I have a vivid memory of my mom walking to the end of the trailer where her room was, calmly telling my brother and I we needed to leave her alone for half an hour, then closing the door, firmly. My 10-year-old self knew that something was horribly, horribly wrong. Just as certain, I knew that it was my job to help.
Knocking on the door, I put on my happiest face shoving away those pre-teen I-hate-my-mamma hormones for the time being and whisper “What’s wrong mom?” I whisper so as to protect my sensitive little brother from this serious situation that he is too young to understand.
“30 minutes Kari. 30 minutes.” my mom replies. Firm.
Oh my god, I imagine, she got fired or had a big fight with her bestest friend or is sick or *gasp* is dying! What should I do? So I grab my brother, sit at the kitchen table, and make Mom a poster. It probably had hearts and clouds and Carebear’s on it and I probably yelled down to her “It’s okay Mom, we’ll make you feel better!” thinking that my voice would make her feel happy. We probably tip-toed down the hall and slid that poster under her door knowing it would make her feel so much better, then we felt so much better, so headed to the living room to watch cartoons or WWF wrestling.
I don’t really know what my mother was doing or thinking at that time. But what I suspect, looking back through the eyes of a mother instead of a daughter, is that she was losing her freaking mind. Because of us kids. Not because we were especially bad but because we were demanding and exhausting and busy and she was a single mom doing it all herself and sometimes, some days, all you need is 30 minutes ALONE to collect yourself and breathe.
10-year-old me had no concept that whispering to her or putting on a happy face for her or creating art for her would only make things worse. For now not only did she need to remove herself from the situation, but she had to feel guilty about it. Oops, sorry mom.
I just finished a week being a single mom. My kids are three and under so I can not just close the door on them. But at the end of the day, when both are asleep in their beds by 8pm, and I can collect myself and breathe, well, that is a beautiful time. Not because they are bad but because they are demanding and exhausting and busy. So very busy.
My mom was a single mom for 16 years and I only remember a handful of times that she barricaded herself away from us. In those times, I only remember one time that I felt like that was because of us kids. Of course it was always because of us kids but what did I know. I also recall imagining my mom sitting alone, weeping when we left to dads for the summers. More likely she was skipping, frolicking even, bellowing out ‘Hallelujah!’ while double fisting some beer.
Just this past summer my mom ran into an old acquaintance at a music festival. “How do you know her” I ask.
“From my partying days.” was her response.
“Highschool?” I assume since she had me at 20 years old.
“You had young kids in your partying days?”
Oh. Oh ya, I knew that. I was there?
It has taken me far longer to write this post then it should. For I have stopped to breastfeed, encourage Kaya to go paint with her Daddy, stopped a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her watch toons, remembered Kaya’s puked-on clothing from yesterday’s car sickness and thrown in some laundry, had a cuddles, and put Brennyn in the jolly jumper so I could finish writing.
Sometimes all you need is 30 minutes. Today I do not get it. Instead, 3 hours of beautiful chaos. The art of barricading myself will come later when my girls are older and understand what a mommy needs while slipping drawings and giggles under the door…