I write this from a train somewhere between Pennsylvania and New York City. And as I write this, David is just finishing up a lunch meeting in England from an office in St. Albans (or is it Hatfield? I’m not sure. It’s a little out of my frame of reference). I just got back from a trip to Chicago and Wisconsin where I was spending time with my future sister-in-law’s lovely family. Dave will come home, repack his luggage, then take off to Baltimore for my bro’s bachelor party. When he comes back, he will repack (Orioles t-shirts don’t look quite as good worn during highfalutin work meetings, you think?), he’ll drive to Connecticut, for more work. By the time you read this, he will be home, and we will be adjusting to life as a family. And by that point, it will be 2 1/2 weeks since I got on that plane in Baltimore. And it will seem like a lifetime.
I never thought we would be that family. When I was growing up, my parents were, well, home. My mom stayed at home with us until I went to middle school. My dad was able to finagle his schedule around that time so that he went into work really early, but was home by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon (aka, we got away with nothing). The most traveling they did separately was when my mom would take us to her parents in southern Maryland mid-week during the summer, and my dad would come down on the weekend. Any vacations they could afford, they took with us. And that was our family life. It may not have been so exciting for my parents, but it was something we, as kids, could count on.
But we—David and I and Saoirse and Quinn and Cian—are not that family. We are a family that, as David’s responsibilities increase, so do his frequent flier miles. We are a family who, after my brother’s wedding, will now be spread out across the country. If this fledgling writing career of mine is going to happen, which of course, I want it to, it will require time away from the people I love most. Am I ready for this? I suppose so. It’s just not what I expected. Some realignment of expectations needs to happen.
Except. I had no expectations. Three kids I can’t wait to see each day? A husband who puts up with all the crazy? Not collecting a regular paycheck by choice? I couldn’t have expected all of that. Life is a lot more fun when you just hold your nose and jump.
I worry about the kids, as this travel is increasing. But at the same time, when David is home he doesn’t miss a beat. He’s emptying the dishwasher, and kicking a soccer ball in the backyard, and taking the girls to school. When I’m away, the routine stays the same (it does, right, Dave?), and the kids get some good quality time with their dad. Heck, Cian didn’t even blink an eye when he saw me the morning after I got back. He just stood up in his crib, pointed at the window (“Dat!”), and grabbed at his diaper to tell me I was back on poopy duty. This will be—is—their normal. And Dave and I are working our butts off to make sure it remains normal. So.
It’s cloudy out. My mom, who’s watching the kids today, made sure I took the umbrella from her car. I’m worried about the outfit I’m wearing—my dress is oh-so suburban mom, and the wedges probably weren’t the best idea. I’m hoping no one really notices that the bag I’m using to lug around my laptop and manuscript is the same one I used back in 2007, when I had a classroom key and a painstakingly completed lesson planner. I feel out of place. This world—this publishing, lterary, oh-my-gosh-they-all-love-books-as-much-as-I-do—place is still scary territory for me, intimidating. When will I ever feel like I deserve this? When will I feel that I belong?
When you read this, we will have celebrated our 11th–eleventh!! Holy crap dang.–wedding anniversary. Dave and I will go to dinner, then to an amusement part to scream our heads off on all the roller coasters we can’t ride when we’re with the kids. And that morning, the girls will be awake before we are. We will hear Saoirse opening drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, and then we’ll walk in together to see that she and Quinn have made breakfast for us. There will be cereal and milk in matching Tupperware bowls, orange juice poured into their favorite glasses, spoons and a note and the gift of two of their pencils they’ll say we can “use for work.” Crumbs will be everywhere (that’s what brooms are for), but I’ll later discover that they put the empty cereal box into the recycling bin, and the containers back into the fridge. The girls will tell us they love us, and I will cry and wonder how I can think anything in the world is overwhelming when I have this–them–at the core.
David is in England. I am en route to New York. We will celebrate our wedding anniversary. Our children are eating breakfast at the kitchen table, cared for and loved by another family member, and both of their parents will be tucking them into bed by Friday. This is the new normal. Maybe. For the parents, it’s kind of exciting. And that’s okay. For the kids, it’s what they know. And they’re okay.
So I guess It’s time to get used to it.