Cars and Vans And Things That Go

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When Alex was a baby, the time I felt most secure in my role as a mother (outside of nursing) was bath time. At bath time, I knew what I was supposed to do. There was a structure to it, and he loved it, so I felt confident that I was seeing to both his physical and his developmental needs.

The rest of the time I was a little nervous. What exactly does one do with a baby all day? What if I didn’t read enough, or play enough? Or read the wrong things or played the wrong things? What if I didn’t give him enough tummy time? At bath time, at least, I knew I was being a good mom.

For some reason I thought of this yesterday as I was chauffeuring. 8:15–preschool dropoff. 9–to Jazzercise. 10–back home for morning nap. 1–preschool pickup. 3:15–kids in the van in anticipation of Julianna’s arrival on the bus. 3:30–Julianna off the bus and into the van. 3:45–to the orthotist to pick up her repaired shoe inserts. 4–pick up Alex at after care. 4:15–piano lesson. 4:45–head home. 6:30–head out with Alex and Julianna to EEE open house. 7:20–head for adaptive swim. 7:40: take Alex home for bed, get the boys ready for bed. 8:15–pick up Julianna and finally head home for the night.

Yesterday was the worst day yet this year, but I’m sure there are many days like it to come. I spent the whole day with an undercurrent of anxiety bubbling in my chest, a sense of hurry hurry hurry. The only time it eased at all was when I was in the car. And although I wouldn’t say I had exactly the same sense of purpose that I used to have at bath time, I couldn’t help noting the parallel. Because when I was driving from point A to point B, I knew I was doing exactly what had to be done.

Taxi time is a necessary evil that everybody tolerates, but nobody really enjoys. With the exception of crossing through the construction zones. That makes every trip worthwhile, even for me. Luckily, our city is in the midst of a huge highway-intersection project, which we have to go through every day. (Ahem. Did I just say “luckily”?)

This is a sign of crossing into a new stage in our family. In the nursing era this sort of schedule would have been enough to cause a nervous breakdown; now that all the kids can walk themselves to the car and “snack” means graham cracker instead of latch time, one set of complications has been cleared away. And just in time, too.

I tend to compare everything about my life to the way it was when I was a child. Realistically this is a poor comparison, because the children in my family were more spread out in age and we all went to the same school, which offered bus service for the first few years. Nonetheless, I can’t help feeling that we spend a lot more time in the car than I did when I was a child. And it’s very tempting to pass judgment on myself for that. To feel like we’re overcommitted and that we’re not giving our family what it deserves.

But the more I think about it, the more I remember one parent or another heading off to MRL or Farm Bureau or road district or prayer group. And the more I think about it, I realize that my sisters and I had piano and gymnastics and cheerleading and basketball and music group at church. When you have four kids, you’re going to have a lot going on. When one of them has a disability that requires her to attend a different school, there’s going to be scheduling headaches. That’s the way it is, simply part of this season of life. No sense griping or feeling inadequate over it.