I watched Hazel walk around her new preschool classroom. The lights were dimmed, Ella Fitzgerald crooned to the kids sleeping on their cots, and my sweet girl walked her fingers over the wooden toy kitchen, itching to play but understanding the need to be quiet. I kept talking to her teacher, Miss Elisa, about the most mundane things. “So she’s already had lunch (it’s 1:30, everyone’s had lunch), and she normally naps still, but she probably won’t here. You can give her a book, though, and she’ll be quiet. Or just tell her to sit down if she’s walking around too much. And Amos will be here at 5:30 to pick her up.” This is all information she knows already, that anyone with a kid could infer – of course she’s had lunch, of course she’s not going to nap in all the excitement, but I have to keep telling this woman about her because I’m leaving my daughter with her, and she’s going to take care of her all day. Julia and I went home, where she promptly fell into an exhausted sleep, and I wondered around the house without turning on the lights, very very quiet in the semi-darkness from the rain.
I never planned to stay at home. I barely planned to even have children; I married Amos, and suddenly I wanted a baby, and a month later my body started making one. I never changed a diaper until I changed Hazel’s. I had never wanted to hold a baby, smell a baby, watch a baby until I had her. When I’m here all the time, in the solitude that only moving far away from everyone you know can bring to a stay-at-home parent, I inwardly scream. I want a nanny, I want them to go somewhere else for at least part of the day, I tell Amos after their bedtime. It’s not fair, I’m 28 and I have no job and I am taking 20 years to finish this degree, and I just want to go to the bathroom without an audience. I want to change, alone. I want to sit down and not speak to anyone for a minute. I want to watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns without someone asking me about the boring doctor show.
I could have done all of that today, and I didn’t. I ran copies of the articles I have to read for school this week, and then I tried to read them while making a special dinner for my big girl. I roasted the chicken perfectly, overcooked the green beans and burned the sweet potato fries on one side, and the chocolate chip cookies I made are all flat and crispy from a too-hot oven. But it didn’t matter, because she was thrilled to lick the mixing bowl. She was happy to tell me about her school and hear me tell her about my school. And she’s in there right now, playing with Julia and making her say “uh-oh,” and I have to trust that we are making the best decisions for her and for us. So she’s in preschool, an affordable, private preschool, and I won’t see her learning about what it’s like to venture out on her own.