my college career

Twenty years ago I was 17, a senior in high school, and driving 120 miles round trip to a community college every day to take college level courses. I am from a very small farming community, and the state had a program that paid for high school students to attend college if AP programs weren’t available. Being that my graduating class had eleven people in it, it’s safe the say there weren’t many advance classes for me to take.

My introduction to college opened my eyes as it was the first time I really fell in love with learning. I felt smart. I found myself surrounded by people who were really striving to learn, to soak up the lessons, and the professors were professional and knew what they were doing. (a pretty stark contrast to the teachers and organization of my high school…)

The name of this program was “Running Start” and the idea was you could jump start your college career and enter the work force up to two years early. I loved that it was free college. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to major in, but free is free.

It’s been twenty years since then, and I’m just now on a real, set path for a career. I’ve worn many different hats since that fall way back then; I was a full time college student, worked at Disney World, lived by myself in a few different cities, backpacked through Europe one glorious summer, tried working at an office for a miserable six months, joined the airline world, got married, had kids … it’s been a full and varied life.

But even as a flight attendant I had a want to do more, to be better. My college degree is in English Literature, a major I chose out of necessity not passion. I changed majors a lot during my undergrad career, wanting to work in Hotel Management, then Nursing, then Teaching.

Ultimately I wasn’t mature enough to focus on the heavy workload of nursing, plus I was working 40+ hours a week to support myself. At the time, partying was priority over intense studying. Teaching did not pan out well, with me failing my first teaching class and just not feeling inspired or motivated by the idea of making lesson plans and unit studies for the rest of my life.

I liked reading, I was decent at writing essays, and I was on my fifth year of college, so English Lit was it!

It was about 6 years ago that I started needing more beyond the demands of flying. Being a flight attendant made me very happy, and I loved it, but I had a pull for something a little more stimulating, a little more respected. I’ll never forget a passenger I had one red eye flight, a woman who was a recent grad of an accelerated nursing course designed for college graduates with a non-science degree. She told me about the prerequisites, she told me about her experience, and she encouraged me to look into it.

I did. I signed up a few weeks later for the first of my prerequisite requirements, Statistics, and took that book with me on every layover and studied with my one son next to me every chance I could. The next year we had our daughter, but I still took an online psychology course as I took care of my expanded family. The next year another baby came around and I started taking the science courses, chemistry and the first anatomy course. It was steady progress, once course at a time.

Eventually we moved to a new state, I finished the requirements, and decided to pursue a nursing degree from the local community college. It just made better sense for me, for my family, and financially as well, since accelerated degrees are pretty expensive.

So, this all brings us to here, at this moment in my life. This fall, 20 years since my first fall enrolled in college classes, I started the nursing school. The world is completely different from that moment, and even from the world we all had last fall. I’m mostly learning remotely, and I’m learning in the same room that my kindergartener is in. She’s learning her ABCs and I’m learning about ADPIE and vital signs and Med Calculations.

This moment is one I’ve been working towards for years, and I’m excited but also terrified. The course load is immense, and I’m trying to find a way to handle the stress in a graceful way. I’m trying to stay mindful of my moods and work on not snapping at my kids or husband too much. I’m trying to remember self-care, by carving out spaces of time to work out and walk our puppy. But it’s easy to feel like I’m drowning. My amazing professor keeps encouraging us, promising it’s just 15 weeks, we’ve got this, millions of nurses have done this before … and I’m all in. I’m ready to finally get my grown up job!

This is me, all suited up for my nursing school glory

curing the summertime blues

Let me reminisce of last summer, a different decade, a different time. I was but a determined Mom of three, with a pen, a calendar, and a plan. We would not go bored. We would fill up our time with playdates, town and county events, classes, fairs, camps. I dreaded those blank days which stood out from the calendar pinned to the wall by the washing machine: most of the days had places and times highlighted, but every once and a while a day would stay completely white and blank. Devoid of activity.

The empty days filled me with dread. A day of cabin fever and nothing planned seemed like the worst kind of punishment – a long hot day with nothing to look forward to, boredom reigning supreme.

Times have changed. The metamorphosis stuns me, still.

