This year. It’s difficult to know where to begin…
At the beginning of 2013, I was in Puerto Rico with my husband, enjoying a week of respite in the warm sand. It was a much-needed getaway for the two of us, then both working full-time jobs, and Joe of course still plugging away at school as well. Our kids, in the meantime, enjoyed a week at home with the beloved Megan, reminding her why she has plenty of time to delay having kids of her own in favor of a quiet life at college. Ha.
Aside from Puerto Rico, last winter/spring was kind of a roller coaster. The winter lasted forever, and it seemed spring would never come. I felt the same way inside. It was becoming more obvious to me by the minute that something would have to change in my work life. Whether we knew it consciously or not, it was having an effect on all of us. Seth suddenly started throwing enormous tantrums about going to his previously-loved daycare every morning, and I of course was feeling that it was no longer worth it in that sense. Even though nothing had changed there, even though he was still receiving the same loving care and plenteous outdoor time that had drawn me to it years ago, he had had enough after 1.5 years. And it was a reflection of my own feelings about my work. My colleagues were still (largely) wonderful people. I loved the kids. But it was not where I wanted to be anymore. I knew that when the school year wrapped, I would have to be done. There was some other calling for me. I just had to figure out what it was.
I can’t overstate the value in having a supportive partner. Did you know that Joe never once complained when my work made me stressed, but simply rolled up his sleeves and helped serve ice cream or set up art galleries or whatever needed doing? He did not suggest I leave the job when it came to decision time at the end of each school year, but he was thrilled for me when I said I needed to be done. He would not have minded at all if I had chosen to sit at home without an objective until I figured out what I wanted to do. And he was so, so excited when I sent off a tentative little chat one day from my desk at work: “I think I might want to be an ECFE teacher? In the parent room?” ”YES. YES. YES.” was then and everafter the reply. Yes, graduate school. Yes, hectic weekday evenings trading off kid-rearing duties. Yes, pizza again for dinner because you were busy working on school stuff this afternoon. Yes, yes, yes.
As May and June brought warmer days: gay marriage became legal in MN. I finally got 8 inches of hair to cut off and made the chop. And this summer, with the decision made and the big school event wrapped and the goodbyes made and the acceptance from the graduate program in hand was nothing short of glorious. I read 100 books. I hung out with my kids. We made our annual trip to see the fabulous Great Aunt Betty in IL, and the kids still think it’s a vacation. We spent an incredible amount of time at the pool, and I didn’t even get too much sunburn. In fact, I got a little bit tan. The MN contingent hosted the first Shultz Open in more than a decade, and it was so so good. I refilled my introverted tank with plenty of solitary activity and felt refreshed. I think my kids would agree: best.summer.EVER. (though I do aspire to top it again this year!)
When fall came ’round, and the kids all went back to school, Seth finally got what he was hoping for: some time alone with me, like when he was younger. We would while away the mornings, snuggling on the couch and eating together and sometimes even going on brief errands together before getting him ready for his afternoon at preK. And he LOVES preK with as much passion as he’d displayed in disliking his last few months at his former preschool. We fell into an easy pattern, all of us: I had plenty of time to work on my graduate studies and pick my kids up at the end of their school day, help with homework and cook dinner and it all feels so balanced. I can’t tell you how grateful I’ve felt, to be back at school (yes, GRATEFUL for schoolwork!) learning new things, and having the chance to focus just on school and my family.
As the year came to a close, we enjoyed the loveliest, most protracted autumn in recent memory until one day winter smacked us in the face with its icy hand. But you know what? It’s all okay. All the sudden change did was remind me of how quickly life can shift and, while I know that sometimes it is for the worse, in 2013 it was all for the better.
Thanks, 2013. You did right by me.