"The house is so quiet."
"I miss him already."
"Me too! I can't stop crying."
"What a morning."
"I don't know what to do with myself."
"I followed the bus all the way to school."
"DON'T YOU MISS THEM?"
"Miss WHO?!" I thought to myself as I read this variety of status updates posted on Facebook by some fellow stay-at-home-moms. It was the first day of school for many, and I saw my three sons off at the bus stop, bright and early.
Mommy was away on business, so once again it was up to me to ensure their successful and timely departure. Bodies were neatly dressed, bellies were fed, hair combed, teeth brushed, and shoelaces were tied in double knots as I made the final push to get them out the door.
We were right back to business as usual as I watched them climb the steps of the bus with empty backpacks filled only with excitement. So, did I miss them? No. Was I supposed to?
It wasn't that I didn't miss them in the sense that I was glad they were finally gone after a summer full of adolescent trials and tribulations, sibling rivalries, and misbehavior peppered throughout the summer days. It wasn't that I'm a heartless bastard. It wasn't that I couldn't think of something fun to do or dozens of projects around the house that I've put on hold for the summer. It was because I spent the entire day doing things that inevitably reminded me of them.
The first thing I did was get my car inspected. It was a month overdue, but I had opted to wait for a school day instead of subjecting them to the inconvenience of waiting in line at the edge of some parking lot while some Attitudy-Judy mechanic took his sweet time and a self-indulgent cigarette break right in the middle of trying to find fault with my car so as to justify his existence ... but I digress.
Then, to celebrate my first day of freedom, I washed, dried, folded, and put away five loads of laundry. Did I miss them then? Uhhhh, not yet. Laundry is my least favorite chore. IT'S. NEVER. DONE! But, I did it. I did it ALL.
And a while I did it I thought about what sizes of clothes they each wear. I tried to figure out which clothes belong to which kid. Now that we've got three boys it's become more difficult to discern which hand-me-downs correspond to which kid. I noticed that #2 had an inordinately large pile of clothes compared to the rest of us. I also noticed that our "tween" had an exceptionally small pile despite the fact that he's teetering on the hairy edge of puberty and the inevitable B.O. that comes with it.
I filled the gaps between loads with a full scale cleanse of the kids' rooms. After a summer of parental neglect, I managed to fill three laundry baskets full of broken toys, wrappers, scrap paper, more dirty laundry and plain old trash. Notably, one basket was enough to purge both the rooms of my oldest and middle child. The youngest, however, managed to hoard enough garbage to fill two heaping baskets full of junk and then some! I think he may have a problem. The find of the day was a "Kick Me" sign he'd fashioned out of construction paper and some masking tape. Awesome! I am, however, mildly concerned that I am his primary target.
Next I started to consider what to feed the kids for dinner. Off the bus, we'd race across town to get the second-grader to soccer practice on time. Homework and dinner in the car would facilitate a smooth transition to the bedtime routine for all. What's in the fridge? Nothing. I'd have to hit the grocery store, but first I packed up the soccer gear before I forgot it. Was I missing them yet? Ask me again later.
All right. It was supposed to be my first day of "freedom," wasn't it? I had to at least get in a little workout. One hour. I just needed one hour, and the first 30 minutes were great! Didn't think about them one bit. But as I noticed the minutes tick by, I started to become conscious of my timeline: Shower and change, load up the car, bus stop, soccer practice, homework, dinner, baths, pajamas, teeth brushing, story time, and the "goodnight dance of a thousand stall tactics," all in triplicate.
As I flopped down into a chair in the living room at the end of the day and stared blankly at the TV, I realized that the reason I didn't miss them is because they were with me all day long. Their stuff surrounds me in this house. Half my conscious thoughts seem to revolve around them whether they're here or not. So, did I miss them? Nope. Did THEY miss ME?