She was full of details about her new sister who’s been in the hospital for 5 or 6 weeks (she couldn’t remember). She wanted to name her Diamond, but I wanted to name her Heather, after myself. She doesn’t have a name yet though because we don’t know if she’ll make it.

Mrs. Cox was, at first, thinking this was an elaborate story so she took her aside to ask questions later. The story continued all about the tubes the baby is hooked to so she can breath and her arm that looks kind of funny because it wasn’t finished growing. Every question Mrs. Cox asked, Stacia had an answer to. She was planning to call this evening to see if there was anything she could do help— totally snowed by Stacia’s story!

Where do they come up with this stuff? A story this elaborate had to come from somewhere, but we neither know anyone with a preemie or can remember a show she has seen about the situation. Why would a 6 year old have such elaborate details on premature babies? And, how in the world can I get her to stop telling tales?

Spencer thinks it’s a ploy for attention. I don’t know how—short of cloning myself— I could spend more time with her. I stay at home with the girls, I volunteer at school, I lead her Brownie troop, and he coaches her soccer team. I try to spend one-on-one time with each of my girls too.

Sometimes I get the feeling that no matter what I do or how hard I try I’m just doing this parenting thing all wrong!