We are jet-lagged, and settling back into life in our little English village after three weeks traveling in the American South, and then New York City.
There’s no routine to speak of, yet.
The boys started school yesterday. They slept horribly the night before – a combination of jet-lag and first day of school excitement. Simon and I were thrilled when they went quiet at 8:15pm, only for Adlai to wake again at 10:45, his precious, nervous little heart quickly becoming panicked that he wouldn’t be well-rested for his first day of Year Three.
I woke up the next morning with our cat curled up on my feet. Later, she brought me a mouse – her first. She missed us.
We were up early, which isn’t like us. I was making lunches at 6:45, and everyone was dressed and ready 40 minutes before Go Time, which also isn’t like us at all, to be early, to be unhurried. I’d like to keep it this way. It’s good for my anxiety. (Note to self: must stop saying “my anxiety”. It does not belong to me. I do not wish to keep it.)
I immediately talk myself out of it. I’m not an early person. I’m not organised. I don’t know if I’ve ever once in 36 years laid out an outfit for myself the night before. (My sister used to plan hers out on a white board. Weekly.) But I have done it for my children.
A little voice in my head tells me I don’t do them justice. Tells me I will hold them back because I can’t remember to return permission slips, forget to buy peanut butter, lose socks in the washing machine.
I listen to it, sometimes. I say it out loud to other mothers on the playground. We laugh at my self-deprecation (I really have become quite British).
I think about home-schooling sometimes and Adlai asks “When?”, and I say, “Maybe next year. Maybe when we move to the mountains.”
That voice comes in again, disguising itself as a friend, disguising itself as my own conscience.
“You will hold him back.”
I think of my own mother. I mostly remember her standing in the kitchen. Did she used to cook? She doesn’t now. She works as an assistant principal at a school outside of Raleigh, in an area that is growing so fast there are three elementary schools within a two-mile radius of each other.
She works and she gets home after five and she makes a salad, or a sandwich. Sometimes she’ll make soup.
But before she worked, when we were small and she stayed home with us during the day. Before she went back to school in the early 1990s to get her Masters degree and become a teacher – did she cook, then?
I have one memory of her spooning some homemade coleslaw into my mouth at our kitchen table. She had just chopped the carrots and the cabbage in front of me, and I wanted to taste it. She held her left hand under my chin to catch any drips, but I misunderstood its purpose there and spit it all back into her hand. (I like coleslaw now.)
Other than that, I remember spaghetti, vegetable soup, and Sam’s Club lasagnas.
I wonder if she worried she was holding us back. I wonder if voices from her childhood still rang in her ears when she tucked me and my sisters into bed at night. If they told her lies about who she was, about how who she used to be was who she would always be.
I wonder if she believed them. If she still does.
Two nights ago, Adlai climbed into bed with me at 11:30.
“I’m just really stressed,” he says. (I worry he says this because of me.) “I’m worried about starting school tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry about that now,” I say, because I know he’s just tired. “That’s for tomorrow. Right now, all you have to do is rest.”