A mommy moment

If I seem downright giddy with excitement today, it’s because I am still riding high on the rush of adrenaline (nothing else, I swear). This week, I finished the grueling ultramarathon of working parents everywhere. After seven years of monthly day-care tuition bills that could’ve easily bought us a dozen Hawaiian vacations and a cozy chalet in Telluride (OK, maybe just a timeshare), I saw my youngest child off to public school.

And I don’t care what anyone says. Those tears streaming down my face and onto the kindergarten room floor were tears of joy. OK, so maybe I snapped more photos than the paparazzi at a Lindsay Lohan court date, but the grandparents live for that stuff. And I did not have a celebratory shot of Bailey’s in my coffee mug – although I did consider it.

I can hardly wait for a little free time to fantasize about what I am going to do with all that free time. Granted, it’s only a few precious hours on Friday mornings, but you can come up with some pretty grandiose fantasies for that marvelous 5½-hour window of uninterrupted solitude. Like finishing the wall paper removal in my bedroom that I started three years ago in an OCD fit, leaving half-naked, crumbling plaster walls I like to tell myself is “shabby Durango chic.” Or sitting down to pen my great novel, Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. Or learning to knit, reading a book that doesn’t include talking inanimate objects or carton drawings. Or signing up for a bootcamp class that will give me the abs of Jennifer Aniston or fixing the flat tire that’s been on my mountain bike for a month and actually going for a ride. Or maybe, just maybe, having enough time to excavate the petrified remains of food from under the couch.

And if all this sounds like too much fun, I always can, for this first time since college, devote an entire morning to loafing on the couch, eating cold pizza, and watching “Jerry Springer” and soap operas. Lord knows, the storyline never changes on those things, and those actors have had so much Botox and plastic surgery, it’ll be like picking up right where I left off 20 years ago.

Which isn’t to say I’m not going to miss my little darlings. But that’s why they take school pictures, right? Plus, as anyone knows who has ever had to juggle two kids, preschool, tennis lessons, gymnastics, kayak classes, play dates, dude camp, Nanna’s house, drama camp (as if we need to practice that at our house), DMR summer camp and enough visits to the dentist that they engrave your child’s name on the chair – all while tying to remain gainfully employed – summer is not exactly free and easy. Sure, time passes fast, but I’m sure it also passes fast for headless chickens running around the funny farm in search of their cay keys, bike locks, swimsuits and lunch boxes. Needless to say, after a while it’s hard to remember if you’re coming or going, but a one-way ticket to the padded cell suddenly doesn’t sound so bad.

Anyway, something tells me the kids weren’t exactly heartbroken to leave the rat’s nest either. “You can go now,” my second-grade son sternly informed me as I overstayed my welcome in his new classroom on the first day. I can’t say I didn’t feel a little dejected. I mean, sure I may have committed the cardinal sin by saying “hi” to a few kids, but it’s not like I was going to don my clown suit and start juggling bowling pins or singing “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” over the school P.A. system (although I take perverse pleasure in threatening to.) So maybe my ratty sweats aren’t exactly haute couture, but at least they were semi-clean.

At least it wasn’t anything unexpected, as the boy exerted his independence from the Monarchy of Mommy at a young age. I remember vividly the day in kindergarten when I was instructed not to kiss him goodbye in front of the school. This was soon followed by decrees not to talk to him at school or so much as breathe a syllable to anyone else. Eye contact with anyone under the age of 12 was strictly forbidden, I was required to walk at least five paces behind, and failure to comply with said rules was met with complete and utter mortification and meltdown. At first I took it personally, until I found out Dad had also received similar orders.

Sure, it sounds sad to go from Supreme Ruler of the Known Universe to Shameful Social Liability in a matter of weeks. But actually, it turned out to be a positive learning experience. See, for the first time in my life, I realized I didn’t really care if I was talking too loud with the other mothers, rummaging through the lost and found like a raider of the lost tomb, or wearing my hoodie and sunglasses inside like some sort of “Unamomber.” After all, that which doesn’t kill our offspring with humiliation only makes them stronger.

Fortunately for now, the girl has a ways to go in that direction. Despite a scowl when I suggested I better accompany her to her elementary school debut, lest she be crestfallen, she managed to at least throw her old lady a bone. For example, she did not kick me in the shins when I attempted to walk alongside her in the hall or throw herself on the floor like a grief-stricken widow when I dared to greet other parents or glare when I snapped a few pictures for posterity. In fact, she didn’t seem to mind when I lingered a few minutes after the second bell, the theme to Chariots of Fire playing in my head, as I savored every last agonizing, sappy, mommy moment. Perhaps my complete fall from grace isn’t as imminent as I think.

Sure, the parental annoyance learning curve is steep and the year is still young. But at least I’ll have plenty of free time to dredge up a really good clown suit.

– Missy Votel