I look at my husband with frazzled hair and puffy eyes accented with dark circles and hopelessness. My sinus cavity resonates with the familiar sting of repressed tears. “I need a vacation,” I say, fully aware of how cliché this phrase sounds. These words pale in comparison to the urgency for a break that I am actually feeling, but I am so worn down and defeated that more pertinent words cannot be recalled.
My husband doesn’t understand. The amount of face time he gets with “the bosses” is fleeting. He sees them before he goes to work in the early morning and from dinner until bed, week in and week out, without being able to experience the circus that is my life: seemingly endless consecutive days working in the trenches, face to face with the Ruthless Rulers of the Roost. It isn’t his fault that he doesn’t understand my daily regimen. He has a team of co-adults working with him (all with an assumed skill set level and job description to define what is expected of them) to accomplish daily tasks, no matter how busy the business season becomes. When your bosses are under the age of five, the skill set and realistic expectations are much lower. Damn near non-existent.
I’m the leader and the servant simultaneously and my job description is extensive, non-finite, and ever changing. As perplex and confusingly important as that sounds, I picture myself as nothing more than a female Jeeves: “Please, Sir and Ma’am, allow me to drive you from city to city for activities that I’ve planned for your enjoyment while you spill various liquids, crumbs, and toys in your chariot… Allow me to clean that for you.”
My daughter actually calls me “Desmond” and pretends I am her coachman. When we arrive at our destination and I help her down from her seat (“Allow me!”), she says, “Thank you, Desmond!” in her most snooty British accent. Ouch, my pride.
“Yes, Your Highnesses, allow me to make your dinner and your bed, then allow me to remake them when they just aren’t quite what you want. Don’t turn off your own flashlight, allow me to slide the switch for you, then take you to the store so you can watch me buy more batteries for the second time this week. Allow me to fetch you a drink (if I can find the cup you hid of now rancid milk) and your shoes (if I can ever find where you put the other one). By all means, don’t close the door behind you! Allow me to chase and kill the flies that you let into the house. Please, sit on the couch and allow me to clean up your toys, watch you dump them out, then pick them up again… in every room… ad nauseam. And, Sir and Ma’am, it would be an honor if you would allow me to serve as your bidet and flush the evidence for you.”
The amount of thankless servitude that comprises my day is exhausting and tries my self esteem. “One day,” I think, “they will learn how to say please”. I complain, “when will they learn to get their own damn milk and get themselves ready to go somewhere?”, and “I can’t wait for him to be out of diapers!”
One day, I’ll be allowed to enjoy a quiet house. I will have a peaceful life with many less hats of responsibility on my head to sweat under. I won’t be a servant anymore. They will be taller than I, think they are wiser than I, and won’t allow me to spend time with them.
Some day alarmingly soon, they will replace my advice with the advice of their friends, no longer allow me to make decisions for them, and go to college farther away from me than I prefer. Maybe they will allow me to visit. What I am allowed to do for them will diminish with every day, every lesson learned, and every added skill.
So, my beloved babies, please allow me to choose your outfits in the morning and take pictures of how perfect you look. Allow me to mediate your fights about what show to watch, whose toy is whose, or whether I belong to one of you or the other. I will cut up your food and wash and brush your hair if you allow me. I will put cream on your cuts, burns, and butts, and as many Band-Aids as you want wherever you want them…even if you don’t have a boo-boo and just want to pretend in an effort to engulf my attention.
It brings me great joy when you allow me to be your chef, health consultant, counselor, gym teacher, psychologist, and nurse. I look forward every day to being your speech therapist, library, abacus, maid, jungle gym, and referee. Thank you for allowing me to be your chauffer, social director, paparazzi, calendar, and translator. Keepers of my Heart, it is a privilege to serve as your advocate, conscience, lifeline, biggest fan, and closest friend.
On second thought, vacation can wait. My children’s lives are my job and this is my busy season.