I was lost in my own house. I called my husband. ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.’ He could hear Violet’s tirade from the other room which began with my ‘No’ in response to her request to cut her own hair with blunt scissors. I don’t like you! I’m being mean to you! Santa’s not going to bring YOU any presents!
Lately I feel the same way, kid.
‘It won’t be like this forever. She’ll be in preschool soon. You can go to work- find a job- if that will make you happy,’ The Mr. offered in support.
I’ve been here for 17 years. I’ve wanted to be here all of this time. When it all began, I was gloriously filled with a sense of purpose. I was young- I didn’t know that purpose could have more than one dimension or that you could find it more than once in a lifetime. To stay at home and mother was the most important thing- so I gave up other important things. It was one of the few aspects of life that came naturally to me. I basked in spending every waking moment with my young children. To be present, available, and aware. To teach, to guide, and to create memories.
Then the children entered the tween years and the three year old became a mean boss. As they each became more independent- they pulled away. It’s what we want for them ultimately- to become their own people, to solve their own problems, to take care of themselves. But as they pulled away, the edges of my purpose begin to fray. My guidance falls second to that which they receive from their mentors at school. As for creating memories, my suggestions to ‘get in the spirit’ of whatever season or event there is to celebrate are met with a drone of ‘Mehs.’ I deck the halls alone. And then there is that abusive little thing who is a doll for anyone else but me- who carves up my furniture, sneaks onto the shelves and dumps out all the pieces to all the board games; and glues craft sticks to the wall and tears the Christmas ornaments to shreds, and steals my make-up, and balks at my attempts to play with her.. My purpose has been whittled down to housekeeping- of which there is plenty and for which there is seldom a ‘Thank you.’ I long to want to want to be here.
When I close the door behind them after they've left for school and the dogs have settled in for the day, I begin to wander the house searching through the laundry, the dirty dishes, the billion pieces of paper Violet tore on the floor, the dog poop, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the phone calls to doctors and dentists- to find my sense of self and to recover that divine intent which made me feel secure in my station in life. Do they really need me to be here? Did they ever really need me to stay home? There are millions of children whose parents work outside the home and they still have solid family values, incredibly tight bonds. They are bright and self-sufficient. They create beautiful memories. I didn’t stay at home expecting gratitude from my children for the things I gave up to be here. But, still it would be nice to know- Did it make a difference in your life?
At 2:40, the buses start rolling down the street, depositing the neighborhood children. I unlock the door for my own kids. The dogs get restless, barking at the call of children’s voices. At 3:00, Princess Commando walks up the steps and into the pack which greets her with enthusiastic tail wagging and licks. She plops on the couch. ‘Come here Moth-er,’ she says in affected tone of a valley girl. ‘I need your love.’ She actually says those words. ‘I hate school. I have too much homework.’ She scoops up the little dog who growls in protest at her smothering. She settles next to me, ‘Can you help me study for science? It’s just vocabulary.’ I’m a starving prisoner, lapping up her small offering. ‘Yes!'
Then Henry comes in with his Eeyore slouch- his shoulders hunched over, heading hanging low, a curve in his back. ‘How was your day?’ I ask. ‘Same as every day,’ He says in monotone. ‘I still don’t know where I fit in. I still don’t know who my friends are.’ I feel the raw scratches in his soul from searching. They hurt as if they were my own wounds. Today he lets me ask questions and he answers them. Today he doesn’t sulk off to his room. He parks on the arm of the couch. And I sneak in my own experiences and small triumphs over social anxiety hoping that he’ll glean something from it.
Then First Born Son, congenial as always- walks past me and plugs his MP3 player into the speakers. ‘You gotta hear this song I just found.’ The song is He’s My Japanese Boy from 1981 by Aneka. He picks up Violet and swings her in the air- she screams and laughs at the same time. They catch the rhythm together and a dance party commences. Princess Commando pulls me to my feet and we hop around like fools much to Henry’s chagrin. It’s a little too much happy for him, but I see the corners of his mouth lift in amusement.
I may not always know what I am supposed to do. But for a moment my sense of purpose was restored. I needed to be a part of the impromptu dance party ignited by an obscure song. And for the first time in a long time, I really wanted to be there.