I’m a mom. I understand that I’ve moved into the minivan phase of my life and will spend a great deal of time driving around. There are birthday parties and play groups, ice skating lessons and spring soccer, bike outings, and “I want to go to the park” days. Every Sunday night I have to write out the schedule in an elaborate system to make sure that my kids get to their activities. But, I wanted to go to a critique group in Baltimore and I couldn’t fit it in.
I drove to pick up my son from flag football. I drove my daughter to her lacrosse practice. I drove my daughter to another site where her practice actually was (and was glad to meet another mom who also hadn’t gotten the message). After I finally got my older daughter to the right place, one of the twins was in the back seat crying because she had brought a drink for the trip and now needed to use the potty. The other twin was blowing her nose and throwing the resulting snot bombs through the air.
I was done. I was mad. I had driven myself crazy. I needed another adult. I needed a creative outlet. I needed to do something that wasn’t for someone else. But, my babysitter canceled. In fact, we split ways because she cancelled often. The next day — the critique group day –I had to get my son to and from practice, my daughter to and from a game, at the same time in two different directions, no less, and get the twins’ homework done. Oh, and dinner. Don’t forget dinner.
I felt resentful of my children for taking up my time. For preventing me from one little eensy-weensy activity. And then I felt defeated because if I’d gotten an agent and sold tons of copies of my novel, then I’d be a *real* writer and not just be wasting time and giving myself carpal tunnel at the computer every day.
I texted and called and e-mailed to see if I could find another babysitter last minute.
The mind works in convoluted ways. As I stopped at red lights and switched lanes, I also began turning around events in my mind. Maybe I’d be a fantabulous writer if my child didn’t have lacrosse practice. Maybe if I didn’t have to make dinner for everyone every night and pack lunches and scramble for breakfast before the bus comes, maybe I’d be able to write the Great American Novel. Virginal Woolf didn’t do laundry. Jane Austen didn’t wonder if she’d defrosted the chicken.
Well…they weren’t the mothers of their family. I wouldn’t go to the writers’ circle. I’d be responsible and maybe I could go to the next meeting.
My family — the ones I was busy resenting — realized that this was important to me.
My older daughter said she’d miss her game, babysit so I could go. My heart melted a little. My son said he’d read the story for me and give me advice. The twins came to me, held my hands, and told me they’d be very good. I gave them all a hug. Dog-pile, we call it when we all smush together.
I felt okay with my decision not to go. Family comes first.
That night my husband told me I was going. I said, “It’s just a critique group.” He repeated that he’d come home from work early. I was going.
As quick as I became angry and frustrated, as quick as I was to blame others, love humbled me. It’s always the right answer. My family isn’t a burden around my neck, pulling me down to drown in an indifferent ocean. I had it all wrong. They are the ones gathering around me like dolphins with sailors, supporting me and carrying me forward when I’m out of hope and strength.