White Noise

Suddenly I have become the parent of a child old enough to attend school. Real school. Where they wear backpacks and have a dress code (all those lovely sundresses bought this summer — not ok). Real school, where the library is called the media center ( —Did you have a media center when you went to school, Mama? — No, it was just called the library then. We didn’t have media!) Real school, which I now realize was not what came before this. Real school — my child is out of my purview for seven hours. She eats lunch in the cafeteria, for God’s sake, and I have no idea if a vegetable has passed between her lips at lunchtime since August 13, the day school started. And there’s not a whole heck of a lot I can do about it: all I can do is hope she’ll make good choices.

Which actually, now that I think about it, is about all I’ll be able to do about anything, from now on. Hope my kids make good choices, and that I’ve given them decent tools to do so. That’s my job — the rest is up to them and whatever higher power you choose to give credit to.

The enormity of this state of affairs has left a number of my colleagues seriously discomforted. (“Colleagues” as in motherhood has become temporarily, or not, at least one of the jobs they hold; “colleagues,” because most of the conversations I have with them resemble the water-cooler trivialities you exchange at work).

Me, even though I have a younger child still at home, I feel free. Or maybe not free, but free-er. Also anxious. This could be my chance to have a couple of adult thoughts long enough for them to actually run their course, without being interrupted by someone under four feet tall who has a question, a need, a desire to watch television, is hungry, thirsty, wants me to wipe their nose, their bottom, wants to tell me what they want to do, what they don’t want to do, what they did, what they didn’t do, or maybe just wants to illustrate their complete and utter control over me by laying their head in their sister’s lap so that said sister will pull her hair and I, the Mother, will then say, in the tone of voice used by mothers for millenia: if you don’t want her to pull your hair, don’t put your head in her lap!

What if, when all that white noise goes away, there’s nothing left? What if those adult thoughts aren’t really worth much? What if…

This is the reason people have more children. Or keep their kids out of preschool longer than most. Yeah, once I mourned the loss of my sense of self but now I’m not so sure — outside of the ugly but comfortable Keen shoes, the bermuda shorts, the dated haircut, in short, outside of being a mom — who that self really is.

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