Now that calendar is blank, except for all the crossed out events I dutifully planned over the winter. Goodbye annual trip to my home state of Washington. My son’s second year of overnight sleep away camp was cancelled. Swimming lessons, street fairs, even the usual blow-out birthday bbq bash we throw for my son is no longer.

If I’d known a year ago how empty my calendar would be in 2020, I’d probably feel sorry for myself and put in a preemptive order of prozac for myself. Imagine this, though. I’m happy with my white spaces schedule. The days are blurring together in a set routine of nothing, and … it’s okay.

Really.

I’ve talked about boredom with my kids, before. This summer is amplifying the sentiment of “only boring people get bored”. Yes, there are plenty of times they whine at me. We may be falling into a habit of just a little too much screen time than I’m comfortable with, but my kids are also playing with each other in ways I’ve never seen before. Going out of the house is the exception to the rule, not the normal any longer.

Yesterday I took the three kids to Costco. It was the first full-family shopping trip we’ve taken together since February. Is this as exciting as a trip to a theme park or like traveling to a different state? Of course not. But to my kids who haven’t seen much beyond our four walls and the beach for the past several months, it was an adventure.

These are the moments I’m trying to appreciate, to notice. Routines can feel special. After a spring spent inside at home, we are well prepped for this long summer of nothing. Fall is coming, and what it brings is still a mystery to us. My daughter is supposed to start kindergarten and I’m starting nursing school. Will I have a 5th grader and kindergartener learning at home? Will I have to teach my daughter sight words all while learning remotely about dosages and nursing care plans?

I have learned over this pandemic that stressing about tomorrow does absolutely nothing good. I live in the moment, much like my kids do. We wear our masks like good boys and girls and do our best to stop the spread by staying home and staying isolated. And life is good.

So maybe the cure to my anxiety last summer was oddly enough a world changing tragedy. It makes me realize how lucky I am to be stuck at home and bored.

the boredom curve

I’m going to admit something that is going to make me sound like an inattentive mother. I’ve gotten exceptionally talented at ignoring my kids. No, no, hear me out. Like millions across America right now, I am home with my children. Unlike before, there is no out-of-home activities to cart the littles to. In the past, a great distraction in the day was a trip to the local park or the library. These days are no more.

So now my days are predictable and routine. Life revolves around snack time and meal time, and I prioritize my workout time (thank you, Peloton). Beyond that, there isn’t rules. My fourth grader is excellent at keeping to his school schedule, but the littles have free reign on the house.

I have learned a secret trick to parenting them. When they say they are “bored” and have nothing to do, if I just sort of ignore their cries and leave them be…. they find something to do. Luckily they have each other as playmates. So, without fail, within a few minutes, they distract themselves and play.

It seems like a revelation to me. How many lists and schedules and ideas are we sending to each other at this time, trying to fill this void of sheltering in place? And, for the most part, all this planning is for naught. Sure, I give the kids some direction, but for the most part, I can be totally hands off. There might be whining and a few tears, but they are very good at entertaining themselves. I don’t have to fight them, I don’t have to say platitudes like “Only boring people are bored”. I just let their cries wash over me and then watch the miracle of free play and creativity come out.

***

My neighbor and I had a pseudo-play date yesterday. It was gorgeous here in suburban New Jersey, and after a family bike ride we saw them in their front yard playing with sidewalk chalk. The kids did an excellent job of staying 6-feet-apart from one another, and I had some much needed, in person, adult communication. (for reference, my husband is currently out of state for training, he worked last week quite a bit, and wont return home until this weekend)

I admitted to her that my kids don’t seem bothered by all this societal change. Because, they don’t. They haven’t begged to leave the house beyond a bike ride or a walk in the neighborhood, and to them going in the backyard is just as great as a field trip to the park. The other day I had to force my eldest into the van with his father to get take out food, I assumed he’d miss riding in the car since it’d been 3+ weeks since his last outing, but he didn’t care.

