November 8, 2017 by Heather
Lately I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m not really doing much right. Or that I am perhaps doing a few things right, but to the detriment of other things. Since starting back to work part time in August, in addition to trying to wrap up my master’s degree, things on the home front have been a little wonky.
In other words, Andrew has been doing the housework. Which is not really fair to him, because he works full time and is finishing a doctoral degree. He makes it looks easy, though, and is able to do it in a fraction of the time it takes me. I’m so grateful. But I also feel a little lame.
Likewise, the boys have felt my absence, specifically Parker. He is constantly saying things like, “I never get to see you,” and “I just want to be with you,” and “But when will you be home from class?” I’ll say this — I don’t feel guilt about much, but boy do I feel those words. I love being a Graduate Assistant, I love my classes, I love being out in the world doing things, and the boys both love going to school, but the past few months have been a balancing act for the books. Andrew has said before that someday we will look back on this time and say “How did we do it?”
The time I spend with the boys is so important to me right now because we are apart more than we used to be. I try to make the most of our time together, but I still find myself feeling like I’m not doing/saying/being near enough. Such is motherhood, I suppose. Do they feel loved? Do they feel supported? Am I making the right decisions? Do we discipline them enough/in the right way? Do they wash their hands enough? Did they have too much sugar today? Does it matter that I haven’t practiced Parker’s sight words with him, ever? Will they need therapy as adults because of something I did or didn’t do? It’s never ending, really.
All of this was weighing heavily on my mind this afternoon when I picked the boys up from school and declared, “Let’s go to the library!” Parker was thrilled to get to use his library card for the first time, Oliver was excited because Parker was excited, and my mom-confidence was bolstered by how much this spontaneous decision I’d made would no doubt enrich their lives and increase their love for literature by leaps and bounds.
We entered the library and the boys immediately ran over to the children’s area where they have a big squishy mat (the sign says “NO JUMPING!”) and baskets of blocks. This drew glares from the gallery of crabby librarians behind the desk, but I avoided their collective judgmental gaze and breezed by, because I’m a cool mom.
I checked to make sure the boys were playing with the toys and not flinging books from the shelves, then turned to go see if they had a certain cookbook I was wanting to check out.
I’d taken about five steps when the white-haired judge very loudly said from across the library, “Mam, you cannot leave them unattended while you look around. You’ve got to stay with them the whole time they are over there.”
I spun on my heels and mumbled something stupid like, “I was just wanting to look at something,” and retreated back to the land of children, because that lady was scary and there were more than a few people watching.
I immediately made it my mission to show great focus in finding Parker some early reader books so as not to appear like the negligent mother the whole library now thought I was. In the meantime, Oliver proceeded to grab and unshelve an entire section of books and DVDs. It was like I couldn’t get to him fast enough. And when I did get to him, he crumbled onto the floor screaming and kicking. I was able to calm him down by handing him a Mickey Mouse DVD case, which he managed to open and then pop out the DVD, hurling it to the other side of the squishy mat like a frisbee.
It was around this time that White Hair casually strolled over to the children’s area and just kind of crop-dusted judgement over the entire vicinity. All the while, Oliver was running around with a DVD on his finger (never did find the case) while Parker was whining loudly about something, I can’t recall what. I made an effort to appear as though I was re-shelving things intentionally and in the proper order, but I can now say that when she left I absolutely put the remaining DVD cases behind the ones already on the shelf.
I hoisted the wild and screaming toddler onto my hip, grabbed our small stack of books with the other hand, and very sternly commanded Parker to pick up the blocks and follow me to the check out desk. I bypassed White Hair and sat our books in front of a teenage girl who was completely unfazed by the cuteness of Parker pulling his library card out of his Pokemon wallet.
I put Oliver down and he wiggled his way underneath the counter and sat on the bottom shelf, where he remained until I sat my, ahem, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVDs on the counter (getting a master’s degree in English, thankyouverymuch). Then he started trying to climb my legs, which is what I was trying to fend off when the girl said, “Uh, you can’t check anything out because you have a fine of $15.99.”
“$15.99? What in the world? For what?”
“Um, it says ‘water damaged book.'”
Me, remembering exactly which book she was talking about, the book I had returned months prior and explained what happened and they said they would call if I needed to pay for it because it wasn’t that bad, “Ooooh. Yeah. I remember that.”
From off to the right, White Hair offered, “You know if she can’t pay it all today she can just pay $5 or something.”
“No, that’s fine, I can pay for it. I just assumed it was ok because no one ever called.”
At this point, Parker was a few steps away trying to figure out how to rotate the spinning shelves of Harlequin Romance novels. Again, White Hair stepped in to save the day: “Son you don’t need to mess with that, it might fall on top of you.”
“Parker please come stand by me,” I said, turning to smile at White Hair. “You know what, I think next time we will go to the playground instead. Let me go get my wallet out of the car.”
Before I could turn to go, Oliver started thrashing about in my arms, and while walking away I said, “Phew, you boys are driving mama crazy today.”
Another librarian who had gotten onto Parker on countless previous visits, looked at me and said, “Honey are you having a bad day?”
Hot, embarrassed tears sprang to my eyes and I cleared my throat loudly before replying with something I don’t remember now. I only remember thinking, I need to get out of here before I completely lose it. I also remember the teenage girl looking at me like I was a legitimate insane person.
We went out to the car, I grabbed my wallet, and we shuffled back inside to the counter. I wrote out a check while also holding Oliver, and as I handed it to the girl I said, “Do I at least get to have the book?”
“Um, I don’t know if we still have it. Let me go see.”
She went in the back room and returned saying she couldn’t find it. In front of the other librarians, she asked, “What’s the name of the book?”
“Confessions of a Domestic Failure.” I paused. “Obviously. Obviously that’s the name of the book.”
No one but me seemed to enjoy the irony of the situation, but she did manage to retrieve the book from a back cabinet and we got the heck out of there, but not before Parker was scolded again by the librarian for playing too rough with the toys and reminded to act better next time.
I wish I could write something besides, “I cried as soon as I got in the car,” but that’s the way it happened. I tried not to let Parker see, because I could tell his feelings were also hurt. He was quiet the whole way home, eventually saying that he didn’t like what the librarian said to him.
I’m not really sure how to end this, except by saying next time we really will go to the playground. And also I’m tired and it’s all going to be ok.
PS. The book is really good. I’ll let you borrow it, since I own it now and everything.