First, there was denial. After the longest summer on public record, I was desperate to regain those precious three hours a day to do anything I wanted. And by "anything," I mean "take a nap." I couldn't believe the strike was a go. Against all logic, I chose to set my alarm clock on the slim chance that the school bus might actually appear. I stood in the glistening dew with Joey that first morning of the strike-a solitary mother rising up in complete denial of the tragedy before her. The bus never came. And the neighbors nervously took note of my waning grip on reality as they headed off to Dunkin' Donuts and The Art Institute instead.
Then anger set in. I wasn't angry at anyone in particular. I was just mad. I began writing irate letters to Eddie Bauer for putting too much spandex in their new jeans. Then I wrote Fannie May Candy to complain about too many calories in their Pixies. I also yelled at my husband for always taking "the good pillow."
I even screamed at bees just because I hate bees.
Bargaining made an appearance by Day 3. I advised my husband that I would seek full-time employment so we could simply send our kids to private school. He argued that my dream job (working the Starbucks counter at Target) probably wouldn't cover the cost of three Catholic school educations. I then bargained with God, agreeing to attend mass every Sunday in exchange for making my kids smart enough to never have to go to school again. This would circumvent years' worth of science projects, book reports, and any future strikes. Sadly, I awoke to find the boys completely baffled over how to open a fresh box of Life Cereal. Joey also was wearing mismatched socks and had his shirt on backwards.
God evidently passed on my offer.
Depression came next, accompanied by a case of red wine. What was the point of it all? I didn't make the boys bathe or shower, figuring swim practice and all that chlorine would kill whatever germs stuck to their pores. I gave up on our daily flashcards and reading. A formal education was clearly not in the cards for my children. I kissed my hopes and dreams goodbye, and we watched "Scooby-Doo" for eight straight hours.
I never reached acceptance. When word came down late Tuesday that school was to resume, I was still in a depressed funk. All the anxiety, second-guessing, and information-gathering had left me exhausted. I gloomily made the kids' lunches, packed their school bags, and commenced my return to CPS-motherhood with all the zeal of a convict marching towards the gallows.
As I bemoaned my diminished academic fervor, my husband offered up these words:
"Why don't you try to get a nap in while Joey is at school tomorrow? Maybe that will perk you up. You love naps … and can we please turn off Scooby-Doo now?"
A nap! Zoinks! If it hadn't been for those meddling kids hanging around all day, my naps would have sustained me! I would have ordered Latin-language flashcards from Amazon! I would have read "Beowulf" to them in Old English!
So today I will rejuvenate myself for the year ahead. Thanks to a nap, I will be excited about my appointment as "reading mom" or "field trip mom" or even "wash the hand-towels mom." I will look forward to collecting my children from the four corners of the Chicago-metro area. I will celebrate their educational strides and achievement with renewed passion and interest.
Unless, of course, that first Innisbrook school fundraising packet shows up with a "suggested" sales target of $1,500 in overpriced wrapping paper rolls.
The bees best stay clear of me then.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.