I dreamed last night a friend dropped off her 6 year-old son to play with Betsy. We were in my childhood home in NJ of course. The boy walked into the living room and I was instantly overcome with anxiety. What will we do for THREE hours?! What if Betsy doesn't want to play with him? What if he gets sad or worse yet bored? I was in such a state it woke me up.
Long stretches of time in which I will be the only adult surrounded by one or two children in need of entertainment or referee-ing terrify me. When Bets wakes up at 7 on a Saturday and it's me and her all day without a plan...Well picture those Scream masks at Halloween. It has nothing to do with love, and everything to do with energy. What will we do? What on earth will we do all day.
I don't remember my parents having this problem. I also don't remember them playing with us. We played by ourselves or with neighborhood children. And my sister and I had each other.
But this recipe - an only child in a world where she cannot run free at age 6, who goes to private school and doesn't know the neighborhood children - is one that puts mommy on the hot seat.
"Mommy, let's have a dance party!" This before 7:30 a.m.
"Mommy, let's dig in the snow." Even though it's 22 degrees.
I tend to steer Bets toward the things I like to do: income tax returns, organizing, and putting up shelves. Once we peeled paint off the kitchen wall.
Our playground is the worst. Though we are blessed with a playground right across the street, it sits atop a hill and for some intergalactic reason hosts extreme temperatures. If it's 32 degrees at our house, it's 10 degrees at the playground. If it's 85 degrees at our house, it's 110 degrees at the playground.
"Mommy, let's play chase."
Some mommies get to sit and drink coffee on a playground bench and read a magazine or stare into space.
I consider these moments, dare I say these mind-numbing moments, seepage from my childless years. Little dewdrops from a purely narcissistic time in life when I answered to no one but my self (too bad I didn't realize it at the time) and expect to do so again. A friend said leakage like this happens when you have one child and think you still can be your old self, because when you have more than one you have to surrender. The holes are plugged.
Plus a 6 year-old in the 25% for height is one who wants to do some things she still physically cannot do.
"Mommy, hold me so I can reach the monkey bars."
"Mommy, catch me when I slide down the pole."
I've taken a Zen approach. When I feel myself hopping the wave of terror at 6 or 7 a.m. I remind myself to take it one hour at a time. If I think of it as 14 hours I'm doomed. From the opposite vantage point it always works out okay: we read a book, baked bread, built a snowman, saw a friend. Awesome day.
It's just that those activities took maybe an hour and a half total and it took another 12 and a half hours to get to them.
But that will just be this mommy's little secret.