Yesterday, a gorgeous fall day. Dry, clear, sunny,warm in the sun, but cool enough that I can wear my favorite jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and sweater for the day. Without a full-time paying job, I am out and about during the day and I keep noticing the mothers with their babies out in their front carriers. That was me, 9 years ago, I think to myself.
My daughter was about 4 1/2 months old at this time of year in 2001 and I think of that fall and of going places with her and of being, not a young mother, but a new mother and being in love with her and with new motherhood. I see the mothers out in their jean jackets and sweatshirts and thick cotton sweaters, with their babies, just old enough to hold their heads up and their middles steady as they look out at the world from their good vantage point in their front carriers, snuggled against their moms. I miss that time in many ways. And I love this time that we are living in now– this differently complicated and interesting 9-years-old time.
There are more school troubles– more meetings, more worry and the fight on my part to keep everyone thinking, flexible, open, connected and on track– myself, my partner, daughter, her teachers and in this case the assistant principal. These are the kinds of troubles that come with all these confusions about young people and the increasingly huge emphasis on getting them to sit still and to work harder and faster. Teachers are under so much pressure, the schools are stretched thin and we’re all paying the price.
This morning was another inelegant morning, going along beautifully and then in the final minutes a snag, me yelling and my daughter crying. But for once I felt like, “oh well, it happens sometimes” and felt neither angry with her nor too terribly angry with myself. I thought about her starting her day after that upset at home and I mused to myself, just mused, what would the school day be like if each child got greeted individually, enthusiastically– at the door each morning, by a teacher saying and meaning– “how did your morning go so far? I’m so glad you made it to school today.”
What would it be like if each morning began with a different child picking some favorite thing of their to do for the first 15 minutes each day– a game of tag, an art project, a short walk outside, a story read aloud? There are so many different ways to do things. We have only to reach for each other and for trying new things.
At the moment I have a terrible cold. Or a sinus infection. And despite no paid work my life isn’t exactly a stretch of free time. If you thought unemployment would mean that I had a lot of time on my hands, would take a nap when I was sick, or would just sit and watch a little tv– well, it really isn’t going that way. But on the other hand, I am noticing these nice fall days, writing and studying law and chanting in Hebrew, thinking about my life not so long ago as the mama of a brand new baby girl. I am plenty scared some of the time, about money, about my own future as a working person.
What I love most about these fall days unemployed is not that I have free time, I don’t. But I do somehow have my mind more to myself. If you know what I mean. Yesterday I arrived at school to pick up my daughter from her drama group– just a little early. There was the drama teacher– a thin, long-haired, beautiful young Latina– an actress herself and the mom of a baby herself– sitting on the floor with a circle of girls– her drama group. The teacher’s back was to me, but I could see the faces of most of the 9 and 10-year-old girls, laughing, talking. I know and like so much, quite a few of them. And the beautiful face of my own daughter, also talking, smiling, engaged, just part of the crowd. And me, the mama of a beautiful 9-year-old, with a little time on my hands. Watching. Watching.