Twas the night before the first day back after winter break, and I asked Autumn what her favorite part was from our two weeks together. Maybe she’d say our adventure in Portland or the day I turned the basement into an obstacle course. Then there was the brunch party we hosted and also the time she put on her Halloween costume and sang five little ducks. But her response? Without missing a beat, she said:
And then, after I put her to bed, I heard her calling through the monitor. I went upstairs and opened her door.
“Lay with me,” she said. In the past she had made this request, and it sometimes ended up messy. I’d overlay my welcome, and when I’d get up, she’d be in hysterics. I wanted to concede, but had to be careful, and so I compromised.
“Okay,” I told her, “but just for a little bit.”
After the bit ended, I nuzzled close, whispering my usual sentiment:
“I love you infinity forever everywhere no matter what.”
“I’ll miss you,” she responded.
And with that, I broke. I closed her bedroom door, and was drowning my sorrow in truffles when this came to mind:
Tis better to have winter breaked and gone back than to have never winter breaked at all.
And that really is the truth. Having a winter break means so many things. It means I have a job to break from, and also time to spend with my daughter. It means I am busy — balancing working and playing, writing and housekeeping — and busy is when I’m at my best.
But still, it’s hard, reading to others’ kids when my own at home is still eager to hand me books and sit in my lap. I toss sinister accusations at the Universe for torturing me so, to which I picture Him sitting back, smirking slyly, saying:
“You made your own bed.”
Of course implying I have to lie in it, but to which I respond sarcastically:
“Not true. I always leave the sheets a mess.”
But really I know He’s right. I chose to be a teacher. I chose to have a child. And this going back to work and leaving someone behind – all part of the deal.
Earlier in the day, we talked about her nanny being there when she woke up the following morning.
“Aren’t you excited?” I said hopefully. But instead she responded:
“You’ll always come back?”
And again the thought crossed my mind that the only people who think being a mom is easy are those without kids because every mom and dad knows it’s hard to parent, and also that it’s even harder when you don’t get to parent, but that no doubt it’s all worth it.
That next morning, the alarm buzz replaced my daughter’s call, and I lied in bed bitter. Had I self-administered hundreds of hormone shots and fought through rounds of IVF so some orange haired nose pierced nanny could read to her in the morning and bake with her in the afternoon? It was a hard pill to swallow that while I’d be talking prepositions and colonization with my class, she’d be playing tea party and dress-up with my daughter.
And then the first day back turned into just that – one day – and then almost a full week of stomach flu. While Autumn quarantined at my parents’, I was isolated for three days. It was just the booster I needed to find more gratitude – just to function as a mom and a teacher. I love our nanny, I love the balance Autumn and I have during the week, and I appreciate the steady routine of our school days.