I love me some YMCA

It seems that winter might actually give way to spring one of these days. We made it! There were times I wasn’t so sure we would. This winter has been a rough one around here. My kids watched a gazillion hours of TV; my house suffered messes so extraordinary that arson seemed like the only way out; we all ate mountains of carbohydrates; and they drank buckets of hot chocolate to my buckets of red wine. In all of this indoor festering, we had one saving grace: the pool at the YMCA.

Had it not been for the pool, my children’s little bodies would have fused to the couch. Instead, they had a healthy activity to keep them just on this side of ‘persistent vegetative state.’

I spent hours in the muggy heat, breathing in the steaming vapor and watching my kids bob around in the warm kid-broth. We were not the only people with this outlet. Some days, the pool was so crowded that it was difficult to locate which heads belonged to me as they swarmed in a noisy, watery mosh pit of other heads, pigtails, snot, and pee.

I had to tread a careful line all winter. My kids needed to know that the pool was a bastion of unblemished awesome, but at the same time they needed to know that under no circumstances would I be joining them in the bio-brew. Sure, I could have gone into the pool, like those good parents. I know that the high chlorine levels obliterate any organic matter smaller than a child within nanoseconds. The problem was just that I really, really, really, really didn’t want to go in. I’m not interested in marinating in recently obliterated bio-matter the temperature of Baby Bear’s porridge.

Also, there’s the matter of expectations.

My job is largely about managing expectations, and it’s a delicate balance. I want my kids to have fun, and I want to have fun with them, but most of the time I want them to have fun without my involvement. Join in once, and it will be that much harder to bow out the next time. I am not the mother on the play structures in the park. (Except in cases of necessary rescue.) I am not the mother joining in impromptu soccer games. (Are those mothers always wearing sports bras just in case the impulse to run around strikes? That impulse never strikes me. Never ever.) I am not the mother in bounce houses or on trampolines. (See note about sports bras.)

I am the mother fostering their independence while protecting my inclination to really, really, really, really not want to.

As the sun finally starts to melt the 400 feet of snow outside, I look forward to outdoor pools, to lakes, to rivers and the ocean. These I’ll go into with my kids. (When not freezing.) But until that time, thank you, YMCA, for your chlorinated feculent pools of awesome.

When Mom Takes a Bath

My new house has a fabulous huge tub complete with six water-shooting jets that so far only the kids have enjoyed.

Yesterday, 5:35 PM:

  • Dammit, I’m going to take a bath!
  • Oooh, I should put on a facemask before my bath!
  • I dig through my unpacked boxes and locate a facemask.
  • I apply the cool, thick, black mask. I am ready for some serious pampering.
  • But first I should find a home for every other object in those boxes.
  • In putting away the various bathroom items, I realize that the bathroom organization system I established when I first unpacked the other bathroom boxes isn’t going to work, so I redo the closet/drawers/cabinets in our bathroom, which necessitates redoing the closet/drawers/cabinets in the kids’ bathroom also.
  • While I’m in the kids’ bathroom I see that it’s gross. I clean it.
  • My kids notice that I’m not locked in my room like I said I was going to be.
  • They come upstairs to ask me for shit.
  • They see my face mask and freak out and think it’s hilarious and ask a million questions.
  • Where’s your father? Taking a nap.
  • I go downstairs with them to set them up with a TV show. No, not that show! Yes, this one. No I hate this one. But Moooommmmmyyyyyyy he got to pick last time! But it’s for stupid little babies. No it’s not! I like it. Then you’re a stupid little baby. Mooooommmmmyyyyyyy! He called me a stupid little baby! Etc etc etc etc etc.

6:25 PM:

  • I escape the whiny battle and my facemask is tight and cracking. Time to get in that bath!
  • I turn on the water.
  • I notice the sand and dirt left behind from my children’s earlier bath, after a morning of mud digging and frog catching. I have to clean the tub.
  • I clean the tub.
  • While I’m at it, I clean the sink and toilet.
  • Finally! I can take my bath!

