Two Hours of Free Time?

With the long Labor Day weekend approaching, some businesses are closing early. Some folks are even getting a half-day off work. One of my best friends (who often times serves as my unofficial editor of this site) is one of those lucky folks. Her work gets out at 1pm. Her daughter’s school isn’t out until after 3pm. Enter two hours of free time. What exactly to do with those two precious hours – hours spent without one’s children or spouse – came up for discussion in her office. And the unanimous decision that was arrived to did not surprise me: shopping.

All these adults with children – when given the freedom of two unexpected hours of free time – arrived at the same conclusion – they’d all rather shop child-free. No kids hanging on carts. No children demanding you buy them the Sugar-Os with Spiderman on the front of the box. No kindergartener waiting until you’re standing in the ice cream aisle with a pizza in-hand for them to tell you they “have to poop RIGHT NOW.” (Not that any of those incidents have ever happened to this mommy. Oh no, never.) Instead – these parents would get two hours – no strings (or kids) attached – to wander the aisles at their own speed. To smell all the deodorants. To browse books, and not ones that have bright, colorful drawings of bears riding bicycles on the front covers. To look at – and even (gasp!) try on clothing without a child laying on the floor of the dressing room, trying to army-crawl under your stall into the next one – staring up at you and loudly stage-whispering, “Mommy, why are you so fat?” These are the moments parents look forward to.

These are the moments I get (and take for granted) every other week. When my kids are with me – I am pushing the cart with kids hanging like slabs of meat off either side, making driving in a straight line an unaccomplishable feat. I am the one holding a pizza box inside the women’s restroom while my 5-year-old takes his sweet time in the loo. I am the one breaking the hearts of my three kids and making them roll their eyes simultaneously when I tell them to read the ingredients of the sugar cereal box to me and explaining why we won’t be buying it. And then, I’m not. When my kids go to their Dad’s house, I’m the lady wandering the aisles at her own speed – staring at the sale items and pushing my cart with ease in a straight line. I’m also the woman who turns suddenly when she hears a kid scream, “Mom!” in the store and the one that smiles at the little baby in the line in front of me at the register. It’s a weird kind of dichotomy. From non-stop cacophony to silence. Just like that.

But, don’t go thinking this post has gone all dark and dreary on you. I can say I love love love my time with my kids. I can also say child-free time is necessary to your sanity!!! Two hours of not being responsible for another human? Two hours of not wiping someone else’s butt or nose while you try to grocery shop? Yeah. Yeah, I get that. I totally understand why this was the task of choice by all these office workers. So – my parental friends – enjoy! Take those two hours. Just for you. Stop. Enjoy the flowers. (No, really – you can look at the floral department at the store without fear of your kids wanting to tear blooms off a $75 bouquet.) Try that new bra on. Buy a book – and not one that consists solely of rhyming couplets. Enjoy those two hours. And then, enjoy picking up your kids from school. Because children of parents who take time to find mentally balance are all the better for it. And so are you.

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