My neighbor said the same thing. It made me think about all the distractions and events we are always carting our offspring to don’t really matter. The kids, at least my kids, are just as happy at home with us around all the time. We have a way of over scheduling and over stimulating our kids, and it might not matter. Maybe we are over complicating everything and this return to just sticking it out at home is good for us, like a juice cleanse for ourselves.

My eldest is sad about not seeing his friends. He misses school. My littles say they miss preschool as well, but, they just accept than they can’t go right now. The kids are handling this social change much better than I am, and most adults I know. They are so amazing at just living in the moment, not looking into the past or future, and this life outlook is something I try to keep during these “troubled times” (as they say).

Life is slower right now, but we all have our health. We are happy in our self-appointed quarantine and have everything we need right now. Our boredom is a privilege and as my kids show me every single day, boredom isn’t something than needs fixing. If I’m feeling anxious or like acting out, if I just let the emotion ride and then dismiss it as quickly as it comes, I too am on to the next thing.

backyard bird watching: how I entertain myself during (and before) the age of social distancing

It started a few years ago. My mother-in-law gave our family a birdhouse for Christmas, it was a craft project she’d done. We hung it up on our shed in the backyard and didn’t think much about it.

Spring came, though, and I realized a family of birds moved in. Watching the parents swoop in to feed their babies every few minutes awed me; you could hear the cries for food from the back porch. The co-parenting cooperation inspired me, they both worked equally hard to calm the cries.

Then, tragedy struck. One morning I noticed the daily dash in and out of the house stopped, instead, the parents were crying mournfully from the top of our shed. I went to the back and discovered a few bodies of baby birds, lifeless in the grass under the house. I grieved myself, and the parents stayed out most of the day, calling, shrieking and fretting over their offspring’s disappearance.

My husband rolled his eyes when I confessed how sad the situation made me, but I couldn’t get over the little family in our backyards huge loss.

And then, a few weeks later … I noticed the parents circling back and forth to their home, and heard the cries of new babies from within. I’m sure I was projecting way more into the bird family than they were capable of feeling; how brave, I thought, how inspiring, they are moving forward with life, they are moving forward with love … once again, my husband seemed unimpressed with the proof that “life finds a way”, but I felt hope watching nature happen in my own backyard.

When we moved I honestly fretted over that birdhouse. Would the new owners of our little house keep it up? Would they understand the beauty and harshness that happened within those plywood walls? Or would they rip it down, disgusted by the remnants of nest falling out as they tossed it in the trash? And what about the brave family unit who overcame so much and pushed through with love and perseverance?

***

Our new home has a very large backyard, full of mature trees. When we moved we put up a few birdhouses, but alas, no family has ever moved in. It’s probably because there are plenty of better trees around to nest in.

For my birthday last summer, my mother in law got me a bird feeder. I didn’t know what to expect from it, but we set it up just outside the kitchen window. Almost immediately we had visitors. I downloaded the Merlin Bird ID app, a wonderful tool for identifying wild birds, and started to learn the names of each bird I’d see. Our most frequent visitors are house sparrows, purple and house finches, chick-a-dees, cardinals, blue jays, and grackles. I’ll also catch glimpses of titmice, golden finches, nuthatches, juncos, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, and larks.

This spring my husband set up three more bird feeders in the back of the yard, along a wire, and it’s just chaos back there. Everywhere I look there’s a bird flying or eating or fighting. I will literally stand at the kitchen window for 10-15 minutes at a time and just watch the movements and drama of the backyard. My kids are getting pretty good at identifying birds and they, too, spend a significant amount of time just gazing out our windows.

Of course, it’s not all woodland wonder. The squirrels are a real nuisance. We recently had to put our dog down (a totally different post to write about one day, maybe…) and she had been a great defender of the feeders. Now without her guarding, it’s getting out of control. I spend just as much time opening and slamming our backdoor to chase them away as I do watching the birds. I’ve tried crisco on the pole holding the feeder, I’ve resorted to throwing rocks at them, which takes out aggression on my end. I also purposefully miss them because, what if I actually hit one? Yikes. The squirrels, for their part, often go back to sniff the rocks, hoping they were actually chunks of food.

