Yesterday I wore a lot of hats--grateful Al-Anon member at a morning meeting, best friend and workout partner at the gym, politicking faculty member in a chance encounter with an administrator, appreciative daughter sipping her mom's chicken soup, chauffeur to kids for swimming, Japanese, and cello lessons. I would have been happy to collapse into bed quietly last night, but that wasn't an option, because last night was also Alex's birthday party.
We started out at a local arcade establishment, where the kids got tokens to spend on machines, as well as pizza and cake. Because Gerald is friends with the owner, the kids also got to ride for free on the go-karts there--and I went as well. What fun! I had never tried that as a kid, but enjoyed the pedal-to-the-metal hairpin turns enormously this time. We then brought home with us not only our two kids, but five more boys ages 8-10, who spent the night camped out in our living room.
This morning we did tag-team parenting--Gerald got up early to cook pancakes, while I slept in until 9 (around here, that's very late indeed). Then he went off to run errands and hit the gym while I supervised the seven boisterous boys. Between 9:30 and 11:30 all but one were picked up by parents. And a few minutes ago, my two left with the final guest--they're off to his nearby house to play video games.
So here I am, in the eye of the parenting storm. It's still and quiet now, and I can hear myself think for a few minutes. But tonight is Halloween, and the energy level will be building again between now and then.
For over seven years now, I've lived in a neighborhood that is much like the one I grew up in back in Buffalo. The kids are close-knit, the parents are friendly. We know each other, we have a sense of community. Halloween is a practiced ritual--our kids will don costumes (my boys are ninjas this year) and band together around 6 (aided by the earlier darkness that arrived with last night's time change), with a number of parental delegates tagging along behind. They'll careen from house to house, squealing with delight over the rare house that gives out full-size candy bars, and grousing about those who toss them a scant handful of boring hard candies. Meanwhile, we parents will lurk on the sidewalks, occasionally shouting a reminder to say thank you, or not to trample flower beds.
By 8 or so they'll be worn out from running, and tired of carrying their bags. They'll make one last stop at the neighbors who are famous for giving out self-contained drinks rather than candy (heavy, but welcome after a long night of walking), and will retreat to their houses to dump their bags of treats on the floor and sort them out. There's the "eat it now" pile, of course. Along with the "save for later" and "maybe I can trade it" piles. There's the "who on earth would eat this?" pile, and--if I'm lucky--a "give it to mom" collection. (They know my favorites, and they also know there are long-term benefits to keeping mom happy.)
After we've looked over the piles and given our blessing (we've never had safety problems with candy around here, but we still always check), they'll devour as much as they can, inevitably getting to the point where they feel ill. And then, as the sugar wears off, they'll crash--hard--and hopefully sleep late tomorrow.
I've not been online much this weekend, because being a mom on a weekend like this is more than a full-time job. But it's worth the time and energy it takes. I'm very, very grateful for the sense of community we have here, the fact that I know my kids' friends, and their parents...that I know my neighbors, and the school principal, and the owner of the local arcade. It's a good life that we have here.