08 July 2014

Tomato Transitions

Reason Number Eleven I'm Never Allowed To Leave the House. 

Most people have, I think, thematic objects in their lives.  Things become representative of experiences and emotions.  A dog leash recalls all of those morning walks; a certain apron reminds us of burning the bread every single Sunday night for years; an outfit on a child brings up visits to a favorite restaurant.

I have this certain relationship with cans of tomatoes.

I cook a lot.  Canned tomatoes are a frequent ingredient - sauces, etc.  Since they are used a lot, I don't always just buy one.  You know the type of thing - right?  Might as well grab two, because you know you're going to need more.  Especially if they're a bit on sale.

With these cans of tomatoes, there is a patterin.  I buy two one week, three the next, and the pantry is over-full, and I become annoyed because why in the world did I think I needed all these tomatoes.  And then, for the next four weeks, I buy none, cleverly remembering my stockpile.  And then one Tuesday at 4:45 pm, I get all my stuff out for spaghetti, run to grab one of my ubiquitous tomato cans, and, in fact, they are all gone.  And I practice restraint and only say medium-level bad words and only to myself and the aquatic frogs which live on my counter.

This of course happens with other items (paper towels, ketchup, angel hair pasta, bar soap), but the Cans of Tomatoes have become the item.  They represent the theme of poor planning and humorous besetting habits.

Why does it matter that I don't have the tomatoes?  Because, at 4:45 on Tuesday, usually some small child is sleeping and none of the children are at their best, and neither am I, and loading everyone up to go to the grocery store for one bloody can of tomatoes will just peeve one to no end.  Seriously.  It takes like 23 minutes, round trip, because of all the "get your shoes on, strap in, be nice, heavens, sit still, no not that radio station, shhhhh, shoes ON, rrraaahhhh" reality that it is getting four children in the car to go do something that they don't care a hill of beans about doing.

And, frankly, I understand.  I'm not interested in riding in a hot (or cold) car for no good reason and you just interrupted my nap or my latest chapter of Harry Potter and I don't want to get my shoes on and why don't you just remember the freakin' tomatoes for once?  (They don't say any of this, but it's written all over their little cherubic faces).

One of the hardest things for me about parenthood has been the limits on freedoms to simply bop places and run in the post office and grab a bottle of wine and run by to drop something off.  Everything is an ordeal.  An adventure, yes.  But, all adventures are ordeals. 

And sometimes, neither (adventure nor ordeal) is preferable to both (adventure and ordeal.) 

I have longed for the mundane to become mundane again.  For the shoe-getting-on to be irrelevant.  I love my people, and when folks tell me to treasure these young years, I've finally quit wanting to punch them in the face.  But, the dear ones do cramp my style.  Not so much my style- but just my ease of errands. It's just true.  It's beyond worth it, but there is no avoiding the reality that children make life more complicated and at times less pleasant.

So, the Cans of Tomatoes represent more than just my absent-minded-professorial inability to keep up with what food I've bought and used.  No, they've represented, for a long time, the stifling complications of having young children.

Over the last twelve months, we have gradually moved into a different phase of family life.  About a year ago, I looked up and my nine year old was able to clean a room without assistance.  She puts her little headphones in, picks up the stuff, wipes down the surfaces, and vacuums the floor.  It's an amazing change.  And both the boys dress themselves with little to no input.  And all of a sudden they match like 80% of the time.  And I realize I can send them to take the garbage down to the street without worrying about them being hit by a car.  And they can turn the oven on and off.  And the shower. 

And then, I started doing something.  I started experimenting with leaving them.

First, I hid in my bathroom and listened to what happened if I wasn't around to say or do anything for fifteen minutes. Not much occurred.

Then, I didn't tell them what I was doing, and I went and got in the car and listened to NPR for ten minutes and then came back in. Nothing had changed.  They were playing, reading, etc.

Next, I did tell them, and we did Home Alone Without An Adult training. We talked about never opening a door for any reason, never doing any cooking, no showers, reviewed fire safety, etc.  And I ran to the post office and back.  Six minutes round trip and my heart was pounding the whole time.  And nothing.  There they sat.  Entirely unaffected by my absence.

Rinse and repeat.  No change. 

All this time, I floated my plan to people.  I got a bizarrely wide spectrum of reactions:  "Seriously?  They're fine.  I've been leaving mine since (oldest one) was seven." to "Oh my gosh; I am so jealous." to "Are you sure that's okay?  Is it Legal?" to "That sounds like more trouble than it's worth" to "What in the world did you think was going to happen while you were gone for 20 minutes?"

The world was going to end.  That's what.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I have a ten year old.  And I just holler, "I forgot a can of tomatoes.  Baby's asleep.  Y'all may watch a Pink Panther.  I'll be back in fifteen."

We aren't ready for dinners out yet.  But, by darn, they're growing up, and it is grand.  I feel the weight being lifted.  I know it's going to be replaced by hormonal teenagers, and, heavens, one day they'll want drivers' licenses and I'll never sleep again.

But, the can of tomatoes theme has changed.  Now, the diced-in-their-own-juice don't represent my trapped-ness, but my freedom.  I don't want freedom for longer than fifteen minutes or so, but there isn't a mother I've ever known who doesn't long to be able to run an errand without shoe-finding.  And now the little buggers can just say barefooted. 

My next step is morning walks.  

So, for those of you out there who are all seven and under -  It will come.  It will arrive.  You'll look up and all will be different.

For those who are way beyond and laughing at me, well, try to remember the trapped-ness, and call your friends with only young ones and take them out for a glass of wine.

Transitions are magical.
It is always good to know things change. 
Why?  So we'll remember to pause and enjoy. 

1 comment: