I watched Downton Abbey by myself, while working at home. I did this because it was a petty thing to do.
Daughter was in a bad mood when I dropped her off and gave me a surly goodbye. Sure, that happens. But it happened after a weekend when I didn’t stop doing things for the kids and for this household. I am parenting these kids with the intensity that I did in their infancy. They needed it when they were helpless newborns, and they need it now, living as they are in crisis. The sacrifices are my choice, and I’d give more if I could. I don’t expect awards or even gratitude. This is my duty. I’m not a narcissist, but I am a little tired.
I don’t schedule in any time for myself. In the fall, I had a standing coffee date and walk date and the occasional breakfast or lunch. These meetings with friends restored me, and they provided a sense of normalcy. Now there’s just no space for that. I’m working or I’m taking care of them. That’s it. Even yoga is a necessity. It is keeping me healthy and keeping the kids from becoming orphans if my blood pressure spikes, or wards of the state if I descend into a madhouse.
I spend so much time with them that I almost cease to be parental and become more like a roommate. “I’m making tea. Want a cup?” a kid will announce. “I’m running out to the store. Can I get you anything?” I offer, as I put on my coat. “Downton Abbey is available on pbs.org! Bring your tea upstairs!” calls my daughter, ready for a pajama party. We are like roommates who spend all our time together, and with that comes familiarity, and we all know what that breeds.
So when she was surly after I spent hours this weekend shoveling the driveway, shuttling her around, hanging out at the barn, cooking for the week, cleaning, missing a party so her brother could host a friend at our house on Saturday night, after doing all that out of duty and love, when she slammed the door with a surly growl, I didn’t respond like a patient parent. She slammed the door, I put the car into drive, and I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll just watch Downton Abbey while you’re at school.” And I did.
There’s no need for her to know. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, I just needed to feel like I could claim something for myself. It was so petty, but it made me feel better, and it made me act like a better parent by the time I picked her up. We greeted one another, but she did so cautiously. She settled in her seat and asked casually:
“Was I mean to you this morning?”
“You may have been,” I replied.
She didn’t respond.
“Wanna go buy some cat food?” I offered.
And tonight we’ll watch Downton Abbey together.