I recently, maybe, had a breakthrough on the squirrel repellent front. Spice. The squirrels hate it. I’ve been painting the edges and tops of the feeders with watered down sriracha sauce and it’s keeping them away. Birds don’t care about spice, apparently they don’t have taste buds (thanks internet!) so, for now, notch this in a win column in my battle against the rats with fluffy tails.

***

This post has gotten much longer than I anticipated, but I have a lot of passion for my backyard birds. The past few quiet, long days of social distancing have been filled with me sitting in the back yard with a book on my lap and my eyes following the comings and goings of my visitors. The first few days of spring are always glorious in their brightness and the fresh air after months stuck inside, and especially with everyone stuck at home, having the kids chasing each other in my backyard feels like a treat. It’s easy to forget about the troubled times when you enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Even my battle against the squirrels takes my mind from fretting over the economy crisis and my anxiety over the health of my loved ones.

Backyard birding is an easy way to engage with nature, and it honestly has given me so much entertainment over the past few years. I never would have thought I’d find myself into birding, but I’m ever grateful that it happened.

Now, excuse me as I plan to retire to the backyard on this sunny morning and refill the feeders and camp out in the corner to see what new visitors I get in the backyard.

this blog’s name has never been more relevant

The past few months have been a preparation for social distancing. I finished my microbiology class last semester, and took this semester off before nursing school starts in the fall… assuming they start a new class in the fall, since I’m sure this spring’s class is super delayed and possibly cancelled.

Anyway, my friend’s sort of scoffed at me, what are you going to do all day without school, or work? Aren’t you bored?

I wasn’t, not really. There’s always kids to drop off, pick up, there’s the gym or my Peloton to use, I’d shop or get coffee, clean the house, go to parks with the little’s… life was moving along quite quickly and busily.

Then this new era was thrust upon all of us American’s and suddenly everyone is in the same blissful “Stay at Home” mindset that I’ve adopted since January. With swimming lessons and gymnastics and Boy Scouts cancelled indefinitely, of course my life is different. But, not that drastically different. Our family seldom eats out, and I avoid most paid activities with my kids. We generally hang out at home and play outside anyway. I spend most of my time with my kids at home so this all feels pretty usual.

It’s wild how many new neighbors I see taking walks now. I’ve never seen so many pedestrians on the streets before. I am also learning a newfound appreciation for teachers. Teaching kids is not easy. I keep losing my patience with my fourth grader and I love him, so how his teacher doesn’t blow up with 30 kids in the same room multiple times a day is beyond me.

Like everyone else, I have a bunch of anxiety about this whole situation. The economy especially scares me, considering my husband is a pilot and the airlines are hurting. I worry about the food supply chain; and I worry about the health of my parents and other family. I’m trying to remember to take it one day at a time, and to learn to pause in the boredom and enjoy the monotony. I don’t want excitement or unneeded stress at this time. My kids are loving all the one on one attention they are getting from both parents and I don’t want them to feel anxiety or fear if they don’t need to.

It’s the least I can do.

Stay well, everyone.

fall and changes

Ahhh, fall. The change in season, things get darker, a little colder, we cozy up. I personally love this season. Like spring, I have a strong nostalgic connection to the season, as I’m sure most people do. After a long summer, when the days stretch together and it seems it never ends, fall reminds us nothing lasts forever, not even the green in the trees, the flowers in the garden.  Suddenly, you aren’t in shorts and tank tops anymore, it’s sweater weather. Hot tea comforts, pumpkin spice is ubiquitous, and you crave stews, soups, hearty warm meals. Decorating for the seasons begin, and the kids are back in school.

My own life feels at the edge of change. I’m still plugging away at nursing prerequisites, I’m down to my final non-nursing class I can take before admittance. And it seems my admission to nursing school is almost here; I’ll find out later this week if I made the cut off for spring 2020 or if I’m in for the fall.

I’m conflicted about both. I want to start as soon as I can, simply because I miss working. I miss having my own income; contributing to our family in a real way. I know as a Mom I have millions of tasks and my kids rely on me, but I’ve held a job, at least at a part-time basis, since I was 16. Now I’m going on a year and a half with no employer and I miss it. I need more than my kids sticky, smiley faces to keep me company.

