After spring break ended – sob – and three kiddos went off to school today, I tried taking our youngest, three in July, to the playcare thing at our gym.
It did not go well.
She’s been going on weekends for months now, with all three siblings, and it’s been great. She comes out proudly bearing scribbles and curls of tissue paper haphazardly glued to more tissue paper. She excitedly tells me about “the babies and the stwollers and the swide!”
I realize her brothers and sister were a built-in buffer, but while I’m working, I’ve left her alone almost every week for the last four months with a rotating crew – my mom, my brother and his girlfriend, my good friend. She seems to enjoy the solo time, and I was happy to be promoting a little bit of independence for number four.
Because all the while, I’ve been planning for this day, the day when I can really, truly schedule two mid-week workouts to round out the weekend stuff and not have to get up at 5:25 am to make it happen.
You can probably guess where this is going.
And it started so well! All morning, I’d been prepping her.
“First, we’re going to take your brother to preschool,” I told her, setting it up like this was the world’s best news. “And then, we’re going to drop off your big brother and big sister. And then, you get to go play with the babies and strollers at the gym!”
She seemed into it, happily asking for a packed snack when I was making school lunches.
And after the school drop offs and a quick errand, we headed over. She told me she’d draw me a picture after she played with the babies. She helped me run the card at the parking meter, and she marched happily into the playcare room, dropping her coat in her cubby and informing me she needed to “Pee on the potty. Not in my undies.”
So we did the bathroom visit, where she gets a kick of the teeny attached toilet seat that’s just her size.
But after washing her hands and walking out, I could see that she was suddenly coming to a startling understanding.
The aide smiled warmly at her, asking about her brothers and sister, while I tried to frantically telegraph “noooo” with my eyes.
“This is her first time here solo,” I explained, “and she’s going to be great! Right, E?”
The aide nodded wisely as my little girl grabbed my hand, brow furrowed. I plowed ahead, trying to distract her.
“Which baby do you like? Should we put her in this stroller?”
She pulled me over to a bin stuffed with dolls and bottles and clothes and purses and chose a bag to start filling.
People, I thought I was home free.
“Okay, you keep filling that bag,” I said, “and I’m going to go work out really fast and when I get back, you can show me what’s in there.” As I spoke, I patted her back and stood up.
She dropped the bag and lunged at me, clutching my leg.
I looked at the aide, who told me she’d beep me if she freaked out.
“She’s going to freak out,” I said. “Is that okay?”
“Totally! If she’s still upset in, like, five minutes, I’ll beep you.”
And I was going to do it. I was going to just walk out, put my headphones in, tell myself that I deserve forty-five minutes for this workout, that she’d be upset but she’d get over it, and that really, this wasn’t a big deal.
But then I looked down at my little girl, who was pinned to my leg and rigid with panic, huge blue eyes staring up at me.
“Mommy,” she said in this strained little voice.
And I just couldn’t do it. I picked her up and handed over the beeper and told the aide thanks anyway, that we could try it another time.
It was a workout. That’s it. And any resentment I felt melted away when she snuggled close, limp with relief.
Phases are just part of the deal with kids, and we’ve been through enough of them to know stuff like this doesn’t last. Pretty soon, she’ll be waving at me happily when I drop her off.
I’m just not sure what I’m gaining doing it any other way. A rushed workout that I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy?
So, yeah, for now I’m stuck scheduling workouts on days when her big brother doesn’t have preschool. It won’t be forever. But she’s only two.
And that’s not forever, either.
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