The semester is over for me, but the writing class in the prison isn’t. Since I’m already there with more material left in my curriculum, I want to continue through the holidays. This time of year can be a challenge for prison populations, so if I can offer a measly distraction, I’m happy to do so.
The sitter canceled at about six-thirty in the morning. Her kid was sick with something that sounds lovely and includes vomit. It would be a dick move to be angry about a mom taking care of her kid. And, I’d be ridiculous for wanting someone entering my house coming from that situation. But, I was disappointed. It was so last minute that no childcare replacement could be made. My husband had a meeting with his supervisor, so he couldn’t stay home. I called-off the class. I deeply love the man who had regret all over his face seeing the brief moment of defeated shoulders I didn’t realize occurred. He knows this class is the highlight of my week, and a good one lifts me for days after. But, nothing could be done, and it isn’t like this was a catastrophic thing. The college group is finished, so I’m back as a volunteer. All things considered this wasn’t that disruptive of a situation.
In the novelty her toddler bed, the two-and-a-half-year-old Warrior Queen was up too early. I probably woke her when I started exercising. When I have class, I set my alarm to start my day strong and energized with ample time to get my blood running, read my smut…and check the conclusion of the previous night’s Twitter arguments. But, a too early rise for Warrior Queen means I’m limited in where to spontaneously take the kids. With no more crib in the equation, I can’t have my fierce sprite falling asleep in the car too close to “quiet time.” Perhaps some parents appreciate the exertion of perpetual ushering into a bedroom, but I am not such a parent.
For a good chunk of my morning I had to repeat to myself that the unexpected nature of the day was not the end of the world. It wasn’t, but I was still disappointed. Something I’m trying to do, and mostly failing at, is accepting what I feel without judgment. I decided the day needed to be special…because there was no where interesting to go, and I was sulking about my class.
And, the entire foundation to the day was rough. The four-and-a-half-year-old Little Man was thrown by the sitter thing, and started to tear-up when I told him I would remain home. For some reason he conflated my missed class with his consequence for stealing. He took a nothing wood thing from his classroom that he considered a treasure. But, it doesn’t matter what it is. Stealing is not acceptable behavior, and he needs to return it. The object, however, is now lost somewhere in our house. Little Man has until his next school day to find it, or he will lose one of his own toys of my choosing as a symbolic gesture that his teacher is forever missing one of hers. He’s anxious about this, but has put in zero effort finding the object he stole. Either way, come next week I’ll stand with him as he explains what happened to his teacher and apologizes. We’ve spent DAYS talking about this situation. In his mind that morning he thought he was losing a toy sooner or something, and I think generally confused with a suddenly disrupted routine. But, we talked it out; and he proceeded to sit on the sofa, rhythmically throwing his back against the cushions like he’s been doing since he was old enough to sit on it without keeling over.
Grocery shopping was the plan, courtesy of my husband who reminded me we didn’t have dinner for the night. The prospect of bringing both kids to the store alone gives him fits, but it isn’t that bad during off hours. The kids are usually chatty about silly, adorable things; and my son is always super polite. It feels good when he delights random strangers. It’s a vanity thing that I’ll take…plenty of other moments when I want to crawl into a hole with regards to my public parenting.
I’ve learned when things make me anxious…like an unplanned day with almost no warning or flexibility, or I’m just feeling lousy for whatever reason, “special” does the trick. Special can have all kinds of meanings. For me it’s mostly a food thing, and I can’t forget my iced tea purchases that are obtained so often I don’t know if they count as special anymore. But, I certainly enjoy them, and they are a high point of enjoyment for me no matter how many days I have them. I buy cookies at a local bakery regularly as well, but the morning’s disappointment demanded chocolate chip even if the event itself is not so unique to my existence. But, cookies will always be inherently special, and make everything better.
And, there is something cool about our car rides, shorter distances anyway. For the longest time the music had been kid stuff. I’m not sure how or when the shift happened, but now the kids request songs from one of my favorite groups. Little Man almost has I Hope You’re Happy memorized.