A spring admission presents it’s own issues, though. I still have two young preschool-aged kids. Childcare is expensive, and the hours of the program are not super flexible. If I’m admitted in the fall when my daughter starts Kindergarten I’ll only need to worry about full-time nursery school tuition for one child.  But that’s a whole year away, I’ll be a year older and that much farther from starting a new career.

Once I’m in school, I’m not sure what to expect, exactly. I know nursing school is demanding, I know it is stressful, and I’m sure every day will test me in a new way. How will I stay on top of things when I can barely keep up as it is? Will my kids begrudge me for leaving them for longer periods of time?

My two little ones are insanely lucky. I can hardly believe it, but they’ve barely been separated from me. This is not intentional; I’m not that Mom who brags about never spending the day apart from her kids. You can tell, too. They are so Mommy obsessed. I feel bad for my husband; he tries to help out as much as he can, but when the 2-year-old screams “NOT YOU I WANT MOMMY” it’s gotta crush his ego a bit. My eldest grew up the first 4 years of his life with mom-and-dad equally flying coast-to-coast on a rotating schedule, but L & H only know Mommy-all-the-time.

I’ve also been thinking more and more about this blog. I had such a burst of creative energy, and time, when I first started it. I think it’s a normal response to baby brain. But the updates on here are fewer and farther in-between. I’m not exactly sure where I want to lead this blog too, what my goals are for it. I imagine once I’m in nursing school, it will turn into a totally different sort of outlet for my stresses and fears. I’ve always kept journals, and I love the idea of documenting the next season of my life. I’m not sure if the name “Suburban Doldrums” will stick, if I’ll totally revamp it, or just keep typing into it as it is. It’s not like I’m looking to monotize it or gain any sort of fame or anything; really, it’s best for me to use it as a straight journal. If you happen to read it, great, but otherwise I’ll write better if it’s just to a void.

Thanks for being part of my void.

 

Off To Summer Camp He Goes …

My eldest is leaving for summer camp today. He just turned nine, and his primary concern of camp is “getting hit by balls during sports”. (He’s not exactly into team sports) My biggest concern has to do with his personal hygiene, as I fondly remember not showering once during my own first year of sleep-away camp 28 years ago. I have a feeling that in 2 weeks time, at pick up, he’ll run out to me in the exact same outfit he’s in right now, only it’s crusted over in two weeks worth of filth and food and, in a dirty poetic way, fun.

Obviously there’s far worse things to worry about when it comes to camp.

But, here we go. Another step closer to letting my little boy off the leash, another notch in the way to independence. Two full weeks away from my prying eyes, two weeks of him living in the world without us knowing his every move. I remember when he walked into elementary school for his first day of kindergarten, backpack on his shoulders as he marched into the gymnasium without us (this school did not allow parents into the school on the first day, or any day, during drop off). That feeling of letting go, watching him face a fraction of the world without me there, I’ll never forget it.

And today, it takes it to an entirely new level.

We celebrated his ninth birthday last week, and I remembered the actual weight of responsibility I felt the first time I held him. Motherhood didn’t come easy to me, those first time instincts were forced I can now admit, and the first few weeks with him were a jumbled mix of anxiety and angst. I didn’t want to do anything wrong, and I was clueless on the care of newborns. But E, even as a newborn, was patient. His demeanor allowed me to learn parenting, with him. I’ve always felt like E is an old soul, and he picked me – a stumbling, free spirit, as his mom.

Elinewborn
Taken the day after he was born …. looking at this picture now I can see the fear and uncertainty in my eyes. Check out how I’m barely holding him. 

I discovered the camp he’s going to while at the gym. It’s through the YMCA and the brochure just screamed “SUMMER FUN”. I knew instantly that E would love the experience of sleep away camp, that it would teach him confidence and friend making skills. It took a little convincing to my husband, but finally agreed. (I think people, like me, who’ve been to sleep away camp, get it. My husband never went to sleep away camp). E, for his part, has never expressed anything but excitement for the upcoming adventure.

