First, thanks for all the comments and support for my last post. I really do think that there’s a lot of angst involved with that issue on all sides and it’s nice to hear that there are so many of us in the same boat. My mom was here for a few days at the end of last week and into the weekend, and it was very interesting to talk to her about her choices as well. She didn’t “work outside the home” when I was a kid, but was one of the kinds of stay at home mothers that I hope I would have been. She was the master of homemade everything. Seriously – everything. Up to and including wedding dresses. And she volunteered a lot as well. Turns out, even finding balance with all that volunteering was difficult. There are no easy answers. But I’ll move on from that to a very much related topic.
While she was visiting, I was amazed at the number times I found myself saying to my mom: “Yes, I used to! But I haven’t done that since John was born.” I haven’t made any clothes, knit anything, recovered furniture or refinished furniture in the past five years. My closets are stacked with projects that I haven’t gotten around to. I just don’t find time for that sort of thing.
John’s not one of those kids who will go and keep himself busy with games or toys. I know of those kids, and I’m in awe of them. I think their parents should get medals. But I don’t have one of those. John likes having the full attention of one or more adults at all times. So for the past five years, I feel like I’ve been “on duty” almost all the time.
But just in the past few weeks, I’ve started to feel like there’s a corner being turned. John will suddenly spend time setting up and playing a card game on his own. He’ll spend time reading books in the morning or the afternoon. He created a “museum” using cards from a memory game last weekend and a complicated version of checkers that involves dinosaurs and Star Wars characters.
Possibly the biggest change came today at the bookstore. Now, I’m not saying the Vermont Book Shop is like church to the Jennings, but you are a lot more likely to find us there on a Sunday. We’ve probably been in that bookstore once every week or two since John was born. But I’ve spent most of that time reading books or answering questions about the puppets in the back.
Today, out of nowhere, was different. John walked right back to the kids books, picked out two that he thought he might be interested in (Star Wars, of course) and spent about 45 minutes reading through them and deciding which one he might want. I spent that 45 minutes looking at books, reading recommendations, and generally acting like a grown up in a bookstore.
So civilized! So companionable! It felt almost like a vision of what might come in the future. I imagine afternoons spent in bookstores near and far (Powell’s! Northshire! Bunch of Grapes! Strand! Elliot Bay!) with both quiet time and thoughtful discussion. Some reading together, but also some browsing apart.
I feel like, very quietly, we’re turning a corner. I’m not trying to rush this process — I’m a big sap about John as a little boy, and he can take as much time as he wants to grow up. It’s just interesting to notice that something is happening. Today, I had grown up time in a bookstore. Someday, I’ll start stripping paint again. Today, John was hanging out reading books. Someday, he’ll have a whole life of his own, and mine will change all over again.