6:40 PM:

  • I turn on the hot water and put in two scoops of the bath salts I unearthed while looking for my facemask, which, by the way, is beginning to burn.
  • What the heck, I deserve a third scoop.
  • I undress.
  • I realize that my book is on my iPad and iPads and baths don’t mix so I need to get an actual book, which means that I need to go downstairs to the bookshelf which is in the same room as the kids. Damn. Is it worth it?
  • I decide it is.
  • I put on my bathrobe, which I never use, and go downstairs.
  • I field a million questions about my seldom-used bathrobe and fetch a glass of water for one and a glass of milk for the other. And then ice for each.

6:45 PM:

  • Back upstairs I see that the bath is filling nicely. I step in.
  • Hmm, it’s not quite as hot as I had hoped. I feel the water still rushing from the tap. Ice cold.
  • I quickly turn off the water and am determined to enjoy my pretty-warm bath for as long as possible before it’s freezing.
  • I finally wash off the face mask and can only hope that the burning and itching will end eventually.
  • I put on the jets.
  • I try to get comfortable.
  • I realize why living room furniture is not designed after bathtubs.
  • I recommit to enjoying my damn self and getting relaxed as hell in my beautiful new bathtub.
  • I pull out my book, (I might have made the wrong choice): Siblings Without Rivalry.
  • I realize that I am parenting badly.
  • I realize that I am setting my children up for years of envy and bickering.
  • I realize that I am setting myself up for years of my children’s envy and bickering.
  • I realize that without any hot water, I can’t rinse off after my bath.
  • I resign myself to marinating in my own filth and calling it clean.
  • I get cold.
  • I get out.

7:05 PM:

  • Oh, good, you’re finally out. Hope you enjoyed your bath! You’re just in time to put the kids to bed.

And now I remember why I never take baths.

Mommy is not in the picture

We had a perfect winter Sunday. Sure there were the usual battles, and we may have locked the kids out of the house for a while to force them to play on their own, but it was about as perfect as a winter Sunday at home with two little kids can get.

As a family, we got all bundled up to go sledding. By “go” I mean we walked up the hill between our neighbor’s house and ours. It’s the perfect sledding hill for little kids. Sally can go down on her own; she skids out further than anyone because she doesn’t break through the crust layer of snow. Luke takes huge, fearless running leaps. We slid (sledded? slode?) down the hill in all sorts of piling configurations with all four of us laying on our bellies, stacked up together. The kids took turns sitting in my lap on the little round sled while Tim gave us huge pushes and we flew down the hill at lightening speeds, spinning ourselves dizzy. It was fun.

Later in the day the kids wanted more. Tim had some work to do so I took them out myself. That’s right. I put on my snow gear to go sledding twice! I set the kids up on two tracks and pushed them off for races. I raced them back up the hill or dragged them on sleds. We made snow angles and tried valiantly to build a snowman with the wrong kind of snow. Sally went inside cold and wet after a while but Luke and I stayed out there. We must have raced down that hill 100 times.

He was all rosy-cheeked and glowing with joy, Sally too. So much so that I forgave the battle and tears when it was time to go in; I accepted that more snow was dragged in than left out; I acquiesced to the sweaty work of bundling and unbundling two kids twice before being able to bundle or unbundle myself. All this is to be expected. Sledding as a mom is, at it’s best, 40% play and 60% work. But it was all worth it that night when Luke said as I tucked him in, “I had the best day sledding with you, Mom.” A huge mom-ego boost.

That ego boost didn’t last long. Every Monday in school each kid reports, and draws, their weekend “news.”  On Monday afternoon Luke came home with this:

KId's drawing of family

kindergarten school work, writing, drawing

WTF, Luke? Where’s Mommy?

This is typical. I’ve said before how much Luke prefers his dad over me. I could spend the weekend with him flying on magical unicorn dragons; if he came home from that adventure and watched an episode Peppa Pig with his dad, you’d better believe that his weekend news would read, “I watched TV with my dad.”

I figure that for him I’m like air. It’s life supporting and he’d certainly notice if it were suddenly gone or unavailable, but it’s invisible and taken entirely for granted. No one reports how many liters of air they breathed over the weekend. I wonder if air feels sad about it? Does it wonder if it’s all worth it? Is air thinking of all it does for everyone and how it gets all the shitty jobs and none of the glory that, say, Dad helium gets?

This is what people mean when they say that motherhood is a thankless job.