The other day after Tommy had made no less than 87 messes in 60 minutes--this includes him banging on my laptop keyboard and losing the covering for the "a" key, so if I miss any "a's" in this post, you'll know why--I couldn't help thinking back to the days when I was unencumbered by children.
You know, those glorious days when you were never accompanied in the shower--unless you wanted the company, of course.
I used to be able to go to the bathroom with no visitors. And when I sat down to eat, I could do so in peace with no interruptions whatsoever.
I don't even bother to close the bathroom door anymore. It's easier to just let the kids come and go while I take care of my business, since it is very unsettling and distracting to listen to kids screeching, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, let me INNNNNNNN!" outside the door.
This, all so I can take care of dire emergencies that couldn't possibly wait the 3.7 minutes it would take me to wrap things up. You know, emergencies like having a granola bar that Charlotte can't unwrap; those sorts of crises need immediate attention, you know.
Errands were infinitely easier to run. I saw a man coming out of the grocery store the other day with just a box of popsicles. I couldn't help but think how crazy it was to run to the store for one item. That was when I remembered back when I could run into a store and be done faster than you can unbuckle a car seat.
It takes 15 minutes just to rustle everyone into the car fully clothed and shod. Never mind having to remember to grab Tommy's blanket and bring a sippy cup of "ice cold water, mommy" for Charlotte.
And then I have to contend with kids bickering and begging for treats. "Please, mommy, we need TWO bags of Cheetos. Please, please, please. I will die if you don't buy them for me. Aahaaahhhhhh!" I think you know of which I speak.
Back then, in my life before kids, Bil and I actually went on dates. Even after we were married. Shocking, I know, but true. We rode our bikes all over Chicago and went to movies when the mood struck us. We even ate at restaurants that did not have play lands or kids' meals.
Going on a date takes herculean effort and advance planning, not to mention expense. By the time I have hunted down a babysitter and then cleaned the house so the sitter won't report to her mom how slovenly we are, prepared dinner, gotten the kids ready for bed, and hunted down all three of their blankets, I don't have the energy to go out anymore.
I could exercise without getting up before dawn. Not that I did it all that often, but still. I could have, if I had wanted to.
If I don't get up at 5:30 to exercise, it becomes next to impossible to get a full workout in. Charlotte always decides to join me in my aerobicizing, so I spend much of the workout pleading with her to take her Care Bears and clear out of my way or one of us is going to end up with a sprained ankle. And when I do any toning, I invariably have Tommy interfering. Either he comes super close to getting brained by my weights or kettlebell or he is climbing all over me while I am doing ab work, laughing all the way.
I could leave my belongings wherever I wanted and feel confident they would still be there when I came back to retrieve them.
If I leave my purse on a chair--which I unwisely did a few weeks back--I will most likely come back to find a certain mischievous toddler--and much of my house--covered in my brand new lipstick.
And if leave the bathroom door open there's a good chance that the unnamed toddler will end up using my toothbrush to play in the toilet.
I had a job, one that I was pretty good at. One that actually paid me money to do. One where I received good reviews and had a bit of respect.
Charlotte informed me the other day that I was not the boss. Danny is.
And I get no money. The closest thing to a bonus I get are the hugs and kisses my kids bestow upon me throughout the day, which come to think of it, are much sweeter than a benefits package.
And instead of reviews from my principal or fellow teachers, I have kids who run to meet me when I have been gone for a few hours squealing about how happy they are to see me. I get the occasional compliment, like when Danny informed me the other day that I was "the best cooker in the whole world!" And I have kids who beg me to play with them, who want to spend time with me more than anyone else in the world, and who love to crawl into bed with me in the morning.
I knew nothing about being a special needs parent; I knew nothing about IEPs, SPD, OT, ST and ABA. The only things I knew about autism were from watching The Boy Who Could Fly and Rainman.
I know the heartache and loneliness that comes when you discover your kid is different. I know the sleepless nights spent worrying about my kid's future. I am well acquainted with many forms of treatment and therapy for SPD and autism. I am my kids' advocate.
I am now pretty good at calming any child down--I have become quite expert at distracting kids by rolling them in a blanket to play the "hot dog game," having them help me push on the walls to "make the room bigger," and finger painting with pudding.
I don't take things for granted like I used to. Now, when one of my children learns a new skill, I celebrate. I appreciate how much hard work it takes for Danny and Charlotte to function in spite of their sensory issues, and I notice their strengths and talents more than I might have had they not had these struggles.
And when Danny's report card came home the other day and the teacher wrote these simple, seemingly insignificant phrases: "Danny is a good example for others. He is kind, polite, well-mannered" I reread the words multiple times always with tears in my eyes.
You can probably guess that I wouldn't trade now for all the dates and mornings sleeping in for the world.
Visit the Spin Cycle and check out some other bloggers' take on the theme of "Then and Now."