Here's the deal: when you're a 24/7 single parent to a curious toddler, you don't get any time off. You're either working, cooking, cleaning, or relocating something so it's out of baby's reach. If you have any spare time in there, you get to play with your child. And then there's grocery shopping (which is never ever ever ever done without a baby in the cart). And that's the deal 7 days a week. Weekends don't exist. Not really. Weekends are the same, just without the "work" part. But you substitute the "working" time of your day with more cooking, more cleaning, more relocating items. It's nonstop. All day, every day. And sometimes all night.
So again, June was a difficult month. I was involved in so many engagements on the weekends, all with very special people. And because I hail from the other side of the state, all of these weekend engagements were [oh yes] out of town. A 2.5+ hour drive, to be exact. And because I spent almost every weekend packing up myself and a baby, driving a total of 5+ hours, and then frolicking with my dear ones on the other side of the state, my own housekeeping suffered tragically (so did my pocketbook; those trips are not cheap). The dishes sit in the sink, waiting to be washed. The kitchen floor hosts a fleet of dirt and crumbs that will make me cringe Sunday night when I walk barefoot across them. The bathroom sink needs to be wiped down, and nearly every mirror in my house boasts smudgy handprints, tiny whispers of "Sol was here." Dirty clothes lie heaped in various hampers and baskets, unsorted and waiting to be laundered. The floor still remains dotted with Cheerios and fuzzies, waiting to be vacuumed. Blankets are strewn across the living room and pillows are on the floor. Toys have made their way across the. entire . living. room. Their receptacle waits, silent and empty in the corner. These are things that I generally take care of over the weekend. And when I spend a weekend away from home, I'm essentially taking 3 days of my week and depositing them directly into the dumpster. I arrive home from the weekend and I can hear my house jeering at me: "Oh, you thought you could keep up your housework this month? Ha."
On those Sunday evenings I exhaust my energy and my sanity: trying to entertain a child who is growing more and more difficult to entertain, trying to wash the dishes, trying to cook meals for my vegetarian child to send to daycare with her, trying to do the dishes between toting laundry baskets of clothes upstairs and downstairs, then down to the basement and then alllll the way upstairs again, then downstairs, then [because I'm trying to make my life as difficult as possible] upstairs again, then downstairs and over a screaming baby, then downstairs, then back to the dishes. Then it's bathtime, bedtime, and somehow I still have 3 loads of laundry to do before Monday morning.
On those Sunday evenings I feel weak. Sol has gotten to the point where 2.5 hours in a car is too long. She's developed this rule where she will only sit quietly in the car for (at most) 2 hours. The second we pass through Battle Creek, her screaming begins. I turn up the music and carry on because I know there is a houseful of chores desperately awaiting our arrival. We park the car at home after a half-hour of hell, I haul the overnight bags, my child, and miscellanea up the sidewalk to my front door. My child rolls on the floor, screams erupting from her mouth and tears streaming down her face. She's been hot, sweaty, and strapped down for 2.5 hours. I step over her, tears streaming down my face as well, as I dash around our otherwise-silent house. Those Sunday evenings are not easy. Those Sunday evenings leave me questioning everything: whether this is worth seeing my family and friends; whether I should bother living this close and if I moved far away maybe people wouldn't expect me to drive 2.5 hours every weekend. They leave me questioning whether I'm a good mom for shoving my daughter into an overheated backseat for 5 hours every weekend; questioning my abilities as the head of our household since I can't even keep the mirrors clean.
The Sunday evening weakness builds up within me and before long, I morph into a machine as I bathe and dress my daughter. I am emotionless, just a blank stare as I get her ready for bed. I am consumed by weakness, exhaustion, loneliness, as I zip up her pajamas. There are no more tears to cry, there are no more frustrations to scream into a pillow. I am spent. The weakness has defeated me. And in a last-resort effort to keep my defeat and loneliness a secret from my daughter, her bedtime routine becomes silent and mechanical. This is the only way I can think of to prevent pushing my frustrations onto her.
So we sit there on the couch, reading a book (or "bupp," in Solayan). Not really reading. Sol climbs on my lap. Then she turns around to face me, and holds the "bupp" out to me. I open to the first page and she turns around again and flips through the first half of the book. She points at the book, then at me, then at the sofa, then at the pillow; a new game in which she asks me to tell her what everything is. I tell her once in English, then once in Spanish. She clutches her pink bunny and lays her head on my chest. I wonder just how silent and mechanical I've been. Is she checking to see that I'm alive? Is she listening to my heart, checking that this is still the same heart whose beat has lulled her to sleep in the past? She walks her fingers up my chest, up my chin and onto my lips. I bite them gently and she laughs. And that laughter destroys every inanimate shred of my Sunday-night self. Her laughter ignites some flame behind my mechanical stare and forces my human eyes open. I suddenly see my daughter, really see her.
I realize that I miss my daughter. Yes, I'm holding her, but somehow I miss her nonetheless. My heart has resigned from all other duties but to love her. And on those weak Sunday nights, I hold her until she falls asleep. I put her to bed with a kiss, another kiss, and then one more before I lay her down. She lies on her belly, butt in the air, and within seconds she's snoring gently. I close her door and run downstairs to continue with the abandoned housework.
On those weak Sunday nights, after starting a load in the dishwasher and separating all the whites from the mountain of clothes in the basement, I'm drawn back to Sol. I run back upstairs to her bedroom. I stroke her silky hair and caress her tiny hands. As I watch her sleep, her right hand closes around my index finger. I stand there, bent over her crib for longer than I planned to. On those weak Sunday nights, I take comfort in the fact that I was strong enough to spend 9 months alone as I waited for this person, that I was strong enough to spend 9 hours in pain as my body struggled to bring her into the world. On those evenings of weakness, I am too weak to do anything but sit next to her crib in the dark nursery, comforted by the sounds of this tiny sleeping human who demands that I be strong enough for the both of us. I take comfort in every shred of strength that has shaped me into the mother I am. On those weak Sunday nights, I take comfort in the strength of my love for Sol.
And loving Sol is so easy.