After the childcare plan collapse, I’ve been scrambling to find someplace for Mr. Baby to go every day. And I mean both that I’ve been scrambling for daily coverage and that the scramble happens anew every single day. This week, it’s been rare for me to know before 3pm where he’s going to be the next day. Fortunately, the only store-related credit I have remaining is with my former playgroup regulars, and St. Laura of Velasco has very kindly and lovingly taken up way more than a reasonable amount of slack as I flail about desperately trying to find a long-term solution to our babysitting needs.
In the meantime, my pleasant, easy-going baby is starting to show signs of cooperation fatigue. Our usually seamless morning drop-offs have become dramatic and teary, especially when those drop-offs involve leaving him with a total stranger in a totally strange, though fully licensed, location. I’ve had to return to the days of eating cold dinners, since nothing but me picking him up will calm his meal-time fits of separation anxiety. And our nights have regressed, with him up and nursing frequently, refusing to fall asleep without touching some part of me, flopping his half-awake body toward me and resting his head on my stomach, using me as a source of physical comfort in a way unseen since his newborn weeks.
And yes, okay, I realize that four days of somewhat unpredictable but generally familiar care isn’t going to cause permanent damage and it probably doesn’t explain every recent change in his behavior (there are pretty solid hints that he’s got more teeth coming in, plus he’s about three hours away from walking), but my guilt and stress and fear over not having the childcare issue resolved feeds into my every perception about his well-being. I just won’t feel like he’s okay until I find a place for him to be okay.
In the meantime, Miss M is taking kindergarten by storm, marching into her classroom every morning with barely a glance back in my direction. We’re struggling a little in the off-hours, as the early mornings and time-restricted lunches catch up with her, but she’s doing great while she’s there and I don’t have to think about it every minute of the day, so that’s the best I could hope for right now.
The job is good. It's an adjustment to go from the autonomy of self-employment, but that adjustment is greatly eased by the check slipped into my top desk drawer every other week. My assignments are interesting and challenging and I get really useful and positive feedback on a regular basis, which can't always be said for either retail or motherhood. My team is very friendly and generous, and although we all seem to take an interest in each other's lives, we just haven't forged a personal connection - they noticed my tattoo, but not my new haircut. And the rest of the company is ... well, I can't really say. Not because it's bad, just because I don't really know anyone outside of the three other people in my department. Those other people seem nice, when they're talking to each other in the breakroom or having work-stalling conversations over the cube walls, but I tend to feel invisible when I'm moving in their midst. I know this is partly because a) I'm conversationally stunted and will never take the opportunity to jump into a discussion uninvited, even when the women down the row are saying that breastfeeding makes babies spoiled, and b) about 25% of our division has been hired in the last quarter and so there are a whole lot of newbies walking around. And then just to complicate social matters, my team was moved down a floor last week, so those people whose shoes I was just about to get brave enough to compliment are now an even more gaping distance away.
Some people would solve this issue by putting on a brave new-kid face and charging in, confident that their charms would win out. But I've been the new kid so many times that my instinct is to lay low and hope my greenness doesn't expose me to scorn or ridicule. And just like elementary school, the biggest struggle of the day is deciding where to eat. Since the idea of sitting alone and eating lunch in the breakroom turned my stomach, I did a quick Google Map search of the area and found a restaurant within walking distance from my office. "Restaurant" might be stretching it a bit, really, but tucked inside an office building in the Ridgeway Loop, with no outdoor signage or any indication that it's there (oh, I already loved its humility), is Lisa's Lunchbox.
When I walked in the first day, Lauren at the counter took my name as well as my order. Which seemed like a fairly standard, Starbucksy thing to do, but then I noticed that she was greeting everyone who came in by name. I got a pre-boxed turkey and swiss special for five bucks (home-made chess bar and chips included) and took it back to my cubicle. The chess bar alone brought me back the next day, and when I got to the front of the line, Lauren said, "It's SAM, right?" Why, yes, it is.
The food is great (I'm deeply fond of the ham and swiss panini, which they serve with a side of ranch dressing for dippin'), but what really draws me back (multiple times a week) is the atmosphere. Not the brightly lit, styrofoam cup ambiance, but the actual tone of the place. I sit alone reading a book, but I don't ever feel like I'm by myself. I listen to the gossip behind the counter and follow the conversations with other customers. I hear Lisa talking about the challenges of small business ownership and I feel like part of the same club. These t-shirt-clad thirtysomething women (Lisa and Lauren are joined by Laura - oh, the alliteration alone delights my writing heart) seem more like my people than the other business casual corporate types sitting around me.
If you come out east to have lunch with me, know that I will suggest Lisa's. And if you're anywhere near Ridegway without me, seek it out yourself. And then go back again, because the trip's even more worthwhile when the minute you walk in, they say, "Hey, cute haircut!"
There was so much build-up to Miss M’s first day of school that the actual event was fairly … well, anti-climactic, really. After worrying all summer and barely being able to sleep the night before (good thing I was up when the alarm went off at 5:30, because some tiny prankster with an affection for buttons and surprisingly distant reach had turned the volume aaaaall the way down), rushing around that morning getting supplies in order and barking last-minute commands to brush teeth and hair, the point of all the fuss was almost completely lost. Not that it wasn’t exciting to see her all dressed in her uniform, her new Hello Kitty backpack bumping the back of her knees as she walked up to school, but once we got through the throng of children anxiously bustling toward their various destinations, the drop-off was pretty easy. I’m sure it helped that we’d just been at the school for an orientation and tour, and that she saw familiar faces (human and canine) on the way in, and that Miss M had met her teacher and was immediately greeted by name, and especially that Connor was in the very same class in the very same room on the very same day. I’m sure it also helped that she’s been in a happy school environment for the last two and a half years, so even though this was a big new step, the idea of being away from her folks all day isn’t a huge source of trauma.
When I asked her about her day, I fully expected a contrary response, but instead she reported that it was “very, very good.” She said that she colored and did tests (“I got three wrong but about a hundred right.”) and played outside and allegedly watched a movie, although I’m not sure about that part. She made some claim about no one wanting to play with her during recess, which crushed my heart under the weight of playground rejection memories, but since she has a tendency to fabricate instances of suffering and victimization, I’m not immediately concerning myself with that issue. Especially since I can’t imagine that Connor left her sight.
Since they stagger kindergarten entry, yesterday was her only day of school this week, which gives both of us a chance to recoup and prepare for the new shift in routine. And double-check that Mr. Baby hasn’t changed the clock radio levels again.