I woke up this morning a bundle of nerves. It’s almost like I’m the one attending camp. My husband is out of town, so it will just be me watching him walk into his cabin today, just me meeting his counselors, just me driving away in the van missing one member of the family. The emptiness E will leave in our house is gonna be gigantic. I’m going to miss his presence every morning, as he’s usually the one waking me up, and at night. The littles won’t fully understand why he’s gone.

But I know why. Sleep away camp is part of growing up, I think. I hope it instills a sense of wonder for my boy, adventure, appreciation of outdoors and woods, the joy and fun of meeting new people from all over. These next two weeks will drag for us here at home, but for my boy I hope they fly by in a whirl of fun.

Online Debates & Social Media

What’s the point, right? Who in their right mind engages with internet trolls to prove a point, when you know on the other side the person you are typing against will never change their own heavily one-sided-and-bias minds? Why do we do this?

Since I’ve deactivated my Facebook account I’ve not had to worry about these comment wars folks get into. A voyeur within me does love to stand on the sidelines and watch drama happen (this is human nature I think) but when it’s my dear old Auntie Doris verses a Stay-at-home-mommy Karen verses that chick I used to know from Psych 101 class it becomes far more personal and nauseating. Plus, many of these arguments serve zero purpose. We’ve all boxed in our own beliefs and prefer the comfort of the echo chambers attached to the point of view we’ve assigned to ourselves.

This morning my darling husband “went at it” with a relative anti-vaxxer. I adore the woman; she is a dear friend to me and I’ll never not love her. That said, I also refuse to bring vaccinations up with her, so while I was sipping my morning coffee and the hubs read aloud each point and counterpoint, I started asserting my view to him, which he then in turn wrote. It was a FB debate by proxy, I suppose.

This is the thing about anti-vaxxers- I totally understand how one can be lured to their point of view. When I had my first baby, the fears of taking care of him and doing things right were always there. So, on FB or whatever, when I saw posts decrying vaccinations and “evidence” against it, I wondered if I was a bad mother for allowing him to get stuck by needles so often. My ignorance about medical science and my unconfidence in my own parenting led to me feeling guilty for not having a strong stand. I also had a nagging voice in me which knew anti-vaxxers were using junk science and personal anecdotes as evidence, but it’s really hard not to believe a story written by grieving mothers about how one vaccine essentially ruined their child’s life. Stories are more compelling than statistics and evidence and critical thinking.

I did vaccinate my child, of course, but with the first kid I did it on a “delayed schedule” (look I’m NOT mainstream because I don’t follow a schedule!) but by the time I had my second and third kids a lack of time and energy sucked out any desire to go into the pediatricians office more than needed so they followed the standard schedule. And guess what, they are fine. Of course.

My point is, as I turned away from reading social media I really don’t think about anti-vaxxers. Or vaxxers. Basically, it’s just as common to me as when the doctor looks in the kids’ ears or mouth during an exam. If they are due for a vaccine I just nod my head, try to comfort the kid, and then move onto other more interesting thoughts like what’s for dinner or what show to watch once the kids are in bed. You know, important things. I’m not passionately for vaccinations, but the majority of parents probably aren’t.

Until a preventable disease is spread because of anti-vaxxers, of course.

Even still, I just shake my head and pat my own back because I know my kids are as protected as they can be because they had their MMR shots.

But in the massive steaming cesspool of social media, the debates are ever present and start to leak into my peaceful morning coffee time and I get empassioned.

Once you engage with a troll, though, there is no winner. Nothing is gained or lost from it (except time and energy). The anti-vaxxer from this morning actually told my husband the link she shared wasn’t meant for him to read at all; it was for other anti-vaxxers. Why did she say that? Because he had cornered her with actual facts and it was the only argument she had left. It also just proved my view; she didn’t want a debate. She didn’t want her beliefs challenged. She just wanted the echo chamber of outrage to continue as she sees fit.

The problem with mixing personal beliefs with medical science is, well, they are totally different things. I think it’s all fine and good to have personal beliefs about god, how to live a healthy life, the best way to style your hair for your face shape, whatever… but unless you are a medical doctor, researcher or scientist who really understands the way the body works and the immune system at a molecular level, your belief means absolutely nothing. This seems like common sense but, as we all know, the majority of anti-vaxxers cite their “hours and hours” spent researching as just as important those who have committed time and money towards a medical degree. These things are not equal.

