Before this past Labor Day, I never understood why my friends with school age kids dropped off the radar as soon as the calendar turned from August to September.
What was wrong with them? The weather would be perfect and the kids would be back under the supervision of their teachers for a significant portion of the day. Free time (among those who stay home) should have been abundant. So why were they always so frazzled and unavailable?
The French have a word for it: la rentree. Literally, the re-entry.
There are mornings when getting out the door in time for pre-school is not unlike preparing to rocket into the outer layers of the atmosphere. The Grape has been late four times running. Why? Search me. One thing is certain: It's not due to anyone over sleeping. I really have no idea where the hours before nine go, because I'm usually not fully caffeinated before it's time to leave for drop off.
Contrast this with my pre-Grape life, wherein my friends remarked often on my punctuality, and I routinely made it to important breakfast appointments looking professional, alert and generally unlikely to damage my career through frazzled behavior.
I didn't expect the shake up in the normal rhythms of our household caused by the opening weeks of school to be so seismic. And I don't mean the crying and protests, which any preschool parent can expect to endure, and which have already tapered off to perfunctory levels. The real problem is that school seriously screws up our already tenuous sleep patterns.
The Grape naps at preschool, for roughly an hour. He thinks that, combined with his ever-shortening nights (averaging not much more than nine hours this week), should be enough. It's not.
Every day after school, I have a hysterical, delirious little maniac on my hands, who howls that he's hungry, but refuses to eat. Who screams that he wants to go to bed, only to up the ante to nuclear meltdown when I put him there. Who demands to go across the street to the playground, only to loll, half-conscious, yet stubbornly awake, on the little kid swings.
When he doesn't have school, he plays catch up on snooze time. He logged an almost four-hour nap yesterday, scuttling our exciting plans to visit the grocery store and dog park. Sure, I got some work done, but the little guy didn't go to sleep for the night until after ten. And woke up before six. His teachers should have fun with that today. Then of course, if he manages to get a real nap in at school, he'll be prematurely awakened by eager parents who refuse to wait until the prescribed pick up time. But I digress.
Why is this discombobulation such a problem? Because even when my chronically under-rested little scholar is awake after school, he most certainly isn't fit to go in public. Not even on errands, let alone to visit friends or eat out. I can't even manage a phone conversation in the after-school hours, because the Grape is on me like cling wrap when he gets over tired.
I frequently remind myself that enrolling him in school gives me time to work. And yes, pre-school may take the Grape off my hands for almost eighteen hours a week, and I'm sure once we make the adjustment, I will get a lot of writing done. Maybe I'll cut my email response time down to under a week. That would be impressive, right?
But the whole re-entry thing also leaves me more than a little cold with mommy guilt. Disclaimer: I know and appreciate I have a high class problem here, and am thankful to have the ability to make these choices in the first place... But why am I subjecting my child to a school routine, when he doesn't need to go to daycare so that I can work to support us?
During the last after-school delirious meltdown, I reminded myself of three points: First: If I want to write, I need blocks of child care time that exceed his haphazard naps. Because anyone who says they work from home "WHILE" watching their kid is, excuse the bluntness, a liar.
Second: I am happier, and therefore hopefully a better mom, when I have time to indulge my career-slash-dream.
Third: The Grape is an only child who loves being around other kids. He always tells me school was fun when I pick him up. And pre-school is more affordable than hiring a regular sitter - not that fabulous nannies who want to work very reduced hours grow on trees, at least not in Boston. Families tend to hang onto them, for good reason.
I'm just going to keep telling myself all this until everyone adjusts, which will hopefully be sometime before the holiday break. And in the meantime, if I owe you a call, or an email, or if I should have proofread this post, I apologize.
But I'm going to be late to pick up.