Warrior Queen is most passionate about the following song on the disc, which is a more hard core sounding tune with an embarrassing amount of profanity to it. It isn’t at the level of “bitch digs my stick,” but it isn’t something winning me any parenting awards either. That said, it isn’t like the song deviates from my own regularly used colorful declarations. So far it doesn’t seem like either kid has noticed; maybe because it’s hard to follow the lyrics? Both kids usually have some kind of clue what the song should be called based on the words they hear. Warrior Queen calls the song she adores “Chomp.” I don’t know what the song is actually called, but it isn’t that. I give her credit though, “Chomp” actually fits with the general feel of it.
Otherwise, most of the car rides go between I Hope You’re Happy and Your Love is Like a Car Crash…the kids just call it “Car Crash.”
I’m thankful I don’t have to try and guess what they want as they stare out the windows. Both kids assert their needs quite clearly as long as communication isn’t occurring mid tantrum. Even the arguments between the two of them make sense, and I’m kinda delighted that they work out their song disagreements without my involvement or with one of them habitually caving. All things considered, they are pretty balanced about the car music selection. Little Man regularly forfeits his song turn to please his sister; I love that about him. Like my daughter, my son loves music, and will be excited to hear his “Happy” song, sigh with a “Fine, we’ll listen to Chomp again,” rocking his head against his car seat patiently until it’s finished. Then it is his turn, and I will hear him singing to himself what he knows to Happy, and my heart melts. And, there are other times when Warrior Queen changes her mind, even mid song, to please her brother. I’d been mostly sick of the same discs I’ve been listening to since Little Man started toddling, so I will not complain about the development of their new musical interests.
The car itself has become a sort of event for me in and of itself. I try to enjoy every precious morsel of it, so often find myself in a scramble once reaching destinations I haven’t put much consideration into. As we meandered through the store in our partially catawampus way, on a whim when thinking about lunch, I bought the ingredients for calzones, which are not nearly as tasty as ones purchased at a restaurant, but figured my kids would appreciate it. They did. Little Man was talking about it for the hours leading up to the meal. The grocery mostly uneventful. Warrior Queen didn’t attempt to flee the cart basket, and managed her “gentle hands” lowering items behind her. Little Man didn’t wander off and boisterously greeted people we passed…the occasional properly placed, “Excuse me.”
The bakery not so uneventful. Mr. Man toying with the small Christmas tree in the corner before I had a chance to say something, knocked an ornament to the floor. To his fright it shattered to a substantial number of dazzling pieces. Thus commenced the tired lecture since these festive trees have made their presence…everywhere. His earnest and unprompted apology to one of the bakers concluded; we purchased very fancy winter cookies, and hustled in an excitable blur out the door. Well, the kids had fancy winter cookies. I stuck with my tried and true chocolate chip.
Kids tethered to their carseats with surprisingly little controversy, I texted my mom to see if they were available in the next thirty minutes to Skype. Eventually she replied, which allowed me to feel better that I hadn’t attempted such a thing as often as my parents would like since their return south earlier in the month. Kids distracted. I cooked. We ate. Forty-five minutes of book reading with Warrior Queen sprawled on her back over my reclined body and Little Man nestled into my side, and it wasn’t a horrible day.
Later in the evening I received preliminary confirmation that I will teach two sections of my class in the spring. I have yet to teach an afternoon in the prison. Different gangs involved with different prison functioning issues, so that should be interesting. I’ll have a significant increase in college students in each class, which will be a nifty thing as well. I have to say that I’ve quite enjoyed the college students. I didn’t expect to as much as I do. My primary motivation for reaching out to this university originally was to afford me the opportunity to teach in a prison without relying on my parents remaining in the area for childcare. It’s marvelous to find that I enjoy the college contingency as much as I do. It isn’t so much that I thought I wouldn’t, rather the perception from this piece of the experience not occurring to me.
A little later in the evening I received an email from the graduate student enrolled in my class. The last syllabus assignment is an optional request for course feedback. It was a truly lovely and unexpected message…humbling. And, while it was still a disappointing day, I can’t deny its outcome.