Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the combination of feelings I get for my kids. They drive me nuts AND I love them intensely. Over the past couple of weeks they both had bouts of flu, and nothing tugs at your maternal heartstrings like a wan, feverish 11-year-old looking up at you with big puppy eyes saying, “Mommy, I’m sorry I puked on the rug!” Or a 14-year-old with a horrible racking cough, worrying that he’s being babyish by asking you to sit with him and rub his back til the cough subsides. And nothing is more frustrating than having two siblings who are too sick to go to school, but healthy enough to be bored, to be cranky, and to pick fights with each other.
When I was a single mom and dating Scott (otherwise known as Husband 2.0), after a long spell of no overnight visitation, the kids finally started spending Wednesday nights with their dad. On the first weeknight, I was out of town on a gig and flew back just in time to plunge in and pick the kids up. I called 2.0 from the airport while I was waiting to board my flight, and ended up sobbing, saying, “My first weeknight off from kids, and I didn’t get a break, and I’m going right back into kidland!” The following Wednesday night, I had no gig, so I dropped the kids off and went over to Scott’s apartment, where I had a huge bout of maternal angst, worrying about how the kids were doing, how weird it was to be without them. Scott gave me a puzzled look – “Last week you were sobbing because you weren’t getting a break from your kids. This week you’re sobbing because you GET a break – which is it?” And as any mom can tell you – it’s both! They drive you crazy AND you love them intensely and I guess that’s what keeps us dealing with their fights, rubbing their backs, and cleaning up their puke.
On a less disgusting note – one night I came upstairs to find Ben, my 11-year-old, cuddled up with Scott in our bed, reading. The sight was so touching, I burst into tears, and then had to explain that I was crying because I was happy, a concept which made no sense to Ben. However, it apparently made an impression, because the next night, as I approached the bedroom, I heard Ben saying, “Quick, get over here, let’s make mom cry again!” (Like the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen tries to recreate the escaped lobster hilarity with an unimpressed date – it just doesn’t work a second time!)