Once you become a parent, a simple visit to the bathroom by yourself can be a memorable and even philosophical experience. As the summer winds down, here are some of the things I’ve noticed during this special “me” time:
1. You see the overflowing laundry baskets.
Okay, technically this happens on the way to the bathroom, possibly after I nearly kill myself stumbling over a rogue Lego or one of those blasted Magic Clip dolls. I notice the laundry baskets are piled high with damp swimsuits, shorts and T-shirts crusted with sand, and mounds of basically clean clothing that was worn for half a morning before its owners decided to stage a fashion show and try on approximately 17 different outfits. I still can’t understand why, after years of hauling tons of laundry up and down the stairs, my upper body isn’t as ripped as an Olympian triathlete’s (alright, it’s probably the chocolate). But while the endless loads of laundry haven’t given me anything close to chiseled biceps, I know they represent a good stretch of summer days when my kids played happily and with carefree abandon.
2. You remember that you’re getting older.
I catch a side glance of myself in the mirror, see the grey hairs poking through and giving my roots an eerie glow. I used to pluck them, until a co-worker told me with a wry smile, “Pull a grey hair out, and three more come to its funeral.” Damn, she was right. Mental calculation: when did Mom start coloring her hair? I squint and examine the skin under my eyes, where I recently discovered what my doctor called a “maturity spot.” Yes, based on external appearances, I must be mature and all grown up now, but there are plenty of days when I throw my own version of a childish tantrum. I’m convinced there is another, enlightened, real mother out there who is going to swoop in someday and rescue my kids from my missteps. Oh, and she will have dazzling skin and flawless hair, too, of course.
3. You quickly run through your mental to-do list.
Let’s see, what’s on the docket for today? We probably need some groceries, since the only fresh fruit in the house consists of mushy, blackened bananas; the first-grader needs new gym shoes; and the poor guinea pigs are long overdue for a nail trim. Years ago, before I even dreamed of becoming a mom, my daily routine looked quite different. Time belonged fully to me, and achievements and accolades were mine for the taking. I never thought of the words “mundane” or “ordinary” when describing my life. But I know every item on my task list means something to someone, and it wouldn’t get done without me.
4. You realize that silence feels deafening in a way it never did before children.
As I sit on the porcelain throne at last, I notice that the air is so quiet, so still. No feet thumping down the hallway or shrieks of laughter or toys clattering on the floor. For a moment I can close my eyes and it seems believable that I’m alone in this house. And I realize with a start that in a matter of days, that will indeed be the case – at least for a few hours each morning when the kids are in preschool and first grade. After listening to a steady summer soundtrack of whining, bickering over toys and the constant refrain, “I’m booooored, what super special activity are we doing next??” I suddenly don’t know how I’ll deal with the return of the quiet. A moment I have longed for in the way I’m sure teachers pine for the last day of school in June. I’m not sure I’m ready for it, or for the ultimate moment years from now when, if I’ve done my job successfully, the kids will leave their cozy little nest for bigger and brighter places.
5. Before you can get too deeply lost in thought, your brief reverie is always broken.
“MAMAAAAA!!!” The silence shatters as I hear a scream that can only resemble a hyena being evicted from the depths of hell. I’m certain that the kids time their squabbles for these exact five minutes, when my pants are down and my eyes are in a different room. I take a deep breath and bellow down the hallway, “I’m on the potty, kids, for crying out loud! Come get me if someone’s bleeding or dying, otherwise – WORK IT OUT!!!”
Maybe it’s good that these moments of quiet contemplation are limited to the bathroom for now. I happen to like my ordinary, familiar, comfortable life, and it scares me to think too deeply about how it will be different in a month, a year or a decade.
But I know it will change, again and again. So for now, I’ll hold on to the sweet chaos as much as possible.
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