Since my oldest daughter was born nine (almost nine and a half) years ago, I really haven’t had an abundance of child-free time. Now that I think about it, even before she was born my life was pretty kid-centric; in the years before she joined our family I worked at preschools, first in Miami and then in Houston. I stopped working about half way through my pregnancy, so I was kid-free from January to May of 2006 — but I was also recovering from surgery. So it’s not like I was off shopping and having brunch and eating bon bons.
That makes this week kind of a big deal, with both of my kids being in for-real full-time elementary school now. I can’t say I did anything special to prepare myself for this. Our last week of summer break was pretty uneventful. It’s not like I was holding on to the them and smelling their hair and chanting, “Why? WHY?! Why must you leave me?!”
As a matter of fact, Saturday I even got a babysitter and the hubs and I had a date night. We went to Alamo Drafthouse, had a super tasty meal, and watched a fun movie. I had the best chicken wrap of my life (it was their Houston Restaurants Weeks menu — we were gifted the movie tix and meals). AND the movie had Henry Cavill in it. There’s nothing kid-centric about that.
But this is not the same as actually being prepared for your children to leave you alone while they galavant at school all day. Experiencing a few hours without kids is not even kind of the same as the silence and free-time that occurs when they get on the bus at 8AM and don’t return until 4PM.
I should have prepared.
Each time I’ve entered my home without a child in tow this week, I’ve been stunned by the stillness. Overwhelmed by the opportunities of which project to tackle. Distracted by Amazon and Facebook and Oreos.
I didn’t know it would be so different, with both of them leaving at the same time instead of the staggered, lazy departure part-time preschool allowed. I didn’t know that I was unfamiliar with how to be by myself with no one else to take care of. I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to take care of myself.
Now I know.
I’m going to be lenient on myself today and tomorrow but I’m also going to prepare. I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity to rediscover myself and make myself a priority. I will arrange more date nights. I will get into a regular exercise routine, even if it’s slow at first. I will go to the grocery store with a complete list and meal plans for the week. (WHAT?!)
And I will claim the stillness in my home for myself and fill it with things that bring me joy — because I can. Not everyone gets to do that.
We cannot always be prepared for all of the changes in our lives, but we can own the unpreparedness and find the gifts inside of it. For me one of those gifts is being able to hug my kids when they get home and instead of lamenting our separation, appreciating that we each grew a little wiser in our hours apart.
Another one of those gifts? Eating Oreos out in the open, not having to hide them from anyone. It’s fabulous.