Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Quality of Life

Have you ever stopped to do a quality of life report? Have you ever stopped to assess your current life situation and ask yourself about its worth? I am doing that now. I think I decided to look at the quality of my life as I sat among the other middle school parents, waiting for my middle child, my last son, to step on stage and sing in his soft tenor. I was sitting in the audience, on hard school-issue chairs, trying to keep my very squiggly four-year-old still.

As the various choirs sang with their lovely, angelic voices, there was a silent war raging inside me as a stay-at-home mom, harried from all the running around of the day. I raced from one end of town to the other because my six-year-old had Daisy Scouts and welled up with puppy dog tears at the very mention of missing her monthly meeting. I can thank her troop leader for rescuing the night and offering to play chauffeur to my daughter after the troop meeting.

I quickly jumped into the drivers seat, interior warm against the winter blast, engine running as my thirteen-year-old sang his part in the front seat. He was oblivious of the prior stress he caused me this evening by not telling me about the concert until he came home from school today. Did he know I hadn't slept in three days because of his sisters illness and this was her first day back? Did he know I really wanted to cuddle up with them on this really chilly night and eat popcorn, have an impromptu Girls Night In since my husband was away on business? Did he even care? He was in his own mental, eighth-grade world, and the only thing that mattered was that I was at his beck-and-call. He had to make it the concert tonight, he was the only boy in the 8th grade concert singers and they needed his voice.

My heart was racing and my breath came in gasps as I willed the van to move faster. Once we arrived at the school and I practically pushed him out, I thought I would have a moment to exhale. My daughter had other things in mind. I parked the car and scurried her out-of-the van and did the "I'm late" run/walk/run/walk to the auditorium. We ended up sitting in the back and had time to take our coats off before the orchestra began their performance.

There are moments I wonder if I asked too much of her to sit still tonight. Her "ants-in-the-pants" performance exhausted every bit of nerve left in me and I was yearning for a latte and a vacation. I finally decided to give myself and my fellow patrons a break and ushered her out once my son sang his last number. We loitered in the hallway until the final choir took their bow and I could honestly say I was there for the entire performance. We did the walk/run/walk/run to the van against the December night.

On the drive home, I praised my son for his performance and congratulated him for making the all suburban 7th/8th grade concert choir. The moment was lost when he started teasing his sister and there was a round of "shut up stupids" and "be quiets" and "MOMs." Inside I kept wishing I had earplugs, a personal masseuse, and enough lattes to fill that giant teacup planter on my refrigerator.

As I turned the corner to my street and descended the hill, I thought about the quality of my life. I had one of those 43-year-old parent moments, a little tired of all the sacrifice, giving, and crying that accompany twenty years of motherhood. Was this what I thought my life would be like at this age? Did I remember what I wanted to be when I grew up? Is this the quality of life people strive for? Does that make me a bad mom for asking?

I sent my son to unlock the door and sat in the van, engulfed in the merciful silence of all bodies out. It was chilly and dark and for a moment, I just listened to the sweet sound of nothing. I came inside and looked at the toys strewn about the family room floor, the load of laundry waiting to be folded on the sofa, the left over juice forming ringlets in the glass, and inhaled the familiar.

In all the chaos, the messiness, the never-ending chores, the screams of sister to brother, the deafness of son to mother at chore time, the travels of my husband, the length of my days, I stopped and smiled. I love my life. I couldn't live anyone else's, even if I secretly wish my husband's salary could give me the maid, the cook, the chauffeur, the laundress, and the nanny that I mentally crave on nights like this. I sigh again as I listen to the playful songs of the girls as they shower for the night. They don't know I had a mini-mommy-meltdown on the way home and really just wanted to run to the beach somewhere, anywhere. I will join them upstairs for hugs, kisses, and love.

Tomorrow will be another day, and yes, I do have a good quality of life.

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