I sat at the desk with the calendar open in front of me, staring at the squares for the week and wondering when I could reschedule her appointment. Experience has taught me that a rescheduling goes more smoothly when I say when we can be there, instead of asking about the openings.
A conservative estimate is that only half of my children’s primary teeth have fallen out on their own, requiring a dentist’s caveman tools to knock the rest loose to allow for ease of passage for the permanent set. Our daughter’s last four baby teeth were on the block for removal.
Four teeth, pulled. The appointment will go quickly, but she’ll be numb for hours, and bleeding to boot. Then pain. She’ll need an open evening, which is comical at this time in our family’s life. The calendar stood defiant, mocking – none of the squares were blank, daring me to make the appointment during a time that is inconvenient, a time when she will most certainly miss something important or mandatory. Everything is one or the other these days. Make a decision, sneered the calendar. You will lose.
School. Practices. Games. Rehearsals. Tests. Kids’ events are written boldly, with times and places and descriptions. My own feebly-scratched errands, written around those of the children and in the margins of the calendar, weakly stake their claim on the perimeters of each day. My activities are never mandatory.
I think of myself as a careful scheduler, allowing only a few activities a year for each of our kids. It used to be that there were seasons for activities. Now all the year is one season. Everything and everyone is all in, all the time. It is suffocating.
I pick a day and time and call the dentist’s office. Miraculously, I choose rather well. My daughter will miss art class and a band rehearsal at the end of the school day but no tests. She’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax and recover. I cross my fingers against any last-minute emergency games or rehearsals or practices or meetings. I plan to make soup for dinner that night, out of kindness.
Appointment firmly inked onto the calendar, I exhale, then wonder why I allow myself to get worked up over this. Who cares if they miss something? the more realistic and cavalier part of me demands. Well, I do, I guess. And they do, too. Isn’t my job to care for my kids and guide them through life using the best of my abilities? I am called to arrange ease of passage for my daughter through this time in her life, just as the new gaps in her smile will help guide the permanent teeth into their proper spaces.
Toeing the line between ease for my kids and hardship for me is hard, as it always is for mothers. We raise them to fly, only to grieve over their absence. We raise them to think for themselves, and are offended when their views differ from ours. We raise them to work hard, and oppose their chosen occupation.
And we juggle their schedules to cushion them from the reality that you cannot do everything all the time, only to wonder and worry that we are doing them a disservice in the long run. Are we just teaching them that as long as we have an hour or two here and there, we can do it all? Are they learning that the purpose of time is to be planned away?
I hope not. Yet here I am, staring at the squares on the calendar, fretting over the precious few free hours we have left. I have made it so.
It is at this moment I realize that the ease of passage I desire is not only theirs, but also my own.