Husband is out of town this weekend and for the whopping second time in my life, I find myself handling two kids entirely on my own for more than just a night. Neither napped this afternoon, but I boldly attempted to attend the going away party for a colleague and his (really lovely) family. Boy is younger than most of the community's kids by a few years, and Girl until recently was the only toddler. I am the only full-time working mother.
I dread these things. I like my colleagues--and I've come to consider a number of them friends--and their families. A potluck gathering of families, especially on a weekend when Husband is gone, is the perfect stage to illustrate just how in adequate a parent I am. Our potluck offering? The remainder of last night's dinner (I quadrupled the recipe so I wouldn't have to scramble today). My kids? Un-napped. Me? Though I've been hacking away at this mother gig for almost four years, and I did it solo for 15 months, I am thoroughly untested. Handling one kid on my own seems like cake in retrospect. Handling two on my own is a rare challenge. There are a decent number of work nights when one of us puts them to bed alone, but most of the time I'm off work Husband is there too. One of us might disappear for a run, or a quick errand, or a night out, but for the bulk of our time at home there are two adults splitting the load.
A number of my colleagues have four or five children. I have two. This evening, as they watched me try to carry things and scold Boy for God-knows-what, Mothers of Five offered assistance. Of Five. They can manage five, and I'm a big sloppy mess with two. Husband pointed out that Boy is uniquely challenging at times (although he also told me he witnessed a kid punch his mom in the face in Stride Rite, so yea! we aren't alone), but the truth is out of his 12-14 waking hours, I am present for a whopping 4 of them on any given day. For at least two of those hours, I handle one kid and Husband takes the other.
Would I be better at this if I were home?
Mostly I feel for Boy. He's socially challenged anyway, but when you add to it that his mom doesn't know whether to be a helicopter or a Yes Mom given his age and personality, and that all the kids are older, and that he just didn't nap, it seemed like he couldn't do anything right. Either I was giving him The Look (the kid is holy unaffected by The Look, bee tee dubs), or he was surrounded by older kids telling him he's awful, or he was just annoying them by being a preschooler (which is inherently annoying to any seven year old). He just wanted to play and when I finally chased him into the car to go home, he lamented that no one was nice to him. He didn't understand that he really did have to share a bit better and listen when they said they didn't like something he was doing.
Would he be better at this if I were home?
We both bring so much anxiety to his social interactions that I imagine my fear is hamstringing him as much as his immaturity. My mother assures me that my older brother was the worst behaved preschooler out of all of us, and by the time he got into elementary school he was decidedly calm. A friend confided that there was a chunk of time when she just couldn't let anyone come to her house to play with her preschool-aged son because he would be too wretched to them. He grew out of it. Now I'm looking for the story of a mom who spend most of her waking hours in an office and somehow became just as good and instinctive and effective a parent as the one who didn't leave her daughter crying every morning.
Lest you think I am being a total Eeyore, I will share one anecdote from this morning that epitomizes why I so adore the current manifestation of my beastly son:
As I did squats or something similarly ungraceful, Boy asked what I was doing. "Getting in shape," I answered. He gave a somewhat incredulous look, and said, "Are you going to be a rectangle? Here! I can be a circle!" and made a more-like-a-triangle by sticking his tush in the air as his hands and feet propped him up. The kid is alright.