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Tis Better to Have Summered and Returned Than to Have Never Summered at All

Kudos to science teachers who perform dissections. One frog in high school was enough, and as a profession, I teach words in lieu of anatomy. My students learn roots and connotations, synonyms and idioms. We talk about how consonant sounds – like the harsh k’s in crack and the soft m’s in tumble-–sometimes relate to meaning. And so, as August rolls around, I’m once again thinking in these terms.

August. The same ending as disgust. And close to the name of that gross kid from Willy Wonka who gets sucked up the pipe. And all of this yuckiness feels appropos with the coming school year.

It’s not that I don’t want to teach. It’s just that I do want to be home with Autumn. I have friends with toddlers who don’t get summers off. I asked one if, after a trip, it’s difficult to go back to work.

“It’s quality, not quantity,” she said. And the voice inside my head whined like Veruca Salt:

“Well, I want both!”

In theory, we all do, but is that even possible? To savor every morsel when we have abundance? Surely Charlie wouldn’t have made his chocolate last over a month, relishing daily nibbles, if he had a stockpile. Just the other day, I was standing in the park, but engrossed in email while Autumn crossed the monkey bars. Perhaps I take moments with her for granted in the summer because I have so many days, and work will force me to be more attentive.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself lately. Because thinking about dropping Autumn off at daycare, her arms reaching for me, is far too difficult.

There are times I wonder how I’ll be okay for another school year spending more time with other peoples’ children than my own. And to this I tell myself what I tell Autumn. I have to work to make money so we can eat and have a house, and also I get to help other kids become good people.

Then I ponder whether I’d be better off at a different job, without summers. Calling three months off a sample of stay-at-home mom life is like comparing yourself to a single mom when your spouse is out of town, but it’s the closest thing I have. And having had a taste, I’ve decided being with a toddler 24-7 is no piece of cake, either. There are times I find myself going insane—frustrated with the activity that looked developmentally appropriate and clean in the posting, but turned into a meltdown and a mess in reality. Or when I devolved to puffing a partially deflated balloon—no hands!—around the kitchen because, well, boredom.

And then there are times—so many calm moments—when I’m with Autumn–pushing her on a swing or reading just one more story—when I choke back emotion, only to break down when she’s sleeping. But then I remind myself sobbing messes are not productive, and I become empowered knowing I am both earning the money and raising the child.

We’ve begun talking lately about me going to work, and the other day when we laid down in my bed, she cuddled extra closely. The voice of reason reminded me I had curriculum writing to finish, but the voice of Autumn, emerging in a blood-curdling scream when I tried transferring her to her crib, drowned it out. Work would wait. Work will always wait.

It amazes me how a short time ago, we were physically connected, but now, although the cord is severed, our bond is a million times tighter. And it’s one that can’t be broken with the snip of a scissors—nor the start of a school year.

Mommy On.

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