Thursday, March 11, 2010

Off to work I go

In hindsight, it really didn't happen all that fast:

Two weeks ago, I applied for the reading specialist position in our local school district. Last week, I was called for an interview. A few days after that, I was called back for a second one. Tuesday, I was offered the job.

One can see a progression there. And yet, it all happened so fast.

I was driving the preschool car pool at the time, and had to pull over to take the call, and then get out of the car altogether to stand on the side of the road to escape the happy-five-year-old din in the backseat while I negotiated hours and spoke to human resources. I accepted the position, got back in the car (thank God the little rascals hadn't locked me out), shifted into drive, and blinked. In less than a week, I'd be working.

On Monday, in fact. And from there on out, Monday through Friday, every week.

I hear these hours are not unheard of in the working world (and I'm only working four hours a day). But it's still a shift for me. A major one. It's an added hat. It's a new plate I need to balance as it spins.

And after I ended that phone call, I felt a brief surge of victory that after ten years, I still had the ability to land a job (and still knew where my college diploma was located when I had to dig it out), before a subtle weight that felt suspiciously like panic settled on my chest.

But I went about my day. Toby's and my day. We took the dog for a walk, Toby on mismatched inline skates (when I say mismatched, I mean he had on one of Calvin's, and one of Nate's). His little feet couldn't fill either one of them, and they wobbled and caved inward at the ankles while he pretended not to notice.

We walked and skated (and he fell and got back up), and he told me all about Avatar (not the blue ones, the cartoon ones, which are air benders). And I was confused, but I listened.

We made fruit and grain bars in our big Pampered Chef pan, and he licked the bowl.

When we were getting the mail, I asked him (as I might ask him 'apple juice or milk?'), whether he thought it would be fun to go to a place to play after preschool in the afternoons like his friend does. Because all the while we were baking and walking and talking, I was trying to figure out how all this--this life we have together--will work with a part-time job. And coming to the conclusion that it won't. Not in the same way, anyway.

He pursed his lips in thought, then came to a decision. "No thanks," he said, as casually as though he were declining a snack or dismissing a hand up from the pavement.

As though his time were completely his own. As though we're not all captives of circumstance and need at some point or another. (I know, I should never have asked him so directly!) But in his experience, we're not...captive. We're free agents, he and I, every day a new adventure. And I wished I could allow him to decide, because this--he--was the source of my panic: Toby, who is not yet old enough for full-time school. Who I didn't want to rush, didn't want to push out of this nest of a home too soon. Who is still with me most of every day:  for every lunchtime, every quiet time, each afternoon...that I'll now be working.

And I have a dozen reasons for taking this job. Not all of them are self-serving. Not even half of them. And as of yesterday, I've found a great place for him to spend his lunch and his early afternoon. And he's visited and likes it and now asks when he can start and whether he can have a lunchbox like his brothers'. And it'll work out, but the dull edge of that panic is still present, making me feel vulnerable. Making me feel defenseless.

Because being there has been my greatest tool in my parenting arsenal for many years. And yes, sometimes I've wanted something more or something different, but most of the time, I've valued my daily--hourly--presence in my children's lives like the great asset it is. I've protected it. I've cherished it and held it close to my heart and polished it like a rock in a tumbler.

Our tumbler. Our home.

And starting Monday, I have to let it go, for four hours a day.

(You can go ahead and tell me it will be ok now.)

If you have a neighbor this week, link up! (I'll have new neighbors guest posting here as well starting April 2nd.)

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