It seemed like a good plan. Good on paper, anyway. This year, Rose would go to preschool four days a week. Christian would go to the babysitter three times a week. Both would have Fridays off. On “Family Fridays,” the kids and I would do something fun.
Last school year, Rose went to preschool four days a week because that’s all her school offered. On her day off, I’d send her and Christian to the babysitter so I could work. This year, her school offers a five-day program. So what made me think I’d want her to have Fridays off?
The idea hearkens back to the days before preschool, when Rose and I would do fun things on Fridays in the summer. We used to go to a farm to pet animals and pick vegetables, or to the playground, or to a “spray park” where she could play in a fountain. I miss those days.
But two things have changed since then. One, Christian came along. Because she’s three-and-a-half and he’s not even a year old, they have different skill levels, so if we go to a park, I need to focus almost all of my attention on him to keep him happy and his mouth empty. It stresses me out when all I can do for Rose is make frantic intermittent checks on her whereabouts. Now “fun” things with both of them are not fun.
The second thing that’s changed is my work. “Fun Fridays” was facilitated by my four-day work week at my “real” job. Rose went to the babysitter on my work days and come Friday, I felt a little fun was in order. And it was fun. Now that I’m freelancing, I have to work harder to get work, do work, and make sure I work on my books. And work is picking up.
Nevertheless, I still thought Fridays “off” would be fun. This past Friday I was still on the fence about another preschool day for Rose and I thought I’d make our day the deciding factor.
Christian woke me at 6:30 a.m. I lay on the couch while he played until Rose got up at 7 a.m. She wanted a roll with butter for breakfast. Proud of her New-York-style choice, I defrosted her roll and gave it to her. As soon as she got it, Christian honed in on the scent, rushing to beg for her food.
“Nooooo!” Rose whined, scooching up higher on the couch.
“I’ll get him,” I said, getting up.
I tried to get him interested in toys on the other side of the room, but the lure of the roll was too strong. He would not leave Rose alone. I told her to eat at the dining room table. She went over, put her plate on the table and walked away.
I checked my email on my phone. I had a message from my editor that I’d missed yesterday. She wanted more info in a blog post I’d sent her. I rushed to boot up the computer and send her a response. I said I would work on the post today but might not get it to her until the weekend. She seemed accommodating, but not happy, so I began the rewrite.
“Waaaah!” Christian had bumped his head on the coffee table. I picked him up; comforted him; tried to put him back down but he cried. I sighed and sat down with him in my arms, looking nervously at the computer. I had to get that post in. When Christian was through with me, he wiggled out of my arms and I went back to work. I added some detail to the post when, “Moooom!”
“Christian’s playing with my Barbie.”
“I’ll be right there,” I said while I finished typing my sentence. I went over, pried the Barbie from Christian’s claws, distracted him with his fire truck and said, “If you don’t want him to play with your toys, you should play with them in your room.”
“No, that’s okay,” Rose said.
I went back to my work. I finished the post and took a break before proofing it. As long as I’m working, I thought, I should get out those emails to the agents I met.
I started to compose an email to one of the agents who’d asked to see the blog.
“Mooom, when are we goooiiing?” Rose whined. We had a lunchtime playdate. I was bringing the BLT’s.
“Not yet, Sweetie. Why don’t you pick out a bathing suit for the wading pool.”
“Okay.” She ran to her room. Christian crawled after her, then took a left into the bathroom – the accident-soaked potty bathroom that Rose uses. I scooped him up, closed the door. He started crying.
“I’m sorry, Buddy, we do not go in Rose’s bathroom.” He kept crying. I put him in the Jumparoo. He cried some more and I coached, “Jumpa jumpa jumpa!” He jumped, realized he liked jumping and kept it up. I looked at the time. I had to start the sandwiches. I laid some bacon in a pan and put it in the oven, then I went back to the computer.
I read over the blog post. It looked fine. I sent it. Then I turned my attention to the email. I read the paragraph over. It looked good to me, but it was going to an agent. She could reject me for the slightest mistake.
Christian was crying again. I got up, looked at the clock. “Are you hungry, little guy?” I asked. He beamed. I went to mix a bottle. He cried and reached out to me. I picked him up, made the formula with one hand, warmed it, sat down and fed him. When he pushed the bottle away I went back to the computer. I read my message again, pasted it into an email, and sent it. I needed to send a link to one more agent but I smelled the bacon so I went to check on it. Not ready yet. I sat down to send the second email. I read it over one more time.
Oh…my…GOD! I saw that I’d opened with “Thank you for meeting with me,” and closed with “Thank you for meeting with me.” With only 40 words in between. I really was that grateful, but I thought, Oh God, she’s going to take one look at that and write me off. I’m screwed.
“Mommy, I want one of these,” Rose said, pointing to the fruit basket. “A purple one,” she said.
“Sure, Sweetie, you can have a plum,” I said, and got back to work.
There was nothing I could do but make sure the next agent got a better email. The first one just wasn’t meant to be, I reasoned. I continued to chastise myself, though. What was I thinking to send something to an agent on a day that I had the kids? How stupid am I? Nevertheless, I sent a perfect email to the next agent. At least I could feel good about that.
“Mommy, I had some of the big tomato,” Rose said, standing at the trash can.
“You WHAT?” I said, running to the trash. There it was. My only tomato, meant for the BLT’s. She’d bitten the middle all around, like an apple. I picked it out of the trash, slammed it back in, “DAMMIT, ROSE! I told you you could have a plum or a peach. I did not say you could have a tomato! That was for our lunch, Rose! Now we have no lunch!” Rose cried and ran to her room.
I felt horrible. I just yelled at my kid for eating a tomato. Most parents would kill for their children to eat a vegetable and here I was scolding her. It was our only damn tomato, though. We’d have to get a new one, which meant stopping at the store, unloading both kids, getting one item, and loading them back into the car. I knew why I was mad, but I knew it wasn’t fair to her.
I went back to her room and apologized. I said I wasn’t mad, but I had told her she could have a peach or a plum and next time she should ask before taking anything else. She kept crying. We took deep breaths and finally she calmed down. As I walked back toward the kitchen I smelled the bacon. Shit! I rushed to the oven. The bacon was fine. I took it out and set it on the stovetop.
It was time to prep the sandwiches and get going, so I shut down the computer. As I pried bacon from the pan, I thought about “Fun Fridays.” I concluded that there was no such thing. I booted up the computer again and emailed Rose’s teacher about adding Fridays to her schedule. That, I realized, was really the most important email of the day. I’m so glad I got it right.