Real Life

The languid fan-breezed days of summer have drifted away, and September's maze of activities are settling on my shoulders like a cement block. The new desk-sized calendar, my one back-to-school extravagance, is quickly becoming a road map to a funny farm. I am hopeful they have one by the sea.

Back-to-school days signal a time of impossible schedules and tired children, not to mention moms and dads. It is a time when reality bites back, reminding me I am not invincible. Also the long days of summer will give way to the hectic days of homework, football games, weekend birthday parties, fundraisers, and reflections that materialize from an exhausted cerebral cortex and border on desperation.

My rope became threadbare the first week in October last year and what follows is a vent I intend to laugh about next summer while sipping mint julep and waiting for the ice cream churn to render another container of heaven.

I intended to have children. I wasn't surprised -- but I wasn't prepared either. I don't have a clue why Jonathan walks around cocking an imaginary shotgun or why Maggie scales every piece of furniture wide enough to get a toe hold. Well, that isn't exactly true, I do know why they act like children. THEY ARE CHILDREN! Did anyone notice I talk to myself?

I have been a mom for a decade and treasure every crayon mark on my newly painted walls, but that doesn't mean I don't long to finish a sentence, go to the potty, uh I mean bathroom, alone, or shop any place I don't have to use a cage on wheels. For you see, loving your children and having a life aren't mutually exclusive agendas, at least that's what the politically correct say. And I have read this statement hundreds of times, but personally speaking, putting the plan into action is like trying to coax a two-year-old into doing anything.

Granted my delegating skills are almost nonexistent. I think I should be able to do it all while painting Maggie's room so she will find it more attractive than say - MINE. I should be able to handle any little surprise that comes along like a birthday party that requires a 120-mile round trip, and an arcade full of quarter-eating machines I don't know about until I get there.

I should be able to do this because I am Mom and moms always make their children happy - right? Well, maybe on "Nick at Nite," but not this real life mom, especially when she is low on blood sugar, her child spends her French fry money at the arcade, and there's no ATM in sight.

So I sit in my car starving and glaring at the dark sky in Levis that should have been worn ten pounds down the road. I am being squeezed to death by the very denim I've dreamed of wearing through years of pregnancy and Oreo stress management. I think my coveted denim might kill me as my bladder begins to sing out a powerful warning, but I can't go to the bathroom. Maggie, my toddler, is prostrate in the backseat, exhausted after a tantrum of mammoth proportions. I can't seem to explain to her that we didn't leave her birthday-partying brother to be killed on a foreign skating rink.

Meanwhile, my trip to the mall, where I would be standing upright and walking fat off instead of sitting where it expands, has been canceled due to Mags's impromptu nap. So here I sit in my too-tight jeans with a bladder that is about to explode. Did I mention it's raining buckets? Okay -- I'm wallowing -- but sometimes I deserve to wallow, and now, as it rains and I can't manage a good breath, seems the perfect time.

How did I get into this situation? Well, it all began two weeks before school started when I was pushed out of my hammock and shoved into the mall to shop for back-to-school clothes with hundreds of other summer-loving moms who would rather be outside swatting mosquitoes. Now I know shopping was just the tip of the yogurt cone.

Before the month ended, my calm "destressed" self became a Camry driving maniac who, about mid-October, decided to just... "go with it." I plugged in an old Aerosmith tape and jammed right along with the beat of that month.

Stress, I figured out, is 90% perception and 10% reality. September will always come around, blowing into our lives like an energetic two-year-old -- if we're lucky.

It just takes a bit of adjustment.