She rises at 5:30 to start her long day. A shower, some coffee, a heavy sigh, a moment alone. She does her hair and makeup before the sun rises. A brush of the teeth, a layer of lipstick, a wry little jokeresque smile. She looks at the little lines on her eyes, sighs, then puts her game face on, its time to go. The doors are tossed open the covers pulled back, sleepy eyes open to thin light from the hallway afar. The first two are moving, then its down the stairs, the last two still sleeping, time ticking, alarm sounding, no response. A gentle rock of the hand, a slight whisper in ear. The last two have awoken, they stretch rise and get dressed. Breakfast is a hustle, like that of a subway coffee stand. A bagel, a doughnut, some cereal, or toast. Four other people, begging for help, wanting some food, needing their hair brushed, gathering some thoughts.
Lunches are made she is feeling the pressure, the clock is ticking departure is near. One goes to high school and starts zero period. Three go to elementary school their arrival is eminent. The dogs are outside playing with glee, the goat and the horses munch quietly on their breakfast of oats and hay. The two oldest return with reports on the animals well-being, subjects are changed, backpacks are filled, home work is gathered now head to the car with five minutes to spare. One last cup of coffee before heading away, only to find no one has a jacket, two forgot their lunches and one wants to argue about whether or not his pants are too dirty to go to school that day.
As she pulls out the driveway, one in the back screams he forgot his clarinet, the car turns around and in a jiffy she’s back where they started. It’s at this point she can feel the pressure truly mount. The high schoolers grade gets dinged if he’s late and we are ten miles from town. Nine times out of ten they make it in time, but he is now grumpy for this is the tenth time. She rushes across town to the elementary school and finds her parking spot. You see this is where she works, her three children now turn into thirty. Thirty kids who all need the same attention as that of her three. A deep breath a moment in the car, a poised smile on the face, a whistle in hand and before she can catch her breath she is directing hundreds of other parents where to park and drop off their little angels. As these parents drive some give her the nod. The nod of “I understand what you’re going through right now” the gesture is returned with appreciation. Some simply smile, some wave. Some are truly glad to see her for she brightens their day and some are so self-absorbed they wish she would just get out-of-the-way.
In a flash it is done not before she is frozen by the mornings bitter air. But she turns on her heels and steps into the hallway that leads to her room where her partner reveals, the plans for the day and the lesson to be learned. Its assist a child over here, adore a child there, its bathroom breaks and sorry mishaps. Its challenges met and opportunities missed, its laughing and crying and some throwing fits. It’s a fine ballet of tag team education where the goal always remains the same; send children home with more brain power than they came to school with that particular day. Teachers and parents, administrators and children, she feels attached to them all both mentally and emotionally. By the end of the day she feels a strong sense of accomplishment and a foreboding sense of exhaustion. For she understands the day is not done and as she winds down from thirty daughters and sons, she’s left facing the remaining three that need her the most.
A half hour break then the pick-up begins, first the little ones then the high schooler and before she knows which way is up and which way is down she has a car full of the most important children she knows. One would think the day was over, but not for our girl, she still has grocery shopping to do, animals to feed and horses that need riding. Stalls need cleaning and friends who have looked forward to seeing her are happy she is there at the barn. The smallest ones are tired, and grumpy is rearing its ugly head. Squabbles and bickering are broken up, feelings are hurt and she does her best to referee. A sit in the car, a timeout, a strong reprimand along with a please say your sorry thrown in for good measure. A parent is apologized to for some inappropriate behavior, it’s always met with an “its ok I had kids once that age too” then the nod of understanding soon follows.
By the time she returns home 12 hours have passed, it’s homework and dinner, showers and bedtime stories. The kids once again take care of the dogs, put out the trash, quickly pick up their rooms and get ready for bed. If she’s lucky everyone gets along and it all goes swimmingly. If she’s not lucky its reminiscent of a gang fight at Pelican bay.
By eight things have started to wind down, a few dishes are washed, a load of laundry is done, some clothes are folded. The two little ones have laid down their heads. they are fast asleep as the worries of a hard day, education and playing have taken its toll on their little frames. The two older ones have finally settled down, one is reading, the other is quietly watching a hunting show. She slowly for the first time today starts to let her guard down. A glass of wine and some brain-dead TV usually do the trick.
As the warmth of the wine settles into her soul, one child goes up to bed and the oldest stays up just a smidge longer. You see he knows what is going to happen next. At fifteen he is starting to grasp the strains of a fully scheduled day. He also holds quite a bit of responsibility as older brother to his younger siblings. He switches channels and gazes across the room, checking so carefully not to disturb her for he knows it will happen quite soon. Another glass is poured and before it can be savored. She simply slips off to sleep, so soundly, so quietly, the comfort of white noise, good wine and a soft comforter are more than her frayed senses can handle.
He lets her sleep for a while then carefully wakes her. He points her in the right direction, waiting for her to make it to the top of the stairs. He turns out the lights, locks the doors and sends himself to bed. She clears the top of the stairs, takes a warm shower where she washes away the emotional grime of the day. Slowly she makes it into her empty bed, she mumbles, she grumbles and turns on the TV. You see white noise makes it easier to fall asleep when you are all alone. When you are a single parent. When you need some form of comfort after a hard day. And as she drifts off into the land of dreams and serenity she thinks about the day he will return to give her the break she so desperately seeks. Ahhhhhh sleep.
5:30 am the alarm goes off……
This is truly a typical day for my wife. I wrote this out of admiration for her, for all the wives of public servants, true single parents and military personnel who are gone for days, weeks, months and in the case of the military years at a time. As a firefighter I am not home for a guaranteed 10 days a month. Though most months its closer to 12-14 days. That is half a month away from our families and our wives. They are amazing people to be married to us, and yet at the same time be alone as single parents. Its never easy for a couple, I respect you all and promise to give all I have as a father and friend when I am home. Out of respect for you..
I love you Jacy……….