As it turns out, when one child snappishly expresses anxiety, one mournfully expresses loneliness and uncertainty, and one angrily expresses abandonment, their mama, who may indeed be a superwoman exactly until bedtime, steadily thar she blowing and all that, cheerleading, reassuring, listening and life coaching, may herself dissolve into tiny jagged crumbs of emotional exhaustion at one-minute-past bedtime. For whom the bell tolls, indeed. She may keep herself in little piles of those crumbs, tucking some under the pillow, piling some like spilled salt on the counter, felting some with her fingertips like so much more dryer lint, and she will allow herself the dissipated jaggedness of loss and emptiness and uselessness until exactly one-minute-before wake-up, at which point she will, with practiced movements, efficiently sweep every crumb into a gossamer bag (picture Jordan almonds at a wedding), cinch its mouth closed into a firm grimace, and smile inarguable HELLO, SUNSHINES at her dear little ones who need her strength and confidence, even as her bathrobe pocket mocks her mask of cheer, knowing the candy coating is crumbling right there past the salvageable status of regatherable shards into a sticky sweet dust.
It’s what we do, yes? Is that an ABSTN(n)B in your pocket or are you just determinedly wearing a happy face as you see me?
Some of you may be facing no back-to-school issues at all, and for that I envy you, and suggest politely you read somewhere else for a bit. We don’t do smooth transitions at this URL. I wish we could, of course, but it isn't so and anyway I've never been too graceful on my feet. Here we wring our brains inside-out and show them to each other, raw and wide-eyed, not the awareness kind of wide-eyed, though (go find your awareness elsewhere, would you? We’re busy being SELF-aware), but the kind that comes after a good cry, or from holding back a good cry. Sometimes in the middle of our ABSTN(n)Bs, we’re just between cries, not before or after any single one of them.
Be kind, dear readers, for I’ve just inside-outed my brain and I haven’t the spare energy at this moment to right it properly for company. I’m just so grateful that you’re the kind of friends who count more as “confidantes” than “company.” Let’s all change into pajama pants and stay in them for three days, what do you say?
The thing is, if you follow the thought trickles (and since my brain is sitting right there on the coffee table between us, you can), you see all the split ends and thorny messes waiting for some concentrated attention. What if L doesn’t have a crew of dear friends because I never promoted enough play dates because I’m not close friends with any of her friends’ moms because I like to stay in my own shell because I’m a terrible example for extending yourself out into this world because I like my cozy little nest far too much because I’m a hypocrite for teaching lessons like “be brave” and “try new things” because---
What if E is predisposed to anxiety because she got my predisposition to anxiety because I passed on bad genes because---
Or what if E is so anxious because I didn’t attachment parent her enough because I was too mired in my own identity crisis as a new mom because I am predisposed to anxiety and because I didn’t seek any help because I’m a terrible combination of shy and introverted and can’t advocate for myself let alone for---
Is it fair to G that we’re slowly tearing apart the stability of his foundations because we’re prioritizing the other needs of other people? Is it fair to any of them that we send them away to care because I want to work? They didn’t ask to be born, schlepped around to our convenience, molded to our schedules. Are we screwing up entirely---
Or maybe if I just focus, set one problem down in front of the other in a line, maybe I could make everything better if I just focused, I want to be a better runner but it takes time, and that time is away from family; and maybe if this house was organized, but time on that isn’t time listening and they need me arms around them, not armed with dustcloths; and I want to finish one of any of a dozen started sewing projects, but those take time away from family; and if I want to be a good mom I have to care for myself, which includes indulging in my own interests, but somehow that takes time away---
And the lawn desparately needs weeding and the neighbor’s mail mistakenly delivered with ours needs redelivering and I’m not sure that we’ve filled out all the necessary forms for the girls to start school on Monday HA! DID SOMEONE MENTION THAT SCHOOL STARTS ON MONDAY? LA LA LA and the kids need new dress shoes for the holidays and I can’t even remember their sizes and what kind of mom can’t remember their kids’ shoe sizes and why are the Jewish holidays so soon this year and why aren’t I ever ready (and why isn’t aren’t, like that, really amn’t, can we talk about that? because I’ve studied this language for years and try to use it every day and yet it really confuses me) and are we really supposed to talk about forgiveness right now and atonement and what if I haven’t atoned and who has time in August for atoning and what kind of person can’t make time for atoning, seriously, Robin---
And maybe if I could just fix any thing, any one thing, there would be hope for fixing all the things but I can’t, and I know it, and the kids will find their ways and my thought tentacles will unclench eventually, untangle, and the lovely husband will let go some of the worry in his eyes when he looks at me. I’ll trim those split ends with really sharp scissors. See how I don’t let the thoughts find completion? I’ll will them into submission, one ugly knot at a time. It’s just the ABSTN(n)B running the show for this little while. I’m going to leave it out and air it out, and we’ll look over it and across it and not directly at it, like a deformity not to be acknowledged, everything’s fine! nothing to see, don’t be rude don’t stare don’t point be polite.
We’ll talk of other things, and after a while you’ll make like you have to stand. I’ll read your cue and say “thanks for coming” and actually mean it and because we’re friend-friends, we’ll hug. And oh, just before you go, we’ll stand at the threshold between my haven and this untamable existence. We’ll pull out our calendars, compare notes, and mark this down, a innocuous acronym, same time, same place, next year.