Tag Archives: parenting

A Weekend Without My Family Wasn’t as Good as I’d Hoped

img_7984My husband took my kids away for the weekend to see the University of Tennessee play Florida in football. Apparently this is a big deal, and the trip was planned six months in advance. So for six months I had this little gem in my pocket: I’m going to have a whole weekend alone in my house. I was fascinated by the idea, so fascinated that I didn’t tell anyone, lest I be tricked into making plans.

It had been 16 years since I’d been alone for an entire weekend. I was pregnant with my second child, and my husband took our two-year-old to see his parents. I spent the first day nauseous on the couch, watching a 7th Heaven marathon. Jessica Biel’s angst as the teenage daughter of a minister seemed to settle my stomach. On the second day, I perked up and went to Staples and bought a label maker and established a color-coded filing system for every piece of paper in our apartment.

I no longer recognize this person as myself.

So when faced with the opportunity to have a weekend alone in my house again, I jumped at it with more curiosity than anything else. What would this present day person do with a whole weekend? What would I eat if I was cooking for one? Left to my own devices, who am I?

I like to tell myself that I’d write all the time if it weren’t for my family. They’re obviously the only thing standing between me and the New York Times Bestseller List. I mean if they would just stop asking me for food and rides every ten minutes, I could really get stuff done. I wondered if this time alone would be just what I needed to unleash my inner genius, or if freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

So I dropped them at the airport on Friday afternoon and raced back home to see what my house felt like without the ESPN jingle on a loop. It was glorious. I cleaned up and then noticed how it stayed cleaned up. I sat in the silence for a while, listening and waiting to see what I’d do next. I had the whole evening ahead of me to follow my personal bliss. That bliss took the form of a three-hour documentary on the Jonbenét Ramsey murder. When it was over I switched channels and found another, slightly different version of the same documentary. Note to the New York Times bestseller people: It was bedtime and I still had not written a word.

On Saturday I was scheduled to be at a book festival all day. I drove home slowly; no one was waiting for dinner. I entered my empty, clean house and immediately put on the TV to check the score of the game my family had traveled to see. It was the 4rd quarter before I realized I was still sitting there watching football, alone, on my own precious time. I started to panic a little. I imagined JK Rowling and Lee Woodruff alone in their homes banging furiously at their keyboards. They probably don’t even have TVs, and here I was chained to mine, watching something with neither characters nor a plot. But it really was a great game.

On Sunday I woke up a little humbled. It seems that if you unshackled me and opened the prison door, I’d happily just stay put. I hadn’t done a single thing, hadn’t typed a single word all weekend. And I had only six hours left. I noticed it was this scarcity of time that got me moving. I sat down and wrote for six hours straight. I turns out it’s the structure of my family that helps me get anything done. They are a deadline, the three o’clock pick up or the six o’clock meal. Without them, maybe I’m just a person who watches a lot of Dateline.

img_7961So my fantasy of productive solitude wasn’t what I thought. There’s an exchange of energy that happens with my family – I give, but I also take. Yes, I enjoyed having the couch to myself. Yes, I enjoyed eating popcorn and peanut M&Ms for dinner. But you’d better believe I arrived at the airport a whole hour early to pick them up.

Jigsaw Puzzles With Toddlers

If you’ve ever done a jigsaw puzzle with a two year old, you know what it means to run through the entire range of human emotions. You hope, you cringe, you pull your hair out. At some point, you’ll be disgusted, elated and then relieved. It’s a worthy exercise, and its success depends on your… Continue Reading

After Graduation, The Leaving Period

A year ago, a friend of mine whose child had just graduated from high school suggested I write an article about this big milestone. I thought about it and decided to wait. It would have been like writing a guidebook about Paris based on internet research, without actually going there and seeing the light, smelling… Continue Reading

Greatest Mother in the World Spotted in YMCA Parking Lot

As published in the Rye Record on January 22, 2016 I saw a woman leaving the YMCA yesterday with a baby strapped to her chest, another, slightly larger one in a stroller, and a three year old holding her hand. She was infested with small children. I stopped to watch. How in the world are… Continue Reading

Why It’s Impossible to Write a Good College Admission Essay

As published in The Week on June 25, 2015 As the parent of a rising high school senior, I’ve been to my fair share of college information sessions lately. The admissions officer always concludes with the same set of comments about the application: namely, that the college essay must capture your true and authentic voice… Continue Reading

Giving Away the Old Books (and grabbing half of them back!)

As Published in The Rye Record on April 17, 2015 I admit that I’m unusually attached to paper. Words on paper, to be specific. I save select cards, notes and love letters in a box that I’ve been carting from state to state for nearly thirty years. Those letters have an energy to them, the visual… Continue Reading

Death, Taxes and Dinner

As Published in The Rye Record on February 6, 2015 Much is made of death and taxes. Their unavoidability, the fact that they are always hanging, ominously, just over our shoulders. But death comes about only once in a lifetime, and tax season’s just once a year. Dinner, on the other hand, happens every day.… Continue Reading

Warning: It’s Christmas, Mom Might Snap

As published in The Huffington Post on December 18, 2014 One of my favorite holiday traditions is watching stuff I’ve seen a hundred times and sobbing in front of my television. By the time Harry Bailey says, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town,” I’m pretty much a mess. Among these odes… Continue Reading

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