How often do you go to the grocery store, friends? I’m so curious. I’m at Hannaford, our local grocery store, twice a week.
Sometimes I go grocery shopping by myself (flying out the back door late on a Saturday morning, still wearing what stores these days call “loungewear” but what are, in effect, pajamas). Almost always, though, I’m with my 4-year-old daughter, Anna, and almost always, we’re there in the afternoon after preschool pickup.
Such was the case one afternoon two weeks ago. Anna and I motored over to Hannaford, then maneuvered through the aisles. “Look, Mom!” Anna pointed to a display. “Woody! And Forky! Mom, it’s everybody from Toy Story!”
I glanced at the Disney-inspired Laughing Cow cheese dippers. “Everybody’s there,” I agreed, moving us along.
We had a short list, relatively, and were almost done in no time. There was just one bullet point left to cross off. I steered into the feminine hygiene products section, and parked Anna to the side.
She peered forward. “What’s all this, Mom?”
“Just a second, honey.” I scanned the shelves for my preferred item.
“Mom.” Anna was staring at me, her eyebrows arched, the corners of her mouth tilted upward in a smile that was both dubious and devious. “Do you wear adult diapers, Mom?”
Anna, of course, noticed my horror right away. So she repeated her question, in a much louder voice…of course. “DO YOU WEAR ADULT DIAPERS, MOM?”
“Will you please stop?” I hissed.
Now Anna was laughing, doubled over the grocery-cart seat. “Mom, I can’t believe it! You wear adult diapers!”
“I do not…”
Another woman was in the same aisle as us, and she was laughing too—kindly, but still. She patted my arm when she walked past us.
“Listen.” I could feel my face burning red with embarrassment. I clasped my hands over my daughter’s. “I need you to please stop saying that. Got it, dude?”
So she repeated her question, in a much louder voice…of course.
Almost all of last week, Stanton was in D.C. for a work conference. His being out of town just so happened to coincide with an especially busy work week for me. Everything was humming along smoothly…until it wasn’t.
I had a phone meeting with two colleagues on Wednesday afternoon. One of these people was my boss. Grace would be home from school soon, and Anna was already home from preschool. I asked her to play quietly until I was done with my call.
“But I want to be with you,” Anna said.
“Honey, we’re almost always together,” I said. “I’ll be done very soon, I promise.” I called in to my meeting.
Almost immediately, Anna planted herself nearby, staring at me, arms crossed. I ignored her. She began crawling around my legs. I got up, moved to the kitchen. Anna followed me and yelled, “Mom, hang up, HANG UP!”
I turned on the TV. Anna gave me a thumbs-up. We’ve been trying to limit screen time, but…oh, well.
Still holding my phone, I cleared my throat. “Um…just wondering, did anyone hear that over here?”
Great. “I’m so sorry…I just turned on the TV…”
Both my boss and our other colleague were extremely kind and understanding. But still. Somebody screaming in the background, “Mom, hang up!” is not a good look when you’re trying to present yourself as a got-it-together work-from-home professional.
Later I asked Anna why she had behaved like that. “I love you so much, I just wanted to be with you,” she said. “And I don’t understand, Mom,” she added, “why don’t you just do all your work when I’m in school?”
I just looked at her.
Who among us wouldn’t love for all the pieces of all the puzzles to fall into place just so?
Everything was humming along smoothly…until it wasn’t.
So many questions. So little time.
During the past few weeks, different folks from the church we attend have called to ask if I could participate in various volunteer opportunities. I’ve also received emails from both my daughters’ schools, inviting me to helm or help with extracurricular fall-themed fun, such as a costume party and trunk or treat. Every now and then, too, a ping from my phone reveals a text wondering if I’m available to lend a hand with hosting a play date.
There were a few moments, lately, when I really could have cried. I like to think of myself as a kindhearted person…but I simply can’t say yes to anything else right now. Thus, I’ve been saying no to everything extra.
I love my family and my work, and that’s all I, personally, can do in this season of my life. Other folks can do more, and I admire them. I just know I’m not one of them.
I’ve found that, when I explain myself like this—when I acknowledge I’m not a Superwoman—people seem to understand. Or, maybe they worry they might trigger a nervous breakdown, and decide to steer clear… I guess I’ll never know which one it is. 😉
Yesterday, Stanton made me a sandwich for lunch. Roast beef with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and onions on multigrain bread. He sliced an apple as the side. I enjoyed it so much, partly because I didn’t make it myself, and told him so.
“This is nothing, Mel,” he replied, settling into the breakfast nook with me.
But it was something. It is wonderful to feel cared for, even when the caring comes in the form of something as seemingly simple as a roast-beef sandwich. It is wonderful to feel cared for when you are the person who does so much of the caring (and grocery shopping, and puzzle-piecing).
Life is wonderfully unexpected sometimes. Sometimes there are more questions than we have answers for, or know how to answer. And sometimes things fall into place.
I have learned, despite my non-Superwoman prowess, not to give up. To say no or not now, but to keep going.
From now on, though, I’ll be maneuvering solo through the feminine hygiene products section.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.