My husband claims he enjoys debates. I mean, I do too. But, these sort of debates are just never going to be won or lost. I am 100% confident I’ve made the right choices for my kids regarding vaccinations, and the anti-vaxxers are too. I believe they will regret not vaccinating their children one day… but as far as I’m concerned with my kids now aged 2, 4, and 8, I’m past any “danger” point for them and I know in my bones they are perfectly safe and protected against any disease or ill effect from inoculations.

And with this outpouring of a blog post, I’ve said my peace into the oblivion of the internet without offending anyone I personally know in real life, which is great. (unless of course they are reading this now, and to that I say hi! I love you! Peace!)

Playground Politics

*This goes out to the parents out there* …. Think back, to your days before “parent” was a label applied to you. What were your thoughts on children, moms and dads, and discipline? What sorts of behavior would you witness with rolled eyes and scoffing?

*This goes out to the parents of multiple children out there* …. Hey! Remember when you had one child and they consumed your world? Every moment you had eyes on them, you knew their quirks and had no doubt of their brilliance and uniqueness? Remember going to the playground and following their every step, every triumph of a ladder rung climbed, every round on the slide? Did you ever see some random, disheveled child pushing your precious out of the way and wonder aloud: “Whose kid is this??”

My personal answers to the questions above are probably pretty obvious.

Before I had E, I didn’t think about parenting at all. I had very little interaction with children beyond the ones I encountered at work, and I usually observed every scream or whimper or booger-streaked face with disgust.

That is, until I had a baby, and my entire life revolved around just E. I thought I had it figured out. I brought him to the playground every single day, rain or shine or wind or snow…. I hovered and hemmed and hawed over him at all hours of the day. I’d see sloppy looking moms parading their multiple offspring off and watch in horror as they pushed, shoved, and ran amok. And, I judged. Oh, how I judged.

But then I had two babies in a little under two years. Suddenly, the playground as a destination because a “trip”, a big “deal”. Beyond that, I started to see the play areas as a place for “them” and the benches along the side of the structures as “my” place. The luxury of sitting back and watching them do whatever it is they wanted seemed like a no brainer.

And my eyes were opened to the phenomenon of “parents of one”. I don’t judge them, because I was them for four and a half years, but looking through the playground scene with my new lenses of a “mom of three”, I started to realize how different I was from them. Usually its Mom and Dad following every step of little Jr and their adventures in the structures, with lots of “Be Careful!” And “Oh look at you!” Meanwhile, I’d be in a corner, trying to appear forgotten. I want my kids to play, but I don’t feel the need to follow them everywhere.

This brings me to today; another playground trip on a warm November afternoon. The sun was bright. I have a quiz to study for and three kids under my watch (as the hubby is flying for a few days) so I foolishly thought I’d have time to look over notes at the local playground. I forgot it’s a weekend. I should have realized every other parent in our suburb had the same idea as me: enjoy the sun while we can. And I should have realized that while I’m perfectly okay with watching the 2-year-old climb up a slide the wrong way, the vast majority of parents out there (especially the ones with only one kid) frown upon such behavior.

So, what should have been a relaxing escape from our house, became an internal struggle of my own. I don’t want to be “that mom” whose children are causing issues, I don’t want someone to see my little L and H seemingly alone and assume their parents aren’t mindful of the abduction risk of unsupervised children, but I also know that particular playground, being fully fenced, is pretty safe. I know that kids want to climb up slides backwards and I know that they don’t need me there “just in case”. So it becomes a show, and I have to act. Because I care too much about what everyone else thinks. Their frantic anxiety becomes my frantic anxiety.

After an hour or so I was sick of chasing H so I told the kiddos it was time to go home. To play in our own backyard. And guess what? In the privacy of my own home, confined in the fully fenced back yard, I can sit and study over the pulmonary system and even read a novel without worrying about H and L taking turns going upside down, down the slide. I guess it’s true: there’s no place like home.