My parents left yesterday after a two and half week visit. Mom cooked Thanksgiving dinner (and all the other dinners in between) and set up my Christmas tree. Dad fixed everything around the house that was broken, and what he broke while here (I swear my toilet automatically shuts down when it hears my father’s voice).
As I pulled away from the airport, I felt sad – sad that I wouldn’t see them again until this summer and sad that I was heading home to a half-empty house.I say “half” because while Ava’s here with me, my husband Ray is in Tokyo for a couple more days. My parents served as a nice buffer while he’s been gone, taking off some of the pressure to play rock-paper-scissors (Ava’s new favorite game) until neurosis or carpel tunnel sets in, whichever comes first. But now that they’re gone, it’s roshambo-a-rama.
Plus, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time engaged in strange, non-adult conversations. First there was the argument about Justin Beiber’s name. Ava swears it’s “Beaver.” It’s not. And I’m not willing to let that go. Then there was last night’s prison discussion. Ava wanted to know if I’ve ever been arrested (I haven’t) and then she told me she wants to see the inside of a jail. As far as I know, the county jail isn’t on the field trip calendar, but I’d like to honor her curiosity. So I said, “Okay.”
“Wow. I was not expecting that,” she replied.
Well, that’s one of the perks of having a husband like Ray. He’s like Mister Rogers. He’ll manage to book an all-access tour and easily answer all of her difficult questions appropriately – an area in which I often fail (you may recall my explanation that “God makes the water come out of the faucet”). Now I just have to stall until he comes home.
“The jail is closed this week.” I’m not proud.
It’s been 15 days since Ray left and not 24 hours since my parents got on their plane. One thing is painfully clear: I never want to be a single parent. It’s too hard.
But it’s not just that. There’s something else. I spent a long time last night trying to put my finger on the “something else.” After reading some “brave” anonymous-mom blast me on my blog for being a bad parent and overall bad person (apparently humor doesn’t always translate), I wanted someone to assure me that this woman was a complete moron and that I’m in fact, the greatest writer, mother, person on the planet.
Had my parents not left, they would’ve done just that. They’ve always been in my corner cheering their hearts out – albeit sometimes a little too enthusiastically (my Mom earned the nickname “the bucking bronco” for her seemingly involuntary whoops and gesticulations during my high school volleyball matches). I could’ve called a number of my closest friends, but it was late and this was about ego, not life or death. If Ava had been awake she would’ve hugged me and assured me that I’m the “best mommy ever.”
But most of the time, this responsibility falls on my husband for two reasons: general proximity and the fact that he’s so darn good at it. He gives pep talks that could inspire the blind to see. After 15 years, all I have to do is show him my frowny face and mumble, “I need a pep talk.” He delivers every time. Sometimes I even loan him out to friends in need. I needed him tonight – not just for the support, but for the love I’ve grown accustomed to getting. Come to think of it, I’ve needed him ever since we first met.
Because of my parents, I was lucky enough to expect that the people I surround myself with should be my biggest fans. They should be the ones willing and able to pick me up when I fall flat on my face. And if they’re not, I don’t need them. This has become especially important as I grow older and realize that whenever I put myself “out there” as a writer, teacher, parent, or basic human being, there’s always someone who thinks it’s their job to tell me how much I suck.
Lucky for me, my husband makes darn good earmuffs.