Today, the second day of school, was a problem-and-solution day, of sorts.
The problem: Keeping the balance.
The solution: Well, we'll see...
Yesterday, all of my kids -- evenly spaced as they are -- entered new educational frameworks, each one different from the next. That Guy I Married played super-Abba, taking off a whole day of hi-tech fun (and hi-tech salary) so he could see the kids off in the morning and be there for them in the afternoon. This left me free to play slightly-above-average, severely-underpaid educator-therapist team leader, coming in to work on the opening day of the school year.
(I know people like to harp on teachers over some misinterpretation of our "extended-vacation" status over the summer months. For the record, I, and many others in the [special] education system regularly work through most of July, and often into August. Special ed. can't wait around for September, nor can hospitalized kids. When we're not physically present at work, we're often writing up student reports, running after medical and para-medical staff members, and going over lesson plans for next year. This summer I took advantage of a portion of my optional summer holiday to visit family in California).
This morning, I had a little talk with myself, hemming and hawing and debating (What about this patient? What about my meeting with the head nurse? What about-- ?). Then I remembered: This year, I've already committed myself to the challenge of finding more of a balance. Case closed.
I left work an unheard-of (for me) three hours early, to pick up my little one from pre-kindergarten. (In Israel the first day of gan (kindergarten) ends at 10:00, the next day at 11:00, purportedly to get the kids used to the system more gradually. Or maybe it's to allow the teachers some relief from their young charges' constant state of eardrum-bursting hysteria throughout the first week of September -- you be the judge). Over the years I had gotten used to being at work on the first of September, and not being around for my kids' first day of school. I'd even managed to quiet that What kind of mother are you, anyway?pang of self-serving guilt that I now realize is basically useless for dealing with the situation.
Having shown up at the gan mid-morning, I'm still stuck in the floaty, foreign-body feeling that can accompany an unusually abrupt transition from work to home... my little boy, meanwhile, had been witnessing the arrival of his friends' parents, and is now clearly relieved to see me. I ask if he wants to give me a quick tour of his new gan, and he proudly leads me through the door and into the mess of of toys the kids have left behind, dispersed and abandoned across the floor.
As we exit the building, I get a work call from a patient's insistent, persistent parent, who has now contacted me daily for five days in a row, regarding a problem that, as I have explained to her numerous times, is not within my professional jurisdiction. NO! my head shouts at her. You will not interrupt me now... I have left work and come home, to my own kids and my own business. I am off-duty. Leave. Me. Alone. Out loud, I firmly remind her that I will look into solving their problem and update her within the next few days, but meanwhile she must wait. I buckle my son into the car and drive him home.
A couple hours later the school bus has dropped off my newly-minted first-grader, who, predictably, has forgotten to get off the bus at the afternoon day care. I soon understand that had she remembered, I would have missed it all, that wide I'm home! grin, those eager gushes of Mommy, today we had math class, and the teacher gave us homework, and I need another notebook like this one, and... welling up and overflowing out of her as she plunges her hand into the depths of her new purple wheelie backpack and, with a gratified smile, presents me with a stapled bunch of worksheets.
She and I sit down together at the dining table and color in linear arrangements of animal pictures to show which ones are in front, which are behind and which in-between. We compare and support each other's tendency to color outside of the lines, or to use the "wrong" color on purpose. She is super-satisfied with this activity, and I secretly rejoice over her satisfaction, and at our united commitment to imperfection. There'll be plenty of time for her to follow all the rules, but not today.
And so, in the end, I was there, touring my boy's new gan, sharing my daughter's first homework assignment of the year. Yesterday I missed the first day of school, but today I came in a close second...
Keeping the balance? Absolutely.